Monthly Archives: June 2014

Omne Vivum ex Vivo….Life Comes From Life…..A Movie Review





This thing was written in fifty-seven minutes while listening to Olin & The Moon’s “Worst Is On It’s Way” eleven times.   There has been no fact checking.     If you want fact checking or editing, you have come to the wrong place.   Because six pages in fifty-seven minutes allows precious little time for fact checking.    Or even snacks.






This is the beginning of the movie review.


Gus…..the swing set of tears….Cantor’s proof…..and saving your ten on the comparative pain scale for the correct time.   Where to begin?   Where to begin.




Turning a great book into a movie generally ends up with an outcome as solid as Coke’s idea to launch a “new” Coke back in the day or the marriage of Tori Spelling to Dean McDermott.   There are a few notable exceptions to the rule such as “Fight Club” and “Primal Fear”.   I loved “Fight Club” and “Primal Fear” as novels and was deathly afraid the movies would ruin the books.   Each movie excelled in its own fashion.    These “solid novel to movie” transitions are few and far between.     Love stories are the most challenging.


“Fault of Our Stars” was another movie I walked into deathly afraid because I loved John Green’s book.     It is an amazeballs novel where you can hear the characters breathe and shift positions as you turn the pages.     I read John Green’s novel on a flight from San Francisco to New York City in spring, 2012 and remember pouring eye drops into my eyes nonstop so that the nearby passengers and flight attendants did not think I was having a hysterical nervous breakdown.   If you want to cover up crying in a confined space, or any space, use eye drops.   Write that down. You are welcome.


The theme of both the movie and the book, like all love stories, is that love stories end poorly.   Hazel describes this at the beginning of the movie quite succinctly when she summarizes with three words.   “This is real”.


All love stories, short and long, end poorly for someone…..often times both parties. Mr. Hemingway, in “A Farewell to Arms” wrote: “if two people love each other, there can be no happy ending.” Mr. Hemingway was wrong. I have said for years that there is a singular situation in which neither party hurts when a relationship is over…regardless of the life span of the relationship.     The situation is this.   Both parties go to their favorite restaurant, make out for ten hours, go to their favorite concert and then intentionally do a “Thelma & Louise” into the Grand Canyon, laughing all the way down and expiring at precisely the same moment.   The odds of that happening re infinitesimally small.     Like, maybe, 1 in 1,908,567,305.     I made that number up.   It’s still a really, really, really small probability, though.   Do your own math.    I can’t do EVERYTHING for you.



One day, when I am gone, they will erect statues in my honor, inscribed “Worst Boyfriend Ever”. From 1978 through 1998, I was the worst relationship partner in the universe and any other tangential universes.   In 1998, I found an excellent family therapist in 1998 and walked into her office solo.   Surprised, she hemmed and hawed for a bit before saying “you know I am a FAMILY therapist, right?   And you are a single man.”   I explained that while I was, indeed, a single man… day down the road I wanted to be the best damn husband in the galaxy and I figured if we started right away, I’d be in the correct position to be precisely that when The Random threw the correct person in my path.     She laughed.   We began a six-year relationship that has as the fruits of the labor a most excellent journal with Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” on the cover…because that was pretty funny.   It was funny then and it is funny now.     This journal cover.    That’s still funny.    16 years later.




One of the first exercises Ellen had me do was to write down all the ideal traits I wanted in a partner and in the ideal relationship.   In October, 1998, I took a weekend and went through countless legal tablets, scribbling action verbs, nouns, past participles, and truncated sentences.   Out of all those semi lucent and partially coherent thoughts, I generated a list of sixteen items with; of course, one of those items having a subset of ten additional items.   Because I like bullets.     Below was the list then.   It is still the list today.   Should you choose to write down your list, your list will not change.   Take my word for it.   16 items.   I wanted someone with at least 11.





Back then, I never made anyone feel safe.


Last Friday evening, I spent a good seven hours discussing love and life with a table full of friends and shared the finest thing I have ever heard from a woman: “you make me feel safe.”   We all talked through the best relationships we had ever been in and the consensus was that when you distill it all down to the very smallest portion….when you throw all the love you ever have had into beakers, put a Bunsen burner under the beakers to burn off everything that is NOT love….the things that are simply attraction or emotion or the three inch deep things, that is what love is.   Feeling safe and making the other person feel safe.     Gus is a wonderful character because without asking once “what can I do to make you feel safe”, he made Hazel feel safe as naturally as if he was blinking or breathing.


Gus was the rock star character in the book and the movie.     Rock.   Star.   And one of the finest literary (and now movie) examples of the Cherokee parable about the two wolves.   This Cherokee parable…….here is a refresher for those of you who have been out of Cherokee parable school for a long time.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” Gus fed the correct wolf.

By feeding the correct wolf, he made Hazel feel safe.     That was damn cool.


Gus says “apparently the world is not a wish factory” towards the end of the film.   Like Mr. Hemingway, Gus was wrong.   In 48 years, I have had a single experience with a 16/16 person.  As I watched “Fault in Our Stars” this evening, I thought of her and while I was able to spend more than a single day with my 16/16 person………my living, walking, laughing proof of Cantor’s first proof of the uncountability of the real numbers……… own experience with there being an infinite number of numbers between zero and one………I would have accepted just one day.



Even if I had only a single day with that 16/16 person back then….that would have been an extremely worthwhile day. A most excellent day. Because 16/16 is rare.   I’m eternally grateful to having that 16/16 time because I was able to identify closely with the truncated, movie version of Gus’s beautiful eulogy when it was read aloud this evening at the Fashion Valley cinemamoviesuperplex.   I could have said the same thing about my 16/16.


“What else? She is so beautiful. You don’t get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is funny without ever being mean. I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”

Back to Gus.


As good as that movie was, that truncated version of the full eulogy Augustus wrote for Hazel did not do the book version justice.   Here is the full version. And man, oh, man is that one of the finest love letters ever written.     If you are not going to grab the book and choose to simply see the movie, take a read.     That’s love.   That is one hell of a letter.



Begin amazing letter……….



“Van Houten,

I’m a good person but a shitty writer. You’re a shitty person but a good writer. We’d make a good team. I don’t want to ask you any favors, but if you have time—and from what I saw, you have plenty—I was wondering if you could write a eulogy for Hazel. I’ve got notes and everything, but if you could just make it into a coherent whole or whatever? Or even just tell me what I should say differently.

Here’s the thing about Hazel: Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.

I want to leave a mark.

But Van Houten, the marks humans leave are too often scars. You build a hideous mini mall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “They’ll remember me now,” but (a) they don’t remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your min mall becomes a lesion.

(Okay, maybe I’m not such a shitty writer. But I can’t pull my ideas together, Van Houten. My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.)

We are like a bunch of dogs squirting on fire hydrants. We poison the groundwater with our toxic piss, marking everything MINE in a ridiculous attempt to survive our deaths. I can’t stop pissing on fire hydrants. I know it’s silly and useless—epically useless in my current state—but I am an animal like any other.

Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.

People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad, Van Houten. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: ‘First, do no harm.’

The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.

After my PET scan lit up, I snuck into the ICU and saw her while she was unconscious. I just walked in behind a nurse with a badge and I got to sit next to her for like ten minutes before I got caught. I really thought she was going to die before I could tell her that I was going
to die, too. It was brutal: the incessant mechanized haranguing of intensive care. She had this dark cancer water dripping out of her chest. Eyes closed. Intubated. But her hand was still her hand, still warm and the nails painted this almost black dark blue and I just held her hand and tried to imagine the world without us and for about one second I was a good enough person to hope she died so she would never know that I was going, too. But then I wanted more time so we could fall in love. I got my wish, I suppose. I left my scar.

A nurse guy came in and told me I had to leave, that visitors weren’t allowed, and I asked if she was doing okay, and the guy said, “She’s still taking on water.” A desert blessing, an ocean curse.

What else? She is so beautiful. You don’t get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is
funny without ever being mean. I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”



End amazing love letter(s).   Good night and I hope each of you get at least a single day with your own personal 16/16.   Because that will be a damn good day.



Three thumbs up.


This is the end of the movie review.





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Love Stories, Break Up Songs, & An Ocelot





Best read with The Call’s “I Don’t Want To”













This site gets roughly 60 unique visitors a day with each visitor reading an average of 3.2 posts with each visit.   I get about ten emails a week asking why it looks as if there’s nothing new.   I write every day and, unfortunately, for the past year or so, most of it was derivative crap.   That’s not to say that what is below is not derivative crap, it’s simply far less derivative crap that what I’ve been writing for the past twelve months. I heard the middle part to a most excellent love story via text last Tuesday while sitting on a plane. It is the middle of a friend’s love story and hers to tell….which she has been telling for a few years. And I have been listening, intently, since July, 2012.   It’s a damn fine story.   Then, on the little, bitty Delta regional jet from Salt lake City to San Antonio this afternoon, the GoGo wireless punked out, leaving a man who wears a 50 long suit stuffed into a little, bitty regional jet seat for three hours thinking about the middle of that beautiful love story.   Which kicked off this derivative crap.   That’s a damn fine love story you have going there, B.   Bravo to you.   Bravo to both of you.  





Love Stories, Break Up Songs & An Ocelot


I have always been a sucker for a good love story.   “A Tale of Two Cities” was a love story wrapped in a revolution story with a dude getting his head chopped off at the end so that another dude could make out with the woman he loved in perpetuity.   That is a damn fine love story.   I read it when I was very young and that “tis a far, far better thing” ending was one of the first things I ever memorized.   A long standing student of the game of love, yet an erstwhile and rare participant, preferring to watch from the sidelines…….I truly enjoy love stories because they combine two of my favorite things: stories and women.


My favorite love stories are the ones I hear in person.


Through the years, to couples (both strangers and friends), I have asked the following battery of questions until bread rolls or napkins have been stuffed in my mouth rendering me question disabled.   And I have listened to the answers, intently and with purpose, for decades because they are some of the most fascinating stories of joy, terror, humor, anxiety, loss, redemption, and emotion that you’ll ever hear.     And, I remember all the stories. The mundane stories and the fancy stories.   They all tend to be very interesting stories.   I remember them all.


First day of school and first sky diving adventure questions pale in comparison to the answers to the following questions, asked with sincerity and in the correct order.   How did you meet?   When did you know you were in love?   What did you do about it?   Would you like another cocktail for the rest of the questions?   Me, too! What made you the most nervous? Did you like his/her family?   Really?   Promise?   How about now?   Did you realize it was going to be an emotionally dangerous adventure from the get go….or did it take a while for it to sink in?   What did you do to get over that anxiety?  What was the first thing you laughed at so hilariously that you both cried?   What were the courtship rituals?   Who had the best one?   Did you compete?  Do you challenge each other?   Did he/she open up new worlds to you?   Really?   Which ones?   Do you make each other better?  When did it go from black and white to full color?  Were you more “safe” or “sorry”? How fast did you jump?   Did the fall feel like it took forever?   How was the landing?   Did you stick the landing?   What did the Russian judge give you on the landing?     6?    That figures.    Damn Commies.


And four dozen other questions.  Perhaps five dozen.


Many times, with the best love stories, you don’t even have to ask the detailed questions.   You can sit back and just ask “….and then what?”   And listen.   The “and then what?” ones are generally the best love stories.


I’ve never really answered those questions because unlike those people who sit across from me ……I am a runner.   A world-class sprinter.   I could beat Usain Bolt in the regular Olympics and Oscar Pistorius in both the regular Olympics and the Paralympics. This is one of the things that makes me such a good listener to these stories.   And stories, like songs, help us figure out the most basic of our own questions.   I would have asked Oscar a different battery of questions.   More basic ones including gun safety and girlfriend protection











A long standing student of the game of love, yet an erstwhile and rare participant, preferring to watch from the sideline………..I truly enjoy break up songs because they combine two of my favorite things: music and women.   If you have ever listened to our band Two Non Blondes, you’ll notice that 97.4% of the tunes we sing are break up songs.     Break up songs are far more fun to play, especially to a crowd at 710 Beach Club.   Because while only a third of the audience may be in love at any particular time, one hundred percent of that audience has been through a break up and will emote with each tune. Pearl Jam’s “Black”.   Cee Lo’s “(Expletive Deleted) You”.   Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone”.   Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”.   Cake’s version of “I Will Survive”, minus the bad ass bass solos.   Ad infinitum.   97.4% of the songs we have done since 2010 are break up songs.   2.2% of what Two Non Blondes does are whiskey songs.   The remaining tenths of a percent of the Two Non Blonde songs are love songs.     We enjoy the angst.   We also enjoy the irony.



Break up songs are infinitely more interesting than love songs.     There are 3,908,904,873 ways people run into trouble and break up.   There are only three or four ways that people spend that first three to six months falling in love.   Therefore, there are only three or four basic themes to all love songs, while there are 3,908,904,873 specific themes to break up songs.


Unlike the love story questions, I only ask two questions regarding break ups. The only two questions I ever ask regarding break ups are:   “Are you OK?” and “Is there anything I can do to help you through this one?”


When it comes to the “boy loses girl” and the corollary “girl loses boy”, that’s when things get interesting.   This is when break up songs truly begin kicking the dog snot out of love songs. This is how Johnny Cash started his empire, how Bruce Springsteen won the hearts and souls of America in the late 1970’s and how (unfortunately) James Blunt was allowed to make all of his whiny albums.


There are 1,440 minutes in a day.   Given that the average song is three minutes long, listening to 3,908,904,873 break up themes would take you 11,726,714,619 minutes….roughly mathematized, this would be 8,143,552 days.   Twenty-two thousand years.   Given that you’re definitely not going to live to (please add your age here to the number 2,200 and say it aloud), here are the thirty-one you may need down the road.   You are welcome.



Pulp:   “Like a Friend”


Dave Mason: “We Just Disagree”


Smashing Pumpkins: “Disarm”


Lia Ices: “Love is Won”


The Killers:   “When You Were Young”


World Party:   “Way Down Now”


Coldplay: “Violet Hill”


Hothouse Flowers: “It Will be Easier in the Morning”


Wilco: “Hummingbird”


Wilco: “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” (cover)


Wilco: “Via Chicago”


Wilco is well-represented….clearly, Jeff Tweedy had some heartbreak.  


Mike Ness:   “Don’t Think Twice”


Against Me:   “Thrash Unreal”


Sand Rubies: “Goodbye”


Blues Traveler: “Conquer Me”


Bee Gees:   “I’ve Got To Get a Message to You”


Third Eye Blind: “How’s It Going to Be”


Natalie Imbruglia:   “Torn”


Norah Jones:   “Black”


Steve Kazee:  “Falling Slowly”


Tim Fite:  “Big Mistake”


James Vincent McMorrow:   “We Don’t Eat”




Radiohead: “Fake Plastic Trees”


Beth Hart:   “L.A. Song” (acoustic version….with piano)


Smith’s Cloud:   “Change of Days”


REM:   “Wendell Gee”


Black Keys:   “Little Black Submarines”


Silversun Pickups:   “Panic Switch”


Blue October:    “Hate Me”


Van Morrison:   “I’m Not Feeling It Any More”


Bob Dylan: Stuck Inside of Memphis With the Mobile Blues Again”


Replacements:   “Here Comes a Regular”


Replacements:   “I’ll Be You”


Hayes Carll: “I Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long”


Third Eye Blind: “How’s It Going to Be?”


Blink 182:     “I Miss You”


Eminem:   “Love the Way You Lie”


Guns & Roses:    “Estranged”


Rolling Stones:   most anything from “Sticky Fingers”…and “Let It Bleed”


Foo Fighters:  “Monkey Wrench”


Kris Kristofferson: “Sunday Morning Coming Down”


Johnny Cash:   “Sunday Morning Coming Down”


People like choices….you choose between Johnny and Kris.   My preference is the Kris version because it is the original; however, some prefer the Johnny version.


And, without question, the finest combination love song ever written or performed is the one up at the top by The Call.     “I Don’t Wanna”. Like the best love songs and break up songs, you can hear it from one year to the next and make it a love song or a break up song.   Which is, of course, most excellent.




To those of you in love: well played and good for you. I look forward to hearing your stories down the road. To those of you breaking up, feel free to borrow any of the tunes listed above.   They all have their place, depending upon your circumstances and mood.  B!   I look forward to sitting at the picnic table with you and your man down the road, asking all the questions above and the many, many more not shared.    I agree wholeheartedly with all those people who said “you two look awesome together and ought to live in the same city.”     Yep.


As always, thanks for visiting and reading.


As promised in the title block above, here is your ocelot.     Remember to fasten your seat belt while seated and to use the bottom cushion for flotation.







Question came in three months ago…how are these written.   They are written on long, long plane rides.  On the back pages of books.   As all derivative crap should be written.






While looking at really cool clouds while other people discuss their travel habits.




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