Thursday, September 24, 2009

You're Invited to a Party!

Last night I was talking with my brother about online life, and we got to talking about FaceBook. I started a page some time back, at the prompting of at least two friends who were amusingly insistent about it, and out of at least a little curiosity. It's turned out I really don't "get" FB, nor care much about learning how to. Granted, my participation level is lethargic - but the value of increased investment for rewards I'm currently not *missing* seems forgo-able, for my money (and time), so I've actually finally just deleted my profile.

I initially started the thing using a nickname made up something like ten or more years ago, in the throes of sarcastic amusement at the IDs people come up with for Teh Intarwebs. I am increasingly leery about having personal information online, particularly in the tangled web of networking sites.

The fact is, I love ALL my friends and all my family - but they don't all know one another, life is a compartmentalized thing, and that's fine with me. I would not have everyone I know or ever did over to my house at once, because the mix would be unsociable at best, and in some ways for prudish sensibilities such as mine, outright inappropriate at worst.

I think to myself at places like FB - do I really care about being in touch (or being accessible to) with people who have faded from my daily life for one reason or another? In some cases, the "fading" has been entirely intentional. Why would I risk reversing all my efforts to cut ties to certain people - the offense and unnecessary hurt feelings that could cause in so many directions - merely to keep myself visible electronically?

I don't really CARE about being available to people. Those relationships I value, I have been able to pretty much maintain. That some things are memory, not present tense, is not merely all right, but actively preferable to me. That my whole life isn't viewable at the touch of a button is kind of a "thing" for me.

"So why do you have a blog, Ms. Smarty-Smarty?"

Precisely because this medium confers on me some control. I may be find-able, but I am still not exactly accessible - not, at least, beyond my comfort with that potentiality. A blog is sort of outmoded, at least in social terms. I know mine will always be a backwater, and prefer it that way. That this space bears my name at all is a concession to electronic mores, and some allowance for my paranoia to be proven wrong. It's a space where I can be long-winded and need apologize to nobody. It's the one flag I can stand to fly, in a mileiu so full of banners.

I think to myself sometimes: my friends are all in good fun, but some of them use language online I would never ask them to censor for my young-adolescent niece. Still I would not care to shepherd her into acquaintance with her auntie in the terms I fully accept from other people. Here, nobody need run into any of my relationships in any uncomfortable ways. Nobody need tolerate MY personal tolerances. And nobody needs to know anyone else too well, through me; be offended by someone, be judgmental of anyone. What I choose to embrace, I do not mean to recommend to any and all comers.

Right or wrong, and as much as I love everyone in my life, I don't want to be held responsible by one for the other's language, politics, outspokenness - or meekness. I don't want to worry about who's ruining whose experience in any space one could call mine.

I also really don't like hosting parties anyway. I am increasingly private as I age, increasingly a hermit. (Not anti social by any means; but definitely appreciative of solo space.) Asking myself whether this is a neurosis, I come again to the question of my family, my nieces.

And I say, you know, it's okay if I'm neither famous nor even paid attention to. What notice people give me in that mythical place called IRL suits me aplenty. This stuff? Is negligible. So here is my limit.

I find it's contenting, deleting that FB profile.

Now if only I could content everyone else. *Rush rush rush*

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have been wanting to post a few miscellaneous things; a word on my position in life, and the feminism born of that; a bit about my searching for faith.

No post about spirituality can really encompass the content of one's heart, but the steps of a journey have long been of interest to me, even if it is impossible to convey feeling or belief.

I grew up in the Baptist Church - Southern Baptist - at a time when that wasn't a snarking epithet (before the 1980s, for you young'uns out there). The pastor of our church was - and remains, to be sure, though long since retired - an engaging and charismatic man of great good looks, intelligence, and storytelling ability. Our Sunday schools were geared to talking, at least part of every week - and I was one of the kids who engaged, who talked, who entered in with consideration. We read all the stories; I knew about Lot's daughters at a young age, and other such stories I realized long later were verboten in many faiths and churches. Faith wasn't a difficult or inscrutable thing, and it was to be handled, exercised - declared. My teachers, no matter how conservative they might have been, never discouraged me from talking either for dogmatic nor gender reasons. Of course, I would have offered little heresy in my childhood. But even so. I don't have clear, specific memories, but I do know I was nurtured by my successive religious instructors.

It was in fourth grade we came along for baptism; instruction and rite, followed by our own bibles (I still have - and read - mine) and membership. Our church had just built a new, large sanctuary; I was the first "class" baptized in this venue. I learned not long ago, my stepfather's late wife was also in this class; one of those odd confluences our city boasts in droves.

Also around this time came the teacher who paid most close attention to our class - Mrs. M., who had us to her own home, and once gave her girls REAL silk wallets - and Youth Group, and that subtle transition from immature (passive) experience to more sustained, cumulative-and-building memory banks. Cognition. In fourth to sixth grades, I moved from "child" up to "kid" and that meant something important to me. To this day, I view that time as the span in which I began to process things, mentally, with a new set of abilities.

I stayed in my faith pretty well, if not indelibly strongly, through high school.

Inevitably, it was Religion 101 which alerted my freshman brain, come college, to New Ideas, New Vistas. Oooh, Taoism. Oooh, Buddha!

I never could go so far as to adopt a new religion - even now, I'm too WASP a kid to believably appropriate anyone else's culture unapologetically. But I did ... let my own slip away.

It wasn't a speedy process, relinquishing my childhood churchin'. It wasn't precisely conscious, though I knew I was disillusioned and found the Other at least somewhat seductive. I just quit, except when living under my mom's roof, and let go of most spirituality altogether.

I was twenty-five before my own poorer character and discomfort with choices made led me to question again. I'd married the man I genuinely loved, and didn't understand why this wasn't the be-all. I felt myself becoming bitter and ugly in ways which terrified me. The strength it would take to overcome myself was more than I felt I could possibly muster, and I have never been much of a natural self-starter.

Cut to the divorce, after geographical histrionics and some outright meanness to a man who didn't really deserve it, and I found myself in a position to reach, but with no understanding what to reach for - and little direction or motivation to figure it out. We didn't have Teh Intarwebs, really, back in 1995 y'all; I wasn't the kind to haunt libraries, or go to bookstores' "Spirituality" sections.

Like a lot of women my age, in that period of the world, I became a Solitary Practitioner. I wasn't quite the vogue neopagan some opted to be, but the model fit well enough: someone both timorous and arrogant enough to feel they might find their own way.

I re-learned prayer, and found it could come to me - from me - with some power and depth. I discovered how possible it was to be something other than completely self-interested. I spent time loving lightly and less so, and also being alone. I spent a lot of time alone, acutally. Liking it or not, I understood that was important. Never having been willing to "settle" I understood it was necessary, too.

More than anything else, I cleansed myself of the sins of my worst nature. I repented and learned what behaviors could come out "good" even if coming from me. When enough time passed, I was blessed with the friendship of my own ex. When enough exposure to TEO, my best friend, has worn across my life's surfaces, I was taught some fundamentals of decency and friendship. I never lost my vanity, or worse traits, but I know how to work around them, and I know them for what they are. I no longer ascribe to my hopes any real importance. I'm not at all free of sin, but I know where it lies - everywhere.

When I met E, he astonished me quickly by first turning out to be a republican, then being a churchgoer. He wasn't my first churchgoer (there'd been a young man who wanted to be an Episcopal priest, years back; and a conflicted Preacher's Kid of more overwhelming prettiness and charisma than enduring emotional substance). But he was the churchgoer ... who got ME thinking about it seriously.

I wanted, for some time, to find a church home with him. Some thousands of miles got in the way, and then several years; and I finally realized, this year - after a conflagration in which he was supposed to come home after so long, and finally didn't - I needed to do this with or without him, at last.

I tried the Methodists, and found them warm, kind and welcoming.

I tried the Episcopalians, and felt fellowship.

For the first time in my life, I felt adult, spiritual, volitional, real fellowship.

I saw people praying in their sanctuary, on their own - and learned that this is something people DO, that independent, public, individual prayer, isn't just something depicted in movies wherein something awful is about to happen in a Catholic parish.

So. Since springtime, I have tested other waters, and found myself coming back to one Episcopal church, a pretty place near my home, populated with fellowship, with kindness, with prayer I feel very deeply, with welcome and an open invitation. Only last week was the subject of my "finding a home" there broached, and then kindly, lightly, by a member of the choir who was one of my first two friends here.

There is much about the Episcopal church I feel fits me as a person. Their politics. The immediacy of the prayers. The sociability blended with the "high church"ness, the sense that faith pervades but doesn't contain or constrain. The sense of their innate wellbeing, socially, financially - I can admit some of what draws me is cultural familiarity.

Even as the unfamiliarity, the exoticness of ritual beyond my own experience, and the texture of a faith unknown to me in my youth, do appeal to me at the same time.

More than anything else, though, it is communion (another, higher, fellowship) and prayer which draw me fundamentally.


In February, in much pain, I experienced something in Christ I have never known before, and since then I have felt inordinately blessed. Such joy is as exotic to me as the vestments and altar of this new church; but so rapturously, gratefully welcome. It is the single minute, felt in the darkness of my terrifying solitude, of love from the Son of G-d, which has made this year possible for me. It has been powerful. Literally ... awesome.

My faith is weak and vascillating, but connection to this congregation, to this church, have been immensely strengthening. Giving my solitary practice to the guidance of a church, a faith designed - as they all are - to hold me (okay, maybe contain without constrain), has bestowed one thing I've prayed for for yeaars: "teach me how, and I will give; show me where, and I will go."

I craved instruction more deeply than I could have imagined thirteen years ago, feet just embarking on a kind of growth beyond my comprehension. Finding it has been amazingly joyous.

The bittersweet. The painful part.

To tell my mother I want to embrace a faith other than hers will be genuinely heartbreaking - and not only for her. I know what her children's religion means to her, and I know that my own path will look like a betrayal. There is part of me young enough at this venture, enthusiastic enough at its beginning, with the freshness and brightness of embarkation, which will want to persuade her of the joys in this - if not for herself, at least for her daughter. It seems important to keep this part in focus, and possibly in check. I'm not introducing my mother to a man I'm nuts about I hope she will like: I am contemplating the possibilty of taking on a faith alien enough to her - disparate enough from her depth of belief, her hopes and expectations - that the choice may be actually spiritually fearful to her.

I don't want to betray my mother, but her convictions, I fear, may make this nothing less. I can't condemn her for "rigidity" for that; to her, there is strength, even if it appears intolerant to reject what is coming to mean so much to me.

She is not mine to judge.

But I am her daughter. I am more than hers to judge, no matter my own convictions - or final actions. No chafing, nor even righteousness, removes her right to *feel* as she does. Spiritually. Maternally.

I have been unable, as I initially envisioned, to go to her and say, with some pride, that I'm back in religious practice of a recognizeable kind. It had always seemed to me something of an offering I might be able to make - as, yes, the bum-kissy younger child. As the religiously filial daughter. I didn't expect a Protestantism quite so removed from hers.

Now instead I have a secret which is so nurturing to me, yet will hurt the woman who nurtured me first. And in her faith.

What does one do?


And keeps praying.


I have been catching a good bit of NOVA this year. Since hooking up a digital converter box (yes, I am the last person in America still without cable; still waiting for the cafeteria option where I can just pick six channels or so), the tube now receives four public television stations, one of which is deliciously international and interesting. So I catch a LOT of History Detectives, America's Test Kitchen, NOVA, Nature, and the like. Yum.

Last night, we had a NOVA followed closely by a National Geographic special about stress (it's been a long time since I heard NG's theme music! Good stuff!), and the two make a really excellent pairing. NOVA discussed epigenetics, dead fascinating stuff and as always ridiculously well organized and presented. NG brought us stress, and some of the information tied in nicely with the preceding content.

My parents raised my brother and me on PBS and documentary programming of that ilk, not merely because that was in the Dark Time Before Cable TV and we only *had* all of four options - but because they were people interested in things a bit beyond "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Real People". We watched medical stuff, TONS of nature stuff (yep, who else grew up on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom"?). My dad owned the book for "Connections" (and I watch James Burke to this day), and "Cosmos" was a serious event in our home. As were "The World at War" and several "Masterpiece Theater" series ... not least of which was my mom's 'soap opera', "Lillie", about Lillie Langtry - one of the many old BBC series I own today. It wasn't all highbrow, to be sure.

I don't know how much I loved this stuff in comparison with cartoons, back then - some offerings more than others, I'm sure. But the sense of importance with these shows, particularly with the more event-TV stuff like Sagan's opus, and serious topics from medicine and science to genuinely funny stuff like animals getting loopy on the savannah after eating fermented fruit, has definitely stuck with me. I watch a show about the unbelievably *riveting*, incredible life of a fig wasp and its particular fig tree, and am devastated with the knowledge that the geeked-up joy I get from this fascinating stuff is actually rare - is not par for everybody's childhood (or grown up) course. Being a non-parent, I find it offensive EVERYONE doesn't raise their child on these experiences.

It is, at least, a pleasure to me that this stuff "took" with me, that I'm not completely insulated in mainstream entertainment. That "America's Next Top Model" really is a sideline for me, not something I'm capable of taking quite seriously. I'm grateful to mom and dad for giving me this diet, and glad it's become something of my own too. Instructive TV is diggable stuff. Having four channels of this now, too, doesn't stink either.


A friend joked this morning, "O joyous day", and it made my mind go to frabjousness, and this put my father's voice in my head. Dad recited a mean Jabberwocky, and it is only in his wonderfully gravelly voice I can hear that poem. He always spoke gently when it got to the Tumtum tree, but his voice was low, was thick with drama when he spoke that piece.

We never did video his rendition, but I can hear him so well.

I thanked my friend for putting that in my mind's ear.

No day with some Jabberwocky in it can be all bad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thoughts From This Sunday

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
Proverbs 31

I do laugh at the time to come. And, most of the time, at what's gone by. As to the rest, we shall see. Empress's new clothes.

For the Second Lesson, we went to James 3 and 4.

You do not have, because you do not ask. ... Draw near to G-d, and He will draw near to you.

Grant me wisdom to keep asking to bring G-d satisfaction and joy. To want to learn how that may best be done.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I have friends who amaze me constantly. Brave and beautiful. Delicate and pungently funny. Generous beyond even bearing it. Constant and comfortable. There are so many different kinds of people in my life. But I am no less than blessed, and joyous, in ANY of those who are so kind as to love me. If smart people - if such *good* people - think well of me, I am humbled; and hope only to live up to it.

I said, earlier on, a little bit about my friends. Time to say just a little bit more.

I have not requested to post personal information about those in my life, and will not be doing so. However, so as to clarify obvious future posting, a little background.

M is my brother, three years my elder, a dad, a scholar and scientist, and a traveler currently residing on the "other" coast quite a ways away. His family are N, his wife, and my nieces, whose identities will be obscured here to the greatest possible degree. When I was young, I idolized him completely - never a nice thing to do to somebody - and now that we're older, we admire one another and find that both frustrating and beautiful, and it seems to work for us. He is the fiercest person I know, and deeply, deeply gentle and tender. He's also just awfully funny and bent.

Acronymed thusly for reasons intentionally lost here, TEO has been my indulgent friend since we were twelve years old. She is a teacher and a mother, with two luminous tots of the male persuasion; she is incandescent herself, one of the most joyous, energetic, devoted, and intelligent people I will ever, ever know. She's helped to teach me how to simulate personal decency, and her enthusiasm for those she loves is second to nobody. How she's put up with *me* since the Reagan Era, I cannot imagine: but my gratitude and happiness on this point know absolutely no bounds.

TT is a friend from my childhood neighborhood, and about a dozen years of school. She appeared after a long absence from acquaintanceship, in a group I worked with at my previous employer. TT is a generous soul with the most winsome curiosity and humor, an openness to others which makes *her* incredibly interesting, and a level of engagement in life which is rare and special. She's delightful and enjoyable, pleasant and interesting, and easily ranks in that short list we all keep, of "my favorite people".

Where TEO and I met in the summer before our first year of middle school (7th grade, for us, back then), V and I met once the school year began. V recently married a guy of whom I thoroughly approve; the latest in a series of friends who have been blessed to find amazing, wonderful mates. Being the "thing of honor" at their celebration - and the wedding itself - was everything lovely one might think of to say, and has renewed the bond of two friends who appear to be just fine with being doomed to a lifelong relationship. Her husband, W, has grown on me and become a friend in his own right (I am grateful to have friends who will come to my house in the dark to jack my car up off my own old *broken* hydraulic jack ... and friends who will lend me their husbands to do this in the first place).

K and T
K, like V, has been a friend for so long the story of how it began is lost to my memory banks. Somewhere in middle school, I knew she was a friend of V's, and since then the three of us have ebbed and flowed - but always become deeper and more sincere in our friendship. She married T last year; a guy I've come to really enjoy and admire and be glad she has found. Their own small, farm wedding, one of the farthest off the beaten path of current bridal expectations I ever expect to attend, was an acutely beautiful affair. They will leave Virginia soon for other opportunities, and I will miss them terribly. That K turned to me, when said opportunity arose, and asked me for advice - and that she and T used it - is an honor I hope I can be worthy of.

Ahhhh. Z. There are no women like her, and I get the joy of saying she's my friend. Z once sent me a private message online to say she thought I was funny, and I have been astounded to have caught the attention of this charismatic, hilarious, incredibly inappropriate, and unbelievably deep woman ever since. She's boisterously gorgeous, creative, smart, and energetic; her life is more than a pageant - it's a drag show with every possible dramatic trapping - and one of the most entertaining people to listen to. She's a woman who can say to my mother, "Nice TONGUE ACTION, H!" and get away with it, when she catches my mom getting a dollop of whipped cream off of my stepfather's chin at Thanksgiving. She's a gust, she's an impossibly engaging story, she's a hilariously fake wrestling move and an After School Special. I missed her birthday this year. I love her anyway.

How to explain X. He is the person I love, but can't be with geographically. He is far away and hating it. He is, to quote K ... "X-beautiful" ... which means more than K even understands. Savagely, terrifyingly brilliant, abruptly curbed by circumstance, the most refreshing person I've ever seen, when he laughs. He's ruined me, rather. He brings out a lioness from my heart - both the fierceness and the protective instinct. Life without knowing him, loving him - would be *less*.

H1N1, not H2G2

Yeah, the headline's a stretch and few who even find this backwater will even get the reference. I don't always construct my titles with charisma built-in, such is the fate of a pointless blog site.

So it turns out that I've been exposed to The Big Bad. Second-degree, to be sure. But viruses don't mind.

We shall see.

This had better not interrupt my mom's 70th-birthday celebratin'.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Pen Is Stupider Than the Sword

Well it sure is good to see the value of women in our societies remains so darn high.

Please note, the language at the link is pretty salty for kids or workplaces. Still, the bottom line is actually pretty well expressed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I wonder, should I be getting misty, that Hanzel Und Gretyl's "Aufwiedersehen" is playing as I post that last item ... ?

Until I see you again. Dad.

"Firefox" With a Side of Sentiment

My late father's birthday came recently, and the Angels of Netflix gave me a present - the arrival of "Firefox", and 1982 suspense/cold war caper film with Clint Eastwood. This was the first movie I ever saw with my dad, just the two of us; I remembered the name clearly through the years, and Netflix gave me the opportunity to enjoy this on his day. Probably healthier than the German chocolate cakes I haven't made since his departure; certainly a ripping yarn.

Clint's a hard guy to hate, and even going back to my squeamish but entertained viewing of Dirty Harry with my ex husband, back when I was probably all of nineteen, I understood he has a singular charisma. The talent's fairly hard to argue with, too. Clint's easily the sort who'd fit on that short list of "stars" I think must actually be interesting people.

I re-read Roger Ebert's review after watching, and I think he nails it pretty much. I love Ebert, his writing is incredibly good, and he's practically a blessed national institution - but of course, agreeing with most of his opinions about actual movies must be left beside the point. A less reliable indicator of whether I'll like a film than the reading of one of his reviews would be hard to locate, but when we do agree, we seem to agree for all the same reasons.

"Firefox" had faded almost perfectly from my memory, leaving little but the impression of cockpit shots of Eastwood and the plot flourish that the russian MiG Eastwood is out to steal is thought-controlled. This last sci-fi touch, oddly memorable as it is, is actually so negligible to the enjoyment of the movie, and such a minor note, I'm surprised I made enough of it to remember.

The movie is one my dad must have really liked. He was a bit of a James Bond fan, a great reader of spy novels and suspense thrillers. He loved sports cars and, I realize, somewhat sporty women; his love of my mom, deep as it was, contained a very real interest in her physical attractions, something he never let go of until the day he died. Dad was an absentminded professor and a mellow philosopher ... a lover of Broadway musicals and great classical music ... a powerfully loving family man ... and a guy who loved exciting caper stories and, yep, it seems, a "dish" for a wife.

(Writing this, it seems my capacity for containing multitudes is one I came by honestly. Anyway.)

I don't remember the day we saw the movie clearly, just the sense of "event" about going to a movie with my dad, when my mom and brother weren't going with us. I think we probably talked about it enjoyably a little afterward, and I'm reasonably certain, narrow as my tastes still would have been at fourteen, he must have had some pleasure in watching his younger kid kind of get excited about a flick so well outside her established mental stomping grounds. I'd grown up watching edited Bonds on The Sunday Night movie with the whole family, but actually partaking of a $1.25 ticket, even paid for by daddy, was a big step for me, taste- and experience-wise.

I'm glad we took those steps, my dad and I, occasionally. He went with me that same year to see "Excalibur" ... a movie we *ahem-ed* to mom was rated R for its violence, which it truthfully did contain in abundance. I remember seeing "Elizabeth" with him, and discussing with him the departures from history, as well as what was good about it.

Dad was the single most interested and interesting person I've ever known - next to my mom, who originally put that phrase in my mind. He was so personally engaging, and so eager to find himself likewise engaged by those aroun him. G-d, I was a lucky child, to be his daughter.

Also, yeah - good movie too.

But the dad was better.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Fog of War

I have a strange habit of being a creature of my pop culture, yet entirely unbidden by its usual demanding timelines. Most of my movie consumption, then, is done solitary, at home, and years after-any-given-fact. This sometimes leads to my never sampling some pretty fundamental pieces of the world as "most" people know it (see also: anything remotely connected to Harry Potter, my total miss on ever seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, and cross-reference "contrarian streak" for further explanation). Sometimes, this is the result of stubbornness, every time it is the result of taste, and occasionally, it's mostly an accident.


Another recent Netflick was Errol Morris' The Fog of War.

One of the drawbacks of waiting to experience the larger currents of events is that buildup gets in the way. I wouldn't say precisely that this was a problem with FoW - however, I would say that, even in smaller proportions, expectations can mislead one going in.

FoW doesn't hold a major place in the landscape of major consciousness, but its reputation is strong, its impact was surprising at the time, and its content, to be sure, was pungent stuff. Robert McNamara has always been a divisive figure, and even I would be hard put to have no opinion about him.

Unfortunately, my central opinion about his film (if we look at it that way; and I tend to - as with NYD below) is about its making, which to my mind adulterated its subject for the sake of style. I suppose many felt that the editing was not interference, but I watched the dozens upon dozens of tiny jump-cuts, camera angle shifts, and quick elisions of mere moments, and raged at the intrusion. McNamara's honesty I don't question, but Morris's really got on my ... ah, chest, as the kids would decidedly not say. The shifts were 100% unnecessary. There's no other reason they NEED to be condemned than that - but there are others. The angle and time jumps were incredibly distracting. They altered, for me, the impact of McNamara's confessional interviews - a man's cadence, and an unbroken "look" at those - an unwavering camera, merely receiving (and transmitting) this series of stunning talking-heads and voiceovers, would have been stunningly effective. Why all the "style" then? Was this a documentary lacking so in substance that anything needed to be embellished - at all? Did Morris not trust the incredible scoop he had gained here, and feel it needed "impact" or assistance in any way at all?

It sure watched like he did. And that was an insfufferable adulteration of what should have been a pure, if not uplifting, viewing experience.

I have no requirement for the camera - or the editing or pace - to tell me how to feel about McNamara. The man himself didn't necessarily seem to want to manipulate me (though his astonishing jocularity at times didn't jibe at ALL with my understanding, going in, of this film's "harrowing" truthfulness; I found him exceedingly disingenuous, more so than probingly testimonial) - why then did the director?

If Whiteley's "Killer" Kane documentary was edited for maximum impact and relevance, FoW was edited for minimalIST (though maximally, to do so) "effect". The result being, it had far less - for me - than its reputation had led me to expect of it.

I was far more impressed, and even somewhat emotionally affected, by a documentary about a dainty-brained bass player called "Killer". The unprecedented truth-telling by a man who directed the military fate of the most powerful nation on Earth ... left me frustrated (not for the obvious political reasons) and far, far too aware of the film's making, over its contents.

Call me a crackpot. But I'm a crackpot who would still be interested to see the UN-edited version of FoW's interviews, to hear what they more fully, completely - honestly - had to say.

The bells and whistles (and bamboo shots) detracted. Put back in what was taken away. I would have thought we - and McNamara's attempted honesty - deserved that.

New York Doll

I've been without a computer at home for several months now, following the hard-drive blowup that occured FIFTEEN HOURS before the external backup drive I'd ordered finally was delivered after shipping delays. Since I can't surf at work, this means my Netflix qeue, at that time about 102 items deep, has been a blind item with every new DVD. I've enjoyed depleting my long waiting list, watching the organization of my themed periods of rentals going by.

I'm thinking "Velvet Goldmine" must be next - because yesterday's special was "New York Doll."

NYD is a documentary about Arthur "Killer" Kane, founding member and bass player for the much-fabled, but short-lived (and ill-starred, if one listens to Morrisey) band, The New York Dolls. I can say I've probably been an indirect disciple of the Dolls, through a storied and scattershot career as a fan of many, many different kinds of music - but even adding them, for some time, to my Slacker radio station hasn't made me a fan. I think I got the documentary originally exactly because of this - a desire to learn or at least expose myself to a group I know to be "seminal" in, in fact, many of the fields I've been attached to in one way or another over my career.

I also suspect I read reviews explaining what a hell of a good documentary this is.

It's a first-time venture by a guy named Greg Whiteley, who knew Arthur during a period after he had converted to Mormonism and was working in Los Angeles in the Temple's Family History Center, living hand-to-mouth and dreaming of his lost success.

Kane (I can't stick to calling him either Arthur OR Killer, in this context) comes across as a fragile, disconnected, and extraordinarily open man entirely unequipped for the necessities and realities of life. There is some history of the Dolls, a good layer of context for the present, in a well-told and briskly edited backstory not dwelling too twee-ly on the past - but the movie is unequivocally Kane's; his story, his perspective, his LACK of perspective; his life. It's not entitled in the singular by accident.

I was stunned, for a fairly short film, by how extremely well edited it is. It's densely visual, and nothing is wasted. A few visual dissolves are repeated in the first stages of the film, pictures of Kane at present morphing through periods of his life back to the lipsticked-and-long-haired rockstar he was at twenty-four.

If you come to this film, like me, having forgotten your reasons for seeing it, and without any knowledge or understanding of either its subject or the New York Dolls more generally (but with a good chronological position in life to "get" the period in a contextual way), it's a pleasurable revelation. As you learn what's going on (Kane has just been invited to a Dolls reunion show at the Royal Albert Hall, after thirty years' despair over the lost glory days), it's quite easy to invest real interest in what's about to happen next - will Kane be able to heal old wounds between himself and former bandmade/relative success David Johansen? Will the show go well? What can possibly happen next, this dream having come true ... ?

The neatness of the progression of real events is almost too perfect to be believed. The final denouement is genuinely affecting.

But the movie doesn't really play for effect, and that is wise. It knows it's a movie about rock and roll, about a band whose influence was unexpected, powerful, far-reaching, and completely destructive to the members themselves. It doesn't manipulate, and it doesn't make much of a saint of Kane (one should pardon the pun, given his religion ...). His intense suggestibility and inability to cope combine with a very real affability to make for a compelling character study of a man I suspect many viewers wouldn't actually care to know personally.

But the filmmaker knew Kane personally for three or four years before this project. He apparently comes, too, from that area of Kane's life - the Church - where the view of his rockstar-dom was most unusually situated (see also - interviews with his septugenarian coworkers, gently laughing about being groupies, and earnestly assuring the camera what an invaluable coworker he is). Whiteley was acquainted with a confused, fifty-something guy in a square white shirt and cheap apartment, who could never go long without mentioning his former fame, who would bring friends to his home and incongruously position himself right in front of the memorabilia of his astonishingly raucous past. He seems to have taken every opportunity to think and talk about his losses, but been perhaps overwhelmed by his own inability to assimilate or even properly analyze his sadness.

As we move through pawn shops and the Temple, then to New York for the reunions, and finally to London, where Kane is almost unable to compute the level of comfort and luxury of a fairly standard hotel quite, we see the inevitable, repeated response of face after face to his understated, damaged, undeniable charisma. This is a man often bewildered, but never wavering. His faith in his church is deeply sincere, and therefore really beautiful. His easily-recalled habits of rockstardom, dusted off thirty years later in the attainment of a dream he has held so long, are no less real. The aging, meek librarian is no contradiction to the pirate-shirted bass player whose bass lines, I do have to acknowledge, probably make up the very best part of anything the Dolls ever recorded. He isn't able to conceptualize or concern himself with what some people consider sophistication. But his gratification in being blessed by his faith is palpable, and impossible to deny. When he prays, there is powerful gratitude in it.

People around him, over and over, throughout the film, do not respond to him patronizingly nor protectively. Gentle as he may seem, he doesn't inspire nurturing, but an uncanny kind of respect he manages to take for granted with a kind of arrogance I don't believe I have ever witnessed. Whatever he is, he knows, and if he's never been at home in his own skin, he knows every last crease of it - knows his abilities to their last atom - and does not apologize, nor incite pity, for anything he has ever been. Or is.

What is interesting is that, as much as I've talked about my impression of the man, my first response, in watching, was acutally most strongly to the film making. I could see the craft, and appreciated it immediately. The visual editing is second to none; every single image, fast cut as each of them may be, is interesting and substantial. And, though it moves fast on the screen, it's not edited for style nor effect (in the "special" effects sense); each image or video, as it appears, comes when it should, has some relevance to whatever is being said or whatever is happening. More impactful than anything else are simple images of Kane's own face - past and present. I've seen films in which a long-held shot of someone's face is edited to create an impression (I'm looking at YOU, "Fog of War" ... about which, I mean to post more at some point too). Kane can't be manipulated in the same way. His relationship to the camera is about as honest, as unaffected, as anyone I've seen. His quasi-childlike lack of agenda when performing (and being in front of any camera is a performance for anyone) is possibly more engaging than he himself, or his rockstar-to-rock-bottom story really is. The arc isn't interesting without the charisma, and whatever that is, he does have something of his own.

For many of the talking heads, I had little use to speak of - Chrissye Hynde seems to have nothing to say, apart from quiet but definite agreements with anything Bob Geldof might have to observe. Morrisey seems a nice enough guy, but is fortunately not presented here as the featured Fairy Godfather his role in Kane's reunion/concert might have led another director to; he's a fan. They all are.

Kane's own oldest friends, his surviving bandmates, Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen, are the people who gain the very least depth here. What's interesting is, I find that appropriate. Johansen in particular, the adversary of the piece, the guy *I* first knew a Buster Poindexter, remains a bit of a cypher, reunited but not particuarly emotionally reconciled with Kane - and fairly oblivious to anything apart from himself. He comes across not so much as the nemesis resolved, but as the ghost merely dissipated by daylight, as insubstantial as morning's mist.

Which is actually better than he ever came off as Buster Poindexter, and would have been a pleasanter alternative ... Johansen has always come off as a minimally talented blowhard, to me, thanks to his alter ego - but he came up with the idea, so the taint still sticks, and it's all his to bear.

For my money, Kane was probably the Doll worth playing with. Or worth hearing him play.

The basslines ARE killer.

Get this if you're a Netflixer. It's an easy and interesting, very well made doc.