“Eventually I married a woman who grew up in a family that watched television only on special occasions—when Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs, when Diana married Prince Charles. My wife was a student in a seminary. She did not want to meet [GUIDING LIGHT’s] Ed Bauer, nor could I explain, without sounding pathetic, why Ed Bauer was important to me. The first winter we were married i watched the winter Olympics huddled beneath a blanket in the frigid basement of the house we had rented. This was in a closed-down steel town near Pittsburgh, during the time I contemplated jumping from a bridge into the Ohio River. My wife asked the seminary community to pray for me. Ann B. Davis, who played Alice on THE BRADY BUNCH was a member of that community. One day I saw her in the cafeteria at school. She looked much the same as when she played Alice, except her hair was white, and she wore small, gold glasses. I didn’t talk to her. I had heard that she didn’t like talking about THE BRADY BUNCH, and I could not think of anything to say to her about the world in which we actually lived. I sat in the cafeteria and stared at her as much as I could without anyone noticing. I don’t know if she prayed for me or not, but I like to think that she did. I wanted to tell her that I grew up in a split-level ranch-style house outside a small town that could have been named Springfield, but that something had gone wrong inside it. I wanted to tell her that years ago Alice had been important to me, that my sister and I had looked to Alice for something we could not name, and had at least seen a picture of what love looked like. I wanted to tell her that no one in my family ever raised their voice while the television was on that late at night even a bad television show could keep me from hearing the silence inside my own heart. I wanted to tell her that Ed Bauer and I were still alive, that both of us had always wanted to do what was right. Ann B. Davis stood, walked over to the trash can, and emptied her tray. She walked out of the cafeteria and into a small, gray town near Pittsburgh. I wanted her to be Alice. I wanted her to smile as if she loved me. I wanted her to say, "Buck up, kiddo, everything’s going to be all right." And what I’m trying to tell you now is this: I grew up in a split-level ranch-style house outside a town that could have been anywhere. I grew up in front of a television. I would have believed her.”—Tony Earley, Somehow Form A Family: Stories That Are Mostly True (2001)
“Do you realize that every day something like five hundred hours of radio and TV pour out over their various channels? If you went without sleep and did nothing else, you could follow less than a twentieth of the entertainment that’s available at the turn of a switch! No wonder that people are becoming passive sponges—absorbing but not creating. Did you know that the average viewing time per person is now three hours a day? Soon people won’t be living their own lives any more. It will be a full-time job keeping up with the various family serials on TV!”—Arthur C. Clarke, prophetic about your DVR and mine in Childhood’s End (1953).
“Celebrities came in flocks, including actor Robert De Niro, who took special note of Bruce’s pre-encore “Are you talkin’ to me?” routine (which the actor later transmuted into a creepy highlight of his performance as a psychotic in 1976’s TAXI DRIVER), along with director Martin Scorsese, who came away eager to cast the rocker in one of his movies.”—
THE ONION, a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin: A brief, personal history
Here’s what happened when I moved to Madison, WI in 1995: I rolled into town with most of my possessions in the trunk of a 1995 Lumina, a college graduation gift from my parents. I went to my friend Jeremy’s house where I was staying for a few days before my own apartment was vacant. Jeremy was out of town, but on his bed he’d left a copy of a newspaper called The Onion and a note: “Read this. I think you’ll like it.” I did. And I did. And now that feels like one of those moments when one’s destiny is, quietly, fixed.
“Where do films come from? Where do they go? After a hundred years of movie, we are still not very adept at answering those questions. Let alone the matter of what they do to us while they are ‘here.’ We have set explanations, and we agree more or less that certain arguments apply—that the business system of motion pictures delivers (or seek to sell) these things to us; or that they may be the work of individuals, artists, auteurs, film-makers. Then, as for what they do, why they entertain us—or not. They make us laugh, cry, hide our eyes, or cultivate our souls. They move us. As if we were so important. Or is it just time that is moving? Look back a hundred years or so in your own family history, say, beyond the lives of people you knew or heard of, beyond mere names, to the notional claim that the family tree had branches then. Were those people moved by stories or plays they encountered? Does it matter? I mean ‘matter’ besides the extraordinary, anonymous but undeniable thrust of life itself. What is left of their being moved? Is that load there in our spit, our blood or our come?”—
—David Thomson, The Alien Quartet
That’s the lyrical opening to David Thomson’s otherwise prosaic book on the Alien series, the fourth in a short-lived series of movie guides published by Bloomsbury in the ’90s. I like that quote and return to it from time to time because I don’t really have an answer to its questions. Even those first two. I’ve been at this thing I do long enough to forget whole films until stumbling across an old review I’ve written about them. I’ve seen movies inflate to dominate the cultural conversation only to fade away in a month, or a year, or a decade. (In the summer of ‘89 I saw heads with the Batman logo shaved into them but it’s hard to find too many people with a kind word for that movie now.) And I’ve seen other films linger like ghosts, sometimes passed down in moments borrowed by other films, sometimes in the memories of others. To talk about movies is to talk about ephemeral things that, in one way or another, live forever. Maybe the role they play in what Thomson calls the “undeniable thrust of life itself” is reason enough to say they matter.
After 15 years of employment at The A.V. Club, eight as editor, Onion Inc. and I have come to a mutual parting of the ways. I’m proud to have worked there and proud of the work I did and the role I played in making The A.V. Club what it is today. I’ve loved the opportunity to serve as its editor, guide its direction, and contribute to it as a writer and relished working with many talented co-workers and contributors over the years, too many to name here. I’m sorry to go but no party’s too fun if you stay too long and this is my time to leave the party.
And so, moving on: Veteran writer and editor seeks new challenges. I have, as mentioned above, many years of experience, most of them spent shaping the direction of The A.V. Club as a print and online publication. I’m passionate about all things pop culture. Film is my first love, though television’s been awfully enticing of late and I probably know more about Guided By Voices b-sides, the different line-ups of James Brown’s band, and Superman than most people, to name a few areas of interests. Would you like to look at some of my writing clips? Here are a few you might enjoy:
“Opened in the early 1960s as a Hyatt before changing hands several times, the once upscale hotel boasted guests such as Roberta Flack, Perry Como and Barry Manilow. It was also the site of the January 1983 murder of insurance executive Allen Dorfman. In its declining years, police presence became more frequent.”—The best paragraph from a Chicago Tribune piece on the hotel where my wife and I housed guests for our wedding in 2002
“"Planet of the Apes," which opened yesterday at the Capitol and the 72d Street Playhouse, is an anti-war film and a science-fiction liberal tract, based on a novel by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote "The Bridge on the River Kwai"). It is no good at all, but fun, at moments, to watch.”—Renata Adler, reviewing PLANET OF THE APES for THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1968
“This is tricky territory for me, since I missed out on Connery and grew up with Moore. It is like being too young to remember the first moon landing but old enough to get into the later missions, with their golfing larks and trips in the Lunar Rover—again, precisely my experience”—This Anthony Lane quote from a New Yorker piece a few years back has always stuck with me. I’m too young to rememberany Apollo missions, but growing up, Moore was my Bond and always will be. Whatever skill we gain as critics with experience and whatever wisdom we gain with years, that stuff that gets its hooks in us when we’re young never lets go.