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My Inner Cinematic Voice


I just put this on again and I’m blown away by what I realized.

Listening to (only partially watching) ‘Annie Hall’ again is becoming revelatory for me right now. I’m realizing (1) how much of this film I have actually memorized, and (2) what a pervasive influence it has been throughout my life for whatever reason. Lines from this film pop into my head nearly every day and I know that they have since I first saw it when it came out. I was 13 then and I had never seen anything like it before. For some people the film that blew their mind was maybe ‘Citizen Kane’, or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, but ‘Annie Hall’ was my monolith-moment. It made me climb up to a different shelf, to think differently. It caused me to listen to humor differently, want to read more, and it made me want to go to New York.
And be in love.

It must have been that it hit me at that crucial age and time when we most change. The edge of teen when we begin falling into a world of change and we begin grasping for sense. My parents had recently divorced, I started going to my first new school since first grade, and suddenly there was this totally different kind of movie on the screen which has, over nearly 40 years now, dogmatically guided my perceptions and responses to life as I go along. Realizing how often these lines have bullhorned in my brain all this time and I have often repeated, sometimes involuntarily. “That’s OK, we can walk to the curb from here”,
“Oh really? Well I happen to have Marshall McCluhan right here. So…”,
“… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because most of us… need the eggs.”
“..a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”
“Darling. I’ve been killing spiders since I was 30.”
“I forgot my mantra.”
and of course ultimately, “…what we got on our hands,.. is a dead shark.”

It’s just extraordinary discovering something like this, I feel like this is something very significant that would have come out of me on a therapist’s couch after two or three years of whining.
The question now is, what do I do with this information?

My First Voice of Truth and Authority.

I looked at my son William this morning at breakfast and realized that he is the same age now that I was when I watched the first Apollo moon landing. The memories of that are tatted into my brain and I can recall it all so easily. It seems like I never left the TV and learned all about how the astronauts were doing as if my own life depended on it. The voice of that endeavor was Walter Cronkite. Largely the visual memory too. Walter Cronkite's CBS evening newscast was the news of choice for my Dad every night. My Dad was the company of my choice every evening so I watched it with him. I grew up becoming aware of the world in the late '60s and words like 'assassin', 'Apollo', 'Vietnam', 'President Johnson', 'Pnom Phen', 'civil rights', 'Cambodia', 'protest', 'Nixon', and 'riots', became new and scary household words. When I read or even hear these words anymore I hear them in Walter Cronkite's voice.
He was the human face and voice on all of those thrilling ventures to the moon that I saw on that black and white TV I remember so well.
It's disappointing to think that there are so many things that my son will not own in his memories to come that I had, simple things like one authoritative and trusted voice to tell me the truth about the world outside. An oracle with a cheesy mustache and a halting, soberly bouncy delivery with a gray map of the world behind him with arrows and strange Asian names. And ultimately, a very serious grown-up in big glasses, playing with model spaceships on TV and making that look respectable.

How AT&T is trying to ruin it all.


Yeah, I know, but stay with me here. I had a point presented to me today and it really put things into light. I had to be an incredible pain in the ass, but it seems that you have to anymore. Here's the back story, which needs explaining; I switched my cable system to AT&T from Comcast last week. I've had Comcast since we moved in here, 2 + years, and it was OK. Not perfect but OK. So a guy knocks on the door a couple of weeks ago tells me all about the new AT&T system, the two DVR boxes are better than what I had, and it was cheaper, yada-yada-yada- I go for it. It's installed, the U-verse system is really cool. Until that night. Now here's the back-back story that needs to be told; How I operate my TV watching is this, I record my shows at night on the DVR box and then record them from the DVR box onto a blank DVD as I sleep. Next day, I have my shows on a DVD that I can take to work and watch at lunchtime and on those occasions when it's slow. I can't watch much at home because of the kids, their needs, etc.
I go to record my TV shows onto the disc and I get a message on my screen that reads: YOU CANNOT RECORD COPY PROTECTED MOVIE. Wha? But it's fu**ing American Idol, it's not a movie. I try it again, it will not record. So I try it with another show, Dancing With the Stars, same message. I try it with another show, Deadliest Catch, no problem. It starts recording. So I'm like WTF, right? I'm not trying to record a movie, I understand the need for that. But TV? So I try it on the ON DEMAND, I try to record a Bill Maher show, no problem. Records that fine and dandy. On my old Comcast box, I could not record Bill Maher or anything on HBO because when I tried I got the aforementioned error message. But never anything on network TV.
So I'm just all kinds of pissed off now, right?
I get on the horn with AT&T and tell them the story. They say they've never heard of this before which I take for complete horse***t, what, I'm the only guy in America who's tried to record his TV shows? People have been doing that since there were VCRs, man! Oh, and in case you think it's just a digital thing, I got a similar message and result when I tried to tape the same network shows on my old VCR downstairs, so it ain't that.
So they try to feed me all kinds of crap like they aren't the ones doing it, then they tell me that all network shows are copyrighted and that if Comcast allows people to record network shows then they're in a lot of trouble, and just really, childish lie after lie after lie. I have two children, I know how they think, right? So I keep saying there's something in the DVR box that's blocking, they keep denying that they are doing it, and I keep pushing back and pushing back, until finally they send a guy out (for free). He switches the boxes out and it does no good at all, same crap. A week later, today, I'm working on my laptop at home, and it's slow, and suddenly I can't send emails from my house on MICROSOFT ENTOURAGE to work. The damn system is blocking my work emails. So I'm back on the blower telling them that this is just too much! They say that I'll have to reconfigure the connection each time I take this laptop home and then reconfigure it again when I take it back to work. Bull crap, I am not doing that. Again, I never had to do that with Comcast.
So I get back on the horn with them, I get this incredibly nice woman on the phone who really tries to help me, again my main complaint is the copy protection garbage, she goes away and comes back with the definitive stand from her supervisor. He said that they place copy protection on their television shows because it is copyrighted material and they do that to help protect the public. So at least it was half honest. They finally admitted to placing copy protection on network TV, but as I told the very nice woman on the phone, no, they are not "protecting or helping the public" with anything. They are helping big business and the networks. This doesn't help me or the people who have written pages and pages of questions on the internet on tons of message boards asking if other people have had this problem. But nooooooo, AT&T has apparently NEVER heard of something like that before. Amazing. That's what every single person I talked to said, "No, I've never heard of that."
"Oh really? Never?"
"No, no one has ever called with that, sir."
"Wow, I'm the only person in America who has tried to record fuc**ing American Idol and the Office? Really? Ever? Wow, I really should get a medal or an accommodation for original thinking, don't ya s'pose? I mean really! I'm the only guy who thought of doing that, huh?"
Such Corporate BS.
Here's another weird thing; I can record Survivor. They don't block that from being copied. Maybe they're not affiliated with CBS? Ponderous. F'ing ponderous.
So for some reason, AT&T are protecting very specific buddies of theirs, or maybe their parent companies, or sponsors, I don't know. But in the end, I'm getting Comcast back this weekend with a much better deal. They lose out on a customer.
Watch out for corporate America folks. Really. Don't let them do these things to you. Whilst we still have a certain amount of power of choice, don't be bullied, be as big of a pain in the ass as you can be, and DON'T let them lie to you.


Closing Gates

Last night my Dad called to talk. The last couple of times I've spoken to him on the phone this week, he's seemed grouchy and tired. Exactly how he seemed when I was a kid, but not how he's sounded in many years. Dad turns 90 this April. You may remember my previous entry about my Dad and how his Father fled the south during the Civil War when he was 14 or 15 to avoid conscription in Jeff Davis' army of the confederacy and became somewhat of an outlaw on the Kansas plains.
So last night Dad called to tell me that he's putting his ducks in a row- or as he called it, 'closing the gates'. He said that he wanted to finalize any loose ends so that his affairs won't be in such a mess when he 'goes'. He's heading out to Springfield this Tuesday to meet with his lawyer and sign things over to me. The weight of the conversation kept me from asking, "Gee, aren't ya' gonna' watch the inauguration?" He wouldn't have liked that I don't think, being as... let's say 'Old School' about such things as racial matters.
But despite this fact, and with the burden of a life-discussion on our backs, I hung up and began to reflect on the extraordinary bookend that my Dad closes in the twilight of his life and in the hand to hand of his father and himself. Chiefly, that his father walked the Earth with President Lincoln. He breathed the same air as slaves. Heard the first cannons of American civil rights shaking the clouds.
And that man's son, will die under a black President.

Cultural Festivities.

Happy 2009.
I’m in a hotel room in Laughlin Nevada, it’s not quite midnight yet. Got 35 minutes left to go on Nevada time. Kim and the kids are asleep and I have thoughts. Thoughts I need to purge before I go to sleep.
What is foremost on my mind is what I’ve seen tonight on the news concerning the new years celebrations from around the world. Sydney Australia presented an elaborate and beautiful display of fireworks that looked like fleeting moments of colorful chrysanthemums blooming in the darkness of night. Taiwan and Hong Kong presented similarly awesome displays of mathematically artful aerial combustion. In Tokyo, they released hundreds, maybe thousands of white balloons into the air, but they were made of rice so that when they land- probably in the sea- they will dissolve and not hurt the environment. That was a stunning vision, these many white balloons climbing into the night like bubbles sailing up on the sounds of centuries old bronze bells being tolled for all of our many lifetimes. London’s display was optimistically festive and bright, and Paris showed pure class in the azure-glowing lanes along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Nothing obnoxious, just a glowing, blue-lit mood held aloft and cheery by the freed reverie of giddy Parisiennes and their open bottles.
Then they jumped to America, where in Atlanta they dropped a giant replica of a Chicken McNugget into some kind of sludgy sauce. That just made me sad. I mean really sad, that this is our American culture. Atlanta is no small town, it’s the metropolitan center of the Southeastern part of our country and really a very large center for the news we get every day. And here they are, celebrating their culture in a way that shows their devotion to unhealthy diet, pettiness, and their soul-serving holy devotion to the Gods of global corporate dominance. “Here ya’ go, people of Earth! Here’s what we’re all about! Wooo-haaa!” New York’s celebration was comfortable, familiar, charming, and despite the freezing temperature, very cozy. But Jesus Atlanta,… was that supposed to be cute?
What the hell? Why would they do that? It really bothers me. I’m sorry if I’m making such a big deal- to the point of not being able to go to bed. But I just can’t help but wonder what people out there are thinking about that.
I know some folks out in that part of the country, and they are smart people. Very thoughtful and decent people who deserve better than this ignorance they are force-fed in their culture very day, telling them that they should be proud to be common and non-intellectual, and to hate and resent- even religiously condemn in some cases- people who read and think for themselves.
This just pisses me off. It’s the very epitome, the very pinhole in the red center of the dartboard, that symbol of what pulls our country back from growing up. From progressing into what everyone believes our shining country is supposed to be, and keeps it in the image of the fly-swatting, sweaty, beer-slugging, fat, belching, selfish American that the world abroad really believes us to be.
Thanks Atlanta.
And f you too.

This Morning In America

This morning as I drove my 47 minute drive to work, I kept thinking of an image from a classic film. It was an easy image to conjure, given the blackness of the unlit rural roads I travel at 4 AM, and what I kept thinking about was the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was reminded how whenever it arrived it brought to the beings around it an elevation of being. A quantum progression along their evolutionary path. And I wondered how many people this morning, other than myself, woke up from their beds and for some reason just wanted to become a better human being. Felt like they wanted to try a little harder, to feel a little braver and more responsible, and to focus their eyes just a little bit quicker.
Today will be a very productive day in America. Regardless of what job or unemployment line people will be traveling to, today most people will be incredibly focused. We will be standing up just a little bit straighter, and after a very long period of schoolyard paltriness and hunched bitterness we will feel like we've finally grown.
Holy clairvoyant!

Why, oh why, aren't these shows on DVD?

These times...

A little boy goes to his father and asks 'Daddy, how was I born?'

The father answers, 'Well, son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway!
Your Mom and I first got together in a chat room on Yahoo. Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom and we met at a cyber-cafe. We sneaked into a secluded room, where your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive. As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and then it was too late to hit the delete button.

The Palin Act

Sarah Palin, Caribou-Barbie, the right wing tool, spouted off lies in a prime time snooze-fest last week and decided that she was not going to debate, or respond to the questions that Biden and the moderator-tron wanted her too, but rather vomited her own agenda and read from the prepared index cards. Not so much debate as spewing blatant untruths about Obama and what the Democrats are going to do. Did you catch her bit about the powers of the Vice President? She actually thinks she's going to have Dick Cheney's level of power. She wants that power, badly. But wait,... she's a folksy hockey-mom, isn't she? What hockey mom do you know who'd want that level of power really? I've never seen one, it seems... oddly out of character doesn't it? Hmm.
O.K. So in the debate (HA) she gives us a performance not indicative of a person of respect in a high office but of 'a sweet little thing'. So we're supposed to believe that this character, who parades around as a perky, humble, winky, unsophisticated, and terminally lovable suburban sports-mom, is the same character who shoots wolves from a fucking helicopter.
Sorry, but that just doesn't work. A REAL Little Miss Mary-Ann-From-Gilligan's Island would not do that. NOR would she know how to slaughter and field-dress a moose.
I do not doubt that she DOES do those ruthless and non-compassionate acts from time to time, and that she really enjoys doing that. But I don't for a second believe that she's the little miss picnics and applesauce she wants us to believe she is. This humble folksy act is just that; an act. And not a very good one. What's worse is, she is portraying her version of the American female housewife; what she thinks will make 'em all pop away from the oven for a few minutes to watch her on the teevee and say, "Oh, goll-darnit, she's just like me! I gotta vote for her then, ya know."
That's her act. That's the mask before the determined red-eyed killer beading down through the gun scope. This is an outrageous, demeaning, and insulting immitation to every housewife AND the devoted men who are married to them.
People should be outraged.