Monday, March 31, 2008


Lacking anything substantial to write about, deciding to resort to a clip job, casting about for something to post. I found a clip of Renee Fleming performing Leonard Bernstein's A Simple Song, which led me to Dawn Upshaw singing some Rodgers and Hart. which led me to something else, then something else, which led to...

Oh crap. There's clips posted of the 1990 memorial service for Jim Henson. Any one of these conjures such overpowering memories, mostly of my mom, that I can't help but cry uncontrollably. No way to process all my thoughts right now, or manage this sudden, unexpected rush of grief. Instead, I'll let Big Bird speak for me:

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Really, really tired, folks, and I've got a fair amount to do before leaving for work. But it's not like me to let a day go by without posting something, so here I am.

Uh, really, that's all I've got.

Well, and this: A good live clip of L7.

Hopefully, coherence returns tomorrow. If not, another clip job. We'll see.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


There's an awesome story in today's New York Times detailing the efforts of two self-appointed protectors of all that is good to persuade a judge he should prevent the operation of a giant particle accelerator. Once this thing starts smashing protons together, these two are convinced, it could result in the creation of a miniature black hole which could destroy the earth--or even the universe.

Hommina Hommina Hommina. Also: Whaaa--?

Okay, first of all...I can't even get my head around this. Scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research (the acronym is CERN...but shouldn't it be ECNR?) claim the black hole theory is very unlikely, but they're double-checking just to be sure.

Wait...again, whaaa?

Isn't this the sort of thing you double-, triple-, then quadruple-check, then decide to scrap? Because, well, criminitlies, we're talking about the possible creation of a black hole here. Or, if not a black hole, a possibility the collider could produce something called a strangelet, which would reduce the earth to a big hunk o' nothing called, in scientific terms, strange matter.

(I've got two lame jokes here: 1. Strange Matter--hey, didn't he play for the Bears? 2. Strange Matter--hey, didn't ELO record that? And as long as I'm in the middle of a parenthetical aside, seriously, scientific community--strange matter? That's the best name you could come up with? If a boxy, lab-coated leading man in a fifties sci-fi movie used that term, the audience would laugh derisively.)

This is the something Dr. Doom should be putting together in some godforsaken Baltic state, with only the combined talents of The Fantastic Four to stop it. (The collider even looks like Jack Kirby designed it!) Unfortunately, this being the real world, it's up to a judge to decide the fate of the universe. No clobberin' time here.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Yesterday I jokily mentioned letting my beloved cat Delmar post something here, but after giving it some thought, I'm convinced Del is cut out to be a writer. Personality-wise, at least.

Consider: He wakes up whenever he wants, can't function until he has something to drink, and when food is presented to him, he rejects it in favor of another drink. (For Del, the drink of choice is water, not gin, but still...)

A pathetic, needy display of affection is interrupted by a violent rage, followed by an extended period of sullen silence. Then, a nap, the better to avoid doing any actual work.

He's neutured, which makes him perfect for sad, unconsummated affairs with an ever-younger series of "research assistants" and being a cat, he's not capable of doing anything more than wandering up and down a keyboard, stringing together letters that never form into a coherent whole.

So pretty much exactly like Norman Mailer, as far as I can tell.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Two things:

1) So...a guest post yesterday. Weird, huh? Not something that happens a lot around here. In fact, it's never happened at all. Heck, I've never even allowed Delmar to guest post. Of course, it would take him a long time to put anything up, what with a tiny kitty brain and lack of fingers--keyboards aren't really designed for paws--but I'm sure he'd have something interesting to say, though it would probably boil down to some variation of HISSHISSGROWLGROWL, followed by brief purring and loud, disturbing snoring.

Anyway, thanks to all who took the time to read Katie's post. She's threatening to start who own blog, so watch out...

2) Much as I hate turning this site into a perpetual mourning area, I wanted to note the passing of the actor Richard Widmark at the age of 93. I almost referred to Widmark as a film noir mainstay, but looking at his filmography, I was struck by how relatively few true noirs he'd appeared in. His unforgettable turn as the giggling sociopath Tommy Udo in Kiss Of Death and iconic performance in Jules Dassin's magnificent Night And The City skew the curve, though he did fine work in Samuel Fuller's Pickup On South Street and Vincente Minnelli's kinda sorta noirish The Cobweb.

Another thing about Widmark--he was seldom bad (he could be, though--his dull, uncommitted performance pretty much ruins Peter Sykes' To The Devil--A Daughter, which had the makings of a horror classic), but too often he'd be the best thing about a largely forgettable movie. He would have been a perfect leading man for Robert Aldrich or Anthony Mann, but instead spent time appearing in the likes of Red Skies Of Montana or Frog Men. Good things still came his way--particularly his proto-Dirty Harry in Don Siegel's Madigan--but by the late sixties and seventies he mostly essayed bland authority figures, with the occasional colorful character part.

I've always thought of Widmark as ranking somewhere between Burt Lancaster and Sterling Hayden in my personal iconography of coolness, but really, Night And The City aside, his career is sort of a profile in frustration--a great actor in search of great roles.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I am Edward's friend Katie--the one he has spoken of before. He now tells me he seldom mentions me on this site anymore, though he apparently went on and on about a previous female. This concerns me. I'm thinking that he may not be as interested in me as he says he is. Should I be concerned? He says this is because he doesn't know the nature of our relationship. Neither do I.

I think I may be confused because I have a lot of hangups and stress of my job and don't know if it's a good idea to get into a relationship. I have a good time when I'm with him but we have a lot of differences and don't always have a lot in common. Is that a sign or merely opposites attracting? Can a casual relationship maybe help out with stress from a job or get in the way? I tell him that I want to take it slow and I don't think he accepts that. I wish he was more understanding because I'm thinking if he can't give me time and maybe a little space, it may ruin something that could be great.

If anyone has any opinions or advise on this subject, please feel free to leave a comment.

Thank You, The Relationshiply Confused Katie:)


Let's make this clear: Everything Hillary Clinton says or does is fundamentally dishonest.

When she claimed she ran from sniper fire during a visit to Bosnia, she lied. When she explained away the statement by saying she "misspoke," she lied. She knowingly made up a story suggesting she had experience she lacked, and when called on the story, couldn't be honest enough to 'fess up.

Then again, her whole life is a lie, a series of compromises she's all too willing to make.

Consider her most recent attack on Barack Obama, the claim that she would never have a pastor like Jeremiah Wright.

Where to begin?

By pointing out Clinton's sometime affiliation with the likes of Billy Graham, an apologist for anti-semitism?

By suggesting an increasingly desperate Clinton is deliberately trying to torch Obama's campaign because if she can't get the nomination, no Democrat deserves to win?

No, I think the most interesting aspect of Clinton's latest utterance is the fact that it came in an interview she granted with The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a noxious ultraconservative rag founded and funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the guy primarily responsible for backing all the Whitewater investigations, whispering suspicions about Vince Foster's suicide, backing the impeachment of Clinton's husband. Yet not only will Clinton participate in an interview with this guy's paper--Scaife himself sat in on the interview!

In other words, she's all too willing to cozy up to the most extreme fringes of the right wing in order to bring down an opponent. Party loyalty? Fuck that--all that matters is her ambition. Clearly, she's willing to do and say anything just to get the nomination. If somehow she attained the highest office in the nation, how far would she go to keep it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Today would be the 118th birthday of Elmer Brendle, who, under the name El Brendel, briefly became one of the most popular comedians in America.

Brendel, who had no trace of an accent, achieved fame as a dialect comedian, specifically as a comical Swede--because Swedes, of course, are inherently funny--and milked his shtick for all it was worth. (Apparently, he actually coined the phrase "yumpin' yiminy"--now you know who to blame!)

Inexplicably, he achieved enough popularity to land parts in big movies. The Gershwins tailored a song to his "talent" for the 1931 movie Delicious. That same year, he had the lead in the misbegotten science fiction musical Just Imagine. I first stumbled across this as part of an all-night science fiction festival back in 1980, and I've hated Brendel ever since. Think I'm being harsh? Try sitting through this:

I don't know if audiences at the time actually found Brendel funny, or if he was sort of the Larry The Cable Guy or Dane Cook of his day. In any event, ye gods, this guy was irritating.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Here's how a Hollywood studio used to sell an upcoming superhero epic:

This is how they do it now:

Like night and day, isn't it? The 1978 trailer for Superman is almost painfully earnest in tone. This isn't a movie about spectacle or sensation; it's about character. The trailer for the upcoming Iron Man, on the other hand, is nothing but empty sensation: flashy camera moves, heavy-handed CGI, arch and unfunny gags, jokey use of music.

It's that--the music--I want to discuss. Aside from the nudge-in-the-ribs use of the same-named Black Sabbath song, the Iron Man trailer is a mixed bag musically, blaring metal, whooshing synthesizer, temp music used to enhance various moments onscreen but utterly lacking any stylistic unity.

The Superman trailer, of course, uses John Williams' score for the finished film. Aside from giving the trailer a sense of grandeur Iron Man utterly lacks, it suggests another big difference between moviemaking then and now.

The studio could use Williams' completed score to sell Superman because the movie was largely complete, even months before its debut. Williams was hired early on in the process and given adequate time to compose the music because movies back then had enough of a post-production period to fine-tune every last detail.

This Iron Man trailer debuted in late February for a film to be released in late April, but the use of a temp score is a dead giveaway: This thing isn't completed yet, mere weeks away from its premiere. Not an unusual situation these days, unfortunately. Movies now--even ones not involving an overqualified cast acting in support of a goofy-looking metal suit--are so reliant on CGI effects which are often not delivered until the last minute, the final cut can't be locked in until weeks, even days before the damned thing opens.

This is moviemaking in its crudest form, unapologetically manufacturing product instead of even pretending to create art.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Whenever I get to thinking about the current dreadful state of the movie industry, and how it got this way, it helps to visit a website largely catering to fanboys.

Case in point: Rotten Tomatoes recently ran a piece on Judd Apatow's all-time favorite movies. I should point out I have nothing against Apatow. His TV work, especially, is genius: He had a hand in The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks And Geeks, Undeclared. Plus, the guy's worked with both Joel Hodgson and Marshall Crenshaw, so for that alone my admiration is boundless.

In film, though, his reputation rests on two movies he's directed, The Forty-Year-Old Virgin (which I mostly liked) and Knocked Up (which I mostly hated). Apatow also has a producing credit on seemingly every movie Will Farrell has ever made and writing credits for various Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler efforts.

A mixed bag, but I think we can agree there's nothing in Apatow's filmography that would tax the intellectual capacities of your average beer-swilling, video game-playing, porn-lovin' twentysomething male. These movies are stuffed with dick jokes and easy sentimentality.

Anyway, the Rotten Tomatoes piece is obviously nothing more than Apatow attempting to drum up interest in yet another movie he's slapped his name on, the dreadful-sounding Drillbit Taylor. But it's an interesting list, and it gives some indication of what Apatow is at least shooting for in his films, something more apparent in his TV work: comedy informed by real experience, real pain.

His favorite movies, according to the list, are The Last Detail, Terms Of Endearment, Being There, Welcome To The Dollhouse and Tootsie. Not a bad list at all. I actually hated Welcome To The Dollhouse but I know Todd Solondz has admirers smarter than me, and I'm no big fan of Terms Of Endearment, although it's easy to see its mixture of sitcom laughs with manipulative heartbreak reflected in Apatow's work. Tootsie, though, is a model of smart comedy filmmaking, and The Last Detail and Being There show what a great director Hal Ashby could be--they're masterpieces of sustained tone.

Unfortunately, this list comes with comments from regular visitors to Rotten Tomatoes, and they're mostly of the "This sucks, I hate it" variety. Here are some typically insightful examples: "ZZZZ." "Yuck, yuck and more yuck." "how could one of the best directors in the world get his inspiration from **** movies?"

That last one's my favorite. Lack of caps aside, Apatow as one of the best directors in the world? Really?

Sadly, probably in this person's world, yes. More sadly still, commentors at sites like this and (shudder) Ain'tItCoolNews clearly have no idea what they're talking about--you think any of these clowns have actually seen The Last Detail?--but they've been given a forum, and undeserved influence.

These are the people studios cater to when they churn out the latest gross-out comedy, the latest toothless remake of a Japanese horror movie, the latest hyperkinetic action spectacle. Even though the box-office returns keep diminishing, executroids in Hollywood continue to monitor these sites, tailoring their product to what they perceive as the target audience.

So we get movies made for people who think I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry totally rules, and Being There is ****.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Clint Eastwood--who, it should be noted, turns seventy-eight this year--just signed to direct a hush-hush project called Gran Torino. This is in addition to Changeling, a drama about an abducted child he directed for release later this year, and The Human Factor, a biopic on Nelson Mandela(!) he's scheduled to direct next year.

Impossible to know if any of these will be any good, but Eastwood is certainly a role model for aging with grace. Coming off such recent strong work as Mystic River, Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, I'd say his work as a filmmaker keeps getting better and better, but since his first two efforts as director were Play Misty For Me and High Plains Drifter, he's been knocking 'em out of the park for a long time. Sure, he's made some bum efforts--but even they're fascinating. (Is The Rookie a bad buddy-cop movie or a deadpan spoof of same? Given the casting of Raul Julia and Sonia Braga as Germans, I gotta go with the latter. I'm also possibly the only Eastwood fan on earth who actually likes The Eiger Sanction. On the other hand, I didn't care much for Million Dollar Baby. Go figure.)

Anyway, Gran Torino. Absolutely nothing is known about this, but the interweb is already chock foll o' rumors--based, it must be said, on the thinnest of evidence--that this will be a new Dirty Harry movie. While this strikes me as, that would be awesome. Think about it: A new Indiana Jones, James Bond, Star Wars and Dirty Harry, all in the same year?

The geekiest imaginable part of me just wet himself. Metaphorically, of course.


Nothing in particular to talk about today. But hey, here's a great Marvin Gaye song, from his brilliant album Here, My Dear, simultaneously one of the most beautiful and most depressing recordings of all time. I could go on and on about how amazing it is, and why, but for now, let's let Marvin do the talking.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It's been years, decades even, since I've read anything by Arthur C. Clarke. Yet I'm profoundly saddened to hear of his death at age 90.

No need for sorrow, really--again, he was 90. And continued to live well, deep-sea diving nearly every day despite the debilitating effects of post-polio syndrome, still churning out novels, though none would ever have the impact of his seminal works, Childhood's End or Rendezvous With Rama. Those books ranked among the best friends I had in junior high and high school, and I could return to them to be reminded that my day-to-day travails were as nothing, that there was something more, a higher purpose to our time on earth.

Still, they meant nothing compared to 2001.

I literally divide my life into before and after the first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. Before, there was my house and my life and my corner of the world. After...there was everything, a universe of possibilities. My mind was well and truly blown. I spent days, weeks, months, years trying to unlock its mysteries. Full of awe and wonder, yet disturbingly pessimistic, it was the first movie I ever encountered (I was 10 at the time) that demanded something of me, transcending mere entertainment to enter the lofty realm of Art.

The film, of course, reflects Stanley Kubrick's vision much more than Clarke's. The novel Clarke wrote parallel to the production of the movie makes literal what Kubrick allowed to remain abstract. Kubrick is clearly the greater artist, but 2001 certainly showcases one of Clarke's recurring themes, the need for humankind to transcend its prosaic existence and attain a higher level of being.

For Clarke, perhaps, that time has finally arrived. He is infinite.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Just a quick post to note the passing of writer-director Anthony Minghella at the unbearably young age of 54.

Minghella wasn't a prolific filmmaker, and much of what he did--Cold Mountain, especially--smacked of middlebrow Oscar bait. But he directed a very fine adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, and his first film, Truly, Madly, Deeply, is both a lovely ghost story and one of the affecting meditations on love I've ever seen.

Fine as it is, though, I'll always think of Minghella as the writer for Jim Henson's extraordinary TV series The Storyteller. He wrote all episodes, even published an adaptation of his scripts, and despite the uniformly fine acting and impeccable physical production, it was the poetic nature of Minghella's writing that made the program such a treasure. As the title suggests, this show celebrated the very act of telling a story, something Minghella could do as well as anyone.

Here is one of my favorite episodes of The Storyteller, in three parts. If you're anything like me, you might want to have a tissue handy. "Because, you see, despite all that took place, a little boy once met a giant, and they became friends."

Part One:

Part Two:



You know, I realize yesterday's post may not have been as cheerful and relaxed and upbeat and whatever as one might expect from somebody who just took a few day's off. A mini-vacation, and all I can do is whine.

So be upbeat, I thought. Maybe something light, something nutty about the cats or--wait, what? Everyone's favorite lying scumwad, Bill Clinton, is now suggesting his comparison of Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson's was in no way tinged with racism.

Actually, he's not suggesting it, he's casting his latest lie in neon: "They made up a race story out of that...They thought they could hurt me with that, and so they put a bizarre spin on it..."

Bizarre spin? Fuck, fuck ,FUCK!

That tears it. Any thought I had that I might, possibly, out of misplaced and long-faded loyalty to the Democratic party, vote for this idiot's FemBot 2000 wife (now with Simuducts to make her cry real tears!) if she got the nomination is gone. I sure as hell wouldn't vote for McCain, and there's no point in voting for Nader, so fine. I won't vote.

Oh, and Bill? Shut the hell up.

Monday, March 17, 2008


A good vacation, mostly: A great Richard Thompson concert, the unexpected discovery of a fine restaurant, time spent with family. Even spending half a week away from Katie was good; surprised to realize how much I missed her while I was gone, I blathered on and on to her on my cellphone while walking through a grocery store. And I hate people who do that. (She and I got together when I got home and things went great. You probably don't want to know the details.)

But as usual, melancholy intruded. Gradually, at first, in degrees so tiny only one familiar with the feeling might have noticed. Still, watching my nephew perform the lead in Fiddler On The Roof, the impossibility of watching this without imagining Mom's reaction became overwhelming. ( I know exactly what that reaction would have been: sniping about many aspects of the show and other performers, but as soon as Matthew started into Sunrise, Sunset, she'd have dissolved into a puddle of tears.)

Mom's absence seems felt in a much more profound way, though. As much as I enjoy hanging out with my brother and his family, the simple act of doing that reminds me of other family members I don't see so much. Some of them are vague presences, some have vanished completely from my radar. This never would have happened when Mom was around.

She held the family together simply by being. She was the one person everybody talked to, stopped by to visit, hung out with. She kept us all informed about the comings and goings of other familial strands, nieces and nephews or cousins we hadn't seen for so long. Without her, without a center, we all seem to have gone our separate ways.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Without Mom, the strongest tie to the past has been severed, and we're all free to live in the here-and-now. Things play out now as they will, and if paths never cross, so be it. Part of me feels free, as though my life has finally become my own, and I can succeed and fail without concern for the approval of family.

Family. It's what is missing in my life right now, a sense of being connected to something more than myself. Life is good, life is bad, the same as always, but there's this weird feeling I have lately of something winding down, a climax with no resolution, things lost and never replaced.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Well, I'll officially be away until Sunday, at least. I'm off on a mini vacation, and frankly, I hope to spend absolutely no time thinking of posting. The point of the trip, ostensibly, was to see my nephew in his school play--a red-haired Midwesterner of Swedish descent, he's playing Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, but hey, if he can tap into his vast genetic reservoirs of guilt and despair, he should be fine--but it turns out Richard Thompson is in concert in Omaha tonight, so suddenly that's the most important thing in the world.

I've shown plenty of Thompson clips in this space before, and dammit, it's time for more. He's easily one of the best songwriters we have at the moment, as evidenced by this, possibly the gloomiest breakup number ever written. "All your magic and your ways and schemes/All your lies come and tear at your dreams"--brilliant.

However great Thompson's prowess as a songwriter, it's equaled or even exceeded by his abilities as a guitarist--he's simply the best, period. One of the joys of seeing him in concert is that you never know when he'll let loose with an oddly chosen cover showcasing his amazing fretwork, as happens on this old Louis Jordan tune:

Here's another cover. It seems like a joke at first, but typically, Thompson eaisly finds the dark, dark heart of even the most disposable pop song.

Hope you enjoyed. Be back soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


My friend Howard once suggested I should try finding a girlfriend by randomly walking up to women and saying, "You look like a real Marshall Crenshaw fan." Sure, I'd endure endless rejection, perhaps the occasional macing, but if I finally found someone who said, "Why yes, I am"...Well, presumably everything else would fall in place.

In other words, any woman who is a hardcore Crenshaw fan probably wouldn't make me sit through shit like Must Love Dogs or Because I Said So or the awful, awful romantic comedy of your choice. I know an alarming number of women who are drawn to this sort of thing. Why?

I hate the term "chick flick" and I'd like to think it's meaningless. There are only good movies and bad movies, and we're not drawn to certain things because of our gender. I mean, sure, give me a bag of popcorn, a bottle of Heineken and a screening of The Dirty Dozen, and I'm happy. But that's a good movie. Okay, a good movie with Lee Marvin, Jim Brown and Charles Bronson blowing up Nazis, but still...

If I'm going to watch a bad movie, I'll do so because it's bad. (Neil Diamond IS The Jazz Singer!) And if I want to watch a particular type of movie, I'll go with a good example of its type. If I want bone-crunching action, I'll watch The Dirty Dozen, not some lame Van Damme crap. And if I want a romantic comedy, Jeebus, I'd stay the hell away from anything involving Kate Hudson, Mandy Moore, Sandra Bullock...anything made in the last twenty years, basically.

My point is, just because Hollywood marketeers target your demographic, you don't need to cave in.

Monday, March 10, 2008


1) Posting will undoubtedly be kinda light this week. I have tentative plans for this evening, and I'll be gone from Thursday through the weekend, so don't expect much. A bad time to leave, actually, since my stats are kinda sorta up--instead of two regular readers, I now have four!

2) Never watched the show, don't really know much about it, but for some reason, I had a dream about that Sex And The City movie. No, I'm not gay. Why do you ask?

3) Many recent articles attempt to explain the American economy's slide into recession, as if the fact that this is happening is something that couldn't have been foreseen, as if cutting taxes while spending billions, possibly trillions on a pointless, unending war hadn't doomed us from the get-go. Not to play Cassandra, but I could have told you this was coming all along, and I'm just some working-class schmuck, not a hot-shot economist.

4) That "hot-shot economist" line was originally going to lead me into a discussion of Paul Krugman, and the annoying tendency of this site to be New York Times-centric...but screw it, I don't wanna get that introspective.

5) Delmar and Monika are again sticking their noses in the air when I feed them. I bought this Friskies Select crap they'd gone gaga over previously, now they're tired of it. Oh my God...perhaps they'll only be satisfied with the taste of HUMAN FLESH. AAIIEE!!

Nope. Turns out they'll eat Cat Chow. Whew!

6) Since I suspect any postings this week will tend towards clip jobs, let's kick this trend off right, shall we? Here's an all-time favorite MST3K sketch.

7) There is no seven.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


The surprise isn't how many articles and mournful farewells have appeared online following the death of Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax, since we know who rules cyberspace, but it is astonishing how thoughtful and touching many of them have been, particularly Jason Heller's piece at The AV Club and this essay by Adam Rogers in The New York Times.

Me, I never played D & D. Or cared much for Star Trek. That was geek stuff to me. Sure, I had a Space: 1999 lunchbox (which I carried even after the show's cancellation, even into junior high, which...pretty embarrassing) and regularly read Starlog and the now-forgotten Fantastic Films and was briefly into Tolkien and, of course, pretty much had an out-of-body experience the first time I saw Star Wars.

But even then, I had other obsessions. Doc Savage and The Shadow, for instance. Sure, they're part of the pulpy origins of Indiana Jones (which leads to its own level of geekery), but I loved them as much for the cool art deco worlds they moved through as for the adventures they led. Many Doc Savage novels served as virtual travelogues of thirties-era New York City, which seemed like the coolest place in the world. And The Shadow flat-out killed guys ('twin automatics speak as one"), usually two-bit hoods whose lives weren't living, at least according to the twisted moral code of pulp fiction.

These things led to film noir, and the novels of Dashiell Hammett, and dark landscapes of the soul, which seemed so much more interesting than, say, Middle Earth. I watched movies and read novels of all types, and my obsessions spiraled and became more all-encompassing. I don't care much about Tolkien anymore, and a recent attempt to watch some episodes of Space:1999 resulted in stultifying boredom.

On the other hand, I found myself killing time in a bookstore yesterday, and instinctively picked up a copy of Star Wars Insider. The 100 Greatest Things About Star Wars, and Number One is...The Jedi Order? The hell? Everyone knows the single greatest thing about Star Wars is...

Friday, March 07, 2008


I'd have been twelve when Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas first hit the charts, and I'm forty-two now, so I've had plenty of time to nurse a grudge against it. On one hand, the stunning banality of its lyrics, totally generic "heavy" guitar work and utterly anonymous vocals are kind of harmless, almost endearing.

If you heard this song once, you'd feel like patting it on the head, smiling and nodding as you might when your girlfriend mentions she really liked The DaVinci Code. You try to overlook it even as you realize this relationship is doomed.

But what if you stay in the relationship, metaphorically speaking? What if Carry On Wayward Son is played constantly on the radio, day after day after miserable day? What if it's on the mixtape your boss plays EVERY FUCKING DAY and you have no choice but to stand there, letting that cheeseball organ solo and those whiny vocals pound your head like a meat tenderizer?

And those lyrics--omigod, the lyrics! "I set a course for winds of fortune"? "If I claim to be a wise man/It surely means that I don't know"--Whoa. This is the type of crap jocks knock out in comp class to show how sensitive they are, and maybe score points with that black-clad "artsy" chick they secretly think is kinda cute even though they'd never admit it in front of their buds.

I just spent more time than I'd like to admit reading Wikipedia entries on this stupid song and the faceless, uninteresting band responsible for embedding it in my subconscious, and it hurts. It really, really hurts.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


A recent piece in The New York Times revealed Team Hillary's "endgame" plans to seal the nomination by any means necessary, a byzantine plot out of a John LeCarre novel. By implementing this scheme, they may well be handing the presidency to the Republicans.

I'm not a big fan of Barack Obama--at this point, I don't think I'd believe a word uttered by anybody affiliated with the Democratic party--but he at least appears to offer a viable alternative. Clinton is more of the same, a professional insider, somebody who assumes the presidency is her birthright. Kinda like the guy we've got now.

So, God knows, is John McCain. He's all about continuing the U.S. presence in Iraq, continuing to run up massive debt while cutting taxes. The differences between McCain and Bush are so slight as to have no meaning...but for some reason, when he hauls out the straight-talkin' maverick shtick, people buy it every time.

If he turns on the twinkly, avuncular warmth and presents himself as the common-sense alternative to that cold, castrating bitch, how many moderates of both parties will fall for it? Clinton would be unable to respond without appearing to attack a kindly old man, and another Democratic nominee would go down in flames. That's the real endgame.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Sorry, woke up late, filled with outrage and bile over Hillary Clinton's primary victories yesterday, depressed over the continuing battle between who-cares Democrats, and...the usual.

But hey, here's some music. It's long been my opinion that Warren Zevon's 1976 major label debut must have crushed the aspirations of a generation of would-be songwriters, who must have realized nothing they could ever do would ever touch it. Every single song on that album is a marvel of craft, and here's one of the very best.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


1) It turns out Love And Consequences, a critically acclaimed new memoir about growing up in the middle of South Central gang territory, is pure fiction. Author Margaret B. Jones, subject of a recent fawning profile in The New York Times, is actually Margaret Seltzer, well-to-do product of Sherman Oaks. Her story fell apart when her sister saw a photo of "Jones" in a magazine and called foul.

Um...Aren't publishing houses supposed to have fact-checking departments? Shouldn't the background search for someone peddling a supposedly true story be more extensive than what a temp agency would run for someone hired to dig ditches? Didn't The Times do any research of their own before they ran their story on "Jones"? Doesn't anyone remember James Frey?

2) Speaking of The Times, they ran a puff piece last week on the HBO series In Treatment, specifically on the slavish fan base surrounding Gabriel Byrne's fictional therapist. Diane O'Rourke, identified as a medical writer from Chicago, explains her attraction to Byrne's character thusly:

"Paul is attractive not because he has great youthful biceps but because he's vulnerable--a real person who wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worrying, 'What the hell am I doing here?'"

Really? That's what makes a man attractive? Because by that standard, I am the most desirable fella on the planet!

3) Clinton, Obama, Ohio, Texas, whatever. Sorry, folks, I'm contractually required to mention that somehow.

4) There are plans afoot for a sort of updating of John Hughes' The Breakfast Club, only instead of being about high school kids stuck in detention, this will be about twenty-somethings stuck in an airport, and instead of being a fondly-remembered piece of eighties effluvia that doesn't quite stand up when you actually rewatch it, this will suck from the get-go.

5) Here's all ten minutes of the "Air-rotica" sequence from Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, which seems more and more like one of the most perfect movies ever made. Nobody ever filmed dance better than Fosse, and his attention to detail--the squirming producers, the fidgeting stagehands--amazes. The performance of the late Roy Scheider, though only briefly glimpsed here, is perfection, as are the awesome breasts of Sandahl Bergman. In an artistic sense, of course.

Monday, March 03, 2008


It begins, as it has so many times before, with talk and touching, and it continues, who knows where?

Katie and I haven't known each other that long, but already we see each other nearly every day, always talking, hanging out, even doing laundry together. It doesn't get much more intimate than that.

She's great, I enjoy being with her, yet I confess a wariness to my pose.

Scroll back a year or so into the archives here, and read, scattered among all the anti-Bush screeds, of my infatuation with Tabbatha, of the great wonders and delights awaiting me when she and I moved in together, when we married, when I became a father. My life had finally acquired some faint patina of meaning.

So it seemed.

What ended that relationship? What ended my marriage? Are all my relationships destined to play out the same way? Do I somehow make these hesitations manifest, does the fear of failure result in failure?

But...I didn't expect my marriage to fail. I took the whole "for better or worse" thing seriously, but the fact that it all fell apart seems to have instilled in me a sense of impermanence. Nothing can be started that can't be ended, so really, why even start?

So where am I now? This feels different than it has before. Too soon to say if it's better or worse, just different. Which is good. I can't just go through the motions when I'm learning brand new steps.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


All the people I knew, all the people I saw on TV, everyone came from loving homes, everyone's parents stayed together. Widowhood might occur, but divorce? That was something only whispered about, but never fully understood.

My parents exemplified this. The quintessential married couple, a farmer and his wife, knocking out kids at fairly regular two-year intervals, facing down whatever problems came their way with pluck and good humor.

So it seemed.

Dad sprang from fairly hardscrabble circumstances, the product of Swedish coalminers, isolated from the wonders and ways of the larger world. With only an eight-grade education, he sought employment at an early age, and his life may have gone in an entirely different direction, except...

He found himself in Europe during World War II, working in the motor pool. What a change that must have been! His whole life had been lived within the range of a few miles, he had no idea what the rest of the world looked like, and now here among the splendors of the Old World, he confronted death on a daily basis. His division somehow wound up with clean-up duty at Dachau, and this vision of ultimate, incomprehensible horror surely numbed his senses.

He came home with no ceremony, and no counseling to help him process what he'd witnessed, and worked and saved, and tried to bury the memories, determined to lead a simple life.

But though the girl he married willingly became part of his life, she was smart and well-read, with a curiosity about the world beyond the little bit of it she'd seen. She'd get no help in that regard from her husband; he'd been there, he'd seen too much already, and never wanted to go back.

So Mom stayed home, helped on the farm, slopped the hogs, beheaded chickens, raised the kids, all the things expected of her. She drove into town once a week to buy groceries, chatted endlessly with the neighbors, built her days around her soap operas.

And again, she did this willingly, with no complaints. Mostly. Although many years later she'd admit sometimes, when the kids were in school and isolation overwhelmed her, she'd stare out at the sun-dappled trees lining the lane and think about getting in the car and driving off a bridge, ending her life just to relieve the boredom.

All this, of course, I found out later. As a kid, Mom and Dad seemed as perfect as Ward and June Cleaver, albeit without the suits and pearls. I knew nothing of any serpents lurking in the garden. Life could not have been better.

Could it?