WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR QUENTIN TARANTINO’S “ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.” IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FILM AND WISH TO AND WISH TO SAVOR THE SURPRISES, DO NOT NOT READ THIS REVIEW.
Iago Didymus knew immediately he was in a dream. This increased, not decreased his fear. Wizards have many more dangers in dreams than in waking life.
He was walking down a country road, through deserted fields. The sky was gray, everything was gray. He could see no one. As he walked, he came to a small, squat church. The steeple keeled over. Holes stared through the stained-glass saints in the windows. Next to the church lay a graveyard, surrounded by a waist-high wall. Inside the graveyard stood himself.
No, not himself, but a thing that looked exactly like him. The thing stared at him with hollow eyes. When he reached the wall, Iago could see its feet were ankle-deep in an open grave.
The thing bore no expression. But Iago knew it was filled with hatred for him. He knew that the wall was the only thing keeping him safe. So why was he moving toward the graveyard gate?
His feet inexorably padded toward the gothic arch of the gate. The thing’s head moved to track him.
Wake up, he told himself. Wake up.
His hand emerged from his pocket and fumbled toward the brass latch of the gate door. A tiny smile appeared on the thing’s face.
Wake up. Wake up.
His hand grasped the latch and began to turn.
Iago found himself face down in his pillow smothering himself. He convulsed backward, gasping for air. He pointed toward the candle on his bedstand and conjured a flame, a light to keep away evil.
There didn’t appear to be anything there. He curled up against the head of his bed and recited the Three Great Spells of Revelation. Nothing appeared.
Trembling, Iago retrieved his pipe and tobacco from the bedstand. There would be no more sleep tonight. He lit his pipe, sat in bed, and wondered why his brother wanted to kill him
The thing in the dream had been his brother. “Didymus,” he took as his nomme arcane, The Twin. For he had been born a twin. His brother had died in the womb, and Iago had only seen him in dreams. Twice before, he had dreamed of his brother. The first time was during the plague that carried off their mother and sisters. The second had been during a dark time that every aspiring wizard must face, a time when he must decide whether to pursue necromancy and worse arts or reject them. On both occasion, the dream had presaged baleful things.
Why did his brother hate him? Had Iago wronged him somehow, even before they were born? Or was it simple jealousy that Iago had lived and he had not? What was dread event was he happily presaging?
Eventually, dawn came. Iago feel back asleep, and did not dream.
Age makes monks of us all
Stripping away pleasure from pleasure
Turning our minds toward death and time
Doctors give discipline as abbots
No wine, no salt, no cheese, no oil
A liturgy of pills, taken by the Hours
So we watchfully approach our end
Let us keep at least our memories
Yet even they might be required from us
Lord, let thou thy servant depart in peace
Having endured thy salvation
Every so often I remember this post and think I should do an update.
At this point, it is obvious that the Roomful of Dust is less explosive than I feared it was. In the past six months, Pakistan and India, then Iran and everybody, have stood on the brink of war, yet no war has appeared. This is a potent reminder that war is not only not healthy for children and other living things, it’s also not healthy for existing power structures. All the players have their own cold-steel goals, but they all have a lot to lose as well. The lack of line warfare in recent decades, combined with jumps of weapons technology, means that it’s impossible to know what could happen once the reins are off.
In fact, it’s possible war might bring nothing good even for the winners. Saudi Arabia and Israel want regime change in Iran—but if the collapse of the Islamic Republic led to a massive failed-state zone, they might end up longing for the ayatollah’s time. China’s neighbors would like the PRC to cool it with the efforts to become hegemon of East & Southeast Asia—but they might like mass chaos in interior even less. Everyone’s aware just how economic stability, let alone growth, would pop like a soap bubble under wartime conditions. Any war in the Persian Gulf would immediately chop world oil supplies by more than half, instantly creating a global depression.
So I’m not as nervous as was. And yet.
The problem is that most of the time, war is always the stupid move. Peace is the result of geopolitical equilibrium; geopolitical equilibrium is the product not of universal satisfaction with the state of affairs, but with universal acquiescence that there’s nothing that can be done about it. Generally speaking, peace is always the smart move. Wars occur when someone, out of arrogance or desperation or both, decides to forget what the smart move is. Austria forgot in 1914. Japan forgot in 1941. Israel forgot in 1967. Sometimes it works out. Usually it doesn’t.
So the question is: will someone in the Room choose to forget? They haven’t. There’s been ample opportunity, yet they haven’t. May they continue to not forget.
I’m going to tell you about a moment. A matter of several minutes in my life.
This moment occurred in the late June of one of my high school years, either 1989 or 1990. School was not a comfortable place for me. I was a definite nerd. While I had my small group of friends, the larger student body had no use for me. My grades were decent, but I didn’t particularly enjoy academics, preferring my own intellectual pursuits. But school was out. I was savoring the liberation of summer, and it was June: the plenty of summer—not the nervous waning days of August, but the fat of summer, the overflowing cup of summer.
This moment occurred at our family cottage in New Hampshire, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. That locale has always been where I have felt happiest, since my first visit at the age of three weeks. My family had just arrived. It was night—the trip took a while. It was warm. We had put away our luggage. Mom was making up the beds.
The moment began when someone—I’m not sure who—snapped on the old GE portable radio kept at the cottage so we could listen to broadcast of Red Sox games. There was no Red Sox game. The radio played Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”
Time changed for me.
I knew the song. VH1 had a show, hosted by Peter Noone, “My Generation,” on which I had seen a video. Not one of the emblematic songs of the Sixties, but I knew it anyway. Even at that age, I had a seeking interest in the Sixties. Heck, I once wrote an entire blog about it. The question of the Sixties grabbed me from an early age, for reasons I still don’t entirely understand.
With the opening notes of the song, time changed. I was still in the main room of the cottage, but it wasn’t the Eighties or Nineties anymore. Which isn’t to say it was the Sixties, either. I was overwhelmed with the sense that the room in which I was sitting had been there, much the same, twenty years before. Time was one. There was no distinction between that year and my own. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is a trancey, languid song. That had something to do with it. All I knew was that as long as it played, the moment, that unified moment, continued. I was free and safe and connected. It was a variant of ecstatic experience.
Then the song ended. The sensation ended with it. I returned to the present. The rest of my family didn’t even know anything had happened.
Over a quarter-century later, I still remember the moment. A moment in most ways wholly unremarkable, yet one of the most intense moments ever given me in my entire life. Did I live in the Sixties? No, but I got to touch them for about four minutes once.