The Bradshaw Tapes #06: Jason Dante

Transcript of Rec#000438 21/08/15: I’ve been told by Adam that Jason Dante has the most experience dealing with the supernatural of anyone in our group. Still, I’ve been reluctant to go to him because he is a gleefully self-admitted murderer, and also kind of a prick. Dante is aware that I’ve been trying to learn more about the supernatural and is clearly prepared for me when I arrive to find him in the living room. He has taped several sheets of paper to the wall with crude drawings and charts he apparently hopes to explain to me. He encourages me to start recording before I even ask.

DANTE: Alright. I assume you’ve got everything you’re gonna get from the rest of the group, so you’re ready for a real education, huh? Well, where do you wanna start?

OCTOBER: Well… they say you’ve seen pretty much everything.

DANTE: That’s an exaggeration. I’ve got about two decades of history with the weird stuff, but if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that there’s always more weird stuff out there ready to come be a problem.

OCTOBER: I see. Well, why not start with whatever you consider the scariest thing you’ve seen in all that time.

DANTE: Right to the worst stuff, gotta like that. Okay. This was during the Secret Factions War. I was on a search and destr–

OCTOBER: Sorry, what war?

(He gestured to one of his drawings, which contained no information I found useful, but otherwise ignored the question.)

DANTE: Search and destroy mission. I was alone in these tunnels underneath Castle Nine. There were a dozen or so of us on the mission, but we’d split into groups of three and my two pals had been taken out just minutes after landing. Grenades or mines, I don’t remember. Explosives. But I still had to get in and take out the skeleton generators, so I was in these tunnels on my own.

There was a trap. The tunnel opened into this room and once I got in the door slammed shut behind me. These slots opened up in the walls and water started pouring in. This was bad enough, I was panicking, looking for a way out, so when a door at the far end started opening, I was relieved at first and tried to wade my way to it. Then I noticed a shape, big and grey and moving toward me. I have exactly enough time to realize it’s a dorsal fin and then I’m underwater.

It’s got my leg and it’s shaking me. I think my head hit the wall at one point. Even with my suit I’m in tremendous pain and dizzy. I must have been clawing at it, but it doesn’t care, it just keeps trying to kill me. Then one of my grenades goes off. To this day I don’t know if I did it on purpose, like I threw it on pure instinct while being thrashed, or if it just fell off and I was saved by a pure fluke. Either way, the boom did enough damage to the damned monster to make it let go of me. It might have been dead for all I know, but I didn’t take any chances, I clawed at that thing until I got fingers into its fucking brain and then clawed for a few minutes more.

I couldn’t walk. I floated on my back, breathing in what air was left at the top of the room. It was certainly the closest I’d come to dying at that point, though I’ve certainly come closer since. I was young. The only reason I didn’t bleed to death is the suit.

Obviously I didn’t get the generators. The other teams managed to pull together some semblance of a victory, though, so eventually they found me there. Got me to a medic.

OCTOBER: Holy fuck.

(Some silence.)

OCTOBER: That’s messed up, I admit. But it’s not really supernatural.

DANTE: How do you mean?

OCTOBER: Well, it just was a shark, right? I thought it was gonna be a monster of some kind. Or maybe you had a near death experience or got saved by a ghost or something.

DANTE: “Just” a shark? That’s mundane to you?

OCTOBER: No, you know what I mean. Sharks are part of the natural world. Things like ghosts aren’t.

DANTE: God, you’re obsessed with ghosts. I’ve seen about a dozen ghosts at this point. I’ve only seen one shark.

OCTOBER: Well let’s shift focus to the ghosts. What are ghosts?

DANTE: In my experience? Jerks.

OCTOBER: But physically what are they?

(Another moment of silence, Dante closed his eyes for a bit.)

DANTE: They’re the spirits of dead people or something like that, aren’t they?

OCTOBER: So you believe in the soul, then? In the persistence of a person’s self after death?

DANTE: Well, I’ve seen ghosts, so if that’s what they are then yes. And if it isn’t that, it’s something like it.

OCTOBER: Hmm. And have you communicated with someone who has passed?

DANTE: I kicked one of them in the neck.

OCTOBER: The ghost had a neck?

DANTE: Not for long.

OCTOBER: But have you spoken to any of them?

DANTE: A couple. The one in my apartment that time. He hated me. The conversations were mostly vitriol now that I think about it. From both directions.

I sent a message to some kind of barbershop quartet ghosts and heard them talking, but I never spoke to them face to face.

OCTOBER: But you’d say they were conscious entities? Not just echoes of their lives or whatever?

DANTE: I don’t know their lives.

OCTOBER: Are you being difficult on purpose?

DANTE: Probably. Making you earn your answers, at least.

But in any case, I don’t know anything about the nature of ghosts. I just know they’ve pissed me off. And I know that if they are the spirits of the dead, they could hardly be called “supernatural” they’d have to be the most natural things around. They’d presumably be as old as humanity minus at least one lifespan.

OCTOBER: I think of it like this. When I call something “paranormal” or “supernatural” I’m not comparing it to what is normal or natural, I’m comparing it to the current dominant view of what is normal or natural.

DANTE: Okay, fine. I figure the life I’ve lived has left me with a skewed perspective of what is normal or natural. But I’m no scientist. I haven’t exactly been taking readings as I go. I’ve spent my life just trying to survive and trying to kill the worst ones.

OCTOBER: And yet you still boldly exclaimed you were going to educate me?

DANTE: (An exasperated sigh.) Okay, I came on strong. It’s a survival mechanism I think. Posturing. You understand. I admit that I have never cared about understanding this stuff the way you do. My priority has been the fight.

But I can tell you what I know and what I’ve been through. It’ll be surface-level by your standards, but if you can accept that, you can sift through and see if there’s anything useful to you.

OCTOBER: Yeah, okay. Let’s go.

(Continued in next transcript)

Hey, Remember Dentists?

Here’s a thing about PDR: I hadn’t been to the dentist in the entire time I have had this site. Even if we count Contains2! Basically, I hadn’t been to see a dentist since at some point in my late teens. I’d estimate it as being about twenty-five years since the last time my teeth have been professionally cleaned.

There are plenty of reasons for it. Foremost is the money. Dentists are expensive and most of those twenty-five years were not times I had a lot of money. But even during my brief era of having cash, I didn’t go. I always took pretty good care of my teeth, I though, so was it needed? I’m generally nocturnal, so making dental appointments is annoying. Probably there was some fear of dental pain in play, but I don’t know. In any case, decades pass faster than we want them to.

A couple months ago one of my teeth broke in half. Basically, I couldn’t remain indifferent, it was time to go to a dentist. So last Friday I finally got in there for a checkup. The news wasn’t great. Five cavities and two teeth that need to be removed (including that broken one, of course). Sure, it’s 25 years worth of dental problems all at once, but it still feels like a lot. It definitely made me doubt that I was actually taking good care of my teeth in all that time.

But yesterday I had my first dental cleaning in all that time. This time it felt like I got a better response. The hygienist tells me that my teeth actually did not have as much buildup as would be expected in all that time. Sure, still five cavities and two teeth that need to come out (scheduled for the 31st), but hey, at least those hole-ridden teeth don’t have a lot of buildup.

Let’s just hope that the money lasts for a while…

Firefly – PDR’s Final Thoughts

Okay, I watched the show and it was a good show. I can admit that. But the fact I remembered as much of it as I did meant that this was less of an interesting rewatch than the others I’ve done. Next time I’ll have to think of something I don’t remember as well. I could see delving into Lexx, but if my memory serves that one ran for several years. Maybe there’s some sci-fi cartoon that would fit the bill. Anyway, that’s for later.

The biggest appeal of Firefly is probably the setting. They’ve managed to create possibly the ideal Space Western setup. Obviously I, PDR, would prefer there be aliens, but I fully admit that aliens would have been an unnecessary complication here. I also just really love that the show gave us actual episodic plots. Sure, it had an ongoing story that advanced as it went one, but every episode gave us something complete. I’m glad to report that I think television is getting back onto that idea, but after a long time where that wasn’t a given, this show really did it well.

I still don’t like Mal. But I don’t think I’d still compare him to Venkman the way I did at the start. I never considered Venkman controlling. For all Mal talks about the importance of freedom and not having to answer to anyone, if anyone questions his orders he responds only with insults, threats, and violence. The guy doesn’t hate those in power, he just wants to be the one in power and the fact that he seems okay with limiting his power to a smaller space is the only thing keeping him from being a monster. Sure he has good qualities too, even if his bad qualities tend to surface more quickly. But he’s not a Venkman. You know how some shows that over-rely on drama will occasionally introduce some new character just to complicate things? That’s who Mal is. He’s his own one of those, inside his own body. He just has to whine any time things don’t go his way, just so we get to watch the hurt feelings of those around him.

But how do I answer the question I posed at the beginning. Would the show have been driven into the ground if it had kept going? I can’t know. I don’t have access to the alternate timeline where that happened. I still can’t help but think things would’ve gone sour, but it’s entirely a hunch. I have no proof. Still, in the unlikely event they ever make a sequel movie, I’d check it out.

Firefly – Serenity

Hey, this isn’t an episode of the science fiction show Firefly! It’s a movie! Who let that in here? Well, it would’ve felt incomplete for me not to finish my watch with the movie, so I watched that too.

Obviously one of the big benefits of becoming a big deal motion picture is you get better special effects (though I’ll admit I had more instances of noting the CGI here than in the show), so I obviously get to enjoy some big city scene. They’re not massive or anything, they don’t revel in it the way Star Trek revels in it when they get to film something that takes place on contemporary Earth, but we still get some good planetside stuff and action scenes and all that.

Like many episodes, this one starts with a crime (though this a more simple holdup than a heist) only for it to be interrupted by Reavers. Yes, we finally see the Reavers who have only been hinted at on the show and, as I said then, I was impressed with how well they built up the mystique there. They tear down that mystique in this one, fully explaining who they are and where they came from, but I don’t think it ruins them. Even the fact that really they’re just spacefaring rage zombies doesn’t bother me too much. I know it brings them down to the level of… well, rage zombie like I said, but that’s fine. And it means we don’t have to have any moral questions about mowing them down en masse or logical questions about why some of them are just running around like idiots while River balletmurders them. Overall, I think this was probably the best outcome for the Reavers we could’ve got based on what they built up on the show, and I don’t know that it would have gone as well had they done it on the show.

There’s another bad guy in here too. An Alliance operative who gets to be a foil for Mal. In the bigger picture, he’s the kind of “this is serious” foe who gets to actually kill off members of the cast (though I guess the Reavers managed one of those too, didn’t they?). When dealt with face to face the operative is, at first, built perfectly to undercut the kind of roguish bravado that Mal is all about, all while challenging Mal’s philosophy. All of which makes it very satisfying when he is defeated at the end. Good job movie.

But what I like about the movie most is that it builds to a climax where you really, really can believe that characters are going to die. They do that, as I mentioned, by actually killing off two of the cast. I sometimes feel like I’m in the minority on this one, but I like it in fiction when I can genuinely believe that the heroes can lose. This may be why I like horror so much, because that’s a genre where you can start a movie and genuinely not know if it’ll end with everyone dead or everyone fine. Those and everything in between are possible. When was the last time we saw a regular action movie where the super spy hero fails and gets gunned down and the villain launches his missiles at Paris or whatever. There’s no reason they couldn’t make movies like that.

I know there are people who argue that fiction like this should act as escapism and give us a place where the good guys win, as an antidote to the world we actually live in. But I argue that the stories we take in are what we use to measure our own life against. If we only see stories where the good guys always win, you might start to wonder what that says about you in your real life, not always winning. If victory always comes to the good, what does that make you? I’ve seen it said that one of the most important uses of art is to make us feel less alone, to make us know that other people have felt feelings and had experiences that we’ve had. We as a people, living our lives, are going to lose a lot of the time. Let’s have stories that acknowledge that. And it only makes the actual victories feel that much better.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve gotten a little off track here. To sum up, good movie. I’ll come back with my final thoughts.