Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm Sneezing at all the Blog-Dust

Well, it's been a loooong time since I posted, hasn't it? What can I say? In no particular order, here's what's happened to me:

-- I met a lovely woman (first initial Z.); we've been seeing each other for quite a while.
-- I finished my payroll accounting gig, then went out of my mind for a little while in December and January on all these part-time jobs, stressing out over my disappearing bank account, and trying to be creative.
-- I sold my feature film.
-- I joined a sci-fi/fantasy book club.
-- Grandmother died (finally! She was gone long before she left, if you know what I mean).
-- And I'm now working one full-time gig at a film festival (as a web programmer), and doing a rotation of side work (budgets, web programming, etc.) to make ends meet.

Well, enough about me. How about something more interesting:

Quest, By Charles Pasternak

A terrific book. I'd love to see this as the textbook in a high-school course of some kind, but where to place it - science or history? Simply, it's a tracing of the urge to quest, which Pasternak says is what distinguishes us from other animals. He finds the roots of questing in our single-celled ancestors, who developed mechanisms for turning towards and moving over to light and food sources. He traces this urge from single-celled organisms through our ape forebearers, providing a nice summary history of evolutionary theory, paleontology, and anatomy along the way. He then goes on to trace the history of several of our original civilizations, including their language, culture, and history, then speaks of the quests involved in art, religion and science. The last section of the book talks about current trends in our quest - genetically modified foods, gene therapy and stem cell treatment, and the impact of our species on the globe.

It's a good companion piece to Jared Diamond's work (he of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse). There are important differences between Pasternak (who's more conservative overall, and fundamentally more optimistic) and Diamond (who's more liberal, an dnot so sure we will make it), that will make for interesting reading.

Well, that's it for now. More earth-shattering stuff to come.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Reflections On July 4th

My fellow citizens of the world, I am here today to present to you - and myself - with the challenge of living decently. I look around my country and despair. Our measure of our worth as people is our ability to make money, pay our bills, and generate wealth for the rich. We have terrible healthcare, pollution, and infrastructure crises. We are in the middle of an unjust war which will set the cause of freedom and democracy back across the world for decades. Our government has been coopted by multinational corporations - big pharma, oil, agribusiness, insurance, auto; the list goes on. Our search for spirituality, genuine love and compassion, fulfillment, and art has been fed into by these companies, which provide us instead with bigger cars, bad food, gadgets we don't need and shoddy consumer goods made by sweatshop labor.

The diamond chips in my and my ex-wife's wedding ring may very well have cost someone in Sierra Leone an arm. The soy I eat comes from former forestland mowed down for agriculture. My drinking water isn't safe without filtration.

And yet we live in comparative luxury with the rest of the world. My friends from other countries - Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and others - have experienced poverty and persecution that we can barely imagine.

I don't know what to do. I have no answers. The only thing I can think of is to be kind to others, vote, write letters, contribute to causes. Is it enough?

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
Robert F. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Cure

Think about life.

Get off at subway stop near bar.

Drink heavily (what's one more? I'm only buzzed).

Chat with folks 10-15 years younger than you.

Feel old and silly.

Go home.

Walk on platform repeatedly while waiting for train in futile atempt to burn off calories ingested.

Get bacon & cheese sandwich at local deli on the way home to absorb alcohol.

Feed cat.

Check email to see who loves you (bad idea).

Delete spam.

Write silly entry in blog.

Pass out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

3AM, Dating and Loneliness

I spend most of my time focusing on what I'm doing. Getting absorbed in activity. Some good things have been happening in my life. There are some nibbles from companies on my scripts and movie. I've been dating, which is (mostly) a good thing. I'm starting a job (in late June) that promises a nice steady paycheck and a little less responsibility. By the time I'm done I'll be ready and willing to get back into indie-land. And my divorce is finalized.

But this past couple of days, especially late at night, I've been refocusing on what I'm feeling and thinking. My birthday is coming up - that always brings it out in me. Two years ago on my 35th birthday I realized my life wasn't going where I wanted it to go, and I started making some changes - the ones that have led me here. Now that I'm two years into the project, I'm wondering what I've glossed over, or haven't taken care of, or am doing well at. The success I want still eludes me, but I feel like it's closer each day. And I'm blessed (if an atheist can be blessed) with love from friends, family, and fellow travelers in the film life.


This is the season of sequels. Hollywood Studios have tossed in the towel - they just want to manufacture more of the same crap. I happen to like crap sometimes - I loved "Casino Royale" and even got into "Mission Impossible 3." But this year seems kinda silly.

But whatever. The more I know about film history, the less important a summer like this seems - Hollywood and the film business in general has been going through waves of artistically conservative and liberal tendencies since it started. Even in the middle of all the sequels, some things stand out:

Bug. This genuinely creeply psychological thriller (it's not a horror movie) will get under your skin and stay there. William Friedkin shows that he's still got it, Ashley Judd is terrific and very sympathetic, and the rest of the cast is great.

Waitress. This is an honest, beautiful, funny and sad movie all at once. I don't want to say too much.

Knocked Up. Funny as hell. But also deeper - it's about growing up and taking responsibility for your life.

Day Watch. This is a sequel about Russian vampires (who also have other abilities) and are locked in a power struggle between the light ones and dark ones. Lest you think this is a retread of "Underworld" let me assure you that it's about a billion times smarter, more original, more fun, and more emotionally honest.

Oh, and go see Trees Lounge and Dead Like Me on DVD. Great stuff. More on them later.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Did You Ever Have...

... one of those days where things seemed to just click? I've had a bunch of days where everything seemed to suck, so maybe I was overdue. Today even the bad news seemed to flow nicely into the good news. Hard to say why, and I don't want to go into details, but suffice it to say that today was a good day.

Love to y'all.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Back To Basics

I guess I oscillate between the "small cute topic" and "semi-profound thought." I haven't had any really semi-profound thoughts lately, just the usual mix of disappointment, anger, wonder (some great sunsets, beautiful weather, and semi-naked beautiful people walking around), and happiness (I've been doing a lot of screenwriting and still photography work lately).

Fortunately, my cat keeps me sane. Here's a pic for you:

In terms of reading, I'm still going back and forth between "Moby Dick" and Bill Moyer's "World of Ideas."
Moyers is my hero. He's a great synthesist, seeing the underlying patterns between disparate expressions of thought. He's a terrific interviewer, always respectful, but also challenging and insightful. He's not afraid to bring his background to bear but never lets it dominate the conversation. And his sense of justice is clear but not dogmatic or screeching.
What's depressing is that the issues discussed in the book (published in '90, during Bush I's time) are pressing at us again: environmental ruin, the disappearance of public commons, the eclipsing of governments by corporations, racism, immigration issues, the rights of the individual, sexism... it's as if we've gone nowhere in the last seventeen years. Could that be true?
I read a book many years ago (about the same time as "World of Ideas" came out, actually) called "In the Country of the Blind" by Michael Flynn. It's about several groups of historians and scientists who discover a way to mathematically model future events - to predict history. Using this knowledge, of course they end up manipulating things for their own gain. One of the persistent themes in the book is that the bigger groups wants to turn everyone into "technoserfs" - people who are work, have enough technology to get by (and get distracted by), but are depoliticized and dependent both economically and politically on the very rich. In some ways I feel like we've reached that stage.
I've contributed money to politicians and some causes, have "e-signed" a few petitions, and I vote, but is it enough? Are we active enough? Does turning my appliances off at night / when I leave count for anything?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Alien Dating Tips

I recently had a very pleasant first date, the first in a while. I was retelling the date (no, not like that) to my coworkers in the production office, and was getting big stares from both the men and women. Either I'm very old-fashioned or they've never had a good date.

Here are some tips, folks - mostly aimed at men, but a few for women as well. The tips below apply to GLTDs as well as breeders.

1. Don't forget to call the next day.
2. Flowers are good and always appreciated.
3. Yes, you should pay. But don't make a big deal about it. It's just a nice thing to do.
4. Make at least one decision during the date - being flexible is good, but so is being decisive.
5. Listen and make mental notes; you will be tested on your recall later.
6. Don't talk excessively about ex-girlfriends/spouses/flings/etc.
6a. For that matter, don't talk excessively.
7. Say yes to shaving and dressing up.

1. When your date doesn't call right away, it doesn't usually mean anything significant. We just suck at calling.
2. Don't assume your date is a jerk before he acts like one. I understand this sentiment - after enough bad dates it's tempting to think defensively.
3. Don't talk excessively about ex-boyfriends/spouses/flings/etc.

Took a break from "Moby Dick" to read Bill Moyer's "World of Ideas II." It's a compendium of interviews from his late, great show interviewing artists, scientists, writers, etc on important topics. If you can catch this on DVD, you should. What's interesting is that the volume I'm reading was published in 1991 - but most of the issues that he's bringing up are still with us, both the good and the bad.

Go watch "Dead Like Me." Great series, cruelly cancelled by Showtime in its prime. I've been hearing about it for a couple of years, and finally started renting it on DVD. The main character is a reaper - someone who takes souls from their bodies just before death, and guides them into the afterlife. She and the other reapers are all souls that aren't ready to go on yet, so they "volunteer" until they collect enough souls.

Sounds gloomy, right? It's wonderfully funny and poignant. Even the deaths.

All right, until next time.