Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do You Remember in that Movie When. . .

I am soooo 20th century. Actually so early 20th century. I did no notice how culturally backward I was when I first rejoined the Army. Without knowing it, I surrounded myself with backwards people just like me who use books as cultural references. Not here. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, uses movies as the shared culture of their lives.

For the first month people tried to include me. They would say, "Sergeant G, do you remember in Wedding Crashers when. . ." Or "That's just like in that Jim Carey movie when they watched his whole life. Yo G, remember. . ." And I don't. No it's just a joke. Someone will start to say, "Do you remember. . ." then look at me and say "Right. Never mind."

I don't watch sitcoms, I don't watch comedy movies, I watch one or two movies per year. These guys go from room to room sharing gigabytes of DVDs on thumb drives and plug-in hard drives. One of my roommates has a terabyte drive full of movies and music. He is still mourning the loss of a second terabyte hard drive that crashed a few days after we arrived.

At home, my friends, co-workers and family all read books. Two nights ago I got an email from a friend, a college prof who had never been in the military. He was commenting on a post I wrote that the military is a meritocracy where everyone knows who is the best at everything, and the most competent people tend to take over whatever their rank.

My friend Ray said the military is a hierarchy and he couldn't believe what I wrote. So I called him and could remind him to read CS Lewis' essay "The Inner Ring" which begins quoting Tolstoy's "War and Peace" on the real rank structure of the military and the actual way things get done. With Ray, I can use books and essays to illustrate a point. I read to my own kids till they graduated high school and knew many of the books they read for classes, so even though I could not share movie culture with them, we had a lot of literature in common.

I brought some movies with me because everyone said I should. I haven't watched one yet. Maybe when we get to Iraq I will. In the meantime, it's seems OK for me to remain a cultural illiterate. I am old enough to get a pass. Right now I am in the back of the C Stairwell dayroom and a small room people forget about. I can sort of hear the drone of a TV movie through the walls, but I don't have to look at it.