Sunday, August 18, 2013

#ROW80 – 3RD QTR 2013 – SUNDAY CHECK IN – MUSINGS OF AN EX-CIGARET SMOKING WOMAN





I can kill you whenever I please, but not today.” This is the last line of one of the series of the fictional Jack Colquitt adventures, written under the nom de plume, Raul Bloodworth, also known variously, as the “Smoking Man,” “Cigaret Man,” and “Cancer Man,” delivered so very dispassionately, as he makes the decision to not kill one of the “Lone Gunmen,” Frohike, who has some dirt in the form of a cheap magazine article about the Smoking Man, in the “X-Files,” a superb television series that has become a cult classic.




Great show, stories and cast.

I had never seen the show ever, until last year on Hulu+ and then I pretty much binge-watched it. This one episode ranks among the best in terms of showcasing a character, who up until then has been portrayed as something purely evil, or is he?. He and Deep Throat, seem to be in the right places to pass information, or disinformation along that will keep Agent Mulder and occasionally, Agent Scully from being exposed of possessing as much knowledge as they do. The 2 graying men, also lead the agents up blind alleys and plant false clues to ameliorate the suspicions of their own higher ups, from J. Edgar Hoover to whoever is sitting in the President's chair. They play a dangerous game.




               CSM                                                                Deep Throat

As the Mr. Fix-It for any and every unfortunate political development; CSM as the Smoking man is referred to, he begins reminiscing over the course his life has taken and how he never really was able to become what he wanted to do, which was write. His dispassionate observations show him to be responsible for the deaths of JFK because of the Bay of Pigs. He is tapped by the Army in setting up Lee Harvey Oswald, in a scene straight out of "Apocalypse Now," superbly done. "Have you ever seen myself or this gentleman?..." Oswald, determined not to be the patsy, runs out of the theater and ends up shooting and killing a policeman, near Dealey Plaza; his only “real” crime. Jack Ruby and the aftermath of Oswald's arrest are never mentioned during the show's episode.


I was 7, when this happened. My father came home from work; it was a Friday and everything closed. The day of the funeral, my family and my uncle the Mad Scientist (Nuclear Physicist) and his family came over. We all cried.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. begins his call for the distribution of wealth - CSM does the honors because he still respects the man, but cannot support the idea of communism. This is in reference to his own father who was an ardent pro-Trotskyite, who ironically was assassinated on August 20, in 1940 in Mexico City, the day CSM was born only to be executed later in the US for treason – CSM has such a twisted code of honor, but this is oddly fitting; almost chivalrous.


1968 was a horrible year. 4 months after MLK's assassination,  RFK would be assassinated less than 10 miles from where I lived.  That past March had seen the disastrous TET offensive and proved that Robert McNamara and General Westmoreland had lied to the American public for years about the Viet Nam War. The casualties there were horrific. My father had always been calling them "assholes," and told me why, we should never have been there in the first damned place. Daddy was starting to hate his job; he provided logistics for the 37th largest corporation in the world, in weapons manufacturing. Why the FBI never showed up, I'll never... oh, that's right they did, but years later, for something else. Muhammad Ali was the only person telling the truth it seemed. Can you say radical much at our house?

Later, during the televised memorial, a eulogy is given for MLK, by RFK, who first says, “I understand this pain. I lost a member of my family, who was killed by a white man,” referring to James Earl Ray, who again, is never mentioned in this episode. RFK, who would die by the assassin, Sirhan Sirhan less than 4 months later, quotes Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awesome grace of God.”


The scene with RFK begins at 19:26 and it is poignant and chilling. The man who most certainly is responsible for MLK's death and presumable JFK's is well-read, and not necessarily untouched by what he's read. But the life is grinding him down.

CSM recites the passage along with him; the scene fades away on a single taradiddle, a symbol of the death of Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy. As MLK's eulogy was being televised, CSM is working on his latest Jack Colquitt adventure. He is a reluctant assassin; a tool, but once in, it's hard to get out. In reading the critics views and the other takes, some see CSM as a purely evil character, but it's not that simple and the portrayal of CSM is enigmatic enough to empathize with his assertion that he's “not a killer.” It is a powerful scene, and it only deepens the enigma that is CSM.

We see other wet ops and dirty tricks through CSM's eyes and the eyes of his compatriot, Deep Throat. Although played with dark humor and seeming contradictory behavior on the part of CSM, I prefer to see him as more of a tragic figure. One who does his masters' bidding, but would have rather tried to find more sophisticated means of trying to subvert MLK's agenda than killing him. When he is unable to convince his superiors, who are leftovers from the second World War, he takes it upon himself to do the deed. J. Edgar Hoover and the Chief of Staff come up with horrible ideas to slur King's integrity. CSM, loses complete composure and patience and tell them they are all unworthy and takes it upon himself to stop MLK. 

Once decided, he is told will be remembered by the President, CSM states “I work very hard to keep anyone from knowing my name.” He doesn't want to go down in history for his shameful acts, but he at least has the decency and intelligence to not besmirch MLK's reputation with white women and dirty tricks. During a speech by King, who utters, “That we as a people, will get to the promised land, my eyes have seen the coming of the promised land...” a gunshot rings out. It's terrible resonance echoes over the years.

The denoument comes when CSM and Deep Throat reminisce over a critically wounded E.T., that has crashed landed. According to U.N. Resolution 1013, any nation harboring an alien life form is responsible for it's extermination. CSM and Deep Throat argue about who is really the assassin and who will really make history, as it won't be them; no one knows their names. Deep Throat taunts CSM, telling him, “you're a killer, you're a dangerous man.” CSM defends himself saying, “I'm not a killer. I'm not the one who made the decisions.” This echoes back to the Nuremberg trials and how so many defenses of War Criminals began, “I did what I was told to do,” is so old and bad and wrong and CSM knows this. Even as he says this, it's a dispirited defense, as he looks down at the ground.



Who knows what they look like? I hear all of this about the greys and the big ones and there's a family of them that trample through my bedroom about once a week, but only when SETI@home, if offline. They look nothing like this, and I think they're ghost aliens. As long as they don't look like and have the personality of that bastard from the 1979 movie, "Alien," I'm cool.

They agree to flip a coin to decide who will kill the E.T. CSM wins the bet and Deep Throat readies himself to kill the creature. CSM no longer wants this responsibility and certainly does not want to exterminate an alien life form. He is increasingly becoming fed up, jaded, sick and feeling that his life has been ill-spent. Any idealism or patriotism has long been ground up by the lies and deceits that the government and his superiors have foisted upon him. CSM stands watching as Deep Throat walks into the chamber where the E. T. is on life support and conscious. It looks up at him, seemingly uncomprehendingly, as Deep Throat pulls the trigger and kills the creature.

CSM's one last out, he feels, is to have his work published. As he returns home to his crummy little apartment and picks up his mail, he walks over to his manual typewriter and opens his desk drawer, prepared to throw his most recent rejection letter in with the others, he stops and opens it. His story has been accepted and in his excitement, he calls the publisher who raves over his “Jack Colquitt adventure,” and says he want to publish it. CSM readily agrees, and the publisher explains that he may have to change a few things, “here and there,” after he finds out that CSM has no agent. CSM excitedly agrees and promptly writes a letter of resignation, to whatever agency he works for. He's just about to take out a cigaret, but instead, he crumples up the package and throws it away.


Another "rendering" of aliens in an episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space." Roki and Lord Kinbote, all delivered with straight faces by the cast, which included Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek. It did point out the fallacious nature of viewpoints and how we are easily swayed. 

Later, he goes to the newsstand and starts reading his article. He is dismayed to find that the publisher changed his ending and it ruined his whole story. The newsstand owner admonishes him, saying “Are you going to buy that?” CSM buys the magazine and a pack of Morley cigarets. He wanders off and sits down next to a homeless guy who has scored a box of half-eaten chocolates and gives this soliloquy:
"Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you're stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there's a peanut butter cup or an English toffee. But they're gone too fast and the taste is.. . fleeting. So, you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. And if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers."


The Lone Gunmen, who in spite of their borderline-Asperger Geekoid behavior, are terrifyingly gifted in all things spook-related. 

He takes back his resignation and stays with his Alphabet Agency, whoever they are. We never really know. He reminisces up to the point when Agent Scully joins the FBI, and then slips back to reality. The Lone Gunmen, knowing their place has been wire-tapped, and knowing that Frohike is most likely the target, have freaked out for the course of the episode, but we never really hear that, as they had deployed their own cloaking device. When they un-cloak, Frohike, says, “Look, it was just a dumb magazine article...” And CSM utters, “I can kill you whenever I damn please, but not today.” He dismantles his sniper rifle and walks away.



I've been thinking about this episode for several weeks, not because there are conspiracy nuts, theorists and all of that. I for one am skeptical and the "Musings of a Cigaret Man, is largely a work fiction. Sometimes, though it is hard to know where lines end and the truth really does begin. I've lived through all of the events depicted and remember them clearly. It's still hard for me to believe the Oswald acted on his own. James Earl Ray I know little about, except that he was a race-baiter and believe that is more clear-cut. I come from a family that has been involved with security-clearance technology and as Scully would say, “we have our own peculiar notions” sometimes. 

There comes a point there things begin to slip into say, martial law, and then totalitarianism. Here in the United States, the Patriot Act was signed in 2001, and then extended under President Obama, as the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011. This includes roving wiretaps, continued surveillance of ”lone wolves,” along with the existing definition of “domestic terrorism,” as opposed to the plain, old imported kind, I guess. Business records can be searched, library records must be surrendered. Understand, warrants or subpoenas are not necessary for this kind of snooping.

The cry of “I have nothing to hide,” is not the point. We are rapidly approaching the event horizon of defying the “Writ of habeas corpus,” or just plain “Habeas corpus.” This is a fundamental right, and it is everyone's right and is immutable. It means that a detainee can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. It is our most basic right. Forget Church, forget State, forget separation of the 2, forget the 2nd Amendment. If this, most basic of rights is violated and I truly suspect it has been, then we are no longer a democracy, or a republic. We are living under tyranny. But a special kind of tyranny, because, this is not one person; this is chromatic; up and down the spectrum. It takes the cooperation and the willingness of corporations, managers, people who are willing to look the other way. Edward Snowden is just a start. Think about it and think hard for your children's future. This doesn't happen overnight; it takes years, but I fear we are here. All the Teanderthals, the Liberals, Libertarians, Sectarians, Independents and everyone who sell their PLATFORM and not their morality and ideals share this mess. We should be voting our consciences, not platforms.


Not scary, just sad. Master to something he can never rid himself of.

But our friends like CSM, Deep Throat and Agents Scully and Mulder show us something. There is a grain of truth to all of this. The State exists to ensure the existence of the State. They were all pawns and at his deepest level, CSM knew this, more than anyone. That is what makes him such a compelling character. He's like Gollum; tragic.


I want to thank and congratulate William B. Davis for his fine work on X-Files and all of the wonderful cast and writers of the show. Mr. Davis truly brought CSM to life as we are all enigmatic and at heart, tragic in some way. Thank you.


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