Tag Archives: Film

THE GRIND WHEEL: Animal Kingdom and The American

Animal Kingdom is a low budget Australian film from David Michod.  The American is the second feature from Anton Corbijin.  Both films skirt genre issues, but in the end Animal Kingdom simply transcends its crime setting, and becomes something much more than either a story of low rent criminals in Melbourne, or anything remotely like melodrama. The American, in the end, is defeated by George Clooney. But more on that in a minute.

Ben Mendalsohn in Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom may be the darkest film of the last twenty years, and that’s saying rather a lot. Halfway through I realized all sense of entertainment (whatever i think that may be) had been leeched out of the film, and I was just sitting contemplating the sheer emptiness and futility of the family before me. Nothing good, or even tolerable was going to come out of this — no amount of intervention or guidance counseling was going to help in the least. The Cody family was hurtling at excess speed toward the great abyss — and then they arrive there.

The basic story (and I wont use any spoilers) is that 17-year-old J. Cody’s  mother ODs, and he has to move in with his aunt….”Grandma Smurf” (the remarkable Jackie Weaver) and her ‘sons” — lifetime criminals all. The head of the “family” is Pope Cody — (a startling and deeply disturbing performance from Ben Mendelsohn) — a psychopath (Grandma at one point, gently urges him to “take his medication again”). The Pope is as frightening a figure as one can find in modern film. Guy Pierce is the vaguely honest cop, but still clueless in a way that is a credit to screenwriter Michod. Young J’s learning curve includes an understanding of the depravity of his own family as well as the utter corruption and expediency of the authority structure. The courtroom sequence….all one minute of it, is a masterpiece of what can be left out of narrative.

This is not a particularly artful film, in terms of mise en scene — and the cinematography is fine, but mostly it’s all about following the taut line of moral reasoning in the narrative. One almost doesn’t notice how good the screenplay actually is. Much like A Prophet, One Eyed Jacks, and The Searchers, one wonders at young J’s next move. Even his next day, as the credits roll.  In one sense it’s a bit like A Prophet, as it clears away superfluous surface bromides about right and wrong. And in each case there is a solid class basis for this paring away of the rationalizations of liberal society. There is no redemption and no hope. There is also nothing like anyone attractive in this film. It’s the least glamorous crime scene one could imagine.

In that final sense, Animal Kingdom is a deeper film than Winter’s Bone, where survival is tinged, however slightly, with the redemptive.  Not in Animal Kingdom. It’s a brutal lesson.

The American is worth a note because of Corbijin’s first film, Control, a sort of bio pic of Joy Division’s self destructive lead singer Ian Curtis. I saw it at Camerimage, the festival in Lodz and remember it as the only good film of that year.  All the more disappointing then, to come to The American. Now, one imagines Corbijin needing Clooney to get this made. So I imagine anyway, because Corbijin was smart enough to make Control — and therefore not stupid enough to use Clooney in a part in which he is on screen EVERY SECOND of the film essentially… unless it was the only way to finance it. The story is a sub category of the gangster’s one final score story. It’s worth comparing it to the much superior The Last Run, with George C. Scott, and directed by Richard Fleischer.  Or Stephen Frears The Hit, or even Antonioni’s The Passenger. They all play with the existential aura of sinner, alone, and seeking a last score (or usually good act) — (and here it occurs to me High Sierra is another related narrative) but finding such score will require sacrifice, and either succumbing to its inevitability or rising above it in some metaphysical way…. or both.

In any event, Clooney is not a stupid actor, and he knows the kind of performance he should give and he makes the correct “acting” choices — but his basic narcissism is simply too large a burden. That coupled to a sense of his basic trivial character. Consequently the film seems disciplined, and amazingly shot (Martin Ruhe) but still never quite becomes the Antonioni (or Bresson) take on the gangster genre. I find it fascinating, however, to ponder the appeal of characters like this. Because I find them amazingly appealing. Maybe it’s just the cut off itself, the ex-pat freedom of an aging single male — undomesticated (and when they choose domestication they usually die) and moving as figures in an existential landscape (note: food is a big part of The American…that small wheel of Pecorino made me hungry for several days).  The Last Run is the most successful of these films largely because of Scott, an actor who spent his career carving out a sense of existential ennui. Scott also was not a narcissist. Hence Fleisher could move along a simple narrative and still provide the deeper shadings the format asks. Corbijin could not. As a final note, one also found it irritating that the casting of the local young hooker went to a veritable fashion model…because correct me if I’m wrong, the prostitutes of villages in the Abruzzi, rarely look like Victoria’s Secret applicants… and look, if one wants to, and I don’t particularly, one could keep going (local auto mechanic just happens to have the right junk around to build a silencer…. it becomes art house McGyver).  Ah well, Corbijin is Dutch — and I wonder about the Dutch anyway. There is always lurking an odd hidden sort of sentimentality. But maybe that’s just me.

–John Steppling


Fade to Black: Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON

Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon begins with the kind of dense filmic black you really have to work for in the timing lab. And Haneke keeps you there, staring at that rich black for long moments before the first white title comes, dissolving up out of the dark and then disappearing again, swallowed up. One by one the rest of the titles come and go, in sync with the beating of your heart.

Finally we see buildings and a field, a man on horseback. We are in Europe – in Germany in the Protestant North. It’s the first decade of the 20th century and the doctor of a small town breaks his arm when the horse he is riding trips on a wire someone has strung across the road. As one of the women in the town describes the wire to the police it rises up on the soundtrack as a piano concerto by Schubert, the tones bright and sharp. Something deep in the culture has come unsprung, and Haneke is deft in how he lets the world wars we all know are coming work in silent counterpoint to the still formality of his elegant scenes.


The trip wire across the road is the first in a series of sinister events in the town that go unexplained over the next two years. We move from character to character across the various class divisions, coming to know the citizenry in their public and private selves, which, of course, are shockingly dissonant. The film closes on the eve of World War One, the vast cataclysm that was welcomed across the land as a relief from the seering, inner tension afflicting all. And, of course, that sense of relief at the prospect of apocalypse is something we can all probably relate to in contemporary America, making The White Ribbon seem, unnervingly, like a film for our time.

Obviously, much has changed in the world of man since 1910. Haneke’s small German town offers a window back into a pre-Freudian worldview. Whatever one may think about the state of psychotherapeutic culture today, the everyday sadism of the paternalistic Protestant culture depicted with devastating clarity in this film comes as a shock. We are in the regime of Thanatos, the death instinct. Eros shows up only in the joyful smile of a mentally retarded child (who will be tortured) and in the secretive courtship of the school teacher and a young governess. Reviewers mention the novels of Robert Musil and Thomas Mann, and the portraits of August Saunders. The artist who came to mind for me was the Jewish poet Paul Celan—his most famous lines from the Death Fugue :

death is a master from German his eyes are blue

he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true

In the grip of a demonic religion, these regular townsfolk long for the purity of extermination. And the bland brick architecture of their civic buildings have already been made sinister by images of the ovens of Auschwitz. But what hasn’t changed is the human capacity to embrace delusion, and in the America of Karl Rove and Sarah Palin this capacity is being tested anew.


The White Ribbon looks back to a time when bourgeois European culture projected a veneer of normality by violently repressing all that is chaotic in the human spirit. Death stalks this land of well-ordered fields and carefully cultivated social roles. At the fifteen-minute mark Haneke shows us a young woman wobbling on her bicycle as she rides for the first time–here is love: uncertain, tentative, alive to the possibility and the need for connection. To say so much with so little—

Haneke’s artistry here is sublime.

To some reviewers the young school teacher struck by cupid’s arrow by the young woman on the bicycle is possibly Jewish. I don’t think that’s likely, but the Jews do make an appearance shortly afterwards. At the harvest festival thrown by the local Baron, we see a table of bearded men laughing among each other, full of vitality. Here again Haneke speaks volumes with the utmost efficiency. Anti-Semitism was endemic, an anti-value unifying German’s Protestants and Catholics, but as yet relatively dormant, and something in Jewish culture allowed the Jews to thrive in this stultifying atmosphere without losing their connection to the vital, fleeting dance of Being. But this capacity, in the end, is what made them a target for the German insanity when it reached its full fascist bloom.

Haneke’s portrait of repression and its costs feels entirely accurate…but what are we, finally, to make of it? That people in the North of Germany in 1910 had the wrong idea about themselves and what it means to be human? That, in the grip of these mistaken ideas, they tied themselves in knots until, the cords drawing tighter and tighter, they caused each other terrible harm? We watch as the first rivets pop in the minds of the town’s children, and the news of war indicates how the dark energy of that repression has begun to surge and grow with explosive force. The anger and longing so forcefully stuffed down for so long would find its full expression, as it always does. Within thirty years the rich, bucolic landscape so ravishingly photographed by Haneke and his cinematographer would be reduced to ash and ruin.

The film is deeply disturbing for us as we look ahead, and Haneke intends it to be. The look back in time pivots forward just as forcefully, begging certain questions we’d prefer to avoid. What delusions, about ourselves and what it means to be human, do we currently labor under? What sort of harm will these wrong ideas bring to us and to those we love? Where and how might we take corrective action? The White Ribbon manages to make us ask such questions about the strange machine of the human. We see how our understanding evolves…but never quite fast enough. And so it’s a relief to reach the final crawl of the titles and watch as the names in white type fade down, again and again, into that primal, obsidian dark.

Guy Zimmerman

Film Criticism

I’ve had some disparate thoughts bouncing around my head as regards film and especially film criticism. Maybe this started as I began to re read chunks of The American Cinema, by Andrew Sarris.

Now this is a book from, I believe, 1968. The latter Sarris came a bit unglued—and seemed to have lost all the rigor and uncompromising aesthetic he once displayed. The most fascinating aspect here is to see whom he champions and whom he dismisses. With the Sarris of this era, however, there is always a reason for his choices, and it pays to delve deeper into his aesthetic arguments before rejecting them.

CABIRIA, directed by Giovanni Pastrone, 1914, Italy.

His categories, the famed “pantheon”, followed by “the far side of paradise”, and then “expressive esoterica”, through to “less than meets the eye”, are full of surprises and unexpected insights. That he would stick Kubrick into “strained seriousness” is at first glance, rather absurd—and yet—lets remember this is the early Kubrick (the last film Sarris examines is 2001) and a perspective from this era is most illuminating.

“…it is more likley that he has chosen to exploit the giddiness of middle brow audiences on the satiric level of Mad Magazine.”

Something suggests to me that this more right than I might have thought. Kubrick “is” middle brow, often, and he does probably announce more than he ever has delivered. Later films such as The Shining tend to deliver less and less on each viewing, while supplying iconic pop images and catch phrases (Here’s Johnny,. etc). Sarris is, in the same section, quite hard on Sidney Lumet,too, and as I re-read it I must say I found myself simply disagreeing.  Thirty some years on, films such as The Hill and The Fugitive Kind look far better than they did in ’68. Lumet’s humorlessness (per Sarris) now seems a decided virtue. His leathery lack of emotional release—(humorless again)—serves his films in the 21st century in a way I doubt any critic could have prophesied.

The “pantheon” is filled with directors almost nobody would argue with: Welles, Ford, Hitchcock, and Lubitsch. But he also adds Max Ophuls, a choice I would agree with, and Renoir, a choice I would not. But two I simply think dont belong, are Flaherty and Griffith. That is perhaps a topic for later—but lets give a quick think on Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang. From the view of 2010, how do these directors hold up? I’ve never entirely ‘got’ Hawks, I have to say. Reading the Sarris again, I found myself aware that I had been, maybe (!) myopic in how I looked at Hawks. There is no single film that one can point to, and call a masterpiece. One might suggest Red River, or even Rio Bravo, or Only Angels Have Wings, or His Girl Friday…but none of them quite stands by itself. Hawks comedies, in fact, require an entire chapter all for themselves. From Bringing up Baby to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the very vocabulary of film comedy was formed under Hawks — and reacted to by everyone from Capra to Lubitsch to Tashlin, and maybe most significantly Leo McCarey. Of course, no doubt Hawks reacted to them as well…or at least to Lubitsch. The point being that Hawks for all his great variety, made only one film, and made it over and over and over.  Red River the same as His Girl Friday? Well, yeah, in a way. For Hawks was always thinking “film”, and his clean headed angular way with actors and with shots never varied. Ive always loved his penultimate film, Red Line 7000, an odd race car melodrama with James Caan. Maybe I love the sheer emptiness of the script, but find something reassuring in that emptiness being served to me through a Hawksian mise en scene. The eye level camera that both brings intimacy, but a kind of odd propriety as well—after decades of use, becomes as classic (and oddly subversive) as Ozu and his seat on the tatami. So, does Hawks belong in rarified air of the all time film masters? Ahead of Sirk and Ray, lets say?  I don’t know. I do think Hawks was among the most consistent creators of a film logic as has ever existed. In that sense he is a lot like Hitchcock. Do I think Ray made a couple films that were maybe better than any of Hawks? Yeah, probably. And Sirk, how to talk about Sirk?  Forty years on, to reflect on Sirk is a all by itself a major undertaking. The issue of Cahier that included the famous article “The Blind Man and The Mirror, or The Impossible Cinema of Douglas Sirk” can be looked at now, still, as the quintessential take on Sirk.

KISS ME DEADLY, directed by Robert Aldrich.

So, Fritz Lang, then. Has the Langian ouevre held up?  I would say yes, and then in a hushed tone, as I turn away, I might say, well, and maybe not. But Lang was making films before they had a word for ‘director’. He ‘is’ film, and his direction is so deeply embedded in our unconscious that its a bit like trying to talk about the Tyndale translation of the Bible…was it really any good or not?  Lang is simply beyond this level of critique.

So why go on this way about rating directors? Continue reading


KILLER OF SHEEP, directed by Charles Burnett, 1977.

Who can ever forget those long gorgeous tracking shots following the children of Watts across the vacant lots and dirt mounds and rooftops that define their vivid fantasy lives? There’s also the pure beauty of the faces of Stan and his people, and how Burnett is so awake to the dignity and the mystery they contain. Eros, again, is being celebrated. Also the intimacy of Stan’s daughter as she puts on her favorite white dress, a scene that would be unthinkable if it weren’t actually that girl’s real dress. Or when she plays a record in her closet and you realize there’s no way that could happen if it weren’t actually her closet. Like so much in the film, these scenes give the lie to the artifice we usually accept unthinkingly. The real does, in fact, register. In art, truth is an active value and actually matters.

Despite the crushing poverty, Watts emerges as a place you long to inhabit, a mythical realm like Bloom’s Dublin, full of its own odd grandeur.

It’s instructive to replay the film making the characters white and setting the story in, say, middle class suburbia — the dreary, depleting job…the lure of breaking the rules…an episode with the car that ends in futility…a trip out of town with friends that turns sour. Killer of Sheep is a film set in the black underclass in Watts, no question. But Burnett centers his story on a man who has the freedom he needs to question his life as deeply as any man, and Stan’s integrity on this level infuses everything else in that world.

I think of the repeated motif of the sheep in the film, those shots of sheep looking around or running in a flock as their slaughter approaches. It’s impossible to watch the film without understanding that you, sitting wherever you are sitting, are one of those sheep, and it doesn’t matter at all where you stand in terms of wealth or status. This is one of the core insights of epic poetry and you can think of Achilles or Hector as you watch Stan in the final shots, full of the joy of his strength, his erotic hold on life, as he wades through the crowd of sheep moving them on.

—Guy Zimmerman

Aaron Huey. Young girl and a bow, Pine Ridge Reservation, Manderson, S.D, 2009.

image via New York Times.

What’s cool about being old is that I can remember life before it became planned and corporate. I remember climbing onto the roof of my elementary school and throwing down rocks and lost balls; having dirt wars with the kids on the other side of the creek; pulling ticks off the dog and burning them at miniature stakes in the woods with my cousin. It was one weird adventure after another, not all of them wholesome, from riding elevators to crawling through storm drains.

This is the kind of world I drop into watching Burnett’s Killer of Sheep. I also return, poignantly, to the seventies, a decade I remember hating because of disco. Because of the many murders and suicides at the time, because of the shockingly brutal repression of all progressive movements,  the 70’s were the beginning of the end of a more hopeful decade, when there was a “new” that existed outside of an advertising burst, which promised equality and fairness to ordinary people—poor people, women, black people…and it was also an end to a marvelous rage against conventionalism, the old models of success,  the straight world. Politics in the 70’s were boring again. Suddenly I had to wear makeup and underwear.

As radical values were going down,  artists were the last to capitulate (that came in the 80’s). Painting was still dead, theater was still alive, and B movies were still cool.  Art films had not become some long forgotten epicurean taste.

The long first shot in Burnett’s film, the kid hiding behind a sheet of torn panelling, is pure art film, and tells us we are in a place that unfolds its nature, that tells nothing, but shows all, both soulfully and playfully. We feel Burnett as we feel ourselves when we are truly engaged in seeing, that is, not at all.

The idea of this film having anything to do with great art is in a certain sense laughable. It’s as though it made itself. The integrity of vision and visual language is natural and unforced, honest and compassionate, but also sophisticated. I relate it to Cassavetes’ Husbands or Faces in its spirit of capturing emotional situations, but with the coolness of Antonioni’s mise en scene.

The title Killer of Sheep, though, underscores the dark soul of this poem. Here is Stan, with a job which is gruesome and mundane, the kind of a job all these carefree children have to look forward to if they’re going to live a straight life. He carries the weight of this anguish in his eyes, it renders him impotent, and drains his desire. Stan is a tragic hero, in the act of making it to the next day. And no he does not travel with a spare.

—Rita Valencia

THE CRIMSON KIMONO, directed by Sam Fuller, 1959.

Charles Burnett made Killer of Sheep in 1977, and submitted it as his thesis film at the USC film school. The film was shot in two stretches of time, separated by three or four years, due to financing problems. Meaning there was no financing. The budget was ten thousand dollars. The film was shot originally in 16mm and later, much later, delivered to audiences in a 35mm print.

One of its greatest virtues, then, is to realize that thirty some years after its completion, the narrative continues to digest the facile and sentimental cataloging that seems, of necessity, to accompany all artworks in our age of mass production and corporate revisionism. The revisionism is a matter of form as much as it is of content. Killer of Sheep resists the comfortable reviewing of mass market magazines.

“’Way ahead of its time 30 years ago, and just as stunning today, Killer of Sheep is one of those marvels of original moviemaking that keeps hope of artistic independence alive… Here’s to the miracle of a buried classic granted the opposite of a killing — here’s to life. A’ —Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

The praise lavished on Burnett’s film comes late, and comes coated with the anxiety of amnesia in which our culture specializes. The film allows for no short hand, no reductive tagging. There are no catch phrases or sequences that can every become ‘iconic’. It is both impenetrable and transparent. The narrative does not reveal anything (the film, one could argue, reveals a good deal, but the narrative structure is not predicated on ‘reveals’). To engage in a dialogue about Killer of Sheep is to inevatably exhaust one’s own vocabulary of mystery, and self laceration. Perhaps this is what a religious artwork by definition does. It is all the things that it is not – its complete refusal to polemicize or seek ‘endings’. The tragic must never end. Perhaps it must not ever begin, either.

“The strength of this little movie is its artlessness, the non-plotted story acted by non-actors, the raw unpretentiousness of real life in the Watts ghetto of Los Angeles.”—Jonathan F. Richards, film.com

One could benefit from re-viewing the history films of Rosellini, or certain Bressons. For in the end, Killer of Sheep is most about history. Not the sanctioned kitsch history of U.S. text books, or the painfully desperate hagiography of TV talking heads. This is the history that reproduces itself on American city streets, daily. Not as sociology, but as ontology.

“Affectingly beautiful … Burnett used many kinds of African-American music on the soundtrack, and the movie itself has the bedraggled eloquence of an old blues record.”— David Denby, The New Yorker.

Contemporary critics traffic in unstated tropes — those that reinforce, in the end, the accepted propaganda of arts impotence and inability to transform. For everything they write about must, somehow, find its assigned glass case in the psychic museum of advanced capital.

That film from Dryer or Fassbinder, Ozu, Godard, or Val Lewton, has always escaped from the moorings of the master discourse… as it exists in the privileged west anyway, only speaks to — at this late date — the panic that vibrates just beneath the surface of daily life. A panic that expresses the impossibility of reconciling the contradictions of western societal practice.

Like the unconscious, Killer of Sheep knows no time, but only place. Its sense of place is close to that of Oracles and myth, rather than google maps and GPS screens. Its specificity so finely concentrated and its inherent poetics so consistent and yet still unfamiliar, that we are left with an indelible x-ray of desire and unremitting angst. It is the distillation of the fleeting glimpse, the nano-second epiphanic peripheral snapshot of that which cannot be seen in any other way or form. It is a filmic truth.

—John Steppling

KILLER OF SHEEP, directed by Charles Burnett, 1977.

I haven’t seen Killer of Sheep but I’m going to make a comment, gun drawn. I’ll start with the last statement from this Gunfighter trio: “…a filmic truth.” And since I haven’t thought much about the nature of film truth—I’m satisfied by Kurosawa’s description of “cinematic beauty”—I’ll leave that special domain to the honorable filmmakers in the gang (they’re standing on the hill). But the statement opens, by implication, the question of truth in art. That notion seems to be in the air at Gunfighter meetings, though our inquiry proceeds by a narrow focus on excellence in theatrical poetry. Perhaps in a method appropriate to an entity of unknown form, we’ve made a broad walk around some of its qualities, refusing so far to accept a definition.

Leaving aside the separate question of excellence, I want to suggest a thought experiment that involves truth, linking our concerns with one of the earliest statements of the problem. Look up Plato’s dialogue the Phaedrus and begin reading at 260a. Socrates, crafty seeker of definitions, here addresses directly the question, Can truth be embodied in speech that is meant to persuade? Rhetoric v. philosophical dialogue. Well, no, as you might expect, of course not. But here’s the experiment… substitute “commercial speech” for rhetoric and “truth in art” for philosophy. And now you will have the Socratic version of Gunfighter complaints about popular culture.

I don’t think Plato would hate us for this. Even though he did banish poets from the Republic. Because we propose a corrosive ambiguity that opens a space for critique. As he did.

Now, about excellence as a practical matter for the current project, the history project. Auden’s trilogy of poetic procedure: making, judging, knowing. The making function has license over the others. Delight, then discrimination about pattern, then maybe some kind of knowing, maybe. When you turn the order around you end up with something familiar—the illustration of a judgement. Rhetoric.

—Gray Palmer

Ah, let me ponder this a bit, Gray.

But check Jan Kott’s Shakespeare Our Contemporary…his chapter on King Lear. He discusses the tom o bedlam and the blind Gloucester on the heath. The falling down. How it can only be a ‘truth’ as it exists on stage.

I think Beckett clearly learned from that scene…and extended it throughout all his work.

—John Steppling

INTERIOR OF A KITCHEN WITH AN OLD WOMAN PEELING TURNIPS, early 1640s. David Teniers the Younger, Flemish (1610-90).

I have not yet seen this movie but it sounds beautiful.  John’s line, “The panic that vibrates just beneath the surface of daily life” really stays with me; this is something that we try hard to cover up but can’t help revealing.  The secret horror or confusion about who we are seeps out of us like steam from a teapot, whether we like it or not.  Because we don’t often speak honestly or connect in a deep way, there is (I feel) a great level of alienation in today’s world.

I realize that filmic or poetic truth doesn’t refer to fact vs. fiction but reading the writer’s comments and descriptions made me wonder:  if this was a documentary what would the emotional feeling and experience be watching it?  It sounds like such an honest portrayal of existing in that area, that skin, yet it is actors and not a real person’s life portrayed.  I am not challenging the film but I wanted to branch out into a discussion of documentary.  I don’t know if other people are very interested in documentary film but I think of Grey Gardens or Herzog’s Grizzly Man, both windows into real tragic eccentric’s lives and I wonder if those people were “characters,” would the experience of being let into their story be different?  Is a character a person?  Does it matter?  Perhaps not but it got me thinking…

—Sharon Yablon

In addition to the many fine qualities the Gunfighters attribute to Burnett’s film — its cinematic beauty, its unflinching specificity, its dark parable about the endurance of the human spirit under the socio-economic crush of race and class in America — there is also the deceptive simplicity of its mise en scene. Killer of Sheep’s harrowing ontological truths come wrapped in a delightful surrealism that is straight out of Keaton, both in the physicality of its comic vignettes and in the way its montage abruptly juxtaposes those scenes with footage of the abattoir in order to evoke a more universal truth about the broader human comedy.

The success of the film certainly registered with me. At about the same time Burnett was struggling to make his movie, I was coming of age in Toledo, Ohio when I experienced my own “Killer of Sheep” epiphany. It was on a sunny, summer August afternoon in 1975, and I came home from a hard day at play with my friends to find a message waiting for me from the Human Resources office at the Montgomery Ward’s store in the nearby mall; I had just been hired for my first job, a sales position for which I had applied several months before. Instead of elation, I remember I began to openly cry, understanding that summer was finally over, and that my future now openly stretched out before me, a bleak and inhospitable road of endless, meaningless work, terminating only in decrepitude and death.

Of course, this was many years before I found a girlfriend to support me.

—Bill Raden