Monday, January 30, 2012


Walking down the corridors of a hospital at night, the thing that immediately stands out is the blue TV light shining from patient rooms, and the sounds of different channels wafting into the halls.

The mix is always pretty mainstream.  Sports.  Religious broadcasts.  Sitcoms, both old and new.  Shitty Ben Stiller movies that would have been comfortably forgotten had they not been repurposed into basic cable staples.  Nothing really demanding of anyone's time or attention.

That's the point, of course.  People in a hospital, whether patients or visitors, are a captive audience, but they tune into these shows for the same reason people at home do: Because they're there, and there's nothing else to do.

This sort of TV is often described as the audio-visual equivalent of comfort food, but that's not quite true.  A meatloaf and mashed potato dinner may be full of calories and starches, but it will still provide some form of nourishment.  This sort of TV doesn't do that--quite the opposite.  It deadens the mind and senses.

Sometimes that's needed.  There are times in our lives when there is literally nothing else to do, and all that's left is to kill some time.  That's the job of most TV, and it does it well.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Since this will only be my fourth post for the month, it doesn't seem possible that I could become less prolific around here, but enormous changes in my work schedule are likely to have some sort of trickle-down effect on my writing time. 

What this means, I can't really say.  It's going to take some time to readjust all the other patterns of my life, and quite honestly, writing isn't as much of a priority as it used to be.  I'll presumably pop back here from time to time, but it may take some time before that happens. 

For now, let me just note the passing of Robert Hegyes, Juan Epstein from Welcome Back, Kotter, my favorite sitcom when I was eleven.  It's funny how the clips of Brooklyn street life in the opening credits look vaguely hellish today, but when I was a kid, I longed desperately to go there, to be anywhere away from the isolation of the country.  Now, of course, I'd give anything to go back to the life I once had, the life I once hated, the life that is gone forever. 

Sorry, did I say "funny"?  That may not have been the word I meant...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The thing is, I get up absurdly early every day in order to give myself time to write.  And great googly moogly, it's not as though there's nothing to write about. 

The baffling persistence of Newt Gingrich, for instance, and the stunning hypocrisy of the Republican party.  The post-death treatment of Joe Paterno by the press, which may make a few concessions to his "tarnished legacy" but still insists that the greatness of being a winning football coach somehow trumps looking the other way as his assistant fucked little boys.  Or even the Oscar nominations, which...seriously?  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close?  Did anybody like that?

But, as always, I find something--anything--to do with my time to avoid writing.  Playmate Of The Apes was on cable, and who can resist the lure of fake tits and bad puns?  That was followed by The Pope Of Greenwich Village, the movie that by itself derailed the career momentum of Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke.  Neither of these movies are remotely worth watching, despite either abundant nudity or a fine cast that includes Geraldine Page, Kenneth McMillan and M. Emmet Walsh, and yet I sat through them anyway.

Then sat down and knocked this thing out in a couple of minutes, just to reassure myself that, yes, I'm still writing.  Sort of.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


1) I really don't want to turn this space into a series of musings over songs heard on my cable company's "Seventies Gold" music service, but once again I had it on in the background this morning while I was doing other things (by "other things" I mean reading the Wikipedia entry on Mamie Van Doren), and this came on in the background.

And the thing is, it took me awhile to realize what it was.  It sounded like just another sensitive singer/songwriter from an era loaded with 'em, and as such, it didn't really seem, you know, bad.  Then at some point I realized, "Oh my God, it's David Soul," and I remembered I was supposed to treat this song with the sneering condescension I regularly bring to clips of Lynda Carter variety specials and whatnot, but honestly, it really isn't bad.

Also, honestly?  David Soul's a pretty good actor.

2) So I'm wandering around a department store today and I keep running into the same little kid, who is being chased everywhere by his mom, who keeps calling him by name: "Xander!  Come back here!"  "Xander!  Put that down!"  "Xander!  This isn't a playground!"

Though I realize there are any number of reasons why she might have named her kid Xander, I prefer to conclude that she's a big fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Because it makes me happy.

3) Janie's dozing in the other room, the TV tuned to back-to-back showings of Young Guns and Young Guns 2.  Periodically I feel the need to try watching these things, to see if time has been kind to them, as programmer Westerns from the fifties starring the pretty boy likes of Rock Hudson and Robert Wagner have aged better than might have seemed possible at the time.

Of course, those fifties movies had the advantage of the occasional Douglas Sirk or Nick Ray directing, whereas the Young Guns movies were helmed by the auteurs of Gone Fishin' and Freejack.  And even though Emilio Estevez's stock has risen in recent years by simply not being as awful as Martin Sheen's other kid, he's still absolutely terrible in this movie, as are his fellow "guns"--Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater.  Also, dropping in better actors (Alan Ruck, Jenny Wright) or authentic cinematic icons (Terence Stamp, Jack Palance) does its stars no favors.

And seriously, Young Guns 2--you really want to throw a cameo from James Coburn into your crappy Billy The Kid movie?  Because anything that makes a viewer think how they could be watching Sam Peckinpah's magnificent Pat Garret & Billy The Kid instead of this piece of shit would seem to be a thing to avoid.  But what do I know?  It's not like I directed Freejack.

4) To be fair, it's not that basic cable perennial Freejack is a bad movie (though it is) so much as the single laziest, most unnecessary thing ever projected on a screen.  Literally every single aspect of this thing had been done before, and better.  As bad as movies are now, I sometimes forget just how bad things were in the late eighties and early nineties.  (Newsies--enough said.)  Next time I'm sitting through the trailer for the latest Resident Evil sequel, I'll try to remember there was once a time when Hollywood thought we all wanted more Emilio Estevez or singin' and dancin' Christian Bale, and be, for lack of a better word, grateful.

5) Cats and dog.  Are they adorable?  Of course!

Saturday, January 07, 2012


Janie's sleeping in the other room, cats gathered all around her.  The dog is at my feet, and music plays softly in the background.

Specifically, Music Choice, courtesy of my local cable channel.  The choices are broken down according to genres and moods or, in this case, eras--I've got Seventies Gold playing, for no better reason than the hope some song will unexpectedly pop up that sparks a frisson of recognition, conjures a memory so vivid that it can't be shaken.

Because I haven't been having any of those lately.  Last Saturday, for instance, was the seventeenth anniversary of my wedding day.  The fact that the marriage has been dead for years is beside the point--it was still a milestone in my life, and you'd think, given my nature, I'd spend time ruminating over loss, impermanence, regret, what have you--that's what I do here, after all, to the extent I do anything at all.

Instead, it flashed through my mind once as I sat down to watch New Year's Rockin' Eve and that was that.  A good thing, I suppose, moving on and all that, but again, it just doesn't seem like me.  I obsess over things that were that will never be again.  A passing shrug?  Is that all I've got?  Really?

I'm eating Fudge Rounds and drinking Sprite for breakfast (because what's the point of living to adulthood if you can't do everything you wanted when you were six?) and when I finish, I take my empty glass to the kitchen.  Suddenly the mellow horn intro to the Bee Gees' Too Much Heaven wafts from the TV, and it happens.  I have a vivid memory of this song drifting from the radio as my brother John and I drove down 141 heading from the farm to Des Moines on yet another record-buying spree.  I'd just seen Brian DePalma's Obsession on TV, with its great, brooding Bernard Herrmann score, and I knew Music Den in Merle Hay Mall had the soundtrack, because I knew everything they had in regular stock, and where everything was, the details assembling in my head with remarkable clarity...

...Until CLANG!  Isabella has used her front paw to flip her water dish upside down, and it hits the linoleum with a reverie-shattering sound.  She looks at me, head tilted, tail wagging, big brown eyes in full-out soulful mode.  "You're in the kitchen," she seems to say.  "That means snacks, right?  I love snacks.  Also, I seem to have spilled my water.  Can you do something about that?"

As I get out a biscuit, refill the water and give the dog a big hug, the Bee Gees fade to background noise, and I realize any vivid memories of thirteen-year-old me are...well, only memories.  They matter, sure, but they don't--can't--define me.  Isabella scampers off, perfectly satisfied, briefly chasing Delmar and Staley, who'd come to the kitchen to see what all the noise was about.  I move quietly back to the bedroom and rest my head next to Janie, glad that I've learned to live in the here and now.