Sunday, November 30, 2008


I'm late getting back home, so I wouldn't be inclined to post much in this space even under the best circumstances, but add in the fact that Blogger has been acting up (at least for me) lately, and it's too much trouble to consider.

I'll just point out that I had a relatively happy weekend, much of it spent in Paul's company. I've really got to learn to work this kid better; he and I were doing our patented deadpan improv act for the checkout clerk at a book store earlier. We made her laugh (okay, mostly he made her laugh), and if I managed it with a bit more finesse than I can usually muster, I probably could have walked out of there with her phone number. (Or, again, maybe I should have Paul do the asking; what fair lass could refuse a nine-year-old?)

Anyway, between the non-sequiturs, marathon movie viewings and spontaneous outbursts of song--odes to Krispy Kreme and Paul's crush on Disney nymphette Selena Gomez (which he strenuously denied in a quasi-operatic response)--I am, if I may deploy self-consciously folksy terminology, plum tuckered out.

Hopefully, all will be back to relative normalcy this coming week. After all, I haven't even written the expected long-winded take on Quantum Of Solace yet!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


The hill is endless, no cross streets in sight, simply one constant block with lookalike bungalows on either side, some with FOR RENT signs. I want to stop and look at one of them, but I'm propelled constantly forward. I'm in a car, then, am I? Evidently, though I'm not driving, and no one else is, either. But I'm viewing through a window, and I hear a radio commercial for something called Mid-City Waterbeds, though its given address is actually somewhere in the western suburbs. I hear this and I know this, though I have no idea where I am, what city I'm in.

The window is gone, the radio is gone. I'm walking now, downhill this time, and people follow me. Not threateningly, more like I'm leading them. They catch up with me, they pass me, we move onward, then suddenly stand still. We're at some sort of crossroads, faded green hills loom up before us, dotted here and there with trees and houses. The sky is gray. There's a noise...

A train appears in the open area before us. It doesn't pull in, it simply is there where it wasn't a second ago. The train is made of some reflective material, we see ourselves in it, an ugly, unruly crowd, all pressing forward, all eager to be first on board. But why? Where are we headed?

I shove others out of the way, ascend the steps and stop...this isn't a train, it's my old schoolbus, and I'm a kid again. I make my way to the fifth row back, hoping no one notices me. More people file in and take their seats, none near me. I look out the window. Mom is out there, on the far side of a ditch overgrown with weeds, fumbling through her purse for a cigarette.

Jumping up and running out the door, I pause briefly to ask the driver to save my seat. He doesn't look at me and doesn't answer. As I approach Mom, I bend over and pick up the remnants of a long, barely-used foreign-made cigarette from off the ground. "Are you looking for this?" I ask, and Mom says, "Oh, I never smoke."

I wake up.

The cats sleep at the foot of the bed, a dog barks somewhere outside, the clock says it's 3 AM. I stumble to the bathroom, wash my face, pour a glass of milk and go back to bed.

And I'm immediately on the train again--it's definitely a train, not a bus--and it pulls forward, headed away from the faded green hills and the gray sky, to someplace blue and lively, someplace I've never been, and I feel strangely calm.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Couple days ago, the piped-in music in my neighborhood Chinese restaurant included Cyndi Lauper's hit version of the mournful Jules Shear song All Through The Night, which has bounced through my head ever since. I tried finding Shear's original (much superior) take on this song, and while I couldn't find that, I did find a clip of him doing another song that became a hit in somebody else's rendition, If She Knew What She Wants, covered (quite nicely) by The Bangles.

The most interesting thing about this clip, though, was that it came from Shear's brief period as host of the original incarnation of MTV's Unplugged, and featured him introducing Michael Penn. Shear was a former lover of Aimee Mann (he inspired her song J For Jules), and she would later marry...Michael Penn.

Okay, so here's logic gets sidetracked in my explorations on YouTube: Penn wrote the score for P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights, one of my favorite movies, which got me on a kick trying to find some clips of John Holmes' "Johnny Wadd" pictures, so prominently referenced in that film. To my surprise, an edited version of Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here is posted in its entirety, and even more surprisingly, its basic set-up and even many of the shots are direct steals from Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye. How did I not know this?

Fine, but then I decided, no, I'm not going to force anyone to watch Johnny Wadd clips, and Jules Shear's singing is kind of an acquired taste, and my plan to showcase the Richard Thompson song Psycho Street (as kind of a follow-up to my previous entry, as part of what I visualized as a series of ongoing missing-the-point stories tangentially related to the events in Mumbai...and no, I'm not going to bother explaining the connection because that would make this already tortured parenthetical aside even longer than it already is) was foiled by the fact that the only version I could find was frankly substandard. Yet I'm sitting here with an itch to post something, and even though I have a couple movies I'd like to write about, my mind's a little foggy to try to offer any penetrating analysis, so...

So here's a clip of Lynda Carter rasslin' some guy in a monkey suit, is what I'm saying.


The terrorist attacks in Mumbai are still very much an ongoing thing as I write this, and admittedly this is a bit beside the point, but I'm fascinated--well, disgusted, actually--by how The New York Times is handling their coverage of the story: The front page of their website breathlessly informs us that reporter Keith Bradsher is sending regular updates via his BlackBerry.

All well and good, but why do we need to know how Bradsher is filing these stories? I realize BlackBerry is kind of line Kleenex and Xerox in the pantheon of brand names that people use to describe generic objects, but the use of the brand name seems a little questionable. If the stories had been sent by fax or teletype, would The Times be using brand names?

If not, why are they now? Isn't it enough to say he's sending updates? Do we have to turn breaking news into product placement?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Thanks to cable TV, Steven Seagal's shelf life has been extended a bit longer. A&E is planning on airing something called Steven Seagal: Lawman, a reality show detailing Seagal's Dwight Schrute-like efforts as a volunteer deputy for the New Orleans PD. It'll also focus on Seagal's private life, including his his second (or third, depending) career as a musician.

The news that the puffy, anti-charismatic action star is in an introspective mood follows closely upon the release of JCVD, the semi-autobiographical portrait of Belgian musclehead Jean-Claude Van Damme in the autumn of his career, a kind of Look Back In Incomprehensibly-Accented Anger for kick-boxing fans everywhere.

Well, if these two astonishingly uninteresting martial artists, with their run of semi-hits in the late eighties and early nineties which culminated in a decade and a half of straight-to-DVD filler, get to relive their constantly-playing-on-cable glory days, I say what about Jeff Speakman?

Yes, Jeff Speakman, star of The Perfect Weapon, which I actually paid money to see. I think we can all agree Speakman, whose screen presence was so overpowering I have absolutely no memory of what he even looked like, deserves a comeback. Even though I can't remember anything about The Perfect Weapon (or TPW, as fans call it, or would call it if it had any fans)--I'm reasonably sure Speakman ran a karate school, or something, and their were mobsters, possibly drugs, and somebody got killed and Our Hero swore vengeance--it certainly killed time as competently as any Seagal or Van Damme offering, and since Speakman lacked Seagal's receding hairline and tight-assed whisper as well as Van Damme's mulletted, Eurotrashy determination to show off his butt, he comes out ahead of either of them. Sure, his screen presence was instantly forgettable, but it wasn't actively annoying.

So let's give Jeff Speakman his own reality series. We can watch him kick ass and deliver clever action movie one-liners as he goes about his daily activities, whether he's delivering mail ("Postage due...permanently!"), working in customer service ("How may I help die?") or performing janitorial duties ("I'll autoscrub your hell!"). Such a show would have no entertainment value whatsoever and be watched by absolutely no one, and after its unsuccessful run on a lesser cable network, it could go straight to DVD, where nobody would buy it...just like all of Speakman's movies!

Say, come to think of it, what's Dolph Lundgren doing these days?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It passed unmentioned here, but last week was the thirtieth anniversary of the mass suicide at Jonestown.

It passed unmentioned because, well, quite frankly, I was a little sheepish about mentioning my memories of this great tragedy. As a kid on a farm, I tended not to read newspapers, and in that pre-internet world, information was not poured into our lives constantly. So the first time I ever heard of the People's Temple compound in Guyana was on a brief news break during the local PBS affiliate's broadcast of The Maltese Falcon. This news break was simply a reporter reciting headlines, including a brief mention of the murders of Leo Ryan and several others at an airstrip in Guyana, blandly delivered over a nondescript graphic.

Would I even remember this if it weren't for the movie? I mean, The Maltese Falcon! What a great movie, and it was the first time I'd ever seen it, so the circumstances surrounding that viewing--my mom making fun of Mary Astor's hair and mannerisms, my dad repeatedly muttering "Shweetheart"--burned themselves into my brain. Possibly any newscast would have lingered as some sort of memory of that seminal film-viewing experience.

Whatever the newscasts talked about the next morning was lost on me, since the only thing mattering to my brother and me was driving to Des Moines to see the heavily-advertised Japanese Star Wars knockoff, Message From Space. The theater was packed, and we laughed uproariously as the spectacle unfolded. All the way home, we traded impressions of Vic Morrow struggling with his English-as-second-language dialogue and rehashed the highlights. ("Walnuts? They gather an army by sending out walnuts?" "Well, yeah, but they were glowing space walnuts.")

By the time we got home that Sunday night, The NBC Nightly News was already on, broadcasting the bodies on the airstrip and some of the 909 corpses resulting from Jim Jones' "revolutionary suicide." Sickening, of course, but part of me wondered why we were watching the NBC news instead of CBS. Presumably a ball game ran late on CBS, and we always ate supper to the evening news, so NBC it was.

But why do I remember that? Why do I remember the small details more than the big picture? Surely the events at Jonestown were a defining moment in American history, and I remember being shaken, sickened even, as I learned more about them, but as it all unfolded, the mundane activities of daily life seemed infinitely more important, so important I remember them to this day.

Have the circumstances surrounding that viewing of two very different movies stuck with me because they are bound inseparably to terrifying revelations of mass fanaticism? Or is it the other way around? And what does it say about me that in my mind there is no difference?

Monday, November 24, 2008


Twenty years ago today, a poverty-stricken little puppet show made its debut on a scrappy little UHF station in the Twin Cities. The premise was simple, and never changed: The show's host and his robot friends made fun of bad movies. This format would carry the show onto a fledgling cable network, into syndication, to a movie spin-off, then onto a different cable network. Eleven years after its debut, it would be canceled.

But Mystery Science Theater 3000 is never dead. Not to its fans.

I knew of the show, but since my hometown's cable system didn't carry Comedy Central, I only knew it by reputation. Finally, in the fall of 1995, a local station began carrying syndicated episodes from the second, third and fourth seasons. My first episode mocked the movie Cave Dwellers. In the first fifteen minutes alone, I had been barraged with outrageous puns, obscure literary references and gags about the NPR show Music From The Hearts Of Space. By the time they made a dumb joke about Marshall Crenshaw, I was in love.

Oh, I'd loved TV shows before. Or I thought I had. But maybe, in retrospect, they were mere dalliances, there and gone, nothing like the real thing. But with MST3K, it was a love that would last forever.

My local station aired it on Saturday nights at midnight. I'd tape it and save it for Monday evening, my reward to myself for getting through the first day of the working week. The ritual was always the same--order a pizza, bake some cookies, pour some soda and sprawl on the floor, ready to laugh myself silly. And I always laughed, actual solid belly laughs, the greatest feeling in the world.

Even when it got pulled from syndication, roughly around the same time Comedy Central dropped it, I wasn't concerned. Episodes were being issued on VHS, and I had my old tapes. The show found a new home on the Sci-Fi Channel, and I headed up to Minneapolis to attend the show's second convention.

Yes, I attended a convention celebrating a TV show. But that didn't make me a geek, I reasoned, more like an anti-geek, a parody of a geek, we were there, all of us, celebrating something that mocked such notions, we were being ironic. And yet, we all gathered in one place to celebrate our love for this cultish little cow-town puppet show, and well, maybe there was a little geekiness involved. But how can you not love a convention at which a costume ball involves three people dressed up as genial former A&E host Jack Perkins? (And yes, one of them was me.)

My life marched forward. I got married, but one night a week continued to be MST3K night, with most of the old rituals still in place, though a frozen pizza had replaced take-out due to budgetary concerns. The marriage faltered, but I could still rely on old episodes to keep me warm.

My brother died, my mom died, unbearable tragedy made a little more bearable by Joel or Mike and the bots, always ready to make me laugh, always there to remind me somebody is on my wavelength, somebody thinks the same way as me, always there to remind me--as much as a puppet show devoted to making with the wisecracks and ha-ha can--that we're all in this together, and the world's a pretty good place.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


It's the weekend, I have to work and I'm in a cranky mood. Think I'm going to bother writing anything?

Nah. Not when Tonio K can say what I'm feeling so much more eloquently than I could. (And you can dance to it!) From 1978--though the lyrics certainly haven't dated--here's The Funky Western Civilization.

Well, hey, that's pretty bitter, isn't it? We should temper it with...more bitterness, actually. But such sweetly presented bitterness! I'm not going to claim Cry Me A River is the greatest song ever written, but can we agree it's the greatest kiss-off song ever? And no disrespect to the many, many people who have recorded this over the years, but honestly, Julie London's version is the only one you'll ever need.

And might as well close out with this, because any time's a good time for some Roger Miller.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


That trailer I posted the other day for the new Stat Trek movie couldn't help but remind me of the late Gene Siskel's review of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, in which he praised the visual effects for being gratifyingly modest, saying something to the effect of how he didn't know how they were done, exactly, but he appreciated that they were only there to serve the story.

Wrath Of Khan came out in the summer of '82, the same year as another heavily-promoted science fiction epic, Tron. Much was made at the time about how Tron's computer-generated visual effects--a revelation at the time--would change the future of movies. But it was a colossal dud at the box office, and at the time it looked like this "future" would never happen.

Things change, don't they?

On its release, the failure of Tron was chalked up to the fact that it was nothing but empty sensation--the special effects didn't drive the story, they were the only reason the movie existed. Surely audiences wanted more than just a cheap thrill ride when they went to the movies! Wrath Of Khan, on the other hand, was a huge success, largely because it gave fans of the Star Trek TV show exactly what they wanted--an episode of the series, only bigger. And it had the virtues a good TV show used to have: strong characterizations, an interesting story, a strong sense of forward momentum that nonetheless allowed some breathing room, throwaway bits of humor or drama.

Those qualities are rare enough on TV these days, but they're virtually impossible to find in mainstream movies. Wrath Of Khan got good but not spectacular reviews at the time of its release, but if it came out now, it would probably seem like a revelation. Plot? Characters? In a big-budget franchise movie? Huzzah!

I guess what I'm saying is, that new Star Trek movie, with its flashy camera moves, jittery editing and overkill CGI effects, looks more like Tron than Wrath Of Khan, a flashy, ruthlessly efficient thrill ride, with not a hint of human feeling.

Friday, November 21, 2008


1) Yes, if I'm using a quote from Larry King's old USA Today column as a post title, it must be Random Thoughts time! Haven't done one of these in awhile--has anyone missed it?

2) Spent much of the day yesterday trying to figure out whether I'd be better off upgrading to a higher grade of health insurance, since mine seems to kick out when I need it most. Turns out, the higher grade--the highest offered by my employer--would do pretty much the same thing, which sent me scrambling to the local county-run hospital, to see if my paltry salary is low enough to qualify me for public assistance.

Let me make that clear: I WORK FOR A HOSPITAL, and their level of medical coverage is so pathetic that public assistance sounds like a better idea. (Talk is in the air that things are only going to get worse.) The financial adviser at the county facility told me my best bet would to put as much as I could afford into a Flexible Spending Account and hope for the best. Which means my paycheck will be less than ever, least I'm insured. Yay?

3) So with the economy tanking, how long before people start blaming Obama? Obviously, it's not his fault (well, not entirely, though it's not like he spent his time in congress shoring up the economic levees, or even issuing Cassandra-like warnings of collapse), but will that matter when people become increasingly desperate, praying for a quick fix that can't possibly arrive?

4) Seriously, if I have to see an ad for that new Adam Sandler movie one more time, I'll...I'll...well, I don't know what I'll do, but it won't be pretty.

5) I would be remiss if I didn't mention the death at the age of 94 of Irving Brecher, a prolific gagman and screenwriter. He created The Life Of Riley for radio, then oversaw its transition into one of TV's first sitcoms, plus he palled around with Groucho Marx and Jack Benny, which alone makes him unbelievably awesome in my book.

But Brecher's most lasting credit is as screenwriter for one of the greatest movies ever made, Meet Me In St. Louis. He was one of a small army to labor over this script, and by most accounts, the final draft was mostly his, and a fine piece of work it was. (Though all revisions were closely overseen by Vincente Minnelli, whose supervision I like to think consisted mostly of looking over Brecher's shoulder while muttering, "We need a sequence with an insanely complex lighting scheme in here" or "Any way we can have a scene expressing emotion through vivid use of color? Thanks!") He also scripted another picture for Minnelli, Yolanda And The Thief, though even its most hardcore partisans don't necessarily claim its script as one of its strongest aspects. (I find it greatly underrated myself, and really enjoy Harry Warren's score. Also, am I the only person on earth who thinks Lucille Bremer was insanely hot?) As if this wasn't enough, he toiled uncredited on the script for The Wizard Of Oz, contributing the vaudeville-styled dialogue for Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley.

In other words, on any given day, I'm only about five minutes away from quoting from a script by Irving Brecher. He made my life a little better. I salute you, sir.

6. My spellcheck is flagging the word "yay" and the names Groucho, Brecher and Sandler (oddly, not Bremer), but more disturbingly, continues to flag Obama. Seriously, folks: Update!

7. The cats have taken turns sleeping on my lap. They never sleep on my lap. It's a sign, I tells ya, a sign...

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I've never cared much about Star Trek one way or another. I know the stuff everyone knows, but i can't cite chapter and verse of the Trek mythology. But I do know Captain Kirk was supposedly born and raised in Iowa, which means...well, take a look:

Yeah, okay, maybe this is supposed to be Iowa "of the future" or some such, but it doesn't look like a landscape that's been overdeveloped or destroyed by some calamity or other. It looks like...well, like the usual SoCal movie location characters go whenever they have to do some manly fast driving. It's all wrong, in other words.

And boy, oh boy, does everything else about this look wrong, too. Again, I could barely tell the difference between a Klingon and a Romulan, but if you're going to do Star Trek, do Star Trek. If you want to create some AVID-edited, whip-pan-crazy, video game-influenced piece of sub-adolescent tripe, fine, knock yourself out. But why drag a franchise name down with you? Older Trek fans will surely find this an abomination; younger viewers won't care about the name.

So what, exactly, is the point?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Yesterday morning I woke up feeling not quite right, and things only got worse from there. Vomiting, dizziness and unbearable aches in every joint--in other words, the flu.

I mention this partly to explain why I'm not posting much, but also to share this complaint: This year marks the third time in my life I've gotten a flu shot, and like both previous times, I shortly thereafter became violently ill. I'm not saying flu shots are a scam, but...well, maybe I am. True, I work in a hospital, a place crawling with noxious germs. But I work there all year without catching anything, then as soon as I get the shot WHAMMO, I'm down.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be writing more soon. By "soon" I mean whenever the walls stop vibrating and spinning and I can stand eating something more than graham crackers. Soon, I hope.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Thirty years ago this evening, my brother and I sat in front of the TV in his room, knowing reasonably well that what we were about to watch could not possibly be good...but how could we know how bad it would be?

This is the anniversary of the night The Star Wars Holiday Special had its one and only official airing, before vanishing into the realm of myth, a half-remembered fever dream for those unlucky enough to have witnessed it, until--glory! glory!--the miracle of anonymous Internet postings made it possible to see the damned thing in full once again.

Truly, it reveals itself to be what those miserable souls who endured it back in the day already knew: it is the unreachable summit of sucktasticness, the alpha and omega of bad ideas, all the diverse, perverse, incompatible and incomprehensible elements of seventies and early eighties variety specials rolled into one stupefying package. Nothing else could compare; your Hal Linden's Big Apple or Cheryl Ladd...Looking Back--Souvenirs or even Lynda Carter: Celebration may have displayed trace amounts of competence, fleeting moments when viewing them did not make you actively wish to point a loaded pistol to your forehead.

Still, they all paraded a certain What Were They Thinking quality, an almost endearing lack of irony, a touching refusal to admit their time had passed. It's not just that Cheryl Ladd or Lynda Carter (or Lindsay Wagner or The Captain And Tenille or, God knows, a bunch of Wookies) lacked the talent and appeal to support an hour's worth of entertainment. (Two hours, in the case of The Star Wars Holiday Special!) The bigger problem was producers who had no idea how to stage a variety show, and networks insisting on guests that they thought would draw in a wide spectrum of viewers, not realizing that, for instance, Jeff Conaway and Joyce DeWitt lacked enough of a fan base to boost ratings for a Cheryl Ladd special, or that anyone tuning into a Star Wars-based entertainment would be actively repelled by the presence of Bea Arthur.

Yet there they were anyway, shoehorned into a format that didn't suit them--didn't suit anybody, by that point--cavorting as though they desperately hoped somebody, somewhere, would be entertained. But nobody was entertained, as this type of thing had essentially peaked in the fifties, when TV was new. The format shuffled blithely on, to the horror of young Gen Xers, mute witnesses to the Brundlefly-like mutations of their parents entertainments, synthetic versions of a form they never understood in the first place. The only way to get through this sort of thing was to celebrate its very badness. Because, really, what else could you do when faced with this?


A great weekend away, spent in my old stomping grounds of Iowa City.

More to come later, I'm sure, but for now, a brief illustration which serves to explain why Iowa City initially seemed so appealing to me, and why it eventually became a stultifying trap from which I was eager to escape:

Driving down Dodge, one of the many beautiful, tree-lined streets in town, behind a car with an Obama sticker in the rear window. Beside that is another sticker, VISUALIZE PEACE. Unafraid to devolve into a parody of a typical armchair progressive, the bumper sported a I LOVE MY CO-OP sticker. The final touch? The car in question was a Prius.

I swear, I wanted to run the damned thing off the road and kick some hippie ass.

The worst thing about my time living in Iowa City was the terrifying realization that people with whom I shared so much common ground--politically, socially, artistically--were such colossal dicks. It's not just that so many of them were humorless scolds who affected a sense of superiority, it's that they were mostly awful people. As a blue collar worker in a so-called progressive town, I was routinely treated like dirt, like a lesser life form, something less than human. The only people I encountered while working who actually spoke to me, engaged me in conversation more beyond the occasional politely chilly greeting, were the few hardcore Republicans dwelling in this quintessential college town.

It was while living there that I realized actions really do speak louder than words. Not the easy actions--diligent recycling, buying organic, sending money to Amnesty International--but the one that matters every day: treating your fellow human beings with a modicum of respect.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Well, I'm going away for a hopefully fun-filled weekend, so nothing here until Monday, at least. Figured I might as well leave off with this site's theme song. Shame they used the title for that godawful musical from a year or so ago, but whatever. Let's just put that unpleasantness behind us and sing along, shall we?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The other day I watched Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade for the first time since its theatrical run, and though I still maintain it was the weakest of the original three films, it was much better than I remembered.

The thing I liked best about it was the old-school professionalism of its physical production. Early on, there's a scene in which Indiana is hired by the film's villain (played blandly by Julian Glover) to track down the holy grail. This scene is set in Glover's elegantly-appointed penthouse, and the way the set is designed (by Elliot Scott) and shot (by Douglas Slocombe), it looks just like something out of North By Northwest. It doesn't look real, in other words--we're aware it's a set. (The twinkly lights in the painted cityscape outside the window are a particularly nice touch.) But it doesn't look embarrassingly fakey, either--it looks stylized. It creates its own reality.

The whole movie is like that: a church in Venice, a castle in Austria, an airport in Berlin--the characters move through a variety of settings that never for a minute seem to exist in reality as we know it, but fit perfectly with the movie's reality--these are larger than life characters, caught up in a cheerfully outlandish story. So that castle, for instance, isn't dreary and dank, as a real castle would be, but is lit like something out of a Hammer picture, all golden candlelight and artfully-composed pools of darkness, and the nighttime views we see through its windows are a soundstage azure, an elegant artifice.

This approach is, it seems to me, the perfect way to tell such a story. It is, essentially, the same method used by the producers of the James Bond series in the old days: a movie which creates a world of its own. Despite their globe-trotting settings, what we remember about classic-era Bond is how much fun they were, how they took themselves just seriously enough to make us believe in them for the length of their running times, but not so seriously that they forgot a sense of fun.

And fun is the thing that seems to be missing in the Bond franchise these days. Yes, I prefer the darker, more Ian Fleming-inspired films in the series--From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale. But for many fans, the most beloved entries are Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me--crazy, over-the-top movies, with the extravagant settings and larger-than-life villains so many expect from this series. And I love them, too. Those pictures seem effortless; like the Indiana Jones series, they give you some thrills, a few laughs, some light romance--but they do it so well, so expertly, so much better than other, similar movies.

The Pierce Brosnan Bond era never quite defined itself--though enjoyable (except for Die Another Day, of course, because that's one of the worst pieces of crap I've ever sat through), they seem consistently torn between taking themselves seriously and offering the extravagant outrageousness expected from the series. They also suffer from trying to offer some real-world significance, which is the last thing anyone wants from a Bond picture. They attempted to be From Russia With Love and Moonraker at the same time, and even the best of the bunch (The World Is Not Enough) is all over the map, tone-wise.

Casino Royale, on the other hand, was damned near perfect. Even as it thwarted or altered fan expectations, it ultimately fulfilled them. Great for one movie, but do we want this all the time? It's not just that Quantum Of Solace is a direct follow-up to Casino Royale, but the producers are now speaking of trying to link any future Bond outing with Daniel Craig into one overall arc, and that just seems...misguided. One of the pleasures of the Bond series is that you never know what to expect. But if we get an entire series of dour Bond, we'll always know what to expect.

Craig is fantastic as Bond, and I think he'd be great in a new version of an old-school Bond--the equivalent, if you will, of an Indiana Jones movie. Like Harrison Ford in those films, his very presence would lend them some credibility no matter how outrageous they got. I'm not suggesting Roger Moore-era silliness--no pigeons doing double-takes or Tarzan yells, thank you very much--but it would be a blast to see Craig's more serious character squaring off against a more nuanced version of Blofeld or Stromberg.

It would be classic Bond, maybe slightly altered and a shade deeper, but largely a return to the days when we paid money to see something we'd never seen before, when we asked the filmmakers to surprise us, and they always obliged.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


What can I say? It looks to be a busy week, so posting may be light around here until Monday, at least.

And isn't it presumptuous (not to say downright arrogant) to assume I have such a devoted readership (and as always, hello to both of you!...that gag never gets old) that they actually care whether I write anything in this space or not? (And seriously, could my use of parenthetical asides get any more annoying?) Man, what a self-regarding douchebag I've become.

But that's the nature of life on the Interweb, right? Given a forum to espouse our beliefs, we seem to have all taken on an unwarranted air of self-importance and...and...nah, you know what? I'm not going to go off on my usual rant. I had things I specifically wanted to say here, and I'm not going to be derailed by a windy diatribe against the technological takeover of our lives.

Because I already have a backlog of things I wanted to talk about. Believe it or not, I had nice things to say about High School Musical 3, though that seems to have faded into the aether. And what about the long thing I had planned about Sarah Palin, and how she's been getting at least as much post-election airtime as Obama, despite being both a loser and a horrible, horrible human being, and doesn't this breathless, uncritical coverage pretty much destroy the myth of a "liberal media"?

(Mark it and strike it, folks--Two whole paragraphs without parentheses! We are, sadly, unlikely to pass this way again.)

And didn't I say something yesterday to the effect of this probably turning into James Bond week? I have at least one more post about that in mind (with Indiana Jones thrown in to stretch your geek dollar further!), and hopefully I'll get that up yet this week...but clearly, this ain't it.

But in the interest of doing something Bond related (and because I can't seem to get through a post these days without turning to my close personal friend YouTube), here's the ass-kicking (or should that be arse-kicking?) opening scene from Casino Royale. It shows the genius of that movie: We're wondering what kind of Bond epic this is, since it opens without the gun barrel when it finally, unexpectedly arrives, it's a revelation. It's a great movie...why do I have such low expectations for Quantum Of Solace?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


While I don't fully intend to spend this entire week geeking out about James Bond, there's at least the possibility I'm going to wind up doing just that. As jazzed as I am about Quantum Of Solace, I have other plans for the weekend and may not see it right away. (And yes, I might as well admit it: Since Timothy Dalton's debut, I've seen every Bond picture save one on opening night. The exception was Tomorrow Never Dies, and I did have an excuse: I was getting married. Possibly significantly, Bond fandom outlived the marriage.)

Anyway, much has been made about the newest being the first direct sequel in Bond history, and critics (many of whom have not, most likely, either read any of Ian Fleming's novels or spent much time with the older films) claim Daniel Craig is the toughest, yet most vulnerable, and certainly the most serious Bond of all.

Two words: George Lazenby.

Most hardcore Bond fanatics rate On Her Majesty's Secret Service near the top of the list, yet even most of those who rank it as their favorite tend to be get somewhat defensive, taking the if-Connery-had-starred-in-it-everyone-would-recognize-its-greatness attitude. Personally, I love everything about this movie, and I'll take it further: If Connery had starred, it wouldn't have worked at all.

As great as Connery was, his Bond (and, apparently, at that point, the actor himself) could be a bit of a dick. He was swaggering and smug, supremely sure of himself, but his haughty mien and impeccable manners couldn't quite cover up a thuggish streak. In Thunderball and You Only Live Twice especially, it was impossible to believe he was ever in any real danger because he never seemed remotely vulnerable; certainly he lacked any sensitivity, or any real streak of humanity.

The braintrust at Danjaq Ltd. knew they wouldn't have Connery for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and they knew after the awesomely over-the-top climax of You Only Live Twice they couldn't possibly get any bigger. So they deliberately downscaled, made the story and characterizations more important, and by doing so they chose to make Bond, for the first time, a credible human being.

Oh, sure, a human being who can outski, outsled, outfight and outdrive almost anyone. But still prone to human feelings. Like love.

And here, of course, is what for so long made this movie notorious: It's the Bond film with the downer ending. Spoiler warning here, I guess, although if you're bothering to read this, you likely are familiar with the film. Anyway, here's the ending:

Yes, a Bond film ended not only with the villains getting away, but triumphing, leaving our grief-stricken hero in tears. And as you can see, Lazenby pulls this scene off magnificently.

In fact, he's great throughout the entire film. He's more than capable in the action scenes, he handles the throwaway quips nicely, and yes, he truly seems to be in danger, both physically and emotionally.

And Connery couldn't have done that. It's impossible to imagine him summoning the proper emotion for that final scene. Yes, Craig could do it, as Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan could have as well, but except for Craig, none of them were ever called upon to do any such heavy emotional lifting during their tenures in Bondage.

Unfortunately, OHMSS made significantly less at the box-office than previous Bonds. In addition, Lazenby reportedly behaved like a prima donna during the production and promotion of the film, and either quit or was fired after this one effort, allowing the producers to wave huge stacks of money in Connery's face to persuade him to come in to the fold for one more mission.

For all the hoo-ha about Quantum Of Solace being a direct sequel to Casino Royale, the opening scene of Diamonds Are Forever does seem to carry on from the ending of OHMSS, with a righteous Bond on the vengeance trail of his wife's killer. Unfortunately, that scene has very little to do with the rest of the movie--and is very badly staged, to boot--but it's tempting to imagine what would have happened if Lazenby (and perhaps more importantly, director Peter Hunt) had returned. Surely the next film would have addressed Bond's emotional arc more directly, and been, if not a direct sequel, at least a more worthy follow-up.

And then, maybe the seventies wouldn't have been seen as such a dark time in Bond's history.


Woke up at my usual time, started to get up, then realized I didn't need to go to work today. So I flipped the TV on, just to give myself some background noise as I drifted back to sleep.

And realized how comforting it is to have a rerun of Three's Company at 3 AM.

Lord knows, I never watched this thing--actively avoided it, in fact--during its network run. But the passage of time has somehow granted the smirking double entendres and rock-bottom production values a certain charm. And seeing the late John Ritter, a gifted farceur who never quite got the great role he deserved, looking so young and full of promise, lends it a terrible poignancy.

It seems like a half-understood transmission from another place and time, so different somehow from our world of now. Did we really accept set design that wouldn't pass muster in community theater as a viable reality, or recoil from the over-bright lighting? Did we notice the palace-sized living room and question what apartment could possibly hold it? Did we fear the pasteboard walls would collapse during a particularly frenetic moment of door-slamming?

For that matter, did we ever, however briefly, allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking we were watching actual human beings in an actual environment, or buy into the dilemmas of these characters? Did we think the smutty sex talk was ever funny, or connected somehow to actual human feelings? Did we laugh when poor, impotent Mr. Roper brought a malfunctioning power drill into the bedroom for no other reason than to allow his frustrated wife to comment on his non-functioning tool? Was that supposed to be funny, or profoundly depressing?

Sometime, as my eyes glazed over and I drifted to sleep, I realized I was using Three's Company for the very reason it was created, as audio-visual wallpaper, something painless to have on in the background, a video-induced coma. That's how we used to watch TV back then. Or so it must be assumed, given the evidence the show itself presents us. Surely no one watched this to be entertained. Did they?

Monday, November 10, 2008


Today is the eightieth birthday of one of my personal heroes, composer Ennio Morricone, as well as the 107th anniversary of the birth of Carl Stalling, whose achievements are the stuff of legend.

Stalling scored Disney's Steamboat Willie, widely (though wrongly) reported as the first sound cartoon. What Stalling did invent was something called the click track, a method of synching music to film that's still used today. Stalling's precise rhthyms gave Disney's earliest shorts much of their brio, and he kicked around the business for a decade or so before he finally landed at Warner Bros., where he immediately got a gig scoring cartoons.

Stalling's work at Warners was hugely influential. His method of underscoring every movement is sometimes derided as "Mickey Mousing"--meaning it sounds like cartoon music--but really, Stalling's ability to leap from one style of music to another, to go from a frenzied rhumba to a quiet orchestral passage in two or three seconds, has lately been rightly regarded as avante garde. He might not have considered himself an experimental composer, but he sure was an innovator. And of course, for certain kids growing up watching Looney Tunes, his music became the first music we knew and loved.

Here's a randomly-chosen example of a fairly typical Stalling score, from Bob Clampett's dada classic The Big Snooze.

As for Morricone--where to start? The man's scores for Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy messed with my mind when I first saw those movies on TV back in the seventies, and when I found the soundtrack to Once Upon A Time In The West, long before I ever saw the movie, it was like finding religion, the thing I would always turn to, that I had looked for my entire life without realizing it. It was Morricone who made me realize just how much music meant to me, how absolutely essential it is to life.

He has the amazing ability to write in any imaginable idiom, yet make it sound completely like Morricone. Consider this haunting piece from his impossibly lovely score for Days Of Heaven.

Then dig if you will this slashing, ecstatically weird number from the deeply unnecessary Exorcist II.

Finally, though it became a bit of a cliche for a time (it was used in a lot of trailers and TV commercials), this magnificent composition from The Mission.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


If you're sick of all the Lynda Carter-based activity around here, take heart! This review in The New York Times prompted me to find something even worse. So (he said, chuckling dementedly)--enjoy!

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I fell asleep last night with the TV on, and I woke up to The Cheyenne Social Club, a smutty, unfunny, visually drab Western comedy from 1970. It's utterly indefensible, like those comedy relief episodes of Bonanza, only set in a whorehouse and with Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda playing their overly familiar stock characterizations and...It's a bad movie, is what I'm saying, and the worst kind of bad movie, one wholly without interest.

And it wouldn't be worth mentioning at all, except this dull non-entity was the final directing credit for Gene Kelly. Yes, the creator of Singin' In The Rain, pretty much the greatest movie ever made, wound up his career doing this. As an actor, greater indignities would await him--he still had Viva Knievel and Xanadu ahead of him--but it's even more sad to watch Kelly's filmmaking instincts fail him. True, most (okay, all) of his non-musical work as a director is pretty dire, but it all at least contained some kind of visual snap. Kelly was a choreographer, after all--you'd think Cheyenne Social Club would at least have some sense of movement, if nothing else. But it mostly consists of characters standing around talking, with the camera practically nailed to the floor.

I'm aware, of course, that Kelly's greatest works as a director--On The Town and It's Always Fair Weather in addition to Rain--were in fact co-directed by Stanley Donen, whose subsequent career proved much more interesting than Kelly's. But again, his filmography winds up being pretty depressing: The director of Funny Face, Charade, Bedazzled and Two For The Road finished his career with Saturn 3 and Blame It On Rio.

If you've ever managed to sit though all of Saturn 3, congratulations, because you're possibly the only person to do so. For everyone else, the combination of Kirk Douglas naked, Farrah Fawcett's pathetic attempts at emoting and Harvey Keitel's weirdly-dubbed voice is enough to drive them away (or put them to sleep) by the halfway point. Still, at least it's better than Blame It On Rio, like The Cheyenne Social Club a lethargic would-be sex farce, a kind of illustrated Playboy Party Joke, that just goes on and on without producing a single moment's worth of entertainment.

Wow. That kind of got depressing. Let's not dwell on such unpleasantness. Instead, we'll celebrate Kelly and Donen at the start of their brilliant careers--here's the Day In New York ballet from On The Town, the first movie they directed. When they were good, they were the best.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Lavinia over at The Birdbath Chronicles has given me an award. Or, I should say, she's cheekily presented it to Ed & Lynda, in honor of my supposed ongoing obsession with Lynda Carter.

There's nothing going on there, honest. Oh, sure, I watched the pilot movie for Wonder Woman when it first aired but that was only because it guest starred Stella Stevens. You want to talk about an obsession, there it is.

In fact, I can pinpoint exactly where that obsession began--in 1973, when I went with my family to see the heavily-advertised horror comedy Arnold. Not a very good movie, and as you can see from this clip, not very well shot; Stevens, who was only in her mid-thirties at the time, is so poorly photographed that she looks much older. Like the movie, she might not have made much of an impression on me, until the sequence beginning at 38 seconds into this clip montage.

That was it for me. This opened in the spring, so I would have been seven, an age when little boys still consider girls the enemy, if they consider them at all. One look at that and I wanted to...well, I was seven, so I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. But it gave me longings, shall we say, stirrings in places that had never stirred before.

After that, I saw Stella everywhere. Her movies played on TV all the time, I just hadn't noticed before. But I sure did now--in The Nutty Professor, wearing a bikini in The Silencers, and the full page ad in TV Guide for her made-for-television starring vehicle Linda, the ad consisting of Stella in a low-cut gown, smiling at the camera. I kept that issue for months after, hidden away where I could stare at it in secret.

Because I couldn't share my infatuation with anyone. I didn't understand it myself, so how could I explain it to others? Subtlety was the key: If it was Saturday night and Mom and Dad didn't know what to watch, I'd casually suggest the Fess Parker TV movie Climb An Angry Mountain, just because it happened to co-star my beloved Stella. She was also the reason I sat through the lame Glenn Ford vehicle Rage and the godawful Elvis epic Girls! Girls! Girls! and various episodes of old shows in syndication and, yes, the pilot movie for Wonder Woman.

Eventually, my obsession widened enough to include other women. Or other woman--specifically Madeline Kahn, who took Stella's place when I saw Blazing Saddles for the first time. I was ten, and didn't understand what this song was about, or get the whole Marlene Dietrich parody, but Kahn was funny, and I realized that in itself was sexy. Well, she was funny and had large breasts, but we try not to objectify.

After that, nature eventually took its course and...whatever. The point is, Lynda Carter was never more than a footnote, not fit to be mentioned in the same breath as my true pre-teen obsessions. But hey, she sure could sing!

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Sadly, I've posted so many clips from awful Lynda Carter specials, I can't even keep them straight. Have I shown you her disco-fied versions of songs from thirties musicals? Yes? No? Does it matter?

As I've said repeatedly, I have no regard for Carter one way or another--I think I post these clips mostly because so many of you seem to be annoyed by them. So here's another one, but hey, it's completely different--no singing!

Instead, this is a profile of the Real Lynda, as shown on that epitome of all that was great and glorious about seventies TV, Battle Of The Network Stars. I considered using this clip as an excuse to go off on a long dissertation on why this sort of thing could never work now because networks don't really have any sense of identity anymore, and how there are fewer actors who can be perceived as purely TV stars, the way a Chad Everett or a Robert Conrad or a McLean Stevenson only seemed to function to maximum effect on the cathode ray tube.

But who cares about analysis when you've got Lynda Carter in a swimsuit? Just sit back and wallow in the overwhelming cheese-tasticness of the whole thing--Howard Cosell's smarmy intro ("Let's ask my friend Rona Barrett, the Hollywood Queen"), Barrett's cliche-packed profile ("She is a Wonder Woman, indeed") and randomly deployed air quotes, Carter's endearingly air-headed interview, Gabe Kaplan's astounding Jewfro and, most terrifying of all, shirtless Hal Linden! I never watched these things as a kid, yet they still somehow permeated my consciousness, becoming part of the pop culture landscape that continues to define me. Which explains a lot about how my life has turned out, come to think of it, but again, we'll leave analysis for another time...


Well, at least one of those warm fuzzy feelings of Hope has died: Republican insiders claim we haven't heard the last of Sarah Palin.

Many in the party continue to speak in tones of awe as they ponder her prospects for a presidential run in four years, or eight, depending. Which seems astonishing, considering she could be used as Exhibit A in why McCain lost.

All she did was excite the neocons and fundamentalists who would never have voted for a Democrat under any circumstances. Her choice sent a message to moderates in the Republican party and even centrist Democrats that they weren't welcome anymore. Given the fading popularity of the Bush administration, the ongoing wars overseas and especially the sinking economy, you would have thought somebody would have realized they needed to appeal to everyone, not just the usual wingnuts.

Instead, incredibly, the wingnut vote seemed to be the only one courted, with Palin leading the charge. Her every public utterance displayed a braying ignorance of the national mood, even as her private behavior belied the blue collar workin' mom image she claimed for herself. Longtime conservatives, veterans of the Reagan and Bush administrations, fell over themselves to denounce her, using her as the reason they would support Obama. Poll after poll (even those conducted by the likes of Fox News) continued to show Palin as a liability, her approval rating dropping the more people found out about her.

Most damningly, despite her blatant efforts to steal the spotlight away from the guy at the top of the ticket--she even wanted to give a concession speech before Mccain's, even though there's no history of the VP candidate doing so--her party lost. That should pretty much be the end of that, right? People saw who she was, and rejected her. Do the Republicans really think we'll forget that? Do they really think we want the same pathetic loser paraded in front of us?

Since when did they start acting like Democrats?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Logically, I know it's all cosmetic. There is very little difference, philosophically, between Barack Obama and John McCain. Things aren't going to magically change, the war will continue, the economy is still tanking. My salary will remain the same, even as I'm charged more for health care. Even with Democrats in charge of all branches of government, the poor will continue to be ignored, if not actively despised. And despite the color of our new president's skin, prejudice and hatred aren't going away any time soon.

But watching Obama's acceptance speech, dammit, I teared up a little. Thousands and thousands of people cheering him, united not, as McCain's supporters were, by hatred but by hope, by belief in a future they never even dared to dream about. Those dreams will be dashed soon enough, I'm sure, but for now, it feels good. It feels good to think that we finally have a president who can speak not only in coherent sentences but full, concise paragraphs, who has already proven himself capable of earning the respect of other nations, who at least seems to care. And yes, too, there is his racial identity, a president whose mixed blood lines reflect the America most of us know.

Maybe it's only a passing moment, but for now, there is hope.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


This is the obligatory Election Day post.

It is, we're told, the most important election of our lifetime...or at least since the last one, when we were told the same. The mid-terms put the Democrats back in charge of congress, but it's funny how things didn't really change. Team Bush still managed to slam through deregulation of environmental protections, expand the ability of the government to spy on its own citizens and extend the war in Iraq, all with relatively little squawking from the Loyal Opposition.

And if Obama wins--as everyone assumes he will--things won't really going change as radically as everyone hopes. Given his choice of consummate BS artist Joe Biden as his running mate, it's easy to predict Obama's team will be full of the usual insiders. Sure, they tilt slightly more to the left than any of the disciples of Sith Lord Cheney, but that's not really saying much. We're still doomed, it's just that we'll head to hell a little more slowly.

Nah, I don't want to be too cynical. An Obama presidency will mean, if nothing else, a Supreme Court not stocked by dangerous right-wing lunatics, no rollback of abortion rights, perhaps a merciful end to the continued national shame of Gitmo. I don't think Obama is a committed lefty and I don't expect miracles from him, but he at least seems to be care about more than his own power, and even if he's only pretending, at least that's a start.

Maybe it's not Hope, or Change I Can Believe In, but it's the best we can do right now.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I was going to write about some movies I saw this weekend, but instead I find myself thinking mostly about one that hasn't even opened yet: Quantum Of Solace.

And I wonder if it may be time to let the James Bond franchise die.

Of course, I haven't seen Quantum yet, and Daniel Craig's previous Bond outing, Casino Royale, was one of my favorites. Still, everything I've read about this latest entry in the series suggests that it barely qualifies as a Bond picture. The reviews (what I've read while trying to avoid spoilers), whether pro or con, seem to indicate this is basically a somewhat generic (if admirably downbeat) revenge epic. All well and good, but is that what anybody wants from Bond?

Specifically, what pretty much every review does is compare Quantum unfavorably to Matt Damon's Jason Bourne pictures, and find the new film wanting. The caretakers of the Bond series have unfortunately encouraged this by hiring the editing team and second-unit director of those movies to work on Quantum. It's as if the mid-sixties Bond movies suddenly decided to hire the production crew from the Matt Helm series.

Because, whatever you think of them, the Bourne movies are very much made in Bond's shadow. If you're looking to create a spy-based franchise, you would inevitably look at the Bond series, if only to decide to go in the opposite direction, much as the creators of the Harry Palmer movies from the sixties (which included Harry Saltzman, then one of the producers of the Bond films) consciously decided to create a series that was an anti-Bond, more cerebral and cynical. And those movies were very good, and certainly the Bourne series has its admirers (I'm not among them), but let's be clear: They are clearly made as reactions, or correctives, or whatever you want to call them, to Bond.

But really, where does Bond have to go? From Sean Connery to Timothy Dalton, the series was made by largely the same core team. The Pierce Brosnan era was largely a reaction to the golden days, both an acknowledgment of the past and an attempt to move on. Casino Royale seemed to indicate the series could go in a new direction while still honoring the past, but now we have the second Bond picture in a row to ignore such beloved icons as Q's lab and Miss Moneypenny. True, those elements sometimes seem like relics from another era, but that's the point: these pictures always somehow existed out of time. Or put it this way: Could Craig's haunted, brooding hero really be the same guy from Moonraker? Could he even exist in the same universe?

And if he's not, if he couldn't, is he really James Bond?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


How could I forget to offer my highest possible praise to two pricey (but worth it!) DVD box sets released last Tuesday? For some of us, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Twentieth Anniversary Collection and Volume 6 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection are as necessary as oxygen.

Regrettably, the MST3K box only includes one episode from the original incarnation of the show, hosted by its creator, Joel Hodgson. And that episode, featuring the Eurotrashy space epic First Spaceship On Venus, expertly torn apart by Joel and his robot pals, isn't really one of the best. Still, it does feature this wonderfully WTF host segment, a deranged parody of the mostly-forgotten recipe segments from the old Kraft Theater specials fo the sixties and early seventies. If the concept of Skin Mittens doesn't simultaneously creep you out and make you laugh, I have no idea what to do with you.

MST3K is probably the thing I can most count on to make me laugh out loud when I'm feeling down. (It was, among other things, the first thing I turned to after my mom passed away, and boy, that laughter sure felt good.) But my sense of humor was pretty much forged by endless childhood exposure to the great and glorious cartoons cranked out by the mad geniuses at the Warner Bros. cartoon factory in the forties and fifties. These are some of the greatest things ever committed to film, period. This short, brilliantly directed by the great Chuck Jones, is a marvel; the animation is superb (note how characterization is largely defined through movement), the staging elegant and the story...well, this cartoon's amazingly bitter tone (and cosmically cruel final gag) certainly taught at least one young boy everything he needed to know about how unfair life can really be. And this is only one of the many gems available on this extraordinary set, reportedly the last Warners will issue under the Golden Collection banner. Absolutely essential.


Just like me, isn't it, to use a Halloween post to get all misty-eyed and sentimental. I'd had some idea about writing memories of long-ago outings trick-or-treating, but that would have probably ultimately been every bit as sappy.

What's odd for me, watching that Dark Shadows clip I did post, is how lame it is, how utterly uninteresting out of context. And that context was provided by my mother--if you knew her, knew her attachment to that song, you'd understand. Otherwise, it was just filler.

But isn't that how everything works? Our responses to everything--food, art, politics--is determined at least in part by the sum total of our existence, locked somehow in our DNA. I mocked a co-worker, whose musical tastes are usually more adventurous, for including Lee Ann Womack's lugubrious life-affirming weeper I Hope You Dance on his computer's playlist. He became moderately defensive, and I automatically understood the song had deeper resonance for him than I imagined.

Incomprehensible as it may be to me, there's a reason why people read The Bridges Of Madison County or eat Tater Tot Casserole or worship at the altar of Sarah Palin. Those reasons are outside my experience or understanding, but that doesn't automatically invalidate them. Sometimes it seems as though I make my way through this life wearing a perpetual sneer, eager to scorn the masses. But I shouldn't, really. How would I feel if someone mocked my love for Godzilla movies?

These musings were prompted in part by my journey down to the laundry room this morning. Making my way down the stairs, I heard music playing faintly somewhere. I stopped, listened, and realized someone somewhere had John Lennon's Beautiful Boy playing. And my mind filled, with thoughts of Lennon's own tortured personality, with my reaction to his senseless murder nearly-twenty-eight years ago, with the thought that maybe I should amble down the hallway and introduce myself to whoever it is with the good taste to pick such a perfect Sunday morning song.

Instead, I focused on the song, let it free my mind and cleanse my mental palette. Yes, it's a sentimental little thing, but when sentiment is heartfelt, it's not only good but necessary.