"I'll just get my gear."

Siege (a.k.a. Self Defense)

SIEGE (previously released in the U.S. as SELF DEFENSE) is a 1983 Canadian exploitation film brought to my attention thanks to the new release on Blu-Ray and DVD from Severin Films. It seems more inspired by ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 than any other movie, and it’s not a wall-to-wall scorcher like that, but I liked it because it’s quick and raw and has some really unique elements.

Down south in the U.S that year, heroic movie cops were being forced to break the rules to stop perverted rapists (10 TO MIDNIGHT, SUDDEN IMPACT) and kids were turning into serial killers because they witnessed gay sex (SLEEPAWAY CAMP). By contrast, SIEGE paints a picture of a Halifax gay bar and their low income neighbors being terrorized by the violent bigots in a right wing militia. The chaos starts with a police strike, where officers on the picket line egg on onlookers as they roar around in their cars whoo-hooing and doing donuts. Reporters speculate that the rowdiness will snowball from there. Sure enough a group of thugs choose this time to enter the club and announce a “New Order” they want to impose on Nova Scotia.

They go down the stairs and through the beaded curtain while repeatedly hitting their clubs and bats against their palms, which struck me as very phony tough guy posturing (I put that on the movie, not the characters), but I like that after they walk in they pause, as if taken aback by the underwhelming sight of just some men and women hanging around having drinks with people of the same gender. Probly not the shocking display of excess they were primed for. Maybe the music is less country and more disco than at their hangouts, but otherwise similar. This is just a bar.

They zero in on the bartender (Dug Rotstein, also the casting director, later director of 3 episodes of Maniac Mansion) to spew homophobic slurs and threats at. When it’s clear these guys are a real danger he pulls out a small gun, but they knock it out of his hand and attack him – almost sodomizing him – and accidentally cause his death. This is very hard to watch, both because it’s upsetting what’s happening and because it’s kind of awkward how little anyone seems tempted to stand up to them. It gets worse (on both counts) when their leader Cabe (Doug Lennox, POLICE ACADEMY 1 and 3, TC 2000, X-MEN) shows up and decides the solution is to execute everyone in the bar.

Only one guy, Daniel (Terry-David Despres) manages to escape, and they chase him through the streets, into a building, out a window. He knocks on a door at a small housing project (it looks like an overgrown motor home) and thank god the guy that answers the door not only lets him in, but senses that the guys who knock on the door next are lying about him having just killed someone. Even before they get frustrated and call him a “homo.”

Maybe I spaced out during the set up or something, but I didn’t really understand who exactly these people are, what their set up is here. I thought about rewinding, but I kinda liked the mystery of it. The tough guy who answered the door is Horatio (Tom Nardini, CAT BALLOU, AFRICA: TEXAS STYLE, THE DEVIL’S 8). He seems to be dating Barbara (Brenda Bazinet, “The Haunted Mask” episodes of Goosebumps), or maybe previously was, but she’s pissed at him in part for rationing her cigarettes to help her quit. Also in the apartment are a blind guy they have to bring back to the school for the blind (Keith Knight, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, CLASS OF 1984) and his friend who reminds me of young Keith Gordon (Jack Blum, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, SNAKE EATER II: THE DRUG BUSTER, writer of two episodes of the Once a Thief tv series) who doesn’t seem like he’s blind but does have a very useful talent for listening to the walls and identifying what’s happening anywhere in the building. Also they’re being visited by Chester, who lives in a neighboring apartment which he can access through the bathroom mirror (like in CANDYMAN) or going through the skylights onto the roof.

Horatio is cooking everybody burgers on a portable grill, so maybe it’s an indoor barbecue, I don’t know. The point is, this is a better than average crew to seek sanctuary with. Horatio immediately goes into “Fuck these guys” mode, and it’s clear he will have this endangered stranger’s back unconditionally. Chester not only brings Horatio a rifle during the struggle at the door, but is apparently some kind of militant with a keen interest in bomb-making and improvised blow torches and stuff. Oh, and archery!

Uh… yeah, sure, U.S. poster, that’s what this is about: people in sweater vests “fighting crime.”

Horatio is definitely the coolest character – he just has a solid vibe about him, and he’s down for the cause – but Chester is the most interesting, because he’s some kind of lunatic and he doesn’t really make a big deal about it now that it’s coming in handy. Or not. There’s a scene where he says he has two hollow points left and Barbara says, “Don’t you have a whole box?”

Horatio and Chester exchange looks before Horatio is the one to explain, “Chester shot ‘em at the police station on the first night of the strike.” Chester’s shrug and unembarrassed half-smile are a great acting moment that easily make up for any of the other actor’s stiff ones. (And for the record I’m with Barbara in thinking “jesus christ these guys.”)

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is a masterpiece, so it has much more style and drive to it, but held to normal exploitation standards, SIEGE is a standout. I like the gloomy, dirty look of it, the primitive synth soundtrack by Peter Jermyn (sound editor for SCANNERS) and Drew King (music editor for IRON EAGLE II), and the badass booby traps. These Canadians are not fucking around. In front of or behind the cameras.

This is the second film for co-director and writer Paul Donovan, who swears on the commentary track (with huge fan Jason Eisener) that he was more just trying to come up with a commercial concept than make a statement. He says his previous film SOUTH PACIFIC 1942 was terrible, but the financiers were impressed that he at least finished it, so they were open to his next idea. He followed this with DEFCON-4 and NORMAN’S AWESOME EXPERIENCE and later created the weird sci-fi show Lexx. SIEGE was also the first release from Salter Street Films, Donovan’s production company with his brother Paul. Decades later they produced Michael Moore’s The Awful Truth, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and FAHRENHEIT 9/11, plus JACOB TWO TWO MEETS THE HOODED FANG starring Gary Busey, Ice-T and Miranda Richardson.

In ’88 Donovan directed a TV documentary called THE SQUAMISH FIVE, about a Canadian militant group who bombed substations, factories and porn stores in the name of environmental, anti-nuke and feminist causes. (They intended it as sabotage, not murder, but ended up injuring a bunch of people, as bombs tend to do.) They were arrested in January of ’83 and surely in the news, so I wonder if that was an influence on the character of Chester?

The strike aspect was inspired by an actual Halifax police strike that lasted 53 days in 1981. When the walkout happened, hundreds gathered by the police station, got real drunk, started doing donuts and breaking windows of nearby buildings as the police looked on.

Similar to when the Seattle Police temporarily abandoned one of their precincts, allowing the creation of the jokingly-named “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” later renamed the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest,” the Halifax cops must’ve been hoping for such chaos, if not encouraging it. “You see what happens when we’re not here?” Like a protection racket. That’s sure how one of the striking officers makes it sound in a CTV article looking back at it 35 years later:

“After the initial display that was shown on the corner, people doing doughnuts, bonfires, and so on, I don’t have the numbers, but I think things were quieter than they typically were,” Perrott added. “That’s when we realized we were in trouble at that point.”

As the dust settled, and the streets grew quiet, union members felt whatever leverage they might have had was slipping away.

At least they did it for the cause of higher wages instead of SPD’s cause of wanting to gas and beat the shit out of anybody they want to without being criticized. But both are shitty.

This 1985 Canadian video release gets it.

In the movie the lack of police is part of the threat – the building is being attacked, and there’s no one to call for help. But in case you’re worried this makes it copaganda, ENDING SPOILER THIS PARAGRAPH ONLY there’s a little bit at the end where one of the attackers survives and goes back to his job… as a cop. I want to call it a twist ending but honestly I kind of thought from the beginning these guys were probly cops. So it’s more of a confirmation ending. (Also the VHS cover shown at the right makes it apparent.)

Co-director Maura O’Connell doesn’t have any other directing credits, but she produced various movies for Donovan and co-wrote one called GEORGE’S ISLAND. Wikipedia says she’s an Irish singer and actress known for her contemporary interpretations of Irish folk songs, strongly influenced by American country music, but I’m pretty sure that’s a different lady. Would be cool, though.

The Blu-Ray includes both the 84 minute theatrical cut and an extended 93 minute version. I only watched the short one and on the commentary Donovan says that’s what he considers the real movie. They had to add 9 minutes of prologue to make it long enough for the Japanese video market. Maybe that version explains who the heroes are better, but I like the way we just get thrust into it.

The definitive Canadian genre sight Canuxploitation describes SIEGE well in their review: “Few Canadian films are as unrelentingly gripping as Siege, a lightning-paced shocker that somehow manages to be both incredibly sleazy and charmingly benevolent at the same time… playing off both the fear of lawlessness and the all-too Canadian preoccupation with giving too much authority to those in power.”

They see the movie’s antifa message of communities uniting to fight off the bigots as very Canadian. So hats off to you Canadians with your glowing hearts and your land strong and free. I gotta get a passport.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2021 at 9:39 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Siege (a.k.a. Self Defense)”

  1. This sounds up my alley! Never heard of it before, but I’ll check it out! I always love a good siege flick!

    Vern, have you seen The Nest? (Or nest of wasps?) From the director of Bruce Willie’s Hostage

  2. This sounds like my kind of movie. Might just pick it up sight unseen.

    Vern, I noticed Severin has it on DVD for A LOT cheaper than the Blu-ray (less than half price), but it doesn’t have the longer version (which is fine–I don’t need those extra nine minutes of filler) or the commentary track. Is the commentary interesting or entertaining enough to shell out for the Blu-ray or would I not be missing much?

  3. Winchester – I have not seen THE NEST. It has been semi on my radar since he signed to do HOSTAGE but it seems like there are 27 different movies called THE NEST and more than one of them has been recommended to me and I always forget which one it is.

    Majestyk – Oh, that’s weird. Now I’m questioning my sanity. I swear it was the DVD I rented, and I listened to the beginning of the commentary. To answer your question it was not thrilling enough that I had to listen to the whole thing, but I do think it’s on the DVD despite not being listed that way on the Severin websight.

  4. DVD it is then.

    I saw THE NEST a while back and didn’t care for it. It was one of those gritty desaturated shakycam action thrillers they were making back then where it’s all just a wash of jittery footage so none of the action beats land and eventually you just stop paying attention. But then again that’s what I thoght about those ELITE SQUAD movies, Vern, and you seemed to love those. So your mileage may vary.

  5. Mr M, one of us remembers THE NEST wrong, because in my memory it was elegantly directed and quite beautiful looking, which is why its director instantly jumped on my watchlist, but I admit that it’s been years since I saw it. Sadly after HOSTAGE he didn’t do anything I cared about. Would’ve love to see him on the director’s chair of DIE HARD 4, as it was rumored for a while.

  6. I looked at some clips on YouTube, and you’re right, it’s not shakycam. The shots themselves are clear. They’re just edited into a homogenous mass with no build.

    Whatever its problem was, I very quickly lost interest in it. And I liked HOSTAGE. But like I said earlier, your mileage may vary.

  7. Hell yeah! This movie was the stuff of legend among Halifax exploitation filmmakers for a long time. You really couldn’t see a clear version of it for years (unless you were cool like me and had the Vimeo link). I was friends with Paul Donovan in my early/mid-20s–he let me hang out one of his film sets, and it was the first time I’d ever has the opportunity to be somewhere like that–but haven’t seem him around in a while. Anyway, I just felt the need to chime in about one of the only blu-ray releases of a film shot practically in my backyard. Thanks for reviewing it!

  8. How many Halifax exploitation filmmakers were there?

    This is not a rhetorical question. I need a list.

  9. Haha. To be honest, not many, but there are plenty of aspiring ones. Halifax genre film was pretty microscopic outside of Donovan stuff like this and DEFCON 4 (we mostly fund a lot of movies about lighthouses) until the early 2000s when TRAILER PARK BOYS came out in tandem with a bunch of young filmmakers doing no budget renegade horror things. It was interesting seeing that stuff just show up at our film festival all of a sudden. Eisener had the biggest breakout from that with HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, and he’s the one who introduced me to SIEGE years after I’d first met Donovan. After that there’s movies like CORRIDOR and BLACK COP, and a bunch of others. DETENTION isn’t thought of as a Halifax movie outside Halifax, though I wrote a lot of it here.

  10. All this time I’ve been bullshitting with the writer of DETENTION? Did the rest of you guys know this?

    Halifax sounds like my kind of place. A few generations back, my family moved out of Canada (somewhere in Quebec, as anybody who knows my government name would have already guess) and though I’ve never been there, I often feel like my poor wandering soul is listening to the distant call of its wintery homeland. I honestly looked into defecting a few times during the Trump years but your rules made it clear that you don’t need American scum like me fucking everything up for you guys up there. Which I respect.

    Anyway, thanks for the Halifacts, man.

  11. In my view, anyone who wants to live in Canada is probably cool and should live in Canada.

  12. The extended cut features a pretty goofy intro to Horatio’s character; he’s helping some kids push a stalled car, only to discover that they stole the car. There’s nothing to explain anything about his relationship with Barbara, Chester, and the two kids. It also includes a scene with one of the New Order douchebags getting ready for his big night of gay-bashing; he lives in an average house in the suburbs, and it does add to the disturbing truth that these guys are probably all just Regular Joes with wives and kids, rather than crazed loners. It felt like I was watching the Canadian version of the same kind of person who would think storming the Capitol on January 6th was the right thing to do. Well, the right *wing* thing to do, maybe.

  13. I thought DEFCON-4 was a really interesting movie (low-budget but effective) so I’m going to have to seek this one out.

    Also, as a Washingtonian, am I considered a Southern Canadian, or just another yahoo living in a soon-to-be irradiated wasteland? Asking in advance of 2024.

  14. Guys, I gotta get real for a second: Do any of you have family members who won’t get vaccinated, and if so, what are you doing to change their mind? Has anybody been successful? And if not, how are you staying sane? It will come as no surprise to any regulars that I argue WAY too fucking hard when I think I’m right, so my tactic of getting emotional and yelling facts just manages to make me look crazy. I am at the end of my rope here. Collectively, you guys are the wisest person I know. How do we get through to these idiots?

  15. Thankfully my family and friends are really reasonable in terms of covid safety protocols. Even my mother, who can be the most reckless and egoistic bitch I know, wears her mask and got fully vaccinated.

    I do admit, in terms of anti-vaccers and other covidiots, I lost all sympathy and developed an “If they die, they die” cynicism. Yeah, it’s not that simple, since they probably drag a bunch of innocents with them and I have the privilege of being surrounded by people who take the situation seriously, but y’know, play stupid games, win stupid prizes and at some point other people’s stupidity shouldn’t be your burden anymore.

  16. I love the Nest. I remember I became obsessed with it back in 2002, when I read a review on Aint it cool News, and about that 20 minute opening without much dialogue. And that review was right. That opening is so great. All the characters are introduced so perfectly without much dialogue.

    It’s pretty much my favourite Assault on Precinct like film. I love how it’s directed. I would have recommended to if he had comments 18 years ago on Geocities. I’m not sure it had.

    I will say I haven’t watched it in a long time, as I only have it on DVD, and I haven’t found it on blu-ray in my country yet, or on streaming.

  17. This will sound like common sense, because it is, but it’s common sense that I forget from time to time myself, but then it always is borne out again by my experience (and is also research-supported).

    If your family are either committed anti-vaxxers or right-wing COVID-minimizers, then I think nothing short of them or others close to them having brushes with death will do the trick, and even that’s no guarantee. You can’t control or svengali other adults unless they’re truly open to your side of things. What could I do to convince you to love Trump or believe that the earth is flat or that there is an actuall illuminati? Or that you should settle down and start a large family? Answer: Nothing, because you’re not even 1% open to these ideas. It’s probably the same with your family. So, you can love and engage with them despite this while maintaining whatever health safety boundaries you feel led to maintain. Or you can disown them. Or anything in between. You just can’t change them through browbeating or ingratiation or anything else. You can speak your truth to the extent that it’s helpful and then release yourself from the illusion that you can control or persuade them.

  18. Nobody in my family is a Trumper, thank Christ. There’s no ideology of any kind in my family. They are happy, superficial people committed to simple pleasures and never, ever, EVER looking at the big picture or anything outside of their immediate sphere. I have no idea why some of them aren’t getting vaccinated. They just don’t want to. If it becomes a law or if remaining unvaccinated prevents them from taking a cruise or doing something they want to do, they’ll sign right up for the shot. They just don’t feel any obligation to their fellow man and in fact do not see how their actions affect others in any way. They have lived in the same town their whole lives. Nothing has ever changed, so why should anything change now? COVID is something that happens to other people. Why should their lives get all fucked up over something that only happens to other people?

    I’ve always been the cuckoo egg in this family but I’ve never felt less one of them than I do now. I know Skani is right about relieving myself of the responsibility to keep them safe but how can I live with myself if something happens and I didn’t do everything I could?

  19. Re vaccines-

    I’m lucky in that my family and I are on the same vaccinated page, but a few of my closest friends are very opposite. I feel like Frank Grimes dealing with Homer Simpson when we discuss anything about covid. I think that’s happening all over the country.

    Something I’ve noticed: no one on either side can stand it if they feel like they’re being told what to do. I dunno what it is, but everyone has become HYPER sensitive to the idea of authority, particularly the feeling that someone else is a higher authority than they themselves are.

    I think the wisest option, or at least the option to which I’ve resigned myself, is doing what feels right for me & not worrying too much about telling other people how to live their lives. Not because of some principle I have, but because the results have shown me it’s completely futile doing otherwise. If someone notices some aspect of how I live & feels like doing what I do, that’s fucking awesome — but other than that, insisting that someone see or do something my way will either lead to them shutting down, arguing/escalating, or placating me & walking off feeling like they’re even more in the right than they started out as.

    To feel sane & morally ok with this decision, some emotional management is necessary. I’m a person with what I’d describe as an “overly heightened sense of danger” due to experiences beyond my control earlier in life, so lately (when it comes to other people, I mean) ive been trying to expand my sense of humor and diminish my sense of danger— since on an interpersonal level the danger-sense is what leads to, say, my alarm for an unvaccinated loved one. Reasonable as that alarm may be under these specific circumstances, it sometimes manifests in what can look from an outside perspective like angry self-presentation on my part. So “Don’t get mad, get fascinated” is a dorky little motto I’ve coined to tell myself in those situations.

    But it’s hard out here for a material rationalist…. the saddest and most ominous aspect of the post-Trump/covid era for me is that I think covid’s not even the most dangerous thing right now, I think the far more likely, even pressing danger is that people in the U.S. are going to stop treating people they don’t know with any amount of decency, & that performative hostility will become socially normalized across all strata of society. I mean, it’s already happening.

    Thus, on that cheerful note, let me just end by saying that even though I don’t post much here compared to some of you all, I appreciate the existence of this thoughtful, kind, respectful community more than ever. Thanks for asking about this topic, Mr Majestyk- i hope something i said above resonates or even helps somehow & I’m sorry you and your family are butting heads over something this important.

  20. Oh man, can I ever relate to that “overly heightened sense of danger” thing. My father died in a stupid, pointless motorcycle accident when I was six weeks old. So I grew up marinating in the awareness that all those things that only happen to other people can abso-fucking-lutely happen to you. They can happen out of nowhere and at random and you 100% do not have to deserve it. I’ve never been able to put my head in the sand and assume that I or my loved ones be the ones spared.

    What’s strange, of course, is that my mother actually lived through that experience firsthand, whereas I only became aware of it years later. She’s also the one who was abused by her next husband, the drunk asshole who turned me into a distrustful and antisocial loner for life. Yet she is like Finding Dory or some shit, because those experiences and every other horrible thing that’s happened to her has washed right off as if they never happened, whereas I feel and can track the personal repercussions of every single tragedy that has ever occurred to me.

    So imagine having so little in common with the thought process of a woman who, by all rights, should share in the exact same pain as you, yet can’t in any way understand why you care about all that old shit. The bad things that only happen to other people have all happened to her, yet she still acts like I’m crazy for trying to thinking bad things can happen to her again.

    The worst part of it is that the lesson my brain is learning from this is “See what happens when you try to join the human race? See how pointless it is? See how much worse off you are now than you were before? Don’t you wish you never came out of quarantine in the first place?”

    And so I withdraw a little more every day. It’s all a little less worth it every day.

  21. Do you really believe you’re worse off for knowing the people you love and for expressing care for them? I don’t think so. The hero’s path is one of engagement, so, your impulse to engage and care is a good one (that your cynical brain is grimma-worm-tonguing is trying to combate through it’s usual nihilistic bullshit). You’re operating under a false dichotomy of “if I do the thing I should ‘win’ the outcome I desire, and quickly” vs. “everything is fucked, so why do anything.”

    I don’t think your mom’s situation is fucked, it’s just not entirely under your control, which you know, and I’m only re-enforcing. Her situation is much better, given that it seems more dispositional than ideological, since ideology is a real bitch. I think it’s good to make your case to her as cogently and lovingly as you can, letting her know it’s from a place of concern and apologizing if you were ever obnoxious about it. And you can continue to bring it up from time to time, just watching to not be too obnoxious (I know, this advice coming from me of all people).

  22. My recent trip home to see my family really illustrated how much of my barriers and defenses, both in dealing with family and just being out in public, were eroded during the pandemic. My patience was tissue thin with my mom, which always makes me feel bad, which just makes me even more impatient; it’s a vicious cycle. Even worse, it’s not even over anything nearly as important as getting vaccinated. If I had to hear one more thing about my cousins, who I have zero relationship with and don’t especially like, I was going to lose it.

  23. Skani: “Do you really believe you’re worse off for knowing the people you love and for expressing care for them?”

    I mean, this is not the answer you’re supposed to give but…kinda? I love them and they love me but if nobody is willing to meet anybody else halfway then that’s just a shared delusion. Love without action is just sentimentality. It has no actual meaning. So if I’m willing to put my love in action and they’re not, then how am I not a fool? How am I not wasting time and energy and emotional resolve? Why should I continue beating my head against the wall of human interaction? What potential gain is there for me or anyone else?

    I can’t help but think that I would be a much stronger, happier person right now if I’d realized all this 20 years ago and had the guts to be a hermit from the start. I could have spent all that time doing the things that actually bring value to my life. Instead I feel like a frog who wasted the best years of his life trying to be a duck. And the ducks don’t even notice.

  24. Well, I mean, I’m not advocating such extremes as staying in an abusive situation or otherwise being a martyr for a shitty cause. But I am advocating for engaged love as a meaningful value to pursue for its own sake, regardless of the level of tit for tat. You’d be a fool if you expected some mechanical pay-off for love or courage or integrity. Last I checked, Vern has not gotten rich off this webzeit, but he still does it, because he believes there is meaning in doing it. Also, is it truly the case that you’ve sunk just oodles of time into relationship-building AND that this time you’ve lost is the marginal difference between your current state and being in some idealistic hermit zen state?

    For my part, I get a lot out of the human interactions here, including and especially the interactions with / contributions from you. None of this is a waste to me.

  25. Let me put it this way: My entire life, I have wanted to write books. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. Until a few years ago, though, I never managed to finish one. I would sit down to write when I had time: when I wasn’t working, when I wasn’t socializing, when I wasn’t with my family, when I was alone. Then I got all depressed and stopped going out and only worked sporadically and lo and behold, I write nearly every day now. I finished two books during the pandemic. And it made me feel good about myself and my place in this world for the first time ever. No human relationship has ever done that for me.

    But am I writing today? No. I know it’s the only thing that makes me feel like I deserve to live but I’m still not doing it. Because I can’t. Because my brain is clouded and confused. Because instead of keeping my head down and focusing on the thing that brings value to my life, I let my dumb sentimentality about the brood I was inexplicably born into convince me to stick my neck out and wreck my state of mind. And this happens again and again. With friends and family both. I don’t come away from human interactions strengthened. Not for a very long time.

    Remember Jack Nicholson at the beginning of AS GOOD AS IT GETS before he decided to let Helen Hunt and Greg Kinear come in and teach him to love again?

    Heaven. That’s what that was.

  26. And yet, here I am, reaching out to my fellow man when I’m feeling low.

    I’m an idiot. Never mind.

  27. Did you finish AS GOOD AS IT GETS? I guess I like to think that you can find some time to write while maintaining some kind of family connection that is manageable but light-touch or whatever level you’re looking for there. Anyway, sorry to hear you’re in the thick of it with the feels and family drama.

  28. I mean, you’re not wrong. I’m sure all that crap about love being the fifth element is, like, super true. Has there ever been a movie, a song, a book, or literally any piece of art that takes the stance that love is a distraction from what really matters in life? They can’t all be pleasing lies, can they?

  29. So, here’s another thing I discovered in my recent trip home to see my family – remember how I said I was going to lose it if my mother told me one more thing about my cousins? Part of what makes me crazy is mostly what she does is complain about them. These are kids from her only living sister, who she also complains about or disparages CONSTANTLY. I was thinking to myself, geez, don’t become this, Maggie. Resist any urge to turn into your mother who can’t seem to say anything nice about these people. I was trying to figure out how to prevent this and realized I don’t think I’ve ever once in my life heard my mom say anything nice or complimentary about her sister. I had to wonder, does she even like her? I’m not sure she does. So, I decided life is too short to spend your time on/with people you don’t even like. Flip side of that, if you do like them, tell them that, show them that, don’t focus on nitpicky complaints. I am not saying your complaints are nitpicky, Maj. I’m just trying to say, let go of the things you can, show love to those you love and if you can’t find love in your heart, then don’t waste your time and find that love with other people.

  30. You don’t have to capable of arbitrating whether love is a a timeless truth or a noble lie to identify it as a value and then own your decisions about it.

  31. Oh, I own my choices. I didn’t end up here by accident. I have run from love at every turn. What I’m trying to figure out is whether my periodic bursts of humanity are a result of my body crying out for an essential nutrient or just the by-product of four and a half decades of indoctrination by the Sentimentality-Industrial Complex. I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

  32. All this if very far afield from my original question, which was have any of you actually managed to talk some sense into a non-vaxxer and if so was there ether involved and if so where do I get ether is there a website or…?

  33. I convinced my older brother to do it, and he convinced his wife, but that was mostly kid leverage, since we weren’t going to be hanging out with people until either they were vaccinated or all our kids could be.

    My wife has had some vaccine hesitancy, and in that case I just told the kids we were going to watch a video about how smallpox worked and the vaccine worked, and what happened with that, and then she watched the video along with them, and then that was that and they were all on board. She was not strongly anti-vax, but was at some points a little anti-vax-curious and a believe in spacing out vaccines and stuff.

    My in-laws are a little doctor-averse and home-remedy-ish and evangelical and most recently Trumpies, and there’s been no reasoning with the to date, so, we’ve basically agreed to disagree and aren’t seeing each other in person.

  34. I have a long distance friend who I got to say he was going to do it, but he has not. He has heart problems and distrust of medicine that make him fear it. He has been a total recluse for the entire pandemic so I think he’s safe for now, but I wish I could turn him around. Then I have a cousin-in-law who nobody could talk sense into but he’s a lawyer and he was going to have to wear a mask and social distance for a trial so he finally gave in. That’s why I’m glad there are starting to be more requirements like that, it might be the only thing that can persuade some people.

  35. Wow Majestyk, thank you for sharing all that stuff. Broadly speaking, it sounds like we have some things in common in the family trauma department. I didn’t lose a parent as a kid, but when change struck at home it was always suddenly and out of the blue – my parents’ divorce and remarriages being the main examples. So I too am in the unfortunate club of people who grew up knowing that anything that happened to a character in a book I read could also end up happening to me.

    It was my dad who remarried the abusive alcoholic, though — a woman who also happened to be the minister who my parents had first gone to for marriage counseling before said divorce. Until my stepmother did me the favor of throwing me out of the rectory they lived in at the tail end of high school, I had to be there every weekend and every summer, although I did everything I could to crash with friends as often as I could. Way too long of a time, 20 years and then some, would pass before I’d first hear of borderline personality disorder and start piecing together what the hell had been going on in my dad’s household growing up. They’re still married, unfortunately.

    Weekdays during the school year I was at my mom’s; her remarriage was also a disaster, but in a different way that fucked me up a lot less. No need to go into that here, though. Suffice it to say, for almost all my life my mom has had a committed magical-thinking/Pollyanna-esque way of looking at the world, like it sounds like yours also does. Even her choice to divorce my dad was done with extreme, some might say blind, optimism. But one pertinent difference between our moms is that for mine, the vaccine represented the Holy Grail to end the pandemic and transform the world to Edenic harmony, to a degree that I found naive. When she finally did get vaccinated, she was utterly transcendent – but soon enough, the refusal of so many people in the U.S. to follow suit began to really discourage her. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her become resigned to a consistently gloomy outlook on the people of the world overall. She spent her professional life being of service to strangers who had no one else to fight for them or care for them because that was just her nature, and I used to find that side of her annoying sometimes; it’s funny to miss it now.

    When you said that love without action is just sentiment, i don’t know if by ‘action’ you specifically meant attempting to convince your mom to get vaccinated — or if you were being more general. If general, I totally agree with you — as, at the risk of sounding like a massive cheeseball, contemporary saint Fred Rogers would remind us that “there are many ways to say I love you.” This pandemic was and remains such an obliteratingly crushing disaster, I suspect every media-aware person on Earth is now burdened with some degree of PTS if they weren’t already. And a big part of the tragedy there is that PTS in its unchecked state can make you wig out and cling to the randomest shit imaginable as some kind, any kind, of lighthouse. For half of the U.S., that lighthouse is masks and vaccines. More specifically, not wearing one or getting one. And yes, for the majority of refusals (like it sounds like is the case with your mom) the opting out is not particularly impassioned…. but it’s still a choice and it’s theirs and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is the best you’re gonna get if you say anything to the contrary.

    Here is a story about me and my mom from last year:

    From mid March through May I went to stay with her because she lives alone and is getting on in years. One day she wanted to drive to look at the beach she and her brother had played on a lot as kids. So we headed out. On the drive back, she wanted to pull off the highway to look at an osprey she knew was nesting on a piling in the middle of a nearby marsh. So we pulled off the highway, and sure enough, the osprey was out there in its nest. She likes birds enough that she keeps a pair of binoculars in her car, and she was looking at the osprey through them and then she suddenly said with excitement that there were actually 2 ospreys out there– one in the nest and one on a post nearby, keeping watch. She asked me if I wanted to see, so I took the binoculars and looked: there was, quite clearly, only one osprey, the one in the nest. The other post just had a piece of metal or something attached to the top.

    For a split second, I was about to say “No, there’s just one osprey” – but then I thought about it and instead I said something like, “Oh yeah! Look at that.” And we drove off, and I forgot the osprey/s more or less immediately.

    It takes about an hour to get back to my mom’s house from that beach. And during a lull in the drive, about halfway through, my mom suddenly said, “That was just so nice, how that one osprey was watching over the other one.” And right away I was so glad I hadn’t said anything. I remember appreciating very clearly the decision I’d made: to lie to preserve my mom’s comforting illusion marked a shift in our relationship, just internally, as I now was willing to put what she needed (validation of her own sentimental version of the world) over what I’d grown up needing from her (validation for being the smart, perceptive son).

    I know this osprey story and the stakes involved are not the same as the situation between your mom and you. But it might be that what matters to your mom the most isn’t how much longer she’s here, but the connection that she has to you while she is.

    Anyway, as Casey Affleck’s character from GOOD WILL HUNTING so sagely teaches us, “Let’s get off moms,” shall we? As far as the decision towards hermitude goes, I think you should follow your intuition. It sounds like you already are. Since you asked: in my experience, connection to other people is indeed a human need, as without it, delusion tends to fester like a motherfucker. But the good news is that I also don’t think anybody needs to choose between connection and living the life they’re born to live in order to feel relatively whole and at peace. Even hermits have their connections.

    And moreover man… congratulations on finishing 2 books since last year!! Are they related to one another? What are they about?

  36. Hey, guys. Thanks for all the feedback. I was not having a great day the other day but knowing others have dealt with similar stuff and were successful made me feel a little better. I don’t know if any of the tactics will work but it’s probably better than me blowing a fuse and calling everybody a moron because I can’t even with this bullshit.

    Psychic: thanks for sharing. it’s always interesting to me how different people can process similar experiences. Some people endure family trauma and emerge determined to make a better family and do it right this time. Others, like me, look at all the gonads and strife that comes from any given two or more people trying to live their daily lives together and just noped right the fuck out of all that. The inner lives of humans are so fucking complicated, even simplistic goldfish people like our moms, and I’ve never quite gotten the hang of letting someone into my inner life for any kind of extended stay. I’ll overshare like a motherfucker to some stranger on the internet but that’s because I’m only giving you a glimpse behind the door. I’m not inviting you to move in, and anyone who tries is likely to find the door shut in their face. All the people who damaged me the most were people who loved me. People who hated me never did a damn thing to me.

    When I said “Love without action is just sentiment,” I was speaking in general. It’s actually the theme I managed to arrive at over the decade-plus it took to finish one of those pandemic novels, which takes a lot of my own history that I’m still grappling with and turns it into a manhunt story about coke-dealing bikers. The object of the manhunt is the narrator’s erstwhile former stepfather, one of those drunks who loves to profess his undying love for his kids but won’t pay for their goddamn dental work. That’s what “Love without action is just sentiment” means. Love is supposed to make you want to do things for the betterment of those you love, not just give you a warm fuzzy feeling when you think about how much they mean to you. Your emotions are of no use to anyone but yourself unless and until you put them in action. I had a grandfather who clearly loved me. Ask anyone. I meant the world to him. Didn’t stop him from stealing my inheritance from my dead father (his best friend, by the way) and putting me in student loan debt for the rest of my love. So what exactly was his love worth? His love for me was just a self-egranizing delusion he had. It made him feel good about himself. It didn’t do a damn thing for me.

    (This is similar to when racists get caught on tape and say “This does not represent who I am in my heart.” Who gives a shit about your heart? All we can do is judge you by your actions. When you take a test, you get graded on the answer you write down, not the answers you had in your head.)

    Anyway, thanks for asking about my books. They (and everything I’ve completed for the past decade) is in the same series. The main character began as a clear analog for myself but over the course of several stories ranging from 35 to 500 pages into a different guy who happens to share some of my characteristics. It’s mostly a crime/action/thriller series but lately notes of horror and black comedy have started to creep in. There’s no particular hook to the series. He’s just a smaller-than-average dude who happens to find trouble everywhere he goes, and these experiences gradually change him from an underdog everyman into more of a traditional badass. The main conceit is that I can drop in on him at any point in his life and find an adventure there. One of the books I completed during the pandemic is set when he’s a seven-year-old with an abusive stepfather and a monster in his closet, the latter of whom is either an imaginary friend, a manifestation of his dark side, or an actual Eldritch horror acting as a spirit guide to an individual fated to live a life of violence. (I’m thinking Danny DeVito for the monster.) The other book, the long one, is more of a family dramedy grafted onto a detective story. The narrator is now 30 years old and tasked with tracking down that same abusive stepfather on behalf of his little sister, but the one-armed biker king the stepfather owes money to has other plans–and is also a much better and more likable person than the stepfather. Other completed stories in the series are set at nine years old (scumbag grandfather teaches him life lessons/how to be a burglar), in high school (new girlfriend turns out to be a cannibal), mid-twenties (discovers a kidnapping on Amtrak on Christmas Eve and can’t get the cops to believe him), as a 40-year-old burnout (a handyman job turns deadly–basically DIE HARD on a roof), and during a three-year-long Jack Reacher-esque walkabout where he travels the land and gets into adventures like the Incredible Hulk. One of that last kind is actually (alegedly) getting published by a small press (

    ) later this year, but I’ll believe it when I see it. COVID really fucked their production schedule and I have learned not to hold my breath. That one’s called SILO and, I don’t want to brag (that’s a fuckin’ lie), but it boasts cover blurbs from both two-time Oprah Book Club bestselling novelist Wally Lamb AND our very own Outlaw Vern, who described it as “a particularly great episode of Justified, but structured like a puzzle and drenched in two Stuart Gordon movies worth of gore.” So be on the lookout for that one when Hell finally finishes freezing over.

    I know I need to do more to get my stuff out there. So far, I’ve just been focusing on improving my craft. I keep saying I’ll start submitting to agents and whatnot after the next one is done. But then I finish that one and jump right into the next (I’m already about 180 pages into another walkabout story, this one more violent and over-the-top but less structurally experimental) so I know I’m just putting it off. This new one is called A PUNISHMENT LIKE ME and it uses the word “spatchcocked” in a gore scene so I figure my skills are probably complete at this point. Time to share them with the world.

    Oh, and to bring this thread full circle, SIEGE was great. I think I might like it better than ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

  37. Hell yeah, Majestyk. I agree that love is very often the differentiating factor in the otherwise undone getting done, or the seemingly undoable being attempted.

    And your series of books/writings sounds awesome! If Dr. Cicero does find a way to get the walkabout title you mention in print, whether it’s this year or sometime after covid is eradicated (ha), let us know, and a copy will sit proudly on my shelf next to Worm On A Hook. My hat is off to you for passing the spatchcocked barrier, the title on that one is fittingly excellent too.

  38. Mr. M., your books sound intriguing. When you’ve mentioned your writings before, I’ve been curious to know what they’re about. When you finally publish, I’ll definitely shell out for a copy.

    Have you ever considered a less traditional publishing route? Like print-on-demand like our pal Vern? Or how about an old-fashioned monthly serialization of a novel, published online and bankrolled by Patreon, Liberapay, etc? I’d love that kind of thing, which most likely means it’s hopelessly old-fashioned, out-of-touch, and doomed to utter failure. Just like me!

  39. Being a loner is overrated. Take it from someone who made the decision to live in a bubble where he would just learn how to make beats and finesse a rapping lyrical style but had no social interactions outside of his best friend. In turn I still have yet to accomplish something substantial with my god given gifts. Not because of lack of opportunity but just lack of trying since I preferred my own company to networking across NYC. Like I even remember Majestyk when you were still out here and suggested kicking it offline here on the sight and grabbing a beer but me being me at the time I did jack shit. Simply because I just had that energy of “I really love my personal space”. I do wish I had taken you up on that offer many years later.

    Like any other interactions like dating and such were just happy accidents. I did this from 17 to about age 34 since I never felt I really fit in anywhere outside of hip hop, music and movie fandom. I basically lived in a cave through my entire 20s. Going into 35 I realized I had severe depression. Only because I had a dream where I actually felt suicide wasn’t a bad idea. I remember waking up from it like at 3am like “whoa” and called my cousin in TX. That convo and touching base with my oldest friend who had been insisting I start working out for the longest changed everything.

    It had me call an audible and redirect my perspective these last 2 yrs. Best thing I ever did. I look and feel better than I ever did since I took initiative and stepped outside my comfort zone. I’m more focused with my craft as well and best of all I realized something crucial. Even though I pushed people away I still wanted my loved ones to accept me. Simply because I had never fit in anywhere. I knew jocks, drug dealers, geeks, immigrants, rock kids, rap kids, outright weirdos and I got along with all of them but never really quite fit in with any. I was too individualistic.

    I learned to stop apologizing for being that way and also seeking any acceptance because I felt I was a disappointing and too far gone in the eyes of loved ones. Especially religious one. Today I just stay in the moment and come what may I just work with that. In turn my mind, body and spirit are finally on the same wavelength. In the last 2 yrs my mental health has healed to the point I’m finally ready to do what I stopped my self from really doing for about 20 yrs. I’m ready to face the world with open energy and actually build a network outside of my best friends and loved ones now.

    I turn 38 on Friday and this is my biggest directive for the rest of my life and I know it will manifest what’s best for me in the end because I have that awareness now. This is very long winded but I just say that to say this: we really can’t save everyone and sometimes the biggest demonstration of love is knowing when to let go. You either let go or just love them unconditionally. This has helped me filter out who remains in my life and who my personal evolution just leaves no room to be in it anymore despite how used to their presence I may be.

    So yeah there are some relatives I’ll never ever talk to or hear from again. However if they ever need me for anything I will still be there for them 100% because of those ties that bind and they know it. They’d do the same for me as well. Some others are just too stubborn to not realize any of that though and you know what? that’s ok. People are people like the Depeche Mode song. Life is too short to try to soften a hard head is the way I see it so I just live and let live. However if our philosophies are that different I also don’t see any reason for use to fuck with each other outside of belonging to the same tribe.

    I would say don’t really worry about trying to talk people into anything. Especially those you love. It just creates stress that you just don’t need. Continue to live and just be an example that they either learn from or ignore but that’s what helps you make the world a better place. The you can lead a horse to water addage is quite true. So don’t sweat it my brother. Keep on writing and just use those existential conflicts to fuel your writing if anything. That would be the best therapy and will save you uneccessary wrinkles cause at the end of the day none of us no matter how great our intentions could convince anybody to make these decisions. They always have to get their themselves.

    My 2 best buds were not vaxxed. I have been since May. However outside of that initial day when I got my shot I never even bring it up. I understand why they’re worry and respect it. Since they were a part of my covid bubble I also just spend any time I can with them because they have been vigilant otherwise. I know they’re healthy. With that said one just had a baby and called me the other day to tell me he got it because the baby is now home. The other is now considering it because he wants to go to concerts and travel again and doesn’t want to feel shackled. They got there themselves though. I’m glad they did but all you can do with loved ones till they get there is just give them the unconditional acceptance they may not get from others. Sometimes. Something as simple as that goes a long way and stubborn folks evolve.

  40. I appreciate hearing from all of you. A lot of wisdom and also a lot of honesty about struggles and things that still don’t make any damn sense.

  41. “Being a loner is overrated”

    Hear, Hear!

    After 2 toxic relationships (1 was still fucking her ex on the side secretly, the other so clingy, Glenn Close would have told her to back off) I was happy to start a woman-free life, the burden of sex assuaged via hookers and hook-ups. Then I met a girl…

    20 years later, I wake up, see her asleep beside me, and I go..Yeah, there are days we both want to brain the other with a heavy object, but I simply don’t want that side of the bed to be empty.

    And I agree with the “Love without action is just sentiment” motto.

    All that baby talk is fine, but it takes someone who loves me to put up (pre-GPS) with a guy too stupid to read maps and too stubborn to ask for directions on a road trip where frequent wrong turns are rewarded with an eye roll and a chuckle instead of a glare and grimace.

    It takes someone who loves her to ensure her car tank is topped up, oil checked and tires adequately inflated before a long distance business drive because she frequently forgets.

    As for family..the one who made you, the one who birthed you, the ones who were born with you…they’re almost always the toughest to endure. They know all your buttons, how many there are, and exactly when to push them for maximum effect. I’m reading all these comments about difficult parents, relatives while sitting on the other side of the globe, and it’s all so familiar. My cross to bear: 2 octogenarians who most likely were born cranky and just got worse, the current forced isolation of a pandemic ratcheting their paranoia and anxiety to highly disagreeable levels. I had the “Anti Anti-Vaxxer” issue. They were both so paranoid they weren’t vaccinated when all their friends and relatives had been, my weekly lunch with them had all the joy of a root canal without anesthesia. Gloomy prognostications, nihilistic views just seemed to seep out of their sweat pores. I’d arrive happy and leave with thoughts of mass murder. Starting with those 2.

    But they’re my only parents and I realistically will not have them for too much longer. I’m all they have.

    And so in the immortal words of Alfred:

    Endure, Master Maj!

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>