If I Could Bark

Hoo. Okay. Wow. Tears in my eyes.

I just watched the most heartrending 12 minutes of video I think I’ve ever seen in my life. If I Could Bark is about all the things you would say to your dog if you both spoke the same language. It’s about how much our dogs mean to us. It gets right to the very soul of the matter. It’ll make you want to hug the stuffing out of your dog.

So, what would I say to Quagmire if I could bark?

  • You are my best friend.

  • Sometimes you pull me back from the brink of a deep, dark depression just by being there.

  • You keep me warm at night, from the inside out.

  • Thank you for listening.

  • You make me feel loved.

  • I wish you could tell me all that you’ve been through, because I know it’s been a lot, and I want to comfort you.

  • You are what makes this house a home.

  • I’m every bit as happy to see you as you are to see me.

  • Sorry for putting antlers on you every Christmas. (Not really, though.)

  • Some people want me to give up on you, but I never will.

  • I will always take care of you. Always.

  • You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

  • I live to make you feel safe.

  • For heaven’s sake, stop barking so much. I get it. Someone is on our sidewalk. I’ve got it under control.

  • You are the best dog in the entire world.

  • I’m lucky to have you.

  • I can’t imagine life without you, but I know that day will come, and I dread it.

  • If I could keep only one thing in my world, I’d choose you. You are precious to me.

  • I love you so much.

  • Thank you for everything.

Quagmire Best Pic

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My Own Personal Pleasantville

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie “Pleasantville”, I highly recommend it. A boy from the 1990’s is obsessed with a sitcom from the 1950’s called Pleasantville. It’s your typical show of that era, showing a world that never actually existed, in black and white, where the mother wears pearls and high heels to do housework, the father gives sage advice and is highly respected, and the children are well mannered and, well… pleasant. But when 1990’s boy suddenly finds himself in Pleasantville, he starts to realize that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I seem to be living in Pleasantville since I recently bought my house. It’s in an isolated little valley where all the neighbors know each other, and everything feels safe and clean and drama-free. Everyone has a dog. I’m even on a first name basis with the mailman and the local convenience store clerk. It’s this oasis of calm, with each of us in our very own cute little houses.

At a time when the wider world seems ever more chaotic and scary, I love going home to my little valley. It’s like taking off shoes that are two sizes too small. Finally, a chance to wiggle my toes.

I love living in this fantasy land, and I’m going to do my best to maintain it for as long as I can. Are cracks forming in the façade? Well, yes. A few people in the neighborhood drink probably more than is warranted in certain situations. But so far, they’re happy when they drink, and I like them, and it’s really none of my business. One neighbor is passively aggressively critical of my benign neglect of my yard. Oh well. And I can’t get a decent cell phone signal to save my life.

But you know, in the overall scheme of things, those are problems I can live with. I love my little neighborhood. Just don’t expect me to wear high heels while I do housework. In fact, wouldn’t even count on me doing housework on a schedule that makes sense to anyone other than myself.

pleasantville

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Thank You for My Life

The other day I saw the movie Sully. I knew before I gazed up at the screen that it would be good. I absolutely love Tom Hanks, and when I heard about Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing his US Airways plane in the Hudson River and saving everyone on board back in 2009, I was absolutely stunned. So any movie that combined that story with that actor was bound to be excellent. And I was right. I highly recommend it.

But it really got me pondering the impact of saving multiple lives. Think about it. If your heroics mean that 155 people still roam the planet and they wouldn’t have otherwise, then every good thing they do moving forward is thanks to you. And every child they have after that is because of you. In a few short generations, you are responsible for the existence of at least a thousand people. That’s an incredible impact. It must be awfully hard to wrap your head around that.

If I had been on that flight, every year on the anniversary of the crash I’d write a letter to Mr. Sullenberger, and the first line would be, “Hello again, and thank you for my life.” Then I’d go on to tell him all the good things I had done or had tried to do in the past year. And then I would say that the only reason those things were possible was that he was the man piloting that plane on that day, and that I’d never forget what a gift my life is.

I wonder if anyone does that for him. I hope they do. He deserves it.

sully

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The Danish Girl

I had a very unique, delightful and emotionally fraught experience on my birthday recently. I invited a friend of mine who just happens to be transgender to go with me to see The Danish Girl, a movie about one of the very first people to go through gender reassignment surgery.

First of all, if you deprive yourself of this movie, it will be a tragedy. Not since Doctor Zhivago have I seen such epic cinematography that sweeps you up and places you right in the time and place, in this case Copenhagen, Paris, and Dresden in the late 1920’s. Every single frame of this film is a work of art.

And the costumes are luscious, the color vivid, the music spectacular. And the acting? If this movie doesn’t bring home a boatload of Oscars, especially for Eddie Redmayne, then there is something wrong in the universe.

So now let’s address the elephant in the room: the controversial subject matter. I can’t pretend to understand what it must be like to be transgender. I can’t imagine the struggle for acceptance, the feeling that you’re being forced by society to be someone that you really aren’t and never were, the utter confusion as you try to make it to selfhood despite the resistance of pretty much everyone around you. But this movie helped me imagine it more clearly than ever before.

And then try making this type of transition in the 1920’s, when many women weren’t even allowed to vote. Talk about piling on. It must have felt like trying to embrace being a sub-species. No doubt about it—Lili Elbe was very brave. And I just discovered, thanks to Wikipedia, that she shared my birthday! That makes me proud. While I watched that movie, celebrating my birthday, I was unknowingly celebrating hers, too.

The experience was all the more intense because of the friend sitting next to me. Every tear shed on screen, every physical blow endured, every yearning moment, seemed to be radiating outward from the seat beside me. It made me want to cry. And all I could do was hold her hand. In the face of such brave struggle, that gesture seemed pretty darned pathetic.

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Brand: A Second Coming

“I’m going to a special screening of that new Russell Brand documentary,” I said.

“Ugh! I can’t STAND that guy!” She said.

Yeah, I get it. He can be wildly inappropriate, completely insane, way over the top. He’s a gadfly. And when he screws up, he does so in an epic way. He flies too close to the sun, and I’m afraid he’s going to burn himself up before his time.

But I have to admit that I’m drawn to the guy. And it’s not just because I find him physically attractive, although that helps. I was hoping that this documentary would help me figure out what it is about him that appeals to me. And it did.

First of all, just going to this special screening was an experience. Everyone there was younger than me, more stylish than me. Very hip. (Or whatever the current equivalent of that word might be, and the very fact that I have no idea tells you all you need to know about how un-hip I truly am.) I kind of felt like a turd in a punchbowl. But that was okay, because I wasn’t there for them.

The documentary is about Russell Brand’s life, his struggle with drugs, his efforts to stay clean, and his struggles with fame. It’s about his desire to shed all the superficial crap that goes along with his current lifestyle, and his overwhelming desire to help people and actually make a difference in this world.

What fascinates me about Russell is he’s obviously a genius, but that fact is in constant struggle with his megalomania and his narcissism, which do not serve him well. There is this chaotic energy that surrounds this man that I’d find very hard to be around for any length of time.

So why would I bother seeing this movie? What drew me in? I think I’ve finally figured it out. He’s wide open, full on, and utterly, completely human. He makes mistakes on a grand scale, but he also tries so very hard to be good, to have a positive impact, to effect change.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that all any of us want to do? We just happen to do it in a much quieter, more compact way. Russell Brand is everyman, only boiled down to its most dense particles. Warts and all.

If you get a chance to see Brand: A Second Coming, I think it’s worth the time. Like it or not, it’ll make you think.

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Acquired Creepiness

I love scary movies. Not stupid and predictable slasher films. If there’s a chainsaw involved I’ll probably have a hard time suspending disbelief. No, I like psychological thrillers and movies that make you think. If a movie boggles my perspective and makes me feel as though I’m on unfamiliar ground, I’ll get the willies and I love that feeling. I have no idea why. Maybe I am an adrenaline junkie.

It takes intelligence to give me the creeps. Sure, if you jump up and shout boo it will startle me. (Actually it’ll probably irritate me.) But if you manage to make me think, “Whoa. Wait. What?” the hair on the back of my neck will stand straight up.

I think that’s because I derive the majority of my confidence from my intelligence. So when I don’t understand something, or when my worldview is, however temporarily, altered, I become unsettled. And when that happens, for a brief exciting moment I feel as if the very laws of physics can’t be relied upon.

My favorite horror movie is John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Its plot requires a huge amount of suspension of disbelief, but once you get past that minor detail it has a depth that most movies of this genre can’t be bothered to plumb. The symbolism alone is so complex that every time I see it I notice something new. (Plus it’s sort of fun to watch Alice Cooper impale someone with a bicycle. That’s something you won’t see every day.)

I just got finished watching an Australian film called Nature’s Grave (called Long Weekend in Australia). Nothing about that film is normal. There’s no hook for you to hang your emotional hat upon. Just as they do in the movie, you feel like you’re going in circles. You think you know where you’re headed, but then you keep coming back to that scary place that you normally try to avoid. It’s never a good idea to piss off Mother Nature.

Now I’ve got the chills, and everything around me seems ever so slightly off. If someone were to knock on the door right now for even the most innocent reason, selling Girl Scout cookies, perhaps, I’d probably jump right out of my skin.

Fair warning, both of the movies mentioned above have been panned by critics. That just reinforces my belief that most critics don’t like to think. It also reinforces my belief that I see the world differently than the average person. Whether that’s good or bad is open to debate.

The question is, why in God’s name do I seek out this sensation? Why do I attempt to acquire creepiness? I think it’s because I enjoy different perspectives. I’d like to open the door one day and see a lime green sky and be forced to figure out its implications. They probably wouldn’t be good, but what a fascinating way to go!

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Alice Cooper looking eerily like… Alice Cooper, in Prince of Darkness.

Money Well Spent?

Someone just bought the bike from the film Easy Rider for 1.35 million dollars. Stuff like this makes me want to scream. For a little bit of perspective, I did some research. Here’s what I found out. 1.35 million dollars equals any one of the following:

  • 54,000 microloans on Kiva.org, which in turn would allow 54,000 third world families to live healthier lives.
  • Enough food to feed 168,750 people for a day, or keep 462 people from starving for an entire year.
  • Enough mosquito nets to save 450,000 children in Africa from dying of malaria.
  • A full course of vaccines for 270,000 children, as provided by UNICEF
  • 6,750,000 pencils for under-supplied schools.
  • Enough wool blankets to keep 192,857 homeless people warm this winter.
  • 54,000 pairs of shoes for people who have been victims of natural disasters.
  • 67,500 LifeStraws, each of which can provide safe, drinkable water for an entire year.

So if you are the one who bought that damned motorcycle, I sure hope you enjoy the ride.

EASY RIDER, Peter Fonda, 1969

“Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”

That’s a quote from the movie Love Story, and after that movie came out in 1970, you saw it everywhere. I mean everywhere. It’s one of the top movie quotes of all time, and because of that, I think Erich Segal did us all a great disservice.

I mean, give me a break. If you truly love someone, you ought to have the courage to say you’re sorry when you screw up. Because you will screw up. Everyone does, sooner or later. You should say you’re sorry as often as necessary, and be sincere about it when you do. Love should not be an excuse for being a dick.

So many people in this world think it’s a blow to their ego to apologize or admit they’re wrong. In fact, being able to do so demonstrates one’s decency and respect for the other person. Admitting that you’re human and that you make mistakes shows maturity and emotional intelligence.

Being unwilling to say you’re sorry when it’s called for reveals that you are an emotionally stunted child, and perhaps you are not capable of holding up your end of a relationship and shouldn’t be in one. My mother used to say “When you make a mistake, try to fix it, but if you can’t, then own up to it.” I couldn’t agree more.

Saying you’re sorry is never fun, but it’s necessary for growth and to avoid festering resentment that will ultimately destroy the love that is there. Saying you’re sorry means you’re more interested in making amends than you are in winning, and thus causing your partner to lose. People who can’t or won’t say it really are incapable of any healthy form of love.

A better quote would be, “Love means having the guts to say you’re sorry.” Or even better, “Love means doing the best you can to never have a reason to say you’re sorry, but saying you’re sorry when you do have good reason.” Okay, so it’s not as catchy. So sue me. Er… I’m sorry.

Love Story

The Worst Movie I’ve Ever Seen

It’s four o’clock in the morning and I’m at work with absolutely nothing to do. Thank God for cable TV, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case at 4 a.m. I settled on a movie called “Trucks”. Based on a Stephen King story, this movie was made in 1997 and starred Timothy Busfield, an actor I’ve always liked, so in spite of the cheesy description (“A gas-station owner must figure out a way to stop a band of marauding, driverless vehicles.”) I figured, what the heck. Not like I had anything better to do.

This is supposed to be a horror film, but it was so bad that it wound up feeling more like a comedy. Here were some of the highlights. Or maybe they should be called lowlights.

  • A group of people are trapped in a restaurant together as driverless trucks drive around and around and around out front, and Timothy Busfield earnestly says that the one advantage they have is that they’re smarter than the trucks.
  • One man posits that this situation must surely have something to do with Area 51.
  • A postman is delivering mail on a mysteriously deserted business street (perhaps he is delivering on a Sunday, who knows?), when a tonka truck bursts through the window of a toy store and crashes into his ankle. He says ouch. The truck backs up and hits him again. He falls in the street. The truck rams his head. Candy apple red blood spurts everywhere. The toy truck rams him over and over again until he’s dead. Close up on the truck, with slimy guts all over the radiator.
  • Busfield spends a great deal of time figuring out how to distract the trucks.
  • Redneck number 1 decides to make Molotov cocktails and throw them at one of the trucks. Redneck number 2 gets ticked off because the truck in question is his truck. So he runs outside and jumps behind the wheel, but of course he can’t control the truck. Redneck 1 throws another Molotov cocktail at the truck. The hood bursts into flame. The truck crashes into the building and it explodes, taking both rednecks with it.
  • A man is working on a truck that he intends to use to make their escape (because amidst all this chaos, he apparently hasn’t figured out that trucks are the enemy), and when he finally gets it fixed, the truck pins him against the garage door, crushing him to death. His hysterical wife chases the truck down and attacks it with an ax. She has to be knocked out with convenient tranquilizers. She later wanders off and gets run down by a truck that she apparently can’t hear coming and isn’t anticipating. Are they really smarter than the trucks?
  • Since they are trapped together in a building, being attacked by enemies, a guy who is supposed to be an aging flower child says, “Now we know how Mayor Daley felt in Chicago ’68.”
  • All the trucks converge in the parking lot and begin honking to each other. “They must be communicating,” Busfield says.
  • The people in the restaurant receive their news via an old television. On more than one occasion it shows static, then you hear the reporter’s voice, then the cook reaches up and turns a nob on the TV to tune it and they get to see the report. The only problem is there’s no nob on the TV.
  • Two teens take refuge from the trucks in a drainage ditch, and a demonic dump truck pours rocks to block their exit.
  • The payphone in the besieged parking lot begins to ring. Someone says, “Maybe we should answer that.” Someone else says, “It may be a trick.” Someone does answer, and of course gets mowed down by a truck.
  • Busfield finally figures out that the trucks want him to give them gas. He goes out and starts nervously pumping. His love interest races out to him and he says, “What are you doing? Get back inside!” She says, “No! You’re going to need help!”
  • The cook decides to shoot out one of the headlights of an approaching truck. That sends it into the ditch. In retaliation, another truck crashes through the restaurant. So Busfield shoots it. One shot and the whole place explodes.
  • A lineman with the power company is trying to restore power to the area since the trucks took out a transformer. He’s up in his cherry picker when his truck comes to life and rams him into the power lines where he’s electrocuted in a hail of sparks and bursts into flame. The truck actually growls in satisfaction.
  • The few survivors hike out of the area and are conveniently rescued by a helicopter, barely escaping annihilation by a semi-truck as they’re trying to get on board. Hurray! They’re saved. And then they notice (spoiler alert) no one is piloting the helicopter. The end.

I don’t know how they managed it, but they combined the worst special effects with the worst acting and the worst sound and the world’s most pathetic choice in music. It was just epically bad.Timothy Busfield must be mortified in retrospect. I’d love to know the thought process in making this movie. How many people looked at it and said, “Oh, yeah! This is going to be great!”  The director would have been better off playing it off as a comedy spoof of horror films, but apparently he took this fiasco seriously right to the bitter end.

I haven’t laughed so hard in years. The only thing that would have made the experience better was if it had been featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Trucks

Where are YOU located?

I just got through watching “The Tenant”, a movie by Roman Polanski from the 70’s. It was quite bizarre, but then I like the bizarre. In it, the main character, played by Polanski himself, says something that really got me thinking.

I’m paraphrasing here, but he says something like, “Say you chopped off your arm and survived. You would say ‘me and my arm.’ If you chopped off your leg, you would say, ‘me and my leg.’ But what would you say if you chopped off your head? Would you say, ‘me and my head,’ or would you say, ‘me and my body’?”

And mind you, he has this conversation before he goes completely ‘round the bend, so you can imagine what state he’s in by the time he goes totally bonkers.

Anyway, it made me realize that on some level, I’ve always thought of myself as residing in that place just behind my eyes. Am I alone in this? I don’t think they say “The eyes are the window to the soul” for nothing.

I kind of feel as though my body is the vehicle that “I” ride around in. That’s probably why I’m so irritated when some part of my body gets hurt. It’s darned inconvenient, and it almost seems unfair that “I” have to experience the pain. On the other hand, when my body experiences pleasure, yeah, I’m willing to own that, for sure.

But if my body isn’t me, than what is me? My thoughts? My eyesight?

Ugh, thinking this deeply makes my head hurt. My head. The head that belongs to me. The me that is…God knows where.

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