Peter J. Ganci, FDNY Chief

Anyone who knows me well enough to say they understand how I think knows “Waiting for Godot” is my favorite piece of writing. This play, allegedly about nothing, is, in fact, about everything: life, death, and how we struggle from one pole to the other. It is also about how two men, faced with oblivion, find comfort in one another, perhaps even a little grace. Their lives are rubble, but they have each other to pull meaning out of it, and they go on. …


Pearl Jam @ PJ20 in Alpine Valley, WI

I used to say of Pearl Jam’s music that it likely saved my life. I knew this as the most authentic thing in junior high, and I’ve carried that around for thirty years since their first album, Ten came out.

I grew up a quietly enraged boy. I had a stable family and an average suburban upbringing, but I was also born with spina bifida and went in for surgery after surgery to fix god-knows-what for the first ten years of my life. When I was out of the hospital and back at school, bullies bullied me near-competitively. I was…


SWEET DREAMS — A.I, Artificial Intelligence — the most misunderstood Spielberg film

I think about the end a lot these days — not my individual life, per se — but the capital-T, capital-E, The End. As we emerge, coma-like, from a monstrous pandemic into the sun, which has been blasting its way deep into our pores and the pores of the earth, it’s easy to feel confused, frightened, and a little nihilistic about the whole thing crashing down on us.

In times like these, I turn to the arts. During my quarantine isolation, I have drawn, written, photographed, and sang more than ever in recent memory. The impulse is part-habit, as I’ve…


Lou Gehrig, moments after delivering his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, 7/4/39

Once, during my incarceration at a parochial grammar school in suburban New York, I had to do a book report on an “inspirational” figure. Most of the other kids picked athletes of the day or some dusty historical person. I was at a loss. I had no one who made my Ninja Turtles world a better place (besides the Ninja Turtles themselves). Primarily, this was because I had a surplus of spina bifida and a deficit of friends, and no one around me or in the larger culture even looked like me.

It was that superficial.

The school librarian, an…


Dear Mr. Malick,

What’s the secret?

I have struggled for weeks to write this and have failed each time.
It isn’t because I’m scared of it, although the subject of your work and its meaning are intimidating. It isn’t that I am shy, either. I’m usually pretty good at effusive prayers kneeling at the Altar of Film.
I have tried to boil down your little dinosaur movie but keep coming up empty-handed. That is the power and problem of the thing.

It’s maddening.

Then, I remembered an exercise in therapy past that involved free association, meant to illuminate The Story…


(Author’s Note: the views expressed in the following, especially those concerning marine life & Hollywood, are entirely mine.)

Dear Jim,

I’ve sent very few fan letters in all my years — two, I think — preferring, as my handwriting sucks, to write such a thing in front of the person of my affection on the occasion of their achievements, which have no doubt moved me so deeply I can’t contain myself. I appreciate every dumbfounded celebrity who stood there — possibly cornered, let’s be honest — and let me love them as I do.

You are a little different, though…


“It was never about a building.”

I’m thinking this now after reading the Arclight, Los Angeles’ famous cinema chain, will shutter its doors. The Arclight — and the Cinerama Dome attached to it — was too expensive, it rarely showed movies on actual film, and there was something about its cavernous innards that was a bit cold. It was also my neighborhood theatre and a place where I spent my movie money in the decade+ as a transplanted Angeleno. …


A small portion of my own Criterion collection.

Living with Spina Bifida and movie-love are the most prominent parts of my identity. The experience of the former has informed the experience of the latter insofar as my many years on the planet have created an ideology of suffering and relief the movies have shaped. I love rescue narratives, body horror, slapstick, and Spike Lee for largely the same reason: these movies tend to express something about how we live with pain — physically, spiritually, socially. Or don’t.

I will watch anything, and although I am dying to get back in a theatre, streaming movies has been my salvation…


Me, aged 3 days, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at New York Hospital. Despite being on time, I was placed among the premies. making it the only time I was bigger than everyyone in the room.

Nirvana released their first album “Bleach” before I had rights etched in stone. That’s called perspective. Here’s another: I am no historian nor critic. I am not a legal scholar nor a medical expert. The following is wholly personal.

I was ten-going-on-eleven when a then-Republican president decided to put pen to paper and made it so the world — those purveyors of commerce, education, politics, and creators of civic spaces — were asked to make room for my existence and to support that existence’s flowering. That is, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by George Bush and passed into…

Michael J. Dougherty

New Yorker-turned-Angeleno. Irishman. Film Person. Advocate. Haver of spina bifida. Dreams of meeting a dinosaur.

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