December 29, 2006

why making movies is the best job in the world

It's been a good Christmas.

I got to go home, eat way too much, and hang out with my ridiculously big family. Even got to talk to my brother overseas in Iraq via sat phone.

Swooped into Atlanta for a few days, did some good work and drank a surprising amount of alcohol with some good friends that I honestly hadn't seen in a few years.

Treated myself to a new suit. I still have to work my way up to Ozwald Boatang, so I had to settle for Ralph Lauren this time. Oh, the sacrifices.

Even getting a new bed.

But the best gift of all is the movie.

Not the one I got from Netflix or the other one I ordered on Amazon.

No, the best Christmas gift came at the end of a weekend in a blazingly cold industrial set at night, in the midst of one of the worst hair days I've had in a LONG time (and, given the length of my locks lately, that's REALLY saying something), after I got to say "that's a wrap" on my tasty little morsel of a movie, "5" (MUCH more about that later).

And the gift was when my lead actress, who's appeared in a couple of major films with a combined budget of around $140 million, came to me and said this:

"You have the best run set I have ever worked on. INCLUDING the two studio movies I've done. I had the best time. I would absolutely work with you again. Just call me."

Like I said, it's been a good Christmas.

And I DARE the New Year to top it!

Happy Holidays.

December 25, 2006

Full of Wonder

Earlier this fall, I went to see Christopher Nolan's new film, The Prestige. And, while I was slightly dissappointed by the over-all execution of the story (I HATE it when I can figure out the big twist about 45 minutes before it's actually revealed), I was suitably impressed with the quality of the actual production and the excellent performances.

But, as usual, the thing that stuck out the most in my mind from the film was it's perspective on magic.

I think magic is something that's often misunderstood, both in it's execution and purpose.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit The Magic Castle, a semi-private club for magicians in hills above Hollywood Boulevard. While it's primarily a social setting for stage magicians, they also offer nightly shows all all sorts to the public on a limited basis. In the course of a single night, one guy produce live birds from his sleeves, another made my friend's drivers license fly like a helicopter blade, and, in the night's highlight for me, a 19-year-old kid conjured a car battery seemingly from thin air.

Of course, all throughout the night, several folks in our party were twisting themselves into knots trying to figure out the mechanics of how these magicians pulled off these tricks.

Which, in my opinion, totally misses the point.

When we see something extraordinary, something that seems to defy our average, everyday conception of how the so-called "real" world is supposed to work, we're given an opportunity to surrender to the experience and just bask in the glory and wisdom that there is so much more beyond the average and everyday.

Magic is meant to help us remember that, as the Bard once wrote, "there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy, Horatio".

There's that word again. :-)

Magic is there to remind us that there is MORE.

So, while those of us without little children in the house slept a little later, the greatest magic trick of all was being pulled off in houses and living rooms all around the world.

Millions of children went to bed, but did not sleep, because they knew that, in a few hours, their faith in the unseen & the miraculous would be renewed once more.

But let's also not forget all those millions of parents who've been deputized as magicians for a day. Because the joy of the little ones as they find that new Tonka Trick or Tickle-Me Elmo or PS3 under the old artificial tree, I dare say, pales in comparison to the joy of the temporary Santa Clauses of the world.

Because Santa is really more of a title than a person: a cross-cultural transliteration for Jesus - the ultimate deliverer of the ultimate gift in the Christian mythology.

And, as Brother Farrakhan reminded me, we Christians are called to be like Christ. And being Christ-like, in my opinion, has far less to do with being a martyr or an evangelist.

Above all else, Christ is generous.

And when we assume that role, and give a small bit of ourselves to another, make our love tangible, if even for a moment, we receive something back that is intangible, and, ultimately, invaluable.

That's magic.

That's Christmas.

So stop surfing the internet for a bit. :-)

Go out and make some wonder happen.

Happy Holidays.

December 06, 2006

The Road to Hell

So, as the child of a fairly religious Protestant Christian household, I get alot of prayers & prayer requests in my e-mail. The prayer requests will always get a moment of quiet blessing from me. But I almost always ignore and/or delete the praise chain letters.

You know, the ones that scream "If you REALLY loved Jesus, you'd forward me to every person you know a thousand times over, you jack-legged backslider!!!!"

A friend once asked me why is God so quiet when all of the bad things in the world seem to be screaming on my news and in the world all of the time.

And I told her that the bad things scream because God is a given.

God doesn't need to shout.

God is.

I had a dream once where I was writing math & physics equations on a blackboard in a classroom (yeah, I know, despite the curly locks and designer clothes, I'll always be an engineer at heart), and the equations were all about proving the theories of quantum computing.

For the non-scientific among you, here's a quick primer:
Everything you see on your regular computer is the result of the combination of millions upon millions of tiny bits of information stored in it's memory as either the number zero or the number one. Those 0's and 1's are there because the basic transistors that form the computer's memory register either the presence or the absence of a single electron.

Well, electrons are everywhere. The transistor itself contains trillions of electrons. You and I are both composed of trillions upon trillions of electrons (among other tiny things). As is the steering wheel of your car or that slice of bacon you had for breakfast this morning.

So, if these tiny, clunky transistors inside of your Dell or your MacBook are capable of all of these amazing things, simply by processing a few million electrons, what would you call something that could process all of the electrons in the universe?

You, me, this computer monitor you're looking at, the chair you're sitting in, the shoes you're wearing - we are all part of a vast and unfathomable intelligence that is constantly.... thinking? Comprehending?

Or maybe just being.

It just is.

And that, my friends, is God.

God is.

Or, as He told Moses, "I am".

That is all.

Which means everytime you grab a doorknob, you're grabbing God.
Everytime you hear a leaf blower outside your window, you're hearing God.
Everytime you have dinner, you're tasting God.
Everytime you splash on cologne, you're smelling God.
Everytime you make love, you're touching God.

Everytime you look in the mirror, you're seeing God.

And everytime you look someone else in the eye, God is seeing you.

God is.

So, if God just..... is, doesn't it stand to reason that you can NEVER, EVER be separated from God?

And, if that is also the case, doesn't it also mean that sin, the state of separation from God, simply does not exist?

Sin is an illusion.

Or, more appropriately, a delusion.

Because, you see, from the moment we're born, we feel separate. When your very first conscious experience is that of being violently thrust out of your mother's womb into a cold, blinding world, every single thought you've ever had since then has been shaped by that moment.

Being expelled. Then cut off. Literally.

And hence, we have "original sin".

James O. Barr wrote in "The Crow" that "Mother" is the name for "God" in the lips of every child.

But, oddly enough, once you understand the physics behind the metaphysics, it's obvious that there simply is no such thing as "sin" as we Christians tend to think of it.

God just is. And, if God is, than everything that is, is God.

You are God.

You cannot be separate from yourself.
You cannot be separate from God. God's presence is perpetual. His embrace is eternal and reaches you no matter where you go or who you are or what you do.

That's love. True love.
And it's unconditional.

So, if God's love is unconditional, then, logically speaking, there's nothing you can do that will stop God from loving you.

God loves Hitler.

God loves Bin Laden.

God loves your abuser.

God loves your rapist.

God loves the person who murdered your child.

One of the books rejected by the Council of Nicea for inclusion in what we now know as the Holy Bible was the Gospel of Mary of Magdela. And, in the tiny bit of it that was found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, it gives a fascinating account of Jesus, when he visits his disciplines (one of whom is, apparently, Mary) after his resurrection. And in it, point blank, Jesus says "There Is No Sin, but it is YOU who make sin".

It's a state of mind.

In the URL of the title above, you'll find a link to NPR's weekly profile show, "The American Life". And, in an episode entitled "Heretics", they talk about Rev. Carlton Pearson, a prominent and successful pastor and former rising star in the evangelical Christian community who suddenly had an epiphany, based in, of all things, logic.

If God's love is unconditional, than there cannot be a Hell, and, therefore, everyone is already saved.

But, apparently, many Christians seem to need Hell. It helps them sleep at night to know that, even if the law of man never catches up with a Hitler or a Bin Laden or a rapist or a murderer, that the justice of God will ultimately catch up with them. I've lost count of how many Christians I've heard say that, if there was no Hell, everyone would be free to do whatever they want, and there would be untold atrocities committed in their wake.

As if untold atrocities don't already occur every single second of every day in every city on earth. And, honestly, I'm always forced to wonder, just what kind of atrocities do these "Christians" really wish they could do if they ever thought for a second that God the Punisher wasn't looking?

Instead of trying to keep up appearances for God's ever vigilant eye, shouldn't these very same Christians be working on their own hearts & minds, seeking a path to truly lift the darkness from their souls, rather than simply papering over holes in their morality with a nice Sunday suit and a Bible in an embroidered cover?

It seems to me that the centerpiece of faith for SO many believers out there is fear.

We always hear about "God Fearing Men", as if that were something to aspire to. That I'm somehow more virtuous because I don't knock over liquor stores or kick old ladies down stairs for fear of retribution from a giant, cosmic avenger.

In that universe of faith, the Old Testament God that people seem to cling to so dearly, in comparison to the Devil, sounds like the very definition of "the lesser of two evils". We hold onto that deity like the abused child clings to the cuff of a drunken man in a white tank-top.

So people sing hymns and say praises loud enough for a fickle, vain God to hear on the off chance that he'll find favor with us, his poor, unworthy subjects. It sounds like that episode in the Twilight Zone, where the boy who could do anything wished away the whole world, except for his parents and the people in the town around him, so they could sit at his feet and watch videos of dinosaur fights all day.

No wonder so many people endure indignity and suffering, ignoring, as Howard Dean says, their own political self interest and voting for the self-proclaimed Party of God. If they don't, in their minds, they just might end up in Hell, and they'd better not leave any stone unturned.


And Fear.

A theology based in those things can only be one of subjugation, not salvation. And it serves no one but the person who preaches it, as if he or she were the only person who could speak definitively on God's behalf.

I choose to love God. Not fear Him.

And, by loving God, I love myself, and every single other person I ever meet. And vice versa.

Carlton Pearson was branded a heretic and, for all intents and purposes, excommunicated from his church.

I suppose, given everything I've had to say here today, some might think of me as a heretic as well.

Personally, I just think my eyes are open.

November 07, 2006


So, I must admit, I've become a bit fashion-obsessed since this summer.

I'm sure it has more than a little to do with living in Los Angeles.

You can also chalk some of it up to having a European girlfriend who was constantly harping that I'm too old to keep dressing like a student.

Of course, it really started with Ozwald Boetang. He is, by far, the coolest brother I've ever seen in an orange, hand-made suit. And, after seeing his handiwork, both on his show, as well as in movies like "Miami Vice" and "Gangster No. 1", not to mention Jamie Foxx for the last two Oscars, I've now determined that I need to make a big sale JUST to have a hand-made suit from Boatang.

But what REALLY pushed me over the edge was the film "The Devil Wears Prada". I'm not going to give a big, long, Macroscopic review like I usually do. Let's just say that I got a subscription to Men's Vogue that night.

Yes, it's true. I think I'm officially a metrosexual.

Of course, I've always been aware of clothes. Old friends are quite familiar with my "Theory of Ugly Uniforms" - i.e. sports teams with ugly uniforms NEVER win championships. Think about it - if you have on whack gear, how can you feel good about yourself? And if you don't feel good about yourself, how can you possibly feel like a champion? And if you don't FEEL like a champion, how can you possibly BECOME a champion?

Consider the Detroit Pistons - during the "Bad Boys" era, they had the classic, simple blue & red uniforms. They won back-to-back championships. But, for years, despite having a guy like Grant Hill, one of the most talented players in the game, they could never match that success.

During those same years, they also had this rediculous teel uniforms with some stupid iron horse logo.

Then, a few years back, they changed to a modernized version of the classic blue & red. Got some great talent.

Champions again.

L.A. Clippers - take note.

Point being, the same, ultimately, applies to non-athletes. You can't really expect to conquer the world in sweatpants and a thread-bare t-shirt. I have a good friend who used to call that particular combination of clothes her "I Give Up On Life" uniform.

I once argued with a friend that I refused to buy silk boxers - after all, why spend so much money for something that is ultimately going to wrap around my ass?

And my friend replied - "Of course you should spend alot of money for something to wrap around your ass. It's YOUR ass!"

In short, I put alot more thought and care into what I put on my body these days.

But it was only after I'd walked out of my local polling place today that I realized what I'd done:

My favorite crimson polo shirt from Structure, great pair of jeans LagunaSport jeans, and these excellent cream-colored Italian sport shoes I got as an absolute steal on Melrose.

Yes. It's election day, and I'm wearing red, white, and blue.

In case anyone was wondering, I am an American.

I'm a patriot.

And, just like anyone who's sick to death watching something they love sink deeper and deeper into corruption and dispair, today is, as Andrew Sullivan said, not an election. It's an intervention.

I'm also a liberal. So, here are some things I believe, and how they dictate how I vote.

1. Generally speaking, I only vote for candidates I believe in. Which means I didn't vote for anyone for governor. It also means that I didn't vote for Diane Feinstein (she's too conservative for me) or Diane Watson (what the Hell does she actually DO, anyway?) - no big loss for these ladies, seeing how they're running unopposed. I also didn't vote for Cruz Bustamante - call it payback for running in the stupid recall election, splitting the Democratic vote, and helping to give us the Governator. See ya later, Cruz.

2. I don't vote for bond initiatives. No matter what they're for. Unless it's an emergency, like the War Bonds they issued to defeat the Nazis or something like that. Generally speaking, bonds represent a certain point of view on how government should work that I don't agree with. And bonds have only become really popular because we've come to deify the market while simultaneously demonizing the notion of taxes. If we, as a people, collectively agree that something is important, instead of of selling off pieces of the country to the highest bidder to help pay for it, why don't we just pony up ourselves for the things that matter? Instead of asking each person to contribute a fair share to the maintenance of the nation, we're begging the rich to lend the state the money, at a significant mark-up. That just strikes me as fundamentally unpatriotic. I mean, think about it - George Bush is saying that the War in Iraq is the definitive conflict of our lifetime. And yet, not only is he asking us to give LESS money to support said effort (in the form of these insane, unfunded tax cuts), but we've issued treasury bonds that we have to pay interest on to pay for it.... most of which are being bought by China.

So, generally speaking, bonds are bad. We have the money. Let's just pay for it. Moreover, I think bonds encourage waste on the legislature's part. It's like having a high limit credit card - it doesn't exactly encourage fiscal responsibility.

3. The ONLY exception I'll make on bonds are those that are issued for education-related initiatives. Especially now, since we've been saddled with an unfunded Federal mandate called "No Child Left Behind", the future of the country, dare I say, even the world, depends on us getting education right. Don't believe me? Watch "The Wire" on HBO. You'll see what I'm talking about.

4. I don't vote for Republicans. With VERY few exceptions. When I lived in New Jersey, I voted for Christine Todd Whitman for governor back in the mid '90's against Jim MacGreevy (even then, as a born & bred Democrat, I had a sense that MacGreevy couldn't be trusted -
who knew?). And I think, given the fact that her new book is called "It's My Party, Too: Taking Back the Republican Party", you get the idea that she's not your typical Republican. As you know, my brother is a Republican, and I have nothing but respect for his opposing viewpoint. But the way his party's leaders conduct themselves politically and during elections themselves - voter surpression (usually targeted against Blacks), exploitative ads (usually done at the expense of Blacks), push polls, robo-calls, sometimes down-right violence - these people are fundamentally un-American. You want to legitimately debate the issues, fine. But Jim Crow is illegal, gang. Until the stink of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove and the Nixon "Southern Strategy" is washed away from the GOP, they will NEVER get my vote. I'll sooner leave the ballot blank.

So, yes, friends, I DID vote, today. I always vote. But I did not vote for Phil. Or Arnold. Or Peter Camejo. I know longer vote for fear.

But I happily voted for Mark Ridley Thomas and Jerry Brown and Debra Bowen. I gladly voted for Prop 87, to tax the oil companies to fund alternative energy research. And I gladly voted for public financing here in California.

And now, I'm going to the movies. :-) After all, nothing else is really going to happen this election day until midnight.

November 03, 2006

Inaugurate Yourself

From the moment I sat down in the movie theatre last night, I knew I'd have to write something today.

And by the time the movie ended, when I was literally wiping tears from my eyes, I was worried that there was no way I could possibly convey all that I wanted to say surrounding this film in a blog post.

So, let's just start with the obvious:

Last night, I saw a screening of Emilio Estevez's new film, "Bobby", about the day in 1968 when Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in the Ambassador Hotel just after winning the California Democratic Primary for that year's presidential election.

I very rarely make Oscar predictions, but, this time, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this movie will win Best Picture next February.

It's that good.

And not because Emilio Estevez is a particularly exceptional screenwriter or film director. His visual style borrows alot from Oliver Stone's "JFK" and "Nixon", and the multi-character storytelling that seems to be in vogue this year (even yours truly is getting in on the act on that one) is not especially remarkable.

It's not even because it has the most insanely all-star cast I've seen in years:

Harry Belafonte, Anthony Hopkins, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Demi Moore, Aston Kutcher, Nick Cannon, Joy Bryant, Josh Jackson, Freddy Rodriguez, Laurence Fishburne, David Krumholtz, Sharon Stone, Lindsey Lohan, Elijah Woods

And I hear the budget of the film was only $10 million.

Just so you can understand how much of a big deal that is, Lindsey Lohan got paid $7.5 million to star in "Just My Luck" earlier this year. All of these actors took a serious pay cut to do this film.

"So", you may ask,"What is the big deal about this movie?"

As many of you know, I literally had a real political "Come-to-Jesus" moment during the 2004 election. And I wrote about it the very next day, in a post called "The Sun WILL Rise".

In that post, I talked about how that election was really a referendum on fear, and that fear won in a landslide.

I made a decision that day, that I would no longer vote for fear.

Which means that I no longer vote for the lesser of two evils. I no longer vote against someone or some policy or to send a message.

Instead, from now on, I will vote for what I truly desire.

From now on, I will vote with courage. And with faith. And with hope.

So, as you can see from my previous post about the California Democratic Party, I will NOT be voting for either Arnold Schwartzenegger OR Phil Angelides. Because neither of them represent the kind of leadership, or, quite frankly, the kind of California that I choose to live in.

Now, since there are more than a few people like me out there, who have not been pursuaded by Mr. Angelides, it will probably mean that Arnold will get re-elected. And that makes me sad.

But, the fact of the matter is, I know that I have the ultimate power over my life and the circumstances surrounding it. Arnold being governor may present me with new challenges, but they are all within my power to surmount.

And that's not because I have such-and-such a job, or because I know this or that person, or because I have a couple of degrees from so-and-so university.

One of my favorite Bible passages is where someone asks Jesus why he and his disciplines eat with so-called "unclean" hands. And Jesus replies:
"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body...What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"
I don't fear Arnold because there is, truly, nothing Arnold can do to me that I don't first do to myself.

Just like I don't fear George Bush.

Or Al Qaeda.

I don't fear them because I am eternal.

In the cosmic, Biblical, spiritual, esoteric sense of the word.

Certainly, I can bleed. My bones can break, just like my heart. My body can be killed.

But all of those things are, in the end, not me.

I am something More.

And, as such, I choose to live my life as More.

To have More. To be More.

So everything I do must be More.

And so, I cannot vote for these candidates who are on the ballot for Governor next Tuesday, because they are not More.

And, since I am, they cannot possibly represent me.

There have been those in the past who were More.

Kurt Schmoke, the old mayor of my home town of Baltimore, was More.

Some of Howard Dean was More. Some, but not all - he caught the tail of it, and I love what he stands for, but he's still, at a level, playing the other game. Because when you exist only in opposition, you exist in a state of lack. In many ways, I think Dean will be seen by historians as the political equivalent of a progressive John the Baptist. But I've said plenty about him.

And, of course, Bill Clinton.

After all, he was, is, and continues to be, "The Man From A Place Called 'Hope'". And what is Hope but the faith in More than what is before you today?

And I'm beginning to suspect that Barack Obama is More. Because, like the title of his book implies, hope is a courageous exercise, and to even suggest that that could be the cornerstone of a campaign in the age of Karl Rove, demonstrates, at least, in my mind, how much More he may be.

And More is like porn.

People know it when they see it, and once you've seen it, sometimes, you can never get enough of it.

Which is why Obama is selling out crowds all over the country, and he isn't even running yet.

And, in all honesty, I think the last person on a national scene who was truly MORE was Bobby Kennedy.

I have a friend who told me she saw RFK speak at a rally in New Orleans back in '68. She said the only way to describe the energy in the room was "sexual".

Now, some people think that's a dirty word. But I see it another way. Because that which is sexual is that which creates life.

It's that creative spark that reaches down and touches something deep in your soul.

Your greatest lover.

Kennedy, for all of the things he was - a child of priviledge, a lieutenant of McCarthy's during the commie witch hunts, a fairly cut-throat Attorney General, a carpetbagger - all of that was transcended by the energy of the moment of America at that time, for which he was the ultimate, perfect vessel.

A vessel of hope.

That was shattered.

And when that moment, the assassination, comes in the film, and I see the characters weep for all that seemingly is lost in that instant, I suddenly found myself in tuned with MY America, today, and all that has seemingly been lost in the last six years.

And, when those celluloid characters wept on the screen, I wept with them.

Because their America is my America.

But, even in death, Bobby's voice still carries on, from the famous speech he gave in the wake of Martin Luther King's murder:
"Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

Even in the midsts of sorrow and pain, we know that, in the end, nothing has truly been lost.

Bobby may have bleed. His body may have been broken.

But he was More.

And so was the vision and the dream of his America that he brought to light.

Those things are eternal.

And his America is OUR America.

So, remember, when you exercise your civic duties next Tuesday, if you're choosing the lesser of two evils, you're still choosing evil.

Know that nothing that those who oppose you and your beliefs can do can ever touch who you TRULY are.

Have the courage to choose More.

That could be picking a candidate, or, it could mean staying at home, not out of absentmindedness, but out of a willful decision.

Vote with your heart first. Let it tell you what you should do with your body on Election Day.

Choose More.

Then have More.

Go see "Bobby" when it premieres.


Elephants in the Closet

No link this time - just a musing.

An old acquaintance of mine was an openly gay man who went to Dartmouth in the late-80's and early '90's, during a time when the Dartmouth Review, a conservative student newspaper, was making national headlines for it's incidiary rhetoric against gays, women, & people of color - so much so that some were starting to blame the paper for acts of harassment and intimidation against diverse students and faculty on that campus.

And, in the midsts of all of this right wing hatred, my friend tells me that he was actually sleeping with one of the staffers for the Review - someone who was responsible for some of the most viralent anti-gay diatribes the paper had ever published.

In light of Mark Foley, Jeff Gannon, and Ted Haggart, I now understand why so many Republicans think Gay Marriage will somehow destroy the institution of marriage and the fabric of our society.

There are so many of these guys who are in the closet, pretending to be straight, and they're terrified of a world where they can be fully expressed. Many of their straight marriages WOULD end, because the world would move that much closer to letting them truly fulfill their hearts' desires. The temptation might be too great.

It reminds me a bit of Klute, the old Jane Fonda sexual thriller from the 70's, where the villain wants to kill her because she helped him find his true sexual expression, even though he still thinks he's a dirty dirty boy for doing it. Damn her! If only she would have left him alone, then he could be normal, missionary sex, repressed like everyone else!

I guess the people who have the hardest time accepting their nature become the biggest pursecutors - punishing the outside world as standins for the punishment they think that they, themselves, deserve, but hide from.

Anyway, just a thought.

Dead? or Alive?

One of my favorite comics in the last few years was Mark Millar's WANTED, about weakling slacker kid who discovers that he's the heir to the world's deadliest super-assassin and has inherited his father's superpowers as well as place in a fraternity of comic-book supervillains who secretly took over the world in 1986 and made it the not-quite-so-super place we all see around us today.

It's brillant, and wickedly fun, with characters like Shithead, who's literally a living pile of morphing excrement, and Johnny Two-Dicks, a schizophrenic gangster who reluctantly takes his criminal marching orders from his talking, evil superfluous penis. These characters are unrepentently evil - they kill, rob, & rape with total impunity, and the drama comes from watching a total wuss find his true self by getting in touch with his evil side - but still recognizing that, even among bad people, there's such a thing as loyalty, duty, even love.

So, when I heard it was being adapted for the screen, with James MacAvoy, currently starring opposite Forest Whitaker in the incredibly powerful film about Idi Amin, The Last King of Scotland, cast in the lead role, I was VERY excited.

Until today.

When I read the official synopsis of the movie adaptation. See it for yourself here at this link for
SuperHero Hype.

"Mythological Fates"? WTF?!??!?!?!!

Who's brilliant idea was THAT?!

I'll reserve final judgement until I see a trailer, but, suffice it to say, I'm not pleased.

I suppose, once you go beyond a certain budget threshold for a film, the suits assume that no one will pay to see bad people do bad things.

And, to those folks, I have only one word for them:


Who was the inspiration for the visual look for the main character in the comic in the first place!

But I imagine Mark Millar himself has the best attitude about the whole thing:
One thing you WON'T see me doing is bitching. JG and I own this and had the right to keep it from ever being a movie, but we decided to take the plunge and hope for the best. They paid us well and we can only hope they do a good job. Like I said, I'm hopeful. Even if it's nothing like the book in the end (I have no idea), The Shining was nothing like the book and was still great. I wish them nothing but the best.
Anyway, read the comic. It's excellent.

September 15, 2006

The California Democratic Party Sucks

And I say that as a life-long, fairly committed liberal progressive.

You know why? Because, when faced with the challenge of promoting a candidate with virtually no name recognition, no message, and even less charisma (Phil Angelides), the only ad they've taken the time to put on the air is the one that repeats a clip of Arnold at an '04 campaign rally for GW Bush and complains about the Iraq war.

In fact, if you look at the Party website, I can see only ONE instance where they even mention Angelides on the home page. No pictures.

Now, some of you may say, "But, Day, Phil Angelides HAS no charisma! Of course they wouldn't put him on their front page."

And my response is this: California is the most populous state in the union, and has been a solidly blue state for at least a decade. You mean to tell me, out of all of these Democrats out there, the best we've had to offer in the last ten years to lead our state have been Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamante, Steve Westly, and Phil Angelides?!?!?!

Howard Dean has made the centerpiece of his tenure as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee his 50-state strategy, i.e. we will run Democratic candidates in EVERY elected office available in the country. School boards, town selectors, county commissioners, EVERY OFFICE. The point is, by encouraging more people to run, you get a stronger base of candidates to draw from for the bigger offices (mayors, governors, senators, congressmen, even presidents) and a stronger community of savvy party staffers & campaign workers.

My point is this - the only stars in the California Democratic Party that, at least, I can identify, are Gavin Newsome and Antonio Villaraigosa. There are tons of guys in state-wide offices who have NO presence in the consciousness of the state electorate. We desperately need to devote more attention to our farm system here in state. If we'd done it back when Gray Davis was in power, we might not have to deal with Herr Governator today.

It seems to me that the California Democratic Party has become what the National Republican Party has been for years - an entrenched, smoke-filled room where every good old boy gets his shot at the big chair based on seniority, rather than a vibrant, progressive, political organization eager to seek out new blood, new ideas, new policies, and new opportunities to serve the Golden State.

I'll never vote for Arnold. The mere fact that he's started to embrace some Democratic policies after his reform agenda was soundly rejected by the electorate just proves to me that he stands for nothing, and will simply tilt his sails to the prevailing political wind. The only thing he's committed to is staying in office.

But, in all honesty, I simply can't vote for Phil Angelides, either. I didn't vote for him (or Steve Westly, for that matter) in the Democratic Primary, and I don't plan on starting now.

And the Green Party is, if you'll pardon my French, a fuckin' joke. See the Pennsylvania Senate Race, where they're gleefully absorbing buckets of cash and petition-signing volunteers from the Republican candidate Rick Santorum's campaign to keep their own candidate on the ballot and draw votes from the leading Democrat Bob Casey, if you need any more proof of that.

So, what's a committed progressive, who prides himself on voting in every election (not just "the big ones", Mr. Cheney), like myself supposed to do this November?

I wonder if I can write myself in on the ballot? :-)

July 11, 2006

Armaggeddon It!

'End Times' Religious Groups Want Apocalypse Soon - Los Angeles Times

Things like this are both amusing and disheartening.

Amusing because, after all, doesn't the bible explicitly state that you cannot ever know the time or place of the second coming?

It's kind of like the the riddle in "Die Hard III" - "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven brides. Each bride had seven sons. Each son had seven.....blah blah blah - How many were going to St. Ives?"

People will spend all their time trying to do the multiplication and ignore the fact that, in the very beginning, he said "I was going to St. Ives" - not the polygamous man. Those who are trying to induce the end times like a forced labor are doing all of this work while ignoring the basic premise.

Disheartening because, well, it's one thing to be so depressed that you'll kill yourself - it's another thing entirely when you hate this life so much that you want to end it for EVERYONE.

My heart goes out to these poor misguided souls who, at the end of the day, really just want to go home and get a hug from Jesus.

But, come ON, man! Wasn't that the plot at the end of "Ghostbusters"? This is the kind of foolishness supervillains do in comic books. Give it a rest.

May 30, 2006

Words Made Flesh

The link in the title above is an interview at - but more about that in a minute.

About a year ago, my agent asked me to put together a bio of myself that he could include with my written materials whenever he sent it around to any prospective producers, executives, etc. Realizing that this bio was yet another opportunity to show off my acrobatic skills with the English language, I really relished the opportunity to have a little fun at my own expense, with phrases like:
"Realizing that slavery was still technically illegal in the United States, He left the technology industry and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of filmmaking."
After all, this was being distributed to illustrate that I am, in fact, an artist. Attitude plus information was the name of the game.

The last line in my bio reads:
"He considers himself a Christian, so he’s learning not to look down on religious fundamentalists."
The two books I have the earliest memories of as a child are a picture book about the life of Abraham Lincoln, and a Children's Bible. It had all the Cecil B. DeMille-ready sections of the Old Testament, plus the Nativity, the Sermon on the Mount, & the Last Supper. I always wondered why my huge, white Children's Bible, with the big letters and colorful pictures, had so many fewer chapters than the regular Bible Mom & Dad had. It was missing the gory details of the Crucifixtion, the Acts of the Apostles, all of Paul's letters, and the Book of Revelations.

I recall, several years ago, Louis Farrakhan made a highly publicized stop-over here in the City of Angels, giving a sermon in, of all places, the Staples Center. I caught a small portion of what he had to say on TV, and this part always stuck with me.

Farrakhan spoke of both the kinship and the distinctions between the various religions sired by Abraham. As the literal meaning of the term "Islam" implies, Muslims such as himself are called to submit to the will of God. Jews, on the other hand, are the chosen people of God, and, as such, have both specific rights and priviledges as God's favorites. However, in Farrakhan's mind, Christians have, in many ways, the most difficult calling, because their faith calls them to strive to actually be LIKE Christ, who was, according to our faith, God incarnate as a man.

I spent virtually all of my formative years as an active participant in our local church, to which, I will give all the credit to my mother. Mom sang on the choir, she taught Sunday School, she served on the various administrative boards, etc. So, it should surprise no one that I sang on the Children's choir, regularly attended ALL Sunday School functions, served as both a junior usher and an acolyte (the Protestant equivalent of an altar boy, for my Catholic friends out there).

At his funeral this past Christmas, I learned that my mother's father commuted the 2 hour drive every Sunday from Baltimore City to his traditional family church on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay in rural Dorchester County to attend morning service, and personally took it upon himself to raise the money necessary to keep the church open long after it's membership had shrunk below the size that could actually support it. "They can't close it as long as I'm alive", he was heard to say.

The church runs very deep in my family.

And, as a child, I devoured all of these concepts of personal ethics. I took the Golden Rule so deeply to heart, once, at summer camp, I insisted that another kid punch me in the stomach to make amends after I'd accidentally winged him in the temple with the zipper of my jacket.

I have an ex who is an ordained AME minister. She once called me "a good little Methodist" - something President Bush & I have in common, at least, in terms of denominational affiliations. She elaborated that, in her mind, Methodists are distinctive from other Christians from their devotion to their concept of grace. And she defined grace in this way: If mercy is giving someone something that they don't deserve, then grace is NOT giving someone EXACTLY what they deserve.

But, ever since I left home to go to college, I've never really had a regular church that I could call my own.

Part of that is laziness. I mean, do I REALLY need to get up at 9AM to put on a three piece suit on a Sunday morning to ensure my eternal salvation? Is God, the Creator of All Things, the Alpha and the Omega, REALLY as petty as my 6th grade homeroom teacher?

But the other part of it is recognition. Having spent a lifetime in the church, I know all the tricks and cliches. I can recite the Nicean Creed, The Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, all by heart. Most of the metaphors and figures of speech most pastors use in their sermons are so rote, so repetitious, so mechanical, so stinking artificial, I can smell them a mile away before they even read it off of their prepared texts.

Back when I was dating my clergy ex-girlfriend, we went to alot of churches here in L.A., and, I've got to say, there are alot of guys in alot of pulpits around here (and in all the other towns I've lived in) who are tremendous entertainers.

But having a great singing voice and being able to tell a handful of Jesus-centric jokes is NOT the same thing as speaking The Word.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Verse 1, Chapter 1 in the Gospel According to John:
"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word WAS God."
We all know The Word when we hear it. Sometimes, it's coming through the voice in the pulpit, like my good friend down in Annapolis. Sometimes, it's on a silver screen, in the most unlikely of films. Or a song. Or a book. Or the mutterings of a homeless man on the Santa Monica pier. Or something whispered in an ear by a loved one.

The point is, once I heard The Word, and experienced it, I had absolutely no interest in wasting fours of my Sunday morning sweating in a three piece suit listening to some dude PRETENDING to speak it.

I once told my Mom that there are three kinds of clergy:
  1. those who are actually "called"
  2. those who want to be rock stars
  3. and those are desperately trying to fix the colossal messes in their lives by getting as close to God as possible
And, while I find that the first tend to be very few and far between, ultimately, they're not the point.

The clergy aren't the point. And neither is the church.

I once floated the idea among people on my old e-mail list about selling all those old church cathedrals and just having prayer/Bible study in our living rooms, and people literally looked at me like I'd grown an extra head.

(or, dare I say, a third eye?)

I honestly stopped looking for a church home because, in the end, I decided I didn't need it. Yes, it's great to have a common place & companions for worship, but, ultimately, I thought the whole point of the Protestant reformation was that you didn't need another person in order to commune with the divine.

If sin is a state of separation from God, and God is in all things, including ourselves, then isn't the notion of an intermediary between yourself and God the very definition of sin?

I've been reading "No God But God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam" by Reza Aslan, and he makes the point about how, so often, in many different religions, including both Islam AND Christianity, the churches and institutions that are created by the followers of prophets are very often the antithesis of everything that the prophets themselves actually represented.

In many cases, I think we imprison ourselves in the forms and rituals and institutions we've constructed around The Word, so much so that we begin to think that the church IS The Word.

But it's not.

The Word is spoken every single day. But it's not shouted from a rooftop or screamed through a megaphone.

The voice that speaks The Word is small.

And still.

And sometimes, that's all I need to be to hear it.

Which brings me to this article in Salon, from a former nun who's now written a book that looks at the so-called "Axial Age" - a period in history when the foundations over virtually ALL the world's religions were founded. And, oddly enough, all these different religious traditions, from Aristotle to Confucius to Buddha to Zoroaster and his philosophical decendents, Jesus and Mohammed, all seem to be saying the same thing.

The Word can be written in many different alphabets & syllables. But the sound is still the same.

Check out her article - it's long, but WELL worth the read.

I, for one, have added her book to my Amazon wish list.

April 10, 2006

April Showers

I distinctly recall, as a child, crying in the fellowship hall of my church during some event. Honestly, I don't even remember what I was crying about or how old I was.

But the thing I remember the most was that my father eventually saw me and said "you'd better cut that mess out".

Dad's an old school man.

I don't think I ever remember seeing my father cry. In fact, the only instance where I can recall even HEARING about Dad shedding a tear was for his 60th birthday. My mother decided to treat him to a trip to New York City, where they'd spend some time with me, before reaching Dad's final destination in Atlantic City. He had no idea that, after they'd gotten home from Atlantic City, there would be a surprise party waiting for him.

That trip was the first and only time my father ever stayed in my apartment in New Jersey, and, since he's a bit of a neat freak, I'd been cleaning for the better part of a week. Even bought new linen. Of course, the first thing he did when he arrived was check the bed sheets. From the corner of my eye, I caught him nodding his approval of the bed to my mother. Mission accomplished.

I took them to the Christmas Spectacular at Rockefeller Center before treating them to dinner at the Motown Cafe.

That night, one day removed from gambling to his heart's content and two days before being unexpectedly surrounded by all of the people he loves, Dad turned to me and said "this is the best birthday I've ever had."

Two days later, he quietly, bashfully, wept tears of joy.

And my older brother wasting no time in making fun of him for crying like a baby.

Two years later, Dad got to return the favor when the family threw a surprise party for my brother's 40th birthday.

The men in my family tend not to be all that in touch with their feelings.

I suppose I'm one of the exceptions.

I cried at the end of Star Trek II when Spock died. I was nine. I mean, I cried from the movie theater, all the way home, and all through dinner, until Dad pulled me aside, sat me down on the couch, put an arm around me, and said "I'm sure Mr. Spock will be alright."

Crying over sad things is easy. However, having gone to an all-boy's private school, you quickly learn to set aside that instinct. I became really good at sitting on my feelings. Or being angry & vindictive.

I suppose that school was it's own sort of boot camp.

The Army was Dad's dream.

He told me that over lunch in a mall food court a few years ago. Growing up as the middle child in a tiny rural town on Maryland's Eastern Shore, I'm sure the Army represented a lot of things - the chance to see the world, be a hero, serve your country, get the Hell out of your mother's house, etc.

He said that all he ever wanted to do was retire after 20 years of dedicated service to Uncle Sam.

Those kinds of things are easy to say when you're 17 and fresh out of high school.

But when you're 25 and married with a small child, priorities change. Especially if your young wife desperately misses her family and hates traveling.

Dad was honorably discharged after 7 years, but not before my older brother was born & raised on various Army bases for the first three years of his life.

Many of you regular Macroscope readers, I'm sure, are well aware of how vastly different my big brother & I are politically.

By trade & training, I'm an engineer.

He's a lawyer.

In my heart of hearts, I'm a storyteller.

He's a soldier.

Mom tells me that, as a toddler, my brother would look out the window at the soldiers marching past in formation and say "there goes Daddy".

The military is deep in my family marrow. Again, I'm the exception. The closest I came to wearing a uniform was being a Boy Scout.

But my brother is another story.

On my side of our room was a poster of Spider-Man.
On his side of the room was this:

One of his most prized possessions was a Time/Life collection of World War II indexed history cards. He moved well beyond board games like Battleship and Stratego, graduating to hardcore war strategy games with names like "Tactics II" that didn't even bother with toy soldier game pieces anymore.

The army is a part of who he is. The day I graduated from high school, my brother showed up at the ceremony in combat fatigues because he'd just finished with his reserve duty that day. Most of the family portraits I have show him in uniform.

My brother's dream was to be a fighter pilot. But he was weeded out of Air Force ROTC through some, frankly, racist maneuvering. Similar circumstances kept him out of combat helicopter school. Nonetheless, he stuck with it, eventually earning the rank of Captain, working primarily in convoys, transportation, etc.

Not what he wanted. But he still loved it.

His unit got to March in Bush's inaugural parade, and, in his worlds, he even got to see the new Commander-in-Chief.

I could hear how excited he was, even though I was thoroughly convinced that his adoration was, shall we say, misguided, at best.

I remember talking with him in the summer of 2002, just after he'd done his reserve tour for the year in Germany. They were already doing war games & training for an anticipated war in Iraq. I asked him "so what do you think?"

He just shook his head in resignation and said "We're gonna need a lot of guys."

As fate would have it, for some reason, he was unable to get the promotion he wanted to Major and was, therefore, honorably discharged in February 2003 - one month before the President ordered the invasion of Iraq.

And we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Most of us, that is.

Because, even though my brother was now out of harm's way, he was also no longer a soldier. He'd been discharged after 16 years in the Army reserves - four years short of retirement and all the commensurate benefits.

My father was disappointed.

My brother was quietly devastated.

I recently watched "Patton" for the first time.

A great movie, by the way - well worth it. Patton, as played by George C. Scott, believes himself to be the reincarnation of Hannibal and a host of other great military generals from eras past. He lives and breathes to fight. But, in the course of the war, his excessive disciplinary tactics cause him to fall out of favor and he's subsequently removed from the field of battle by his superiors. His response?
"The last great opportunity of a lifetime - an entire world at war and I'm left out of it? God will not permit this to happen - I will be allowed to fulfill my destiny. His will be done."

My brother's been trying to get his Army commission re-instated ever since.

And, despite his age, and an old knee injury, and slightly high blood pressure, and one kid in college and another soon to go, despite his belief that Robert MacNamara should, in his words, "burn in Hell" for his conduct of the Vietnam war and that Donald Rumsfeld should be immediately fired for his conduct of THIS war, he finally succeeded.

My brother was re-activated as a Captain in the Army reserves in February.

And, when I called him on his birthday last month, he told me that, earlier that day, the Army had called him up for active duty.

He's shipping out today. And, after spending a month in his birthplace, Fort Hood, TX, for additional training, his unit will be shipping off to Iraq.

Baghdad, to be exact.

For a year.

They'll be training Iraqis to manage military truck convoys.

I can remember a conversation I had with my father a few months ago, where I said that I felt that my brother was being tremendously irresponsible. He's a family man, after all, volunteering to walk into a killing zone.

But, then again, on a smaller scale, the same charge of being irresponsible could have been levied against me.

I remembered the day I left the east coast, and my outrageously high paying tech job during the height of the internet boom, to come out to California for film school. I'd packed up my apartment in New Jersey the day before, and I was back in Baltimore, looking for a battery for my watch with my Dad. And, as I was laying out all of the things I still needed to do once I got to L.A., Dad just stopped me.

He said "You really want to do this, huh?"

I said "Yeah".

He looked at me hard and asked "Really?"

I still said "yes".

Dad just shook his head and said he would support me in any way that he could, even though he didn't understand it. He said "if I were you, I would really have to think long and hard about the money I was leaving behind."

And I sort of bristled at that. I'm not a stupid person. And this was not a decision I was making lightly. I'd been considering, and planning this move, or something like it, for years. Then, when I was still young and single and childless, was the supremely responsible time to do it.

And, more importantly, it was the truth.

It was who I am.

I am a storyteller.

I have to be in the place where the stories get told to tell the stories to the most people. I HAD to leave.

I would die if I didn't go.

Ironically enough, the day I left for California, my brother volunteered to come with me to help me move in. We rode a train from D.C. to L.A. for four days and sat on the floor of my empty apartment watching Jerry Springer on his Sony Watchman for a week.

My brother is, also, not a stupid person. He's been planning this for years. His whole life has been pointing to this moment. He's constructed things in such a way that, not only is his Army pay a significant, tax-free raise over his regular salary, but, because he has such a ridiculous amount of vacation time saved, he'll actually still be on the payroll for the first 2-3 months that he's on active duty. Debts will be paid. Tuition will be paid. His job will still be here.

I am a storyteller.

My brother's a soldier.

This is who he is. He'd die if he didn't go.

It's the truth.

Yesterday, my family had a bon voyage party for him. And, unfortunately, because it all happened so fast, I couldn't be there. We finally tracked each other down by phone while my girlfriend & I were in the local esoteric bookshop.

I asked him how he felt, and he paraphrased Steve Buscemi from Armageddon:
"I'm feeling a mixture of excitement and terror, and I'm not sure which one I feel more."
He told me he'd be e-mailing me instructions in case something "unfortunate" happens, because he trusts me to be more clear-headed than Mom or Dad in that instance. I told him I knew he'd make us proud. And, since he was using my cousin's phone and didn't want to use up his minutes, we said our good-byes.

And I had to call his house and leave him a message to tell him that I loved him.

We don't really say those sort of things face-to-face. Even by phone.

And I went back into the bookstore, found my girlfriend, and cried.

I felt like I'd just said "good bye", I mean, REALLY good-bye, to my brother.

And my girlfriend asked me if that's what I wanted.

Of course not! What the Hell kind of question is that?!?

And then she reminded me that we always have a choice. Even on how we feel.

Is there any wonder that I absolutely love this woman?

So, instead, I choose to see him safe, sound, living the life he was destined for, and being transformed by it.

And I see me giving him the biggest hug he's ever had when he steps back onto American soil, all smiles and all in one piece.

But, to make a long story short, I cried.

I guess that's why I'm a storyteller.

Please keep my favorite Army Captain in your prayers. And see him home, safe and sound.


April 07, 2006

Review: Brick

I make movies.

Because I love movies.

Especially the good ones.

"Brick" is a good one. A REALLY good one.

Imagine "The Maltese Falcon", but, instead of the streets of gangland-era San Francisco, the story takes place in and around the confines of an equally seedy & dangerous Southern California high school.

Yeah, I know - it sounds crazy on it's surface. But, honestly, it's the best written, acted, & directed film I've seen in a theater this year.


Moreover, I'm equally inspired by the writer/director Rhian Johnson's story - this is the first script he wrote coming out of film school, and then he and his best bud & cinematographer spent the next 6 years trying to raise the roughly $500,000 necessary to get it in the can. But, during that time, they continued to "work" on the film itself, so that, by the time they actually got to the set, they knew EXACTLY what they were doing and how and why, which is why it has the stylish yet incredibly accomplished look it possesses.

Did I mention it's also got Richard "Shaft" Roundtree as the Vice-Principle and an appropriately naughty Meagan Good as the literal drama queen femme fetale?

Anyway, check out the trailer and get a peek for yourself. Nothing I say here can really do it justice.

And, if you want to see a future superstar in the making, check out Joseph Gordon-Levitt's turn as Brendan, the hardboiled teenage Sam Spade of our story. Between this and his role in last year's Mysterious Skin (one of the most hypnotically disturbing movies I've ever seen), you'll completely forget that he was the little kid on "3rd Rock From The Sun".

Right now, it's only in L.A. & New York, but keep an eye out - I suspect Focus is going to give it a wide release soon.

UPDATE - January 22, 2013: Boy, was I right about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or WHAT?  :-)

For a limited period of time, you can watch "Brick", it it's entirety, on Hulu.  See?

And, if you need an addititonal Megan Good fix, you may also want to check out her new show, "Deception", also on Hulu.

March 06, 2006

Post Accident Report

My girlfriend & I recently moved into a lovely little suburban house here in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. Two car garage, front & back yard, porch - the works. Nothing but palm trees line the street. Three speed bumps on the block. It's primarily a neighborhood of working-class Black folks, many of whom have lived on this very same block for years. Just before we moved in, an old Black man on a bicycle, a part of the neighborhood watch, stopped to question me until he was satisfied that this actually WAS my house.

I keep telling everyone I'm going to get an L.A. Times subscription just so I can pick up the paper in my bathrobe every morning and complete my "Ward Cleaver" fantasy.

I used to live in Hollywood. My old apartment building was, originally, a pretty wide mix of Hispanic families, Armenian families, and students like yours truly from the film school around the corner. But, over the course of the three years I lived there, most of the other students had left, and many of the Hispanic families, growing from new little ones or recently arrived relatives, expanded to fill in the gaps. The Armenians were relatively quiet, except for this one kid who was always in trouble with the cops. One day, he just disappeared. This was after he started threatening his girlfriend with a gun in the middle of the building driveway.

The rest of my neighbors were relatively quiet & pleasant. Working class folks, raising their kids and making the ends meet. I still have fond memories of our local handyman, a recent immigrant from Guatemala, who barely spoke English. And, I, with my 8th grade Spanish, wasn't doing much better. But we still managed to chit-chat and communicate and maintain some level of friendship. I liked him, and I think I missed him the most when I moved.

But, to be quite honest, I didn't miss the weekly Salsa lessons that had just started to be given just outside my window. And I didn't miss the weekly barbeques, also being thrown outside my window, where they all seemed to listen to the exact same Tejano song all day every freakin' day.

I'm originally from Baltimore. I once got into an argument with one of my college classmates about living in "the Black Community". This was a concept that, at the time, seemed patently absurd to me. Retrospectively, of course it would. Baltimore was 60% Black. You really had to go out of your way to NOT live in the Black community.

Not the case in Los Angeles.

And I know, one of the big factors that lead my significant other and I to move into Crenshaw (as opposed to Silver Lake or Pasadena or even Hollywood) was that we really missed our own culture. We missed the comfort and the ease and the familiarity of living amongst our own.

We missed being home.

Oddly enough, when we initially started looking for a place, if you go through most of the online apartment rental hubs, and most realtors, they don't even mention or list spaces south of the 10 Freeway. Everyone told us we could never find the kind of place that we wanted for the price that we wanted.

But we visited a friend who was living in a 2-story apartment down here in Crenshaw, who was paying roughly the same amount as I was paying for my one bedroom in Hollywood.

And how did she manage that? The little inside secret, in her words: "Black people will work with you."

And, so, here we are.

We recently had a visit from a close friend and her kids. They are absolutely lovely souls, deeply intuned with their spiritual sides. Very warm and loving. My girlfriend's known these people for years.

But, as they drove through the streets approaching our home, one of their sons kept saying to himself over and over again "I'm going to get shot!". That is, until he realized that he wasn't just passing through the Black neighborhood, but was actually going to be spending some time there with the family friends that he knew so well.

Did I mention they're white? Do I even have to?

Anyway, after an unusually exhausting weekend, we opted to stay home last night to watch the Oscars.

About an hour into the show, our doorbell rang. We both looked at each other, as if to say "did YOU invite someone over?" Not knowing who this might be, I flicked on the porch light and opened the door.

Across the threshold, I found a Hispanic man who spoke extremely poor English. From what he could manage, the best I could figure was that he'd traveled through Honduras & Guatemala en route to Los Angeles, but, since then, he'd been sleeping on a bench in Leimert Park. He constantly mimed pulling his denim jacket tight & shivering, to indicate how cold he's been. He often jestured to the ground, and then made reassuring motions, saying "es no problemo". But, despite how many times I asked, he could never actually say what he wanted.

In all honesty, I found myself falling into that trap that everyone talks about, where you try to speak slower, as if distinct syllables will suddenly tranform into Spanish from English in mid air if they'd only slow down.

Neither of us had any idea who this man was. From the looks of him, he appeared to be a migrant worker of some sort. But all he could say was that he was cold sleeping in the park.

Now, this entire non-conversation took place across our fairly heavy duty screen door. I remember the day our landlord suggested to us that he install one. See, we have a little window near the top of our front door, and, as the landlord demonstrated, a tall guy like him could just come right up to it and peek inside.

It was only when I started to close the front door, apologizing the whole way, that the man FINALLY brought his hand to his mouth, as if he were eating something.

He wanted food.

He walked all the way from Leimert Park into a darkened suburban neighborhood and randomly picked our house to ask for assistance.

We'd just had dinner. I was just coming back from grocery shopping when the Oscar telecast had started.

Whenever I'd walked past a panhandler in Manhattan, I always remembered the Gospel scripture where Jesus said "whatever you have done to the least of my children, you have done to me."

But when I looked at this poor man on my newly acquired doorstep, I thought two things.

1. He was obviously much stronger than me & my girlfriend combined.
2. He was desperate. Desperate enough to knock on the door of a complete stranger in a strange country.

Desperate men commit desperate acts.

And now, I'm the man of the house.

I remember my right wing Republican brother (and father of two) once said, "it's hard to stand on your principles when you're responsible for other people's lives."

All I could say to the man was "I'm sorry".

I closed the door, locked it shut, and turned off the porch light.

And later, as I took out the trash, I remembered that the lock on the flimsy wooden gate that leads unto our driveway and backyard was broken. My mind was racing: just how desperate was he?

Desperate enough to camp out on our porch until someone eventually opened the door?
Desperate enough to sneak into our backyard and lay in wait?
Desperate enough to smash a window and just come in to take what he needed?

I put away the trash VERY quickly.

A few hours later, Crash won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.

Just a few days before, I heard a bunch of local film critics on the radio completely trash the film, saying that it's stereotypical and doesn't reflect the REAL Los Angeles, i.e. the Los Angeles that THEY live in. They didn't just dislike the movie. They hated it. They were offended by it.

If I had to guess, I'm willing to bet that every single one of those critics, along with most of the people who loathe Crash, are, politically, very liberal, and, ethnically, very White.

And while the movie may not reflect THEIR Los Angeles, it sure as Hell reflects mine.

Los Angeles in all of it's complexity. Beauty. Horror. Love. Hate. Joy. Pain. Wisdom. Ignorance. Mercy. Vengeance.

This is a City of Possibilities. Where everyone is capable of EVERYTHING, good and bad, at any given moment.

And to pretend otherwise is the highest, most onerous form of denial.

And, on a related note, for all those people who felt like Brokeback Mountain got robbed, and that it's a sign that Hollywood just really isn't ready to embrace such a landmark, watershed film, so they picked Crash, the safe choice - I have this to say:

Yes, Crash is the safe choice - it's a better movie.

Brokeback Mountain was beautifully composed and depicted, which is why, among the nominated directors, Ang Lee deserved to receive an Oscar for his work.

The original short story Brokeback was based on is, like, 15 pages or something. So, to be able to stretch that out into a 2 hour movie with authentic characters & real pathos is a true feat of screenwriting. Which is why, among the nominated screenwriters, Diana Osanna & Larry McMurty deserved to receive an Oscar for their work.

But that, my friends, is it. Because, at the end of the day, Brokeback Mountain is merely a portrait of two lives interrupted. A snapshot. A beautifully depicted, amazingly acted snapshot, but a snapshot, nonetheless.

It's NOT, in the strictest sense of the word, a story. It's incomplete, and, in the end, for me, at least, unsatisfying.

In fact, that's the way that I felt about all the nominations for Best Picture. In fact, Munich was so unsatisfying, I didn't even go see it. (bad joke, I know). Not to say that I didn't enjoy these films. On the contrary. I thought Capote was exquisite, and I wish there were more films in the same vein as Good Night and Good Luck. But they all left me somewhat wanting. And not in a good way.

All, that is, except Crash.

Of the films that were actually nominated, Crash is the best.

And, personally, I can't wait to see what Paul Haggis does next.

After he's done re-writing Casino Royale, that is.

February 16, 2006

A Government of Men

So, pretend for a minute that I liked hunting.

I go to the home of a rich buddy, i.e. a place with alot of private land, with some other dudes, have one or two alcoholic beverages, and then pick up a shotgun to go duck hunting.

If I then, say, SHOT one of said dudes, one would think that the local constables would:
  1. detain me
  2. check my blood alcohol level
  3. probably charge me with reckless endangerment
This is all assuming that they guy didn't die from being shot in the face.

Moreover, if I happened to be employed in law enforcement myself, I'd like to think that I would voluntarily submit to being detained and being tested and, since the guy is my friend, let the chips fall where they may.

You know, actually take responsibility for my actions.

Because accepting responsibility isn't just a matter of raising your hands and saying "my bad" after you cap someone with a hunting rifle. Accepting responsibility is ultimately about accepting consequences.

Of course, my name isn't Dick Cheney.

Now I know that, if my name is Dick Cheney, I can actually leave the state without undergoing any questioning or testing of any kind. And, honestly, what prosecutor or judge in his right mind would ever try to bring any kind of charges against someone named Dick Cheney.

Oh, yeah. Right. "A prosecutor or judge who feels that no man is above the law would."

John Adams, the very first Vice-President of the United States, once wrote that America must be a government of laws, not men.

How times change.

February 05, 2006

The Original

In Monroe, North Carolina in the 1930's, many young Black girls worked as domestic servants & whatnot in the white households on the other side of town. These girls were often forced to walk home at night on unlit country roads, where they would routinely be terrorized by white men driving along the same way.

Rob Williams was a teenager at the time. He and a couple of his buddies started camping out in the woods along those same roads at night. And when a truckload of rednecks would ride pass and try to harass a young sista just trying to make it home, Rob & his buddies would stone the rednecks.

The harassment stopped.

I believe he got his first gun from his grandmother.

As you can see, very little had changed about Mr. Williams by the time he'd grown up.

In 1962, he published a manifesto called "Negroes with Guns" which eventually found it's way into the hands of another young man named Huey Newton.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

This month, PBS is airing a documentary on the life and times of Rob Williams, entitled, (surprise-surprise) "Negroes with Guns". I had the great fortune of seeing this film at the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival, and I'm so happy to see that it actually got some sort of wide distribution.

If you want to get a better idea of the origins of the Black Power movement, I highly recommend it. Click the link in the title to find out when and where it's playing in your town. Or just go to

You can also still buy Mr. Williams' book, here from

January 24, 2006

Belafonte Speaks His Mind

Remember, way back in 2002, when Harry Belafonte called Colin Powell a house slave? Well, it sounds like he was just getting started. Click the link above and see what he has to say about our Fearless Leader and the Holy Crusade on Terror to Wolf Blitzer.

Money Quote:

BLITZER: I see you're not backing away from one word of what you said.

BELAFONTE: No, I can't. Dr. King is my mentor and I believe in truth.

January 09, 2006

more on "Hostel"

As an addendum, here's the Q&A that Eli Roth gave after the "Hostel" screening I attended last month. Great stuff!

Creative Screenwriting Magazine: Hostel Q&A