Remembering Tom Dark

Tom Dark(left) and Omer M. Mozaffar during 2010 Ebertfest

Tom Dark(left) and Omer M. Mozaffar during 2010 Ebertfest

In case of some people, you miss them dearly when you are apart from them, but then you remember how unpleasant they can be when you are near them. I do not know much about Tom Dark, whom I met for the first time during 2010 Ebertfest, but he was definitely an opposite case in my opinion. I enjoyed his presence during those five days of 2010 April in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, and I have wanted to meet him in person again since the festival was over, but I also remember how much I have been baffled and annoyed by his strange comments and behaviors on Internet. To be frank with you, whenever I received his latest e-mail on his dreams or whatsoever along with my Far-flung Correspondent fellows, I frequently felt like a rookie archaeologist sweating over newly discovered ancient hieroglyphs, and I kept asking myself what the hell he really tried to talk about.

However, as others will attest, he was not a mean guy at all – he just had a tendency to grate on me and others when he communicated with us on Internet despite his good, huggable nature in real life. When I happened to watch one episode of TV series “Frasier” featuring Cliff Clavin and other main characters from “Cheers”, I noticed how similar Tom was to Cliff in several aspects. Cliff is also a nice guy, but conspiracies and other bizarre things he talks about are pretty weird to say the least, and he keeps talking about such things all the time in front of others. As a guy who had to pay attention to what Tom said or wrote as a friend while resisting the urge to block this eccentric codger who seems to have some private issues, I must say I felt really sorry for other characters ‘abused’ by Cliff while watching that episode.

Yes, I did not know what to do with his twitter comments or e-mails, but there were also good times, and that was why he was a little more than a disposable acquaintance to me. While he showed me and others those nice pictures of his horses and the environment around his residence, he also gave me some nice pep talks during our short conversation on twitter when I was depressed by my failed status as a banished graduate. In addition, I fondly remember how he was amused by the poster of “Bluebeard”(1972) posted by me(“That is truly scandalous.”).

From left to right) James Mottern, Tom Dark, Grace Wang, and Michael  Mirasol

(From left to right) James Mottern, Tom Dark, Grace Wang, and Michael Mirasol

And he was surely one of the most interesting persons to watch at 2010 Ebertfest. I saw him for the first time during the Opening gala at President’s House, but I just passed by him and Grace Wang, one of FFC members, for it was apparent that this old guy was platonically infatuated with her. Who knows what would have happened if Tom had been unmarried and as young as Grace.

The first movie shown at 2010 Ebertfest was “Pink Floyd the Wall”(1982), which was a depressingly electrifying experience, and we all got relaxed as Ali Arikan, Christy Lemire, and Tom Dark led the discussion and following Q & A session. I do not remember a lot about their talk or following questions, but Tom attracted my attention when he mentioned Peter Medak’s cult film “The Ruling Class”(1972) during the discussion, and I was willing to discuss about that hilarious film if I got a chance to have some private talk with him.

However, due to my introverted personality, I merely hanged around him and others during the rest of the festival while not talking much with him. He once jokingly commented that I was the only guy who did not like to be hugged, and that is pretty much true considering that, even though I talked a lot about movies with others at that time and enjoyed every minute, I was frequently shy and distant compared to others as far as I can remember. Not so surprisingly, my psychiatrist diagnosed later that I had Asperger’s syndrome, and the diagnosis turned out to be indeed correct after the formal evaluation.

I’d love to meet Tom again at the Ebertfest, but, sadly, that is not possible now. Yesterday morning in my time, my FFC friend Omer M. Mozaffar notified me and others that Tom Dark died on this Monday after falling into coma on last Friday due to a diabetic problem even he did not know, and I instantly expressed my condolence on Twitter. Though I am still not so sure about whether I really knew him, I will miss this old guy like I have missed my late friend/mentor Roger Ebert. Tom may be an old cantankerous jerk, but he was our old cantankerous jerk none the less, and I sort of liked him anyway.

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12 Responses to Remembering Tom Dark

  1. S M Rana says:

    Sad. Your description must be correct, because I only shared a lengthy online conversation with him, in which he did not use gloves….

    SC: How nice it is to know that I am not alone.

  2. mnr says:

    My goodness what an honest obituary! But that is what I have always admired about your writing, Seongyong- the honesty (and clarity and other features).

    I never met Mr. Dark in person, only knew him from his online presence, which was often prickly. Nevertheless, he was unafraid to express the many complex facets of his individuality, and so I admire his bravery in that respect.

    Condolences to the Dark family.

    SC: Thanks for your sincere comment. I was afraid my obituary was too vicious or accusatory.

    • S M Rana says:

      AND, I had to cut short the dialog midway (after around 80 exchanges of the conversational ball), with whatever propriety I could summon, as I saw the discussion reaching nowhere and rapidly sinking into murky waters….

      SC: Now I wonder how I could have short conversations with him.

  3. Gerardo says:

    I remmember when Tom stopped following most everybody in our group on Twitter because during the Egypt crisis we would discuss subjects other than that one. Then I saw him (for the last time, as it turns out) at Ebertfest 2011 and he was as nice as ever.
    I also have to say that some of the nicest and most enthusiastic comments I ever received for my FFC pieces came from him.
    But what I’ll mostly remember from Tom was his jumping several rows of seats at a time, at the Virginia Theater, in order to get to his seat.

    SC: Did you shot it, by the way?

    • Gerardo says:

      Sadly, no.

      SC: That’s a shame.

    • Greg says:

      I remember that, as he would tweet the names of everyone he was unfollowing. Luckily, I was unemployed at the time and so could RT as much of those Egyptian tweets as possible. But then, right before Ebertfest that year, he sent me some tweet where he swore at me, and I unfollowed him…until I met him at Ebertfest, and he turned out to be the sweetest guy ever.
      Seongyong, I like how you paraphrase Siskel’s description of Ebert in those last lines: “You may be an asshole, but you’re my asshole.” The funny thing is, it was Tom’s online personality that could be an asshole. The offline person was a sweet, soft-spoken, teddy-bear-of-a-man.

      SC: That is probably how I will remember him during the rest of my life.

  4. S M Rana says:

    One reason our online discussion got acerbic was that it touched, on the one hand, his own strange strongly maintained confidence about his own psychic power of being able to tell the future based on dreams…….and his virulent attack on my own Buddhist beliefs as a member of Soka Gakkai…..I’m unable to locate it so far from his blog, since it happened long back….It’s a known phenomenon that online blows are safer than offline…..never having met him in person, one can bet on his powerful persona which could leave such a strong effect merely on the basis of an online encounter, albeit bitter-sweet….

    SC: Thanks for sharing your memories of him with me.

    • S M Rana says:

      I am sure he must have been a loving elder to his near ones and sorely missed now, so condolences and apology, should any all read this, which I felt like sharing…..certainly I too lost my online cool in this 80 odd volley game of words…

      SC: Fortunately, I did not have to experience that.

  5. Tom was a very valued friend and respected “warrior” with our cause. We are all deeply saddened by this news that we received from his son last night. Again, we had the highest regard for Tom, valued his friendship and were blessed with his warrior spirit. His wisdom was a gift that we will never forget . . . he will always live on in our memory . . . and we, The Write Agenda, will still continue to fight on for what Tom believed in. To wit:

    “[Victoria Strauss & Ann “A.C.” Crispin] and their arrogant no-sale friends comprising a cult of lying mutual flatterers have far more legitimate complaints against them then they have against a world that never wanted their contrived typing products.”

    – Tom Dark

    We’ll keep the pressure on friend . . . Rest in Peace . . . and be assured that The Write Agenda will not but we will continue to expose Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware and their “flying-monkeys.”

    Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim

    The Write Agenda Staff

    thewriteagenda.wordpress.com

    SC: Thank you for the comment.

  6. S M Rana says:

    PS: By the way, I’m also a non-hugger.

    SC: Oh.

  7. Stephen Shapiro says:

    Tom Dark, aka Pete Danison to me, no blogs, no tweets, but over 40 years of letters and emails, of late night walks for many miles on narrow country roads telling stories about time. Like the starlight that illuminated our footsetps Pete’s stories were about Jupiter, the Moon and Emanual Velikofsky’s theories. Mine were about growing up in Queens.

    We met at an obscure community college in the Adirondacks in 1970. Initially it was the music that got my attention. Pete was a master of every instrument he ever touched. He had a confidence and good natured, sarcastic, Zappa-esque presence when he played. Pete and his band doing Hendrix was incredible.

    Those years we were roomates, sharing of necessity rent and resources. Pete’s long wild blond mane and my locally unwelcome hippy looks and attitude isolated us from the mountain folk and their somewhat retarded opinions of “other” or as they liked to say, “outside agitators.” We were driven together, our friendship becoming deep and eventually three dimensional, ticking off time, altitude and miles from the Adirondacks to the Rockies, Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs to Tucson, Abiquu NM and Critchell Co. We somehow managed to stay in touch over a span of decades, marriages, kids and careers. Not an easy thing to do.

    The nom de plume thing seemed a bit strange to me at first but consistant with the mostly anonymous medium he embraced as Tom Dark. We never talked about it because I still called him Pete and he called me Stephen. But he shared much of his work with me and I with him.

    Sometimes I got a whiff of a darker and pointedly meaner quality to his criticism and commentary but attributed it to his addiction to the internet and how it seems to disjoin people from flesh and feeling anyway; a trait and tactic obviously acceptable to those who would play the game as avatar. Online you can wear the invincible “guardall” that would otherwise not protect you from getting punched in the face for mouthing off.

    In “real life” Pete was gentle and generous and immensely talented. I’ll miss his letters and those pictures of him with those horses he loved so much. So it goes.

    SC: Tom Dark I met in person looks like Pete Danison. Thanks for sharing your memories of him with us.

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