Friday, December 14, 2007

A Few of Your Favorite Things: A Taste of Home Courtesy of Patrick Swayze, Usher, and R. Kelly

June 7: My life as a cog in the military-industrial complex constructed by our Republican overlords begins. As most world conflict occurs near sand and/or oil, my new gig required a two-week "why they hate you" orientation trip to the UAE. Two weeks ballooned to more than five months, and was topped with the cherry of an all-expenses-paid two-month vacation to lovely Afghanistan. Before I could blink, I was staring at a Thanksgiving Camel and gulab jamun pie. During that time, television, as you might imagine, was limited for my non-Hindi/Dari/Arabic-speaking self, thus it was no surprise to one night find myself watching the 1989 classic, Next of Kin.

For those luckily not in the know, Next of Kin finds Patrick Swayze as a reformed hillbilly who's now a Chicago cop. As heroes are wont to do, he convinces his little brother (Bill Paxton) to also make the transition from Green Acres, and as fortune would have it, the little brother dies in a mob heist gone wrong. Swayze must bring the killers to justice before his hillbilly roots (personified by a mulleted Liam Neeson) rise up and do it for him.

I was sitting through this tripe, watching a fight between Neeson and Swayze -- which I knew would end in a resolution of family strength and brotherhood -- and a wave of peace and serenity enveloped me. I realized that life simply had no meaning whatsoever.

This type of epiphany is difficult to verbalize, but watching this movie -- including Ben Stiller impersonating an '80s night-club act, while knowing that he would emerge many years later as one of the highest paid actors in history -- I realized that actions must have no consequence. Nothing I do in this world will have any lasting imprint. Life is short, and while I may be a catastrophic f***-up in nearly every aspect of it, historians will not be able to easily trace my effects on this planet back to me. It might sound depressing, but in that moment, it felt mighty fine.

August 7: If television options are slim in Dubai, in Kabul they're non-existent. Deciding between Fox News and According to Jim can be trying, indeed. The silver lining? During breaks in the shows, instead of advertisements instructing you to buy products that will get you laid, music videos are shown. (Yes, some of which seem to be telling you how to get laid.) Now, while I may shove a hot poker in my eye before I watch Rihanna's "Umbrella" again, one particular video caught and kept my attention every time.

Lyrically, "Same Girl," a duet by R. Kelly and Usher, is a tale of treachery and deceit. But the video tells another story. As the song begins, R. Kelly calls Usher to inform him of a shorty that has him considering marriage. Usher, obviously happy for his friend and his new boo, listens intently as Kells describes her: she's an attractive, Coke-bottle-shaped, Durango-with-a-vanity-plate-driving woman who goes by "TT." She has an ankle tattoo and a house on Peachtree and 17th. Usher's stomach drops and concern crawls across his face. He inquires if, in addition to the aforementioned qualities, she is a single mother who loves Waffle House, graduated from Georgia Tech, and works at TBS. Kelly confirms all. Usher realizes that, as the title alludes, they are peeing, er, seeing the same girl. Not having it, the men plan revenge.

After watching several episodes of 70's sitcoms, Usher invites the girl to dinner, where R. Kelly is waiting to serve today's special: Comeuppance. As the girl walks in, Usher and Kelly rub their hands and twirl their mustaches only to watch as she splits "Doublemint style" into twins. They were not messing with the same damn girl after all -- which makes no sense within the context of the song, but alleviates any pain and embarrassment. Usher pops a Mentos into his mouth and smiles at the camera while we fade to black. (Just kidding about the Mentos part.) During my stay in Afghanistan, I saw this video at least four times a day. Every time was like a blessing from god.

--Jason Wiseman


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