Nailed it!

Excellent commentary on the New York Times editorial by former AIG Financial Products employee Jake DeSantis:

Hey Jake, it’s not like you were curing cancer. You were a fucking commodities trader. Thanks to a completely insane, horribly skewed set of societal values that puts a premium on greed and severely undervalues selflessness, communal spirit and intellectualism — values that make millionaires out of people like you and leave teachers and nurses, the people who raise your kids and clean your parents’ bedpans, comparatively penniless — you made a lot of money.

-Matt Taibbi

This is the last time I’m doing this (for now)

Jesus, here lies my brother
Tortured and blown
Stretch for the heavens and go
…I watch him go
Here it comes

Jesus was a poor boy
Jesus was a poor boy
“It’s justa spring clean for the May queen”
I’m coming home

And this one’s for the life
This one’s for the funeral in the rain
And if only for tonight
This one’s for the funeral in the rain

We decided last night that it’s not just the industry in which we work that leads to us leaving so many behind so young.  I’m sure, honestly, that that has something to do with it — we deal in alcohol, we all drink (most of us too much), we smoke, we’ve got histories of drug use and fighting and possibly even a little real criminal activity under our belts.  We’ve lived too much too soon, saved too little, seen more and planned less than most people ever will.

So, yeah, there’s all that, but as was pointed out to me, when you work in a bar for as long as I have, you come in contact with more people than in other worlds.  And a lot of them are one-and-done, sure, but a lot more are at least acquaintances, some become regulars, and a few become friends. Plus the steady stream of people coming and going from jobs in the bars, and then the fact that a lot of the bars form a big, loose, dysfunctional family.

The day’s gone and the year’s gone
And I don’t know when I’m coming home
I can’t hold on to what I’ve had
When what I’ve had
There’s nothing left at all…

So this one’s for the life
This one’s for the funeral in the rain
And if only for tonight
Close your eyes and try to sleep again…

You try to take moments like this to shift your perspective, to realign your priorities. When you realize and accept that this day, any day, any moment, could be your last, you try hard to weed out the unnecessary worries and stresses in your life.  You try to figure out what really means something, what you hope to accomplish, what is important to you and what’s a straight waste of time.

It’s too easy to get caught up in grief and the cessation of any momentum you’ve built up. There’s a comfort in wrapping yourself in that blanket of tears and pity, just stopping and letting come what may, but it’s important to use these moments as stimulus to keep moving forward, to reset your sights, to separate the signal from the noise and focus on the sounds that mean something to you.

Because death is best left to the dead, and those of us still here have the responsibility and gift of living.

A world away, you turn away
I’m wide awake, and I don’t need your home
Tell me why he went, it seems to be
An element to this mystery
It’s so cold today, so I get away
And I’m left behind with nothing but words…

And I went to the funeral in the rain
And I went to the funeral in the rain

Some find this as a firmament to faith; some find cracks in the foundation.  For those of us without dreams of another world after this one, an afterlife or reincarnation or acceptance into the Great Hivemind of the Universe, it’s a simpler time, and simultaneously more complicated.  There is no strength to be found from a higher power, but the questions still remain without easy answers.

But at the same time, I don’t have to evaluate whether or not I’ll be going to Heaven or Hell or Nirvana or Valhalla based on my actions of today or tomorrow.  Nor do I really worry, personally, about whether I’ll be remembered fondly or even at all after I’m gone.  I’ll be gone.  What does it matter?

I hope that I can leave behind a sense of closure — no big works left unfinished, no farewells left unsaid.  I hope that I can avoid anyone that I care about feeling any sort of guilt, whether responsibility for what happened to me or a lack of chance to end our time together on a better note.  But that’s all I do – hope – because that’s all I can do. There are no guarantees, no promises; I might have 60 more years ahead of me, or 60 seconds, and the same goes for everyone in my life.

And that’s okay.  If for no other reason than, in the words of Vonnegut: “So it goes.”

But until it goes, I’ll try my best to appreciate what and who I have, to keep moving forward, and not to sweat the small stuff.  And I’ll try to teach others to do the same.

lyrics from FUNERAL by Devin Townsend, from the Ocean Machine album, ©1997 HevyDevy Records

Howto: Blog (hint: not like me)

Mostly, I keep this blog for me.  I like to stick my head up my own ass every now and then and randomly read things I’ve written.  And then I bask in the warm glow of my ego.  And then I cry a little, because of all the wasted talent I might have.  And then I drink, and all is well with the world.

Some of us take this blogging thing more seriously.  Those some have even managed to make a living and find celebrity based on nothing more than their blogging.  Me, I work two jobs, 60-70 hours a week, and still don’t get recognized.  Sometimes in my own house.  And I sure can’t buy my way into the nice dinners and fancy parties.

Even sadder is that most all of the links on this blog have gone dead. And some things that were implemented with a specific design in mind have started to look like Jenna Jameson pregnant with twins: you remember the glory days, but only barely, and even then you wonder if you weren’t just high.

But for those of you that want to do it right, my friend Wade is launching the Birmingham Blogging Academy.  I remember helping him set up his first two blogs (although it was more than a little shocking to me today when I realized how long ago I helped him do so). And while I’ve forgotten more about web design than he’ll ever know, and my writing makes him weep like a paraplegic child at a track meet, he’s got one thing I’ll never have: common sense.  And the ability to teach.  And the gift of turning words into money. And the knowledge and understanding of modern counting systems.

Look, the guy’s got some craftsmanship to go with his artistic fancy word formation things.  You can see for yourself at  If any of you are serious about blogging — for money, for wider readership, for anything other than blatant narcissism or nostalgic masturbation while crying (goddamn, Naomi Watts is hot in Mulhooland Drive, isn’t she?), and maybe even then — you should consider what Wade can do for you.

Hey, Wade’s brown… What can brown do for you?  How about make you famous?  Or rich?  At least more educated.

(It’s even funnier since he used this joke in reference to America’s Next Top Heroin-Addicted Toothpick.)

The Utterly Umimpressive 1000th Post

I first found Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father through a Pajiba review.  I own way too many DVDs, and so my Netflix queue serves as a way to look for strange and potentially stupid movies that I would never think to rent at Blockbuster or see in the theaters, and a way to catch smaller-budget, independent releases and documentaries.

I highly recommend Zachary (an incredibly powerful documentary) but with a warehouse of reservations.  It’s some incredibly difficult material, a story about a man who was murdered by ex-girlfriend and his unborn baby and his parents and the custody battle.  And there’s more.  This is the kind of story that has a twist that not only fits nicely in with the cinematic traends of the last decade, but also will absolutely pummel you, emotionally, into a blubbering stain of tears and frustration.

The filmmaker, Kurt Kuenne, starts the movie as a tribute to the memory of a childhood friend who was murdered.  It rather quickly turns into a scrapbook of sorts, as in the process of filming, the news comes out that Shirley Turner, the accused murderer of Andrew Bagby, is pregnant with Andrew’s child. The tribute gets mixed in with the story of Andrew’s parents and their fight for custody, and the process of Turner’s extradition, and the impenetrable legal mess that will seem all too familiar to anyone who has gotten caught up in watching celebrity trials.

The film succeeds on a number of levels, most importantly as a tribute and scrapbooked biography of Andrew Bagby, as well as (on a lesser level) to his parents David and Kathleen.  While it seems obvious that focusing on the trial and extradition process will heighten the emtional impact of remembering Andrew, Kuenne does a remarkable job in transitioning from one subject to the other and back without it being jarring. While I can’t say that he’s a talented filmmaker, with nothing else in his oeuvre to which to compare it, Zachary is a remarkably powerful film.

That said, unless you are either familiar with the case and know the ending (you can look up Zachary’s story on Wikipedia to spoil it, though I won’t spell it out here) or completely hardened to the sometimes tragic realities of the world, proceed into viewing this movie with extreme caution.  Things don’t end well, and you really will get blindsided by the truth.

It’s a tough movie for me to watch, not because of the twist but rather my own experience with murdered fathers.  I’ve never really written about my feelings about Jessica McCord’s murder of Alan Bates, because I think after all these years I’m still trying to sort through them.  You can read the story at that link or any number of others — the story even made some of the television true crime shows.  It’s those sorts of lurid reaccountings that I have considered countering, time and again, by shooting a documentary of the story of Jessica and Alan, of how we knew them both in high school and watched her get pregnant with Gabrielle and watched them get married, and the births of Gabrielle and Madeleine, and the fights and the divorce.  Watching him move on to find happiness with Terra, and watching her date and have ugly breakups (and apparently, children…) with other friends of mine, and finally remarrying to Jeff McCord, and killing Alan and Terra.

It’s the conflicting emotions, the uncertainty of how I feel, that has kept me from making the film.  I and other people that I still talk to dated Jessica in high school and beyond.  Alan played drums on a few of my songs.  Me and my first wife played with the girls in Montevallo, and had drinks with Jessica and Alan, and visited their house. And I’m not certain that I could face Jessica, even behind a camera, and ask the questions that need to be asked.  I don’t know that I could ever be detached enough to make a documentary that was not blatantly slanted to the point of negating the “documentary” aspect.

I guess that part of my problem, too, is that I want answers that I will probably never get.  You’ll never hear the absolute uncolored truth from certain people in certain contexts.  There’s no closure in some places, no reconciliation of what you know and what you suspect.  Sometimes, bad things happen, and there’s no explanation forthcoming, and never will.

While Zachary does a few things that  I take issue with (while I accept that documentary filmmaking involves some level of emotional manipulation, there are times throughout that it feels like too much, almost stepping into lurid Dateline-inspired amounts), those things can be forgiven for two reasons.  One is the childhood connection between the filmmaker and the film’s subject.  The other is that Kuenne gives the focus of the film one final twist, not only remembering Andrew and telling the story of his death and his child and the tragic mistakes of the Canadian level system, but also paying tribute to perhaps the most victimized by the entire ordeal, Andrew’s parents.  To me, this justifies and prior tweaking of the emotional strings.

While I still consider the documentary that I want to make, returning to it even though I’ve all but given up on filmmaking, exiting on a note that I can be proud of, I think it will never get farther than intent.  I don’t know that I’d ever be able to finish the edit to my satisfaction, even were I to be able to get through production, and I’d certainly not be capable of justifying the invariable manipulation that I’d create with my perspective.  Hopefully someone more talented and detached than I will find the time and the interest to do the story justice, though I would hope that they are as successful as Kuenne if they try.