February 21, 2009
I've always felt kind of bad for taking over this website, one that rightfully belonged to an amazing band, not some dude living in California, trying to make it was a writer.
So, I've finally done the right thing. You can follow my exploits at ChasingMist.com. I'm going to miss this old place. But hopefully we'll have music related stuff to post someday in the future, so I can come back.
February 11, 2009
My Own Little World
Often, when I am stressed or trying to figure something out, or overwhelmed by a ton of things that seem bigger than myself, I find that I like to make things smaller and within my control. For me, this often takes the form of video games, or computer games. The first time I realized that I did this was with a great computer game called Civilization, where you run a civilization from 4000 BC until 2000 AD and try to win wars, develop technology, colonize space... I would literally play that game all night sometimes. Because it was so nice to be in control of every little aspect, to have this whole world that I could understand and make sense of.
These days, my game of choice is Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii. it's a really arcadey version of soccer. And there are weeks that go by when I don't play it at all. Sometimes I do play it just for fun, but often I'll play it when I'm stressed and overwhelmed, or even trying to figure things out in my head.
If you want a clue for how things are going for me, let me just tell you that I've played 76 matches this past week.
Yep, I'm a little stressed. In fact, I've never been so hopeful and so worried about the future in my entire life. Weird, huh?
But the problem right now is the stress is actually taking a toll on my writing. As in, I didn't hit my page quota today because I was playing Mario Strikers, retreating to my own little world. I'm not sure it's a bad thing, really, but I have to kick myself back into shape in terms of churning out those pages.
February 10, 2009
I recently started reading a very insightful book called Outliers, which is a study of successful people. I highly recommend it, but one of the most interesting things he's observed is that it seems like in some ways talent is actually overrated, but dedication and practice are really the over-riding factors in success.
Malcolm Gladwell contends that before someone can be truly amazing at what he or she does, they need to invest 10,000 hours in developing that craft. 10,000 hours. Think about that! That's 5 years, full time hours.
Do you tink you've spent 10,000 hours doing anything specific?
February 04, 2009
An exciting day
Today was an action packed, self confidence boosting day.
I went boogie boarding with Lyric (in February, I still can't get over this!), and guess what swims directly towards me? A SHARK. Now, bear in mind that it was only about 4 feet long and dark brown, so I'm thinking it was a swell shark. But still anytime you see a shark swimming towards you in that distinct sharklike motioned way, you get scared (I say this based on my extensive experience of one time.) I grabbed Lyric's hand and we decided we must be a little too deep! We did, however, continue boogie boarding for another 45 minutes afterwards. No cowards, are we.
Then I negotiated my rent downward with my landlord, saving myself $150 a month. Not bad, right? I happen to know that our neighbors recently had their rent go up $50/month, so I am particularly proud of my accomplishment.
Then, I volunteered to get new judges for UCLA's screenwriting competition, so I started contacting some of the people who had contacted me when I placed in the Nicholl. Now that I have an agent, of course, they want to represent me too. It was funny, because previously I hadn't heard back from them, but now one of the specifically said he would love to be my manager. It's really true, nobody loves you until somebody loves you, and then everyone loves you.
Finally, UCLA's Professional Program asked ME to be a judge for their yearly competition, because of my achievements in screenwriting. Score! I'm honored to.
Good day. I didn't get eaten, too. That's always a plus.
January 22, 2009
Busy in a Restful Way
This past week I've been very busy working on a ton of things, but without any stress, so it hasn't been bad.
I had a notes session with the producer for the script I wrote last week, and she was very positive. She actually had very good notes, too, but I'm not working on the rewrite just yet. I have to take a break from that and start working on my next script.
Most of my time lately has been taken up working on a major update to LETHAL. Any negative comments we've gotten should be addressed by this update, so that's really exciting. I had a 90 minute chat session today with the Indian developers talking about the update and also future apps that we have ideas for - there are 20 of them. I would love it if other than writing the main way I made money was through these apps, it's a really fun, fulfilling job.
January 05, 2009
Playwriting is a separate form of writing than screenwriting, and one that I really appreciate. Last quarter I took a one act play class, which was part 1 of a 3 class trilogy. I, along with 3 other screenwriters, was all fired up to take part 2 starting today. We had already talked to the instructor, and while he seemed a little intimidated by the number of writers, he said he would see us during the first class.
Today, we sit down and he starts the class by saying, "OK, all the screenwriters have to leave. You can't take this class." We laughed because it sounded like a joke.
He said he had to limit the class to the 3 playwriting MFA's along with ONE SCREENWRITING STUDENT who he knew since she was younger so he was making an exception for her. He didn't want to take the time to read all of our plays. Now bear in mind that this would be eight people and we'd be writing the first act of a play, so around 30-40 pages. Now exactly overwhelming. Our screenwriting teachers read a full length screenplay from 8 student, that's 100-120 pages!
Very disheartening. And when I make my millions and look for a UCLA department to donate to, Theater will not be high on the list.
Sorry I haven't been writing much lately. I'll throw some random stuff at you since I don't really have time to write anything cohesive.
* It was nice, very nice, to be home, but as always we didn't get to see anyone enough and that made it tinged with sadness. Plus, it didn't snow! It never does for us.
* I have to write a whole screenplay this week. It's going to be madness.
* I'm also lucky enough to have Jenna visiting us and Jessica and Drew later this week. Good times.
* Our flight back was MUCH better than our flight out to the East Coast. We got switched to a flight that was direct so we avoided a dreaded mad dash in Phoenix. And we got 4 free roundtrip vouchers, too. Huzzah.
* 30 Rock is so funny.
* I can't believe the Eagles are still playing. They were so dead after that tie with the Bengals. Thanks Oakland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas!
* I saw "The Strangers." It was ok. Like 3 out of 5 stars ok. I appreciated the effort, and it was a solid horror thriller with real character and emotion. But the ending was really pretty lacking. Plus, it should have been called "Quiet. Quiet. LOUD!" because most of the scares came from it being really quiet, really quiet (like amazingly quiet, actually... this movie had so few lines of dialogue it was almost a silent film), and then BOOM something really loud happened. It was cool a few times, but that hand was overplayed.
* This week is unexpectedly stressful. I could have used another week of break, to be honest.
December 13, 2008
I'll be home for Christmas
The idea of Christmas being a time when family and friends reunite and get to spend time together now truly resonates with me since I live thousands of miles away from home. It's wonderful that there's a time when everyone can get together and be in one place.
I'm looking forward to it very much (even if our 2 and a half weeks at home are already all scheduled out to the day...)
December 09, 2008
The Power of "No."
Recently a screenwriting friend of mine landed a very well placed manager. It was a big deal. But then my friend wrote an awesome new screenplay and the manager didn't like it. The manager said, "It was a good exercise, but you need to write something new." After checking with a number of other trusted people over whether the script is good, and getting confirmation that it is, my friend made a difficult decision.
The manager had to go.
This was a gutsy decision. And it rocks because it shows that he's not desperate, at all. He has the confidence that someone else will pay attention to him, and he doesn't need to hang on to someone that isn't a good fit.
Just today I had to say "No" to people who expressed interest in me. It's never easy, but again, it's a skill that needs to be developed. In this case, these were producers who sent me an option offer on two of my scripts. Unfortunately, the offers were not what I wanted at all. The option term was too long, the money offered for the money was too low, and it specified a purchase price should they be able to set the project up when I'd want to be able to negotiate my own deal at that point. (Or, have my agent do that for me.)
The producers told me that this was a standard offer for a first time writer. And I understand that, but it's also a bad decision. One that desperate people who so badly want some kind of positive attention would make. So as awkward as the conversation was (and unfortunately it was rather strange because they were not happy that I wasn't eager to take their deal!), I have no doubt that I did the right thing. And I'm so glad that the instructors at UCLA do a great job warning their writers about the bad deals that flow through Hollywood like the River Nile...
You have to believe to see...
Many people have heard the phrase "I'll believe it when I see it." Yet often the exact opposite is true. You only start to see things when you believe in them. What you'll expect, what you believe is possible creates a context by which you'll filter the world.
Lately I've been writing with a screenwriter from Delaware who placed in the Nicholl competition, just like I did. He's kind of my strange "what I might be." He has two kids and a wife and is very hesitant to move from Delaware to CA. He said the main reason was that "he didn't know if he was good enough." And if he "knew he was good enough, he'd move in a heartbeat."
He wants to see something, and then he'll believe. So much so that he's kind of ignored things that are right in front of his face - placing in the Nicholl competition should be a pretty good hint that you're a good writer! - and still not really believing. I told him that what he wants is some kind of guarantee against failure, and that faith rarely gets such things. What faith will give you, though, is the ability to accomplish and see things that you DEFINITELY wouldn't get to do or see without it. I doesn't make things a 100% sure bet, but It opens up the possibilities in such a beautiful and dramatic way.
Here are UCLA some of the new screenwriting students are not having a very good time of things. It's odd, this class in particular just seems to be disappointed by the experience. By and large, my year did not feel this way. The teacher that we thought was a complete and total genius, a treasure to filmmakers, and worth his weight in gold they consider a prattering old fool. The teacher that I know to be an incredible inspiration they think to be bossy and arrogant. The teacher I believe to be a true professional and a dispenser of decades of hard fought insider tips and wisdom they've labeled a loud blowhard.
And guess what? I get the geniuses, the inspiration, and the wisdom. They get the boring old fools, bossy and arrogant. Because you have to believe to see. You tell me, whose getting the better deal here in school?
November 23, 2008
Essential Ingredients to a Good Day
I was thinking about a good day. Not a perfect day, not your dream day, but just a normal good day. And then I was thinking about what kind of has to happen for that to be a good day. Nothing extraordinary, nothing particularly amazing even, just the basic building blocks of a good day. For instance, I love to hike and play basketball, but I can very easily have a good day without doing either of those things (though I wouldn't say I can have a good week without doing one of those things as easily.) Do you see what I'm saying here?
So that being said, here are my ingredients to a Good Day (in no particular order). What are yours?
1) Enough sleep. How much is enough? More than 6 hours.
2) 45 minutes of physical activity. I'll settle for the Elliptical, but I'd rather play basketball, soccer, or football, hike, something like that.
3) Write 5 pages. Generally speaking for me, of a screenplay. And then spend time writing something else, too. Note: things can stand in for the screenplay. If I'm developing a story, treatments or outlines will work. So too would a play. I haven't started writing it yet, but so would a novel. Blog posts don't count for me. Truly, blog posts are kind of a small form of writerly procrastination for me. Like right now, when I'm taking a small break from writing my latest screenplay.
4) A moment of connection and closeness with Darby, Lyric, or Ollie (and really all three). Preferably an extended moment of connection.
5) Those three getting along with each other.
6) Contact with other friends and loved ones, family. Be it face to face, email, text, facebook. I love to feel like I matter in people's lives, and knowing that they matter in mine.
7) Helping someone with something.
8) Listening to and singing along to music.
9) A shower.
10) *Wink* Romance *Wink*
11) Learning something new. Seeing something new. Opening my eyes to something I've never even realized existed.
12) Peanut Butter. I can't help it. I love the stuff.
13) Mail!!! This is why Sunday could never be my favorite day. You never KNOW what you're going to get in the mail.
14) Being outside.
So there you have it. What are yours?
PS. Wow #9-12, taken together, are just kind of wrong... I should have spaced those out maybe.
November 21, 2008
On pins and needles
In a word, I'm stressed these days. I wish I was too blessed to be stressed, but I fear I may indeed be the opposite. My scripts are being read by three different agents and I'm trying to be peaceful about it but the waiting is really difficult. I've been successful doing a number of things in my lifetime, but this is one of the first times I've dived full on into something I really cared about. I wish I didn't care so much, actually, so I'm trying to pretend I don't. I know this whole process is one big waiting game. But wow, the waiting is killing me.
I met with my playwrite teacher, Hanay, today, to talk about my first draft of my one act play, "Why Are You Here?" He was very positive about it, so that's good. I have a bit of a rewrite to do to address some of his questions, but nothing drastic and in fact he gave great notes because it'll make the piece stronger. I'm excited about it. But the rewrite is due Monday...
And I also have, oh, another half of a feature to write by next Monday. I'm not stressed about those things though. It's the agents reading my scripts.
Truly though, if they don't like what they read, it's simply not a good fit. I have to find that perfect representation, a person who is passionate about my writing and believes in it. So if this isn't them, that's ok, they wouldn't make for good representation anyway.
But still, it's stressful!
November 17, 2008
A perfectly long day
Today was one of those perfectly long days that somehow had enough time for much more than any one day deserves. Church at 9 am (trying the earlier Westside Vineyard service this time. Most likely not going to make a habit of it. VERY nice people, but just not right for us. But seriously, so kind and caring about the community. We'll be trying the 9 am Mosaic Meeting in Pasadena now.)
So church at 9 am, then lunch at a famous restaurant here in LA called the "pacific dining car," that opened in the 1920's. It felt a ton like a place my dad's dad would have taken us, The Brown Derby (in Oxford, PA, not Hollywood, but the Oxford PA one was inspired by the Hollywood one) where we'd try to pretend we had table manners and generally be nervous the whole time we'd be found out. It was plush reds and dark woods and posh and old fashioned. If we had known all this, we probably wouldn't have taken the kids, but we survived with only an overly expensive bill.
Then we shopped for wetsuits for Lyric and Ollie. Let me tell you, they look adorable on them. Ollie's is red in blue, and he looks like spiderman.
Then, yes, on November 16th, we went bodyboarding on the beach. We got there at 2 PM and stayed until sunset. Though the water was a chilled 60 degrees, our wetsuits did the trick and we just had a great time. One of those stolen "wow this is much more fun than it really should be" moments that we'll all probably remember and yet hadn't been planned further than a couple of hours in advance. Darby was pulling Ollie around the surf on his bodyboard, his board turning quickly and often knocking him off in fits of laughter. "This is OUT OF CONTROL!," he exclaimed with the kind of pure unbridled glee that parents pray to hear come out of their children.
There were seals and dolphins and pelicans and sandpipers and anemones and crabs. Seals! Just lazily swimming not 20 feet from us. (Yes seals could mean sharks I know that, but not today!)
Then I went to Mosaic's evening service with my good friend Matt and we were inspired by Erwin's message on the risk inherent in being a creative person, and in being actively creative. We had quite a conversation ourselves about it on the ride back from downtown LA.
Then I was able to get home, finished my pilot treatment, have an intense, long conversation with Darby. Load a new version of our iPhone software and test it (it froze again, Ugh!), and now this.
Now tell me that isn't a week's worth of awesome crammed into one day?
November 13, 2008
My One Act Play
I reached the end of my first draft. It definitely needs some tweaking, but I'm really happy with it, because I wrote a play, and made it very different from a screenplay, in all the best ways that theatre is different than film, (I think.)
It's always funny. At the beginning of the quarter, which was just September 27th, I started this class thinking, what in the world am I going to write? Now, just a month and a half later, I have 28 pages of emotion, drama, dialogue, and character that didn't exist before. I just love the way things get pulled out of my spirit when they have to be. It blows my mind to think during this same 6 week period, I could have NOT written this play and then it wouldn't exist. I know this is a really simple concept, but think for a moment that Shakespeare could have not written Hamlet. Copolla could have not made the Godfather. Jefferson could have not written the Declaration of Independence. I'm not saying that what I just wrote is on the level of any of these works, but still, in all cases, someone had to sit down and actually go ahead and put those words to paper, choosing to not do something else, and instead focus on this.
Think for a second. Is there a Hamlet, a Godfather, a Declaration trying to be born? And are you looking for it, or ignoring it? Because I really believe that you have to listen carefully and coax gently and do everything you can to draw these works out of your creative heart.
it's late, have to work on something else.
November 11, 2008
and suddenly, I'm behind on a lot of things
So the quarters going along and la la la it's fun and creatively inspirational and gee isn't this cool and then... slam. All of a sudden all these things are due.
In the next two weeks I have to:
Finish my feature script (about 50-60ish pages left to write)
Finish my one act play (about 15 pages and a ton of polish)
Figure out the new script I'm writing with the producing student (I had a long meeting with her today and just finished writing a new treatment. I will have to write this screenplay during winter break. Fun Fun!)
Prepare a presentation and final paper for another class I have
Write full character breakdown from my 30 minute TV comedy show, and also a first episode outline.
Continue to go back and forth with the Indian developers to finalize the iPhone application.
It can be pretty taxing. But better than doing nothing I suppose...
Annoying little Indian developer story. Our Indian developers sent me our content database, because I was going to make corrections to the way it was displaying apostrophes, quotations marks, and hard breaks. I was told to replace apostrophes with \' and quotations with \" and put a \n whenever I wanted a line break.
I didn't have a program to open the database they sent, and when I told the developer he sent me a link for a program called mySQL lite.
I took a ton of time to go through all our content and make these changes. It was not easy, very time consuming, mundane busy work. I send him the updated database. He writes back, "Because you used the mySQL lite program, you didn't need to add the \',\", and \n. Please remove them and resend. "
I had to spend another bunch of time now removing them! He said that the directions he gave previously were assuming I'd use some other program. But they sent me the program I used! I shake my fist in the air at them.
Anyway, that's another thing I just finished.
So I was on campus from 11 am till 10.30, got home, worked on the treatment and database until now (2 am) and now I finally go to bed. Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
November 05, 2008
Obama-McCain at the Latshaw Household
Thought it might be fun to repeat some of the comments that were going on around here last night.
First of all, it's no secret we don't live in a Republican stronghold here in LA. Because of this, Lyric made the following observation: "I'll be surprised if McCain gets ONE vote because NOBODY likes him. Seriously, NOBODY that I've talked to is voting for him."
At one point while we were watching the election returns Lyric said, "They should call him McCan't!"
At one moment Ollie lifted his hand in the air and yelled, "Boo McCain, we hate you." Now I don't know what kind of propaganda these kids are being fed, but I didn't want them to be fanatics, so I proceeded to explain to them that McCain is not a bad, evil man, and shouldn't be hated. "What's good about McCain?" Lyric asks. I explained to them that McCain was a veteran of the Vietnam War, and a prisoner of war. And that it was the same War that Pap, Darby's dad, served in.
Now this little connection, despite us trying to convince him otherwise the rest of the night, somehow made Ollie believe that Pap and McCain are BEST FRIENDS. He kept asking things like "Do you think Pap called McCain yet to tell him he's sorry he lost to Obama?" and, during the concession speech, "Is Pap in the crowd there? I think I saw Pap!"
One last bit to add: Ollie asked who we thought was a faster runner, McCain or Obama. When asked why he wanted to know, he answered, "Because then I can tell you who will win the race to be President!"
Cute Ollie Story
Ollie accompanied me to the Apple Store tonight, which is always bunch of fun. He asked me what it's like being a grown-up. I told him that it's great, and one of the best things about it is having kids.
He said he definitely wants kids, but doesn't know who he can marry because everyone he loves the most – Lyric, Darby, Cosi, are all related to him. I mentioned his friend Capria as a girl who knows that he would be allowed to marry, and he said he couldn't because it would be embarrassing because she's younger than him and everyone knows that Mommys should be older than Daddys. I guess Darby and my example set that impression in his head.
Finally he just said... "I guess what I'll have to do is just find a cute girl and hang onto her." Which I thought was hilarious. But then he said, "Oh, but I don't want to have to go on a Honeymoon with her." To which I answered, "But it's just a fun vacation you get to take." He thought about that and answered, "Ok, yeah, I think I'll take her to Legoland, then!"
So, future wife of Ollie, where ever you are, being cute... you have a romantic trip to Legoland to look forward to.
November 02, 2008
I find it funny the way your dreams try to work out all the things going on in your life... This past week was stressful because I'm waiting for a certain option offer and also was filling out and getting other people to fill out stuff for a Fellowship I'm applying for...
So I dreamt about getting the offer, it being laughably ridiculous (included ME having to pay THEM), and also it asking me to get fifteen people to fill out letters of recommendation for me.
I was so happy to wake up and realize it was a dream. The offer can only be better than that, now.
October 26, 2008
This post will be a bunch of unrelated thoughts, the only relation being that I am thinking them.
I am so glad the Phillies ended up winning that game. I'm such a Philadelphia sports fan through and through, so I am in absolute disbelief that they did. I am cautiously optimistic about their chances, they don't give up.
We took Ollie and Lyric to Santa Barbara today, along with Darby's parents, who are visiting. Wow, the place is such a wonderful spot. From their zoo, which is one of the best I've ever visited, to their Sea Center to their beautiful downtown... love the place.
Cool story about the zoo. We had to return Ollie's beloved gecko, "Leopard" to petco because he was sick beyond our ability to care for him (read between the lines, people). Anyway, he was heartbroken. And now even months later, he continues to sometimes cry about it. It's very sad.
We decided to buy him a new one, but this time to get it from a reputable dealer. And we found one in Toronto that is really cool looking... it's white with black spots and blue coloring above his eyes. Normal leopard geckos are orange and black. Ollie was really excited about him, but decided he wanted to call him Leopard but he sadly realized he couldn't because he wasn't orange and black. We tried to assure him he still could, but he wasn't hearing it. Quick thinking lad that I am, I remembered that there are SNOW LEOPARDS, which are white with black spots. So Ollie excitedly decided the new gecko would be named Snow Leopard. He even wrote Snow Leopard a letter.
So today, what is at the Santa Barbara Zoo? A real life SNOW LEOPARD. So cool!
Then, they had a "Sea Center" on the wharf. It was small and kind of expensive, but it was Ollie's birthday and he wanted to do it and it had swell sharks that you could touch so I was in. But it turned out to be the best ocean-related place ever and I will tell you why.
We walk through the standard touch a shark area into a room WITH A HUGE HOLE IN THE FLOOR THAT DROPS 30 FEET TO THE OCEAN. And there is a woman there letter us drop a big metal claw into the water which closes and lifts sand back to the room. We then sort the sand and Ollie gets to pick out living creatures with a little pair of tweezers. And we find an isotop, a kelp crab, and a marine animal that has a heart like a human. It was so awesome.
I can't wait for the season premiere of 30 Rock.
Wow, I'm loving the song, "Paper Planes" by MIA.
And the show Mad Men is pure genius.
Some of the best creative work being done these days is on TV. Mad Men, Dexter, The Office... I really would like to get into TV someday but with young kids and a marriage the time commitment is just too much at this stage in my life. But someday, I have a drama idea that I really want to develop.
I have so much writing to do. Re-writes. A play. My latest feature (a sports movie!).
I don't see how McCain wins this election. Not at all.
Goodness, I think Kristen Wiig on SNL is so brilliant. I could watch her all day.
Today was Ollie's birthday, and I just love that boy so much. He has such an amazing sense of humor, finding joy in the rhythms of life. He is also so compassionate, caring so much about other people. He's also surprisingly defiant - in a good gutsy, fearless way. One time I saw him playing on the playground and some kid about two feet taller them him said something rude to his friend. Ollie ran up to the kid and got right in his face and said, "Hey, you can't talk to my friend like that!" I was impressed... and a little nervous for him. But honestly that attitude is rare, can't be taught, and could really be a benefit to him. People who aren't afraid of conflict (and not eager for it either) can really be successful. Today we were talking about the things we liked about Ollie and Lyric said he was her best friend. It brought a tear to my eye, it did.
Yes, this is long. Yes, back to that "need to write" thing. Yes, maybe I'm procrastinating a bit. But I'm up to page 22 and I've earned it. I sort of can't believe I've already written 22 pages, but they're good solid scenes, and I'm really starting to like the story. So that's good.
I had a conference with my theater teacher on Friday, but I have no idea really how to translate his comments into my actual play. He said he liked the setup and subject matter of my play, but be sure I keep it organic, clean, and honest. So I guess so long as I stay away from pesticides, dirt and lies I'll be ok. Seriously, though, I'm quite excited about this play.
All the people who love Coldplay and think that I hate Coldplay (which I don't!) will be happy to know that I love their new song (Viva La Vida or something like that.) They sounded great on SNL too. I love a band that can sound good live. Not sure about that arm band gone wild style though, Chris.
I now want to visit the Channel Islands, which are off the coast of Santa Barbara. They are sometimes referred to as the Galapogas Islands of North America, with 145 species that are found no where else in the world. They are quite beautiful too!
October 21, 2008
Sorry for the little communication...
I don't have much time, so I promise a proper update at some point soon.
I have to write 30 pages of my new screenplay this week... Plus I'm trying to rewrite two of mine, too. So things are kind of busy. Plus I have a special little guy's birthday coming up. And the final couple of weeks of development with the iPhone application (hurray, we were approved as developers by Apple earlier this week) involves multiple daily conferences with my buddies in India, Prakash, Huri, and Abshivek...
So things are busy, and I'm kind of scrambling to catch up from my extended time in Austin. (I'll write a real post about that at some point I promise.)
You have to see a film called SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE when it releases later this year. I saw it at the film festival, and it was absolutely incredible. Just a tip, you heard it hear first. Best Picture of the Year.
Got a nice message from a manager / producer today.
Hope all is well. My apologies for taking so long to get back to you -- but I've been bombarded with 300 Nicholls scripts and another several dozen from the Austin Film Festival. I did finally have a chance to look over WELL ADJUSTED BOY and have to say that I was most impressed with your writing and voice. I am on the fence about the project itself -- as it clearly has that quirky, indie feel and stars two kids (which isn't the easiest thing in the world to set up). It's also a bit too sophisticated to be a kids movie. Have to think about this one more. I'm taking a look at the Black Family Singers next. But, first, has anything changed since our last email? Have you signed with anyone? Agent? Mgr?
I'm writing a one act play this quarter, and really enjoying it. I have to say, it's going to be quite good. I think a couple of friends of mine who are also in the class will be renting a playhouse with me to put them on later this year.
October 16, 2008
Nothing to do but wait...
I've got a number of really exciting things going on that I've done everything I can do to finish them and am now just waiting on other people.
The iPhone App
After a flurry of activity, this bad boy is designed, researched, and handed over to the developers. Now we just wait, and check on progress. I'm very excited about this application, because it's turning out to be better than I even thought it would be. I literally cannot wait until it is finally completed and ready to sell.
My short film
After hours and hours of time spend in pre-production, production, and then the post production editing, this baby has now been turned over to the audio and video experts who will put the last layers of polish on it. Once again, I'll be so excited to finally have the finished cut soon.
Feedback on my scripts
I've sent scripts out to a very large number of people lately, all of whom have requested them. Now I wait. I know enough about this town and this business to not necessarily expect anything on all this. But it sure would be nice. But now I just wait.
Elany Arts, the graphics design company that is otherwise known as my financial security, is caught up in a large RFP (request for proposal!) process for our biggest client. It's unnerving to have to compete to keep a client you've kept happy for seven years Though technically you are competing every day, to actually be in a process against a ton of other agencies where there is a very real chance of not being selected is worrisome. We've worked very hard on our response, but now can do nothing but wait to hear whether we've been chosen to make it to the second round. Unfortunately, this personal little ulcer will be continuing into early 2009, when the final selections are finally made.
October 10, 2008
Special Time with Ollie
Darby and Lyric are away, so Ollie and I have had the chance to have some special guy time. It's been fun. We went to the 3rd Street Promenade, shopped at Puzzle Zoo, went to the Apple Store, and then had burgers and shakes at Fatburger.
Today we went to a park we just discovered called Rustic Canyon Rec. It was really cool. We played handball, climbed trees, played basketball, ping-pong and foosball. Then we played Lego Batman and beat two boards. Alway good times.
Ollie's such a cool guy.
And he lost a front tooth.
October 08, 2008
AIG gets bailed out and then tightens the belt...
...Tightens the belt around our necks, that is.
AIG was so dangerously insolvent that they required a government bailout to the tune of $85 Billion dollars. And they got it. So how do they celebrate? Oh, how about a $440,000 retreat for its top executives? On our dime of course. I really truly think that should somehow be criminal. These people are completely willing to run a company into the ground because they still get their millions regardless.
And people wonder why normal civilians are suspicious of the bailout.
October 07, 2008
iPhones and Producers and Beverly Hills Chihuahua
I'm very excited right now because the iPhone application is really shaping up to be amazing. I can't wait until I can share all the details, because it's going to rock your socks.
I have a meeting with a producer today at 3. And another meeting with a Navy Seal at 11. Interesting day.
I took Lyric and Ollie to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It was surprisingly entertaining. We went to El Capitan, in Hollywood. It's an old, grandly restored movie house owned by Disney. It's just beautiful, and a wonderful place to see a Disney film. They almost always have some special live event before the film, and this time the actual dogs who starred in the film were there, doing tricks with their trainer. It was really fun.
And people complain about movie formulas. For the most part I agree. But BHC is a testament to the fact that if you hit all the points to a hero's journey kind of formula, and hit them well, you'll have a satisfying story, even if it's not all that creative. I am not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary eyed at moments. Ok, yes, I'm ashamed to admit it but there it is and nothing can change it.
October 02, 2008
Trying to be a good father
Sometimes parenting can be difficult. You wonder if you're making an impact, you're annoyed at yourself for not doing what you should, you're distracted, or losing patience.
Most of the time parenting is a joy. You get to view things through your child's eyes, you get to tangibly feel this deep well of love that you've built up over time. You have this little person that you just adore and have adored since they were born. There is no other relationship like that. I love to share most of my life with my kids.
But then, there are times when it goes above joy into pure... euphoria. When all of your efforts to be a good parent pay off, and it's obvious that the things you have done have worked, the investments you've made pay dividends. Today my daughter Lyric had a very difficult day. Actually, back it up, she had a very difficult two days, and yesterday fed into today. I don't want to get into details because it's her business and she is a very personal person, but I decided to talk to her as the best father I could be.
And it really worked out. She came alive, and I could just tell she was hearing everything and taking it in. After we talked, she played this song that's been one of "our songs" since she was literally one year old. It's called Snuggle Puppy.
These are the moments you remember forever.
September 26, 2008
Always something to do.
I just spent the second night working on an RFP, which is lingo in the corporate world for a "Request For Proposal," which was essentially a 20 page document of essay questions where I have to show why Elany Arts is a great choice for this company. It was exhausting, but it's due by next Tuesday. Yep, the same day as my screenplay!
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to write one word on that screenplay, but that's ok. I will hopefully be able to write a ton tomorrow and over the weekend and be done before Monday.
We had a BBQ last Sunday welcoming first year UCLA Screenwriters, and reuniting the second and third years too. A couple of my classmates were introducing me to some new screenwriters in the program, and they said, "This is Jason Latshaw, he's the best writer in the program." I was taken aback because they weren't joking! I said something self-depracating and humble, which they denied and said, "No, it's true, you should read the stuff he writes." First of all, I don't believe that because there is not such thing as best when it comes to writing... but it's certainly nice to hear.
It's great to start classes again, and be on campus... I love UCLA.
I heard from a producer today who read and loved The Kingdom of Tovenray, but said it wasn't right for her company. She said she had no doubt it would land in some production company that was a good fit, though. That's nice, huh?
September 25, 2008
That was weird
Many of you might have tried to visit thelookmachine.com this morning and been greeted with the garish oranges and yellows of go daddy rather than the soothing, familiar design you've become accustomed to. Sorry about that. Apparently my credit card expired when they tried to auto renew the domain. (By the way, that last sentence I wrote would make NO sense to someone in Shakespearean times, or even George Washington. Isn't language funny?)
I couldn't even find thelookmachine.com domain under my normal godaddy account, which was kind of making me panicky. Had I lost it to some domain squatter ALREADY? But it turns out I had registered this domain under some little known other account that I had to dig up in a forgotten corner of internet. And $34.97 later, we're back.
I wrote 17 pages yesterday on my screenplay, and they were Act 2 pages, which are never easy to write. That is a very good thing. I'm up to page 66 and I can see the path to the end. I like the script, it's unlike anything else I've written. It almost feels like a play, which is to say actually that I think I'm going to have to go back and punch up the visual aspects of the storytelling. It's a lot of sharp dialogue right now.
I have my first class of the quarter today. I auditioned and made it into Fred Rubin's Writing the Comedy Pilot class. Another good thing, because I'm one of the few people in the class who isn't in the television writing track (they get priority.) I'll be taking a feature writing class, a playwriting class, and a pilot writing class this quarter (you have to develop your own comedy show in the pilot writing class.) That's a pretty huge creative output, so I hope I can keep up.
September 24, 2008
The Bailout Part 2
OK, I looked into this situation, and I think I understand it better. And I think it's... even more wrong and misguided, and I don't think it's going to help anyone out.
Here's what happened. Banks lent a ton of money to "no doc" loans (meaning that people didn't have to prove they could afford to make the payments) and "subprime" loans (meaning the banks loaned money to people who in the past had already not been able to pay back money they had borrowed.)
In the business world, that is called a risky move. But it was one the banks decided to take because they felt like the payoff (more mortgages! more fees! higher interest rates!) would be worth it.
But uh-oh, a huge percentage of those loans are now going bad. As in, people aren't paying them. And the housing market fell at the same time. They took a gamble, and they lost. I was in vegas earlier this month. Normally when you do that, you walk away without any money.
Enter the U.S, government. With our taxdollars - $3000 per US citizen, to be exact (that's $12,000 for my household!) is going to buy these horrible bad misguided greedy loans. You see, these banks can't find anyone to buy these loans. The last bunch of bad loans that were purchased on the open market were bought for the price of 22 cents on the dollar. (So, 1 dollar of bad loan was purchased for 22 cents). But it looks like the government is stepping in and buying these bad loans for around 50 cents on the dollar. At a time when no one in their right mind is buying bad loans at all.
That's called a bad investment. A very bad investment. It's like someone owned a horrible terrible car that they wanted to sell for 10K and everyone said, "No, that's such a horrible car I wouldn't even buy it for anything!" and then the government came in and said, "I will give you 20K for that fine car."
There is something very fundamentally dangerous about the government artificially inflating the value of things (in this case, bad loans.) It leads to inflation. Because they are devaluing our money by doing so. (It's no coincidence that the dollar plunged today while gold soared.)
It's really not a good idea. And it's really not fair either. Oh, I forgot to mention. What was originally conceived as a bailout on bad consumer home loans has now apparently been expanded to potentially include bad commercial real estate loans, bad consumer credit card loans, even bad auto loans. Yes, courtesy of the taxpayers, it looks like everyone is trying to get one big giant UNDO button on their horrible business decisions.
September 23, 2008
Do you guys realize that a bunch of Wall Street businessmen made bad decisions and pushed the economy to the brink of something terrible... and now the government is dedicating $700 Billion Dollars worth of our money to "bailing them out." This means that the money that the government didn't have put towards health care or poverty they all of a sudden have to erase mistakes made by corporate decisionmakers in search for more and more greedy profits.
It doesn't seem right.
And this was just WAY too quick. $700 Billion dollars should never be spent on the basis of a plan that was quickly pushed through in a week. Newt Gingrich said:
Congress was designed by the Founding Fathers to move slowly, precisely to avoid the sudden panic of a one-week solution that becomes a 20-year mess.
But that is exactly what is going on here.
It just doesn't seem right to me.
September 12, 2008
The heartache of pets
I've passed a lot of good things onto my children. Lyric is 100 percentile in math, and I always loved the numbers. Ollie just loves life, and so do I. (those are just a few examples...)
But something I seem to have passed to them is the Jason Curse of the Pets. And this is really really sad. Over my life, any animal that was mine... died. And now, both Lyric and Ollie's baby Leopard Gecko's got really sick and had to be returned to the pet store. They won't eat. It's horrible to watch my kid's little hearts get wrapped up in these adorable animals, and then have those animals get to death's door.
Doing my research, I think the problem is Petco. It looks like they sell sick lizards a lot. So once we figure out what to do in the future (if we want to try the grand pet experiment again), we'll look for a reputable breeder and assure ourselves that the lizards are healthy and eating first.
August 27, 2008
Getting the Mail
I've always loved getting the mail. I think this reveals the optimist that I truly am. Because as often as it's filled with bills and other junk... I always know that there could be this total and complete gem that I need to mine for. I know it's only a matter of time, but I will get it!
So it's not a real exaggeration to say that one of the most difficult things about being away for so long is not getting mail for more than a month. It's emotionally painful. But in some ways that suffering was redeemed because today I got to go through a huge backlog of mail.
Oh, and the gems that I found!
First and foremost, the most prestigious screenwriting competition in the world - the Nicholls Fellowship - had sent out their decisions in late July. I had heard from friends in California that they had gotten their notices, but I merely had to wait to find out what my status was, because nothing was posted online. It was all done through postal mail. If you have any idea how curious I am, you'll know how much this was killing me.
Now I believe in maximizing my chances, and I also cannot choose between my scripts any more than I can choose between my children. (OK, that's not completely true, two of the scripts I've written I've basically disowned!)
I tell you this to explain why I submitted 5 scripts to the competition. Yes, 5. That might seem like overkill, but you never know which script will resonate with a reader.
So I found 5 envelopes from Nicholls, each holding the sealed fate of a different screenplay. They are all thin. That can't be good!
This is perhaps a good time to explain that even though I'm early in my writing career, I have already developed the skill to keep my expectations low. Even when you're good, even if you're a genius,. you'll get rejected far more than you get accepted. So I fully expected each of these envelopes to politely thank me for entering and encourage me to keep writing while informing me that the competition was especially good this year and unfortunately I didn't make the cut. How does that mix with me being an optimist? It just does. I know that sometime in the future something awesome will happen, but for each specific moment or opportunity I do my very best to keep expectations way low.
The first four envelopes were exactly in line with my expectations. Retro Bank, The Black Death, Well Adjusted Boy, Black Family Singers... all thrown by the wayside unceremoniously. Well, I think... I'll show them, some day!
But then the last envelope, not unlike a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I rip it open and... the writing is different. I notice this before I even notice what it says. The letter looks different. And in fact, my Harriet Tubman epic sweeping historical script (It's titled Her 14th Mission)... it was plucked from more 5,224 screenplays as one of the 261 screenplays to make the Quarterfinal Round!
Yippee, but it doesn't end there! As I continue to make my way through the heap of mail, I find one more letter sent from my good friend Nicholl. This one informs me that I made it to the next round, the round of 114, the Semifinal Round. The last round before the actual 10 Finalists!
This is officially a BIG DEAL. This is the most respected competition around, and producers and agents care very much about the writers that place. I'm still amazed to find out so late that I'm in that group! I had basically assumed that because I hadn't heard from an agent or producer yet that I didn't make it, but come to find out Nicholl doesn't distribute the list of winners until October.
OK, so yes that's amazing of course. But that's not all.
I also found a letter from the company that I do consulting services through telling me I had a $1K paycheck that I never cashed, and would I like them to send me a new one? Well, yes sir!
And the US Government told me that I never cashed a tax refund in the amount of $6K, and sent me that check again. (I somehow must have huge problems cashing checks... and this $6K one really has thrown me, but I called and verified it and it's for real.)
And I found out that Her 14th Mission and another script of mine, The Black Death, both made it into the second round of the Austin Film Festival, which meant they were in the top 10% of the 4000 scripts submitted to that competition.
SO yes, of course I got all the bills and maybe even a random Disconnect Notice... but the good very much outweighed the bad!
I don't know how I forgot to include this, probably the best thing to come in the mail out of everything!
August 23, 2008
If you remember, I was feeling quite split earlier on. And rightly so, I have very rich lives that are literally thousands of miles from each other. I can't really be some place without missing out on something that is going on far away. It's just the way it is now.
But last week's film shoot made me realize something... this split, as odd and unsettling as it is, is needed. The shoot simply couldn't have happened if I weren't both LA Jason and East Coast Jason. I needed my base of the people on the East Coast, the locations that I know here, all that... and yet the confidence that LA has given me, the desire, the understanding and the clout to get some talent here on the East Coast to work with me has been invaluable.
It's kind of like how some dishes can only exist when you mix faraway ingredients, and if you just stick to one area historically you couldn't have sugar or chocolate if you were a European. I'm trying to cook some dishes, and will continue to do so, that require people and thoughts and places from all over. So the feeling of longing for another place is just a price I have to pay for that, and I can certainly deal with that.
August 13, 2008
Well, let's start off with some good news. For the first time in WAY TOO LONG, Darby and I were able to take a night away, and we went to Gramercy Mansion outside of Baltimore. It was great. We ate at Fogo de Chao, which is a dining experience. Then walked around the Inner Harbor, and watched the Perseids from beside a very nice pool late into the night. The falling stars were astonishing... really vibrant with icy (smoky?) tails.
Today we went to Ellicut City, near Baltimore, which is just this old stone East Coast village, the kind I love even more now because they just don't have towns like that on the West Coast. It was really charming, and many of the old buildings were built over a creek, literally on steel beams that crossed it.
Now all that wonderfulness didn't come without a cost, because there is this filming coming up in two days. Fortunately, Joe, Collin, and Brett really came through while I was off gallivanting and nailed down a ton of rentals and insurance issues. And Paul Odders and Brett proved themselves to be heroes, volunteering to drive up to NYC to pick up the gear tomorrow.
So now there are really only two things that are stressing me out:
1) We need an AC. I've called so many people... no one is available so far. This could really be a problem!
2) We need to find some kind of Dolly. This is less of a problem honestly.
OK, those are the two reasons for the stress right now.
Oh yeah, and there is a mega huge birthday party for my kids planned and I'm in charge of the entertainment. These next three days are going to be very eventful!
August 07, 2008
Pretty stressed, pretty antsy
Have any of you been in the situation where you have so many things that you should be doing that even when you are actually doing on of those things, you still feel like you're slacking because you're not doing one of those other things that needs to be done too.
That's where I am right now. I'll spare you the list, but let's just say I'm stretched a bit. For a five minute movie, this thing is demanding a ton of my time. It's going to be great, and I can't wait until it's finished. But the camera we were going to rent fell through and is really making the whole planning process more difficult. I hope I get everything finalized tomorrow.
It'll be ok. Back to reading someone's script and giving them comments. (I'm so generous, I know.) Then I have to deposit checks at the bank, pay bills, get together with old work friends, write my Curb spec, line up production insurance... oh I promised to not to get into a list, right? Sorry.
August 02, 2008
There are times when I feel so lucky for a ton of things, but right now I'm going to focus in on my kids. I wouldn't want any other kids. I've always been a someone who likes kids, I was as camp counselor, I think kids say the funniest things, I like their energy and their viewpoints... But I was not prepared for having these two kids of my own, Lyric and Ollie, and the joy and love I have for them. It's pretty baffling to me, actually, just how much I feel for them.
Tonight they were both in a play. Now I know I'm biased, but there was a ton to be proud of. Ollie's young, so he had one line. And the boy just delivered it with such gusto that he earned a huge laugh. It's the old saying, there are no small parts, just small actors. Ollie proved he was going to be a big actor.
And Lyric, honestly... what can be said about her? I wrote her part 10 years ago, before she was even a consideration in this world, and yet she honestly delivered her lines exactly as I would have wanted them said, and even better. Her comic timing was just so fun to see, and her confidence and clear enjoyment of doing this part were just wonderful to watch. She's been through a very difficult time this last year, but I can tell that all the trials and struggles she's come through have made her stronger. She has a strength and a confidence now that were not there before.
So yeah, this post is just basically me bragging about my kids. Sorry, but I just really dig them a lot. Erwin McMahanus from Mosiac Church was talking about spending time with his teenage and adult kids, and how they were his favorite people in the world still, and that made me so happy because I hate the thought of growing distant from these two amazing people ever. So I'm going to believe that this mutual admiration club we all have going on right now will not be broken up ever.
July 24, 2008
Eleven years ago, when I was running a summer camp for kids, I wrote a play for the drama week about David and Goliath. It's very funny, and it holds up all these years later. Jonathan, my brother, is doing a drama camp this summer and wanted to stage it again.
Lyric and Ollie are both in it. I never imagined of how awesome these two kids could be when I was writing this play so long ago, and now I'll see them on the stage performing it. It's really crazy. And Lyric is playing Goliath, and really taking to the role. It's so cool.
July 20, 2008
The Bifurcated Life
As I've been home and seeing more people that I love and are familiar, and hanging out in places that are the same, I've realized just how split my life has become. I haven't figured out whether it's good or bad that I love people and places and things that are thousands of miles away from each other, and will probably, from now until the end of my life, both thoroughly enjoy where I am and really really miss where I'm not, but I can tell you that it's very strange, and unsettling.
Part of me thinks it is very good. I have a ton of new friends and experiences and loves because of our move to California, things I wouldn't want to miss at all. Of course that is great! But while I'm there, I'm missing the trip to Fair Hill where you can spend the afternoon swimming in the creek and chasing down frogs, and the quiet easy get togethers with family and friends.
But then when I'm on the east coast, I really do miss the intoxicating goldrush that is California, where anything seems possible, where almost anything is possible.... where the weather is so perfect that you rarely even think about it. Where every day you meet someone who could get you on to the next level of your career. Where the idea of accomplishing your dreams are no longer faraway mirages but tangible and happening for people all around you. Where you drive with the ocean on one side of you and mountains rising up on the other. Where there are a ton of people all chasing the same dream, and you bond together with them in that pursuit. Where people spend a ton of the time outside, being healthy and active.
So here I am, split. It's just so weird, mostly because it's so different than most people's lives that I see around me. I'm still adjusting to it, but I think on the whole I do like it. It's exciting, and certainly not hum-drum.
* My kids are going to a drama camp starting tomorrow and they'll be putting on a play that I wrote a while ago. I just re-wrote it a tiny bit and it's really quite funny. It's always nice partially forgetting something you've written because you get to be surprised by some jokes in it all over again like someone else wrote it.
* Related to that, I was re-reading my Black Family script on the flight from LA and I was laughing out loud at some of the jokes that I had completely forgotten. The lady sitting next to me, who I had already told that I was a writer, asks, "That script must be really funny. Whose is it...?" I have to, somewhat embarrassingly admit. "It's mine." She observes. "Wow, you must really think you're funny."
* The short film shoot is coming together and looking like August 12-14th. I think we'll have a Red One Camera (look them up, they're a big deal) and it'll be a blast.
* I'm getting together with the very talented Brett Weber to discuss collaborating on a graphic novel. I bought 5 different graphic novels this week and looking over them I'm really excited about the possibilities of what we can do. I have some contacts so I think I can get it published, too... I'll be doing this for one of my already written scripts that I think won't be made as just a spec script but would definitely be purchased as a graphic novel (to make into a movie.) Isn't Hollywood weird?
July 18, 2008
This last week has almost felt more like summer camp, with swimming lessons everyday, then swimming in the pool, and then swimming in the creek at Fair Hill. It's been really fun spending so much time with family and the kids, but at the same time... the writing suffers. I'm itching to write some more, and have to carve out some time and find a routine in a life that doesn't have a place for it right now.
The Dark Knight was really excellent. It's a very smart action film that grapples with huge themes, ones much larger than your normal summer blockbuster fare. And let me tell you (and this is no surprise, I know) Heath Ledger is just magnetic and brilliant and a complete genius in this film. I need to see it again, I can't quite figure out if I liked it better than Batman Begins, which I just adored. This was certainly a more complex film (which doesn't have to be a bad thing) which didn't have a clear Main Character (which again, doesn't have to be a bad thing) and so Batman Begins was easier to engage with on a first viewing. Batman Begins was much more of a classic hero's journey story, while Dark Knight deals largely in shades of grey and the moral ambiguity of trying to survive in a chaotic world.
July 12, 2008
Observations on Living Alone
I've been living on my own since June 18th. This is the longest I've lived alone in my entire life. Yes, that's right. I lived with, you know, my parents and brothers and sisters from birth until I moved out for college. Then I lived with my good friend Joe Kempista, then Joe and a whole plethora of friends (Chris, Christian, and Steve), then I got married and have been living with Darby ever since.
I've always wondered why people live alone. If I weren't married, I'd definitely live with a roommate. For one, I would want to split the rent and the utilities with people. But even aside from practical matters, I'm not too crazy about being all by myself. I like time to myself. But let me tell you, when you're living alone, there is way too much of that time.
1) Whole days can go by where I don't speak a word out loud.
When I'm really busy working all day on a project (like writing or editing or whatever), I can accidentally go a whole day without every leaving the house. Later in the day, I'll start to realize... my goodness, I haven't used my vocal cords at all today. Now this hasn't happened much, but it has happened. I actually don't feel like a loser when this happens, because...
2) I have been more social during this time then probably ever before.
Impromptu movie nights, last minute dinner parties, meeting people at the beach for the 4th, last minute trips to The Laugh Factory, parties with Jessica's dancer friends, regular meetings with friends, pick up basketball, watching plays with friends. When you have no one else in your life to consider and check with, you do a ton of unplanned things.
3) There is sooo much time in the day.
When you have one of those days where it's just going to be you, there are a ton of hours to fill up and you can get so much done.
4) It's easy to procrastinate
Because of all that time, it's important to force yourself to structure it or else you can... maybe.. oh I don't know, fill it up with playing video games and reading weblogs.
5) I stay up way too late.
When living with Darby and the kids, my normal schedule is go to bed by 1AM and wake up at 8AM. Since they've been gone, that has surely shifted until now I go to bed at 3AM and wake up at 11AM. Waking up at 11 is not good. By the time I've worked out and showered and caught up on emails and eaten breakfast, it's often 12.30 or 1.
6) Life is better with kids in it.
I love seeing things through Lyric and Ollie's eyes, and playing with them. I am a kid still, consciously holding onto much of what I was as a child (and probably unconsciously not growing up in places where I could stand to do so.) and so I miss so much having their pure, exuberant viewpoints on everything.
7) Beautiful things are much better when shared with others
I've gone on some amazing hikes here, but the times when I was all alone they felt a little more hollow because I wanted Lyric and Ollie and Darby to see these things I was seeing. However, spending time all alone like this in a beautiful place is a good thing at times because...
8) There is much more time to think and reflect about yourself and what you're doing.
Without being in constant relationships and having to think about what this person or that person is thinking at this time, you are freed to focus your attention on yourself some more. And you realize some things, figure some stuff out. When there is no one around but you, there is no one to blame but yourself for things you don't like. That's eye opening.
9) Growing a beard is a pretty cool thing to do.
It's worked out better than I imagined it would. I like it. Maybe it's primal or something, but I feel more... masculine with it. Tougher. Edgier. Like I could take someone out if they threatened me. (Don't worry, I'm still nice.) It's not going to be a permanent feature, but I will be dusting it off seasonally. I think it brings out the browns in my eyes, too.
10) I'm meant to live with Darby, Lyric and Ollie
I have no doubt about it. While a short amount of time away can be good, it's just not right to be apart from them. There is a hole in my life, a hollowness... and I can't wait to spend time with them again.
July 04, 2008
Happy 4th of July
Go watch some big explosions in the sky in honor of liberty. I'm going to Zuma Beach in Malibu with friends. It'll be a blast, no doubt.
Here's a picture of me with a beard so you can check out the progress.
July 01, 2008
Hands Free Device
I have to admit, I owe Drew an apology. I always made fun of him for wearing this (what I previously thought to be a) dorky bluetooth attachment in his ear. Oh, how I foolish I was. I know this now.
California has passed legislation that as of tomorrow, all cell phone calls while driving must be made using a hands free device. I bought one.
It's AWESOME. I love being able to talk without holding a phone. In fact, I always thought I didn't like talking on the phone. I've since realized that mostly I just don't like holding the phone. Talking is just fine. I love being able to just talk into the air as if I'm having a normal conversation. It's great.
Now I know, people with these attachments in their ears who just kind of talk into the air look crazy, like seriously insane... but I just don't care. That's how much I like this little thing.
I'm sorry Drew, you were right all along.
June 29, 2008
Solstice Canyon in Malibu
Today I decided to go hiking. There is a trail I had heard was excellent nearby, but that had been closed due to fires since November. It finally opened June 20th, and it was awesome. I love a lot of the hiking in the Santa Monica mountains, and Solstice Canyon is among one of my favorites.
Click on for some cool pictures (which would be cooler but I only had my iphone to take pictures)
There is a ruin (actually there are a lot of ruins, which makes the hike really fun and mysterious) of a very large Malibu estate which burned in 1982. One thing that's sad is it looks like it burned more because I found this picture of the same room from 2006.
You had to work for it, because the ascent was really quick and difficult, but once you reached the top of the mountain the view was incredible. You can't quite tell here, but that's the ocean in the distance.
There was this great 30 foot tall waterfall. And then you could climb up it and there was an awesome pool at the top with another waterfall, and then you could climb up that one and... another pool, and another waterfall, on and on until I was sweaty and exhausted and exhilarated and I had found a really deep pool that I vowed to come back to and swim when I had a mask and snorkel. This part was seriously like my dream hike: fairly challenging (but not impossible) climbs, waterfalls, pools (with newts in them!), caves... it was amazing to see. I finally had to turn around just because I didn't want to run out of daylight. And it's a good thing I did turn back, because I didn't realize just how hard the hike back to the parking lot was (the ascent I mentioned previously)... and I had already pushed myself with the waterfall climbing.
June 21, 2008
There Are Crazy People All Around!
I often hear people say things like "People would never do that!" when you are talking about a TV Show or watching a Film... and I used to agree. But now I believe that actually you can find some crazy person out there who will do just about anything, regardless of how little sense it makes.
Two examples for you:
* Almost 30 girls (no older than 16!) in Massachusetts made a "pregnancy pact" so they could all get pregnant and raise their kids together. At least 17 were successful.... one choose a 24 year old homeless man as the father. People are wondering if the portrayal of pregnancy in the hit film Juno might have had something to do with it. Read about it here.
* The second one I don't even want to put into words on this blog. It's horrible. But if you're curious you can read about it here. But you've been warned, it's really terrible, disgusting behavior!
What in the world is wrong with people?
June 19, 2008
Trying to Prove I'm Not A Complete Loser
I just realized that this will be the longest I've ever lived by myself in my entire life. I'm a very independent person, maybe even too independent (depending on who you're asking, like maybe Darby). But at the same time, I went from living with my parents, to living with my good friend Joe, then more roommates moved in with us, and then I married Darby.
Consequently, I don't think I'm very good at living by myself. I miss having other people hanging out in the house. It may drive Darby crazy when the kids wake up at night, but I actually often like it because it's a great reminder that there are people out there who love me and want me to be near them.
But actually, where I am worst at living by myself is that in the past it has turned me into a complete loser. It's like its such a rare occurance that I decide to take a vacation from being at all civilized. Darby thinks I'm a slob when she's around, but in honesty she should see me when she's not around. In truth, I do work very hard to not horrify her. When I change my clothes, I simply drop them wherever I may be, on the floor. I leave dishes all around. I don't wake up on time. I play too many video games. It's pretty depressing.
In this time, I'm trying to prove I don't have to be this way. So far, so good. I've woken up at 8.30 am, already exercised, did work I had to finish, put dishes in the sink, and put all my clothes away. Hopefully I can continue on with these basic life skills.
June 18, 2008
missing a piece of me
I'm going back to LA while Darby and Lyric and Ollie stay on the East Coast. It's really bumming me out, more than I even anticipated. Those 3 are such an integral part of my life it's like things just aren't right when I'm away from them for any lengthy period of time.
Ollie often asks me who I love more, him or me. I think it's a funny question, but I can easily and honestly answer him every time, which I think is an answer he likes. Then he asks me who I love more, Lyric or me. Again, easy. Lyric. Darby or me. Darby. Then he gets sneaky and asks who I love more, him or Lyric! I tell him I can't choose and he says I have to. I tell him I'm the daddy and I don't have to. He laughs and that's that.
And the truth that illuminates is that I love those three so much and seeing how much they love me too, their sad teary eyes when I had to go, only makes me love them more. While spending this time in LA is necessary for certain goals I have to accomplish this summer... I am counting the days until July so I can be with them again!
June 14, 2008
Back on the East Coast
It took much longer than expected, but here I am, back in the good old tri-state area. (Those tri-states being MD, PA, and DE, by the way.)
I sat down on the plane at LAX and immediately we are told, "There will be a 2.5 hour delay for take-off."
But I was resolved to making my flight and delay production. I read a friend's whole script and wrote very involved notes for it. And...
I finished my latest screenplay!
And I quite like it. Although I don't know what my problem is lately. This one, the one I thought would be around 90 pages and "a breeze" ended up being 135 pages long. I need to cut that down considerably!
All told though, I got a ton of the emotional that I was hoping for, and about 60% of the imaginative fun of a fantasy world that I think I'll have in the final draft.
It's funny with this one, after lumbering through the first 60 pages at a very slow 6 pages per week pace, I wrote the last 65 in one week. And actually, the last 45 in two days.
It's such an odd feeling leaving Philadelphia Airport and driving on I-95 in our old convertible VW, as if none of the California stuff has actually happened, that it was just a dream... And my GPS, which was turned off and in my suitcase for the flight, was awfully disoriented by the change too. It practically screamed "How did we get across the country and why wasn't I activated to navigate it!"
It's late, I'm going to bed.
For those of you keeping track. The Kingdom of Tovenray marks the third screenplay I've written at UCLA, and my 8th screenplay overall.
Of course, I'm only trying to write top tier screenplays anymore, but I think by the 4th or 5th draft, this one will definitely be ranked up there with me. It's a tremendous amount of fun and I really want to see it on the screen.
June 11, 2008
Long for the Machine
Today I drove for one of Ollie's fieldtrips, to a strawberry farm about an hour away. I drove with a parent of one of Ollie's friends, Mike (who is also a good friend of Darby and mine). He wanted to hear Darby's music, so I played Casting Out stuff for him, and then he wanted to her The Look Machine too.
It was weird, I hadn't listened to us for a while now, and playing the album again with him listening was a pretty bittersweet experience. It sounded good, something I could be proud of... but at the same time, I really missed playing that music, and writing new music, and playing with this group of peope.
I'm looking forward to the summer when we get to play again, for sure.
From Coast to Coast
In two days I'll be flying back to the east coast with Darby and the kids. It's crazy to me that I've just completed my first year here at UCLA. It seems like not very long ago that we were stressed about moving out here, and now we're stressed about visiting back home for the summer.
I feel very bad for Darby and Lyric, because both of them have the hardest time with transitions and right now our lives seem marked by major transitions at every turn. Ollie and I seem to handle them with ease, but poor Darby and Lyric just have the most difficult time.
I'm only going to be on the east coast for 5 days and then I'm actually coming back until July 15th, while Darby and the kids stay in Delaware visiting family and friends. I've got a number of promising things going on here in LA that I don't want to miss out on, but I'm really sad abou the prospect of being away from them for a whole month...
June 08, 2008
I'm on page 84 of my Tovenray's script. I thought it would be a 90 page script, but as of right now there is more story than that... It's looking more like 115 for the first draft. I really want to finish it! I want to write it as a novel next, actually.
I saw the movie "300" and I still don't quite know what to make of it. I think I liked it, but it was so weird and I wouldn't like it if many more movies were made in that style. It felt like I was watching a ton of cut-scenes from video games. Some shots were just gorgeous, and in the end it won me over. But it was so odd, all those greenscreen backgrounds, and slowmotion, and washed out hyper-real colors, and constant voiceover telling us things that we were seeing so we didn't really need to hear it. What can I say... SPARTA! It was certainly imaginative, and their vision of everything was mindblowing. I guess I liked it.
The executive at my internship said he wanted to talk to me about my story treatment that I submitted, because he had heard about it from the assistant and thought it sounded really good.
June 03, 2008
I have recently learned that my sister, Jessica (happy birthday!), is always sucking her stomach in and flexing her ab muscles. She said this is pretty normal behavior if you don't want to look like you have a big stomach.
Does everyone else do this!? I've been trying and it's hard work.
May 12, 2008
It's wonderful to have kids who remember and care to make their mom's day special. Ollie and Lyric were both extremely interested in how they could make today awesome for Darby. Ollie wanted to throw her a surprise party when she woke up, so we got party horns, and blew up balloons, and hits behind the couch and shouted surprise when Darby woke up. Ollie was so excited about the whole thing that he told me that we would have to wake up in the middle of the night on Saturday to get everything ready.
Lyric took a ton of time to write a bunch of really nice little messages to Darby.
Overall, it was so sweet.
What was sad was not being on the east coast to be with our own mom's in person. But I did send my mom a couple of Wii games, so I tried to make up for it at least a little.
One thing that stunk was that I didn't get much sleep last night. There were two parties, both of which made sense for me to go to (and I wanted to go to), so I was out late.(didn't get to bed until 2.30) and Ollie was up before 6... so... yeah.
We went to the California Renaissance Faire today. I prefer the Pennsylvania one. While it is smaller, it is also more charmingly designed, the building are permanent, and the surroundings are beautiful. It's also laid out much better, so you can easily get to any area in a fairly short period of time.
Conversely, CA's Faire has temporary, cheaper looking buildings, was set up on what was basically just a large DUSTY field, and was one long serpentine path that didn't even loop.
One the other hand, the CA Faire had an awesome reptile exhibit, more games, less "hmmm that guy is so creepy he could actually be a serial killer" factor, and a much better set up for watching the jousting.
But the PA Faire has an elephant you can ride. But the CA Faire has box turtle races you can bet on.
OK, they're both good. But I like the PA Faire better. And that's that.
February 12, 2008
When the Magic Shows Up
I'm always amazed at how creativity shows up when you need it. Or rather, when you decide to use it. No matter how much you plan, or outline a story, when you actually start to write it, put it down on paper, it's incredible because these new scenarios, new scenes, new characters, new conversations, and new actions just all of a sudden walk into the room. It's not just limited to screenwriting either, it happens when you write music, or poetry, draw, paint a picture, sculpt.
It's fun, and breathtaking. For instance, in this latest historical epic I'm writing, I spent 3 solid weeks on developing an outline and structuring the story. I thought I had nailed everything down. Then I finally start writing the story (which I much prefer, I'll be honest. Outline work is not fun for me.) and a new breath runs through my outline, showing me these new directions I could take, brand new sequences that are just awesome to create.
I love it. But there's something interesting here. It's not that inspiration hits and then all this fun stuff happens. It's the opposite. I sit down to plow through my outline and then because I'm focused on bringing it to life inspiration hits and things become vivid and new things come to being.
And it always amazes and excites me.
February 03, 2008
I'm hoping for a tie.
For the first time in a long time, I really don't want either team to win the Super Bowl. I really can't accept either the cheating, running up the score Patriots or the NFC East rival Giants winning this game. In the end, I guess I'd rather see the Patriots lose, just because the way they've conducted themselves this year has been nothing short of shameful. But oh man, being a petty bitter Philadelphia Eagles fan, I will hate watching the Giants win a Super Bowl.
Who am I kidding, the Patriots are going to win regardless.
January 16, 2008
If Barack Hussein Obama manages to be elected president, it will be a complete miracle. Considering that name. I mean really, the guys middle name is Hussein?! And his last name rhymes with Osama? That's like the modern day equivalent of someone after World War II being named Barack Hitler Mussolimi getting elected. Could you imagine that?
It's like his parents could not have picked more unfortunate names for him. OK, yeah, the last name is inherited, and the first isn't so bad. But you know what I mean.
December 27, 2007
The Day After Christmas
I think Christmas has a problem. You look forward to it for a whole month, then it's one day, and it's over. And actually it's really like half a day because once you reach the evening this malaise sets in, it's kind of sad, it's over!
I think the day after christmas needs to be something special, so that you can look forward to that too. And two days of specialness is just about right, and you won't be sad as the day after christmas comes to a close, it'll seem like the right time to get back into your normal life.
So what should it be? I'm fielding ideas.
December 23, 2007
I've been home for a week now (east coast home, not our house home, staying with my parents home). It's been great. Getting to spend time with friends and family, reconnect with a ton of people, watch my kids with their friends. It's nice when you don't really lose anything but can just enter in with a group of people again with ease. A play that I wrote was performed twice, and it was fantastically performed, so that's always fun too.
Home for Christmas never really meant anything to me before, because I had never lived further than 10 miles from the home I grew up in. But now that we live thousands of miles away, it means a lot more, and it's more special.
December 18, 2007
Home for Christmas
After getting up at 3.15 AM and catching a 6.30 flight, a stressful layover in Phoenix where we had 10 minutes to sprint across the terminal to catch the plane, and 6 hours in the air, we touched down in Philadelphia. Cold Philadelphia. And now we're back here.
It's great to see people again, the familiar places. But it's also difficult to be "home" and yet not have a home anywhere. Our house that we love rented to strangers... But these things make up life, so you have to deal with them.
It's strange to live in this netherworld, that when you talk about home you have to explain where exactly you mean. You mean home in California? Or the stone house? It's like parts of you are left in different places, never put back together easily.
July 23, 2007
A moral dilemma
There are 5 men working on a railroad track. You see a onrushing train, heading directly for them. Their backs are to the train, and they are wearing ear coverings so they can't hear it either. It's clear that they are going to die.
However, you have a lever which you could pull and divert the train to another track. Only problem is, that other track has one man working on it. He would die.
What do you do?
Same exact setup, only now there is no other track and there is no lever. Instead, you are on a bridge about track standing next to a very large man. And you know that if you just gave the man a little shove, he would land in the way of the oncoming train and block it's progress, thus saving the 5 men again. However, this large man would die.
What do you do?
In surveys, 90% of people pull the levers but won't push the man. Even though the end result (1 person dead, 5 saved) is the same. Why do you think this is? I have my reasons, which I'll chime in with in the comments after I get some answers.
March 22, 2007
Seeing Pictures Everywhere
One of the tiles in my shower looks exactly like a woman's face in profile. When I'm putting Ollie to bed and lying beside him, I look up to see the underside of the mattress on the top bunk, and the stitching looks like a Suma Wrestler's face. A knot in a piece of wood furniture looks like a ship. A stain on a brick looks like a dog.
I realized today that I see these things very often. Like probably at least 5 times a day. I always assumed it was very common, you know. . . like seeing Mother Mary in a piece of toast. And of course everyone (I think) experiences the cloud that looks "just like something." But now I have to wonder and ask you, do you all see these things all the time?
Now I'm curious, is there a term for this? These unexpected, unbeckoned connections. Because I also experience them audibly, not just visually. Just about every song I ever hear makes me think of another song I've heard. sounds make me think of other sounds.
So, my questions. 1) Does this happen to you very often? 2) Is there an official phrase for it? 3) If there isn't, want to make one up?
March 03, 2007
Another Screenplay Finished
I'm proud to announce that I just finished the first draft of my fourth full length screenplay. Yippee for me. This one was hard, one of the most stressful times I've had writing. It was a dark story, the most serious I've written so far.
Now it needs a major rewrite.
February 19, 2007
A look in the mirror
In the comments section on a couple of older topics on this blog, we have been discussing environmental issues and how we can personally make a difference. This is really exciting to me because i think that it is really easy to make simple changes in your everyday life that reflect your true convictions and make this world a better place. We have all heard optimists call America "the land of opportunity" and in this area, they are right. We all make a range of choices every day that impact the world around us, and in making those choices, we have a range of options with different impacts.
In order to make a positive change, I think that it is important to recognize our current negative impacts. It can be easy to point the finger at other "less developed" countries and say that they are doing terrible things to the environment or to their workers, but in many cases, we are directly connected to those events.
Polluting factories in China and India are producing cheap clothes and toys that are sold primarily... in America.
People are clear-cutting the rainforest in brazil to raise beef that is sold in American Fast Food Restaurants. McDonalds buys this beef because they save $0.05 per burger if they buy it from South America where there are looser environmental regulations.
So when we shift the blame to other countries who are doing damage to the environment, we HAVE to recognize our part in fueling this. Every time you buy something, you are adding to the market statistics that demand certain products and services. The American market demands cheap stuff. When you buy clothes at Walmart you are supporting the practices of Chinese factories (very often terrible environmental and humanitarian standards). When you buy a Burger from McDonalds, you are supporting deforestation in Brazil.
If you want to make a difference, back up your beliefs with your actions.
Personally, I have decided not to eat fast food because I will not support their environmental practices (fast food is really bad for you anyhow). I haven't eaten fast food in a couple of years. I used to LOVE the way it tastes, and it sure is convenient and cheap, but it just isn't worth it to me.
Also, I don't buy clothes at Walmart or other big chains like that. This was an environmental and humanitarian decision. Again, they are really cheap and sometimes really cool, but just not worth it to me.
You have to change your habits a little bit, but it really isn't hard to back your beliefs with action. It isn't expensive either. When people say it is, that is a myth spawned out of laziness and unwillingness to change. I don't spend any more money on food or clothes now that I buy mostly organic and fair trade. Some things are a little bit more expensive, but still worth it. I buy wind energy for my home. True, it is a little bit more money, but it really isn't very much, and it gives me such a great feeling to be supporting my convictions in this way.
If you want to make some changes, I really encourage you to try. I would be more than happy to point you in the direction of some more earth friendly choices if you want.
P.S. I don't want to come across as self righteous or pompous. I am really excited about some of the changes and decisions I have made over the past few years and I have been really surprised about how easy and rewarding some of these changes have been. am really excited to tell people about them. Also I know that I have a long way to go to live entirely the way I want to. One step at a time.
January 23, 2007
Sometimes it seems like life plays a cosmic trick on you and everything becomes due in a very shortened amount of time. That's the situation I find myself in now. I have 4 presentations I have to finish for a consulting job that I'm doing at Chase. I have to finish another 15 pages of my screenplay by tomorrow for my screenwriting program. I have to finish writing an interactive quiz for a job I'm doing for the Blood Bank of Delmarva. I need to finish designing Christian Dunn's book. I have to finish all my financial year end stuff for my taxes. Oh yeah, and a special top 10 print for someone who is leaving Chase. And that's just the stuff that's due this week.
What do you do when you're so busy? I don't even have time to watch my netflix movies or play with my Wii.
November 15, 2006
Music and Emotion. Is it Universal?
You know how if you hear a song that is slow and in a minor key it sounds really sad? You know how if you hear a song that is quiker and in a major key it sounds kind of happy?
What is with that? How has sadness become attached to certain kinds of sounds? What about happiness?
Do you think that the emotion and sound connection is universal? For instance, if I wrote an instrumental song that you thought sounded very sad would someone in Congo, Yemen, or Indonesia also think that it sounded sad?
Chime in, I'd like to hear what people think!
November 01, 2006
An Insane Week
Many of you know that I'm trying to get into UCLA's Master of Fine Arts Program for Screenwriting. I applied last year, didn't make it, but did get invited to partake in their year-long Professional Program for Screenwriting. 19 of the people who made it into the MFA program came from the Professional Program.
So I enrolled in that program, and my thought process was this, "Oh cool, so I'll do this program and have some more strong screenplays that will help me get into the MFA program." And I put the MFA program out of my thoughts. About a month ago, I started the Professional program.
Last monday, I had this strange thought. I remembered applying for the MFA program last year around November. Huh, I thought, wonder what the deadline is for the '07 term?
I checked. It was November 1st.
And here's the kicker. I was counting on getting my new screenplays from my program. So, in other words, I didn't have a suitable writing sample. I thought the schedules would line up, and they didn't at all.
So in addition to having to get transcripts sent, put together a statement of purpose, get the letters of recommendations lined up and sent, and filling out the paperwork.. . .. I had to write a feature length screenplay this past week. In addition to celebrating my son's birthday in Baltimore, throwing a 55 person combined birthday party for my son and my daughter, AND keeping up with my weekly homework for the program I'm actually enrolled in.
And my head hurts and I don't feel like writing another word. . . but I'm done. I think it's crazy, but I wrote a 106 page screenplay in one week. I re-wrote it yesterday and sent everything off today. And I think it's a pretty good screenplay too, the best one I've written thus far. So hurray for stupidly impossible deadlines.
I have not been this stressed in quite some time though. I can't handle too many weeks like this last one.
October 21, 2006
Recommendations of the Moment
If you have iTunes, you owe it to yourself to sign up for the This American Life podcast. It's an hour long free radio show that includes very interesting stories from aroudn the country. Perfect for a car drive.
It's hard to over-estimate just how much I loved the film Whale Rider. The performances alone were tremendous, but then you throw in the beatiful cinematagraphy, the touching story, and the educational value that this view into a unique culture afforded, and wow. You just have to see it.
Netflix in general is incredible, I've seen many excellent movies since I've signed up. At some point I'll put together a list of the movies I've loved.
So what are all of you loving?
October 20, 2006
I've been thinking about this...
Man's true self is eternal,
yet he thinks, "I am this body, I will soon die"
This false sense of self
is the cause of all his sorrow
When a person does not identify himself with the body
tell me, what troubles could touch him?
Tao Te Ching Verse 13
I'm sitting inside, watching the season change. It's almost the peak for
the leaves. There is a hickory tree right outside this window. It's
bright yellow, waving wildly in the wind. The weather keeps changing. A
few minutes ago I heard pounding rain. I looked out the front window to
see a heavy downpour. I looked out the back window, and it was still as
dry as ever. Just minutes later it was bright and sunny.
It feels like this season has really reached a turning point. I've been
hearing the geese, flying through the dark sky in the middle of the night,
honking. It started out being pairs, or occasionally a single goose,
lonely and searching... now the flocks have gotten bigger. 30, maybe 40
geese in a flock. They are headed south now, striking out for warmer
I've seen swallows flying south too. They don't flock, they fly alone, so
high that I can barely see their split tales. I never knew they migrated,
but watching the sky I've seen them go by one by one in a steady stream,
all headed for the lower latitudes. Swallows are my favorite birds. To
me they have always symbolized freedom. Their daring low passes and
swoops, just barely skimming above the grass. Their cheery songs, their
incredible speed and agility. They are not a symbol of power like the
eagle, or wisdom like an owel. They are not strikingly beautiful like an
oriole, or dignified like a heron. People don't take much notice of them at
all, but they are totally free. Free from expectation, free to migrate,
I have always associated freedom with movement. The unstoppable flow of a
river, the uncontrollable gallop of a horse. I think of freedom as wind
on my face, and miles and miles of trail ahead of me. I think of
mountains, high planes, cliffs, rapids, journeys, the open road, open
Today the wind is tossing the tree branches like they are nothing. Leaves
are blowing wildly by the windows, geese are headed south. It seems like
everything is moving. Everything but me.
In one hard tackle my whole idea of freedom was demolished. I can't walk,
I can't drive, bike, paddle, or ride. There is no wind on my face. The
distance from my bed to the kitchen seems longer than any trail I've ever
hiked. The road is anything but open.
But strangely I don't feel any different. Physically, I'm in pain, but
emotionally and spiritually I am if anything, better than before. My
concept of freedom was destroyed, but I still feel free. I find myself
asking, What is freedom?
Today, lying in bed I was alternating between staring out the window and reading the Tao Te Ching for a class in school. Verse 13 suddenly stood out to me. Here it is again, in case you skipped it up higher.
Man's true self is eternal, yet he thinks, "I am this body, I will soon die" This false sense of self is the cause of all his sorrow When a person does not identify himself with the body tell me, what troubles could touch him?
My physical self has been, for a time, broken. but rather than breaking
my spirit, it set me free. Truly free.
So now, I'm trying to discover what it means to be free. Is it to think
for yourself? Is it to pray to whom you choose? Is it political?
Economic? Is it the ability to maintain emotional and spiritual well
being regardless of physical conditions? Is it as Webster thought: "the
absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action"?
I just don't know.
It reminds me of something in the Bible. "It is for freedom that Christ
set you free." Whatever it is, freedom is intrinsically valuable. It was
worth the life of Jesus. I can not be imprisoned by a wheel chair. I
will not be enslaved by this body. I am a free man, and nothing in this
world can change that.
By the way, I sprained both knees. So I'm in a wheelchair for a little while, but it's not a big deal. I'll bounce back before you know it. I am amazed by people who spend their whole lives not walking.
October 10, 2006
More on Columbus
I am glad that Jase posted about Columbus day. Thanks Jase, great job. I started writing a comment to add to it, but it grew very long, and I thought that i should make a full post about it. Warning, don't click the link and read the rest of this post if you like to think of Columbus as a nobel explorer or a good christian spreading the word of God.
I am appalled by the fact that this is still celebrated as a holiday. It is very true that Genocide ensued after european contact, but people should recognize that Columbus himself was more that a mere catalyst. He was a tyrant in the truest sense of the word.
Before Christopher Columbus was a "discoverer" he was a slave trader. In his report to the spanish crown, he said that the people would make poor slaves, but that they did possess riches that Spain could capture.
In 1493, columbus returned to the Americas with an invasion force of 17 ships (appointed at his request). His expressed purpose was to set himself up as "viceroy and governor of [the Caribbean islands] and the mainland" and seize the wealth there by whatever means necessary.
He promptly instituted a tribute system where every native citizen over the age of 14 had to pay a certain amount of gold to him every 3 months. Upon payment, they were then given a token to wear around their neck to show that they had fulfilled their duty. If they did not pay, they were punished by having both hands cut off and were left to bleed to death. In his first 4 years as governor, it is estimated that around 10,000 natives died in this manor alone.
Bartolome de Las Casas was the first european historian in the Americas. He oversaw conducted censuses and documented (in exquisite detail) what was happening in that time and place.
He gives accounts of Spanish colonists hanging Tainos (the native people) en masse, roasting them on spits or burning them at the stake (often a dozen or more at a time), hacking their children into pieces to be used as dog feed and so forth, all of it to instill in the natives a "proper attitude of respect" toward their Spanish "superiors."
Here's another description by another historian "The Spaniards made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow; or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mother's breast by their feet and dashed their heads against the rocks...They spitted the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords."
By conservative accounts based on Spanish surveys, the Taino numbered as many as 8 million in 1493. Las Casas estimated that over 5 million people had been exterminated within the first three years of the Columbus rule. By the time of Columbus' departure, only 100,000 Taino were left, and by 1542, only 200 were left. Within the entire Caribbean Islands, about 15 million indigenous people are estimated to have been exterminated within one generation of Columbus' arrival. This is genocide, the wholesale killing of an entire people group.
Hope you enjoyed your day off.
October 09, 2006
Today I visited the Rankokus Indian Reservation in New Jersey for an Arts Festival. It featured a number of talented artisans from around the continent, from a wide variety of the nations that were here long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In introducing the events, the Indian M.C. said, "Today is not a holiday, and we don't say the C word around here. But we forgive him, for being 15,000 miles off course and accidentally finding this land." He was making a joke, yet of course there is quite a large bit of truth to that. I would add, "And we don't forgive him for enslaving us and killing us."
Truthfully, how is it that Columbus Day is still celebrated? He never actually landed on North America. He killed the people he found. And he certainly didn't discover America. Of course there were already people here, and if you want European contact, the Vikings were here long before Columbus stumbled on to the scene. Isn't the celebration of this day kind of just dancing on the graves of the people who were here before the Europeans showed up?
At the risk of upsetting some Italians, I would propose changing to this a Native Heritage Day or something like that. I know it sounds trite and its been said before, but we did steal their land. At least we could give them a bank holiday.
June 29, 2006
The Clayton Family Reunion
I have to admit, as a kid I could sometimes be a real snot. I remember once when my mom graduated with her Master's Degree in Counseling. She was so proud, and wanted all of us kids there to support her. But, it was like 130 degrees at the University of Delaware football stadium that day and all of us just complained the whole time we sat there through the lectures and the ceremony, complaining because pop wouldn't buy us the overpriced Pepsi.
After the ceremony, we continued to complain about the heat, and no one mentioned that we were. . . proud of my mom or anything. I remember not understanding why my parents were so annoyed and (my mom) hurt by us.
Like I said, total snots.
I think part of growing up, part of becoming an adult, is examining the parts of your life where you act like a snot and deciding if maybe you shouldn't. Now I don't think being a snot is always a bad this necassarily. Sometimes it's good.
But in my attitude towards the Clayton Family Reunion, I was definitely wrong. As a kid, I would not look forward to this day. The Claytons are my father's mother's family. My dad's mom, Helen, was one of 8 children (7 girls and 1 boy). She died when he was 4 in a tractor accident. The Claytons loved Helen and were devastated by her death, and my dad was the only child, the only trace left of her.
Looking back now, as I understand more about kids and connections and such, I can see that my dad wanted to go to these reunions because these sisters needed that connection, and my dad needed to remember his mom through them. And of course seeing Helen's grandchildren would only strengthen that severed bond.
Enter us the Latshaw kids. Complete and total snots.
Where what in reality what was going on was recovering something lost in this tragic accident, all we say was old people who we didn't know and food we didn't like, at the end of a very long drive.
We'd complain on our way there, alot. We'd complain there, we'd ask when we could go. We'd reluctantly meet people, embarrassed that we didn't know who they were since they were family. I'm actually shocked my dad didn't just scream at us in frustration. Of course, we only went about 3 times and I think I know why.
Last Sunday, Darby and I and the kids attended the Clayton Family Reunion with my parents. i have to say, I think I've grown up, because I realized all this stuff and I had a great time. Meeting all these women who were my grandmother's sisters, it helped me recover something that I lost out on. And I could tell they all loved my dad, and seeing us.
Fortunately, I think the 1999 and 2002 models of Latshaw (my kids) are much less snotty then me. They managed to be well behaved, not complaining once, the entire time – and we stayed a long time. I was very proud. And they are better at introducing themselves and all that.
The reunion ended with some of the ladies playing brass instruments, and some of us singing along with them with handouts of choral versions of hymns (many of which I'd never heard). It was a total and complete blast, so full of life and energy. It made me regret all the Clayton Family Reunions I've missed in the past, and decide that in the future we will go if at all possible.
April 24, 2006
Around for at least another year.
Well. . ..
I didn't make it into UCLA's MFA of Screenwriting just yet. And you know what, I never even got a letter from them. They rejected me via a low-resolution online gif. How insulting.
The silver lining of course is the look machine survives a lot longer now and things are rolling well with the band. And, I did get invited to enroll in UCLA's Professional Screenwriting program, which is modelled after the MFA but allows more (though not all) people in. It's an online program. I'm going to do it.
April 05, 2006
The Weather Outside
This morning, when I woke up, the sun was streaming in my windows and I thought that we were in for another beautiful spring day. I dozed off for about another half an hour and when I awoke, it looked like a different day entirely. The sky was almost black and the wind was blowing the trees about like long grass. Within about 5 minutes, rain was pouring from the sky and pounding on my roof. The rain stopped in about 2 minutes and there was a moment of calm. Then, before I knew it, I saw a wall of snow rushing through the woods on a strong gust of wind. For about 5 minutes, I could barely see out of my window through all of the snow swirling about. Then, almost as quickly as it had come, it was gone. I grabbed my camera and ran outside to capture a few images of winter's last throes toying with springtime. Enjoy the pictures (click on them for a larger version).
March 01, 2006
A thought (or maybe it's two)
I've decided that the internet is a preditor, and it eats only time.
I swear, I waste so much time doing nothing online. I just surfe around, reading this xanga and that blog, check the news and play snake. For real, it probably kills a bar minimum of 30-45 minutes a day, and sometimes a lot more.
Last night I decided not to go online at all. Instead I played guitar and watched my fish swim around their tank. It was so nice! I'm trying to cut way back on needless internet time.
I want my life back.
In other news, the Penguine Club took it's February swim today (techincally yesterday). It was by far the coldest of the year. I thought my face was going to freeze off, and my toes turned white and were totally numb for probaby about six years afterwards... anyway, I'm off to crawl into a sleeping bag and sleep outside.
February 24, 2006
Pet Peeve of the Day: Electric Scooters
I need to vent about something. After being nearly run off the sidewalk here in sunny Disney World multiple times . . .
There are way too many people riding electric scooters now.
I understand that these large annoying beasts have their place. For very old people. And very handicapped people. But really, those are the only 2 people that should be riding these things around when you could -- neigh, should -- be walking.
It seems now though that people only slightly older and / or slightly overweight are giving up one of the few advantages we have over the rest of the animal kingdom -- WALKING -- and eagerly giving into this Jabba-the-Huttish tendency of just sitting and be moved around without any exersion at all.
They are so rude too, laying on their tinny horns, acting as if they are cars driving on highways and we are mere pedestrians who stumbled into their domain.
Hey scooter-people! This is a sidewalk! I don't need to wait for you to pass at a top speed of 2.4 MPH before I cross your path. You may think I won't be able to make it, but I promise you, I am not a 3 toed sloth. I will be able to pass without a collosion. I promise you. So stop beeping at me and giving me that sour face.
They congregate in gangs. I'm not lying, like motorcyle gangs, only on these beeping electric scooters, driving 6 wide to terrorize the walking among us. And then -- if that's not bad enough -- they roll on up to the front of the line, past all the walking people (usually surrounded by an entourage numbering into the teens), because goodness knows they can't stand in line with the rest of us. No, their feet couldn't handle it.
(While I'm on a rant, I might as well also mention the group of "handicapped hanger-oners" who seem to only go to amusement parks with handicapped people so that they can go to the front of the line. One time I saw these 3 (normal, healthy) irate women yelling at a Disney employee because a particular ride was not "wheel-chair special entry." In other words, the regular line could accomodate wheelchairs, so those in wheelchairs had to wait (in their wheelchairs), in line, like everyone else. They had a severely mentally challenged person with them, in a wheelchair, and they just refused to get into the normal line. "What in the world are we going to tell him!" They asked, and pointed to their companion. Who was picking his nose, eating it, and then said "I don't want to go on this ride! I told you!" People! Handicapped people are not "Go to the front of the line passes"! Don't treat them as such.)
Again, I'm not talking about the very old or the very immobile. Of course a scooter is a God send for them. I'm talking about little-Ms-I-weigh-40-pounds-too-much-so-the-solution-to-that-problem-is-to-give-up
Maybe.. . maybe. .. part of the problem is that you no longer walk. Think about that! You no longer walk from here to there.
Look. I know that a day at Disney is exhausting. My feet are sore too. Maybe. . .sometimes, I might like to glide around the park on my own electrically powered chariot, beeping at all the walking people who deign to get within 10 feet of my majestic transport. But hey, it was a big day when I learned how to walk. I'm not ready to forfeit that skill just yet.
To sum up this rant, I shall share with you a battle, an epic war that Darby witnessed while attempting to rent a stroller at Epcot. A mildly overweight woman and a very old handicapped man had unfortunately both been promised the LAST SCOOTER in the park (yes, they were OUT OF THEM, that's how many people are now buzzing around on these things). In between haranguing the manager for not having enough scooters for the parkgoers and insisting that she would get the scooter no matter what, she kept telling the poor old man that she was promised the scooter first, and he would just have to deal with it.
Managers after managers were called, the problem was discussed, until finally a resolution was reached.
And away she rolled on the last scooter. . . gleefully beeping at the walkers, on her way to the nearest ice cream stand.
I swear, it's gotten so bad that now when I see a somewhat overweight or older person actually walking in the park, I want to kiss them full in the mouth and just congratulate them for not succumbing to the scooter pressure just yet. Really, bravo!
PS. I've been complaining about this all week. And yesterday I call home to find out that my younger brother – who had a serious knee injury last month – scooted around Costo the other day in on of these electric scooters. Pretty funny.
February 13, 2006
Bank Error in My Favor
Lately I've been on the receiving end of a number of nice financial suprises.
For instance, I had this broken soundboard taking up space in my office. I wanted to rearrange the office, so I decided to put the thing up on eBay. I thought I'd pocket about $200, tops for it. In the first 30 minutes of bidding it was up to $300, and the bidding ended at $960. WOW.
And right now I'm in Florida. We're checking out Jessica's (my sister and Drew's wife) touring show, Will Rogers Follies in Naples (and also visiting Darby's grandparents). Anyway, we get to our hotel last night and the lady at the front counter is visibly upset while she works through my reservation.
Finally she gives me the reason. "We don't have a room for you." Her co-worker had accidentally given it to another person.
"Do you have any rooms at all?" It's 10 PM, our flight had been delayed, we were very tired.
"Well, we have a handicapped room, but that doesn't have a bathtub. Just a shower. You have 2 kids right? That won't work."
"That might be ok." It's not like our kids needs baths every day.
"No, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll call our sister hotel, 1 mile up the road. You can stay there."
"How much is it?"
"well, since this our mistake, you can stay there for free."
"Oh, and should I come back here tomorrow then?"
"Well, you can stay there for free for the length of your stay, so I'd stay there."
Wow, 3 free nights, That would have cost $550! Awesome.
February 02, 2006
4 Things by Jason
A very special person tagged me to answer these questions.
Four jobs I've had:
Busboy at Ruby Tuesdays. (Let's just say. . . don't eat at the salad bar).
Inbound Telemarketing for TCI Communications in Newark, DE. I took calls from old ladies who were mad that their Estee Lauder makeup was discontinued. And Franklin Mint orders. The worst thing was that I wasn't allowed to read or anything while I was waiting for a call and I bored myself to death.
VP of Online Marketing at First USA/Bank One/Chase. Lots of good memories. Lots of great people.
Screenwriter/Writer/Rock Star/Online Agency Dude. I can't complain about anything.
Four movies I can watch over and over:
The Chronicles of Narnia (NOT the horrid BBC version)
Drop Dead Gorgeous
The Big Lebowski
Four places I've lived:
(extended visits in Philadelphia and LA)
Four TV shows I love:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Four places I've vacationed:
Polperro, Cornwall, England
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
La Jolla, CA
Four of my favorite dishes:
Crab Bisque from Nutters
# 15 from Seaside Thai at Rehoboth Beach (It's like calamari, shrimp, and scallops in a garlic sauce on rice)
Shrimp and Scallop Rossini at Bertucci's
Open Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly with Chocolate Milk
Four sites I visit daily:
Four places I would rather be right now:
Watching the Eagles win a Super Bowl
Swimming below a waterfall somewhere
On the cliffs of Cornwall
Four bloggers I am tagging (so they will all have a good reason to post):
January 19, 2006
A Nation of Pharisees
This is a very thought-provoking article written by a Jesuit Priest. . . thoughts?
Published on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by John Dear
Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. "Now let me get this straight," I said. "Jesus says, 'Blessed are the peacemakers,' which means he does not say, 'Blessed are the warmakers,' which means, the warmakers are not blessed, which means warmakers are cursed, which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus you have to work for peace, which means, we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq."
With that, the place exploded, and 500 students stormed out. The rest of them then started chanting, "Bush! Bush! Bush!"
So much for my speech. Not to mention the Beatitudes.
I was not at all surprised that George W. Bush was reelected president. As I travel the country speaking out against war, injustice and nuclear weapons, I see many people consciously siding with the culture of war, choosing the path of violence, supporting corporate greed, rampant militarism, and global domination. I see many others swept up in the raging current of patriotism. Since most of these people, beginning with the president, claim to be Christian, I am ashamed and appalled that they support war and systemic injustice, that they do it in the name of God, and that they feign fidelity to the nonviolent Jesus who gave his life resisting institutionalized injustice.
I am reminded of Flannery O'Connor's great book, "Wise Blood," where her outrageous character Hazel Motes is so fed up with Christian hypocrisy that he forms his own church, the "Church of Christ without Christ," 'where the lame don't walk, the blind don't see, and the dead don't rise." That's where we are headed today.
I used to think these all-American Christians never read the Gospel, that they simply chose not to be authentic disciples of the nonviolent Jesus. Now, alas, I think they have indeed chosen discipleship, but not to the hero of the Gospels, Jesus. Instead, through their actions, they have become disciples of the devout, religious, all-powerful, murderous Pharisees who killed him.
A Culture of Pharisees
We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers, and lived off the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking system which charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship God in the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in the Temple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.
Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more like these hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.
We have become a mean, vicious people, what the bible calls "stiff-necked people." And we do it all with the mistaken belief that we have the blessing of God.
In the past, empires persecuted religious groups and threatened them into passivity and silence. Now these so-called Christians run the American empire, and teach a subtle spirituality of empire to back up their power in the name of God. This spirituality of empire insists that violence saves us, might makes right, war is justified, bombing raids are blessed, nuclear weapons offer the only true security from terrorism, and the good news is not love for our enemies, but the elimination of them. The empire is working hard these days to tell the nation--and the churches--what is moral and immoral, sinful and holy. It denounces certain personal behavior as immoral, in order to distract us from the blatant immorality and mortal sin of the U.S. bombing raids which have left 100,000 Iraqis dead, or our ongoing development of thousands of weapons of mass destruction. Our Pharisee rulers would have us believe that our wars and our weapons are holy and blessed by God.
In the old days, the early Christians had big words for such behavior, such lies. They were called "blasphemous, idolatrous, heretical, hypocritical and sinful." Such words and actions were denounced as the betrayal, denial and execution of Jesus all over again in the world's poor. But the empire needs the church to bless and support its wars, or at least to remain passive and silent. As we Christians go along with the Bush administration and the American empire, we betray Jesus, renounce his teachings, and create a "Church of Christ without Christ," as Flannery O’Connor foresaw.
Troublemaking Nonviolence, the Measure of the Gospel
The first thing we Christians have to do in this time is not to become good Pharisees. Instead, we have to try all over again to follow the dangerous, nonviolent, troublemaking Jesus. I believe war, weapons, corporate greed and systemic injustice are an abomination in the sight of God. They are the definition of mortal sin. They mock God and threaten to destroy God’s gift of creation. If you want to seek the living God, you have to pit your entire life against war, weapons, greed and injustice--and their perpetrators. It is as simple as that.
Jesus commands that we love one another, love our neighbors, seek justice, forgive those who hurt us, pray for our persecutors, and be as compassionate as God. But at the center of his teaching is the most radical declaration ever uttered: "love your enemies."
If we dare call ourselves Christian, we cannot support war or nuclear weapons or corporate greed or executions or systemic injustice of any kind. If we do, we may well be devout American citizens, but we no longer follow the nonviolent Jesus. We have joined the hypocrites and blasphemers of the land, beginning with their leaders in the White House, the Pentagon and Los Alamos.
Jesus resisted the empire, engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience in the Temple, was arrested by the Pharisees, tried by the Roman governor and executed by Roman soldiers. If we dare follow this nonviolent revolutionary, we too must resist empire, engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against U.S. warmaking and imperial domination, and risk arrest and imprisonment like the great modern day disciples, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Philip Berrigan.
If we do not want to be part of the Pharisaic culture and do want to follow the nonviolent Jesus, we have to get in trouble just as Jesus was constantly in trouble for speaking the truth, loving the wrong people, worshipping the wrong way, and promoting the wrong things, like justice and peace. We have to resist this new American empire, as well as its false spirituality and all those who claim to be Christian yet support the murder of other human beings. We have to repent of the sin of war, put down the sword, practice Gospel nonviolence, and take up the cross of revolutionary nonviolence by loving our enemies and discovering what the spiritual life is all about.
Just because the culture and the cultural church have joined with the empire and its wars does not mean that we all have to go along with such heresy, or fall into despair as if nothing can be done. It is never too late to try to follow the troublemaking Jesus, to join his practice of revolutionary nonviolence and become authentic Christians. We may find ourselves in trouble, even at the hands of so-called Christians, just as Jesus was in trouble at the hands of the so-called religious leaders of his day. But this very trouble may lead us back to those Beatitude blessings.
December 30, 2005
10 Years (and Counting)
10 years ago a lucky boy married a beautiful girl. Now, 2 kids, a couple of college degrees, and 3 careers later, we're still having the time of our lives. Here's to you Darby, and growing old together. Love you.
December 23, 2005
Ticketmaster is such a scam.
Today I bought 2 tickets to see the band The Fray at the TLA as a Christmas present for my sister. (It's not a suprise.)
These tickets were supposed to be $10 each. They are open admission, standing room only. Guess how much my total bill was (and I chose the free shipping option since for some reason email wasn't offered and I couldn't stomach the thought of paying an additional $15 for them to mail me two pieces of paper sooner.)
What in the world Ticketmaster, how in the world can you get away with this? That's a 75% markup. And there is no other way to get these tickets. That would be like fandango charging you an extra $7.50 for your $10 movie tickets. They charge you $1.
Aren't they the classic example of a monopoly - a company that has no competitors so they can charge whatever they want to charge and we just grin and bear it. Monopolies are illegal.
They have no competitors. They charge an exhorbitant amount for their services. They provide an essential service (if you are a music fan).
Whatever, I hate Ticketmaster. And if I was The Fray, who are doing a pretty cool thing by keeping their ticket prices low only to have TM come in and still make the night an expensive outing, I'd be especially angry.
December 13, 2005
A fine ride
Tonight I went horseback riding with my mom. (In case you don't know this, she's a cool person). It's almost the full moon, and it's all snowy out so it was really beautiful. We went out in Fair Hill, or the seven thousand acres, and rode for a little it over an hour.
It was really cold out, so we went bareback. It's really nice and warm that way. When you're sitting right on the horse you can borrow some of their body heat, and they are really nice and fuzzy.
Anyhow, we were out there, riding through the fields in the dark and my horse started getting nervous. She is a really big animal (half Clydesdale, which is the Budweiser Horse) and she seems a lot bigger when she's scared.
Something startled her and she shied, so I ended up on my butt on the ground. I've had this horse for like 4 years now, and this was the first time I've ever fallen off her. I'm kind of glad I did.
Whenever it's been too long since I've done something it starts to seem scary. I haven't fallen off a horse in ages, so I've been really careful not to recently. Partly to keep my good record going, partly because I forgot that it's really not a big deal.
Also, I came to the conclusion that there is absolutely no reason to play tackle football then be worried about falling off a horse. It makes no sense. It's really not any more dangerous than anything else I do.
Now I remember, falling is just part of riding and that's ok.
December 07, 2005
Oliver the Humanzee helps the Look Machine
Almost on a lark, I posted about Oliver the Humanzee quite some time ago.
Little did I know that he would be making us fans some day. For example, gillian writes us and tells us:
i googled humanzee today after watching the same documentary and your site came up. then i d/led all your mp3s and they are awesome, and you know what is more awesome is that you recorded them in boysetsfire's basement cause they are like my fourth favorite band ever.
Also, on our myspace site we got this comment:
Awesome songs! keep it up! I actually came across your music pretty strangely. I was googling humanzee and y'all popped up with some discussion that the humanzee, Oliver, is actually just a chimpanzee... Thanks. :)
And through google, we get more than 300 hits a day from people searching for - you guessed it - our friend oliver the humanzee.
You know, ever since I first saw the documentary about this creature, I was inspired to write a song called "The Ballad of the Humanzee" about not kind of being a part of two worlds, but not belonging in either one. I think I have to finish it so we can capitilize on this groundswell of Humanzee related fervor.
Back from the Dead
Hello everyone, you may have noticed that my posting has been a little on the light side lately. This is because I had an extended bout with the non-respiratory flu, one which I only very narrowly won.
Ugh, talk about horrible. 10 straight days of fevers above 102, all the way up to 103.7. Piercing, torture-filled headaches. The chills. The sweats. Unable to regulate body temperature at all. Unable to get comfortable. I even had a touch of vertigo one night, unable to stand up straight, the world spinning around me. I threw up.
So I'm probably at about 70% now. Still very tired, but the fever has broken and I'm in full recovery mode now. Which is a good thing, since I had a large number of projects piling up while I laid in bed 24 hours a day. I love sleeping in, but when you don't do anything else it can become its own hell.
On the bright side: I watched the entire first season of Six Feet Under in one and a half days. What a well-made show. Hmmm. . . other than nice care received from my wife and kids, that's about the only bright side to the whole experience. Oh, I did get lots of prayer from caring people, like my parents, so that was nice too.
In non-flu related news, since the release of the vine magazine's video of Simpler than it Seems, we've been getting between 100-120 downloads of that song everyday. If you think about it, that is really a lot of people to be downloading a particular song.
If we could only identify where these people are, we could play some pretty fun shows, you know?
November 23, 2005
First Snow of the Season
We finished a fine practice at the Palkovitz house, where we concentrated on relearning the song "Becoming" and working on another new masterpiece. And I'm walking out of the house and WHAT it's snowing, and really coming down pretty heavily and there is already a nice white carpet on the ground.
I don't know what it is about snow exactly, but I love it. I think it has something to do with the fact that it used to raise the chances of Missed School, and then I could Sleep In and Do Whatever I Wanted. But even now, when I work in my basement and enjoy the work I do, I still love snow days just as much. It still gets me just as excited inside. It's almost magical and mystical to see these pure white crystals fall from the heavens.
I love a snowy thanksgiving. I'm so thankful.
November 11, 2005
A Brett Weber Photograph
Brett took this picture. I like it a lot.
There is just something about a cold fall night. It's windy, leaves are falling, and you just know that things are changing.
Fall is so fluid, so changing. Summer and Winter, they arrive, and they are real, genuine seasons. Fall just passes through. It's different out every day. It's a time of transition.
Honestly, that's how I feel about my life these days. Not in a depressing way, like everything is falling apart and getting cold. I just feel like I'm changing, becoming who I'll be. I'm in a transition between just living for the present and doing what school I have to do every day to taking hold of my life and directing it. I'm thinking about carreers, and plans. I'm picturing myself working, and I'm doing what I need to do to get there.
I'm pretty much a happy-go-lucky person. I take life as it comes, and I have a great time of it. I've always thought "I've got plenty of time," and so I've put off thinking about what I'll end up doing with my life once I'm done with school.
But now I'm thinking about it, and It's pretty exciting.
November 04, 2005
Senate Approves Drilling ANWR
Yesterday, by a 52-47 vote, the US Senate directed the Department of the Interior to begin selling oil leases within four years in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), with the goal of lowering the deficit and helping to pay for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Oil would not be available for another ten years, and according to a 2003 DOE report, opening the Alaska refuge to drilling would only reduce U.S. dependence on imported crude oil in 2025 from 70 percent to 66 percent. The House of Representatives decides next week on whether to keep the drilling measure in the bill.
This is what ANWR currently looks like.
These are pictures of current oil facilities in Alaska. These facilities meet the same environmental regulations the proposed drilling would. This is considered "clean" drilling.
So, over the next 20 years, if we get the most we possibly can out ANWR, we may reduce our dependency on foreign oil by 4%.
There are several reasons why I find the whole concept of drilling in Alaska to be disturbing.
1. This land was set aside as protected land in 1960 by the Eisenhower administration. Drilling it would be blatant disregard for a legal contract that protects the land. What good are laws and legislations if we can simply overturn them when there is money involved?
2. Part of the reason it was designated as a wilderness area was to protect the lands where one of the last surviving indigenous tribes lives in much the same way as they have for centuries. If we drill for oil, they will be forced to leave their homes and their land. They will literally be rounded up like cattle and forced onto a reservation.
3. There are endangered species that live exclusively in that part of the world. Drilling would ruin their habitats and disrupt their migrations, thus making extinction virtually inevitable.
4. There is inherent value in preserving wilderness as it was created. ANWR is literally one of the last great wildernesses.
5. No matter what you hear, drilling for oil is NOT clean and WOULD severely damage the environment. The current alaskan drilling projects have shown us time and time again, that despite the best efforts of science and industry, terribly damaging spills happen with regularity and frequency. On average, there is one oil spill of 2000 gallons in Alaska every day. This is considered routine and clean.
6. Although I don't think drilling would be worth it at any cost, WE WOULD ONLY REDUCE OUR FOREIGN DEPENDENCY BY 4%!!!! Also, because drilling in that environment would be so expensive, there would be NO drop in gas prices.
7. There is only enough oil in ANWR to sustain US oil consumption for 6 months. Drilling there would ruin it forever.
If you want to do your part in trying to stop this, please email your representative and let your voice be heard. While we do not live in a democracy, many voices can still change minds. Congress will vote next week. This is not a done deal. Congress could overturn the senate vote. YOUR OPINION MATTERS!!!!!!!
Click Here To write to your representative who will vote next week.
Here are email addresses for the senators of some states where I know we have a lot of readers. Please take the time to write to them too. Let them know if they did not vote in such a way that represents you. Perhaps your thoughts will influence how they vote in the future.
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter
Delaware Senator Joe Biden
Delaware Senator Tom Carper
Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes
Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski
New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg
New York Senator Hillary Clinton
New York Senator Charles Schumer
The Republic for which it Stands
When I pledged allegiance to the U.S.A. I took the words at face value. I thought "the republic for which it stands" was something more than just empty words. I thought it was a nation that valued human life and dignity, a land of opportunity. A country that offered liberty and justice for all.
Did I pledge allegiance to a dream?
Check it out.The Associated Press points out that:
Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush administration is floating a proposal that would exempt covert agents outside the Defense Department from a Senate-approved ban on torturing detainees in U.S. custody.
Again, according to the The Jurist points out:
The White House recently proposed absolving CIA agents abroad from proposed legislation advanced by Senator John McCain barring the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" of detainees.
So in a nutshell, the government is asking permission of itself to torture terrorists suspects. Not convicts. Suspects.
They are holding them without trial for undisclosed amounts of time in top secret prison camps scattered around in different countries.
Is this liberty? Is this justice?
Go ahead, read about it.
The Central Intelligence Agency has held and interrogated some of its most important al Qaeda suspects at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
According to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents, the secret facility is part of a larger covert prison system that has set up compounds at various times in Thailand, Afghanistan, and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The existence and location of these facilities, called "black sites" in government documents, are known to only a few US officials and are indicative of the CIA's unconventional war on terror.
There is mounting evidence that countries known to practice torture have been specifically selected to receive certain suspects for interrogation in an attempt to distance the USA from the abuse, the rights organization said. This is outsourcing torture.
First off, it’s sick, inhumane, and terrible. It’s against everything I thought that America stood for.
Second, how is this going to help to stop terrorism? This is only going to fuel anti-Americanism.
Since when did the land of the free arrest and torture suspects with no trial? And when did the home of the brave start slaughtering people from the air?
The Post mentions that about 20 people were killed late yesterday by two U.S. airstrikes. "The people gathered to rescue people whose house was bombed in the first strike," said one neighbor. "A short time after they gathered, another plane came and bombed the house again, killing most of them."
America, do not be deceived, you reap what you sow. Stop sowing hatred! Stop sowing violence! Stop sowing seeds torture and injustice. Stop slaughtering the innocent, the civilians.
Stop sowing terror.
November 03, 2005
A New Car
I did something I've never done before in my entire life, something that Darby has never done either. I bought a brand spanking new car. As someone who has taken as gospel the mantra that "A car loses 20% of its value when it drives off the lot" this is certainly something I thought I'd never really do.
I went to a Saturn dealership planning to look at their 2003 Saturn Vue with 13,500 miles. It was listed at $12,995. However, seeing it up close, I saw that it had a number of deep scratches that had started to rust and its interior was not looking so good. Since the most I've ever spent for a car was $5000, I really didn't want to more than double that up for a car that didn't look so hot and already needed some repairs.
Also, its warranty was running out in like 3 months. I'm just tired of having to worry about car repairs so being under warranty would be a necessity for me here. So If I bought this used car, I would going to need to buy an extended warranty.
I wandered over to the new cars and saw that the 2006 models listed at $17,995. Hmmmm. . .. a brand new car, with no mileage at all and 3 full years of warranty. Plus the new cars come with a $500 rebate AND a $500 gift certificate from Target.
So let's figure this out.
Used car --> 13,000. Add 3 years of a warranty = +$3,000. We're already up to $16,000 here to reach the warranty I'd get with the new car. And you don't get to take advantage of the $1000 discount on the new car. So really, the new car is now down to $16,995. For me, $995 is worth having a car that is 3 years newer and has 13,500 less miles. So this is how. . . somehow. . . I ended up with this new car.
Also add in that the new car gets slightly better mileage (29 highways versus 27) and contributes less emissions. .. and the fact that I don't even have to go to the DMV now, I will get the title mailed to me with no need to get an inspection (you know how I feel about Maryland's inspection process), and the fact that I get to pick a color that I very much like (midnight gray) versus the orange. I was sold. I really like that color. In the words of Paris Hilton, "It's Hot."
(I added a leather interior and a nice roof rack too. . .for not that much.) Darby and I have this weird habit of treating things really well when they are of nice quality, but unfortunately we junk up things that are not of such quality. So I thought if we got the leather interior, I'd ensure we'd keep this car clean.
The bad news? I have to wait 4-6 weeks to get this thing. It's in the factory right now, rolling down the line, being lovingly crafted by Saturn's highly skilled artisans.
Actually, that long waiting period might be a blessing in disguise. If at any time in the next month and a half I reconsider. . . I can cancel the sale. . .
October 22, 2005
Congratulations Merry and Mike
Collin's and my sister-in-law got married today.
October 06, 2005
Quotes about Art and Rejection and Needing to Keep Trying
We're working on redesigning the website at Elany Arts in our big push to get more clients (that's a design agency where Collin and I work to pay some bills here and then when the rockstar thing get tiresome.)
Anyway, I wanted to rotate through different inspiration quotations about design and art and stuff like that on the site, and in the search for some, I found some great quotes that apply to the neverending grind of rejection that any artist faces.
I thought I should share them with you.
"There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite." Paul Gauguin
"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced."
Vincent van Gogh
"Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness - I wouldn't know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness."
"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail."
Dr Edwin Land
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when you grow up."
"I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time."
"Ah good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness."
"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."
September 24, 2005
Eternity. Geometry. God. Here's my explanation. It just doesn't seem fair at all that a line and a ray have the same length. The line goes on forever in both ways. the ray has a definite starting point. Yet, they are the same length. Not fair. So, I was thinking... Eternity streches out in both directions for distances that never end. (This is a modern western view of time says ian.) So, a person is a ray. God and eternity have always been, and will always be. see this figure. ignore the segment. the ray is us joining into existence. Now, the real dispute is wether our 'ray' starts at conception or birth.After our initial starting point, we will continue on forever. just a thought. pick it apart.
September 23, 2005
The Bitter Taste of Rejection
I was rejected today. I applied for a writing fellowship with Art Within , a Christian screenwriting group. And I didn't make it. I got an email that congratulated me for being a great writer, but not right for the program.
Ah, how I hate rejection. I have such a hard time dealing with it sometimes.
The Look Machine has gotten rejected a number of times. We didn't make it into the Dewey Music Festival. Goodness! We couldn't even imagine that we wouldn't make it into that. . . but we didn't. We've sent demos places and not gotten any response. And we're gearing up to send out a lot more promo kits so I'm sure we could probably paper the walls with the rejections we're going to be getting soon.
I know, on a rational level, that everyone gets rejected sometimes, that it's a right of passage, that it's paying your dues. I know, and I try to live this way, that what you have to do is just start trying again. And that the moment after the rejection is the most important time. You going to keep going, or just pack it up?
Anything worth doing is worth getting rejected over. I know this. And yet. . .
I wrote my first feature screenplay 2 years ago, and sent it off to Project Greenlight. I didn't make it out of the opening round. To my shame, I didn't write another full length until this year. I wrote some shorts, and had a good time with them, but I got bucked off that horse, didn't get back on, and didn't ride for a very long time.
Because even though I know that rejection is part of the game, part of the struggle of art, part of life. . . I hear this tiny voice that say, "Actually, if what you did was any good you'd have made it. . . so really what you did probably isn't so good."
And I want to shout out that voice, scream for it to shut up, that it's not helping matters, that really it's just lying to me. In a band, it's easier to do - because we can all silence the voice for each other.
When it's just you and a empty piece of paper and the words in your head that you have to fill that page with. . . it's harder.
But I'm not going to give up. Art Within. . . we just aren't a good fit. I'm glad you noticed that, spared us some anguish. But you missed out on a good writer. And you just kind of missed out on me. Because I'm going to keep coming, and I'm going to be one of those guys that people will kick themselves for overlooking.
New Lines' Lord of the Rings, U2, Harry Potter, the Sopranos, Lost, the Sixth Sense, Desperate Housewives, etc etc.
All of them were passed over numerous times by "the tastemakers," And of course, they are all awesome.
Rejection, I reject you.
September 19, 2005
The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
If you live anywhere near Manheim, PA, you owe it to yourself to attend the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. If I were just 2% nerdier, I myself would purchase medieval outfits for the entire family and we would attend in "period attire."
But for now we have to be content with merely snickering at those who do go all out.
Now there is far too much cleavage on display from the wenches in attendance, and it's the only place where it makes sense to see swords hanging outside of the port-a-potties while knights relieve themselves. We go at least once a year, 2 times if we're fortunate.
Check out the pictures after the link.
A Handsome Man.
If you are ever under attack, call me and provide axes as my weapon. I am unexpectedly excellent at throwing axes. I stuck all 5 of them to the wood wall, and 2 hit "the target." I impressed the full time axemen.
Josh however. . . he was not so good. In fact, he couldn't get one of his axes to stink in the wall. Oh well, he was actually fairly good at archery.
Drew and my sister Jessica were also there. Drew and this man made me feel. . . uncomfortable.
And he could not get the white ring while jousting either. (for the record, he was the only one who couldn't).
He also fell over when trying to climb Jacob's Ladder.
To be fair, ALL of us fell over trying to climb that accursed ladder. Even graceful dancer Jessica. (I have a bruise on my shin to commemerate my fall).
There were many attractive people there. Actually. . . this one had a boil that squirted water at you when you got too close. Got to give him points for creativity.
Another example of the beautiful peasants that gather here.
People were very tall in olden times.
Copy Protected CDs Make no Sense.
I don't believe is in illegal downloading, but I do believe in MP3 players, particularly the iPod, which I love.
So, why in the world do certain labels now have a policy that makes it very difficult to rip their new realeases to these players? They say they are protecting themselves from piracy, but that's just not making sense to me - it only takes one person to get past the restrictions (which can be done) and put the files on a network and - viola! - rampant piracy again.
Really all they are doing is being annoying. Very annoying. I understand that piracy is a problem. But htis isn't a solution. It would be like trying to stop shoplifting by adding 50 pound weights to every product you buy in the store. Mostly that just punishes the poor innocent dude, and the real shoplifters will know how to remove the weights. (Not the best analogy, but I'm tired right now).
Switchfoot's new album - to their own dismay - is protected, and they've posted a personal statement about how upset that makes them. Good for them, they even let their fans know how to get around the restriction.
I'm sure Sony can't be too happy with them, but it's the right thing for Switchfoot to do. With so little "label awareness," fans are going to think that "Switchfoot did this."
September 15, 2005
Embarrassment at Walt Disney World
Argh! Christians of the world!
Please. . . If you're going to behave as awful representatives, don't even let people know you consider yourself a Christian.
It's a shame.
September 13, 2005
Deployed to Iraq
The townhouse I used to live in I still own and rent out. It's vacant in October, and I've been needing to find another resident to move in.
Someone saw an ad online. Her husband is being deployed to Iraq at the end of the month and she wants to find a safer neighborhood for herself and their 4 children - all girls between the ages of 12 years and 5 months old.
This, unlike anything else, has made the conflict in the Middle East so personal for me. I don't know exactly why, but I can barely think about it without tearing up. What if this man dies, leaving behind these 5 girls who depend on him? Is it worth it? If he dies, I may have to join Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas.
So, anyway, I'm showing the house to her tomorrow. For rent, she can pay what she can afford. And I will be praying for her husband's safety.