Monday, February 18, 2019

Foreign Language at Work?

I've had this come up at companies I have worked at before, this issue of people speaking in a foreign language at work. I never could figure out what the problem was. But some people get very upset if people around them at their job are speaking in a language they cannot also understand.

Some people even assume they are being talked about or laughed at. Seems like issues of self-esteem there rather than anything about the foreign language being spoken.

Whatever. It just never bothered me.

Now, if they are being rude about it, that's another thing. If two people are speaking a foreign language they know you don't know, if they are obviously looking at you and laughing, or point (pointing is not a foreign language by the way), or looking angry and staring at you (again, staring is also not a foreign language), that's another matter.

Those aren't matters of foreigners, or a nonstandard language being used int he workplace. Those are management issues that need to be dealt with.

But if in the course of the day one walks up to another and starts talking a foreign language together, I guess I always just thought it was kind of cool. Especially if they are enjoying themselves. Actually, even if I think they are talking about me, blowing off steam isn't a bad thing. Or maybe they're not saying anything bad.

I've worked with a lot of people from India and China, as well as other countries. I know that sometimes it's simply faster for them to speak their native language and it's just more effective. Native speakers can simply cover a lot more territory more quickly.

Once three of us were working on a problem, and two of us were Indian. At one point, the guy I knew best asked if I minded if they just spoke their own language for a few minutes because they were both programmers and I wasn't, and they needed to hash something out between them.

I said it was fine with me and busied myself with something in the room there with them until they worked out whatever it was. They spoke intensely for about five minutes, stopping, starting, considering, disagreeing and finally agreed on something. I thought it was nice they asked about it as I was then being purposely excluded.

But I would also have been fine with them simply acknowledging it and telling me they were going to do it. Asking was just overly nice and polite. And in the workplace, perhaps necessary. I'm just saying, I'm not negatively phased by it. As long as the mission, the work, the job, is progressing and if faster than before, excellent.

In the end, we saved time and I'm sure they saved some energy in just going for it. Yes, they could have spoken English, they spoke good English. But frankly, I can't talk English as fast as they could speak their own language. Maybe they even have to speak more words than I would have in English to convey the same messages. I don't know. And I really don't much care, either.

I think it's good for us to be in a rich, multilingual environment.

Not to the point that people can't work together, however. Obviously. English as the common language is a good thing. Not that English, traditionally the worlds business language, has to be THE language. But it is America. If I were in India, we'd probably still speak English. But I don't see a problem speaking just English with another American or English country born worker in a foreign language environment either.

According to Babbel Magazine languages spoken in the world in order are:

1. English 1.121 billion total speakers
2. Chinese 1.107 billion total speakers
3. Hindi 534.2 million total speakers
4. Spanish 512.9 million total speakers
5. French 284.9 million total speakers
6. Arabic 273.9 million total speakers
7. Russian 265 million total speakers
8. Bengali 261.8 million total speakers
9. Portuguese 236.5 million total speakers
10. Indonesian 198.4 million total speakers

We're number one in the world. Though I'm unsure if that's because of us at all or the United Kingdom's rule worldwide for so long. I do wonder at times if we are sometimes sensitive because of what some consider a lower class in Spanish speaking Mexicans rub people wrong. Again, that seems a problem mostly with the English speaker.

I do find it sad that most Americans can speak only a single language. I've met many people from Europe who speak at least three and many five, six or more. And we're afraid of more than one? It makes one wonder if we don't feel somewhat less than in the midst of multiple language speakers.

And we should consider that when we feel a need to denigrate another for their having more capabilities than we do. Have some respect.

I never understood people who have less respect for multi linguistic foreigners who actually seem to have more brainpower, than our conflated American ego can handle. Those who have such poor self-esteem that they fear people are talking about them.

That doesn't strike me as a national thing so much as a poor mental health issue or simply low emotional maturity. I think sometimes we can just be bigger and greater than we are by not making a mountain out of a molehill.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Deny Nationalist Separatism - In America, or in Ireland

America...is a mess. Ireland, Scotland, and England are in one now, too. And so this blog this week will also be a bit messy. That's how I got to here, to now. It's how we all got here. We see now an example in other nations, like in Ireland, and in England. But first here in our own country.

What the hell happened? What the hell is happening?

This was all made to be this way by extremists and with the help of both Republican and Russian intervention. A similar situation is happening in the UK. Here, leaders in our GOP like Mitch McConnell, who has been a bane upon this country for years now, has deluded half our nation, and angered the other half.

And for good reason. They have forced us into separatism and now isolationism from the world, removing us as much as they can, especially Pres. Trump, from our leadership role. As if trying to hand it to Vladimir Putin and Pres. Xi in China. Two other leaders who need to be removed from the world, and their own nation's, stages.

McConnell's predecessor, the travesty known as Newt Gingrich, first dragged us into this new age using new media in the early 90s when video cameras were first allowed into Congress and he utilized and abused that format late into the night, kickstarting if not all that we see today in American politics, so very much of the bad of it.

This is no longer about the best ideas and people rising to the top.

It is now all about the people desired to be at the top by a few, being forced there by illiberal means and through underhanded means, at times bordering on the criminal.

It has given us a polarized nation. And that, is never a good thing. Except for those who are doing it and for all those issues used to obscure the truly important issues being back tabled by divisive issues used and abused for merely political purposes. Just as we're seeing today.

We have other examples of this being done around the world and throughout history. Brexit is another example in the UK. France just had its tussle and won over the right-wing nationalist. They, were lucky.

I am myself part Irish. I have felt Irish since I began high school when in 10th grade I saw a documentary about "The Troubles" going on in Ireland back then. I began to learn more about the Loyalists and the Separatists, the Catholics and the Protestants, the British and the Irish.

I was fifteen when my consciousness became raised about The Troubles, in that land of my ancestors so very far away.
The Miami Showband in the 1970s - from Irish Central 
There is a Netflix documentary coming out about the forty-year-old massacre of a band: "Remastered - The Miami Showband Massacre". I had not heard of it until now. I saw and read about, and researched many of the things that happened in Ireland during The Troubles. But this one I missed.

I had been paying attention to Ireland throughout the 70s. But the summer of the year this happened in 1975, my younger brother was dying of liver cancer. He didn't make it to his 15th birthday on July 5th. Then not long after the Miami Showband Massacre on July 31st, I was in basic training in the Air Force and had other things on my mind, and no access to media.

I kind of lost the world for a bit that year. Learning of all this now just makes that year hang even heavier in my mind.

A survivor of that massacre, Stephen Travers, warns that this Brexit issue, could bring up old issues long laid to rest now. Brexit, as I understand it, is an ill-planned, pie in the sky belief pushed along by Russian interventions and mostly a divisive British conservative right wing run amock. Reminds me of the GOP here in the States.

It is as much a mess there as we have now in America with our own elections. Could the mess in the UK and Ireland restart, The Troubles? It has much to do with border issues. And feelings that have been long buried. We have ridiculous border issues here in America because a devisive president in Donald Trump and his insane posse the GOP, have blown up a situation into a fake "crisis". Much as had been done with Brexit.

Feelings no one wants to see surface again are being called up. While a younger group of Irish citizens do not fear the return of those Troubles. Those, who either no longer remember The Troubles because they were too young to know what was going on back then, or because they weren't even alive at the time.

Much of what both countries have been in and are seeing an echo of now, are born from abuse and a lack of care or understanding for those being abused. People trying to be together and yet, are being separated upon ideological lines for reasons having nothing to do with the cohesion of a nation.

For me, this all began during a time when I was young. A time in America of the Vietnam War. Of civil unrest in America because of a war no one understood and an awakening of America's youth. Of my orientation in having grown up so close to an Air Force base that I could play outside and watch planes taxi for takeoffs at the end of our road.

That had to have had an effect on me. And it did. In junior high, I joined an auxiliary of the USAF, the Civil Air Patrol where we were trained in military forms related to aerospace and search and rescue of small downed aircraft. This after my years in martial arts and fighting in tournaments. It was during a period of my being on a youth pistol and rifle team (I later got my letters in high school being on our school rifle team for three years). Eventually, perhaps it was inevitable, I went into the Air Force. All those things affected me growing up.

Much of all that is detailed in my true crime biopic screenplay titled, The Teenage Bodyguard. In the hands now of a major management agency in Hollywood, it details my history and a week I lived in 1974 and a bit of 1975. Hopefully, we can all see all this on screen one day. It is a fascinating story, even if I do say so myself. And I'm not the only one saying so as industry insiders who have read it also liked it very much.

Vietnam. I saw my brother's friends come home from that war. Mostly messed up in one way or another. One of my brothers is seven years older than me. None of those people we knew who experienced Vietnam are alive now. Those whom I knew growing up.

My brother was lucky. He wasn't taken for the war and is alive today. I was ready to go to the Vietnam war for my country. I was young, foolish, lots of hormones, lots of experience in practicing things and not using them. Raised Catholic, I had reasons to stand for the abused. As head altar boy at our church, I was used to being in charge. Both then and in the CAP where I was a young "Flight Commander" leading others.

Eventually, I joined the real military during that war in Vietnam, right at the end of it. Though, I never got to go over there. I was lucky. I spent my military years in peacetime.

After a lifetime of confusion and frustration in my home life, in our moving so often up until fifth grade, my parents splitting up in Spain when I was three and we were living there. Growing up bicoastal, in living in Tacoma, WA and visiting our main family back on the east coast in summers. Our mother remarrying when I was five to a man whom I did not like much at all. Our home life growing up was a confused situation between a loving mother and a step-father who had his own emotional problems and who did not much care for me.

I'm not complaining here, I'm just trying to explain how an orientation developed and how it can lead to taking sides, to wanting to lash out at perceived, if not real, abuses and abusers. An orientation that even today comes out in my standing against an excessively foolish right-wing GOP.

It was in tenth grade at fifteen when I first began to desire to learn about my Irish heritage and really delve into it. And I was horrified by what I discovered.

Like about, The Troubles, recently starting up at that time, exposing long-buried scars from the 1916 Easter Uprising and before. In learning of all that, I wanted to go fight for the freedom of Ireland.

I grew up loving the Brits, to be sure. I loved their old films. Their history. Winston Churchill still to this day is one of my heroes. More for his intellect than anything else. I loved British humor. Month Python for one and so many others.

It was confusing to me how the British I had loved as much, as much as my own America, turned quite suddenly for me into the abusers of the Irish. A country so very close to their homeland. Then I learned about other issues through the history of India, Africa, the Boer War, and colonialism overall.

Still, I was ready and willing to go fight for the IRA. I began to learn about the history of the Irish in America, in Ireland and how the British ruled over them. About the Potato Famine and so much more.

I took all those confused feelings and the bitterness from my childhood and channeled it into my desire to push the British out of Ireland. But I was only fifteen and I had no money. I had worked at a job since ninth grade. I worked nights all through high school. But I never had money for a plane ticket.

I tried to convince my friends to join me. Maybe together a few of us could gather the funds and go fight. But I didn't know any other Irish kids. Or perhaps some I knew didn't know or care that they were Irish. Or what it meant. No one seemed to care what was happening in 1970 in Ireland. Perhaps rightly so, as we were Americans. And everyone thought I was nuts anyway. Maybe I was.

In 2015 I finally got to travel Ireland. Walking mostly, also bus, train, and car. I saw Dublin, Galway, Cork, Belfast. I got to share most of the trip with my daughter. From the moment I stepped off the plane until I felt the pain of having to leave at the end. I hope to return.

This all affected me to the point that years ago I began and half finished a manuscript of a fiction novel that began in Ireland and ended here in America. It was a kind of horror story involving abuses by a splinter group of the IRA in using four college friends on vacation for their own purposes. I never finished it.

Perhaps it's time? If I get my screenplay produced, maybe then I can afford to return. My first ever short story which I wrote during a period of illness over a week when I was fifteen was about a youth abused by those in power for political and imperialistic purposes.

There is a thread of this all through my life and many of my writings. How the people are so often abused by those in power. How we are sometimes driven by things we don't even understand and could, if we just stood back for a moment and took a look around us.

We are now experiencing it again here in America, openly and I'm stunned it is happening. And Ireland is going through some of it, hopefully not all of it, again also.

I am now much older. I see our country here in America being so polarized, so unnecessarily divided.

A situation brought on by small minded people for personal greed and power. And a foreign government for purposes of disrupting our nation and western democracy overall. As we're seeing in the UK, in Ireland. Even in Scotland. Where a petty little man in Vladimir Putin and his connections to organized crime has helped to damage so much for his own personal reasons.

Perhaps just like our own President Trump. And an extremist right wing and their dying political party aiding them whether knowingly or otherwise.

We need to learn from Ireland's past. The UK. Ireland, both south and north, need to learn from their histories. I am not the only one who sees it that way as I mentioned above. One article by Clarin Tierney, British Bullying on Brexit border issue may reignite The Troubles, points this out clearly.

My point in all this? History, and what we grew up with, predisposes us to manipulation. By those who love us and those who hate us, as well as those who can use and abuse us. We have to be aware of it. We have to be careful. We have to fight for us, not them. Because they are fighting us, for them.

I grew up with an orientation as have others. Ireland has lived what it is like to be a nation divided and a country at odds with itself. We, especially they, both Ireland proper, Northern Ireland, and the UK, need to not return to a period of time when people, their own people, died over issues both political and polarized, used and abused for the purposes of a few over that of the many.

We need to see behind these curtains at what is really going on and put a stop to it. Before The Troubles begin anew in Ireland. Before they begin again in America. For we had our own Civil War and it wasn't very civil. It nearly destroyed us. And now we are seeing people pushing us in that direction, not for the good of America or our citizens, but for their own political, monetary and power.

This planet, all of us, have been infected by a right-wing agenda, based in a desire for power and control, money and riches. That cannot be what we are about as a human race. Not based in corporate thinking, in political gain, in greed, but in truly humane thinking.

Long term planning, not just short term gain. We need to see ourselves, each other, outside of those above us making our decisions. We need to see the forest and the trees. Not just the trees in getting so specific we are lost. We have to see the big and the small and realize, we are the small. It is and can be confusing. But we have to remember we are one, not many separate, but separate together.

Yes. It can be counter-intuitive and I know that is something most conservatives struggle with as it goes against their mindset. The mindset of many today in being overwhelmed and wishing for easy answers, quick choices, and binary, black and white reasoning. But that is not life. What is life is, we are all of one nation. Nationism is not the solution. Togetherness is.

Small, as one wise man once put it, is beautiful. With one foot before the other, we need to walk together into the future and remember who is in charge.

We are. Unless, we allow others to tell us what to do, who to be and to distrust our neighbors. Be they next door, in another county, in the next state to us, or on another coast entirely.

We need to draw the line at killing one another. And a line against those who would pit us against one another.

A Nation Once Again (Wolfe Tones) (The Dubliners)

When boyhood's fire was in my blood 
I read of ancient freemen, 
For Greece and Rome who bravely stood, 
Three hundred men and three men; 
And then I prayed I yet might see 
Our fetters rent in twain, 
And Ireland, long a province, be. 
A Nation once again!
A Nation once again, 
A Nation once again, 
And lreland, long a province, be 
A Nation once again!
And from that time, through wildest woe, 
That hope has shone a far light, 
Nor could love's brightest summer glow 
Outshine that solemn starlight; 
It seemed to watch above my head 
In forum, field and fane, 
Its angel voice sang round my bed, 
A Nation once again!
It whisper'd too, that freedom's ark 
And service high and holy, 
Would be profaned by feelings dark 
And passions vain or lowly; 
For, Freedom comes from God's right hand, 
And needs a Godly train; 
And righteous men must make our land 
A Nation once again!
So, as I grew from boy to man, 
I bent me to that bidding 
My spirit of each selfish plan 
And cruel passion ridding; 
For, thus I hoped some day to aid, 
Oh, can such hope be vain ? 
When my dear country shall be made 
A Nation once again!

Songwriters: Sean O'riada
A Nation Once Again lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Bardis Music, Usa Attn: Peter Bardon

Monday, February 4, 2019

On Being a Man Today

What does it mean to be, a "Man" in today's world? That's a good question. One that is leaving many confused, flustered, even angry and bitter. We are also seeing this in the workplace when jobs disappear when businesses fall by the wayside. When we refuse to change with the times. to learn new things, to adapt as our ancestors did with changing environments during the ice age and beyond up until today.

I'm not talking about macho bullshit. I'm not talking about homoerotica. I'm not talking about self-involved obtrusiveness, aggressiveness or arrogance. I am not talking about misogynistic ridiculosities.

I'm talking about being, a Man. Not just a male. Bu a useful, respectful and decent human being. it is about at least understanding humility if not exhibiting it openly.

Note that there are many things similar to being an enlightened being, to what it means to be a woman, a minority, a person in a weak position in a culture. Or a human. When you have to watch out for all you do every day or suffer the consequences, you have to be more aware. And when you do not and "suddenly" find you have to, it's a shock which elicits anger and a lashing out. Better to stop and think and react appropriately.

Due to a variety of factors including not being a woman, a minority, in my view as I am a man, I really have no right to tell women what to do. I have no idea why men do not seem to see this. Fear of a loss of control one might presume. When I'm holding a deciding factor (as an elected official, as a legislator) I would need to be aware of concerns outside my realm, my comfort zone.

Yes, we all make mistakes. We may be raised with a belief system that is challenged once we get out into the world and as an adult. And so we pick ourselves up and try to do better with each day.

Still many male American politicians seem to think they have or should have, just that right. As if, God-given. Some of those "rights" some "people" also seem to believe are God-given rights. Obviously, they are among some of the biggest assholes on earth. Obviously, those types got us into this situation in the first place.

Abraham Maslow  (1954) came up with several things that all humans need in order to survive.

Late in the process, however, thank "God", he added in sex as one of those elements.

Good for him. Good for us.


Here's his list:

1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, sex, etc.;

2) Safety/security: out of danger;

3) Belongingness and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and

4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.

5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;

6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty;

7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one's potential; and

8) Self-transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.

To address these issues in the context of being male, I would offer this...

We seem, especially some on the right in this country, to stop politically at number four.

We keep the first one, our physiological needs as primary and so it should be. But we need to realize others have those needs, too. At times we seem to forget that.

As it is with #2, safety, #3 association, social needs, #4 self and group esteem.

But one does not need to put down others in order to raise oneself or one's group up. It leads to racism and bigotry and the "us against them" tribal mentality so prevalent today in American politics.

We need to move beyond into the latter numbers. The argument has always been lame: "We don't have the money for less important issues." Then where is the money? We had it, where does it go?

We need as number four indicates, to think more, to see beyond ourselves, to see the entire picture, not just our own, or our own group's view. That is what being enlightened is about, in seeing all the associated issues and having the wherewithal to address them in productive and helpful ways. Not ignoring them because, they are too hard. That means that sometimes we may even need to take a backseat to others' needs when it is appropriate.

Self-actualization means we need to move beyond ourselves to be better and to always try to be even better tomorrow than we are today.

Self-transcendence is taking our higher selves and actualizing that part of ourselves. To see beyond our self and our concerns and that of our group. To feel empathy for others and compassion, and to seek not just our better position in the world but our ability to be a better human being...in this world. That one thing could make this world a better place. Not just for ourselves, but for others and for others who have little say in how things are done, when, or where.

Truth, decency, compassion, understanding. Being a "man" is not just about the old paradigms. It is also about being aware of, and being better than, and even outside of our personal understanding of the world. It is about being more than we are and think we can be.

Yes, being a Man, being a Person in today's world is not as easy as it once was.

But this is the world we live in today and we need to at least try, to understand when we fail, to know that our attitude about all this has much to do with how we view the world and how we are perceived and so too, how we grow as a person.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Armed Attitude in Home Defense

Try this on for home protection especially when you have children in the house.

If someone, you think, has broken in, and you have a gun, plan to possibly go down with them... if need be. In not taking them down, because of thinking no matter what, you mustn't get damaged in some way or killed too, you have left things open for them to continue on into your house for other family members, or doing this again in another house.

Intruder, or unexpected family?
Take the bad guy down with you if need be. But take him and only him (or her) down.

Police run into this at a far higher rate of incidence than civilians. Yes, even today. They need to try more to protect themselves, to go home at the end of their shift. But not to the point of shooting innocent people, "accidentally". But that's another issue than I'm addressing here today.

There are various gadgets, devices, programs you can have to help other than a gun, but we're talking about a gun here for now. Still, do check out options. Anything you can add to your home is a plus for you and a minus for intruders.

Police have protections civilians, certainly ones in their own home in the middle of the night have. Police have access to ballistic vests, other police, communications, an active network supporting them and so on. And training. As we've seen, not always such great training. It is the nature of their job they may fire on someone innocent, but that has happened too often.

However, when some stranger breaks into your home, they have abdicated the right to being innocent. If they have a weapon, even more so. Unless they are not a stranger....

With that in mind, always validate your target before shooting. Validate also what is behind the bad guy in the case that on the other side of the wall behind him, when you shoot your .44 magnum (or some other ridiculous weapon for home defense), may be your child whose head you just blew off after you killed the intruder.

THINK. Think ahead of time, be proactive, so you have to think less when it's hard to think during an action.

First thing I was taught about using a gun was... "use the right tool for the right job". An assault rifle is NOT agood home defense weapon. A magnum is not a good home defense weapon. A shotgun with proper loads is. Certain handguns are, and with proper loads. You do not want to pass through walls, or houses into other houses. That's kind of paramount. Certainly if you live in a neighborhood close to other homes.

Second? Verify your target. Dark? Lighten it up. One thing nice about smart speakers like Alexa? You can say things like, "Alexa, turn on the living room lights." And voila. An intruder standing in a lit room, their worst nightmare.

Third? Verify what is behind your target (Third plus? What is behind that?). If a wall is behind an intruder, what is behind that wall? You spouse? Child? Children? A window, and beyond that your neighbor's bedroom window? THINK!

Safety first. Always

VERIFY your target. NEVER do "sound shots" (shooting at sounds visually unverified). IF you know exactly what is on the other side of a wall and you can penetrate that wall, that is a consideration, but if you do not have a positive ID on a target, you are always taking a risk. And this is all about risk analysis and acting correctly for the moment.

This stuff is great in movies, great in reality if you're a professional and in the right environment. Look. It's tough. Cowards don't do well with this. They love sound shots. Shooting into the dark.

Part of the problem we're seeing with both police and citizens is they are trying to walk away unscathed. So they shoot too soon. Too often. Before proper verification, before validation. Lacking proper target acquisition and control.

Yes, this all takes practice, not simply gun ownership. That is one of our biggest problems in this country, the 2nd Amendment and all. The "right" to gun ownership without enough verification and education and training. Even cops get it wrong. So an untrained citizen? A disaster waiting to happen. Even with training, you can screw this up royally. So why not take the training and decrease the risk? Do walkthroughs of the house, run through scenarios. Like any good Boy Scout, Be Prepared.

Sounds great surviving a gunfight unscathed. We all want to live (barring ISIS type believers).

But in trying to make a real life and death scenario into a videogame and not real life, in seeing guns as toys and not manslaughter machines, is childish, ignorant, immature.

This is where you have to be prepared if you own a gun. If you may actually be in a gunfight. IF you OWN a gun, you MAY actually end up in a gunfight. IF you do not own a gun, odds are you never will be.

It's not only a gun you own just in CASE you MAY ever be in a gunfight. Ownership does not and simply cannot realistically guarantee your safety. That is magical thinking.


"I own a gun, God will protect me." Next up for you with that belief? The coroner looking at your cold dead gun empty hands on a slab in the morgue.

Wake up. Deal with it. It sucks. But it's reality. And any time you are dealing with lethal force, you are dealing directly with reality. This isn't your partisan reality where your mistaken beliefs take time to damage you and even then you can rationalize them away. A bullet is one of the great equalizers and forces of reality there is.

Do not think that grabbing a gun and blindly firing on an intruder in the dark (or is it your son or daughter home from college unexpectedly?), will work out just fine for you without proper training, preplanning, and preparation of the entire family who lives with you.

Could it? Sure. Do you want to rely on maybe though? Or take the time to increase the odds and decrease the risk of firing a weapon in a house and merely hoping it will all be OK?

Because the other end of that argument could very likely be that you just shot your child. Or in the case of the police, someone else's.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Out Of One's Head...Together - Suspending Belief

On Martin Luther King day, it's amazing where we are today. We need to think outside of the box, to climb ourselves out of this hole we have put ourselves in. A regressive administration, a president who is a pathological liar, a despot, a follower of the teachings of Adolph Hitler, a billionaire who has duped an entire GOP and a minority electorate abusing and managing America. King is turning over in his grave and looking at all of us to fix this. If this were a film, it would be a horror movie. A political thriller with Russian enemies on the side of an America GOP political and economic party.

We can do better. Easily. Moving on....

I have long had the ability to think around what I already know about, without it overly affecting me. More of us should be trained on that as children.

While still knowing what I'm trying to not know, though I clearly know it, I will still react as if I don't know. Though I never knew it would be, it's a handy skillset I picked up as a kid that has served me well and long into adulthood. It's beneficial to use for seeing your side up against another point of view.

It's also been useful in watching films. We've all heard or experienced when watching a film and you find already know what the ending will be. We've all heard people say, "When I watch a film I find way before the ending, that I know what is going to happen." Or, "I know right away where the film is headed."

Yeah, me too. So? Many I hear say that are actually just boasting how smart they are. Some are just genuinely annoyed. But I seldom hear a resolution. Suspend belief. Something not that easy for most of us. Because we think one of two things. Either we can't do it. Or, if we do it, it will dumb us down, make us stupid in practicing "stupidity".

I beg to differ. It's harder than it seems. It does not dull you, but builds mental muscles many simply do not have. Otherwise, it wouldn't be so hard for one to do. The thing is, it has much to do with emotional strength or maturity, then intellectual considerations.

I was that way too many years ago. I was proud and actively tried to solve the move I was watching before the midway point. Until I started college and began to study cinema. My university degree is in psychology. But I also studied cinema, fiction writing, script and screenwriting and also in a team environment. During my first year when I heard the term, "suspending belief", my life changed.

Why?

I was told when you make a film, you do not want to break the audience's suspension of belief and there are more than several ways to do that. Write or produce a bad film. Show the director's hand (or for a writer, show the writer's hand in a story in a book or screenplay. Which is where the term "killing one's children" came from for writers. That is, one must delete not only the bad, but also the excessively good sentences or paragraphs, if it breaks the reader out of the story.

In the film prognostication realm, who's the loser then? You, because you feel you're so smart, you ruin for yourself most of the movies out there? Or me, because I can take that ride and enjoy it, all the way to the end. Unless it's really bad. I'll figure out things on the way but I keep, that is, I maintain my suspension of belief. As long as the filmmaker allows me to.

I work with them to enjoy the film. IF you find you have to consciously suspend belief all through the film, it does indeed ruin the film. But if you can begin with it, maintain it, you may find a new experience from it. It becomes muscle memory. You note when something happens almost subconsciously, and then move on, mostly undeterred, without losing your stride.

One has to be careful. It's like pausing a movie today, which so many of us do, then going to the kitchen, or bathroom, or answering the phone, or whatever. A filmmaker builds your metabolism to a certain point, and changes it on purpose. Manipulating you for your benefit, to experience the film, to be submerged into the story, the characters, the emotions and hopefully, the intelligence of the work. When we break that, we do the filmmaker and ourselves a disservice.

I could go on in depth with the psychophysical considerations here, but I think you get the point.

I cannot, however, avoid gleaning the ending from the middle or sooner, when it's an overall intentional clue. When you're supposed to figure something out, do feel free. For instance, take David Mamet's 1987 film, House of Games, one of my favorite films. I loved that film the first time I saw it and I've seen it several times since. I like Mamet's works overall. Though he's not for everybody, he is still one of our most celebrated writers.

Yes, I try to not think about it all too much in watching a film. But for example, 42:38 minutes into David Mamet's 1997 film, The Spanish Prisoner (Steve Martin), it hit me like a loaded gun. I knew what was going on. That gives you two markers for one. Can you beat my figuring it at by that time in the film? Or is it just when Mamet expected viewers to figure it out? And what exactly was it you figured out? How valuable is that information in the end?

The first of his films I saw was during my college days. I got to study him a bit there in cinema classes. Films like The Postman Always Rings Twice (with Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, a remake of the 1946 Lana Turner, John Garfield film from the James M. Cain novel). The Verdict (Paul Newman). I also loved The Untouchables. Some of my favorite films are Mamet's. Like Spartan (Val Kilmer), Ronin (Robert De Niro), and others.

The thing about someone like Mamet is once you do figure it out, you most likely were supposed to. Then, it's all about the ride to the finish. As with The Spanish Prisoner con. You're trapped in believing you know something. You're in on it. To some, this is a disappointment. But not to worry. You're on the ride. Enjoy it.

What I'm referring to in all this is not taking the individual clues in a film or story, and adding them up to the ending before the ending. IF I'm experiencing a high-quality piece of work then, I can feel comfortable and free to apply any potential analytical skills I may possess and have fun running the full circuit, the full power, peddle to the metal, enjoying whatever skills I may have. Part of the fun of detective and espionage films, for instance.

It's been a useful talent as a screenwriter. As a writer in general, really.

Once I started writing fiction regularly, this was during and after college, no one was much interested in reading what I was writing. First time I learned about that. If you play, say guitar, you just say to someone, "hey, how's this sound to you?" And you play a few bars. People say, "No", or "Yeah, that's good."

However, if you're a writer how do you say to someone, "Here, please invest half an hour or day or a week of your time and read this, then tell me what you think and be descriptive." Another difference between music and writing. Someone's critique saying, "I don't like it," or, "I like it", doesn't help much.

And it never happens. Seldom anyway. And if you DO find someone, damn. Keep them happy!

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I wanted to learn how to play chess.

No one knew how in my family. My older brother did, but he wasn't interested. He had a friend who was a close friend of our family and myself for many years to come. He became another older brother to me. He did take the interest and time in me for some reason. Overall, he was just a nice guy. He's gone now. Another who died too young.

After he taught me chess, I had no one to play with. So I started playing against myself. Yes, I've been asked as an adult at times if I didn't spend much time alone as a child. It's kind of obvious at times. But then, I can also be quite entertaining.

I remember in my parent's living room, playing an album, To Sir With Love, by Lulu, who was a huge star at the time, somewhat off the film of the same name as her album. It starred Sidney Poitier but she was in it and sang the title song. A really emotional scene, of troubled students showing their appreciation for one of the only people, their teacher, who showed then compassion and a path to adulthood and being a decent person. One of the first of those types of films.

It was hard to play chess against myself at first. Frustrating.  But I always rebelled against my frustrations, which is far more useful than giving up or being angry. I realized pretty quickly I had to learn to compartmentalize. I remember asking my friend how one does that. He offered a suggestion, whatever it may have been and I ran with it, took me months to master, but eventually, I got it down.

The frustrating (and comical) thing was, and I noticed this through most of my life playing chess alone, that I kept losing...to myself. I mean, I would take a color, white or black, and play against someone (myself). I didn't want to just beat my opponent, that got old quick. Like gambling for fun and never losing.

I guess, thinking back on it I was simply overcompensating in trying not to cheat by knowing my "opponent's" moves ahead of time. But then I had to do the opposite, not let me "opponent" know what I was thinking. It was a study in schizophrenia. And maybe, considering my background, my family, my mother most in particular, that was extremely helpful for me in my maturing emotional health. Not that it made me more emotionally mature. That's another story, entirely.

I just hadn't expected for the outcome to be, to lose to myself. Ironic, and pretty funny, really. In the end, after years of playing chess alone, I started to play against others. I was turned down for the junior high school chess club. They just didn't want me. I ran into that a lot. My demeanor made people expect me to be dumber than I was.

They forced me to play against their best player to enter the club. Of course, I lost. I remember asking, "But isn't this a club for people who love chess? I love chess and want to learn more." Thanks a lot Michael W.

I went on to play whoever would play me. One time I remember doing something I saw somewhere. I played against three people without looking at the chessboard and won all three games. When I got into the Air Force, I would play my friend Dan in the parachute shop and he always beat me. Even though I thought I should easily be able to beat him. He was an admirable if annoying opponent.

Then one day, I beat him! He tossed the game board, through a fit. I was so demoralized by that. My sense had always been to praise people for beating you at something, an attitude I learned in Karate in grade school. I was so annoyed, I refused to play humans after that, for years. I bought a Tandy Radio Shack tiny portable electronic chessboard for $50 and had that for decades. It wasn't until years later I started again to play against people and eventually, taught it to my children.

Getting back to my point and sorry about all the historical stuff... don't just whine about how smart you are that you always know where a movie is going before it gets there. Because you are just showing people your ego, and missing out on some very great and fun experiences.

IF you find it isn't easy to do, rather than puff up an already over-inflated ego, practice it. Build that skill, build those unused pampered mental and emotional muscles. Because in the end, it will serve you well.

People around you won't be thinking things about you, they'll never say to your face.

And you may find there are a lot more fun films out there than you ever thought possible.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Social Relevance in Creative Projects

With all that's going on, with many of those I respect fighting in grand, not specific ways, it occurred to me just now to look at what I was doing creatively. All I ever wanted to do was to entertain with great stories that weren't the same old thing.

No, I do not think we need to be socially relevant in all our creativity. But then why not, if we can hide it but it's there to see if one wishes to see it? We are exhausted by our society and government today. Entertainment gives us a break from reality. It is why during the Great Depression, theaters did not go out of business, but thrived. And tend to during great political and societal upheavals. 

As my mother used to say, because we had little money, and at times when I was broke at an adult and putting all my money to survival, to merely existing...

"We have to take the time and a bit of our money for ourselves from time to time. Or what is the use? We have to be able to continue and that takes time and money to enjoy ourselves even a little. So we can continue and get through our troubles. With our sanity."

As the title indicates, The Teenage Bodyguard, is a screenplay I'm finishing up. It is a true crime story and one from my own past. It's a very good story. Professionals keep telling me that. It also has a bigger scope than just myself. It's a highly dramatic situation that, for several reasons, I thought was begging to be told.

Others agreed. In fact, it was an executive producer from London I first told about the project who said he wanted to see it first should I ever write it. So I did. He didn't' like my first draft so I shelved it. A couple of years later I decided to do some more research on it and was amazed by what I found.

So I rewrote it. Sadly, I could not find him by then. Perhaps he moved on? No matter, my interaction with him left me with a new and very good concept for a screenplay. Over the next few years, I continued to research, receiving coverage and redrafting it. It got better and better.

Yet, I wondered today, what if any, social relevance there was in this project?

I hadn't really started the project thinking about that. My intentions were to make money to enhance my retirement savings. I'm using those resources now to do the creative things that I've had to put off all my life to raise a family.

Family raised now, with some retirement stashed away (though not enough and it is quickly in today's economy, being used up), I'm finally pursuing those endeavors. I have the time, full time, to work on what I want.
Me, on right, wearing shoulder holster with my rifle from the story.
Friend is part of a compilation of several for the character in the screenplay.
The story I'm telling in this screenplay is essentially about two people. But in a parallel telling, it is also a fascinating story of an unusual criminal organization that terrorized the Pacific Northwest of the 1970s. No book has been written, no film has been shot about them. And I have a unique perspective and orientation from which to tell that tale.

The handgun I carried in the story from my past.
A Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum
In the story, I take a traumatized woman under my care who witnessed a murder by this organized crime family. It was the murder of a friend whom she worked with. We did our best to stay alive of a week until she could leave town. Did she survive that week of dodging her murderous pursuers? Obviously I did. Right?

But beyond that story, was there something more?

Let me just say, for some time now since I began researching and writing this screenplay six years ago now, comments, even from professionals has increased in quality and demeanor. Well known entertainment attorney Michael Donaldson read and liked it a lot. Contests and The Blacklist have liked it. I just finished working with consultant Jen Grisanti on it. By this point, I apparently it actually is a pretty amazing project.

But still....

I realized when I thought of writing this, there was. Because of these criminals and their reach into whatever resources they could acquire in order to protect their enterprise, eventually, the entire local COUNTY government had to be reorganized to prevent this from ever again happening. The local Sheriff, some of his deputies, some police, a Prosecuting Attorney, and other going possibly and potentially all the way up to a former governor of Washington state.

Does any of THAT sound familiar to anyone, today?

I think it does. I really do. And I think it's socially relevant.

So what? Somehow with all that is going on today, I do feel better in this project, as this is a lot of work. To think that there is more in this than just telling a story, a story that includes myself, a story that would potentially make me money, and yet...it may make people reflect on some bigger things. And that, is what being socially relevant is all about.

The problem with the Pierce county government back in the 1970s was that people either did not care. Or they thought it just looked problematic, rather than actually being a problem they needed to address and fix.

Just as we are seeing today.

Democracy and a free society do not just run along on their own. We have to protect it, be vigilant and when necessary, correct our course of actions and our path which hopefully is not one of destruction as it seems to be oriented today.




Monday, January 7, 2019

Notes on, Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Recently I watched a color version of Night of the Living Dead (1968). Interesting. But I think I like the b/w version better.

It's funny, I'm watching this now as I write this and thinking tactically. And for the first time from a screenwriter and filmmaker's POV. When I saw this originally, at the drive-in, with my family as a kid, I was 13. The year the film came out in 1969.

It scared the hell out of me. And my family. We kids loved the scares though. But it REALLY scared the hell out of my old school, old country style Slovak Catholic mother. Another film didn't scare me that much until some years later. It was called, The Exorcist. I saw that at the Cinerama Theatre in Seattle. Amazing event night I believe I've detailed elsewhere.

Later in the 1970s, I mentioned it to her once in the living room and she froze and said (as we'd all always known) "You do not say the name of that film in my house!" We had to laugh and I said, "Mom, it was just a movie." "I know, I just don't ever want to think of that movie again."

Pretty effective movie.

I think it was the outer space connection as we were in the middle of NASA stuff daily back then and I was loving it. I was really into NASA. I had a scrapbook I collected of articles about NASA efforts I have to this day.

The thought that a virus that could come down, from outer space, from the unknown, was a palpable consideration/fear. Also if you listen to the intense parts, the sounds, music if you like, perfectly backs up the fears. Something John Carpenter picks up on years later in his films.


Here are some points I noticed while I rewatched this film:
  • After the monster of previous decades in film, we see a new kind of fear. Out of the mundane comes fear. 
  • These were not your parent's zombies. No voodoo, no curses, no surreality. Science. Reality. Pure and utter fear is involved. With no solutions. 
  • The music perfectly underscores the action as I have said.
  • At first, no one would pick up the film for destruction. The filmmakers had to go to theaters to hawk their product and it ended up in the lowest of theatres. Those associatied with exploitation films if not porn, and children's showings. So some children were dropped off by parents, thinking they had an afternoon free on Saturday, and the children were exposed to something they had no idea how to deal with or handle. As critic Roger Ebert said at the time, he saw children leaving after the film crying, having no idea what they had just seen or how to handle it. 
  • There was a reflection in the government characters in being unable to explain and offer solutions to the situation that aided in the overall terror of the situation. Especially in 1969 when we were still so ignorant and yet were aware of how we know so little but are trying to stumble our way through a new and ever fear invoking reality. Along with the nuclear threats.
  • There is simplicity in its terror.
  • The low key realism of the TV newscasts aided the realism. Many of the low budget-ness of the film supports this.
  • It's interesting to note, no one reacts to classically trained actor/protagonist Dwayne Jones (who himself didn't like challenging racial norms and being violent), in his being a black man. His being accepted as an equal and excelling over others, then the ending he receives once the audience accepts him is Brilliant. Progressive. He actually talks back to a white man, slaps a very white blond woman, and then SHOOTS a white man! And the audience cheers him for this! This procedes Shaft and all the black exploitation films about to hit the scene. 
  • This was only a year past Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, about interracial marriage. A film I loved at the time because it questioned the establishment. 
  • It is a year after Capt. Kirk kisses his black Coms officer Uhuru. Which disturbed many and helped break the racial barrier a little bit more. Kudos to Gene Roddenberry on that one as well as so much more. The black/white, white/black characters in another episode of Star Trek being another example. 
  • By never addressing the black issues, it gave the film a lasting, before its time, endurance. 
  • That all supported the realism in whatever your cultural or social differences were in a Zombie Apocalypse, in that nothing matters but survival. The ZA is a meritocracy. If it's not as we saw, you die.
  • The character of Dwayne Jones' part was originally a white character and Romero wanted Dwayne to play it as originally portrayed, which in the 60s was a questionable thing to do. Dwayne was fine with that until he began to wonder if he was being exploited. He eventually came to realize, no one was thinking that way at all. 
  • Blacks at the time were allowed to be smart but not aggressive. Sidney Poitier in 1967 as a cop, slapping a rich white southern man, who had just slapped him, was stunning to audiences. Then a year or so later, here comes Dwayne Jones... smart, AND aggressive. 
  • The film punched many societal buttons at that time. 
  • The daughter killing the mother was a big one. 
  • The outer space connection at that time in 1969 was a big issue that sold this and enhanced the fears.
  • The sound effects/music during some of the serious death scenes was highly effective. the music was from public domain films they found so, free. 
  • Having a woman appear as an entirely nude zombie (from behind) was genius. As was a bug eating zombie who was the film's hair stylist. 
  • In 1969 having a black man as a lead, and an apparently educated one, was disturbing and somewhat unique. Certainly in the horror genre. His slapping a white woman was more intense than normal. His handling a distraught white man (see this as bigoted only by proxy, very clever), was more intense than otherwise. His being the hero was unusual and in the end, therefore, once you accept him as hero, his death became devastating. The hero died. The hero was a black man. The audience felt bad for a black hero dying. It didn't just push buttons, even for nonracists because of the culture at the time, it slammed the button home. 
  • Not only that, but the business, as was usual, the near mechanization, the business as usual attitude in the film, the blend of still shots, voiceovers and film footage, of dispatching and burning of people, and of the black protagonist\hero is then especially disturbing. If you did have racist elements in your personality at that point, then it's really very disturbing. In part because you don't realize it's happening because of all the rest that was going on under the surface that you didn't recognize until it was over, if even then. 
  • Did you know there is a connection between Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" fame, and Night of the Living Dead? There most certainly is. George Romero and friends made some films first for Fred Rogers and then decided (some being out of work at that time) that they could make a film. Something that just wasn't done at that time. 
  • The term "zombie" doesn't occur in the film. Gouls, was the term bandied about a lot. 
  • These gouls used tools readily. You could see them thinking, but on a very baseline. 
  • The gouls were afraid of light and fire.
  • They ate bugs. Harkening the world of Dracula and his guy...Renfield.
  • The Romero crew rented an abandoned farmhouse about to be torn down and pretty much lived in it during the shooting with no running utilities. 
  • According to Romero, they had to go to the nearby stream to wash off and drag water back in buckets for the toilet to work. 
  • The reason I think that color doesn't help the film, is that the production values and acting were all rough and it worked for the overall attitude and motif. 
  • Many of the famous lines from the interviews in the film were all ad-libbed. Bill Cardille was a local Pittsburg, PA Horror show host who did the interviews in the film. On his weekly show, he would promote what he was doing on the film set and that there was a horror film being filmed locally. "Pittsburghers Make Chiller for Drive-Ins". Many people showed up with chairs to watch the onset antics, especially the burning of the truck scene.
  • They got a real TV helicopter and pilot and real police and ambulance to help out in scenes. They couldn't believe how helpful people and local government were to aide their efforts. To locals, it was a big movie production. Even though it was a below low budget production. Romero said the ambulance was the biggest production prop he had ever been near on a set.
  • Gouls were played by friends, family, local townsfolk and clients of Romero's new production company the Latent Image.
  • The film ends in a neutral fashion, with titles rolling and the protagonist, the good, black man's corpse being drug to be burned. Which is appropriate in this case to burn the dead, but he should never have been killed. Especially after all he'd been through. Not to mention the burning of a black man is historically a horrifying consideration, especially to the black community. 
Overall, this is a film that at first was panned and derided by critics. Then went to Europe and worldwide, in part because of a screw up in the titles and copyright so that it was worldwide free to show. Critics loved it in Europe. So when it returned to America, critics changed their minds. It was deemed a genre, industry-altering film then.

I got Tom to sign one of these
I think of it with fond memories. In part because of succeeding films in the franchise I loved and the addition in the next film of Tom Savini and his work in bringing even more reality to the franchise in using Gray's Anatomy book and making F/X accurate.
Tom Savini Zombcon II 2011 SeaTac Hilton
I got to meet my f/x hero Savini some years ago after following his career since Dawn of the Dead when he joined the franchise and a documentary (Scream Greats Vol. 1 - Tom Savini) I saw years ago about him. He also directed the remake of Night of the Living Dead, in 1990.

Russell Streiner in his civvies off camera behind Romero
George Romero died in 2017. I got to be in the room with him at the first Seattle Zombcon in 2011. Nice guy, he was looking old even then. He had a great sense of humor and was a very creative and nice guy. At 27, he helped start the indie film industry in this country. He gave a genre once steeped in silliness and magic and brought it into reality by way of using science fiction.

George Romero
We will miss him.
George Romero at Seattle's 2010 Zombcon 1 with Cal Miller from my first publisher at Zilyon
But he left us a catalog of some fun films that led to many others and offered the world a twist on a genre that we will never forget.