Monday, June 29, 2015

Know Thyself

There's a saying, "A good man knows his limitations." This isn't about being macho, Not about age, gender, education, religion, relationships, position in society.

Sometimes I have a feeling that people have no clue what that means. Especially, politicians, religious and political pundits and... did I say politicians?

Anyway, know how far you can go with something. With anything.

Yes, it means that. Many think that is all it means, or at least, they act that way. But really you know, it means so much more.

You also need to know if and how far you can and should try to push yourself beyond those limitations because that is when great things happen, when great people are exhibited to themselves and to the world.

I say "themselves" because we are a conglomeration of individuals, a multiplicity of selves we that call, "self", just to simplify things.

It is good to be aware of that, because it can be important in knowing one's limitations.

Be aware of where YOUR limitations lie.

We can and should supersede those limitations, but knowing where they end and when we are running on fumes, and luck, are all important things to be keenly aware of. Because it can get you killed. Or at least, it can ruin your connections to others.

Know when your limitations are not someone else's. Don't push them to the breaking point when sometimes, most times probably, that is up to them. Though sometimes, we should push them.

Those two things are important in relationships and in helping others. They are also important elements in ruining relationships, in harming others and in certain situations, getting them killed.

Also know when your limitations are not someone else's, in the other direction. Like when their limitations outdistance yours, or far outdistance them for that matter.

Give them their due respect.

Respecting others who deserve it, admitting when you are fallow in their shadow, really doesn't diminish you. In fact, it elevates you.

I see this a lot among those who have less training in something than they need and yet refuse to show proper respect in the audience of greatness.

Even slight greatness more than yours, in showing respect, makes you seem more than you are, not less.

I know, it's counter-intuitive, something that conservatives have a great deal of trouble with, as well as the less well formally educated, in my experience. I have no trouble showing respect to someone who deserves it, regardless of how or where they were trained or educated.

Though sometimes that alone really is worthy of respect and can be a separator issue from what they actually know or can do and again, that does confuse some.

Err on the side of caution during those times.

Few things irritate me more than someone trying to be what they are not, with inflated self-importance.

Look. I'm the first to offer respect when someone deserves it, even if they outshine myself. If you are the first to not do that, then you are a sad individual indeed. Because you are exhibiting poor self-esteem and worse you are exhibiting poor judgement.

Of others, of yourself,. Then, you are a detriment to all involved.

It's really pretty simple, and complicated. But it's even more easily defined as this really:

"Know thyself."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Today's Gender Roles - Marriage Equality now SCOTUS Supported

I am a phenomenologist. Truly. I have a degree in psychology and I studied phenomenology. I am here not to make judgement as much as I am to observe and describe what I see.

I was just talking with my daughter and her friends about transgender issues and modern gender issues in general. I'm pretty open minded, transcendental. But I am human and was born in a time where a certain paradigm was prominent even though I was usually ahead of change due to my love of science fiction since the early 1960s.

We had talked about Bruce Jenner, my daughter and her friends, and individuals we've all known, personally. We were talking about how one relates to a transgender person. How is that defined?

My daughter said it's all about how the individual wants to be defined. But I think there is more to it than that.

As I see it there are three versions of gender. How a person defines themselves. How the person's gender is defined legally (what's on your birth certificate). And how you are defined by your physicality.

It used to be easy. There was an order to that, it wasn't a concern or consideration. No one thought about it because there was nothing to think about. Or so it seemed.

You're born either male or female, you're male or female, respectively. Surely a small percentage are born without a physical and prominent distinction. One in 1,500 babies from one report. So more than one might think, or have thought at one time.

Then things like gender reassignment came up. We were defined by our physicality but eventually we were defined by the individual's beliefs more than their physicality.

So Bruce Jenner takes hormones, comes out to the world as a woman. He's a woman? But he said he will not go the full course and lose his penis so physically he will be a man with breasts and a feminine appearance. What's his gender then? Female? Male\female? Male? What's the defining factor?

My daughter said if someone dyes their hair from blond to green, isn't it green or will you say, "No, you're still a blond."

I said that wasn't how I saw it at all. It was more like they were blond, dyed their hair green and said it's red. If that is the case, do we accept then that it's red? Or is it blond. Or green? How do we define their hair color?

Still there would be the three ways to define that. Legal, physical, personal. But in this case the hair would physically be green, though called red, and fundamentally blond.

It occurred to me that part of the issue here is in those gender reassigned or partially reassigned individuals over-complicating the issue.

See, it's really a fairly simple issue.

But individuals need to feel, well, what they feel. In the old days, they'd have gotten therapy. Basically, that is what they do need IS therapy. But the therapy has gone from mental, to physical and therein lay the confusion. For everyone.

I've always been told I was over complicated. But as I saw it, I was merely able to see the complexity in things that most people couldn't see. In this issue it seems to me that these people are overcompensating things for their therapy. They are over complicating their gender issues (yes, gender issues are complicated, I'm not denying that, just bare with me), so they will feel normal.

Now look. I don't have a problem with people trying to feel normal. Up to a point. We all have limits, right?

I mean, if you're a serial murderer, or a pedophile, you need to kill or molest to feel normal. Well, I don't want you to feel normal in that case, I want you not to feel normal. However for most people I do want them to be able to feel normal. I don't have a problem with THAT. Not if it doesn't affect others (as in death I mean).

But there is more to life than a person simply needing to feel normal.

As I'd said you can call yourself a rocket ship even, if you like, but you are still going to have to be designated on legal documents as something discrete, a compartmentalized unit. Such as male, female, or even, let's call it, trans. I don't think we need legal definitions to go to the lengths of Facebook and allow fifty-six gender titles. We just need a general idea of what we all can agree that you are.

I mean, really Facebook, do we really need 56 genders? Well it's social networking so, sure why not? I do think that's going a bit far, though. Okay, perhaps not for social media, but certainly for legalities. Three should be enough, or six, but let's not get carried away.

Here's in part my point. Some will over complicate their gender or title because they need to in order to feel either special, or that is, normal. I'm more concerned about the special, but the normal can also be an issue.

When you over complicate your gender to the group, you are also asking them for something for you. Understanding, if nothing else. I mean you can call yourself anything in the privacy of your home but when you go out and expect others to relate to you in non normal (general, average, etc.) ways, you are entering a different realm. You are then asking the group to help you make you feel normal. That simplifies things for you but complicates them for the group. Whether or not they see it that way really doesn't matter, because it simply does what it does. And that's fine. To a point.

But it is more complicated than that, too. If I were to point that out then those who are over complicating the issue will rebel and say that I am over complicating their issue. So they are saying they want things to be simpler and I'm the one over complicating things on their agenda.

You can't have it both ways. It's either complicated, or simple.

Obviously we can just relate to someone as they wish to be related. But should we, really? If they aren't based in some form of reality? And what is reality but a definition of what is? What is which, physical, emotional, legit, intellectual? What? Where is the definition? What or which is more important? The individual? The group?

Basically the individual is expecting the group to take on part of their therapy. And that too is okay, up to a point. We all do that and the individuals who do it too much are labeled as troublesome, possibly to be avoided and at some point they are usually locked up.

Thankfully we don't do that anywhere as much as we used to. There are people walking around free today who at one point in time would have been locked up in a prison, or an asylum. Of course there are those in prison now who should be in a mental institution for help and are instead being brutalized in prison because we are too cheap as a country to pay for the proper care in the proper environment.

So someone gets gender reassignment and doesn't change their genitals. Male or female? Is it only their decision? Well, for the most part outside of legalities, sure, why not. However, when it gets into things like pronouns, how much can they require before it gets out of hand?

What if it carries over to their pets? Do you call their dog a "he", a "she", a "their"? Or some other form. When it gets to the point that when someone meets your pet for the first time and they have to ask, "Oh, what pronoun does "she" ("he?") like to be called?" Isn't that kind of over complicating things?

At what point does it become over complicated to the point that it is too complicated and unacceptable, or should be unacceptable?

Here's part of the consideration. It's easy to just be accepting and say, "Whatever an individual wants to be referred to as, is what I will refer to them as." It sounds pretty, it's feelgood. but when you consider a group of all non standard gender types, the consideration becomes something else; as I was indicating above about the hair dye.

Sure, on an individual basis you can refer to someone as however they prefer to be referred to. At some level, it's just good manners. We should try to be considerate and cater to our fellow human's identity of who they see themselves to be.

But you can also reach a point where it simply isn't reasonable, or where it isn't even good for the individual making the claims in calling for their desired designation.

For the most part I think, just refer to someone as they choose.

But when you start talking about it in the abstract as we are here and now, and as I was with my daughter and friends, it really grows into a bigger and more inclusive issue than just the consideration of a single individual as you initially wish it to. It quickly grows into a societal issue and not just a personal or subgroup issue.

That is where some of this can quickly become very emotional to discuss. Because you can get one person talking about it at an individual level, even though they are or may also be discussing it on a much larger scale. Many times debates run into that issue. It's why you see so many heated discussions or arguments on topics like this, not even going into the potential pathology of someone arguing about their own identity.

Bottom line I think is, just treat someone kindly and compassionately. Outside of that and in the larger sense, just give it a little more thought than you might normally have done. Life isn't simple anymore. We  have masses amounts of information to deal with, ways to behave are more sophisticated, people can more easily be hurt by way of inattention or ignorance, or a fear of the different.

Don't be one of those people. Be thoughtful and kind and try to understand. If you find yourself reacting negatively, then try to find a more productive way to deal with it. You may find that many times what you fear or hate, find distasteful or disgusting, is out of ignorance, or unfamiliarity. Consider if it's based in elements of what you have grown to see as reality and where any of that  might wrong, or if you are right but you can still treat others strange to you with compassion if not at least, common good manners.

To each their own. And maybe we can tall talk and get to know one another, regardless of how annoying they may be, or we may be, to them.

Speaking of which, SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States has just declared same sex marriage legal in all fifty states. It's nice to see sanity rule the day for a change. From them today on this..


Monday, June 15, 2015

Religion in a Post Modern Multicultural World

Religion was mostly designed during a time of ego- and geocentricity. As a front against affronts by outside forces. As a buffer to live, a way to form cohesion among those of your own kind and, to help enforce reasonable laws of living for the benefit of all.

At some point it got out of hand, however. It always does.

Sure there are newer religions and the younger they are today the more ridiculous they seem to be.

From the older Indian religions, indigenous religions and the more notorious desert regions, the religions of Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam, to the babies of Mormonism and Scientology (a lie of a "religion" if ever there was one) and a "religion" who bullied US government officials into giving them tax free and religious status. Something by the way, that needs to be addressed and rectified ASAP.

Religion was all fine and dandy thousands of years ago. Though not really. Constantine in Rome and the Christian leaders lead to the Council of Nicaea, rebuilding things in that image so that an empire didn't fall.

Well, it seemed reasonable at the time, to be sure.

But now a days it has become dysfunctional in this multi-cultural world where religions and cultures rub up against one another. Where ego- and geocentrisms holds very little weight in the overall scheme of things. Where transportation of people and information have lost the barriers once paramount in maintaining the stranglehold of religion.

Knowledge is the bane of religion and it is now everywhere, we are thankfully awash in it. We are also sadly awash in the ignorance of incorrect information that people believe to be knowledge and is one of the greatest dangers we face today. That and thinking emotional beliefs circumvent or replace actual knowledge.

Knowledge is not power, wisdom is.
Knowledge can be wrong.
Wisdom by its definition, cannot be.
It is your choice which you wish to strive for.

Of course the comeback from the modern theist to that statement is:

"Well, it's a personal thing and so of course it still works."

The problem with that is no, it's not and if you really look, it doesn't..

It has become more than a personal thing and in some as in the American Christian movement, it has become politicized, polarized and even exported to Africa. As it has in Uganda where rather slimy US evangelicals have talked locals into a mindset that has led to the killing of gay males and the open raping of gay women.

So it is still dysfunctional.

The religious (mostly Christians and Muslims, and no not all of them but those involved) need to pull it back, to make it merely personal once again where it belongs so all may live in peace. Then, we're good again.

Christians too frequently confuse old and new testaments of the bible. Some Muslims today are confusing fundamentalism with literalism.

People really need to come first.

Something that Jesus was pointing out and that so many of his modern followers now forget when they go back to the old testament... whenever it makes them feel good and more secure.

But Jesus didn't teach secure. He taught to love thy neighbor.

He hung with the outcasts. How is that security?

It's standing up against the authorities to take care of others and yet, what do we see now a days? Much turning of backs on the needy in Christianity down to the point even of murder, dismemberment in Islam.

Look. If you are going to become belligerent and political, you also have to stand up for what is wrong in your religion or in what others are doing in your religion. You don't get a free ride for spouting ignorance, hate and stupidity. The world is becoming too small for that anymore. The religious now need to grow up as a whole.

Politicizing your religion doesn't just mean you get to speak out for your beliefs. It also means you have to speak out when it makes you uncomfortable, to stand against injustices both outside and IN side of your religion.

Especially, INside your religion. Because that my friend is YOUR responsibility. Not mine, not ours, yours and yours.

Why is it, why should it be that so often those outside of religion are the ones who have to fight the good fight for religion?

If you want your religion, fight for it. But fight sanely. Police yourselves and allow others to help. But don't put the burden on them when it's your arena.

It occurs to me that up until recent times, "God" was such a part of people's lives that it wasn't necessary to do things like put it on money, or write it into laws, something our Founding Fathers didn't want to begin with.

They didn't want it because they were smart, educated, and knew how badly legislating things like religion can be (please see Middle East today). "God" used to be so inherent in daily life it was a nuance to conservation. But also people died over those considerations, something we general believe today is ridiculous, if not criminal.

We've been hearing about this topic more and more over the years since "In God We Trust" was first put on money back in 1952 sadly replacing "E pluribus unum", One out of many, which had summed up our nation's orientation to be inclusive of all (if not in practice, surely in theory, intent and desire).

As the concern and consideration of "God" has decreased over time those who are so close to it have felt a need to bring it more and more into our attention but doing things like putting it on money. Or more recently and insanely, trying to alter our politics, our citizen's rights hard fought for and legislate it into laws (not seeing the irony in their also hating and legislating against things like Islamic Sharia law).

People can have their religion, but forcing it into the national attention over and over is only in the long term going to cause a societal irritation that will eventually backfire. Throwing in another religion (Islam) which has literally been killing masses of people (as opposed to the self proclaimed typically racist and unbalanced Christians who are killing one's at a time), just makes it all the worse overall.

Think about it. That means that the concept of "God" has been decreasing overall for a very long time.

Legislating it will only speed that process.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Try, try again...but, Try.

Is there really a greater threat to human progress than the fear of the unknown, the fear of fear itself?

For it leads to one second guessing oneself,
to the point of inaction, when action is needed;
to fighting to maintain the status quo, at all costs even when it's the wrong thing to do;
it leads to conservationism (and of late) to Republicanism, to fundamentalism,
all out of fear of change,
of progress,
of taking a calculated risk,
of offering oneself the opportunity of succeeding and thereby,
excelling, of raising both yourself and your fellows
out of the muck and mire of what is,
into the possibilities of what could be.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said:
"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

And so it is... better to have tried and failed,
than never to have tried at all.

T.S. Eliot spoke of being

  .   "Only undefeated
  Because we have gone on trying..."

Or as the Zen master Adam Richman of "Man v. Food" put it:

"He looked his destiny in the face, and he ate it."

That reminds me of a film I shot for a couple of Professor's at my university on Phenomenology toward my degree in Psychology wherein there is a section that says (to paraphrase):
"When we meet, we eat one another."
Of course I meant that metaphorically.

Then this....

Some say risk nothing, try only for the sure thing,
Others say nothing gambled nothing gained,
Go all out for your dream.
Life can be lived either way, but for me,
I'd rather try and fail, than never try at all, you see.

Some say "Don't ever fall in love,
Play the game of life wide open,
Burn your candle at both ends."
But I say "No! It's better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all, my friend."

When many moons have gone by,
And you are alone with your dreams of yesteryear,
All your memories will bring you cheer.
You'll be satisfied, succeed or fail, win or lose,
Knowing the right path you did choose.

-William F. O'Brien

The world is there for you to live in, not for the world to live in you, or to usurp your life. But for you to use it as a vehicle to expand, enhance, experience.

But you have to take hold of it, of Life, and never let go.

Then on occasion whipcrack it to your intentions.

"Qu'est-ce que le cinema?"

"What is film?" Director Jean Renoir used to ask his friends before viewing one of his films. He would say that movies are more than mere flashing images on the screen. That, "they are an art form that becomes larger than life."

As is cinema, so is your life.

Should you choose to allow it to be so, anyway. When life goes against you, try harder, do something different. Make it, interesting.

Especially when it is trying to do the same to you.

Don't just live life, don't just exist, don't just survive.
Eat it, love it, immerse yourself it it.
Make love to it.

And it will love you back.

Allow me to close on a passage from the great Syd Field's must read screenwriting book, Screenplay, The Foundation of Screenwriting:

"I've learned there are two or three times during a lifetime when something happens that alters the course of that life. We meet someone, we go somewhere, or we do something we've never done before, and those moments are the possibilities that guide us to where we're supposed to go and what we're supposed to do with our lives...I've learned not to believe too much in luck or accidents; I think everything happens for a reason. There's something to be learned from every moment, every experience we encounter during the brief time we spend on this planet. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it what you will; it really doesn't matter."

According to Field, auteur director Jean Renoir whom he once knew, son of the famous painter Renoir, used to tell them that, "Art, should offer the viewer the chance of merging with the creator."

How does one do that? How do you go about sharing with others you will never meet, a chance to merge with the creator of what they are viewing?

What matters in all of that is what you do with it.

Recognize it when it happens. When those moments of greatness are offered to you and then make good use of what you have experienced, of what you have hopefully learned. Then share all that in a way that others can "see" what you are trying to tell them, to share with them.

Now. Go out and be brilliant!

NOTE: Last night I was updating this blog, mostly about at the top and I twas going well. There is a nuance of this software where if you paste something it selects a group of text. I dropped down, typed some more then realized all the text at the top was gone. I quickly existed and reentered and it was gone permanently. This has happened a lot when I use my laptop and not just here. It's very annoying. I just wish software would allow me to lock it into writing mode so that only typing words would be allowed as other functions crop up if you have the wrong key accidentally. Usually CTRL Z will save it or some other thing (like quickly existing and re-entering a document but when it autosaves (it had looked like it hadn't saved) you're lost. I just wanted you to know, this blog was a better blog with more elements about Jean Renoir but I was so frustrated with what happened I just left it as the original. I've had this happen with entire blogs so that I got used to using Notepad and copying and pasting but when you're just updating you sometimes mistakenly believe it will be okay, and then...it's not. My apologies for the blog you may never see. Though I may try to update it sometime this week when the pain of the event passes. It's just hard when you word something well and lose it, then when you redo it, it never seems to be as good as what you had originally done because at that moment you had been inspired.
I've told this story before but back in the late 1980s I had a dual 5.25" floppy drive system, no hard drives yet on home PCs. The left side was the OS disk, the right, the document disk. If one or the other filled, you lose everything. I had sat one afternoon in my living room and written a short story that I felt was the most perfect short story I had ever written. I went to save and it said, the horrid, "Disk Full" warning. I sat there for an hour, frustrated, angry, depressed, trying anything to save it until finally I realized my only recourse was to reboot, then write as fast as I could to reclaim all that I could remember. I was able to rewrite the story from memory, but not with the exact wording, and so it was never as good as that period of writing with inspiration, after re-writing it with a period of frustration and sadness. Computers. Our best friend and sometimes our worst enemies.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Conservative Mindsets and Our Holy American Gun Toy Attitude

We have a problem in America. Well maybe more than one. I just want to address two here. Conservatives and guns. How odd to draw those two things together, right?

Conservatives seem to rule two domains. The very ignorant and the very rich, as well as those who want to support either of those two groups.

There is nothing wrong with supporting the ignorant, if they are at least smart enough to know when they are voting against their own best interests. Of course conservatives would argue that in voting to say, save the whales, or worry about green house gasses and climate change, you are voting against your own best interests in that you might not have whale products or cheap gas or energy. But that is a very short term localized mindset. One could argue a defective mindset.

What good are those things if whales disappear forever or we speed up climate change or ruin our environment or waterways?

Conservatism as a fundemental platform in politics or for humanity may have worked once in an agrarian society where things remain constant over years and decades or centuries. But in a world such as we have now where things are ever changing and our climate is most definitely changing, no matter who you think is doing it, nature or Humankind, slow movement and conservative  thought is fundamentally defective.

In fact, I would argue that conservative thought as a basis for existence is a fundamentally flawed mindset.

Why?

Time is ever moving forward, change happens. There is nothing we can do about it, other than make up our minds not to do anything about it. A conservative mindset we've seen of late in denying climate change, or humanity's role in it, depending on what is more conducive to the conservative argument at the time.

Conservative (Republican) controlled groups in authority in various US states have legislated not to allow words like climate change, or to legislate to protect our coastal areas all do do economic concerns. When in reality, as the years pass we will be losing those land to the oceans and climate change.

What is the problem?

Progressive thought is something to base a platform for government or action upon. However, conservatism, is a dangerous thought to base a fundemental platform or lack of change upon. Liberal or progressive government is needed and we have seen worldwide those progressive countries have done well while other conservative, typically less educated or non first world countries, have not done so well. Those that have, actually have used more progressive actions in governing over well in a conservative way.

Since time changes and cannot be stopped, it is progressive. Trying to change that is an impossibility and trying to govern in that way it follows, is quite similar in it's affect to the environment and society at large. Conservatism is a filter through which to run the progressive thought processes. It is the brake to the progressive train so that it does not run off the tracks of progress.

To try and run the train of conservatism is to run the train at walking speed while nature is going far beyond running speeds or in many cases of late, passenger car speeds. We need conservatism. We need progressiveness. But in the right formats and the right degrees.

Conservatives need to realize they are relying too much on a desire for the status quo when it no longer exists. They need to educate themselves from the truth and not just sources with invested interests in making money, which is against many of those they are informing.

They need to stop supporting groups who tell them they are all for them, while taking everything away from them with their other hand. They need to understand they can be slower progressives but not faster conservatives and where their beliefs lay in the land or reality.

Progressiveness need to realize they need conservatism in its proper place, as a governing (limiting) force and although they need to be  against it as a primary governing (primary management) solution to just about anything, they need to appreciate it and it's followers for their contributions.

That example above about "governing" is a main issue in the nature of politics today and a misunderstanding in our processes.

Obfuscation and misinformation by the right's conservative forces blind their followers to even more blindly follow whatever they are told by vested interests by many of the rich like the Koch brothers or the powerful Rupert Murdoch's of the world with his Fox News arm of his vast conservative media empire.

We need conservatives and that way of thinking, but in a limited and appropriately used filter to our overall progressive movement forward in order to protect ourselves from the nearing future possibilities (possibilities that are even now existing and becoming problems like the shrinking water resources and misuse of what we have, their pollution by big oil and so on),

But we do not need conservatives and that way of thinking as a primary guiding governance in America, or the world. That of course touches on the biggest issue today which is religion and how it has grabbed a hold of some disaffected people's minds like a virus in a computer, damaging their connection to the world and the rest of humanity over issues that are fair tale like in nature, and against science on so many important issues today.

Although religion is shrinking in the first world and it won't be long before theists are no longer in the majority in the more educated nations of the world today, it is still growing in those not first world nations, the emerging nations of the world.

Those nations who have religion, and are populating quickly, where religion's number one method of maintaining its existence is not growth through reasonable, educated and intelligent thought, but through attrition of intelligence and education through overbearing population growth.

We are seeing this kind of battle between ancient beliefs based only in the beliefs of ancient societies against that of education and science, more and more. It is the last and final death throws of religion in the first world countries and examples of theistic groups like ISIL (or ISIS if you prefer) in the Middle East are prime examples of how things can and do go terribly wrong with religion.

It is an issue we see more locally and in more minor issues such as gun control, if not just safe gun use and ownership in America.

We have a gun problem in America. We seem to think owning a gun is a right and not a privilege. A very conservative way of looking at this. At least, many conservatives have latched on to the gun issue as a prime issue, not the least of which the NRA has championed as a cause celebre.

We seem to love guns. We seem to think they are cool, fun... toys.

We need to change that national attitude toward guns.

I'm not going to argue about the second amendment and what it means. It's pretty obvious it was meant to protect our nation and not against our own government but against other nations, primarily, Great Britain back in the 18th century. Or France back then, should they have decided to go to war with us. Until America was a solid nation with a standing army, they needed all individuals to rise to the defense of the nation should the need arise. However since we have had a standing army now for well over one hundred years, the need is not such as it once was. Not at all.

Conservatives will disingenuously claim that we still have that need. Surely, and of course, that need is a possibility. But is it such a need as there once was? Absolutely not. If you compare the two, you instantly can see the difference. But it is one of those obfuscations that conservatives will hang onto until you pry it out of their cold dead hands, as some like to say.

To feel that way about our needing a citizen army which is there to protect us against our own government, is to ask to breed paranoia and keep us from cohesion as a nation, as the United States and that was never the Founding Fathers desire.

Many of the comments they made back then about things, about trusting your government or not, were not about America, but Great Britain. But you cannot convince a conservative about that now a days. Because it fits their agenda, their beliefs, they emotions, all somehow oddly supported by their mostly Christian religions.

We do need to be aware. Recent times from the Bush administration after 9/11 have proved we can lose our freedoms, exchanging our fears for security. After our abuses and crimes against humanity, our torturing and wars, we do need to watch carefully our nation's leaders and interactions after we allowed them to lead us into abuses against others and even our own citizens. Mostly because it made us feel good or feel as if we were doing something, anything, even when there were better albeit counter intuitive ways to achieve our goals.

We do not need to be paranoid but attentive and proactive (something always difficult for a nation not to mention just the conservative elements within it. Today there is a thermocline of paranoia running rampant among many of our citizens. Mostly the mono-processing  type citizens but our citizens nonetheless.

Getting back to guns, look at how we treat getting a driver's license. Classes, training, testing, certifications, carefully allowing only after we have been assured someone driving a car can safely handle that privilege. And that is the problem. In believing guns are a right, we also think we cannot properly control that ownership. That, is a mistake that has been pushed aside by gun lobbies as well as the NRA. And they are wrong.

That is how we need to treat owning a gun. Sure, fine, let's say owning a gun is a right. Does that mean we should give the ability to one we know will use it to offend against law abiding citizens? Or someone mentally unable to attend to the responsibilities of owning a gun. Or the ignorance of a new gun owner, or a long time gun owner who had inherited poor ownership training since childhood? Or someone who regardless will misuse the gun?

Certainly not. We need to train and regulate. Fine, so most people can purchase a gun. But if it's a right, shouldn't we just give everyone a gun? Or are there indeed limits to gun rights? Then if you want to own or buy a gun, let's at least require as much training and certification for gun ownership as we do for driving or owning a car.

A car is a privilege but a gun is a right? Okay fine. The training is important and you have to pay for driving lessons, or you get them through your high school and paid for by the city, state or federal taxes. So too we can make training for guns free. After all, it is protecting our citizens. We don't allow any incapable person to drive a car, we don't allow poisons in our foods, let's not give rightful gun ownership to incapable gun owners. Let's at least try to make them capable gun owners, and if they cannot be, let's not allow them to have guns then.

We have to make gun ownership not what I could call controlled, as much as safe as possible. We have to change our attitude toward guns. And giving their ownership the same import as that of a new teen driver getting a driver's license, is the very least we can do about it. Because if you have to go through some degree of training, it gives you time to learn how to safely handle a gun, how to live with a gun safely, how to feel the weight of responsibility, the heavy weight of owning that weapon, that killing machine.

Many gun owners like to say that some gun or other is not a weapon, but a target piece, or built for entertainment. But if you turn that entertainment piece on another person, will they, can they die from if when you intent turns from fun to killing, or from safety to irresponsibility? It surely can.

In making gun ownership a thing to achieve and not just a thing practically thrown at you at the cost of the gun, we will walk away with a sense of the direness of having a gun in the house, the responsibility of carrying a gun, or using it in public.

Only then, will our national attitude toward guns begin to change and our country start to be a more safe environment to live and raise our children in. Even with the existence of guns just about everywhere.

Only then will the argument of conservatives that “if we outlaw guns, only criminals will have guns" start to become even somewhat untrue. The meaning of that statement is really about an attitude, an attitude we need to change. A change we can only affect if we alter how we deal with guns, to educate and elevate people's orientation in how they perceive guns.

If the conservative mindset wants to latch itself onto the right of gun ownership, even when they are so many other more pressing matters at hand, we again need to recognize that conservatism needs to be seen as the filter through which we see things, and not the fundemental process by which we make our decisions. It's a consideration, not a political platform. It's a part of a bigger issue, not the bigger issue itself.

There's some silly things going around about guns. Like this sad, childish nonsense that completely misses the point merely for emotional necessity:

"MY GUN - Today I swung my front door wide open and placed my Remington 12ga semi-auto shotgun right in the doorway. I left 9 shells beside it, then left it alone and went about my business. While I was gone, the mailman delivered my mail, the neighbor boy across the street mowed the yard, a girl walked her dog down the street, and quite a few cars stopped at the stop sign near the front of my house. After about an hour, I checked on the gun. It was still sitting there, right where I had left it. It hadn't moved itself. It certainly hadn't killed anyone, even with the numerous opportunities it had presented to do so. In fact, it hadn't even loaded itself.
"Well you can imagine my surprise, with all the hype by the Left and the Media about how dangerous guns are and how they kill people. Either the media is wrong, or I'm in possession of the laziest gun in the world.
"The United States is third in Murders throughout the World. But if you take out just four cities: Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC and New Orleans, the United States is fourth from the bottom, in the entire world, for Murders! These four Cities also have the toughest Gun Control Laws in the U. S. All four of these cities are controlled by Democrats. It would be absurd to draw any conclusions from this data - right? Well, I'm off to check on my spoons. I hear they're making people fat."

No, a gun set down kills no one.
Yes, people kill people.
However guns the tools that hasten that effort.

But it's also notable that no one was ever shot with a knife, or a stick, a mind, or an orientation. Though those last two are in part the problem.

We don't need more gun control laws when they aren't working already, when they won't work after all for criminals.

However we do need more accountability, responsibility and intelligent disbursement of guns.

My blog this week is in part about that. I'ts not laws that will protect us, it's a paradigm shift in our thoughts that guns are a right and a toy, a shiny object for the monkey to play with.

I see no reason we should treat guns as any less dangerous than cars and for that you need training and certification to use. Should guns REALLY be any less?

In training gun owners beyond the training of merely counting out their money, saying thank you for a gift, signing a document, or having a background check run (if that even gets done), we need gun owners all to have accountability and responsibility drilled into their heads, and this is most important, we need non-gun owners also to have it drilled into their heads.

How does that help with criminals?

I said, a paradigm shift in how we view guns.

The next stage of that is an orientation in how we view human life. We'll have to stop killing people, for one.

Death penalties will need to go the way of the dodo bird. Paradigm shift in guns, gun concepts, humanity, death.

No, it's not simple (especially after decades of NRA's poisonous craziness), it's not easy (and that's hard for poor Americans when something is hard for them, or requires counter intuitive thought, or worse(!) pro-activity)... but it's not impossible.

It's that deeply embedded in our culture, and humanity in general that we love guns. Perhaps letting our kids have toy guns is the way to go about it. However, they would need to learn to use them properly, which would mean, no playing with them, no aiming at people, or shooting at people, etc., which defeats the purpose.

It sounds stupid but if the gun nuts are going to say gun control is not the way, and I might agree, then what? They have to come up with something and this, could be it.

Guns are not toys. They are tools. We need to stop seeing them as recreation even if they are used for that. They should be seen for what they are, used accordingly, and the culture reinvented toward that purpose.

On the other hand, I was as my mom put it, as a kid, "gun crazy". So she called the police department and found a kid friendly local gun team. They suggested the guy who did some reloading for the city police and used their firing range downtown.

I had to learn in junior high, how to handle these weapons, tools. I grew up with a couple of my brother's rifles hanging in my room. I never considered playing with them though I'd take them down, handle them appropriately, but I never shot anyone.

I've had a license to carry since I was 21 and I carried one before that at times. In fact I wrote a movie about it and my protecting a woman from local organized crime at 18.

But I had the right mentality toward guns. We are seeing too much of that now a days where people don't and so we see parents shooting their kids, "accidentally", gangs shooting innocents and each others, and terrorists activities cuz, it's cool.
That all has to stop.

Instead of gun owners talking about how gun control laws won't work, they need to shut up about that and start talking about what WILL work. Enough of the childish banter, let's get to work!

So sure, embrace what conservative thinking is about (not the emotional nonsense you hear them say most of the time, but the actual kernels of what they should be saying), but within the fundemental process of being progressive and progressively moving into the future, while you are actively and proactively dealing with the issues of today and tomorrow, now, and in the moment, as we truly need to be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable by LGN Productions

"Studio 100" presents...

Lost in Space - a documentary (1993)

I noticed I do have a YouTube link though it's set to private. I guess people can only see it if I am with them and log onto my YouTube account. For more on this, see below.

This was the first and only project produced by LAST good NERVE Productions (founded 1993, also known as, LGN Productions; AKA, Lateral Geniculate Nucleus Productions).

The show was only shown twice on public access cable in early 1994.

I was the uncredited executive producer on the project. Why that is, is a long, long story....I'll tell it to you some time, possibly over drinks. I had shot one previous video in college up at Western Washington University for my professors in phenomenology.

Now that project was a nightmare. No editor. If I wanted to put music into the reel to reel black and white video tape recorder I had to solder connections. At one point I put myself on camera as I had no actors. That led to my becoming an instant celebrity on campus when I later found that my professor had shown the film to all his classes!

For the next several weeks I had women stopping me between classes to talk about the video making me late for my next class. One time I was asked in class if I was "that guy", the "guitar man" in the video. I was tired of it by then, so I said, "No." She said, "but you look just like him." I said, "I hear that a lot." Then my professor walked up, gave me a stern look and said, "Yes, that's him."

I learned then and there I liked fortune over fame.

Back to the LIS documentary, a project that we made over twenty years ago. This, is its story.

Lost in Space - a documentary

This show was cablecast for the first time on Saturday, February 19th, 1994 at 8PM Pacific Time and for the last time about a month or so later.

The link goes to Dropbox. Too bad I can't just put it up on YouTube like we used to be able to. From Dropbox: "When you share a link to a video, the recipients will be able to stream up to 15 minutes of it on the preview page of the Dropbox website. To view a longer video in its entirety, they'll need to download the file or watch it using one of our mobile apps."


Pre-production began at the end of Summer 1993.

First a little background about how all this blog on it came to be.

I was recently contacted by Jeffro Brunk on Facebook. That's him on the right below. They are making a documentary about early 90s public access cable productions.
"Channeling Yourself" documentarians: JoanE O'Brian, Judith Card, Jim Yaeger and Jeffro Brunk (right)
Jason Hughes and Kelly Hughes (not related)
Jeffro had been told by filmmaker, Kelly Hughes, about our project. That's Kelly above on the right..

About Kelly and crew

Kelly contacted me on Stage32, a web site for people into film productions. He invited me to his showing about his films at Crypticon 2015 hosted at the SeaTac Hilton on the weekend of May 22nd. So, I went and I had a really great time. I also met some talented actors like Jason Hughes (no relation to Kelly), Noel Austin and Stephanie Lee and the rather amazing 76 year old Betty Marshall, representing actors from Kelly's newer and older works.

Here's another blog with more on Kelly and crew.

Kelly produced “Heart Attack Theater,” in 1991-1993, that showed a new 30 minute narrative film each week of locally produced horror. I got a chance to meet and hang with Kelly and associates at Crypticon 2015 here in Washington and we had quite a day and evening getting to know one another.
From Heart Attack Theatre
From a write up about Kelly:

"Kelly Hughes: "HEART ATTACK! The Early Pulse Pounding Cinema of Kelly Hughes. From 1991-1993, while Nirvana and Twin Peaks made the Pacific Northwest hip, Hughes quietly created an unprecedented body of work on Seattle's public access TV. His weekly series Heart Attack Theatre was the video equivalent of grunge rock. Aiming for a classy Twilight Zone style suspense anthology, he ended up with a John Waters-esque shock-a-thon, shooting most of his footage in and around his apartment near the University of Washington. In this documentary, Hughes interviews his actors to reveal a pre-YouTube era of do-it-yourself film-making. And showcases his native Seattle in all its trashy glory."

Now, about Jeffro and crew. 

They are working on a documentary about early 90s Seattle area public access cable producers and filmmakers. Jeffro and associate's documentary on Seattle's 90s cable public access is titled, Channeling Yourself

Both Jeffro and Kelly had displayed interest in seeing our LIS documentary, so I decided to dig it up. I found the original tapes, burned them to DVD, ripped the video from it so I could use it to make the show available to the public and finally, tried to upload them to YouTube as I mentioned above. But I got an array of refusals due to copyright infringements. Well, no surprise there, really. However it was something we didn't have to worry about in our not for profit public access cable TV productions.

I challenged the claim with YouTube about rejecting this video under fair use laws. Here is my challenge to YouTube submitted 5/27/2015:

"This is an historical document that was legally aired as it is here, on public access TV in 1994 and published here merely for historical purposes as related to cable television history. No money has ever or will ever be made from it. Those who own copyright are only receiving free advertising in a positive light by the existence of this document being made available online. Only bits and pieces of media are being used and not in their entirety. Credit is given at the end of the film as best as was known during the period of it's original airing.
"The published or unpublished nature of the original work is only a determining factor in a narrow class of cases. In 1992, Congress amended the Copyright Act to add that fair use may apply to unpublished works. See 17 U.S.C. § 107. This distinction remains mostly to protect the secrecy of works that are on their way to publication. Therefore, the nature of the copyrighted work is often a small part of the fair use analysis, which is more often determined by looking at the remaining three factors." http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/fair-use"

Here is a screen shot of the alleged copyright infringements on YouTube:

Rights issues with posting on YouTube
And here's their response to my challenge (I got a few of these emails covering all the disputes):

Hi JZ Murdock, 
Good news! Your dispute wasn’t reviewed within 30 days, so the copyright claim on your YouTube video has now been released by FOX. 
Video title: "Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable TV Seattle" 
- The YouTube Team 

Awesome! And here's some other responses to my challenge:

"Hi JZ Murdock,
After reviewing your dispute, UMG has decided that their copyright claim is still valid.
Video title: Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable TV Seattle
Copyrighted song: Force Majeure
Claimed by: UMG
View claim details
Why this can happen
The copyright owner might disagree with your dispute.
The reason you gave for disputing the claim may have been insufficient or invalid.
- The YouTube Team"

Okay that one wasn't so awesome. Since Fox dropped their claims on the video clips of LIS here's what it looks like now on YouTube:
latest rights issues Fox relented it seems
I could remove the music altogether (and with the editing issues I had regarding music, why should this surprise me?), and then I could post the video. Decisions, decisions....but what this tells me is the [Merlin] Beggars company are kind of jerks.

If I could make money on this video on YouTube, they're welcome to it. I got this also from YouTube:

"Appeal reinstated claim
Are you sure you want to appeal?
You will be required to provide your contact information to the claimant.
An appeal will result in either:
the release of a claim on your video
OR a legal copyright notification from the claimant. In this event your video will be taken down and you will receive a copyright strike on your account. If you have received additional copyright strikes, this may suspend your YouTube account Learn more"

Nice. Well, I'll let it sit there and see what happens over the next few weeks. My brother said this happened to him once using Pink Floyd music. Then a few weeks later his video simply went live. So, who knows?

Then the next day I received this email:

"Hi JZ Murdock,
After reviewing your dispute, SME and WMG has decided to release their copyright claim on your YouTube video. However, there may be additional copyright claims on this video.
Video title: Lost in Space - a documentary (1993) Viacom Public Access Cable TV Seattle
View claim details
- The YouTube Team "

So hey, I don't know....

As far as I can tell now I only have to wait to see what happens with the [Merlin] Beggars group.

Regardless, the LIS video is available on Dropbox (see above) and I can still after all, show it privately.

Anyway, because of the editing issues (see below...somewhere) only a few of the many songs I used as background music are actually present anyway. I am assuming they are still actually on the master tape, I just can't hear them on a regular VHS player, so the possibility exists that at some point, I could see (and hear) the original version of this that I had edited.

Songs included (thanks to our music director, Joaquin Olson): Coil, Tones on Tail, Clannad, Brian Eno & David Byrne, Wang Chung, Tangerine Dream, Berlin, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Julie Cruise, Soft Cell, Chris Isaac, James Horner, and Peter Gabriel. Also with "Love All The Hurt Away" (duet with George Benson) by Aretha Franklin, which was the music on the music video of LIS scenes which we got from someone else and is a funny and entertaining piece.

After having spent hours going through my boxes of media before and completely expecting this to happen this time too, I opened the first box in storage and there were both tapes, sitting right on top and together!

I watched it for the first time in many years as I was burning it to DVD and realized that Jeffro and Kelly were both right. That regardless of the issues and errors involved, I really should make it available to the public and most especially fans of LIS, as well as those interested in early public access cable TV shows.

the burned show to DVD
History of the project and LGN Productions

In the summer of 1993 I was looking for a project to do. I had separated from my son's mother and I needed something to capture my attention other than dwelling on my rather miserable life at the time.

I had previously tried to start a magazine, "The Journal of Extraordinary Diversions", which later became a web site under that title starting in 1994. And it's still up and running, though mostly unused for historical purposes just because it's been online for so very long. It was started as a web site for film productions and writers and extraordinary pursuits in general.

It is one of the oldest, continuously running web sites still on the internet. It has a Martial Arts section that won a couple of awards in the 90s.

I built another site, no longer running that I sold on eBay years ago. I set it up for my wife (my daughter's mother) who was a horse trainer. I called it, "The Equitation Station". It became internationally known and respected until she got out of the horse show industry (Arabian horses) and I sold it off sadly, to someone who only used it to direct people to their sales web for something un-horse related. Had I known that, I wouldn't have sold it to them. People were disappointed for a while over that.

Later yet, I tried to start an online company for displaying all restaurant menus in the Seattle area (of which there were more than 5,000). Start up money was an issue as were technology issues. This was an idea before its time. Something I keep running into in my life. Like with my screenplay, Ahriman, of which I didn't see some concepts used in that screenplay, in films for nearly ten years after initially writing it in 1984 in college.

The magazine software I had been using kept having issues, crashing repeatedly and requiring rebuilding until I just gave up. Such was the hardware and software back then with a dual 5.25" floppy disk drive system. Once the OS floppy filled up, that was it. I would lose whatever I had done. Once on that system, I lost what I felt was the most perfect short story I'd ever written. Though I tried to rewrite it immediately, it was just never the same.

Having just had a new born son, I finally and begrudgingly gave up on the magazine. On the restaurant company, I was going to call it, Cafe Menu. But as I said, it was just too soon technology-wise as I would have had to use BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) software which required people to dial up on slow modems and use a phone line for each connection.

Later on several years later the company Sidewalk.com (1995) picked up my idea on their own and went with it. It has since morphed into other sites and now basically is Yelp.com. But Sidewalk.com had not done as good of a job for what I had planned out in researching and developing it out, in how to give people a restaurant experience specific to each restaurant. Nor has Yelp although their customer review concept has worked out quite well for them as a business model.

I had been told about the Viacom public access cable channel 29 and so I started watching it. It was crazy. I loved it. My friends loved it. Essentially, it was the Wild West on cable. The Seattle PI newspaper has done an article on it that talks about the new Channeling Yourself documentary.

Some public access cable producers like myself (no I didn't do this) would stare at the camera and scream their frustrations. And people would call back in and yell back. There was a couple on a garden show that eventually went on to more legitimate (pay) cable channel. One woman would read interesting and weird stuff and dance naked around candles (“Goddess Kring,” Shannon Kringen, 1996 – 2011, Access’ most recognizable poet and artist. Best remembered for dancing and self body painting while reciting verse, often partially naked.).

Then, there was hot tub girl. What a riot she was.
Donna Marie on Hot Tub TV 1996
One fan favorite was Donna Marie who held a talk show at a different person's hot tub every week around the Pacific Northwest. Basically, hot tub, bikini and drinks. It was all pretty fun, intriguing and sometimes questionable, but always fun and fascinating. Donna went on to become a minor celebrity whom I would see in years later from time to time on various other shows including the Howard Stern Show.

So, I found out how to become a public access cable producer. I started talking to my friends John and Gordon about doing a documentary, my brother Marvin and my friend Joaquin. John, wasn't very into the idea however.

Still, I signed up. I attended the required class and was given access to the studio and equipment. Pretty cool. People were signing up to be on crews. I was, a bit shy about it. Dumb. Just dumb.

Anyway, the end result?

Lost In Space - a documentary (1993)

We decided to give the show overall a title of "Studio 100" in case our hopes that it might develop into other topics as it was with LIS, might eventually come to fruition. I had hoped for the first show to be on Star Trek, but John wasn't a big fan of that idea so that wasn't going to happen. Besides I didn't have the wealth of knowledge about Star Trek like John did about Lost In Space. We talked about several possibilities for topics but I always avoided Lost in Space. John didn't bring it up either because he didn't think about it, or thought I would reject it outright.

LIS Fan Tech Manual
Which was when it dawned on me that with John's being such a big (huge) fan of LIS, and with his having been an active fan and contributing to LIS fan Technical Manuals about the show, it would be an obvious draw for him.

As I remember it John got screwed over by one of the guys making one of the tech manuals. I seem to remember something about John submitting drawings and the guy redoing them (and not as well) just so he could claim credit or something like that, thereby cutting John out of it. Pretty low if you ask me. I don't remember if the one displayed above was the one John was working on or not, but it does look familiar.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Over the years we'd had many hours of enjoyable if pitched, but friendly debates over the importance of Star Trek vs Lost In Space, and TV sci fi in general. It was our favorite pastime.

So one day I pitched the idea to him. Even though he still was difficult about joining the project, I knew from the beginning that he would do it. Not that he made it easy. Then again, no one else wanted to get in front of the camera, either. And I know I didn't want to. I'd been there, done that. So I have to give him credit for at least doing it.

Half way through post production, I happened to meet the woman who would become my (next) wife. She is mentioned in the end credits in thanking Carin Anderson. We married in 1994, divorced in 2002). So I ended up moving out of Seattle and in with her better situation than my Sandpoint studio apartment ("You can see Mt Rainier...if you stretch and look hard), which made finishing the project more difficult than it already had been.

I would to stay late in town after my day job at the UW Personnel office in order to edit, sometimes until late into the night. I was seldom alone in the editing room. The next morning I still had to get up and commute that miserable I-5 commute from Auburn, Washington to be at work on time, bright eyed and well... you get the idea. And my boss was a stickler for being on time. This was after five years of working at the UW in MCIS on a VAX mainframe at night, autonomously, with "God" control of the Radiology and Pathology mainframe for two major Seattle medical centers.

It got to be a problem to finish the project so that at times, I wasn't as sharp in the editing bay as I needed to be. And due to various other issues I was the primary editor.

Had I not met my wife to be at that time, I originally had all intent of doing other shows. That just never happened with my new living arrangements. And so, "Lost In Space - a documentary" became our only production.

Once I had finished post on it I took it down to the cable production office and submitted it for an "air" date. On the Saturday night on which it was to show, and it seems to me that was a couple of weeks or so from my submission date, I sat down to watch it at my girlfriend's apartment. We were living on an expensive horse farm owned by the wife of a local construction company magnate where she was the junior trainer at that time on the White River in Auburn, Washington.Anyone who knows horses around there, knows who I'm talking about.

Now, if you used the Viacom station's equipment you had to air your finished product at least once, though you could submit as available for other cablecasting dates. Although I used my own miserable tripod without a fluid head which is readily apparent in the video, and I used my own VHS camera, I did use their editing equipment.. The tape I used was high quality half inch TDK brand HDX-pro (high def) 120 VHS video tape in my standard full sized VHS camera, similar to this one below. The same tape I'd used in college only now it was color and not reel to reel. And it worked.

I was also using an SLR still camera tripod, a typical rookie mistake. There is nothing like a good fluid head tripod for shooting video for that smooth panning action. You can see why in the first shots of John talking outside at NOAA as the jerking of the shot distracts you during the panning action of the camera in following him walking back and forth. Which I had told him not to do because of the tripod. But he was so nervous, he said he couldn't stop doing it. He WAS doing it, so there wasn't much I could say.
Sharp VHS Camcorder/Player; Model VL-L280C Photo
Also, as Viacom used public bandwidth, they had by law no editorial license to tell you what to or not to put on their cable channel. Which was AWESOME. I wish it still existed like that. Thus, you got to see some very interesting shows on public access.

For more, see Jeffro's upcoming documentary about it or visit some of the links I've supplied here about it.

A few things became readily apparent on my viewing our project on live cablecast for the first time. These were issues with the production tape that went on to be cablecast, which had slipped right by me.

Allow me to explain. Mid-post production I had shown up to edit one night only to be told that they had sent MY (okay, THEIR) Panasonic VHS to VHS editor to California for repairs. They said to just use another editing bay. So I signed in on another editor and immediately realized it simply wasn't working right.

That one editor sent off to be repaired had to have been haunted or something. Because my master tape wasn't working as it had on that other editor.I couldn't hear some of the music on the other editor.

I came to realize that I either had to start all over or simply wait for the old editor to be repaired and returned. Which is what I decided to do. See I'd had to use various VHS tapes from John that he had acquired over the years, for bits of scenes that I used and then returned the tapes to John. As well as various audio tapes. It was all pieced together on the master VHS tape. In case you don't know, many audiophiles back then thought video tape was superior to audio tape and recorded their audio on video.

So to start over would be a complicated mess. Not to mention resynching all the music... again.

I dropped by the studio several times, but no editor. It was delayed for some reason. So I started to call instead and about a month or so later (seemingly forever), the editor was finally repaired, returned and I was able to get back to editing. Which I did. I then applied the end titles on the rolling title machine in the back corner of the editing bays..

It wasn't however until it aired that I realized that most of the show didn't have any of the underlying background music that I had so carefully edited in. You can see the list in the end titles of all the music that I'd included. Why I chose Tones On Tail's, "Christian Says", which you can hear in the first part of the documentary (the part done before the editor broke) is quite beyond me. Other than I simply liked the tune and the tone of it. That band's name by the way (Tones on Tail) came from the tones they always heard on the end of their studio master audio tape's tail end.

The music issue was beyond my control.

UPDATE: When Kelly Hughes read this blog he had this to say about my background music issues, which I found interesting:

"I think anyone who made programming for channel 29 can relate to the technical nightmares. I would always add my music to a separate track. And the playback operator needed to know to have a certain switch turned on. Otherwise, there would be no music. So every time I turned my tape in, I included a note. Since I had a weekly time slot, I think they got the hint after awhile. But it was pretty nerve wracking not knowing if your show would be presented the way I intended. I did have episodes where they didn't turn on that switch. And my music was missing. The playback deck was a Panasonic S-VHS. The identical deck to what I edited on at home. So luckily, I was pretty familiar with it."

Well nuts, who knew? I wasn't familiar with it. The studio employees possibly knew but I was shy and didn't ask for much help beyond my own crew. Who knew less than I did.

Anyway....

In reflection I can see now that I should have played the production tape once on another machine. Like mine, at home. But it hadn't occurred to me and I figured the station's players were far beyond the quality of my home player (which may prove the point, but hey, too late now). But why would it dawn on me to check the tape elsewhere? After all it worked fine as far as I could tell.

However there were other issues that were fully on myself in my editing. For instance?

My number one mistake is in the after-title description where it says clearly on screen in a superimposition.

 "Lost I Space"

Not "Lost in Space". "Lost "I" Space". Good grief. Face palm. Head banging on desk.

Sigh....that was my first sign something was going terribly wrong while I watched its first cablecasting from home that February of 1994.John watched it from his home. There was an after airing phone call. It was, interesting. Not fun, but interesting. I mean, we're both kind of perfectionists.

The Production

John had begrudgingly agreed to be the host and narrator. Gordon, the interviewer.

The interviewer was so talkative and aggressive because John needed to be prompted. As I indicated, he didn't really want to be the one interviewed but he had all the info and he knew it only made sense. I didn't think his screen presence was all that bad either, it just needed practice. Though he had to be prompted initially at the beginning, just to get him going, he then picked it up and did quite well.

I had wanted to do rehearsals but John wouldn't hear of it. He just wanted to get it over and done with. Well, I'll give him credit for actually doing it, and getting it done. Even if it did mean we couldn't reshoot some scenes.

For instance, I wanted to reshoot the part in front of NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, at Lake Washington in Seattle. That is at Magnuson Park in the Sandpoint area of Seattle. It looked futuristic and not a building everyone knew. Meaning, it wasn't like the Space Needle or the famous Seattle Science Center arches, or something.

There is a scene where John is kneeling down with a model of the Jupiter 2 in hand. At first you don't even notice the model. He was holding it too low. I wanted to reshoot it, but he didn't want to. It works, but just barely.

That happened a couple of times but there were a few times we did reshoot right after, making the initial shoot a rehearsal. Such as his NOAA opening which I think we redid about three times. Each time he was getting a little more annoyed but he also did better each time as he was getting more relaxed and more into character in front of the camera.

There is a SUPERIMPOSITION on screen where we used the single word "SMEG" to offset a new section: The Interview. It was an obvious nod to Red Dwarf on printed plates and followed with other plates of printed commentary introducing that section. We had discussed that it was obviously off track from LIS and somewhat disruptive to the LIS focus. But hey, we were such fans of Red Dwarf we felt we simply had to add it in... somewhere.

The SUPER saying that the interviewer was "rabid" and that there was only one mic was an after thought. We just thought we needed to explain why he didn't have a mic at times and why he talked so much. Which again, was all to try and keep John on a roll and upbeat. You can see a few times where John is getting irritated but then he pushes on..We may have reshot parts of the interview as he was home and felt more comfortable.

John's "studio" for the interview segment was actually his apartment on Capitol Hill in Seattle at the north end of Broadway, about half a block north from the Harvard Exit theatre. We thought it would look on screen like a production company office or his personal art studio.

During the interview there is a short section that is repeated. First of all we realized we needed an interview. There was just too much info to get out and an interview was settled on for the most natural way to get it out. I also wanted the audience to get to know John better considering all he knew and had done in fandom. He just wasn't getting the recognition I thought he deserved.

Artistically we didn't think that would be such a bad thing having a few seconds of a previously shown section repeated, as it was a short middle of a bigger and previously unseen\unheard part framing it. But it was later realized to have been a mistake and should have instead had a jump cut skipping that repeated part as it simply went on just a bit too long for it to be reasonably ignored and seen as stylistic.

The shots of the interviewer (Gordon) were also an afterthought when it was realized that the audience really needed to\should see who was talking because of how much he ended up talking overall. Some shots of the interviewer could also have been held for maybe a second or so longer. These pick up shots were done after the interview had been shot.

In the interview John got more relaxed requiring less and less prompting as he started to get into it. But by then the interviewer was getting too used to talking so much and a few times goes on a bit long. The one mic situation at times only making things worse.

The reason we did the LIS doc was that I just wanted to produce something and I wanted John's help. I wanted to do something with someone and a close friend was most desired. Besides, he had a wealth of info on LIS and though he wasn't at all interested in doing a production, I realized LIS would or could suck him into the project.

Indeed, when I came up with the proposition to him I think he knew at that moment that I had him. Though he continued to grumble and needed to be led into it (dragged, coerced, threatened....). But honestly? I think he enjoyed it. Now? He doesn't seem to want anything to do with much of anything from those days, sadly.

Now for myself, I didn't exactly want to do a LIS documentary. But it was a meeting of the minds on that, which got it to happen. So that became the project. As it was, John was hesitant and took a lot of convincing (coercing? promises?) throughout the project and he threatened to walk a few times. Though I'm not sure he really would have, he certainly threatened it. It was a struggle for control between producer and talent. Bet that never happened before or since, right?.

John didn't seem to get that the interviewer needed to play ignorant as a process of an interview, to prompt him to talk about what he knew, to set him up with softball questions so that in his being asked for instance, who produced LIS, you can see the annoyance on his face in actually having to say the name, his hero, Irwin Allen. It was so obvious, but was it to the viewers? So he realized it was info that  needed to get out, to be included and to be exposed in an orderly fashion as the interview went on.

Though I was actually a fan of both (that is to say, I WATCHED LIS as a kid as much as it annoyed me at times and as much as I wanted Dr. Smith to die, Die, DIE, so very, many times....), I was a essentially for all intents and purposes a die hard Star Trek fan.

John was obviously a big LIS fan. For years prior to this we had many arguments over which was a better show, etc., in friendly confrontations that after years became a more cliche thing between us and lasted less and less time as we had grown a short hand in debating the issue. We already knew what each would say ahead of time.

Almost as if we were practicing through much of our lives to do a documentary on LIS.

Dr. Smith annoyed me so much during the show that I came to have a love \ hate relationship with the show overall. But in Star Trek, it was pure love. The first time I ever missed a Star Trek episode my mother and grandmother had taken me with them to return a vacuum. I watched the clock in the car with my grandmother while my mother was in the store, seemingly forever. I was maybe in 7th grade at the time and was in tears by time my mother returned to the car as I knew that the show had already started and for the first time, I knew I had missed the opening scene of a Star Trek episode. I never had that reaction to Lost in Space.

We got home that evening half way through the Star Trek episode and my younger brother was lying on the floor watching it. I was pretty upset. My mother said, "Well, you can watch the last half of it anyway." Not helpful mom!

Not understanding that would ruin the show for me, I left her in the living room confused and headed upstairs to my bedroom instead, hoping someday I'd get to see the full episode from the beginning. Not having any idea the show would last only three years... or, that it would go into syndication purgatory nearly forever. Or spawn other Star Trek TV shows, or films, or reboot films.

I had no idea I was watching the birth of franchise history in action. Lost in Space, but obviously, lesser so.

With John, LIS was pure love, perhaps as it was his first sci fi TV show. He was at the right age for it to imprint. I was older than him by a few years and grew up with more of the 50s early 60s sci fi films and TV shows. So I was a little more advanced when LIS hit the scene and then more so with Star Trek which he may have been too young for at the time, though he grew to love it in later years.

After LIS's first half season (we figured after the initial five or six original episodes, which were pretty good, Star Trek pretty much blew LIS out of the water... in my mind anyway.

But not John's. But then he is wrong. And, after all this is my blog and not his. He can write his own recount of history. No worry John, if you read this. I love you brother. He's since moved out of state years ago and we don't talk too often anymore.

I'm still hoping there is maybe a possibility to get a fully functional copy with all the music included, but then perhaps not. One of the great things about technology as it advances, that things that weren't possible only a few years ago, can suddenly become very possible.

As for Jeffro's documentary, I'm looking forward to seeing Channeling Yourself. I've given Jeffro and his crew (JoanE O'Brian, Judith Card, Jim Yaeger), a chance to hear about this project of ours and to view the documentary itself and we shall see what we shall see.

As for Kelly Hughes, I hear he's coming over to visit next week to do some location scouting for a new project.

20 Years, 5 Lessons

What I learned through our LIS documentary project:

- Preparation. The more you prepare, the less trouble you end up having.
- Know your equipment. First and foremost, know (learn) your equipment and use the best and most appropriate equipment available to you
- Volunteers. Use volunteers, but if they are trouble lose them (and as soon as is reasonable but finish the project if you can). Then if they were trouble in your last project, don't use them on your next project.
- Help. Don't shy away from asking for help, or finding it. You will always need more than you think you do.
- Resources. Use your resources in your studio, crew or talent. The quality of the end product is what is important, the viewer's experience. Make it as easy on the viewer as possible so they will want to view your work the next time.

In closing... whenever you get a chance to do something out of the ordinary such as we did as public access cable TV producers, I'd suggest you go for it.

Many thanks to John, Gordon, Marvin, and Joaquin, all who are mentioned in the end titles. As well, thanks to the Viacom station crew at the time, Erik, Patty and John: Jeffro was a part of that station crew at some point but I don't remember ever meeting him. Thanks to him and his crew and Kelly and his.

End titles thank you
To all of those cable employees, crews and producers from back then... hey, look how long we've lasted and all these years later our stuff is still being seen and enjoyed!

Cheers!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Phenomenology of That Good Old Religion Feeling

Religion. People say things like, "I couldn't have made it this far without Jesus in my life." Or, Allah, or God, or whatever flavor you subscribe to.

So what is it that's going on there? Must be something right?

Well, yes. And, no.

Before I go on let me say one thing...

Religion was humankind's first form of government. It evolved in order to buffer life for us. To slow down reality. When you lose someone you love, it's intense, it's powerful, it's damaging to the point of killing you, nearly if not completely. Religion in its rituals, its explanations, slows down the impact of reality to the point that it can be accepted and moved through. It then evolved to the point of giving answers, wrong as they tend to me, pleasant sometimes as they tend to be, but also, horrific as they can tend to me.

From religion evolved government. Out of immediate needs that religion failed to succeed in accomplishing. A secular form of religion, also slow but faster than religion out of necessity. Even in a theocracy, there are the secular parts of government where religion simply cannot function, or at least, does not function in human society and it needs something more, or less, depending on how you view it.

Religion offers us a way to have love in our lives, without anyone to have to have our continued support and effort in being sure they will love us back, always, and unconditionally.

Like having a dog. Only your dog can run away, get hit by a car, shot by someone, be stolen by your ex, or simply die of old age. Or worse, get rabies and bite you, or turn on you, or accidentally kill your other pet, or child even. Things, can go wrong.

But with religion, or God, he never disappoints you, he's always the same, always there, wherever you are, even if you are totally and permanently isolated from people, god can always be there with you.

Except, he's not there. No one is. Just you, your mind, and the complexities there in. The multiplicity of our mind that are similar in ways to multiple people, many and varied aspects of yourself, the ability to have discrete modules of mind within your mind, as in subroutines running autonomously.

Because we have that system always running. Our autonomic processes. Breathing for instance. We can ignore it and it works, or we can consciously control it and it works.

We have the capability for the appearance of there being others within our mind. When it gets unbalanced or out of control, you find people "splitting" or seemingly having multiple personalities. Or god.

There is really nothing amazing about this, No more amazing than the computer that runs your car as a process goes. The capability is there, so it works.

And so you can feel the "love" of "god" in your life, and it energizes you. Much like masturbation, only this is mental masturbation for the purposes of feeling "agape love" and not sexual love. Love that can always be there if you have "faith" that it will be, and can never be destroyed, if you do not sully it and keep it pure in your mind.

Add in a lot of romantic talk about heart and spirit and apply some rules, get a bunch of people to agree about it, and you have a religion.

Amazing? Right?

No, not right at all. It's all in our nature as human beings. It has to do with how we developed since before we were a species. Herd mentality if you like or social and communal dynamics as we are a social animal. Take an animal like that and over 100,000s of years you have something quite like... us.

The trouble is, we've yet to evolve that far mentally and still hold onto beliefs from ancient times. Continuity is good, but adherence to what is ancient history is bad. Tradition is good, but building new traditions as they make sense, allowing them to evolve, is better. And the one thing religion has always tried to do was maintain the ancient, even archaic, status quo, evolving only covertly whenever possible.

But today we have social media and that has changed, everything .

So some religions are openly changing. Some have had standards practices for that. Still some try not to change at all. And we as a species need change. We also need to be slow in some ways to change and so religion offered us that  through history. It did a lot of good, but in ways that would have been better had we not needed or used religion.

All the things that religion offers us, we can get in other ways, if properly educated and raised to be strong enough to sustain our personality and life and that of our loved ones,

Some of the things are communal in nature. The things a love of god gives one, can be achieved in other ways, but the communal part of a group getting together who are so focused (under fear or owe of a god) on one thing and each other under that umbrella of belief, is special, however disingenuous it may be in reality.

I'd argue that it would be best to deal with reality rather than religion with its rules that fail us far too often. The rigidness and lack of insight to change that science requires and is typically anathema to religion. But we need that as a species as life becomes more and ever increasingly complex.

Religion, just makes some people feel good. It's nice to think that a parent is always watching over you and protecting you. Total nonsense but it's got a warm and fuzzy feel to it.

The thing is, when it comes down to it, we need to be reality based. Humans have an inherent need to buffer reality and I question if we can survive without buffers and filters or the world can be overwhelming. When it does get overwhelming what do we do, what happens to us?

When we feel too unloved, or rejected (remember, follow god's rules and he will never turn his back on you, even when he throws a tornado, a deadly disease, or a pick up truck at you), god is there. Right?

When we don't have that, and we have that emptiness gnawing at our minds, we turn to drink, drugs, extreme behaviors or death. Trouble is, you can fill that emptiness in the understanding that reality exists, and that we are all essentially alone. But that is okay.

There are ways of thinking as in Buddhism, certain aspects of it anyway, that gives you ways of facing reality head on, while having no illusions about magical beings. The magic you see is within each of us, in what we can do, in what we end up doing, in what we can achieve above and beyond what people consider possible. But it is. If we do it, it's possible.

And we have us to thank for it. Trouble with that is some people get too full of themselves and become bad people. If you have a god to thank for it, and not you, then you can humble yourself. But why not just have the mindset to begin with, to be humble. How many popes for instance, heading the Catholic church over it's history had no humbleness in them at all, while they professed a total subservience to god. What they also had was power, power over the believers below them.

So you can see the interplay between the human psyche, and religion and the god concept.

It bends and weaves in and out of one another so after a few thousand years, it all seems pretty real and reasonable. And yet, it's not.

Religion is a mind worm. Just as a virus in a computer system can be very hard to eliminate, so it is with humanity and religion. It has been there to fill a need, to serve a purpose. Frequently a purpose greater than any individual or group. But it has served its purpose and now it is time to move along and be adults.

Instead of claiming there is not better way, when there really is, we should be finding those better ways. And why doesn't that just happen? Plainly put? Because people don't' want it to, because we are also mentally lazy in some ways. We hug the status quo because that works and has proven to, even if it is defective in how it works.

Just as Jesus showed up to say hey, this is defective, there is a better way, how do we now stand up and say hey, this is all defective, and there is a better way? Especially when no one wants to believe it, and the religions teach from childhood, to have faith and ignore what makes you no longer believe.

Pretty clever right? Kind of like what a con man might say. "Believe in me, cuz, we'll just do it, it's to my benefit and kind of yours, though there are better ways."

Religion works, like a bicycle works to get you across town. But when  you need to get to the bottom of an ocean, or another planet, it's only kind of functional in that maybe, it can get you to work, but then it can in no way, get you to the bottom of the ocean or another planet.

Time will prove this is true. Because like it or not, humankind is evolving and growing more intelligent and sooner or later, this will all be proved to be correct and religion and the god model will fade into existence, with only fits and jerks of tiny sporadic groups popping up from time to time in thinking that maybe it is a better way, or maybe our predecessors didn't get it right and we can now do it better.

But, we can't. It won't be made better. It's simply not the most functional, productive path possible.

Yes, it's gotten us to amazing places, when those stories are told in hindsight. But so many of those stories leave out things like the business reasons things happened, or the familial things, the bonds between humans that pulled people through tough times in really, no god anywhere had a thing to do with it.

People did. We did. And we will continue to. Just as we have since the first version of us crawled from out of the primordial slime itself.

Religion is really all about two things: character, and community. The third imaginary part is the god concept. Which is completely unnecessary other than as a guiding enforcer to assure proper character and community in people and groups.

Consider a book by David Brooks, The Road to Character. From Amazon: "Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth. “Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”

We can do this, build character, in other ways that religion. Spiritual is a consideration of self, in ways other than physical. We have consistently misperceived what that is all about by placing arbitrary rules on ourselves and others, invented magical beings to explain what we do not understand at the time and then pressure others and our descendants to follow those beliefs, and steep ethereal considerations upon our lives because of the echo chamber of our inner selves, where it is merely our experiencing the process of how our brain works, how our mind (mis)perceives (at times) through our senses and how we conceive of what that data means or should mean.

Just as god supposedly created everything, like humans, whose make up is amazing, but also haphazard and dysfunctional in many ways, which is inexplicable if these bodies were created by god, and yet, fully explainable and understandable if created through evolution; so existing without a god concept, is even more functional.

The only issue is assuring people do and be how they need to be, something handled in religion through divine enforcement, assuring that people evolve into being good (something religion has failed on many times by the way).

Dumping that theory and going with reality allows us to be functional without a need for all the gods in the world, all the rules and religions that fail sooner or later in various circumstances and have led people to divine hatred of others which we've seen in christianity involving gays, women's rights issues, despising the different or other races as with the white purity movement, or Islam where some in that desert religion demands total adherence to god's laws and murder is the rule of the day if you fail, as humans do.

We need to remove the power in religion so people do not have these fallacious beliefs to use in support of their bad behaviors. They believe they are living god's form of character and group behavior in themselves with is fully ridiculous and counter productive.

A reporter recently went into the ISIS controlled areas and said he'd never seen people so brainwashed before, it was amazing. That, is what religion can do when mishandled. People need to understand what they are playing with in delving deeply into religion and god concept faith based models. It may go fine when handled well, but it can also go very, very wrong as has happened with Islamic terrorism in recent times and  certainly other examples like the crusades, The Inquisition, and so on.

A mind worm is a mind worm and with certain constraints it can be deadly and a real threat to a race of beings.

Isn't it better to remove the threat, inject reality, and move forward to evolve in ways that would be more productive, lead to faster changes and greater advances based in humane concepts and not those that a race of beings has decided would be an all powerful being's desires for that race?

I think so, I really, really think so.