August 02, 2013

Midnight Riders

Since I met my wife nearly five years ago, my life and social circle has taken on a decidedly more global and international slant.  I often find myself as the the only American in the room, which, frankly, has become much easier to handle when Barack Obama was elected president.  But when I'm in a room of international folks, especially lots of Africans, I find myself realizing just how uniquely American we African-Americans are.  Despite our (to put it lightly) troubled history with this country, we still have cultural traditions that are unique to our experience in America that we should rightly feel proud of.  For instance, I come from a family that, for years, has taken deep pride in military service, and that is a strain in African-American culture that weaves itself through American history all the way back to, I suspect, Crispus Attucks.  And at every step of this long experiment, in every corner of every story that is part of the American epic, African Americans are there.

I absolutely love all of the cultures of Africa that I've encountered, particularly exploring the differences and similarities between Ghanaians and Nigerians and Ugandans and Kenyans, et. al.  I share in their irritation when someone ignorantly speaks of "Africa" like a single country and denies their distinctiveness.  But I also bristle a bit at African-Americans who speak wistfully about "returning" to Africa.  Africa, the continent, and the 50+ nations within it are about as new and different to the average African-American as Europe or Asia.  We can immigrate there to join our extended family in the diaspora, but the only African-Americans who can return there are recently naturalized visitors and our long dead ancestors.

Anyway, I've been recently a bit obsessed with modern Western culture after stumbling across a rodeo event on cable - which was quiet thrilling, btw.  It's a side of America that I think is most considered and imagined outside of our country, but exists as it's own world within our world, often hidden from the broader American media discourse.  So, this video I found on Vimeo really grabbed me, both for its cinematic beauty and its content.  Enjoy.

Wildcat from WHAT MATTERS MOST on Vimeo.

What's equally interesting to me is that the cowboy tradition is really just the most recent version of the Vaquero trade that was brought over to the Americas by the Spanish, so even something as uniquely American as the cowboy has his roots in a culture of color.

July 29, 2013

The Fruit of Our Dreams

Nearly six years ago, I wrote a post called "What Happened To The Future?" where I cried and moaned about the lack of imagination in much of what passes for modern sci-fi. Basically, we're all just retreading ground already laid by Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick instead of introducing and proposing new worlds, new frontiers, new questions, etc.

Now, my complaint was born largely of boredom and artistic longing.  But engineer/entrepreneur/would-be NYC mayor Jack Hidary suggests something deeper in this great little video from The XPRIZE Foundation (the people who sponsor competitions for innovations that can provide solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems).  Hidary suggests that science fiction serves a social purpose beyond mere entertainment.  And, frankly, I agree with him.

There's a line in the pilot for David Goyer's new show "Da Vinci's Demons", where the fictional Leonardo says that anything that can be dreamt of can eventually be built by someone.  But you have to have the dream first, and it's the responsibility of artists of all stripes to seed our imaginations so that there actually are dreams to harvest in the autumn of our worlds.

After all, winter is, in fact, coming.

July 24, 2013

Tumbling into movie trailers

So, I just started a Tumblr blog that's dedicated exclusively to one of my not so secret guilty pleasures, movie trailers.  You can check it out at, but, to give you a taste, here's the latest post I made regarding the trailer for the abyssmal "John Carter":

John Carter Teaser Trailer
#johncarter This was the best trailer I'd seen in years.  Why? Because it made me want to watch a movie I had to turn off after the first ten minutes.  They get around the big explosions problem by finding a piece of music that perfectly captures a FEELING that's at the heart of this story (after all, the original book was called "A Princess of Mars"), and then they cut the highlight scenes to match the building pace of the music.  It effectively hides the horrible cgi characters that overpopulate and kill the movie. You feel like you get hints of something sweeping and romantic.  It feels like David Lean doing a sci-fi film.  Which says to me that there is actually an opening in the marketplace for a film just like that: something epic and grand and passionate set on other worlds. But, frankly, it hasn't been made yet.  Star Wars: Episode II wanted you to think that it was it.  Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune could have been that (if he'd made it a 4 hour movie w an intermission, where the first half was Dune, the 2nd have was Dune Messiah, and the love story is about Paul and Chani).  But no one has done it yet.

July 23, 2013

What Baby Cambridge has taught me about The Press

KI'd written a long screed about how the media frenzy around the birth of the latest royal baby was just another example of our decadent culture when I suddenly had a moment of clarity. 

I realized I was only writing it because I thought it was provocative enough to get people to read it. Moreover, I realized that the content I was putting into the atmosphere was venal and had no redeeming value other than to boost views for my blog. 

Just like the very culture I was condemning. 

And all of this shallowness over something beautiful and profound. 

Much like this very post. 

I guess I can only get so far outside of this particular box yet.  But recognition is the first step to resolution for any problem. 

So, for now, let me just say this. 

To the Duke @ Duchess of Cambridge, you have my congratulations. 

July 14, 2013

A Prayer for George Zimmerman

For anyone who's been reading my blog recently, I'm sure the title of this post is a bit surprising.

But it's Sunday.

I have so many thoughts and feelings going through me right now.  But let me start with the Black Panther Party.

Most people don't know that the full name of the organization was "The Black Panther Party for Self Defense", which was originally conceived as a response to police brutality.  In addition to using California's open carry laws to defiantly confront law enforcement with their own weapons, people forget that the Panthers also feed the hungry, clothed the needy, and even organized schools for the children in their neighborhoods.

They forget because the sight of Huey Newton walking into the California State Assembly brandishing a shotgun overpowers any story about school lunches or clothing drives.

Guns have a tendency to do that.

If you'd like to know what happened to the Black Panthers, don't look at these impostors who are occasionally trotted out on Fox News as if they were Emmanuel Goldstein from the book "Nineteen Eighty-Four." According to the documentary "Bastards of the Party", you should look at the Crips, the notorious LA street gang, which, after years of sabotage from law enforcement, violence, arrests, political pressure, and the introduction of the drug trade, is what the Los Angeles Panthers devolved to in the late 70's.  Most of the prominent leaders of the party are either dead, in prison, or in exile.

Guns have a tendency to do that, too.

In "Bastards of the Party", the filmmaker, a former gangbanger, lamented the cycle of violence, where you feel compelled to kill the people who killed your friend, just like they felt compelled to kill members of the gang who killed their friend, and so on, and so on, and so on.

In the end, he said that the only way he could help brake the cycle was if he chose NOT to seek revenge on the people who'd murdered one of his family members.

As one of my friends, an AME minister, once pointed out to me, mercy is where you give someone something they don't deserve, but GRACE is where you don't give someone exactly what they deserve.

It's Sunday, and despite the pain and fear in my heart, grace is on my mind, because it's what Christ would ask of me in this moment.

My old film school instructor once said that, according to Catholic canon, the definition of a miracle is any moment where fear is transformed into love.

It was fear that led that jury to say George Zimmerman was justified in stalking and killing an unarmed Black teen.  It was fear that led Zimmerman to arm himself and appoint himself protector of the neighborhood.

And as angry and as fearful as I've been since the verdict, as much as I've imagined being Trayvon  (I can not tell you how many times I've walked home at night from the store wearing a hoodie) and, being someone who hopes to be a Black father one day in an affluent and largely white suburb of Los Angeles, as much as I've imagined the unspeakable pain of his parents, Christ calls me to also imagine being George Zimmerman.

This is a man who wanted to be a hero, a small man who dreamed of pride and respect from being a protector and defender.  Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would become one of the most hated men in America because of his own prejudice and fear. Ironically enough, his unspoken fear of African Americans has transformed into a very real and, sadly, justifiable fear after this whole business.

There will be plenty of time for lawsuits and recriminations and acrimony.

But today is Sunday, and so, in addition for praying for Trayvon's soul, I'm also praying for George Zimmerman and his soul.  I am digging deep into my heart to find, if not love, a measure of empathy for a man who has rightly earned my rage.   In the same way, I pray for the jurors.  I pray that my heart and my prayers can reach out to those who would fear me, my sons, and those that look like us for no reason and feel justified in our murder.

I'm sending them love to cancel out their fear.

I'm praying for them because America needs a miracle.

For George Zimmerman, I can only say what the priest said to Jean Valjean: "I've bought your soul.  No go forth and be a good man."

For Travyon's parents, I'll ask for their forgiveness.

And for Trayvon, well, he's with God right now, so he already knows what's right.

July 09, 2013

The Only Thing That Should Matter about Trayvon Martin

Before an armed stranger stalked him in the middle of the night, Trayvon Martin had committed no crimes.


Up until the moment a man with a gun started chasing him.

For no reason.

Let me repeat that.

A complete stranger with a GUN was stalking him at night.

Not a cop or a security guard.  Not even a man who owned a property where Trayvon was trespassing. A total stranger with absolutely NO authority of any kind whatsoever was STALKING HIM WITH A GUN.

And Trayvon had committed no crimes.

A court of his peers may decide that George Zimmerman did not, according to the letter of the law, murder Trayvon Martin (and, sadly, that does sound like the direction we're heading).

But I guarantee you that George Zimmerman knows, in his heart, that he is a murderer.

And that thought either makes him feel remorse or it makes him feel pride.

Consider that for a moment.

July 03, 2013

Burning Questions for "Pacific Rim"

As much as I am a Trekkie and a comic book geek, I have to say that the movie I have been the most fired up to see all summer isn't "Into Darkness" or "Man of Steel", but Guillermo Del Toro's giant monsters vs. giant mecha battle royal, "Pacific Rim".

Movie Trailers: Pacific Rim - Trailer 2

For anyone who's ever loved Voltron - lions or cars, take your pic - or old Godzilla movies, or even that crazy show Tranzor-Z, this movie has got to seem like a dream come true.

Pacific Rim - "Under Attack" Featurette

But the Lovecraft fan in me has these questions.

For instance: given the size of their brains, are the Kaiju (the giant monsters) actually intelligent?  Like, can they strategize in combat?

And, most importantly, who, or what, is on the other side of that interdimensional rift at the bottom of the Pacific ocean that is mass producing these kaiju to exterminate the human race?

Any way, my hope is that this is finally a film that is really worthy of the 3D Imax experience.  With a guy like Del Toro at the helm, my faith is very strong.

Should be a blast.

June 08, 2013

A thought on Game of Thrones

You all know that I've been a fan of professional wrestling ever since I was a little kid. And what most don't realize is that, beyond the violence and the spectacle, pro-wrestling is serialized storytelling broken down to its most basic elements. For a time, in the 80's, in the midst of Bruno Sammartino and Hulkamania, you had these long stretches of good guys, or, as they call them "babyfaces" or just "faces", holding the world championship and vanquishing bad guys (aka "heels").

But the usual trajectory of wrestling story lines have always been much more subversive. Historically, the heels have held the championships and constantly thwart the efforts of the faces to unseat them - partially through skill in the ring, but more often through cheating and the manipulation of the rules and incompetent refs.

See, the problem with most faces is that they think the most talented grapplers should be champion. But championships are won in multiple dimensions, where pure wrestling skill is only one, and possibly the least important.

Which is why Ric Flair is able to call himself a 16 time world champion. He mastered all aspects of the game. Not just in ring skill, but a mastery of ref manipulation, psychological warfare, timely alliances, and just straight up cheating.

Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen bragging, before getting called out

The storytelling genius of Ric Flair is that he was so arrogant and smug, audiences hated him so much because if it. They would pay over and over again on the hope that this time he might lose.

The very definition of the man you live to hate.

Which brings me to Game of Thrones, and, more specifically, the ruling family.

The Lannisters are The Four Horseman of Westeros.

They play the game better than anyone else. We admire and loathe them. And, as noble as the Starks are, they are overmatched. In this world, their very nobility is a liability. And the Lannisters are the real stars.

The Starks played a great game of checkers. But Tywin Lannister is playing 3D chess.

That said, having not read the books, I think this next generation of Starks have learned the hard lessons that can make them competitive. But I think it shows the genius of George R. R. Martin that he's made the world so karmically unfair so far because our hearts keep hoping against hope for at least a just ending, if not a happy one.

But I would say don't count on it.

May 14, 2013

Wayne Brady is right

So, first, a tiny bit of context, in the video link below.

For hundreds of years, Black slaves in this country were denied the chance to even learn rudimentary reading and writing skills. The ability to articulate was crime, often punishable by beatings, mutilations, and even death. Articulation was literally the next step in evolution and denying this to blacks was a key to maintaining the falsehood that we were less than human.

Articulate African Americans were literally not allowed to be Black by the racist structure that had enslaved them.

There was a time that eloquence and grace were attributes to be valued. Think of Paul Robeson, or Harry Belefonte, Jackie Robinson, or Dr. King, or Malcolm. Respect and poise were never confused with weakness. Far from it: they were signs of strength, self control, and maturity.

Anyone who hoped that voting for a Black president meant you'd be putting a thug in the White House really ought to re-think their understanding of what it means to be an African American.  And I mean that even more for the African Americans who happen to read this than our Caucasian brothers & sisters out there.

May 09, 2013

On Charles Ramsey

I don't think I can do much better than the man himself. Charles Ramsey, in his own words.

YouTube - Charles Ramsey recounts heroic day

 The word "Hero" gets thrown around a lot.  It's rare that we get a clear, pure instance of heroism.   And I love the fact that he claims that he did what he did because he's a man AND he's a Christian AND he's an American.  Talk about buying into the ideal!  For that alone, Charles Ramsey is an inspiration.

But there are two things that bother me:

First, I'm really irritated by all of the people who claim this man is an embarrassment   To me, the real embarrassment is that there are literally millions of decent, every day people like Charles who are dehumanized because they have not been given the opportunities those of us with the means to complain about him have had.  More to the point, if we're uncomfortable laughing at some of the things Mr. Ramsey has said, take a moment and really listen to him.  Is there a single untruth that, so far, has come out of his mouth?

Charles Ramsey is funny, but, most important of all, Charles Ramsey is REAL.  As we used to say in college, he is real as a heart attack.  Maybe we should stop making jokes or blushing and actually think about some of the more uncomfortable truths he has to say.

But the other thing that bothers me is the same thing that bothers Mr. Ramsey.

Girls are snatched away into the darkest corners of the world all day every day.  One of the women Charles rescued had been friend's with the kidnapper's daughter.  And the accused seemed like every other guy in the neighborhood - making ribs, working on cars, listening to salsa, etc.

I'm reminded of Josef Fritzl, who kept his own daughter trapped as a sex slave, along with 3 of the 7 children he sired with her, in a dungeon beneath the house he shared with his wife for 24 years.  I'm reminded of Ted Bundy, who kept the bodies of many of the women he'd taken and murdered in the same secluded wooded areas so he could continue to engage in unspeakable acts, dressing up and applying makeup to the cadavers, until decay made it impossible.    Let me not even get into Jeffrey Dahmer again.

There are monsters out there.  And sometimes, they live right next door.

This is why we all need to be ready to answer the call.  If someone like Charles Ramsey can rise to the occasion, why can't we all?

April 30, 2013

Review: Federal Jazz Project

The border between San Diego and Tijuana saw a different kind of xenophobic fear in in the early 1940's than what we're currently used to here in America.  Back then, according to Culture Clash alumus Richard Montoya and New Latin Jazz Quintet band leader Gilbert Castellanos' new stage show, Federal Jazz Project, the color of your skin seemed to matter much less than the color of your party affiliation.

And with one of the original founders of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky, having lived in exile for years, preaching the gospel of the workers to the Chicanos around him before his assassination, the mix of poverty, ambition, and the Red Scare are a powerful combination that serves as the dramatic engine for this fantastic period play that is, officially, about a pair of talented sisters named after the two border towns.

But a closer look reveals that the heart and soul of the story is The Kidd, played by my good friend, Joe Hernandez-Kolski.

A cursory glance would have you believe that The Kidd is, at first, just an bright-smiling overeager promoter for the two Mexican sisters.  He's a character you would expect you could easily dismiss as just a plot device to showcase the amazing singing and tap dancing talents of Claudia Gomez and Lorraine Castellanos.

But as the story deepens, and the Second World War begins, the global fight against totalitarianism finds its way into the jazz club at the center of the show and smacks The Kidd's hopes and dreams right in the face.

As beautiful as the music and hilarious as Richard's own comic cameos are throughout the show, The Kidd's story helps unpack both the not-quite-unspoken Black and Brown racism of the time as well as the profoundly damaging legacy that political and racial climate has on some modern Mexican American children to this day.  And just as the sisters San Diego and Tijuana dazzled with their performances, The Kidd's raw emotional power is both a pleasure and a revelation.

Here's a bit from Joe himself about his relationship with Richard and how he came to be involved with this project.

Honestly, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the show, but, between the music, the dance, the drama, and the history, I was more than pleasantly surprised by how full and satisfying a meal Federal Jazz Project is.  This is their final weekend in the San Diego Repertory Theater, so I highly recommend anyone make the trip to the Gaslamp District and celebrate your Cinco de Mayo with this excellent show.  You won't be disappointed.

April 19, 2013

Review: Fox's The Following & NBC's Hannibal, or NSFW Videos of the Moment - 04-16-13

There's a very interesting conversation going on just beneath the surface of network TV about the blurred lines between imagination and reality.

It began in a very heavy-handed yet still entertaining way with Fox's new hit show, The Following.  In it, Kevin Bacon plays the stereotypical FBI burnout Ryan Hardy, who's called out of the mothballs to recapture his old nemesis, literary professor/author turned Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed serial killer Joe Carroll, played by the very underrated James Purefoy, and his growing thrill-kill cult.  While the serialized Rube Goldberg-style plot really stretches your ability to suspend disbelief in a way that only the craziest shows like "Lost" and "24" could in the past, the really interesting aspect is how Carroll sees himself as the actual author of the story playing out before us on the show.  For Carroll, each crime he and his minions commit are all chapters in a book he is literally writing in the show about Ryan Hardy, who he's chosen as the protagonist.  I'm reminded of something I think I read from John Byrne that, in the best stories, you take characters that you love and you torture them.

So, we have these fascinating moments where Carroll, without actually breaking the fourth wall, is forced to negotiate between his hatred and profound desire to just kill Hardy and his narcissistic need to keep Hardy alive so he can give him a good and satisfying ending in the story.  Yes, it's crazy, but it's occasionally funny and always entertaining.

Check out The Following, Season 1, Episode 12 - The Curse - on Hulu.
Let's just say, I'm waiting to see how packing a mansion with a bunch of homicidal maniacs on holiday eventually works itself out.

But, the far more interesting side of this conversation about imagination and reality is happening in NBC's new series, "Hannibal".  In this prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs", Hannibal Lecter (played masterfully and completely separately from Tony Hopkins Oscar-winning performance in the film version) is merely an extremely cultured psychiatrist called in to counsel Hugh Darcy's Will Graham, an FBI profiler who is credited with the talent for "pure empathy".  Graham is able to walk into a crime scene and instantly and accurately imagine how the murderer felt as he committed the crimes based on the evidence in front of him.  In these moments, Graham tells the story of what happened to the victims from the killer's perspective, much like how slasher movies back in the '80's forced the audience to literally see the teenage camp counselors through the murderer's eyes.

Check Out Hannibal: Pilot on Hulu.

Graham has such an amazing imagination that these horrific things cling to him long after and, of all people, it's Dr. Lecter's job to keep him sane throughout.

While they deal in very similar subject matters, Hannibal is a noticeably more sophisticated show than The Following in virtually every detail - performances, production, and, most important of all, writing.  But, in this instance, instead of a character trying to get control of the reality around him to suit his own ends, like Joe Carroll, Will Graham is desperate to get control of the increasingly deadly alternative realities inside of him, and, frankly, Hannibal Lecter is just adding fuel to the fire.

I just thought these were interesting dichotomies - using fictitious serial killers to explore how we interface with the worlds both within and without (and the price that comes with both).  They're both quite good, and neither is for the faint of heart.

Frankly, I'm still stunned by what's getting past the network sensors these days.

March 20, 2013

Quote of the Moment - 03-20-13

"The people who are most persuasive aren’t necessarily the people who are actually right. Argument is a skill. Authority is a position. Trusting too much in either can lead you astray." 
 Ezra Klein, in his Bloomberg article reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, but illuminating a more global truth.

February 10, 2013

Kiss or Kill? a review of 33 Ways

Here's a neat book review of "33 Ways To Kill My Husband" by the folks at Wiles Magazine, an online lifestyle mag for multicultural women, that gets a bit into the actual romantic implications of fictional wives who want to kill their spouses.  I have to say, I really dug the opportunity to chat with Teryl (the magazine's publisher) and really excavate some of the universal relationship drama at the heart of this story.

Anyway, you can read the full review here.

And if you haven't yet read "33 Ways To Kill My Husband", you can get it at .

February 06, 2013

The Monster Next Door

Movie Trailers: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

It's something that's always haunted me from the first time I heard about Jeffrey Dahmer.

Most serial killers are either drifters or they own a home where they can ply their awful trade.  But this guy lived in an apartment building.

I've had neighbors complain about loud music or banging kitchen utensils.  How in the world was this man able to kill, dismember, ate, and make trophies out of multiple human beings while surrounded by neighbors?

No screams?  No smells?  Nothing?

It boggles the mind.

February 01, 2013

Video of the moment - 02-01-13

Tombstone - You tell 'em I'm comin'...

In Defense of Uncle Tom

Hollywood Shuffle - NAACP & Uncle Tom

Honestly, it was something I'd never questioned.

For those of you who don't know, within the African-American community, an Uncle Tom is a race traitor: someone who would harm other Blacks to promote him or herself among Whites.  The term comes from an 1800's book by Harriet Beecher Stowe called "Uncle Tom's Cabin", set during the period of American slavery.

But, to be perfectly honest, I never actually knew what it was that Uncle Tom had done to sell out the other slaves around him.

This, of course, is why I love wikipedia.  After all, how could I have figured out everything I needed to know about Ayn Rand last summer without having to subsidize her books?

But that, my friends, is for another blog post.

Point being, I looked up "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and, frankly, I was shocked by what I read.

Here's the link to the plot synopsis -

Uncle Tom was a deeply Christian slave who bonded with certain whites in such a way as to convince them of his humanity.  His Christian faith sustained him as he withstood punishment from a hateful slavemaster because he would NOT whip the other slaves.  And when asked to rat out certain slaves who'd escaped, Tom held his tongue, protecting them, even as he's being beaten to death.  He even forgives the overseers for killing him.

Moreover, at the time that it was published, 1852, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was seen as a key abolitionist text, one of the first to highlight the daily horrors of slavery.  It was loathed among the slaveholding class and the author was allegedly referred to by Abraham Lincoln himself as "the little lady who started this great war."

Unfortunately, history was unkind to this book's legacy.  As Reconstruction dragged on, Southern whites took to making blackface stage plays based on the book outside of Stowe's creative control, most of which depicted the near-saintly Uncle Tom as the exact opposite of the character's intention.

Honestly, I don't know what else to say, other than it pays to really know your history.

January 24, 2013

Lightsaber-rattling with J.J. Abrams

Nice fake-out, J.J
Now, a few thoughts:

  • more so that Star Trek, Star Wars is a space opera.  In my humble opinion, "grandeur" is the key aesthetic sensibility.  Widescreen.  Very large depth of field.  Very steady camera work so you can actually drink in the spaces.  NO lens flares.
  • The world of Star Wars is actually very old.  In many ways, it's a historical epic.  Since the world has largely been in disrepair in the original trilogy, I'm guessing the new trilogy should show a renaissance.  I think of Europe in the 60's, twenty years removed from the great war.  Lots of rebuilding and construction.
  • Inevitably, someone in this new Jedi order is interested in more power.  I'd like to see the origins of a new Sith.
We'll see if I'm right.

January 22, 2013

Opposite Ends of the Mall

From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked America a question.

And, as he spoke the response echoed against the vast canyon walls of human history.


God loves poetry.

January 16, 2013

Thinking About Walt

I've made my creative bones over the years largely writing about very dark, scary, gruesome things.  One of the things I've always felt about the horror genre is that it's that rare story that can encapsulate the full range of every emotion - fear, love, hate, surprise, suspense, disgust, triumph.   But, as I've recently spent more time looking at the work of Walt Disney, I have to make a concession:

Even the full range of great, dark stories still have a cloud that hangs over them, by design.  And, while they have their place and serve an important purpose, Darkness, in the end, has only one shade.  Light contains the full spectrum.

Just a thought, but maybe those of us who mine the dark corners should peek a bit more often into the more brightly lit spaces.  In some ways, it requires more courage than lurking in the shadows.

January 09, 2013

Review: Lawrence of Arabia

There are some movies that you just take for granted that they're supposed to be great, but that most people have probably never seen, let alone seen in a theater.

Lawrence of Arabia is one of those films.  I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to actually catch it on the big screen for the very first time over 10 years ago at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood as part of the American Cinematheque's 70mm Festival.

What was really amazing to me is just how utterly, overwhelmingly beautiful this film is as a purely visual, cinematic experience.  The size of the canvas, the sheer scale of the storytelling, yet the exquisite, meticulous attention to detail in every frame is just breathtaking.

So breathtaking that, honestly, I really had no idea what was actually happening in the movie.  I had no idea and, frankly, I didn't even care because I was enjoying the experience of the cinematic journey so much.

But, at the end of the day, I'm a storyteller, and it always nagged at me that I didn't actually get the story of such a great film.  So when the opportunity came up again to watch it on cable (albeit with my beautiful but not quite as grandiose HDTV), I lept at the chance.

Now, if you only watch the first half of the movie up through the intermission, it's this incredibly uplifting tale about how one man was able to challenge convention to achieve amazing results and possibly remake a world for the better.

 Very typical, Oscar-worthy fare.  Very inspirational.

But if you stick around long enough to watch the end of the film, I gradually began to realize that it's actually a much more sophisticated story about the hubris and self-delusion inherent in the colonial system, and how even the most well-intentioned colonialist is still a supremacist.  To see T.E. Lawrence brought so high as to be nearly deified, only to be literally thrown face-first into the bloody, mud-filled pit he'd dug at the bottom of his own soul is really surprisingly deep and moving today for a story so large.  The journey is very deep and personal, while at the same time magnificantly broad and grand.

A great, complex movie.  Oh, for the days.

David Lean clearly knew what he was doing and saying about his own home country, and I applaud him, Peter O'Toole, and their whole team.  We should all be so bold in our storytelling.

Video of the Moment - 01-09-13

January 04, 2013

Daily Nerdgasm - 01-04-13

January 03, 2013

Picture of the Moment - 01-03-13

"Lincoln" reads Lincoln in The Lincoln

The Future? It's yours.

As 2013 is getting underway I'm drawn to consider all of the different ways people talk about how they're going to change their lives, bring in new things, turn over new leaves, etc.

My word of advice? If you want to have something you've never had before, you have to DO something you've never done before.

It would seem simple and obvious, but I suppose I shouldn't be shocked by how many people act like Jerry Seinfeld in "The Bee Movie".

And the operative word in my first piece of advice is "DO".  It's so easy to fall under the spell of things like the so-called "Law of Attraction".  After all, what could be more seductive than a philosophy that tells you that you just need to pretend that you have something to get it, and if you didn't get it, you just weren't pretending hard enough.  I can tell you from personal experience that I wasted years of my life vibrating but not actually going anywhere.  Yes, we're spiritual beings having a physical experience, but my life didn't start to become more prosperous until I got off my duff (with a nice assist/kick in the arse from my wife - thanks, sugar).  If you want physical things, you have to perform physical deeds.

My next word of advice? Never take advice from someone who's made their primary fortune giving people advice.  It means that the best thing they know how to do is give advice.  So, unless you're planning on getting into the professional advice-giving business (which is apparently ridiculously lucrative - just look at the Rich Dad guy, or the people who wrote The Secret), they clearly don't really know much about doing anything else lucrative or useful.  If they did, they'd be doing that.

In my humble opinion, you're better off listening to the words of the people who've succeeded on a path similar to the one you'd like to tread.  As a producer, I think a lot about George Lucas.  As a writer turned director, I look at Francis Coppola.  As an author, I think a lot about Clive Barker.  As an engineer, I study Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

My final word of advice?  There are no short cuts.  Period.

If you want to be rich, start a business.  If you want to be fit, join a gym.  If you want to be smarter, crack a book.  Whatever it is you've resolved to do this year, you need to make a blood oath to yourself to do it every day because that's what it takes.

I once heard a story about a high school basketball coach who had a bunch of players who thought they were NBA material.  He took them to Philadelphia to watch a practice by Temple University's varsity basketball team.  The Temple players asked the high schoolers how many practice free throw shots they take in a day.  The kids guessed dozens, many a hundred.  The truth was that they took close to a thousand.  Every day.

And Temple hasn't been to the Final Four since 1958.  Imagine what they do at Duke.

In closing, here's a little pep talk for the mission before us all this year that, given the day today and the speaker, couldn't be more appropriate:

2013 is yours.  Go take it.

January 02, 2013

About The Year That Past

Some truly amazing things happened in 2012 (Obama, Felix Baumgartner, SpaceX, Curiosity, The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones) and some truly horrible things also happened in 2012. But, for me, personally, they all pale in comparison to one singular event.

I got married.

And it was frakkin' awesome.

But not nearly as awesome as her.

If you can feel me smiling a bit more than usual in 2013, that's why.

Happy New Year, folks.  Let's get to it!