If The Pentagon Did Shock Art it Would Look Like Range 15

People are always fretting that things are about to end badly. From the Rapture to Raganarok mankind has fetishized the apocalypse since time immemorial. Zombies are 21st century America’s doom du jur. The undead combine eschatological insecurity with Internet-Age narcissism. Unable to fully empathize with our fellow man we project our fantasies about them onto subhuman monsters and cast ourselves as the only true hope for authentic humanity. Consider the beginning of Range 15:

A group of veterans, war heroes all, are sitting in jail after an all night drunken escapade. The soldiers are screw-ups in the tame 9 to 5 world civilians inhabit and where the lethal skills they’ve honed in the military aren’t needed any more. While they’re locked up, civilian society collapses courtesy a Zombie Apocalypse. They use this as an opportunity to break out of out of jail and return to the life they’re comfortable with, killing as a team sport.

Over the remainder of the film they mow through the zombies with glee and ingenuity. Their only real anger is reserved for flag burners and people who lie about having served in the Military; stolen valor, they call it.

Veterans of the US Military made Range 15 for it to be seen by other veterans and active duty service people. The production of the film was completely crowd funded and the film was distributed through a brilliant social media campaign that sold out theaters all over the country its opening night. The film’s scrappy, “we can do it ourselves”,  marketing campaign appealed to the esprit de corps and mission based mindset common to vets and made Range 15 the most improbable hit of the year.

Nick Palmisciano, who stars in, co-wrote and produced the film and I have known each other for years. A graduate of West Point, veteran and successful entrepreneur he has always possessed a keen understanding of where marketing and the military meet up.

I first met Nick when we were involved in a project to put on a live MMA production for the troops at FOB Marez outside of Mosul Iraq in 2008. While prepping for the show on the base we saw something the troops on the base called the Tank Grave Yard. This was a big junkyard where the Army put the all burned out shells of Saddam Hussein’s old Soviet tanks; the ones that the US had made such short work immolating in the beginning days of the war. While we were looking around, Nick, in a moment of inspiration, put his business card as CEO of apparel company Ranger Up inside one of the tank barrels and snapped a picture for the company’s website. The image said to me, “America still does at least two things better than any body else, marketing and industrialized warfare,” and “ Buy your shirts at RangerUp.com”

Range 15 is the darkest comedy you will ever see but it is also a broadside against the despair and hopelessness that make suicide among Veterans such an epidemic in the U.S. The film does this by skewering the fears America seems to run on these days. Fear of Death, fear of the other, fear of pain and hardship, fear of shame, duress and ridicule; these are the levers by which the powerful agitate the public mind and set us one against the other, destroying the “team spirit” of the Nation. Fear is also what comedy, brutal or not, alleviates. Satire helps take the teeth out of the world’s horror. This is the spirit of Range 15.

Although it’s a comedy, be warned; this is not a film for the faint of heart. If Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now and Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket remade the Rocky Horror Picture Show then it would be Range 15. It’s shock art by way of the Pentagon, or that old joke the Aristocrats as told by Generation Kill. By its very existence the film subverts the twin neurosis of age, self-righteousness and political correctness.

For example, I have long considered myself invulnerable to offense but even I was taken aback by one scene involving a character named Colonel Vandenham and one his over the top bloody rampages. If you see the film you’ll know immediately the one I mean. But, the reality is that nobody really cares whether or not I was offended because it doesn’t matter to any one but me. Life goes on. This is something that’s useful to be reminded of from time to time.

How a Gazelle Eats a Lion

Connor McGregor, who over the last few years, has parlayed a good left hand and a gift with the microphone, into a stint as the biggest star in Mixed Martial Arts, delivered this epic rant last week concerning his upcoming opponent Nate Diaz, who he fought Saturday night.

“ You are like a gazelle,” said the Irish Champion. “With your little gazelle friends, bunching up together hoping to be safe.” McGregor was referring to Diaz’s dreaded crew of training partners which includes Nate’s older brother Nick, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez

“But I’m a lion,” said McGregor as Diaz sulked “ and I’m going to eat you alive.”

Warming up McGregor continued “I stalked you and now I’ve got you, and Saturday night I’m going to eat your carcass in front of your little gazelle friends and all they’ll be able to say is ‘ We’ll never cross this river again.’

Mr. Diaz, who had more experience than McGregor and was the bigger of the two commented pointedly, “ You don’t believe that.”

When it came down to it last Saturday night, McGregor did do his best to devour Mr. Diaz, for a while.   He came out guns blazing. In the first round he nearly decapitated Diaz several times with his vaunted striking ability and by the end of the initial round Diaz was bleeding heavily from several cuts around his eyes.

In the second, however, the fight took a most Un Leonine turn for McGregor. He tired quickly and found himself exhausted against a bigger fighter famous for getting stronger and stronger the longer a fight goes.

In the deep water against a world-class opponent for the first time in his career McGregor panicked. He shot in for a sloppy takedown, which Diaz, a highly skilled grappler easily negated. After a meek bit of resistance McGregor rolled to his back giving up and easy chokehold and submitting almost immediately.

The sporting world was shocked at the upset but, in retrospect, a knowledgeable fan should have seen it coming. In 2013 book Fightnomics, a book, which breaks, down MMA into hard data and analyses the sport dispassionately, (its been as the MMA version of MonyeBall), these prophetic statistics are addressed:

The relationship between pre fight hype and odds. P 227
The importance of setting the pace in a fight. P 106
That Nate Diaz has been on the end of the among most slams in UFC history p.125
That Nate Diaz has among the most submission victories. P133
How even though two fighters can weigh the same one can be the larger man. P 138
The comparative lack of success of shooting takedowns. P119
The disastrous effect of fatigue. P 74
That the most dangerous round in which to be submitted is round 2. P 136
Also in the book is that the rear naked choke, the technique to which Mr. McGregor succumbed, is the submission technique with the highest success percentage in MMA. Not in the book, but also of note, is this: the Brazilians who perfected the rear naked choke as a pat of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, nickname the maneuver the Mate Leone, which means in Portuguese, “Lion Killer.”

“Size Matter Not” or does it?

“Go to the Ant thou Sluggard, Consider her Ways and Be Wise…”

Proverbs 6:6

When you want to overawe a man and usurp the rational power of his mind it’s an ancient and effective technique to make him feel physically small in comparison to something else. Drawing his inference from the natural world, man equates his lack of comparative size to weakness and, in a short intuitive leap, to metaphysical inconsequence.

The Pyramids, the great temples of Balbak, Karnak and Angkor Watt, St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Spring Temple Buddha of Zhoacun Township in China which stands over 500 feet tall, demonstrate that the rhetorical trick of the monumental display is thousands of years old and as strong today than ever.

In The Force Awakens it’s cosmic villainy that casts itself large. The Starkiller base is many times larger than the original Death Star, which itself was famously the size of a small moon. The storm troopers of the First Order stage a giant Nazi- like rally, complete with maniacal, screeching, oratory. Most conspicuously, the Arch Villain, the quasi-mystical Supreme Leader Snoke is seen as a giant hologram 100 feet tall.

Conversely, in the Star Wars Universe, the good guys are often small in number and size. It’s a rag tag group of only six that rescues Lea from the thousands of imperial troops in a New Hope and in the set battle pieces the rebels are always outnumbered. Yoda, perhaps the most powerful character in the series, is also the smallest. “Size matters not,” he tells Luke on Dagobah.

Notably the first thing you notice about Kylo Ray when he makes his initial appearance on screen in the new film, aside from his mask, is that he’s a normal sized man, not nearly as imposing as Darth Vader, who when in his full armor, was supposed to be nearly be 7 feet tall.