Saturday, April 28, 2012


As I sit at my desk, the Beagle feels the need to remind me of her presence.  She scampers up to my side while chomping a squeaky toy, which she promptly drops on the floor.  I pick up the rubber turkey leg and toss it into the living room.  Immediately, she brings it back and drops it on the floor.  I toss it back into the living room.  Immediately, she brings it back and drops it on the floor.  Changing it up, I toss it into the kitchen. 

Immediately, she brings her food dish and drops it on the floor.

A simple, perfect gag, impeccably executed.  Of all the many reasons to treasure Isabella, this may rank above all others: She makes me laugh.  Not smile warmly or chuckle fondly, but full belly laughs.  She's been in my life for two years this month, and the joy I feel for knowing her is present in that laughter.  My life is richer, more whole, in ways I could never have imagined.  No matter what nightmarish turns life may take, I know she'll be there, head tilted, tail wagging, eager to please, effortlessly sweet, eternally loved.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Sitting in a Sears Auto Center, noticing a poster for a particular brand of brakes, I turned to my wife and, adopting the hyperbolic tone of a movie trailer announcer, loudly proclaimed, "Antonio Banderas IS Raybestos!"

Without missing a beat, Sue Ellen, rolling every r, responded, "Now, Antonio Banderas returns in Raybestos 2: The Reckoning."

I mention this exchange not because it was particularly witty (though it seemed hilarious at the time) but to give an idea what my marriage was like.  Every quip had to be met with another, each one funnier or more elaborate than the last.  We'd improv entire conversations in character, or suddenly start singing and dancing in the living room.  It was like being trapped inside a mid-nineties Friends knockoff; everything we did--everything we did--became self-conscious and ironic.  We were always on.

Which, as you might imagine, was exhausting.  And doomed to failure--this month marks the ten-year anniversary of the spectacular, and spectacularly ugly, end of my marriage.

I'll skip all the details because, frankly, I don't want to remember them.  The point is, there was a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, but also a gradual realization that Sue Ellen and I were the only two people in the world who knew exactly what went down.

So we started talking again, partly to work out some lingering issues, but mostly because we realized we still had a lot in common.  We became friends, which is maybe all that we should have been all along.  Friends can trade funny lines back and forth, but then leave it alone because they don't have to live together. 

Time moved on.  We met other people, and discovered the happiness we somehow could never quite provide for each other.

And I'm very happy now with Janie, who has absolutely nothing in common with Sue Ellen beyond their shared amusement at my insistence that I'm not obsessed with Star Wars.  (I'm not, really.  Try getting me started on Batman: The Animated Series and we'll be here all day.)

Whatever my obsessions are (for that matter, you can easily get me going all day on the greatness of John Carpenter movies or Mystery Science Theater 3000), Janie doesn't share them.  That's okay, though; she has her own enthusiasms and interests.  We can be together and still live our own lives, as long as there is love and mutual respect.

As for Sue Ellen and me, we still talk occasionally, but not so often or at such length.  We had what we had, and it still matters, but not like it did.  It blends into an increasingly hazy past, a fading that is perhaps the only constant in life.

Monday, April 02, 2012


I don't read Salon.  It's the type of thing aimed at well-off kinda-sorta liberals, a slightly more interesting online version of The New Republic and not my sort of thing.  So I can't tell you if their political articles are any more well-researched or knowledgeable than this piece, a hugely uninteresting article with a questionable premise that is just wrong in every conceivable way.

Author Michael Barthel details the way movie trailers have changed in the digital era.  For the first century of film, even into the late nineties, movie previews were staid, hidebound things, designed to put seats into asses but certainly nothing innovative.  Trailers today, Barthel argues have changed in so many ways--where they used to rely on stentorian narrators, now they use onscreen text.  Whereas they used to feature dull soundscapes, now they are far more sophisticated in their aural design.  And most of all, trailers have become marvels of fast, innovative editing.  All in the last twenty years!

Uh-huh.  Here's a trailer from 1963.

Almost subliminal cutting, an inventive use of sound, no narrator (except to give the title, and even that's done as a joke)--pretty much gives the lie to everything Barthel claims, doesn't it?  Of course, maybe I'm being unfair.  Dr. Strangelove is one of the greatest films ever made, and director Stanley Kubrick personally obsessed over the ad campaigns for his films.  Barthel, presumably, is talking about more obviously commercial movies, big blockbusters, popcorn entertainment.

Specifically, he seems obsessed with the ad for Ridley Scott's upcoming Prometheus.

"It is amazing," Barthel gushes.  "There's no narration...few shots last for more than a second, and it builds from a quiet beginning to ear-shredding shrieks accompanying micro-second glimpses of huge effects shots."  That's an accurate enough description of the Prometheus trailer (though I don't find it particularly "amazing")...but it would also--right down to the shrieking soundtrack, something Barthel claims "simply didn't exist twenty years ago"--describe the 1979 trailer for Scott's Alien, the movie that inspired Prometheus.

In other words, Barthel doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.  There's been a "revolution" (his word, not mine) in the crafting of trailers in recent years, but not in the way he suggests.  Where ad campaigns used to be carefully tailored to each individual movie, the same generic style is used for pretty much every movie made these days.  Barthel's breathless description of the Prometheus trailer could as easily apply to The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers or any Michael Bay movie ever. 

In fact, sitting through the trailers has become one of the most painful aspects of moviegoing, a joyless slog through the same overly familiar editing patterns, the same library music, the same thing over and over and over again.  This type of thing doesn't make me want to see the movie.  It makes me want to run in the other direction.