Friday 30 May 2014


During World War II the Spanish dictator Franco, wishing to repay the kindness shown by Nazi Germany during the Spanish Civil War, organised a full division of volunteers (Division Azul, or the Blue Division) who served in the Wehrmacht, with the proviso they would only fight on the eastern front against the godless Bolsheviks, and not again Spain's western European neighbours. Although their name came from the distinctive blue uniform blouses, a hold-over from the Falangists, in the field they fought in German uniforms.

This little-known bit of history forms the background to the 2011 Spanish film Frozen Silence (in Spanish, Silencio en la Nieve, Silence in the Winter, not as good a title), set in 1943, as the Blue Division takes part in the siege of Leningrad. In the midst of the terrible Russian winter, a body turns up with its throat slashed and an inscription carved into its chest. As it happens, one of the privates on hand, Arturo Andrade (Juan Diego Botto) was a police detective, and he is soon given the assignment to find the killer. Who soon, as it happens, turns into a serial killer. Is he a hidden 'red'? A mason conducting some weird ritual? Or is something else, perhaps more sinister, going on?

The strongest part of the film is the setting, particularly the opening, when the body is discovered in the midst of group of horses frozen in a lake. Occasionally in the film there are shots of stark contrast, of cold power, but sadly, not often enough. That mirrors the basic problem of the movie: it's a who-dun-it whose plot is very much mechanical—hence, the action often bogs down into Andrade, and his sympathetic sergeant Espinoza (Carmelo Gomez), travelling back and forth along the front, asking questions, and travelling back.

A serial killer on the loose might have been pushed over the edge by the horrors of war, or by the grinding assault of winter itself; for Andrade, trying to manoeuvre through the military bureaucracy while dealing with the brutal murders, might be enough to push himself over the edge as well. But we never get that far, and, oddly enough, combat is kept in the distance. The winter itself comes and goes: conditions seem arctic at times, at other times it's a very mild sunny time, which might herald the return of spring and fighting, but I'm not sure any such symbolism was intended.

So director Gerardo Herrero and screenwriter Nicholas Saad give us scenes intended to flesh the story out. The film was adapted from a novel by Ignacio del Valle (El Tiempo de los Emperadores Extranos, or The Time Of The Foreign Emperors, which implies a different sort of story altogether) and I don't know how much was adapted and how much was invented. But there is one sub-plot involving a Russian roulette tournament—when in Russia, do as Deer Hunters do—which doesn't seem particularly original or authentic: the soldiers' situation hasn't reached that hopelessness as dar as we can see. There is another sub-plot involving a nascent love affair between Andrade and a local woman (played mostly in silence, because neither knows the other's language) by the lovely Lithuanian actress Gabriele Malinauskaite. It then turns out she is the mother of the boy, Sasha, whom Andrade has already befriended. And in a third subplot, the Germans come along and start killing the locals, including threatening Sasha, and putting those nice Spanish falangists into conflict with the nasty Nazis. Their niceness is indicated by the hats they wear instead of their Nazi helmets most of the time: a fashionable furry flap number for Espinoza, a wool toque for Andrade.

Andrade manages to solve the crimes before the Soviet air force intervenes, with a little bit of help from a friendly mailbag being driven by a friendly truck driver who seems to exist as a plot device—I kept waiting for him to turn evil. A number of plot elements are left hanging, particularly the most gruesome part of the Masonic red herring.The killing turns out to have had a more personal motive, something that goes back to the days of the Civil War, but the real villain of the piece walks away unscathed. At least until the Red Army attacks, and the film's ending is left appropriately dark, if open-ended.

The leads are very good, and the supporting cast is for the most part excellent; there are little bits of Paths Of Glory in the attitudes of the officers, Adolfo Fernandez as the commandant and Victor Clavijo as the clerk-sergeant are particularly good. But as a war movie, it's always going to be held back by the Columbo-like structure of the who-dun-it, and I'm not quite sure how that problem might be solved. It also tends to make the Russian front look too beautiful; as it happens I recently watched The World At War episode 'Barbarossa', and the 'reality' in grainy black and white footage, is shocking. In the end, Winter Silence is eminently watchable, but in the end, like light snow that doesn't stick.


If you're one of the readers of this blog interested in American football, and you haven't seen this already at, my off-season Friday Monthly Tight End column has been posted there. In it I look back at the draft, with special attention to the fate of the big-name quarterbacks, and the changing nature of the wide receiver and running back positions. You can link to it here...

Thursday 29 May 2014


My obit of Malcolm Glazer, owner of both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL and Manchester United of the EPL, is in today's Guardian. It's a joint effort with Gavin McOwan, with his handling the relationship with United and my approaching it from the US and business side. You can link to it here.

What's interesting, in the use of leveraged buyout in English football, is the fact that the NFL, even 20 years ago when Glazer bought the Bucs, would not allow such tactics to be used. The price was 'only' $192 million (a record, as I said, at the time) and the Glazers tried to raise just under a third of it with the sale of Houlihans from one company they owned to another. But Houlihans stock holders would not stand for that.

United's stockholders had no such ability, or indeed desire, to halt Glazer. His purchases of shares were driving the price up, which of course provided him with his safety net should he not wind up buying the team: his profits would pay off his lenders.

One thing cut from the piece was my original lede, which referred to 'knee-jerk' anti-Americanism in the response of United fans. Like London itself, English football has been purchased, bit by bit, by foreigners, starting with Fayed, moving through debt-ridden Icelanders and Norwegians, and including all sorts of other super-rich entrepreneurs. But like complaints about Americans calling football by the English term, 'soccer', the Glazers, and to be fair their methods, hit a nerve.

But in reality the fans basked in success, and went along at MUFC with the same kind of rip-offs that exist across football: the rising prices of tickets, the team shirt scams, whatever, because that's what fans do, and the Glazers were smart renough to keep Alec Ferguson, the greatest manager of his generation, in place and get another five titles. As Gavin notes, with lack of such success last year, the axe fell on David Moyes immediately, and if there is no return to Ferguson-like prowress, the Glazers will start to feel the heat.

But that, of course, is nothing to do really with debt service. In fact, English clubs have always been owned by men who made profit off the backs of the fans, and pace Gary Imlach, in the old days off the backs of the players as well, and kept it for themselves. There are now those who will spend without thought for profit, turning the EPL into their own fantasy league, but the fans don't mind that. There are those who do things like try to change a team's name or colours, and with justification the fans hate that.

I do not admire the leveraged buyout, nor its use in football. But the Glazers simply used a more advanced version of what football's owners have done since clubs turned into businesses with owners. Fans like to pretend they are not, but that's what they are. They are often just owned badly, which is why English clubs go bankrupt, and why EPL teams were such an undervalued asset in the first place.  It has always been a different game for those in the boxes and those in the terraces, and all-seater stadia haven't changed that.

As I said on the World Service last night, Malcolm Glazer's legacy here will be that leveraged buyout. I should have added it ought to be the lifting of the curtain covering the distance between the business of football and its fans.

Wednesday 28 May 2014


At the same time I wrote the appreciation of John and his detective Charlie Resnick, I also chose the five best of the 12 Resnick novels (and a bonus non-Resnick selection) which has been published at the Dead Good Reads website. You can link to that here. I'd like to say there's something surprising, or controversial, in my choices, but there's not. It does reflect the fact that, as far as I can see from my reading, John's writing continued to grow and deepen as the series went along. For a guy with over 100 novels under his belt, that is a remarkable achievement. Enjoy--a review of Darkness, Darkness will be posted here soon...


I've written a heartfelt appreciation of John Harvey, and his best-known character, Charlie Resnick on the occasion of the publication of the 12th, and apparently last, Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness. You can find the piece at the Windmill Books website, here, and I'd suggest reading all the way to the end, and following the link to the wonderful John Coltrane version of Tadd Dameron's 'Good Bait', to which I refer in the text (Resnick prefers Eric Dolphy's version, by the way). Ave et vale, Resnick. 

UPDATE: The link above no long seems to work, so I've decided to post the original piece I wrote for Windmill Books below, along with the choice of the five best Resnick novels which I did at the same time, and whose link (in the post that follows this one) does appear to be working still....


Darkness, Darkness is the twelfth, and last, of John Harvey's Charlie Resnick novels (though, in fairness, we thought the tenth, Last Rites, brought the series to an end back in 1998!). It is elegaic, but it's also fresh; as the discovery of a corpse takes the aging Resnick back to the miner's strike of 1984, a defining time for a Britain in transition, and especially so for Resnick's Nottingham. It is the genius of John Harvey that he is able to make the reader feel the turmoil of the time by focusing on the people around the crime, making the giant tragedy and the smaller one work hand-in-hand to create a powerful look back.

Harvey broke new, hard-boiled, ground with the first Resnick novel, Lonely Hearts, in 1989. Nine more followed, like clockwork, one each year. Their influence was immense. Resnick was the spark behind Ian Rankin's Rebus, Mark Billingham's Thorne, Graham Hurley's Faraday and Winter, and many more of our now best-loved detectives. He reclaimed Britain's mean streets for the sorts of people who walked them, and the sorts of criminals who preyed there. And it didn't hurt that, in Tom Wilkinson, the BBC found the perfect Resnick for the hugely successful adaptations of Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment, for which Harvey did the screenplays.

There has never been a detective less superhuman, nor more human, than Charlie Resnick. Wilkinson understood instinctively that Resnick was defined by an essential loneliness. In many ways he was the antidote to Inspector Morse, trading the lofty spires of an idealised Oxford for Nottingham's damp grey streets. Morse had his opera, Resnick played classic jazz. Morse did cryptic crosswords, Resnick constructed monkey-puzzle sandwiches. Morse read poetry, Resnick enjoyed the shaky free verse of Notts County football club. Resnick showed the influence of American hard-boiled classics, of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op, but more crucially he was a direct descendant of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's Swedish detective Martin Beck. Like Beck he is a loner forced to work in a team context. Like Sjowall and Wahloo, Harvey uses Resnick's stories to reflect on changes in society, and contradictions between appearance and reality (interestingly the Beck series was consciously planned to run for ten novels, just as Resnick originally seemed to be). Beck is an obsessive who finds his quest for solutions, for truth often at odds with the reality of his job. And with the reality of his life.

And this is where Harvey excels, because I can think of no novelist who's been better at using the story of the crimes being investigated to reflect on the personal situations of the people doing the investigating. The human dimensions of his stories remain unchanged, regardless of the setting, and there's a persistent quality which Michael Connelly once described as 'wistful' about them. They contain a mirroring of the human condition expressed through violence, and more tellingly through emotional pain, inflicted, suffered, repressed, endured. Few writers have used the framework of the crime novel more poetically.

It was through poetry that I first encountered John Harvey, more than 30 years ago when he published some of my poems in his excellent magazine, Slow Dancer. It took me a while to connect him with the author of a couple of fine stand-alone crime novels, Frame (1979) and Blind (1981), but by the time I began reviewing Resnick novels, I'd discovered John had also been one of the last of the great pulp novelists—churning out paperback originals at a peak rate of one per month. It was an apprenticeship that makes Darkness, Darkness his 102nd novel, more or less, counting those written by Thom Ryder, Terry Lennox, Jon Barton, James Mann and a handful of other pseudonyms. He wrote everything from biker adventures to teenaged stories of The Tempest Twins; from the novelisation of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo to ten westerns inspired by Sergio Leone about a gunfighter called Hart the Regulator. I confess proudly that I assembled a complete set of them. And before writing this, I searched out a copy of Amphetamines And Pearls, the first of four Scott Mitchell detective novels, a pulpy precursor of Resnick, with much of the darkness but less of the jazz.

Reading Darkness, Darkness, I was reminded of a night about eight years ago when I bumped into John at the Borderline, where the American singer-songwriter John Stewart was playing on what obviously would be his last UK tour. Stewart's songs provided titles for a couple of John's pulp novels (and for my own blog), and as an encore he performed 'Mother Country', a song about a horse-breeder who's going blind and wants to ride his favourite horse one more time. Walking out, we shared our immense sadness, and the sense that Stewart himself was singing with the same knowledge we shared. And that is the quality John Harvey brings to this final Resnick novel, a finish not of melodramatic incident, but of honest and poignant reflection on the way life is, and the way we live it.

In 2011 John published Good Bait, a non-Resnick novel whose title comes from a classic Tadd Dameron jazz song. My favourite version is John Coltrane's on Blue Train, where the tune tries to escape itself, be free and happy, but can't quite shake its way out of the blues. That's how I see Charlie Resnick, and how I think he sees his life as he's lived it. As John Harvey has written it so well.


If you're coming to Darkness, Darkness as your first Resnick, I envy you, because you
have the whole series to work through. I'd go beginning to end, without waiting a year at a time for the first ten, then ten years for the next, but if you insist on the highlights, try these five, listed in order of publication:

  1. Lonely Hearts (1989) The first, and still one of the best. Introduces and establishes his unique character in a novel that the Times called one of the 100 best crime novels of the century. It's the book where Harvey finally relaxed from his feverish pace of writing, and gave his characters and setting more depth, and the result was stunning.
  1. Wasted Years (1993) In which a series of brutal robberies forces Charlie to face events from ten years before: an incident he'd tried to forget, and a marriage he'd lost.
  1. Still Water (1997): Perhaps the best illustration of the way Harvey uses the criminal investigation to mirror the lives of his characters. A woman's body found floating in a Nottingham canal reminds Resnick of a similar killing that dragged him from a Milt Jackson concert many years before. And the nature of the sex crimes reflects the relationship problems of some of the detectives involved.

  2. Last Rites (1998): In its own way more elegiac than Darkness, Darkness, as Resnick deals with two drug gangs involved in a turf war, and pursues an escaped murderer, and tries to protect his sister. It's a novel about the things love forces us to do, and about the loss of such love.

  3. Darkness, Darkness (2014): Alone after the death of his partner Lynn, Resnick is presented with a thirty-year old murder which took place in the midst of the violent chaos of the miner's strike, forcing him to revisit those times while trying to solve the murder today.

    And if you have already read Darkness, Darkness, then treat yourself to at least one non-Resnick novel: In A True Light (2001), the story of Sloane, an art forger, which encompasses abstract expressionism, jazz, family relations, and a man finding himself all in one perfectly formed novel.

Monday 12 May 2014


My obituary of Al Feldstein, the editor/writer at EC Comics, and for three decades, at Mad Magazine, is up at the Guardian web site (link here), and should be in the paper paper soon. I wrote it ten days ago while I was in the States, and it appears now pretty much as written.

I concentrated on Mad because that's his wider significance, and what readers would recognise, but I would have loved more space for his work with EC, which in its own way was just as significant, and crucial in comics history.

Feldstein caught Bill Gaines' attention because of his 'headlights', which was 50s slang for the pin-up style embonpoint he drew on his women. It was designed to attract boys to the high school and romance comics which were considered the girls domain (and then, as now, it was adolescent boys who drove the comics market). The Guardian cut the headlights reference out. His talent remained crucial, especially for the covers of the science-fiction comics, as his well-endowed space maidens faced off against Cthulu-influenced bug-eyed monsters with lots of tentacles.

Gaines, who'd inherited the business from his father, was overweight, and took diet pills, which were speed, so he was insomniac as well. He'd stay up nights pouring through science fiction, horror, and pulp novels, and then borrow plot ideas liberally from them. Ray Bradbury famously recognised two of his stories cannibalised into one by EC; he called for payment and wound up recommending other stories they could adapt, and wound up often being flagged on the covers for those adaptations. Gaines and Feldstein would brainstorm stories which Feldstein then wrote; virtually all the stories in 5 or 6 comics a month. I was fascinated to discover that they had attended together a writing course taught by Theodore Sturgeon, arguably the best sf writer of the Fifties. I couldn't say that I'd sensed a Sturgeon influence in Feldstein's EC work, though Bradbury's is indeed often apparent.

What was important was first the way Gaines stood up to the censors, until it almost broke him, and second, especially in the context of Mad, the social consciousness those EC comics, grisly and violent as they could be, often exhibited. This came from Gaines and from Feldstein, and if anything intensified as the persecution of comics grew.

I mentioned Bernie Krigstein's story 'Master Race', whichappeared in Impact, and is considered a classic not just for its subject matter but also for the cinematic way Krigstein told the story, especially the scenes in the New York subway. It was supposed to be a six-page story, but Krigstein came back with eight pages, something artists never did. Feldstein was so taken with them he adjusted the rest of the book to fit the story.

I could just as easily have mentioned 'Judgment Day', another classic EC story, a parable of racism drawn by Joe Orlando. In the story an astronaut from earth arrives on a planet which has been seeded with robots, to check if they've evolved enough to be admitted to the 'Galatic Republic'. He discovers the blue and orange robots are segregated, with the orange robots living privileged lives while the blues exist on separate but equal facilities. The astronaut explains to the robots why they haven't yet qualified for human society, and, in the final panel, the twist is revealed: the astronaut himself is black. This was 1953, remember, and the magazine was titled Weird Fantasy. Gaines had to go head to head with the nascent Comics Code Authority, who wanted the astronaut made white, and then, when they gave in to Gaines' threats to go public, tried to insist EC remove the beads of sweat sparkling on his face in that final panel. The seeds for Mad Magazine were planted firmly in EC comics.

As an artist turned writer/editor Feldstein got the best out of the remarkable stable of EC and Mad artists, and the work is a pleasure to revisit today. And as anyone who grew up in the brave new world of post-war America soon realised, Mad's poking gleefully at the edges and under the surfaces, was givinmg you an indoctrination in what your world was really like. Not just parodies of insipid entertainment, or sleazy politics, or fear-mongering, but things as crucial as the way advertising bent minds to its own reality. Mad was at the forefront of the assault on smoking--and had the tobacco industry nailed from the start (see left).

You might say that Mad laid the groundwork, among kids in the 50s and early 60s, for what is now remembered as a decade of conflict. But what we really experienced in those times was a sort of transition, from protest to changing life style, and today it really seems to have been a transition from one kind of conformity to a new kind. I knew there was a good reason why my parents didn't want me to read Mad. But I don't think it's anywhere near as subversive now, and it probably wasn't anywhere near as subversive then as we like to think it, and we, were. But when you look at most of the comic entertainment you might well find subversive today, you won't have to dig far to find Mad somewhere at its roots.

Saturday 10 May 2014


I was reading the New York Review of Books, and was struck by the opening of an article by Jerome Groopman on memory. Describing his waking before dawn on a Sunday to start work on the piece, he makes his way to the kitchen.

"The dark-roast coffee was retrieved from its place in the pantry, four scoops then placed in a filter. While the coffee was brewing, I picked up the New York Times at the door...I prepared an egg-white omelettte and toasted two slices of multigrain bread. After a few sips of coffee, fragments of the night's dream came to mind..."

It's not how I would write it. Note the adjectival specificity. Not 'coffee', but dark-roast coffee. Not 'the paper' or indeed 'the Globe' since Prof. Groopman teaches at Harvard, but The New York Times (it is Sunday, in mitigation). Not 'eggs' but an 'egg-white omelette' and finally not 'toast' but toasted two slices of multigrain bread. It's not brand-name specific, like a Stephen King story, but it has the feel of one of the personal ads in the back of the NYRB, all professorial good taste and healthy options.

The article itself is an interesting review of a number of books about how memory works, and stops working. But Prof. Groopman's dietary preferences come back into focus near the end, as he discusses Alzheimer's disease.

"To be sure, there is merit in seeking environmental factors that affect risk for a disorder like Alzheimer's disease...But in this search we need to be alert to wishful thinking. Identifying something simple in the environment, like junk food, as having a major impact on developing dementia is wonderful to imagine. If true, we could markedly reduce our risk by committing to a lifestyle free of soda, pizza, and French fries."

Wishful thinking indeed! Soda, pizza and French fries sounds like the sort of stuff the creative writing professor discovers in the ice-box of the trailer-park waitress with whom he's having an affair in one of those 'dirty realism' novels from the Reaganite Eighties. But would losing them really be 'wonderful to imagine'? I now feel guilty in admitting that I followed my trip to the Yale Art Gallery last week by sharing a white clam pizza and a pitcher of birch beer with a professor friend at the Modern Apizza. Obviously we undid whatever positive effect walking through Yale had on my brain cells.

It occurs to me it might be even more wonderful were we to discover that Cambridge's dark-roast coffee, egg-white omelettes, and multigrain bread turned out to increase the risk-factor of Alzheimers. And isn't it even more likely that we someday discover the brains of readers of the New York Times have chosen to shut themselves down rather than remember being subjected to the likes of Tom Friedman or David Brooks?

Thursday 8 May 2014


So you missed some of last month's Oscar winners? You probably also missed last year's blockbuster action smash. And that is what airplane travel is designed to remedy. There are times while flying when it becomes prudent to find a movie whose plot will keep your attention without working with the low oxygen in the cabin air to further twist your brain. Recognisable stars, whose inability to play very far from their established personae, are a must, because you have to be able to flow with the character development despite missing crucial bits of dialogue because only one ear functions on your headset, or the first officer and head stewardess are hogging the microphone like neophytes doing their first stand up, or at least one person in front, behind, or beside you has their own attention span problem and moves you, bangs you, excuses himself past you, talks through you, at every possible moment. You'd like a villain who will ham it up and die with a wry ironic smile of self-deprecation. Maybe a comely woman or two, one of whom should be eye candy and another who should be one of a couple of cast members who really can act and be wasted in supporting roles which seem to have been written by a scripter on loan from Minecraft.

You are looking for something like Escape Plan.

It's a buddy picture, of course, and it seems written as a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, as he gets all the good scenes that require minimal dialogue, although many with eloquent grunts. He plays a prison security expert who gets himself thrown into stir so he can figure out ways of breaking out. On behalf of the CIA, represented by comely Catriona Balfe, he gets himself rendered to a secret prison where he hooks up with Rottmeyer, supposedly an employee who holds the key to reaching a criminal mastermind. Rottmeyer is played by Arnold Schwartenegger who, with Stallone playing straight man, turns into a acting genius; Tom Hanks overdosed on Human Growth Hormone.

The new-found buddies team up to thwart evil prison warder Jim Caviezel, who somehow resists the urge to go full Alan Rickman on his role, and thus imbues it with an awkward gravitas which never gets resolved fully, because there is only one way anything ever gets resolved here. Caviezel's evil henchman is played by Vinnie Jones, the ex-soccer player best-known for squeezing Paul Gasgoigne's balls, whose presence in virtually any action movie is a more reliable signifier of schlock than Chuck Norris could ever dream of being. He's like what Jason Statham would be if Jason Statham couldn't act as brilliantly as he does.

The story moves smoothly enough, there's a small twist midway through and what must have seemed like a very clever twist closer to the end. But if the premise is Stallone's ability to plan and execute, he relies to an extraordinary degree on things he discovers by pure chance after his plan has broken down. And he is helped immensely by the deus-ex-machina Sam Neill, a doctor named Kyrie, which may or may not be metaphoric, disillusioned by his service to Cavaziel, who simply needs a few stiff drinks and a reminder of his Hippocratic oath to crucially help Stallone. And the best twist of all is that the Balfe babe turns out to be Arnold's daughter, not his girlfriend, a rare piece of generational Hollywood honesty.

It all erupts into automatic weapons, helicopter gunships, hordes of uniformed minions mowed down like extras in a Bond movie, flames, tidal know, the usual. And a final twist when Stallone's boss, Vincent D'Onofrio, turns out predictably to be not what he appears to be—he's too good an actor not to be a plot twist. The other wasted talent is Amy Ryan, though interestingly, like D'Onofrio, her intensity seems better suited to the smaller screen, or at least smaller movies, where her talent isn't subsumed by monosyllables and explosions.

It's directed competently by Mikael Hafstrom, who seems to specialise in horror, which when you look at it, is very close to what this movie is--two action figures trapped in the ultimate haunted house. I was impressed by the design; production designer Barry Chusid plays on the blueprints of the prisons Stallone is breaking down, but works in elements of sf, MC Escher-like, and even musical sets--I kept seeing Elvis doing 'Jailhouse Rock as I was distracted by my mini-bottles of wine. But even on the tiny seat-back screen, he keeps it interesting. 

I particularly liked the guards wearing expressionless plastic masks--by coincidence on the return flight I watched the opening 40 minutes or so of Cool Hand Luke. I'd write an extended comparison of the two films, but it would be useless: Luke makes you care about the people (even though I let my melatonin work and went to sleep; but then I've seen it 3-4 times already) while Escape Plan asks you to care only about the plan. Anyway, those masks are the 21st century equivalent of the mirrored shades worn by the chain-gang bosses in that film. But nothing is made of the masks, just as nothing was made of Stallone's rendition. Wider points are beyond the remit of Escape Plan.
So who cares if the headset is broken, the guy in front keeps changing the angle, and the captain can't make up his mind about wanting those seat belts buckled because of turbulence? Stallone just fell 100 feet down an industrial strength air vent, and wasn't hurt at all. What could happen to us?