A few weeks back I bought this wristband.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing more than a hollow pop-culture reference, a bit of shallow and insignificant fun. But there are three reasons this line from John McTiernan’s 1988 Die Hard works so well as a motto or a (pun alert!) ...call to arms.
Here we go.
The Outsider. Firstly, it’s John McClane’s line, right? And McClane is everyone’s favourite maverick-New-York-cop-on-an-ill-advised-Los-Angeles-stop-over. While coke-snorting white-collar corporate America parties on the 30th floor of Nakatomi Plaza, elevated above the working lives of the less fortunate like carefree Gods on Olympus, out-of-towner McClane arrives on the ground floor, a determinedly ordinary cop in a place he doesn’t belong. Dammit, the dude’s so friendless even his wife has denied his name. The twelve bad guys – his judge and jury – are also classy fellas; their leader Hans Gruber swaps chit-chat about Saville row suits with Mr Nakatomi in his plush office before offing him. McClane, by contrast, moves most freely through service tunnels and vents; a bro clearly most comfortable below-stairs.
The Man of Modest Means. In contrast to the generous luxury of the plaza building, McClane is hopelessly ill-equipped to achieve anything. He begins his mission lacking almost every advantage others have over him. His clothing is reminiscent of a shiftless vagrant; he suffers bare feet throughout the movie – he can’t even scavenge trainers from the dudes he kills – wears a filthy vest, forages makeshift tools and props, and writes the line in question, awkwardly, left-handed, using lipstick. All he seems to own is a zippo. The guy is the very definition of under-resourced.
The Parvenu. Having risen suddenly in rank, any upstart worth their salt mocks the growing discomfort of their former oppressors, right? As McClane begins to stubbornly tip the odds in his favour, his premature celebration of unexpected progress – Now I Have a Machine Gun Ho Ho Ho – works like some sort of declaration of imminent revolution. Remember that zippo? The guy’s like Prometheus! He’s got the fire(power) and he’s gonna use it!
So it’s my liberation wristband, y’all. Rise up.
I’ll never listen to Elvis Costello again.
That comes as an unsettling realisation. I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I say that in the past I’ve been a complete Costello obsessive. I knew every album backwards. I listened to songs on a loop. I read biographies, studied lyrics, re-bought CDs when they were issued with new liner notes, collected stuff he’d penned for other singers, watched crappy movies purely on the basis of a tune on the soundtrack.
I was an unapologetic Costellophile for fifteen years. Case in point: I was in a band in my teens and twenties. This being pre-social media, we advertised for replacement drummers, new guitar players etc in the NME. We’d send interested parties a demo tape so they knew what we were about. Having listened, one guitarist phoned to withdraw his interest. I took the call while the rest of the band slouched around my parents’ kitchen table. “It’s just Elvis Costello all over again,” the guy said. “Exactly!” I beamed, delighted.
So when did it stop? Hard to pinpoint exactly, but a while ago now it just vanished. I mean, I still love the guy, but there must be five albums now that I’ve never heard a note of. I’ve no desire to check ‘em out on Spotify either. I just know – in some way that I can’t hope to successfully express – that my Costello period is over, like it was too intense and burned itself completely out.
Which gets me wondering. Will my Aesop Rock fixation die too? Will I wake up one day and suddenly find I’m not into sci-fi survival horror, zombie-flicks, Indiana Jones or heist movies? Or that I find Stephen King tiresome? Will I write a blogpost declaring a complete and detached neutrality on football matters relating to Huddersfield Town? Or – here’s the crux of it, folks – will I one day go off YA?
Each of us is a bundle of obsessions, I guess, but which of them are in the bone, which in the skin, and which in the haircut, tattoo or t-shirt? Or have all our fascinations a certain half-life or potential energy and the more we fuel them the faster they burn up? And then there’s this: so far, for me at least, when one fixation goes another one comes along to replace it. But will that always happen, or do we start to run down our reserves as we grow older, so that we end our days unable to feel any thrill of anticipation even when the next Star Wars movie comes out?
Scary thought. But equally you can’t live life cooling the heat on the stuff you love in the hope that it’s preserved for longer. Stoke the flames and burn that baby up as bright as brilliant as possible, I say.
And when it dies, whatever it is, you can always get into zombie-flicks. Or Elvis Costello, right?