The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Saturday, August 20, 2005
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I got involved in a somewhat interesting project at work this past week. About two years ago we got some federal grant money to post a few anti-gun violence ads out in the high-crime neighborhoods. Being a prosecutor’s office, no one really thought it would do much good, so no one did much about it after we got the money. Well, to be honest, the community outreach people did put some ideas together and talked with some media sources. But the clock was ticking and it was apparent that we weren’t going to spend the money in time and would have to give it back. Since I’m responsible to watch out for stuff like that, and since giving money back gets the big boss upset, I decided to jump in and get things moving. Not that I really believe that a few billboards and bus posters reminding people that guns kill innocent children are going to save any lives out there on the mean streets. I’m simply trying to keep my job, need the money.

So I started making calls to the in-house graphics guy, to the purchasing office guy, to the billboard company lady, to the bus ad company lady, etc. We finally put a half-way decent looking ad together and are now in the procurement phase; the billboards should go up right after Labor Day. One person I had to talk to was a Ms. Pickens, who works with the educational agency that has the rights to the background image (a child’s face with the letters “Don’t Shoot, I want to grow up”; it originally came from Cease Fire Chicago). Anyway, while talking to Ms. Pickens, I had one of my usual stupid thoughts: just for a laugh, I would ask her if she was related to Slim Pickens. Yep, Slim Pickens, the movie actor who played the B-52 pilot in Dr. Strangelove. Luckily, discretion got the better of me and I didn’t say anything about the late, great Slim Pickens. As a result, Ms. Pickens gave us permission to use the image.

But the thought of Slim Pickens and Dr. Strangelove gave me a laugh, as it brought back a nice little memory. Ironic, you might think, that a movie about an accidental war which set off a nuclear holocaust would make me laugh. But that’s just me. It reminded me of the time, say about 20 years ago, when I was out in a forest somewhere in northern Virginia with my friend Loyd and his wife Eve. We were cutting and gathering dead trees for their wintertime firewood supply (we actually had a permit to do that). Well, we came across a tree near the road that looked pretty dead, so Loyd got out the chain saw and started attacking the trunk. I was standing pretty close by; as Loyd got near the tipping point he stopped and advised me to get back a ways, as the tree would soon be coming down. I gave him a puzzled look not unlike the expression that our President wears so frequently these days. He then put the saw down, turned towards me and said “despite your Doctor Strangelovian fantasies, you don’t ride it down!”

OK, to get the joke you have to have seen Doctor Strangelove. Back in my time, you absolutely had to see that movie; an end-of-the-world nuclear war with Russia was a real possibility, and Stanley Kubrick wanted to show us just how easily it could get started. Today, nukes are still a threat, but it probably ain’t gonna be Russia that sets the next one off in anger. Anyone under 35 today probably doesn’t remember that classic scene towards the end of Strangelove where Slim Pickens puts on his cowboy hat, goes down into the bomb bay, mounts an H-bomb like a bronco, then gets dropped out of the plane somewhere over Siberia, waving his hat and hooting like a Texas cowboy. (Little did we know that Kubrick was predicting the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election). And they probably don’t know that James Earl Jones, with his deep, evil voice, was in this film long before there even was a Darth Vader!

Oh well — so much for those good memories from the bad old days. And thanks to you, Ms. Pickens, for reminding me of Loyd, and for giving me permission to try to make the bad new days just a little bit less bad. Those billboards that the feds are paying for probably won’t do much good. But as with good old Slim and his H-bomb, we might as well go down trying.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:26 pm      

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