Friday, February 29, 2008


Ordinarily, there'd be no reason for anyone outside the industry to care that Warner Bros. has essentially dissolved New Line Cinema, folding the erstwhile indie studio into its own corporate tent and firing many of its employees, including New Line founder Robert Shaye.

But New Line had something unusual for a studio these days: a personality. Shaye founded it back in the sixties, when he resurrected the old thirties scare picture Reefer Madness and played it to audiences of stoners. He was an enthusiastic early supporter of John Waters, and kept such cult items as Night Of The Living Dead and Texas Chain Saw Massacre in distribution through the seventies and early eighties.

Shaye loved exploitation filmmakers, and he made a name for his studio with Wes Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street and its infinite sequels. The serious money made by this series gave New Line entry into the big time, and the massive success of the Austin Powers and Lord Of The Rings series.

Shaye made many mistakes along the way, and New Line hadn't had much artistic or commercial success for a few years, but as a production or distribution entity, they gave us Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, Wise Blood, Gregory's Girl, The Hidden, Menace II Society, My Own Private Idaho, Short Cuts, In The Mouth Of Madness, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. All these movies have a very specific, off-beat point of view, and are serious and fun in equal measure. If made now, none would see the light of day in the corporate world of today's Hollywood. With Shaye's ouster, the future of the movies seems even less interesting.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


It's not that I'm happy about the death of the lizard-like arch-conservative William Buckley. In fact, in the current neo-conservative landscape, in which the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are allowed influence beyond their station, Buckley's preening intellectual act would seem like a breath of fresh air.

Nonetheless, Buckley thought Joe McCarthy was A-OK, believed whites were genetically superior to other races and was an unapologetic imperialist. When, late in his life, the conservative movement he had helped found turned on him, it had some of the ham-fisted irony of an old EC comic book. I, for one, won't shed a tear, largely because his noxious views continue to inexplicably shape political discourse to this very day.

If you want to mourn someone, mourn the death of cinematographer David Watkin. He was the brilliant eye for director Richard Lester on a string of amazing films--The Knack; Help!; How I Won The War; The Three Musketeers--that are some of the greatest things cinema has to offer. His use of available light was highly influential--Steven Soderbergh rightly regards him as one of the greatest cameramen of all time--and in addition to his superlative work with Lester, he worked with Ken Russell, Sidney Lumet, Tony Richardson...a long, distinguished list.

He also shot Yentl, but we won't hold that against him.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Okay, for those of you who are wondering when this site will stop being so unbelievably depressing, good news. Are things looking up? Well, I'm sitting here writing this with Katie sitting next to me. That would be my new--what's the word?--acquaintance Katie.

She, it should be noted, objects to the word "acquaintance". Oh, I ask her, so how would you describe our relationship?

"Um, dating..."

Yeah. And?

"But. Don't move too fast or you might scare me away." Pause. "Well, not scare me away...Just...Don't overthink it."

Me? Overthink things? Clearly, she knows me well already.


You might think of Geraldine Ferraro--if you think of her at all--as Walter Mondale's vice-presidential candidate, half of the ticket that lost so spectacularly to Ronald Reagan, a typically hapless Democratic match-up.

But Ferraro's using whatever cache she believes she possesses to stump for Hillary Clinton at every given opportunity. She wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times defending Clinton's threat to count delegates from Florida and Michigan, in violation of rules established by her own party, and I heard her yesterday on NPR, defending her chosen candidate and bashing Barack Obama:

"For Mr. Obama to say he was against the war--excuse me, he was a state senator. He had no vote at the time. Hillary did exactly what she was supposed to do. Based on the evidence presented to her, she voted to give the president authority to deal with a threat posed to our nation..."


Just because Obama couldn't vote against the war doesn't mean he wasn't opposed to it. He rightly smelled a rat, and said so at the time. Clinton, despite the claims of Hans Blix and so many others that no WMDs existed, that Iraq was no immediate threat, chose to believe what she was told to believe and signed on to the war. She can frame it however she wants, but if she and the other quislings in the senate had demonstrated the capacity for independent thought, so many of the horrors the Bushinistas have wrought might never have come to pass.

There are many reasons to oppose Clinton's nomination, but to Ferraro and others any objections automatically smack of sexism. True, old prejudices die hard, but on the other hand, no one but Clinton seems to have a problem with the notion of a black president. Clinton's record shows nothing but pure opportunism and naked ambition, and she seeks the presidency not for a desire to, lead but as a sort of right. She can't even pretend she cares about ordinary people, and yet feigns surprise when people don't care about her.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


What? Tex Avery was born one hundred years ago today? And I've done nothing to celebrate?

Better fix that!


I realize I've said this before, but I'm going to say it again: I suspect postings around here will become a bit less frequent.

My job requires me to get to work fairly early, and I respond by waking up three or four hours earlier than I really need to, all so I can allow myself plenty of time to ruminate and research whatever it is I choose to write about on any given day. And it's not like I'm doing God's work here; I allow all this time, and wind up posting clips from a Lynda Carter special.

I'm spending too much time here, is what I'm saying. This space is a good, valuable and, at times, necessary part of my life, but I'm allowing it to dominate me for reasons I don't fully understand. It's time to step back. Daily postings may or may not continue, but if they do, they may appear in the late afternoon or evenings. Mornings are killing me.

Of course, in the past, whenever I've claimed I'd post less frequently, nothing really changed. We'll see...

Monday, February 25, 2008


For those of you still shaking your heads and muttering curses over that Lawrence Welk clip I put up the other day, you should be aware, it could have been worse. Much, much worse.

Boys and girls and kids of all ages, gape in silent bemusement or twitch in astonished horror as you behold the alleged versatility of Lynda Carter:

I would merely add that if your fantasies--rock & roll or otherwise--involve Bette Midler, you may want to seek professional help.


It's not like I went out of my way to avoid watching the Academy Awards last night, it's just that I don't care anymore.

And I very much doubt I'm alone on this. If the Writer's Guild strike had continued, and the ceremony itself hadn't happened, would anybody have cared? Anybody outside of Hollywood, that is?

The awards themselves have no meaning, as pretty much everyone acknowledges. In past years, the ritual itself was enough, the chance to see Hollywood's finest parading around on the home screen, a bit of big-time glamour in our own living rooms. That's all gone now, partly because there are almost no real movie stars anymore (George Clooney would qualify, if he wasn't such a publicity whore and if any of his movies actually did well at the box office), and partly because...again, who cares? Movies are merely one more entertainment option in a world already overloaded with choices, and celebrities fascinate the public only when they're in some sort of state of permanent collapse.

As for this year's ceremony, well, I didn't watch it. I had been pulling for Brad Bird to actually get the screenplay award for Ratatouille, but he lost to Juno's Diablo Cody, though her moment has surely passed. It was nice to see Joel and Ethan Coen win (though I'd have given their awards to Paul Thomas Anderson), but I wonder if receiving such a pure Hollywood award will rob them of some hipster cred.

Oh, and Transformers, August Rush and Norbit all received nominations. It's all about quality, you see.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


A lazy Saturday morning-into-afternoon. Paul told me two weekends ago he planned on hanging out with me, staying here the night, if his mom would let him. Okay with her, okay with me.

He spent last night watching Hannah Montana and, even though he refuses to admit he thinks Miley Cyrus is hot, he does seem to go on about her. A lot.

He's watching TV now--the miracle of cable, which his mom doesn't have--and later, we'll be heading off to a movie. Probably The Spiderwyck Chronicles, although there's also a possibility of opting for Jumper, because it has Annakin and Mace Windu. (Needless to say, Paul and I are both jazzed about the new Star Wars movie, which opens just in time for his ninth birthday--surely the best present ever.)

Bummer that his mom and I aren't a couple anymore (though, according to Paul, he believes we "are meant to be together"), but it's nice that he and I have stayed buddies. This is exactly the kind of laid-back hangout day everybody needs.

Friday, February 22, 2008


A creeping sense of despair seems to have taken up residence in my soul. Various reasons, some concrete, some nebulous, most impossible to deny. It's been a long, cruel winter, and if spring ever comes, I'm not sure I'll be able to fully embrace it.

Wow, that came out even more depressing than intended.

But hey, the good news is, at least I barely feel like writing, so no long nihilistic screeds, no figurative howls of pain. Brevity's the key word around here, otherwise this site could be as tough a slog as a Bukowski tome.

So when words fail, how can a poor boy share his pain? Simple:

Oh, Good Lordy, no. Sorry. I'm not that depressed. Or wasn't...

Thursday, February 21, 2008


And, as usually happens, YouTube comes through. Have I mentioned we're huge Chuck Jones fans around here?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Are all things connected somehow?

Today's New York Times carried an obituary for Morton J. Savada, who for many years owned and operated the store Records Revisited, which specialized in old 78s. I remember rumaging around there during one trip to New York, specifically trying to find a copy of Red Ingles' Get Up Offen The Floor for my mom. I found some Ingles stuff, but not that one specifically, and in any event, the paper sleeves made the records too fragile to pack in my suitcase.

Amazingly, I found a recording of that very piece on YouTube.

The female vocalist featured on the song and the accompanying slideshow is Jo Stafford, who had a hit with the song Ragtime Cowboy Joe...which happened to be the only song Mom knew how to play on ukulele.

Red Ingle died in 1965, as did his old cohort and collaborator Spike Jones. I was born in 1965.

Are all these connections coincidental? Yeah, probably.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


1) Fidel Castro's decision to step down as Official Leader of Cuba may have surprised no one, but I confess disappointment at his methodology: He emailed the nation's top newspaper, which then posted it on their website.

This is how El Revolucion ends: No fiery speeches, no impassioned rhetoric, no placards or posters or teeming masses. Just an email.

Technology may be efficient, but it sure isn't very romantic.

2) Speaking of final acts, the high-def DVD format war finally ended with Toshiba's HD DVD officially losing to Sony's Blu-Ray. This may be a hollow victory at best.

Despite the increasing popularity of HD television sets, neither format has really caught on with the general public. While HD sets have come down in price, players and software for either high-end DVD format still represent a considerable investment. The videocasette era had a good long run, but DVDs have really only been commonly available within the last decade or so, and consumers might reasonably be reluctant to invest in a new technology that will be obsolete in no time.

After all, it's reasonable to assume the future of home-based movie distribution is online. Put it another way: Does anyone still buy CDs?

3) The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear arguments against a lower court ruling regarding the government's morally and constitutionally dicey wiretap program. The lower court had decided since the plaintiffs couldn't prove they had been spied upon--they can't produce evidence the Bushinistas won't let them have--there was no merit to the case.

Back in October, when it asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, the ACLU officially referred to the lower court's position as a Catch-22. To use similarly semi-brainy psuedo-lierary rhetoric, the Court's decision today could be referred to as Orwellian or Kafkaesque.

We're through the looking glass, people!

4) The Giant Ambulatory Penis is back, still seducing kids with the magic power of his cream:

5) Monika, curled up on the bed, purring faintly, was approached by Delmar, who sat quietly in front of her for a second, his half-tail limp, until he gently leaned down and pushed his forehead against hers. It was sweet, weird and creepy in equal measures, like watching some Amish mating ritual.

6) I just killed an hour and a half reading comments at three different sites regarding the trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie. That doesn't make me a geek, does it?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Break time at work, four of us--all guys--sitting around talking, the television droning in the background. A pause in the conversation led us to notice a mellow but actively unpleasant sound emanating from the TV--a profile of Kenny G.

Two of us sat horrified, one indifferent, the fourth, unfamiliar with Mr. G. and all his works, needed an explanation for his hate. "Well," I offered, "the hardest-working hooker on earth couldn't suck as much as Kenny G."

"You're saying he's bad?"

"I'm saying he's evil."

Flipping channels as far away as possible from Kenny, not much on a Sunday morning, and not many channels to choose from. Finally I landed on TBS, showing some late-period Steven Seagal movie or other.

"Man, he keeps getting puffier," I said, to blank stares from all, as I realized at least two of my tablemates had no familiarity with the cinematic output of the erstwhile Ponytailed One. "Seagal," I offered, as if that explained it all.

"Doesn't he do, like, martial arts? I hate that kind of movie."

"Yeah," I said, "but what about Jean-Claude Van Damme?" Again, blank stares. "Bloodsport? Hard Target, for God's sake. Hard Target!"

I'm used to being the only person in the room who has seen Lady Terminator or Scum Of The Earth. But this was me trying to be mainstream--if you're sitting with a bunch of guys, you should reasonably figure they're going to possess some working knowledge of Seagal and Van Damme. To have cable is to have sat through Above The Law and Timecop about eighty million times.

Might as well accept it: I'll never fit in. When the conversation turned to Wild Hogs--well-liked by all--I just kept my mouth shut.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I'm not unaware of how downbeat postings have been around here lately. Hopefully, the mood will lift and this will once again be the Happiest Place On Earth. (Heh.) In the meantime, let's just wallow in wacky despair, shall we? Here's Teresa Stratas singing a Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill classic.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Last year, my siblings and I got together on this, the anniversary of Mom's death. This year...nothing. Have we moved on? Have we come to terms with our loss? Or is it just too much work, juggling our schedules for the sole purpose of getting together and basking in collective sorrow?

I remember select details of her final day on earth, and yet so much is fading. Maybe that's okay. Maybe memories are meant to fade, to allow us to live in the here and now. Better to have a future than a past, I guess.

For today, I'll go to work, hang out, live my life, such as it is. What more can I do? What more can any of us do?

Friday, February 15, 2008


Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of my mother's death. After all this time, I still can't wrap my head around the fact that someone so important to my life is no longer here, or that my life has continued--somehow--without her.

So here's another song for Mom, and maybe for all of us.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Due to circumstances beyond my control, I only just saw There Will Be Blood, and I'm in awe. Paul Thomas Anderson is, it now seems clear, the finest American filmmaker to emerge since the seventies. His previous work suggested greatness--even the least of them, Magnolia, is absolutely fascinating--and now he has achieved it, a perfect synthesis of the thematic concerns of his earlier films with a new stylistic focus, absolutely free of the self-consciousness he'd displayed before. The character of Daniel Plainview is a fully realized human being, a mass of terrifying, impenetrable contradictions, and the film is bold, original, deeply moving and profoundly troubling.

The elation felt when I see something so amazing is, however, dimmed a bit by sadness: The passing at age 60 of comic book writer Steve Gerber, the creator of Howard The Duck. The first issue of Howard hit the newsstands when I was ten; I only bought it because it had a guest appearance from Spider-man. The premise seemed weird--a wisecracking duck from an alternate dimension trapped in modern-day Cleveland--but I enjoyed it; that first issue was both a spoof of sword-and sorcery conventions and a social satire (its villain a power-mad accountant), neither of which meant anything to me at that age, but I recognized and appreciated its singular weirdness.

So I kept buying it. The second issue featured a failed writer named Arthur Winslow who simply couldn't understand why his real life lacked the drama of the pulp fiction he loved. The fourth issue introduced a recurring character named Paul Same, a frustrated painter with a profound psychological disorder: a sleepwalker, he could only tell the truth, in his art or personal life, while in a somnambulant state. By the fifth issue, Gerber concentrated solely on Howard and his companion Beverly's desperate financial circumstances.

This wasn't stuff you saw in mainstream comics--or anywhere else--in the seventies. I'd read comic books my whole life, but Howard The Duck was my first introduction to an authorial voice, a character and a book with a distinct point-of-view. Though many of his adventures were parodies of superhero conventions, Howard himself only wanted to be left alone. He never was a hero, since he only acted out of self-interest, and yet he remained, despite his appearance, achingly human.

Gerber wanted more control of the character than Marvel Comics would allow, and was fired from his own book in 1978. It staggered on for a couple more issues, then mutated into a truly dreadful black-and-white magazine written by hacks with no understanding of the characters. The 1986 movie allegedly based on the strip is a blight on its memory.

As for Gerber, he should have flourished in the indie-comics boom of the eighties and nineties, but though he created several titles (Void Indigo, Destroyer Duck), his attention always wandered. After a few issues of each new title, he'd hand the writing reins to someone else, and the book would die a swift, unmourned death. Maybe with his own death Gerber's legacy will finally be appreciated, and his cracked genius will be celebrated as it never was in his life.

I don't think it's a leap to say there's a measure of Gerber's voice in There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson celebrates cracked dreamers who allow their dreams to be hijacked, rootless outsiders who defy society's conventions even as they want desperately to fit in. Arthur Winslow and Paul Same would have fit into Boogie Nights or Magnolia without any change in their characterization; Barry Egan in Punch-Drunk Love could actually be Howard The Duck in human form, a complex mixture of violent rage, severe alienation and sad, unspoken longing for acceptance. I don't know whether Anderson ever read any of Gerber's writing, but I like to think so. As Daniel Plainview would say, this does my heart good.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


It's not like I actually squealed out loud when I read George Lucas will release a new Star Wars movie this summer...oh, who am I kidding? I did.

Of course, it's not a real movie, just the opening episodes of his new CGI Clone Wars series compiled into an ersatz feature and booked into theaters to drum up interest in the TV show. Still, the point is, I'll be paying money to see a new Star Wars movie on the big screen. Combine that with the new Indiana Jones and James Bond pictures, and 2008 could become the year when I finally overdose on my own geekiness.

It's almost enough to make me forget, at least momentarily, about my inability to sustain a relationship. Say, you don't suppose there's a connection, do you? Like perhaps my unwillingness to abandon childhood obsessions and concentrate on the here and now could somehow feed into...Nah. That's just nutty. Everyone knows chicks dig guys who are into Star Wars.

Don't they? Don't they?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


There's a certain entertainment to be had in watching Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign implode. Not, of course, that she's finished; she may well pull the nomination out of the fire. But if she does, it's almost a given that the Democrats will lose the White House.

Everything about Clinton's campaign so far tell you why. She went into this thing with a sense of entitlement. The Democratic faithful had all but anointed her before primary season even began. Other nominees existed merely to offer voters a token choice, to create the illusion of diversity.

When Barack Obama emerged as a real contender, The Presumed Nominee went into absolute panic mode, and we got a terrifying glimpse into Clinton's psyche, as she dispatched her increasingly boorish husband to make borderline racist comments while she herself appeared in a series of stage-managed events with all the spontaneity of a Bush town meeting. If this is how Team Hillary reacts in a crisis, it's not very reassuring.

After dumping her campaign manager over the weekend, Clinton now intends to make herself all things to all people: pretending like she gives a shit about working-class people in Ohio, faking concern for Hispanics in Texas. She doesn't care, of course, and her haughty, patrician manner makes it obvious. Deep down, we know our elected representatives never have our best interests in mind, but with Clinton, she can't even pretend. Pure ambition is all she is, victory for its own sake is all that is ever on her mind.

And let's face it, the Republicans know this. Their hatred for her comes from deep within the hollow core of their souls, and they will be all too eager to infect the public with that hatred. This year, this season, when the Democrats had a real shot at the presidency, they could not have picked a worse choice than Clinton. Presumably, they expected the Republican nominee to be someone like Mitt Romney, someone every bit as unlikeable as Clinton, a wingnut mouthpiece easily painted with devil horns. But it looks like the nomination will go to John McCain, not the straight-talking maverick he pretends to be, but an avuncular presence, and politically moderate, at least by Republican standards.

Many hardcore right-wingers can't abide McCain, but his nomination would be a clever move for Republicans. You can see the campaign already: Wouldn't the nice old guy seem like a better national caretaker than the strident bitch? A cheap tactic, to be sure, but honestly, the Democrats have it coming: Bill Clinton's presidency pushed his party so far to the right, there are very few meaningful differences between the two parties anymore. Democrats continue to fund Our Beloved President's little war, continue to look the other way as civil rights are eroded, shrug over torture. Sometimes they sputter a few words of opposition, usually they don't even bother.

The only choice, sadly, is no choice.

Monday, February 11, 2008


One of my favorite actors, Roy Scheider, has died at the age of 75.

If you had asked me, I would never have been able to guess Scheider's age. Even as a relatively young man, in such films as The French Connection and its unofficial follow-up, The Seven-Ups, he seemed middle-aged, a guy who'd been around the block more than once, who'd seen the worst and reluctantly accepted it. As he aged, his very presence brought a backstory, a sense of reality to projects that didn't really earn it, such as the entertainingly stupid action thriller Blue Thunder.

His best-known movie, of course, is Jaws, which absolutely depends on his regular-guy performance, a more likable variation on the cops and average joes he'd played up to that time. He was one of those rare actors who could convince in any type of part, from working-class heroes to upper-crust weasels. William Friedkin gave him a great part in Sorcerer, and he was memorable in underrated thrillers from two great directors, Jonathan Demme's The Last Embrace and Robert Benton's Still Of The Night.

His best work on film, unquestionably, came in Bob Fosse's astonishing, autobiographical All That Jazz, in which he doesn't so much play Fosse as become him. This is one of the most fully-realized performances I've ever seen; you simply believe Scheider is the likeable, wise-cracking monster he portrays, you believe he's a dancer though we never really see him dance, you believe he's a filmmaker, you believe he's a rogue and a sonofabitch and a genius. So utterly convincing is Scheider's performance, I always had to remind myself, every time I'd watch the film, that it's Fosse who's dead, not Scheider.

But now, damn...

Saturday, February 09, 2008


The increasing number of you getting sick and tired of me prattling on about Vincente Minnelli, beware: Long-needed upgrades of An American In Paris and Gigi are to be released sometime in this year, along with the DVD debut of what may be Minnelli's greatest non-musical, Some Came Running. Will I be going on and on about these? What do you think?

I'm still somewhat baffled as to why I've devoted so much space to Minnelli. Yeah, he's a favorite around here (and Meet Me In St. Louis is very close to being my all-time favorite movie), but you could scan my archives and discover only passing mentions of Stanley Kubrick or Sam Peckinpah, and even less attention to John Carpenter, though Dark Star, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China and They Live certainly rank high among my favorites. What about David Lynch? I think the only time I've even brought up his name is in conjunction with the passing of his frequent cinematographer, Freddie Francis. Weird.

But hey, tradition is tradition, so here's a clip from another Minnelli picture, The Band Wagon. I love the tentative way this number begins, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse just sort of wandering through, watching other couples in love, unsure of their own feelings. Then she takes a step, and he's right there's magic. Possibly the most swooningly romantic dance sequence in cinema history, the choreography is by Michael Kidd, the music by Arthur Schwartz, the gliding camera, perfectly-timed cuts and dreamy atmosphere are pure Minnelli:

Friday, February 08, 2008


One year ago today, I posted a piece commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the first date with my ex-wife, Sue Ellen. Tabbatha read that piece, deeply resented it, and let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt it offered proof I still had a thing for Sue Ellen, and could never fully commit to a new relationship.

That was, I suppose, the beginning of the end of my time with Tabbatha. We still had good times ahead, hell, we still talked of marriage, but the seeds had been planted, the serpent had entered the garden, the writing was on the wall...choose your own cliched term.

I'm not unsympathetic to Tabbatha's point of view. When I try reading that piece from her perspective, I understand why she'd be pissed. But the thing is, I use this forum to express whatever it is I'm thinking or feeling. Sometimes that expression will be inarticulate, an attempt to wrestle with feelings I myself can't fully comprehend. Yeah, I suppose I could do that in a more private place, but dammit, I write. I don't want to think twice about what I put down, or even think twice about posting it. That way leads to self-censorship, to timidity, fear of making known thoughts that might be dangerous. I'd rather say this is how I feel.

Having said that...Jesus, what was I thinking? I wrote there would be no point in saying my relationship with Tabbatha was better or deeper than what I had with Sue Ellen. In an apples and oranges sense, I suppose that's true, but what I had, or potentially had, with Tabbatha was certainly much different and potentially much richer. With Sue, there were two of us. With Tabbatha, there were two of a kid. A family. Something I never thought I wanted, which turned out to be the very thing I needed.

I try to be optimistic, but for now, the only anniversaries to celebrate are negatives.


Some kind of hullaballoo in my building, loud voices in the hallway, a domestic dispute in progress on my floor. Kinda makes it hard to concentrate on writing.

But hey, I can offer you this seventies flashback:

Actually, that's a double seventies flashback, because not only do you get a slicker's exploitation of trucker culture ("C.W. McCall" was really advertising copywriter William Fries), but his appearance here was on the old Mike Douglas Show, the kind of straight-faced, non-ironic celebrity blabfest that pretty much ceased to exist by the mid-eighties.

The whole trucker thing was big in the seventies, thanks to McCall, Red Sovine and others. And man, did they crank out tons o' trucker movies! Smokey And The Bandit is the best known, Jonathan Kaplan's White Line Fever the most entertaining, Chuck Norris' starring debut Breaker, Breaker the stupidest--which is saying a lot.

The worst example of this genre--is "genre" too grand a word?--would be Sam Peckinpah's attempted adaptation of McCall's song, Convoy. To say this is Peckinpah's worst film is putting it mildly; it's probably the worst thing any major filmmaker ever put on the screen. (It's worse than Hook!) Peckinpah was famously drunk and stoned out of his mind during the shooting, and though it's certainly full of loathing and self-contempt, I wouldn't want to mistakenly convey the impression that the film is in any way interesting. Basically, it amounts to two hours of Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw riding around in a big rig, awaiting direction.

Incidentally, the music for all of McCall's singles--sadly, there were several; my mom inexplicably bought the 45 of Wolf Creek Pass, and worse, she listened to it--was by Chip Davis, and the massive profits he earned from these endeavors allowed him to found the Mannheim Steamroller empire. My hatred for that will just have to wait for another day.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Another clip in memory of my mom. She dearly loved A.A. Milne--any kid who came into contact with her could expect to get Now We Are Six shoved into their hands--and she absolutely adored the work of Jim Henson, so combine the two and Mom would collapse into uncontrolled sobbing. She put on a cynical, often cranky facade, but anyone who knew her knew how long and wide her sentimental streak really was.

This, then, was a favorite, and Mom was right to cry.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


A year ago I'd started a job I didn't keep for very long, but one with fairly flexible hours. This was important, as it allowed me to pick up Paul after school, since Tabbatha's new job would keep her working late. We were still a functioning couple at that point, still apartment hunting.

The manager at one place told us he hadn't been able to confirm her employment, and seemed unwilling to work with us, so we moved on. Another place turned us down because, individually, we didn't meet the income guidelines, and they refused to consider our joint incomes. We looked at a few other places, but nothing came to fruition.

What if it had, though? What if we'd moved in together? We might have married, I'd have claimed Paul as my son, maybe we'd have had another kid. Would it have been that easy? Would the lingering doubts Tabbatha claimed when she broke up with me have lingered, or been smoothed over, or gone away entirely? Would I have been a good husband, a good dad?

Hundreds, thousands, millions of alternate futures determined by the choices we make every day. What if Mom's cancer had been diagnosed sooner? What if Sue Ellen and I hadn't split? What if I'd gone to college? What if--

Ah, but there's no point. There is no reality but this one: it's still snowing, and my street hasn't even been plowed. A bleak February day with no time for regrets.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Snow falls today, heavy, wet, swirling, landing in random patterns, piling high here, nearly barren there. My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions sometimes seem to tumble in similarly random patterns. Still, perhaps there's purpose to everything.

My neighbor Tom moved away. He'd already been a long-timer in this building when I moved in, and seemed to know the comings and goings of everyone who lived here. Sometimes I'd come home and he'd be sitting on the front stoop, reading a novel or working a puzzle. We'd get to talking, and sometimes other neighbors would join in, a block party in miniature.

Those spontaneous eruptions of neighborliness were on my mind a year ago, back when Tabbatha and I were still apartment hunting. I'd miss them when I moved away, I thought. But only vaguely; the promise of a new way of life--a better life, a life I'd never even imagined for myself, not just as a husband but a father, too--made such nostalgic feelings meaningless.

Fast-forward: I'm still here.

I don't know what my expectations might have been when I moved into this place. I'd hit rock bottom a year before, seriously injuring myself in a suicide attempt following the breakup of my marriage. I'd been forced to live on the charity of first my brother, then my mom, kind enough to take me in when I had nothing.

Very nice of them, but during that year, my life wasn't fully my own. Moving into this apartment was meant to be a first step, the beginning of a new life. It wasn't meant to be my whole life.

Time passed, people came and went. I met Tabbatha, and looked at my relationship with her as the next stage in my life. When it petered out, it left me unmoored, as if my compass was broken, and the very thing I was heading for was gone. She tells me I don't need her to help make a change, that I could upgrade my job and move away and make a whole new life for myself.

I'm forty-two. Neither of my parents made it to eighty. My life is, in all probability, more than half over. Snow falls, a beautiful new blanket hiding the old and familiar, creating the comforting, momentary illusion of a better world.

Monday, February 04, 2008


1) The organization Wikileaks, dedicated to posting online official documents the government doesn't want you to know about, unearthed an apparently authentic 2005 order granting U.S. forces permission to follow ex-henchmen of Saddam Hussein into Iran and Syria.

Think about that for a second: The U.S. government was okey-dokey with turning military personnel into bounty hunters, unconcerned with silly trivialities like international law, caring not one whit for the possible repercussions should this little plan be discovered.

And if, in the course of capturing one of these straw men (in Bondian terms, that's like going after Oddjob after you've already gotten Goldfinger and foiled his plot), civilian lives were lost, what then? How would that be explained away? After all...

2) ...American forces admitted Sunday they'd accidentally killed 9 Iraqi civilians. Which is better, at least, than admitting they'd intentionally killed civilians.

3) The Pentagon is due to propose its proposed 2009 budget: 515.4 billion bucks. Adjusted for inflation, that's the highest yearly military budget since World War II. Back then, the U.S. government asked citizens to make sacrifices to help pay for the costs of the war. Now, the government gives tax breaks to the rich and borrows the money from future generations.

4) Unrelated to any of the above, but worth mentioning: The Patriots lost! Anytime beefy, drunken Boston sports fans are denied victory, the world is a better place.

5) The Onion's AV Club posted a very funny list of twenty pop cultural obsession even geekier than Monty Python. No Star Wars, no James Bond. Thus, and in spite of that Goldfinger analogy I made earlier, I'm not a geek. Whew!

6) I shouldn't admit this, and it's not like I watch regularly, but, uh, I've watched Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew more than once. Yeah, it's absolute garbage, and most of the "celebrities" are non-entities, but dammit, I get a kick out of watching cranky, haggard, inexplicably wheelchair-bound Jeff Conaway vomiting all over himself.

Does that make me a bad person?

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Bad enough having to sit through the vapid slide show ("I like to work. It's good."--Brad Pitt) before the lights dim, or the endless car, electronics and soft drink ads. These sadly, have become part of the standard moviegoing experience, and with practice, can be tuned out.

Then come the trailers for new movies. Usually an uninspiring lot, but again, can often be ignored. Then you see something like this

and a creeping sense of despair poisons your soul.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Prognosticators cast the runes, shuffle the cards, read the tea leaves. O worry! O fear! 17,000 jobs lost in January. Recession, they whisper, as if in shock.

Out here in the real world, we've known about this for a long time. Economists and think tank dwellers can argue all they want about whether we're technically entering a recession, but the middle-class ideal continues to fade like a dream before the dawn, and nobody seems to care.

I work at a prominent, well-funded hospital. Nurses were recently told to expect a decrease in wages. Among the rest of the staff, management tells us changes are coming, and it'll only get worse. We're desperately understaffed, but a hiring freeze is in place. Bonuses and raises? Forget it, pal.

As a nation, we seldom speak of unions anymore, and pride in workmanship is a thing of the past. Most of us show up at our job, endure it for eight hours, or ten, or twelve, since overtime is the only way to pay the bills. We numbly accept it as benefits are slashed, quietly develop a vague resentment towards our overlords, powerless to rebel. Shuffle along, eyes down, don't say a word.

No way to live, but after awhile, it becomes all you know.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Sorry, folks, I'm feeling down again, for a variety of reasons. Still, months later, wondering why things didn't work out with Tabbatha, staring down the two-year anniversary of Mom's passing, becoming weirdly aware of my own mortality...It's all too much sometimes.

What gets me through at times like this? Music, of course. I apologize if much of this is sad, but that's how I'm feeling right now. Here's Tim Buckley, with a voice that could make stone weep, and who didn't live to see thirty.

Paul Simon, with a song that's been playing in my mind on an endless loop:

One of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time, Harry Nilsson. He didn't write this one, though.

Let's get a bit more upbeat. Here's Annie Ross swingin' it live, with Count Basie, no less, on piano. The recorded version is better, but hey...

Finally, this. For Mom.