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.