The dogs in our lives.
Quinzy treated the world like his bitch and while I couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) necessarily emulate that approach, it’s hard not to admire and respect it. I’ve never met a human –much less an animal– that slurped so much ecstasy out of every second he was allowed to enjoy. Quinzy got his eyes, ears, snout and occasionally his teeth on anything and everyone within his reach and he never hesitated and he never slowed down. Until he slowed down.
But we never thought he would die. We actually thought he would live forever. Or at least shatter some canine records. I still reckon that scientific minds should study his DNA and come up with the antitode for illness, aging and depression. He was the most alive dog I’ve ever known and I’ve known a lot of dogs. Dogs, if nothing else, are very alive and adept at living (they are dogs, after all).
I won’t get carried away and claim that the scars on my hand, which I can see right now as I write these words, are the ironic gifts Quinzy left me. But in a way I could not appreciate until this very second, perhaps he was giving me something I could not fully fathom, since I’m a human. Did he understood and appreciate that he had been rescued from abandonment or a premature appointment with the veterinarian’s least-loved needle? Who knows. Who cares? What was he supposed to do, thank me? He did more than that anyway, and he did it without guile or the expectation of gratitude, since he was a dog. He showed me how to live a less contrived, more memorable life. He left me with a part of him that I can easily keep in my head and my heart. Finally, in his own incomparable fashion he ensured I had a visible reminder or three I’ll carry with me until the day I finally slow down myself. (Much more on this beloved rascal here.)
For the ones still very much with us, and giving us joy each day, like John and Holly:
And for the guy I met on two separate occasions this summer (destiny!):
And, of course, for my hero, Tucker!
Here, for anyone who missed it the first time, is my play-by-play of the video above (yes, I have serious issues):
Review: it couldn’t possibly get better, but it gets better. Tucker is not holding back here; with a barbaric yawp that would make Whitman blush he cries out to articulate the pain, profundity and joy of existence. At least that’s what I’m getting from it. But the best part is when he realizes he is being filmed (you can see the exact second his eyes connect with the camera) and he abruptly halts the performance. Then he expresses his displeasure with a brattiness that is well-known to anyone who has owned or loved a miniature schnauzer, and, as a non-poodle endorser, I have to give it up and concede that the poodle factor is only upping the cute ante here.
I am reluctant to admit how many times I’ve watched this in the last 24 hours, or how much bliss it has delivered. Has a dog ever been stalked before, on the Internet no less? I’m not saying it’s on but I would buy a baby grand for Tucker without a second thought.
R.I.P. to Bella. As this guy says, heartbreaking and inspiring:
We can learn from animals, and humans of course. Sincere respect and awe for the elderly Japanese heroes who voluntarily stayed to deal with the disastrous aftermath of Fukushima (knowing full well that the likelihood of their exposure to radiation would result in cancer, but unwilling to allow younger citizens to face that risk). Stop for a minute and consider what these amazing human beings sacrificed.
I’m grateful that, or all the ways (minor and major) he has disappointed progressive-minded folks, thanks to Obama 900,00 people who did not have health insurance two years ago now have it. Nine hundred thousand. Also too: that opportunistically (and, naturally, factually baseless) assailed decision to bail out Detroit has resulted in GM, Chrysler and Ford added over 20,000 jobs to that staggering region. Twenty-thousand.
For books like this. If you want to better understand how taxpayers continue to get taken to the cleaners, check out the heavy lifting Ellen E. Schultz has done in her book Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From the Nest Eggs of American Workers. If you are wondering why those Occupy Wall Street folks are still in the streets, here is Exhibit A.
Speaking of heavy lifting, how about our least favorite and unrecognized saint (yes, saint), Sean Penn? Yes, he is a punch-line for the myopic and apathetic, but how many people do you personally know who have spent more money or time trying to help the helpless? Most likely, that number is zero. Put this in your pipe and smoke it:
It’s funny to me, in a sad way of course. We venerate vapid tricksters like Donald Trump (who is currently being included in “the conversation” about potential presidential candidates; talk about the audacity of hope), or Oprah who, for all the bathos and boasting, has been interested in exactly one person for the last three decades. But I’m not content to pick off the usual –and easy– list of stagnant suspects; including the self-aggrandizing (and enriching) political bootlickers…I’d like to include the self-absorbed celebs who generally get a free pass. Let’s take the lovable lightweight, Conan O’Brien, who seemed to be everyone’s favorite underdog in 2010. For starters, there is little need to revisit or linger on the empty soul of Jay Leno: he can’t even defend his own vacuousness, so no point in anyone else doing so. But certainly I wasn’t the only person who felt dirty listening to this incalculably fortunate carnival barker whining about losing a multi-million dollar gig (getting multiple millions for a few months of work) before landing another multi-million dollar gig? Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to see O’Brien work some of that narcissistic angst for a cause (say Habitat For Humanity) that benefitted someone other than himself?
Today, with reality TV and the unreal proposition that anyone, anywhere can do something, anything, and get famous for a few seconds, we have effectively replaced actions with images and community with the cult of self. We have made each individual the center of their own universe, which can’t help but have a deadening effect on our collective sensibilities. With this bizarre mixture of apathy and egomania, it is easier to understand how we can sit back and listen to Wall Street executives lament the small percentage of taxes they are obliged to pay. It’s easier to see why we can avoid mind-shattering cognitive dissonance watching the CEO from the company that paid no taxes at all in 2010 work as Obama’s “key advisor” on jobs and economic growth. It’s easier to reconcile the pitiful fact that too many people who pray to Jesus worship the money-makers (and money-lenders) He repeatedly castigates throughout The Scriptures.
And here is Sean Penn: easy to lampoon but difficult to deny or diminish. He is in many regards the anti-celebrity of our time because he is utterly uninterested in helping us feel good about ourselves. Indeed, he makes us feel worse. More, he relishes doing so. In my estimation he serves the role, in an increasingly secular world, of the cranky old clergyman who browbeats his flock each week. We need that admonishment right now; we certainly need the example and this inspiration. We need to recognize that if anyone on our planet is emulating the actual, literal teachings of Christ, it’s this sullen, unsanctified savior.
Much more on him here (haters, I hope you choke on your turkey wing).
Can I get a shout out for Catwoman?
One of the pieces it gave me the greatest pleasure to write was this celebration of old-school Batman.
For people still among us, let’s give thanks to the indefatigable and fearless Werner Herzog.
It is, of course, the work that endures and it seems likely that Herzog has amassed a filmography that will inspire and be studied so long as people are making moving pictures. It is difficult to isolate, or even describe what aspect(s) of Herzog’s style makes him so original and indelible. Certainly his penchant for improvisation can be attributed to a desire for emotion over refinement. His brave, if unorthodox decision to utilize unknown actors (or non-acting natives) speaks to his compulsion for authenticity. His challenging, occasionally unfeasible choice of projects and locations illustrates a recalcitrance that has always translated into integrity. Equal parts Joseph Conrad and Percy Fawcett, Herzog obliterates all clichés and encomiums: he is the Sisyphus who refused to fail, embracing tribulations to prove—to the medium, to himself—that they can be overcome. If Herzog did not exist, he would need to be invented, and then filmed by a director like Herzog.
Speaking of sax, let’s remember one giant no longer with us: R.I.P., Big Man.
And let’s celebrate one very much with us. All hail Skerik! (Who? Exactly.)
I have a dream.
If I could get some of what I envision, we would live in a world where peace, love, and understanding wasn’t funny. The Wall Street miscreants and the super-sized weasels enabling their machinations would be having a house party in the Big House. Reality TV would not be real, and Oprah Winfrey would be unable to infantilize millions of women looking for enlightenment in all the wrong places. A modicum of the bilious exhaust Rupert Murdoch spews would back-up and cause him to explode like a Spinal Tap drummer. Electric cars, solar panels, and science would be accepted (and venerated) the way billionaires, right-wing prophets, and camera-ready politicians are in our scared new world. A lot of other things, obviously, but not least of these that jazz musicians would get the attention American Idol contestants receive. In this right-side up society, Skerik would be a household name. (Much more here.)
If you find yourself understandably underwhelmed for so much of what passes for political commentary these days, give Charlie Pierce a read.
And, actually, I can help them with that last thing: Why that doesn’t happen in Washington? It doesn’t happen in Washington because people in the country never got angry enough at the people doing the stalling to tell them to knock it off and get back to the business of running the country and because, whenever it looked like it might be happening, as it is happening in the Occupy moment right now, people like Tom Brokaw show up with their bedtime stories and their soothing invocations of a simpler time when everybody’s intentions were pure, and the natural democratic impulse to throw the bums out is flattened and softened and we all go to sleep again, blissfully unaware that our country is being stolen out from under our sleeping heads.
God save the Republic from the anesthetized fairy tales of reasonable men.
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, lots of good cheer and a four leaf clover, no matter how skeptical you may be!
P.S. Thanks to Fleet Foxes for making the best album of 2011.