Saturday, December 31, 2011


My brother and sister had vague plans.  They had sodas and snacks, and they planned to stay up until midnight.  Why, I asked Mom, were they doing this?

"They want to celebrate the new year."


"Because that's what people do."

I was six, my brother and sister thirteen and eleven--enough older than me that I figured this must be some vaguely grown-up thing.  I never stayed up until midnight, but I saw the footage on TV every year of people who did, people crowded together in cold weather, wearing fancy clothes and silly hats, raising glasses in honor of...something.

To me, the new year only represented the end of Christmas vacation.  In a couple days I'd be back in school, my brief, glorious period of freedom ended.  It wasn't a new beginning, it was an ending.  The good times were winding down.

Guess I've always been that way.  I've never put much stock into the promise of a bright and shiny new year.  Arbitrary markings of time aside, it's just another day.  Sure, as I got older, my brother and I took to ironically watching New Year's Rockin' Eve, an act of condescension that eventually became a full-blown ritual, so maybe the joke was on us all along.

Also, of course, I got married on New Year's Eve, and we joked that we picked that date so we could remember our anniversary, but five years later, we'd have no more anniversaries to mark.  And for some time after that, I'd try to pretend the evening had no significance, just another night, not a reminder of failure and regret.

But hey, don't let my sourness ruin your mood.  I'm doing okay as this year draws to a close.  I have to work, so no midnight celebrations here, but let's face it, I probably wouldn't stay up anyway.  Still, let me offer wishes to anyone who happens to read this:

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Ordinarily I wouldn't go see a family-friendly crowd-pleaser like We Bought A Zoo, but hey, it was Christmas, Janie and I wanted to go out and, frankly, if you're looking for a relaxing good time at the movies, there aren't many choices.

And really, it's not bad at all.  You can sense writer-director Cameron Crowe trying to put a more personal spin on the original script, by Aline Brosh McKenna, author of such by-the-numbers claptrap as Morning Glory and (ugh) 27 Dresses.  There are formulaic elements, but Crowe does his best to ignore them, aided immeasurably by Matt Damon's fine performance as a grieving widower trying to do right by his kids while still trying to sort out his own emotions.

So things happen--you might be surprised to learn that Damon buys a zoo--and the whole thing glides along nicely thanks to likeable actors and Rodrigo Prieto's shimmering cinematography.  There is, however, one serious flaw that makes the whole movie unwatchable, in my opinion.

The family owns a beagle.  There's an early, pre-zoo-buying scene in which Damon's adorable daughter is fixing a sandwich at the kitchen table while the dog just sleeps pleasantly in the other room.  I'm not saying that's impossible, but in my experience, any self-respecting beagle is going to be right there at the kid's feet, just in case any food drops onto the floor.

But where the movie just turns into some sort of alternate-universe science fiction crap is when they get to the zoo.  And the dog, again, just kind of sits on the porch, or otherwise completely ignores his surroundings.

I'm sorry, but this just isn't possible.  This is a scenting dog!  In a zoo!  He's going to be going nuts, chasing down all the assorted animal smells.  For crying out loud, there are foxes at this zoo, and he's a hunting dog.  That's a plot point just waiting to happen, and the movie inexplicably ignores it in favor of a wandering bear, a dying tiger and some manufactured fake suspense over whether or not the zoo can be brought up to code.

I realize the vast majority of people could care less about this sort of thing--when I ranted about this to my brother, he said, "I didn't realize beagle owners were even more self-righteous than Mac users"--but I think it should be a good rule of thumb for all filmmakers: If you're going to bring a beagle onscreen, you'd better find something for it to do.

Or at least give it a few more close-ups.

Monday, December 26, 2011


I take Isabella out for her morning walk, my mind racing through the list of things I have to do before I even go to work: Finish the laundry, wash dishes, plan the week's breakfasts and lunches.  Then there are things for later, like deciding which bills to pay first.

It's the day after Christmas, and life goes on.

Whether we mean to or not, we all invest too much in this particular holiday.  We carry some ideal of what it should be, or memories of a perfect past that can never be recaptured, and on some level, there is always disappointment.  But that feeling of melancholy--is that the right word?--never fully kicks in until the day after.

That's when we shuffle back to work, or return the disappointing gifts, or otherwise realize that our dreams once again didn't quite come true.  Nice things happen, good things, yes, but that elusive magic we recall from childhood just never quite reappears.  And it will be a whole year before we can reach for it again.

Ah, but we become more aware of our own mortality with each passing year, and more aware, too, that the perfection we seek will never happen.  Things are put in better perspective, a hard-won wisdom that tells us that our dreams and disappointments are both equally fleeting.  Things don't mean what they once did because they simply can't, there's no time to dwell on what might have been or what once was.  Life goes on regardless.

Isabella picks up a scent and pulls on the leash.  For her, there is only here and now.  That should be enough for anyone.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Back in the day--as recently as the mid-seventies--this thing used to pop up on local stations whenever their programming would run a couple minutes short.  And...well, yeah, okay, even as a kid I was prone to depression.  But honestly, is there any mood to be conjured by this other than overwhelming despair?

Is it the unaccompanied voices of the Norman Luboff Choir, apparently recorded in a public restroom?  Is it the cheap design and animation, which tries to conjure visions of an enchanted wonderland while suggesting nothing so much as a Christmas pageant performed by the residents of an underfunded mental hospital?

Or is it the song itself?  Specifically, Suzy's reminder that she hasn't long to stay?  "I'll be your best friend," she says, "but don't get too accustomed to me, don't let messy emotions get involved, don't love me, dear God, no, because soon I'll be gone, like a dream before the breaking dawn."

Why was this even produced?  Surely it was conceived with one purpose in mind: to introduce kids to the concept of mortality, as a plodding reminder that our time is brief, that all the wonders of creation are ultimately impermanent.

That's what they were going for, right?

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Sure, this is depressing on so many levels.

Made in 1964, this thing was still being played in theaters at least until the late seventies, these ads playing during every commercial break on local afternoon kids' shows. (I remember my brother and I trying to work the word "funtastic" into everyday conversation.) And even when I was a kid, I thought this thing looked like crap, and some part of me resented how the huckster creators of this thing used the goodwill of the holiday season as an excuse to peddle their shoddy goods, to take money from audiences while giving them absolutely nothing in return.

That was then, this is now.

And though this, too, seeks to exploit the good feelings of this time of year for a quick buck, it maybe seems at first to be a little less vile in intent. The audience being fleeced by this movie is at least made up of adults.

Except...the economy is still in the toilet. The vast majority of the country must think twice before spending their money. Sure, it's fun to go out to the movies, but if you're going to pony up the dough for not only the price of tickets, but also snacks, dinner before or after, parking, a baby sitter...well, you're talking a substantial investment. Which is fine, if the movie's any good. But come on...there's no way anybody involved in this thing thought they were making a good movie. They simply wanted to separate you from your money, money that could have been spent buying presents for loved ones or giving to charity. This movie is the work of millionaires who feel they aren't rich enough.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Haven't been around here much.  Life goes on, and sometimes gets in the way.  I gave some thought to posting a recollection of a particularly vivid dream I had the other night--it involved a right-wing cabal reanimating Bill Cullen's corpse to spearhead an incredibly misconceived bid for world dominance--but whenever I'd sit down to actually write, some distraction would raise its head.  (Those Wikipedia entries on Patrick Hernandez and Jeff Altman won't read themselves, y'know.)

So, um, yeah...I've got nothing.  Thus, lacking any real entertainment here, let me present an ad for what has to be the worst imaginable Christmas present.  Enjoy, I guess.

Friday, December 02, 2011


Mom's here, so I know it's a dream.  Still, I follow her as we go wherever it is we're going.  She moves quickly and without a walker through masses of people standing around or sitting at cheap tables--Is this Ryan's Steakhouse?--until we find a place in a corner.  "Finally," she says, sitting down.  "We have a few minutes to talk."

My eyes snap open.  Again.

I don't believe in messages from the other side or crap like that, but it's become a disturbing pattern that Mom will appear to me in dreams, announcing she has something to tell me, and I wake up before she gets a chance to talk.  It's the same every damn time, and the return to the waking world always comes with a tightness in my chest, a sense of loss so overpowering it seems nothing could heal it.

Right on cue, Staley appears. 

When she first came into my life, Staley seemed odd and a bit reserved, the exact opposite of a pet me-pet me cat.  She'd hide a lot, only occasionally appearing in corners of rooms, then venturing up onto the foot of the bed, or maybe sitting in chairs for a few minutes, only to disappear to whatever secret hiding place she'd chosen.

Lately, though, she seems to sense my moods, and is always there when I need her.  As I wake from this dream with a sense of emptiness, she burrows in close to my chest, purring loudly.  "You're not alone," she seems to be saying.  "I'm always here."  She stretches a front leg, the white toes on her otherwise gray paw gently stroke my open hand.

Most nights, I go to bed before Janie does, and Staley bounces in with me.  She's always wherever I go.  Cats aren't allowed up on my desk, but Staley is.  She follows me to the door when I leave for work, and Janie says she frequently yowls for a few minutes after I leave.

The tightness in my chest is gone.  I'm relaxed and feel myself drifting back to sleep, comforted to know that I have a fuzzy gray protector, that Staley's soul is here to give comfort to mine.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I really, really wanted to love The Muppets, the new big-screen attempt to bring Jim Henson's beloved characters some current pop culture cachet, and...well, I just couldn't.

Not that I hated it, mind you.  This isn't a shameful misunderstanding of everything that makes the characters great, the Space Jam of the Muppet world.  If anything, it's too reverent, tries too hard to evoke warm and fuzzy memories, attempting to coast on a sentiment it simply hasn't earned.  It's made by fans, obviously--the primary fan, in this case, being co-writer and star Jason Segel, who has publicly stated over and over how much the Muppets meant to him--but as a result, it feels like glorified fan fiction.  The real Muppet crew would never have made this.

That crew is scattered to the winds, of course.  Jim Henson, Richard Hunt and writer Jerry Juhl are dead, Jerry Nelson has largely retired and Frank Oz...honestly, it's kind of hard to know what's up with Oz these days.  Of the old guard, only Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire are involved, and too many of the characters lack their old spark.  Henson, Nelson and especially Oz were renowned for their ability to give their characters distinctive physical mannerisms, odd bits of business that brought them to life, but all too often, the characters now just seem to move from Point A to Point B without any real sense of life.

Then again, there's not much life to the script by Segel and Nicholas Stoller.  It cleverly riffs on many beloved Muppet tropes and gags, and has some genuinely funny moments--the sight of Wayne and Wanda making out gave me great delight--but it just tries too hard.  Most disastrously, the catalyst for the story is a new Muppet named Walter, who is blessed with not a single interesting feature.  Favorites like Gonzo and Rowlf are given nothing to do so this character can go through a Screenwriting 101 Character Arc, and why?  It's like making a new Peanuts movie and sidelining Charlie Brown and Lucy in favor of Shermy.

The most exasperating thing about Walter is that he's not remotely funny, but you know who else doesn't have a single decent laugh line in this movie?  Kermit The Frog.  Sure, he's the starry-eyed dreamer and all that, but Kermit's always gotten some of the best gags.  But he spends the entire running time of The Muppets (that is, when he's not reminding the audience what an awesome new character Walter is) being mopey.  And when he finally breaks into The Rainbow Connection...

Look, if you've spent any time at this site at all, you've seen countless vintage Muppet clips posted, you've read all sorts of stories about how my Mom cried for days on end when Jim Henson died, how Bein' Green was the one song she stipulated had to be played at her funeral, and, for crying out loud, I went through a period there where most of the titles of my posts were taken from Muppet Movie lyrics.  All I have to do is hear the banjo-plucking intro to The Rainbow Connection and I immediately tear up.

And yet, its performance here did nothing for me.  Instead of an Applause sign, it felt like the filmmakers were using a Sentimental Tears sign.  The honest emotions that Jim Henson and company could evoke effortlessly just isn't there anymore.  I wouldn't presume to say that the time of The Muppets passed with Henson, but it's been twenty-one years since the man's death, and the characters still seem trapped, unsure where to go.  Despite the brilliant efforts of his fellow puppeteers, designers, scriptwriters and songwriters, maybe the only person who truly understood what made The Muppets work was Henson.  We know it was probably magic.

The Muppets is an honest attempt to bring back that magic, but a failed attempt just the same.  Still, if nothing else, it proves that audiences still have great love for these characters, and maybe next time they'll get where they're going.  Or, as Gonzo so eloquently put it, they're going to go back there someday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving, right?  I should list all the things I'm thankful for (my health, my home, my friends, the cats, beloved beagle and, of course, Janie), I could reminisce about holidays past, I could do any number of things.

Or I could tell a story I've told before.

Because this is November 24th, the day when, twenty-three years ago, a scrappy UHF station in Minneapolis first broadcast a crudely-produced program entitled Mystery Science Theater 3000, a vehicle for local comedian made good Joel Hodgson.  The premise was simple: Hodgson played a guy trapped in space, forced by his evil overlords to watch terrible movies.  He did, with the help of his two robot pals, and the three of them would crack wise all through the movie.

Simple, and potentially awful.  But somehow, MST3K (which got a lot better than that original intro would suggest)transcended its simple premise, ultimately running for ten seasons on two different cable channels, and bearing a profound influence on the world of comedy.  It has provided its fans with an alternate way of looking at the world, has encouraged, in its small way, its viewers to never accept what is given to them, to talk back, to question.  And it has provided comfort.

As on that Wednesday night, when I stumbled home dead tired from working late.  When I got to my apartment, I found numerous messages on my answering machine from my sister Ann, informing me that Mom was in the hospital.  Finally, a message from Mom herself, assuring me that she was okay, I could call her or stop by to see her, but she understood if I was busy.

I went up to see her.  She'd fallen, and had...never mind.  You don't need to know the details.  The point is, she looked so small, so fragile, so...mortal.  But she was still Mom, and we talked, though her voice was weak.  "Have you eaten yet?" she asked, always more concerned about others than herself.  No, I said, I'd probably just go home and have a pizza.  "Oh, yes, it's Wednesday, isn't it?  Are you going to watch an MST?"  (She was, obviously, aware of my weekly ritual.)  Yeah, maybe, I said, but I can stay here.  "No," she said.  "I have to watch Lost."

So I went home, fired up the pizza and the VCR and chose an episode of MST to watch.  I hadn't seen the episode where they mock Roger Corman's Gunslinger in awhile, so that's what I picked, completely at random.  Halfway through the show, there's this sketch:

I thought nothing of it, or any of the other odd reminders of mortality in this particular episode.  Why would I?  It's not like Mom was dying or anything.  I enjoyed the episode, laughed myself silly, and went to bed.

The next morning, Ann called early.  Someone from the hospital had let her know it would be a good idea to get up there and see Mom.  Wait, what?  She just fell.  How could that lead God, no.

If you've spent any time at this site, you know what happened, since this space was originally conceived as a way of working through my grief.  The days after her death were spent dealing with the usual things, but it was funny.  She died on a Thursday, the funeral was the following Monday...but by Tuesday, I felt cried out.  I didn't want to be sad anymore.

So I turned again to MST3K, and it did the trick.  I laughed, and it was as though my whole world hadn't changed, as if things would be okay again.  It reminded me that there was still joy in the world, and that life, not unlike Celine Dion's heart, would go on. 

When I think of my favorite TV shows of all time, I think of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Columbo, or Wiseguy or Batman: The Animated Series or The Simpsons or so many more.  But I never think to include Mystery Science Theater 3000 on that list, because, no matter what the theme song says, it's never been just a show.  It's part of my life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Isabella pulls on her leash, the same walk we take every morning.  Down the sidewalk, across the street, through the parking lot of the neighboring restaurant.  It's closed, but even at 3 AM, there's music coming from within--Louis Prima and Keely Smith, That Old Black Magic.  We stop for a minute, Isabella's nose snuffling the ground, me listening to the music.

I try to remember.

My ex-wife loved Louis Prima.  This song makes me think of her, but only in the abstract.  When I try to conjure details of our time together, there's often nothing there.  I remember, for instance, her love of Prima, and I remember buying her a documentary about him, and that we watched it together.  I know we did that, but I don't remember how it felt.

She and I still talk, usually once a week, and we remain as close as two people who profoundly hurt each other can possibly be.  She fills me in on the broad details of her life, and I do the same.  On occasions, these conversations spark a certain detail, a shared inside joke, a memory only the two of us would share.

Mostly, though, I don't recall specifics.  When I think of our time together, mostly what comes to mind is the anxiety, the sense that it was all somehow going to end.  I can't even remember the no doubt terrible arguments and incidents that produced this mindset, just the general feeling, the state of flux. 

The wind picks up, frustrating Isabella.  The breeze carries so many different scents, too many for her to pick out.  She skitters about, wanting to follow her nose in all directions at once.

I pull on her leash, leading her back home.  My life with Janie is different from the life I once led, different from anything I ever imagined.  For maybe the first time in my adult life, I've learned to accept things as they come, and I finally know contentment.  Isabella's pace quickens as we approach the house, and she bounds up the steps happily.  Because, you know, we're home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


1) Wow--an authentic Random Thoughts post.  Formerly one of my regular go-to pieces (along with clips of Lynda Carter singing) when I didn't feel like doing any actual writing and just started knocking out whatever crap popped into my head at the moment.

In the present case, however, there's slightly more thought put into this effort--mostly these are scattered premises, things I wanted to write about in a little more depth, but just never had the time.  Or energy.  Or will power...

2) I'm pretty sure I claimed somewhere along the line that I wasn't going to say anything more about Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, and well, I tried, but our old friend Julie Taymor has been at it again, and I just can't resist.

Taymor has been exceptionally busy, what with filing a lawsuit against the show's producers and giving a monumentally self-pitying interview to Esquire in which she claimed to be shocked, shocked I tell you, at her dismissal from the show, which she thought was just swell.

Of course, the terrible reviews for Taymor's version of the show, and the fact that she refused to even consider dropping elements that clearly weren't working, and her increasingly incoherent public statements about the show, which suggested she considered the whole thing to be some sort of workshop for her private vision, even though the thing was bleeding investors dry to the tune of almost a million bucks a week--none of these things had any bearing on the decision of the producers to fire her.  They were just philistines who didn't care about Art.

As for the lawsuit, Taymor is demanding a share of profits (which, despite the fact that the show sells out nightly, it still hasn't earned a dime, mostly because Taymor burned through SIXTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS while in the process of finding her "vision") and, more amusingly, claiming copyright infringement for using elements she created in the show.

Obviously, I don't know the details of her contract, but that's pretty much how big Broadway musicals work--nobody is irreplaceable.  Creative personnel are constantly brought in and let go, but they're doing for-hire jobs--producers have every right to use elements of their work, because that's why they were hired in the first place.  More talented people than Taymor have been fired off shows, only to see work they did used on stage, often without credit.

In the case of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark--have I mentioned that's the worst title for anything in history?--Taymor is actually listed in the credits.  If anything, the producers indulged her for way too long.  Is she actually trying to get people to feel sorry for her?  Because I'm pretty sure it's not working.

3) Alexander Payne's new film The Descendants opens this week, a mere seven years since his last feature, Sideways, which opened two years after About Schmidt.  He's not terribly prolific, is what I'm saying.

I'm a big fan--Sideways hit me where I lived--but it's not like he's Stanley Kubrick.  He makes humanist comedies somewhat in the manner of Paul Mazursky, only Mazursky could really crank 'em out.  (Have I mentioned Harry And Tonto is one of my favorite movies ever?)  But Payne, like Paul Thomas Anderson and David O. Russell, is a major filmmaker with a disappointingly thin filmography.  All three cite the great directors of the seventies as inspiration, but they seem to not realize that those guys worked constantly.

Sure, studios aren't keen to produce odd personal efforts these days, but the financing is obviously out there--Joel and Ethan Coen are able to make whatever pops into their head, and they were managing the Woody Allen trick of knocking out a movie a year for awhile there.  Payne, Anderson and Russell seem to only want to work when the muse strikes, but even Robert Altman made Quintet.  It's okay to fail--just keep working.

What I'm basically saying is, I love these guys' stuff, and I selfishly want more than they've given me.

4) Hey, are there any long-time readers of this thing still around?  Remember when I used to go off on long-winded political screeds?  No, I don't miss those things either, but still...Occupy Wall Street, Rick Perry's memory lapse, the whole Penn State'd think I'd have something to say.  Sometimes this space seems a little hermetically sealed, cut off from the real world, like late period Woody Allen.  (Zing!)  I kind of regret that, and kind of not.  Maybe I'll reengage with the real world soon.

5) Ordinarily, I'd say something about all the critters here, about Cookie's continued reluctance to play nice with the beagle, or about Staley's odd habit of head-butting me in the middle of the night.  Certainly I don't need to say anything about Delmar, because I'm always going on about him here.

Except yesterday morning, Del was sitting in my lap as I read the funnies when he suddenly, for no reason, reached up and slashed my nose.  Blood poured everywhere, including into my eyes, leading me to temporarily think he'd blinded me.  And, needless to say, it hurt like hell.

And yet, he's back on my lap as I write this.  I'll never learn.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Not a lot of snow, but enough: Branches down, and others cracked, hanging dangerously low over some wires.

Oh Lord, has it come to this?  Am I really using snow-covered branches as some sort of metaphor for my emotional state?  Isn't that the most tired literary device imaginable?  Has my writing become this trite?

Still.  It's not a cheap use of a tired trope when it's actually true.  The branches really are hanging, and so is my mood.

Some back story might be helpful at this point, yes?  I got an email from my brother John the other day informing me of the death of our uncle, Ronald Dean Hegstrom.  John was quite sad, remembering the last family reunion (which--ominous chord--I did not attend), and how Uncle Deanie, in John's words, "looked like Dad, only different."

But this news didn't make me feel sad, just numb.  For so long, I associated Uncle Deanie and Aunt LeDora with the family reunions I actively hated as a kid, which were attended by people so much older than me, and there was never anyone for me to hang out with, so I'd just sit there, isolated and lonely.  It never occurred to me to, you know, talk to anyone.  They all seemed to know each other so well.

So I never got to know Uncle Deanie, and reading his obit, how he served in the military in Greenland and worked as a repair man, things I knew but didn't know, or didn't appreciate, because I never took the time, but damn, I was just a kid, what do you want from me?  Yeah, I could've taken the time as I got older, but, well...I didn't, and...

Look, that's not even what has me feeling so numb.  It's John's description of our uncle as looking kind of like Dad--because even my memories of Dad are starting to fade.  There are fleeting images, things I remember, still these become less concrete with each passing year, with each passing minute.

How can this happen?  Not just dad, but Mom, too, and everything about my childhood.  I can remember specific things, doing this and that, but the details of the faces that accompanied these activities, the sounds of voices, the smells and colors--all are going, all are past.

But I do remember the summer I turned seven, before I had my own room.  I slept on the couch in the living room, and when I went to bed, Dad would come over and kiss me goodnight. His breath smelled like Grain Belt and he barely said a word, but it was a small gesture of love that meant the world to me.  Maybe it's why I make a point of saying goodbye to the dog and all the cats whenever I go somewhere. 

So I have that to hang onto.  Maybe I'm not as numb as I think.  Maybe the branches can be easily trimmed.  Maybe there's nothing broken that can't be fixed.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Ah, I should never have posted that Bert Parks clip yesterday.  It served as a virtual portal to hell, a hell long-time readers of this site (both of you!) know all too well: The seventies variety show.

It seems utterly inconceivable that in 1976, the year the Sex Pistols recorded Anarchy In The UK, the year Taxi Driver was released to theaters, a year in a decade in which everything changed at tremendous speed, TV executives still held so tenaciously to what had worked before.  Except it didn't work anymore; the variety format was obviously dead if the best it could muster was Telly Savalas.  It's a terrible idea even in theory.  Did they really need to produce this thing--and worse, put it on the air?--to realize this?  Did they think anyone could possibly enjoy this?

'76 must have been the year TV executives just collectively decided to throw anything on to see what would happen. If Telly Savalas could have a variety special, why not Paul Lynde? Sure, and why not feature musical guests KISS and--the horror! the horror!--Florence Henderson? People will watch, won't they? Won't they?

Also in '76, The Captain And Tenille got their own regular series! So they could do things like this, thus scarring an entire nation.

And it's not like this celebration of sub-mediocrity was limited to variety shows. You could be innocently watching your favorite large-breasted action heroine when suddenly you're forced to ask yourself, "Why is Wonder Woman singing? And how can I make it stop?"

And then the horror would escalate, because if she could sing as Wonder Woman, suddenly someone thought it would be a good idea to give Lynda Carter her own variety special. And then they gave her another, and another, like she was good, like they were entertaining, when it should have been obvious that, Lordy, no, this was not entertaining in the least.

Friday, November 04, 2011


Go to Blogger Dashboard, hit New Post, tap out a few words, delete them, tap out a few different words, delete them, pause and idly wonder if the topic I've picked to write about is even all that interesting...which means I'm second-guessing myself...which means I no longer have the confidence that what I'm doing is worthwhile...which means...what?

No idea.  That whole paralyzing writer's block thing, which inconveniently struck once before just as I was starting to actually get stuff published and, you know, earn money, and which decided to hang around for a decade or so--has it returned?  Have I run out of things to say, or interesting ways to say them?  Are there no more tortured Star Wars analogies for me to make?

Again, no idea.  But hey, in the interest of (barely) fulfilling the minimum daily amount of entertainment one can expect from this site, here's a clip of Bert Parks performing a Paul McCartney song during the 1976 Miss America pageant.  Regarding this, for lack of a better word, performance, I would note two things: 1) Those background dancers are staging what Crow T. Robot once referred to as a "mince-off" and 2) Back in '76, people watched this sort of thing in huge numbers, and mostly not ironically.  Even at the time, I couldn't understand.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Paul had already seen this dreadful-looking new Three Musketeers, and wanted to see it again.  "Nothing you'd rather see?" I asked, figuring literally anything would be better.

"No.  You'll like it.  It's really good."

OK, fine, but I demanded a price: Before going to this thing, he'd first watch Richard Lester's absolutely peerless 1973 adaptation of Musketeers.  I explained that it's one of my favorite movies, which is usually a good way to get Paul reasonably intrigued.  (He trusts my opinions, except about James Bond.)  I started the movie and...

...He loved it.  Well, why wouldn't he?  Between an absolutely perfect cast (Charlton Heston's splendidly villainous Cardinal Richelieu is like a miniature acting class in itself), George MacDonald Fraser's witty script and some truly sumptuous settings, Lester is given free reign to make this material his own, and the result is not only a first-rate adventure tale, but one of the greatest comedies ever made. 

I don't know how Lester did it: Hackneyed bits of physical comedy become gaspingly funny purely through his staging and cutting.  That sort of thing almost never works; usually when a director fusses over a gag, it becomes notably less amusing.  (The sheer visual invention Steven Spielberg brought to 1941 is admirable, but it won't make you laugh.)  But here Lester repeatedly stages a scene in a seemingly deadpan manner, then cuts to a reverse angle which reveals its absurdity, and damned if it isn't funny every single time.  And he knows just how long to hold a shot, just when to cut, just when o move the camera.  He's just really good is what I'm saying, and The Three Musketeers (like its equally vital sequel, The Four Musketeers) is a world-class work of cinema.

Which is a pretty good thing o introduce a twelve-year-old to, don't you think?  We went to the new Three Musketeers the next day--and just an aside here, but boy do I wish contemporary moviemakers would stop ending their movies with setups for sequels nobody will ever want to see--and Paul still claims to like this one better.  That's understandable--it's pitched to contemporary kids, with explosions, wirework and whatnot.  (Also some of the phoniest looking CGI you'll ever see.)  It's all about immediate sensation.

But as for which one he'll actually remember, well, I have a feeling I know.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Started and abandoned two different posts recently.  One was just a silly generic thing, but the other was somewhat more personal in nature, and my inability to make it work disturbs me.  I just haven't been feeling the writing thing lately, although annoying computer glitches haven't really helped.  (When the screen freezes as you type, it kinda interrupts your train of thought.)

Anyway, just to post something, and in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd post something scary.  Regular readers might expect me to follow that up with a clip of Linda Carter singing or David Naughton extolling the virtues of Dr. Pepper, but no, I'm serious.

I could (and probably have, and no doubt will again) go on for some time about The Exorcist, which freaked me the fuck out like no movie ever has.  I was eleven when I saw it the first time--well, saw part of it; my brother wound up carrying me out of the theater because I was literally paralyzed with fear--and I think the reason it got to me was because it creates such a believable reality.  The sets, the costumes, the lighting show no trace of artifice.  Everything looks so lived in, seems so natural, and when things go to hell (more or less literally), the impact is...well, again, as I watched the scene embedded above, I felt my limbs going numb.

Oh, and you know what else scares me? This.

Friday, October 21, 2011


There is a slightly aloof, not-quite-there manner that defines feline behavior.  Cats may be wonderful companions, but they always exist in a world of their own, somehow unknowable.  They may share this world with you, but they are always a step removed.

Except for Delmar.

Whatever Del feels is always right there on the surface, and whether it's utter adoration or inexplicable rage--he has no middle ground--you will damn sure know about it.

He will sit on your lap and smoosh his face into your chest, his half-wheezed purr so intense his whole body vibrates, and one of his gangly legs may slither around your wrist, his paw caressing you, drawing your hand to him, making sure you will pet him even as he hugs you, his devotion so overpowering it almost terrifies.

Or he'll hop on your lap with his half-tail twitching, a growl already forming somewhere in his chest, and that same paw that lovingly stroked your hand will slap down on your wrist, a solitary claw sinking deeper and deeper until blood bubbles to the surface, and his fiery eyes will burn into you with a terrible anger.

Your instinct at this point would be to throw this wretched beast to the ground, but if instead you take your other hand--the one that isn't streaked with blood--and gently rub Del between his ears, those terrifying eyes will gradually close and something resembling bliss will pass across his sharply-angled face.  His claw may or may not leave your hand, which has likely gone numb by now anyway, but one of his other paws may reach up to stroke your face.

And maybe sink a claw in there, too, but more gently, and compared to the pain in your hand, it's nothing.  Maybe it will bleed as well, but that's part of the price you paid when you let him into your heart.  He is in your heart, after all, because no matter what, you know how much he loves you, and if you didn't love him, who else ever would?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


There was a time when there would have been a reason for me to mention that I'm going on vacation for a few days.  That is, my usual daily postings here would have been interrupted, so I felt the need to provide some sort of explanation.

Now, of course, I'm lucky if I knock out ten posts in an entire month.  I could be hospitalized for a week and you, the theoretical reader, would never know.  It's weird how much effort I used to put into this site, and how indifferent I seem to be these days.  It's not that I don't have the will to write, it's just that sitting down to do it is so, like, hard and stuff.  And, well...

Ah, screw it.  I'll be back here when I get back.  In the meantime, here's Marshall Crenshaw with one of my favorite covers of all time.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


The official reason is simple: I plan to turn the second bedroom into a kind of entertainment center.  With my recently-acquired plasma TV, blu-ray player (wi-fi compatible) and surround sound system, it will be a place to retire from the world, to immerse myself in whatever sounds or images I crave at the moment.

To make room for all this, the bedroom had to be cleared of all the accumulated stuff that had piled up over the years.  Most of it had been ported over from the apartment, where it was all dropped in boxes and moved to the house in order to save myself the time and trouble of actually sorting it.  But this time, for whatever reason, I felt the need to decide what would be tossed and what would go down to the basement.

Some of this was easy.  Did I really need to keep the program for Reefer Madness: The Musical?  Nah--throw it away.  And some of the work Psychokitty Delmar had done for me--he'd slept in some of the boxes and ripped up, for instance, the 1941 Des Moines Register with a beautiful Ding Darling illustration commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I'd meant to have it framed or something, but now it was an easy toss.

Then there was...everything else.  Family photos, drawings made by my ex-wife's niece, home-dubbed VHS tapes, calenders with important dates from my past marked on them, goofy cartoons drawn by my mom.  These are things I dare not throw away, the only links I have to a life I once led.  But what are they now?

They are of no real significance except that which I give them.  Even examining them now, they draw me back, but there is something ultimately destructive about their siren song.  There is no returning to the time from which they sprang, and no point in longing for it.  My life now doesn't depend on any of this.

Or so I tell myself as I tape the boxes shut and lug them down to the basement, where they sit on shelves or piled on pallets on the floor to keep them dry.  They still exist down there, but soon they'll just be more stuff that exists in the background, like the empty boxes of laundry soap I keep forgetting to put in the garbage, as forgotten as the memories they represent.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011



Bella's on the floor, trembling, her legs flailing.  She's having a seizure, something her vet has said is not uncommon with beagles.  As long as they don't get more frequent, everything will be fine.

I pick her up and cradle her in my arms, as I always do.  We know the drill.  She'll shake violently for a few minutes, then stop.  I'll plop her down on the ground, she'll walk, still a little shaky, to the door.  She knows the seizure has made her lose control of her bodily functions, and she doesn't want to poop in the house.

Which is what happens.  But after bringing her back in, she has another seizure.  Then another, more violent.  Her limbs twist as I hold her, the ferocity of her shaking causing my own body to tremble.  Her mouth foams, she pees on me, and I cuddle her tighter, convinced at this moment that there is no greater love than what I feel for her.

Janie watches, and says she'll pray for Bella.  I find myself doing the same, making every conceivable promise to God in exchange for this dog's life.  I bawl like a fucking baby, pulling Bella tighter to my chest, mumbling, "Precious baby, love you, baby girl" over and over like a mantra, as if my words can make somehow make this stop.

Still.  Somewhere my mind shuffles awful thoughts.  Vet bills, meds, money I don't have.  The credit cards are maxed out.  How am I going to pay for this?  What does she need?  Can she be cured, or is this going to be a permanent condition?  If she's like this all the time, will she...that is...can she live like this?

Her tremors become more intense, each worse than the last, and then her body goes limp, followed by an awful stillness.  "Oh God, no!" I cry, my tears dropping onto her matted fur, already sopping wet with drool and pee.

Big brown eyes peer up at me.  She inhales deeply, the tail half-heartedly wags.  She raises her head and licks away my tears.  I place her gently on the ground and she marches unsteadily to the door, then turns and looks at me, one long ear flopping over her tilted head, as if to say, "Come on!  I gotta go!"

I grab her leash and we head outside.  She takes the steps down from the deck carefully, but her stride becomes more certain as she moves through the grass.  She does her business, then marches forward, head down, nose working overtime.

Scenting.  Something has been in the grass, and she means to track it, tugging hard at her leash, doing what she was meant to do, as all good beagles must.  I pull her leash in a different direction, back to the house, and she doesn't put up a fight.

She knows we both need rest.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


A friend of mine was once afflicted with what he called The Seger Curse.  That is, whatever store he'd walk into, any store of any kind, would always be playing some Bob Seger song or other.  Whether it was the by-the-numbers rock star posing of Katmandu or the sleepy-time introspection of Night Moves--or worse, the faux-sensitive, let's-fuck-because-what-else-have-we-got-to-do treacly-creepy ballad We've Got Tonight--the tedious ubiquity of the hirsute Detroit legend came to represent everything stale and unimaginative about radio programming: You could play any song in the world, and you actually choose to play Against The Wind?

The curse was eventually passed to me, though in a somewhat milder form (although if I ever hear Old Time Rock & Roll again I may turn violent), was over.  Whoever programs the piped-in music for retail establishments and classic rock stations suddenly decided that was enough Seger for a lifetime, and the world was a better place.

Briefly.  While seemingly dormant, The Curse was in fact mutating, and turned into a Night Ranger Curse.  Which is to say, the radio at work now plays Sister Christian at every conceivable opportunity.

Kind of cute, for awhile.  To the extent that I think of it at all, I associate the song with the Rahad Jackson sequence from P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights.  Specifically, I think of this:

And hey, who doesn't want to be reminded of one of their favorite movies during a long, tedious work day?

But they keep playing the damned thing.  And it doesn't even matter what station is on.  Our resident surly Boston sports fan tunes the radio to the local AM sports station, and in between incredibly convulted analogies and half-baked theories, there is commercial time.  Specifically, a commercial for an upcoming concert from...Night Ranger.  And seriously, what the hell other song are they going to play during this commercial?  For a supposedly rockin' band--as they reminded us with the helpfully titled You Can Still Rock In America--these guys will always be known for this wimpy power ballad, and not much else.

And I, apparently, will have to listen to the damned thing pretty much every day.  Or at least until I get a new musical curse.  Right now, I'm starting to miss bob Seger.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


A restless night; periods of sleep, followed by fifteen minutes of bleary-eyed waking time, followed by sleep, followed get the idea.

During the waking moments the mind will wander.  Times like this, I often start half-hearted writing projects in my head: random bits of dialogue, character sketches, whatever.  Nothing ever comes of these brainstorming sessions, because ideas that sound great running through a grungy head at 1 AM prove to be utter crap in the unforgiving light of day.

But even by these standards, what the hell was my problem last night?  Did I eat the wrong thing before bedtime?  Because every time my eyes would snap open, I'd immediately start composing what, in my mind, was the most lucid essay ever.

About the movie Anaconda.

Now, because this was a terrible idea occurring to me in the middle of the night, I'm a little fuzzy on what may have been the substance of this piece.  I suspect it may have had something to do with the surprisingly fine cast and tech crew assembled for what is, after all, an amazingly stupid exploitation movie.  If that was my argument, it's severely undercut by the fact that I'VE NEVER EVEN SEEN ANACONDA IN THE FIRST PLACE!

Sure, I've seen chunks of it--to subscribe to a basic cable channel is to have seen bits and pieces of all sorts of movies you'd never normally watch--but I've never done it the courtesy of watching straight through.  So really, how could I fairly judge it?

I couldn't.  And I have no desire to judge it, or to see it, for that matter.  I don't care about it one way or the other.  So why was I thrashing about in bed last night, convinced that I alone could compose the definitive treatise on Anaconda?

Ask me when I'm half-asleep.  The answer won't make sense to you, but in my mind it will be brilliant.

Monday, September 19, 2011


A small part of this past weekend was spent trying to explain to Paul (who does not read comics but will run out to see the latest superhero epic on the big screen) that Stan Lee, despite his jokey cameos in all Marvel Comics movie adaptations, really doesn't deserve sole credit for these characters, and that Jack Kirby's dynamic artwork and character designs really had much more to do with their iconic status.

Which is all well and good, but as a kid in the early seventies, I didn't give a rat's ass about superheroes, and read almost nothing from Marvel.  I was all about DC, and even then, only their war comics, which were presided over by writer/editor Robert Kanigher and a rotating stable of artists, which generally included the unfailingly great Joe Kubert and Russ Heath.  I saw the ads in these books for Kirby's now-legendary New Gods and Kamandi, but since they didn't feature Panzers or Spitfires, I didn't care.

Then, out of nowhere, Kirby was handed one of the books I did read, Our Fighting Forces, featuring the hard-luck squadron known as The Losers.  This was my first real introduction to the work of one of the most influential comic book artists of all time, and holy crap, I became a fan for life.  Though Kirby was a World War II vet, his depictions of the front lines bore no trace of the carefully researched realism Kubert and Heath depicted, resembling nothing so much as clashes between gods and demigods on some abstract Olympus.

The thing that struck me most about Kirby's artwork was his depiction of the cigar-chomping character Sarge, and how that cigar almost always drawn in such a way that it was pointing out towards us, the reader, its tip burning with the black-dotted pattern I would later come to know as "Kirby krackle".  I was so obsessed with how he drew that thing that I soon filled countless Big Chief tablets with characters smoking cigars, just so I could try to get the same effect.

A bit of research tells me that Kirby's run on that title was relatively brief, stretching from late in '74 to the end of '75.  I was nine turning to ten.  And the thing is, when the clear, fully-formed memory of trying to draw my own Kirby krackling cigars popped into my head, I tried in vain to recall anything else from my life in that era.  The best I could come up with was a distinct memory of reading one of these books on a blisteringly hot summer day, siting on one side of the davenport (because back then we called it a davenport, not a couch) absorbing as much of the breeze from the big box fan in front of the screen door as I could.  But who else would have been in the room, what they may have looked like at that time, or even the sound of their voices--no, that seems to have faded, at least for the moment.

As much as I love Jack Kirby's work, part of me wishes my mind had not decided to retain this particular memory, not if it means losing the images and sounds of people I loved much more.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I won't give you all the details about the pinched nerve in my lower back, I'll just mention that it's there and hurts like a sonofabitch.  Pain unfortunately leads to irritability--as Janie puts it, I'm Mr. Grumpypants--and also, somewhat more fortunately, to medication.

Oh, sweet narcotic relief!

When the label clearly specifies that meds are to be taken only at bedtime, well kids, it can only mean one thing: Seriously weird-ass dreams will follow.  And sure enough, on this occasion my slumbering form found itself sitting through an entire endless Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Christina Aguilara, who occasionally morphed into Cyndi Lauper because fine, whatever, but more to the point, she was the center of the whole episode.  There were literally no other cast members, just Christina (or sometimes Cyndi) mugging her way through endless solo sketches that inevitably led to singing.  And it just kept going on and on and on until...

...Until I woke up and stumbled out of bed.  At first it felt like my pain was gone, but all at once it returned, shooting down my leg, making my foot tingle.  Hard at this point to say which hurts more, reality or my dream state, but at least in the real world I won't have to suffer through any more punishingly unfunny attempts at comedy.

At least, I hope not.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It's strange--I spent nearly a year living in the suburbs of D.C., and in all that time it's almost impossible to remember many days that were gray or overcast.  It snowed maybe twice in the winter, there was occasional rain.  Mostly, though, the sky remained a dazzling blue.

After that terrible day in September, of course, even that beautiful sky seemed threatening.

The ten year anniversary of 9/11 is playing out in depressingly predictable fashion, with trite retrospective TV specials and memorial events that just go through the motions and, most ludicrously, t-shirts and placards proclaiming ridiculous homilies like "We Remember" and "Never Forget".

Like it's even possible to forget.  Even more terrible than the day itself was the lingering fear, still in the air for days and weeks and months thereafter.  Constantly scanning the sky just in case, or flinching at every backfiring car, or steering clear of every unattended package in Metro stations.

Just living through those days took its toll.  Our hearts beat faster, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And if anyone I knew had died in the attacks, even a pacifist lefty like me would have been in full "Let's kill those dirty bastards" vengeance mode.  But through it all, I was never so naive as to think that what happened was somehow unprovoked.  While we in this country believed we were under attack, many people in other nations simply thought of it as retaliation.

How could we go around meddling in the affairs of other countries without thinking it would eventually come back home?  This nation has done some pretty unsavory things, ostensibly for the cause of freedom and democracy--though just as often for profit--while too many of its citizens remained unaware.  We've made a lot of enemies.  Can we honestly claim surprise when some of them decide to fight back?

At the time, asking such a question was considered tantamount to treason.  To this day, some would claim my views as part of the "Blame America" crowd.  Except...I'm not claiming there's any blame to be had.  No one would ever say we deserved to be attacked.  But it happened anyway.  Sometimes, to quote that great American icon Clint Eastwood, deserve's got nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Mom again, casually sitting in a crowded cafeteria.

I don't even see her at first.  I'm talking to some friends, then excuse myself to use the restroom.  As I walk by her, she looks up and smiles, nodding slightly.  Trying to think of something to say, I ask, "Is there anything I should know?"

She doesn't say a word--very unusual for Mom--but stands, laboriously unfolding her walker, and hobbles out of the now empty cafeteria.  I follow her not even five feet down a hallway.  Suddenly we're in a living room.

Not one I recognize, but it seems familiar anyway.  The TV--huge and hi-def, but still a Quasar!--is tuned to the latest Fast And The Furious entry, Dad sits in the corner laughing at some of the most outrageous stunts, a stack of empty Grain Belt cans on the shelf beside him.  There are children sprawled throughout the room, and I instantly recognize them as my brothers and sisters, but younger than I have ever known them.  Some watch the movie in rapt attention, some play, some tussle, but all seem to be having a good time.

In the middle of it all stands Mom, smiling warmly.  She doesn't say anything, but I understand.

The ambitions I might have once had in my life never quite materialized.  Where's that novel I meant to write, or the next book, or anything substantial?  Why don't I live in New York or Seattle or even Minneapolis?  Where are all my quick-witted hipster friends?

Turns out, none of that is needed.  I romp around the house with my dog while Janie watches Dancing With The Stars, or she'll read some historical romance while I watch Mitchell on Mystery Science Theater 3000 for roughly the five hundredth time.  Whatever we're doing, we'll stop now and then to hold each other, to say, "I love you."

Back in the living room, Mom nestles in her chair, perusing her copy of  The Murder, She Wrote Companion.  She glances at me, says something.  The noise level in the room makes it hard to hear, but it sounds very much like, "This is life.  Enjoy."

Monday, September 05, 2011


It's just a trailer, so this may not reflect the finished film at all.  Still...

When John Carter Of Mars first went into production, there was reason to be excited.  It was officially produced under Pixar's auspices, with Finding Nemo's Andrew Stanton directing what was promised as an ambitious mix of live action and CGI animation.  Soon, it became a Disney production, Of Mars was dropped from the title, and we got this trailer, which just doesn't look like much of anything.

It's not bad, but boy, is it ever familiar.  And not because Edgar Rice Burroughs' books have been freely ripped off by so many filmmakers over the years, but because this movie looks to be using any number of familiar tropes from those very same movies, from the dreary blue-and-orange lighting scheme to the live action hero facing numerous weightless CGIed foes.  Even with digital enhancement, the Martian landscape looks suspiciously like Monument Valley.  (The two movies that immediately pop to mind watching this are Prince Of Persia and Cowboys And Aliens, which doesn't speak well for box office prospects.)  And with Peter Gabriel's Arcade Fire cover droning away in the background, the whole thing seems a bit somber.

I mean, it's great that they're taking the material seriously, but shouldn't an adaptation of a pulp classic seem a little more fun?  Obviously this movie wasn't going to contain the abundant nudity found in Burroughs' books, but couldn't it include some of its lurid, overripe sensibilities? 

Couldn't it, in other words, be more like this?

Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon was widely ignored or openly hated by audiences and critics back in 1980, but its reputation has grown over the years, largely because there's no other movie quite like it.  The campy attitude of its script (by Lorenzo Semple, who was largely responsible for the tone of the Adam West Batman series) is overcome by the brilliantly out-there sets and costumes of Danilo Donati and the gorgeously saturated camerawork of Gilbert Taylor.  You can quibble with its tone or rue the unfortunate lead performance of the anti-charismatic Sam Jones, but there's no denying that this movie looks like the cover of a pulp novel come to glorious life. 

If the makers of John Carter had looked to it for inspiration, while finding a more serious tone of their own...ah, well.  It's just a trailer.  Maybe the movie will be better.  Maybe.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


So I had this dream last night, about which I mostly recall nothing, except that I repeatedly found myself in the lobby of a somewhat rundown theater.  For some reason, I would suddenly have to leave, and instead of going out the front door, as any normal person would, I'd head down a narrow hallway with a dim EXIT sign at the end.  Along the way, I'd pass a young woman talking on a pay phone. As I'd get to the door, she'd turn to me with some unintelligible words of advice.  "What?" I'd ask, just as I stepped out the door--right into a puddle.  Or snow bank.  Or passing garbage truck.

Hilarity!  Because the same thing keeps happening, you see, with slight variation, and, uh...

Okay, look, I know it's not that interesting.  I wouldn't even bring it up, except for the fact that I've always maintained that the running gag is one of the lamest bits in the comedy repertoire, and yet here I am dreaming of one.  But the point is, it's not funny in the least.  So that's, you know...something?


Fine.  Here's some actual entertainment: Marshall Crenshaw performing one of the songs I know I want played at my funeral.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


2:30 in the morning, and I'm walking dogs.  Isabella, of course, and Brody, who's staying here temporarily.  A beagle and a rat terrier.  She's spayed, he's neutered, but if they weren't they'd have the most adorable offspring.

Not that I'd have the energy to deal with puppies.  Sometimes I even wonder if I'll always be able to deal with the dog I've got.  The fact is, Bella's only two years old.  Beagles have an average life span of fifteen years.  She'll still be around when I'm sixty.

Which seems not as old as it once did, really.  And not as far away.  There was a time when I couldn't imagine being in my forties.  For that matter, I could never have imagined a lot of things that have happened in my life.

Brody pulls hard on his leash, Bella yanks in the opposite direction.  I try to assert my balance, and in the process stomp my foot.  Hard.  Pain shoots through me, I moan in agony.  The dogs stop and look at me with "You okay, man?" expressions.  Even when they're annoying, they mean well.

I stomped too hard on my bad foot, the one with a steel plate instead of a heel, the one that I broke in a suicide attempt when I realized my marriage was irrevocably broken.  That would be another thing that I would never have been able to imagine happening to me.

Not the suicide attempt or the divorce, but the marriage itself.  I drifted through my twenties filled with profound self-loathing, and the notion that anybody would want to be with me seemed...well, inconceivable.  I literally couldn't imagine such a thing happening.

Somehow, it did.  That it didn't last almost doesn't matter.  (Except for, you know, the physical and emotional scars that took forever to heal.)  Because eventually, having discovered that someone could stand to live with me, that maybe I wasn't so terrible (and despite the divorce, Sue Ellen and I remained friends), I somehow had the courage to wade out into the world again, to actually live.

Then things got weird, and good and bad.  A life was lived, almost without me realizing it.  I discovered that I could be a good guy, or an asshole, or sometimes utterly indifferent.  And I fell in love again, and got my heart broken again, but that's how it goes, I guess.

Still.  Things get better.  Janie's in my life, and everything's different.  She's my age, and we've both had eventful lives.  We've both lost our parents, for one thing, so we've had that defining moment of it-can't-get-any-worse.  Things still hurt, but not as deeply.  But we can still feel, and still love.

Brody's ears pop up and down as he looks around, all his sense firing.  Bella is onto some scent, her nose low to the ground.  I gently tug their leashes and they turn, following my lead.  "Come on, guys," I say.  "Let's go home."

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I had absolutely no idea what I was doing on the evening of April 22nd, 1978, until I stumbled across this clip on YouTube.

Then the evening started reconstructing itself.  Dad and I were home alone that night.  Mom and Julie were presumably doing something together--possibly school related?--but were was John?  Odd that he would have been off somewhere without me. 

But, regardless, that was the case.  Dad, me and Saturday Night At The Movies.  The weird thing is, watching this was my idea.  I remember that, but I have no recollection as to why I would have wanted to watch.  It wasn't to make fun--Dad wouldn't have been the proper viewing partner for that.  But I remember actively reading Dad the TV Guide listings for everything else that night and making a strong case for Airport '75.  I guess...I was in the mood to watch Chuck Heston in shades?

Anyway, it started, and Dad and I were enjoying--he laughed at some of the corny humor involving George Kennedy, and he actively watched, instead of leafing through a magazine as he sometimes did during evening TV hours. Maybe he sensed this was a rare opportunity for the two of us to bond over something, however unlikely?

Maybe forty minutes in, conveniently during a commercial break, we heard a car coming down the lane.  Not Mom, not John, too early for them to be home--though I have no memory of where they were, they must have told us when they'd be back--so it must  Sure enough, it was my brother Keith and his family, which meant visiting, which meant not seeing the rest of the movie.

"OK if I finish watching this upstairs?" I asked Dad without waiting for the response and headed to my room, swinging through the kitchen and scooping beloved cat Farrah off the kitchen counter on the way. (TV is always better with a viewing companion, even one that's furry, multi-colored and barely senient.)   I pulled my door shut, plopped the cat on the bed and watched the rest of the movie on a small black-and-white screen.  It wasn't as good as the Quasar in the living room, but then again, Airport '75 isn't exactly noted for its bold use of color.  I had a good time watching it, although it failed to keep Farrah awake.

Why do I remember this evening?  Or more to the point, why had I forgotten it completely until stumbling across this promo?  What other memories reside perfectly-formed in my head, waiting only for the proper trigger to release them?  

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Last Sunday, a church in my neighborhood hosted what its signage referred to as "A Michelle Bachman Event".  Since the event took place on a Sunday, in conjunction with regular services, would that not mean the church was offering a tacit endorsement of Bachman for president?  And if so, shouldn't that immediately cause the church to lose its sweet, sweet tax-exempt status?

The law is pretty clear on that, but the Republican party increasingly believes itself to be above the law.  And not just the laws of man; clearly, it has no use for the laws of God, or at least for the intent of the man all Republicans loudly proclaim as their savior, Jesus Christ.

Consider Michelle Bachman.  She was absolutely, fanatically opposed to raising the debt ceiling, whatever the consequences may have been.  Her oft-stated mantra is, we don't need to borrow and spend more, we need to cut and save.

Oh, but what would Michelle cut?  The same thing all the other Republicans would cut: "Entitlement" programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start.  Programs, obviously, designed to help the neediest among us, the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged.  No Republican is quite brazen enough to come right out and say "Fuck the poor" but they don't really need to: Deeds speak so much louder than words.

These people, again, stridently proclaim their Christianity.  But how do they balance their tireless advocacy for the wealthy, their blatant disregard for the poor, with the actual words of Jesus, as found in Matthew 25: 31-46.  We'll use the King James version, for the sake of tradition:

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

I mean, that's not the least bit ambiguous, is it? The meaning is clear, right? So if you claim to live your life according to the teachings of someone, and blatantly ignore everything he stood for just to further your own personal agenda...

I guess what I'm saying is, enjoy your everlasting fire, Michelle.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Oh, I've meant to post stuff.  It's not like there's nothing to talk about.  But whenever I felt like discussing, say, the whole debt-ceiling debacle, I'd find myself getting more and more depressed and...well, who needs that?  Not you, faithful reader.  And certainly not me.

Still, as a way of generating some sort of new content here, we turn--as we haven't for awhile--to out old friend YouTube.  This interstitial from the first season of Sesame Street handily displays everything that made that show such a watershed for developing young minds--it has a dreamy, free associative quality that allows a viewer's mind to wander where it will, and (thanks mostly to the music) a somewhat melancholy feel as well.  Nothing made for kids these days is like this anymore--certainly not the current incarnation of Sesame Street--and we're all poorer for that.

All well and good, but let's face it: I'm including this mostly because it has a beagle. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011


So Jerry Lewis was at some TV critic's confab or other, there to promote a cable TV documentary about his career, and, as usually happens when he makes a public appearance, he took the opportunity to reveal his essential Jerry Lewis-ness, his uncanny ability to deliver a few observations that are undeniably cogent and wise, but mixed with a noxious egotism and a profound inability to understand when too much is way more than enough.

He railed against reality TV: "The medium is busy knocking its brand out to display the fat lady at 375 pounds who in two months is gonna be 240.  Who gives a shit?"

He railed against the movie industry, technology and pretty much anything that popped into his mind: "The industry has destroyed themselves.  It's no longer relevant because it puts all its product on a stupid phone.  You're going to put Lawrence Of Arabia on that goddamned stupid sonofabitch?  [Social media] are wonderful technical advances, but once people see how much its cluttering up their life, they'll figure it out for themselves.  We're not going to have human beings in twenty years.  People won't be talking to other human beings."

All well and good, and pretty much dead-on (although, hey Jerry, why do you have to work blue?), but the problem is, who the hell is Jerry Fucking Lewis to complain about people not talking to other human beings?  This guy's whole life has been spent holding grudges against people who dared to contradict him, or told him something he didn't want to hear, or simply asked him a question.  (My favorite part of the DVD commentary tracks of Lewis' Paramount titles were his muttered passive-aggressive asides about journeyman cinematographer Wallace Kelley, who shot most of Lewis' films.  I gather Kelley once may have made the mistake of actually taking credit for a lighting effect or something, thus giving the impression that they weren't personally crafted by The Total Filmmaker himself.)

As happened, for instance, at this very same event, when someone asked him about his self-announced plans to retire after this year's Muscular Dystrophy telethon.  "Who told you that?  I never read it.  Anything you read, read it twice."

Lest you think Jerry was just being coy, making with the funny and the ha-ha, when another reporter asked him what his exact role would be on this year's telethon, he responded, "It is none of your business."

Geez, Jerry.  "I didn't mean to sound rude, but on September 5th, the day after that program, I will have an international press conference, and I will have plenty to say about what I think is important, and that is the future, not the past."

Now see, this is where this almost gets poignant, or would if it weren't kind of creepy, like a Krusty The Clown remake of Sunset Boulevard.  Here's Jerry Lewis at 85, faced with the prospect that his annual 24-hour telethon, once a beloved national institution, has been cut down to six hours, a sure sign that the world has moved on, but he can't quite deal with reality.  No, he'll hold an "international press conference" to clarify his role in this thing that nobody cares about.  Clearly, in Lewis' mind, the world still revolves around him.  He's still as big as ever, it's the telethon that got small.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Every Friday, I picked Sue up from her van pool.  We'd never go home; we'd go out to eat somewhere, usually someplace quick and cheap, a KFC or a Subway.  It might have been nice to go someplace better, to linger over fine food, to laugh and share our thoughts.

No time for that, though.  She saw her therapist on Friday evenings.  She liked to get there a little early, to sit in solitude and gather her thoughts.  Me, I had my own ritual: I'd keep driving up the Rockville Pike to the Borders bookstore in Germantown.

It was an unnecessary drive in a way, since we had a Borders in our own neighborhood.  The one in Germantown had a different vibe, though.  The cafe area dominated the entire front section, and on weekends it featured live acoustic music.  I'd linger in the magazine section--every Borders seemed to stock a different lineup of magazines--listening, reading, relaxing.  It was, in a way, my own form of therapy: with that weekly ritual, I purged whatever demons I may have been wrestling at the time.  I began to relax, to be still.

During those waning months of my marriage, I had any number of Borders stores I haunted with some frequency.  The one in Northern D.C. had the best selection of DVDs and graphic novels, the one at White Sands had the most eclectic lineup of fiction and media studies.  Still, I wondered, why so many stores?  Why not have one huge location combining all the best features of every store?

Indeed, the seemingly insatiable need for expansion, to place an outlet in every conceivable market, was one of the factors cited in the decision of Borders' corporate overlords to shutter the entire chain.  There were other reasons--the tanking economy, the rise of e-books--but expansion overkill was almost certainly the last straw.

For consumers, however, the signs of the end had come in the form of the chain's reaction to slowing sales of recorded music and movies: the once substantial (if overpriced) music and movie sections were reduced by half or more, if not eliminated entirely, and replaced by a bizarre assortment of pop-culture gewgaws.  The Borders here in the Des Moines suburbs carried so many Nightmare Before Christmas-themed figurines and board games, it felt more like Hot Topic, albeit a brightly-lit Hot Topic that sold a metric ton of Tom Clancy novels.

That particular location closed a few months ago, and though I had spent many, many happy hours there over the years, in the end, I wasn't sorry to see it go.  It had turned into nothing more than a delivery system for the latest best-sellers, and the author most likely to stop by for a book signing was Sarah Palin.  It was no longer a place for me, or anyone who cares about books, and it never would be again.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I sit on top of the passenger car, surveying the nocturnal landscape.  The outskirts of a small town--a meatpacking plant, a filling station, a river snaking through the night.  Just as I'm figuring out my surroundings, I hear noise at the end of the train.

I climb down.  A family--an old woman, two distracted adults and several small children--of indeterminate ethnicity insists that I participate in their ritual. Glowing rings appear in their hands, are tossed in the air, and all family members catch them, expertly.  One ring is flipped to me.  I catch it, barely, but it tries to pull from my hand.  I let it go, and it flutters briefly, then clatters to the ground.  Only now it is no longer a ring, its hollow center is full, like a bottle cap.  All other rings, their centers also full, fall to the earth, their magical glow extinguished.

The old woman regards me with great sadness.  "Death," she says.  "Death will follow you."

"Follow me where?" I ask, climbing without much enthusiasm into one of the elegantly-appointed cars of the train.

"Everywhere."  She pulls the door shut.

Cats and dogs, some remembered, some unknown, crawl through the car.  I ignore them, drawn to the rickety steps with the railing around them, illuminated by a single bulb.  A shelf runs along one side of the stairs, filled with old board games--Clue and Monopoly, sure, but also Dark Shadows and Mr. Ree! and Planet Of The Apes.  That last one was mine, of course, and I want to stop and linger over it, but I continue down the stairs.  There should be a little dresser at the bottom, with the bathroom on the other side, and the familiar clutter of the dining room all around--this is the house I grew up in right?  Something long dead and all that?

But no.  I get to the bottom of the stairs and it's just another car in the train.  The club car, and really?  This is the death following me?  Skeletons and cheesy-looking zombies dressed in old-timey suits?  This is supposed to represent what?

I slide open the door of the club car and continue on to the front of the train--or possibly the back, since I have no idea which direction I'm going.  There's a car full of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, and kind of like the cats and dogs, some are more familiar than others, but I focus on a screened-in area beside this car, filled with diffuse, unearthly sunlight.  I enter, making awkward conversation with more people I barely know.

But I recognize them.  They're musicians who worked briefly with my ex-wife.  Some of them are perfectly cordial, some are pissy and bitter, holding inexplicable grudges against me.  One is particularly vocal, and I cut him off by saying, "Hey, I just wanted her to make a halfway decent album, and you couldn't deliver."

"Yeah," he says, "but what about what she wanted?"

Death.  Yeah, I get it.  My marriage.  Ha.  Very symbolic, like that stupid MASH episode where we see everyone's dreams.  Next thing you know I'll be floating in a river of severed limbs, just like Hawkeye, and please, God, can I never think of that again, or any episode of MASH from the BJ-with-a-moustache era?

The train stops.

Or simply ceases to exist, since I don't actually disembark.  I stand at some sort of crossroad--ooh! symbolism!--deciding which way to go.  The landscape looks vaguely familiar--kind of like the bottom of Cemetery Hill, but not really--so I just pick a direction at random and start walking.

Soon enough, I'm joined by Paul, who greets me with his usual, "Hey."

"Hey.  How was the new Harry Potter?" I ask.

"Do you want me to tell you?  I'll be seeing it again with you..."

"Yeah, I know, and that's why I'm thinking this whole 'death will follow you' thing just isn't making much sense.  I mean, yeah, I dated your Mom, and that didn't work out, so sure, another failed relationship, another 'death'"--I make sure to deploy ironic air quotes--"but you and I still hang out."

"Yeah, we're hanging out right now."

I stop walking.  "But you're not actually here."

And indeed he's not.  The road has stopped at a large white house, with a neatly-trimmed lawn and a river running beside it.  People sit on the steps, people I should know, dressed like cast members from The Waltons in their Sunday-go-to-meetin'-time clothes.  They're portrayed by ex-cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000 because why the hell not, but they're passing around old photos and mementos and things I should know.  They're talking about Mom, but they're getting the details wrong.

"You can't know," I say.  "You weren't there.  I wasn't there, either, I wasn't there, even though she asked me.  She wanted me to come up that Monday night, to crash at her place before I took her to the doctor the next day, but I begged off because I was tired, and so she fell and when I got there Tuesday she had that horrible bruise on her head and she was hallucinating and...Maybe if I'd been there, maybe if I'd been there..."

My tear-filled eyes make the sun-dappled water in the river shimmer more than usual, then it twinkles, and I realize there is no river, it's just an elaborate video display, and the image changes to a wall of ads for nineties hip-hop albums.  There are shelves all around, books and DVDs and old LPs.  Mom sits beside me in a plush leather chair.

"I'm afraid I could spend some money here," I say.

"Do you have money to spend?" Mom asks.

"Some, yeah."

She smiles.  "If you see something you want, you should get it.  If you wait, it may not be there when you come back."  Her words hang in the air, fading.  I realize I'm coming back into the waking world.

There's a cat on my pillow and a cat at the foot of the bed.  Janie is in my arms.  I pull her a little closer as she sleeps, feeling her breathing.  The fan gently blows the cord of the window blinds, and I listen as it bounces against the wall, clack, clack, clack.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Wow. It seems as if new posts here, already decreasing in frequency, are becoming as rare as Bigfoot sightings. I haven't died, and I haven't officially decided to vacate this space.

I just...don't have much of an urge to write anymore. This could very well pass, but it could take some time, and whatever readership I may have actually built up here (Ha!) will likely grow bored and move on. And who could blame them? There's nothing here to read!

But you're still here, aren't you, Theoretical Person Reading This? You decided to show up, and for your effort, you deserve some kind of entertainment. Since I'm not capable of providing that myself, here's a typically lurid TV spot from a late seventies slasher classic. They really don't make 'em like this anymore.

Friday, July 01, 2011


Flipping the channels yesterday, I unexpectedly came across an episode of this.

I hadn't thought of this show for...geez, decades, I suppose.  It ran for a season and a half back in the mid-seventies, and it never really lived on in syndication.  Like most TV, it was there briefly, then gone forever.

But seeing it again, with that montage-heavy opening, so typical of its era, and Merle Haggard's theme song, and Claude Akins' craggy face and Frank Converse's epic moustache, I was suddenly transported back in time, to a very specific and vivid memory.

I'm sitting on one end of the couch with comic books scattered on the floor around me, and my oldest brother Keith sits on the other end, a paperback in his hand, though he's watching more than reading.  Dad is in his recliner, his ever-present can of Grain Belt beside him, and Mom in her chair.  My brother John, sipping an iced tea in his rocking chair, watches as well, though perhaps ironically.  My sister Julie sits at the old school desk beside the couch, a textbook and paper in front of her.

The TV is tuned to Movin' On, of course, and it's still the old black-and-white Philco, not the Quasar color set we'd acquire by the time this show reached its second season, when we could see Akins' Kenworth rig in all its green glory.  Dad and Keith keep a running commentary going about that Kenworth, about how they show it doing things it simply wasn't capable of, and Keith uses the phrase "Hollywood jive" to describe the show more than once. 

Mom watches intermittently, looking up whenever Converse is onscreen, returning to her cozy British mystery novel whenever the focus shifts back to Akins. Julie is completely disengaged from the whole thing, scribbling furiously at her homework.

Me, I'm just sort of there, zoning in and out, happy just to have a moment with so many of us together.  My brother Mike is already married, my sister Ann off to college, but here the rest of us sit, gathered around the cathode-ray fireplace, everything else in the world miles away, and I am content.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Despite my ongoing obsession with the astonishingly misconceived musical Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark, I didn't bother writing anything about the official opening of the show last week.  Since the ousting of its formerly "visionary" director/co-writer/co-designer Julie Taymor, the show, according to most critics, turned out exactly as anyone could have predicted: Instead of Taymor's batshit insane down-in-flames grab for glory, the show instead became dully respectable, a competent salvage job of something that shouldn't have been salvaged.

So okay, we saw that coming, nothing more to say...except Taymor, who should have shut up and moved on a long time ago, felt moved this weekend to talk about what became of her baby. 

Speaking to a conference of theatrical types, she proclaimed her disgust with her Spider-man producers, who, in a desperation move as Taymor's show missed numerous opening dates, used focus groups to try to salvage something from the show.  "It's very scary if people are going to move towards that, to have audiences tell you how to make a show.  Shakespeare would have been appalled.  Forget about it.It would be impossible to have these works come out because there's always something that people don't like."

Sure, Julie.  Except Shakespeare cannily tailored his plays to the audience of the time, mixing his deeper themes with low comedy specifically designed to appeal to the groundlings.  Also, he could write--once the script was set, it was rehearsed and performed.  There was no "process" to "discover" the show, no endless reworkings of crazy theatrical concepts at the expense of coherent storytelling.

Besides, Taymor's producers only turned to the focus groups after she was fired from the show.  She was given months and months and months and months to "find" her show, and she never did.  She wasted seventy million dollars of investors' money on her ridiculous notions--Spider-man as a supporting character in a show about the power of myth, or some fucking thing--and she would have been perfectly happy to keep spending, with no regard for what her producers needed (that is, a profitable show) or an audience might have wanted (some kind of entertainment).

Of course, those pesky audiences were part of the problem, according to Taymor: "Twitter and Facebook and blogging just trump you.  It's very hard to create.  It's incredibly difficult to be under a shot glass and microscope like that."

Well, granted, it would be hard to be under both a shot glass and a microscope, but inexplicable metaphors are nothing new for Taymor.  But again, much of the online chatter about the show's astounding non-quality came once previews started.  Once you're asking audiences to pay for tickets--at full prices, mind you; there were no discounts during the preview period--they're going to respond.  That's how the process works.  And if the audience is overwhelmingly telling you that your show has problems, you fix them.  If you can't do that, your producers have every right to fire your ass.

Sure, I'm usually all about the artist here, but Taymor was working on a Broadway musical, where the rules have always been in place.  And the first rule has always been: It's all about the show.  Directors, songwriters, authors, even big-money stars have all been replaced when shows are in trouble.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but Taymor acts as though it's all brand new. 

The biggest mistake the producers of Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark made was not dumping Taymor much earlier in the process.  Like, for instance, when she submitted an incoherent script that had very little to do with the title character.  Or after the first, say, ten million bucks were spent with nothing to show for it.  After sixty million more was spent, firing Taymor was a mercy killing.

Now if they'd just close the show altogether, we could all pretend this never happened, and I'd finally shut up about it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


When you see the headline Arizona Town Cashes In On Rock Song, there is no need to click on the story because OF COURSE it will be about the citizens of Winslow taking advantage of the town's fleeting mention in that stupid, stupid Eagles song.

And sure enough, Winslow has installed a bronze statue of a "floppy-haired man with a guitar" (this description, like the story itself, comes from The New York Times, the Arts & Entertainment section of which has clearly seen better days)on a corner near--sigh--Standin' On The Corner Park, which is odd because unless I'm mistaken the actual lyrics of the song are, "standin' on A corner in Winslow Arizona" but  why split (floppy) hairs?  Once you've decided to name a park after a line in an overplayed country-rock groaner from the seventies, you've already taken leave of your senses.  Oh, and hey, there's an annual Standin' On The Corner Festival that draws "thousands" (according to the Times, which I suspect didn't do a lot of fact-checking on this particular story), so...dear God, I can't go on.

The notion of thousands--or even dozens--of people reorganizing their lives just so they'll have time to attend something called the Standin' On The Corner Festival fills me with a sense of overpowering despair.  Everybody is entitled to their own obsessions, and it's not like I, with my Jerry Lewis obsession, have any room to question anybody's taste.  But still, people making a pilgrimage to a town just because of its mention in a fucking Glenn Frey song...

Seriously.  Kill me now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


This headline from the Associated Press says it all: Pretty In Pink's Andrew McCarthy Writing Memoir.  And by "says it all," I mean the AP used the headline to remind us who McCarthy is, or more accurately, was--a guy who was in a semi-loved movie, though he's not the reason anyone liked it.  They could also have said Weekend At Bernie's Star Andrew McCarthy Writing Memoir, but then readers would be scratching their heads trying to remember which of the two remarkably uninteresting leads from Bernie's was McCarthy and which was the other guy.

Anyway, the point is--Andrew McCarthy is writing a memoir?  Seriously?  According to the AP story, which reads suspiciously like a slightly-reworked press release, it will reveal how McCarthy's "journeys helped him defeat his fear of love and commitment."  All well and good, but hopefully there will be room for discussions of his distinguished film career, including, um, Pretty In Pink.  And Weekend At Bernie's.  Plus that all-time box-office smash Fresh Horses, and of course that awful Gertrude Stein/Alice B. Toklas thing he was in.  And Weekend At Bernie's 2!

When a megastar of McCarthy's magnitude decides to sit down and spill the beans, it behooves us all to pick up a copy.  And take a nice, refreshing nap.