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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Science Fiction and Happy New Years 2019!

First off as this is so fitting a topic for the end of an old and start of a new year...

Wishing you all a great and better 2019! Cheers! Slainte!


Also, if you missed it, see my blog yesterday about the heroes in your life. It's so very fitting for an end of the year, pre-New Years consideration.

Now...

Science fiction and as well, speculative fiction, have always been about imagining what you do not normally imagine. About thinking ahead, around corners and about seeing what you need to see before you need to see it. Giving you time to be prepared. All while enjoying a unique and insightful experience into the possibilities of when, where, and how.
Sarah Snook as John in Predestination.
Science fiction is like journalists and comedians, a first front to what is now and what is coming. It seldom has received the attention and praise it deserves and has seldom been seen as the futurism it is.

Star Wars, Superheroes films, and stories are not science fiction. They are its more exciting and yet more ignorant forms. However, they too have their place. They too do serve a function.

True science fiction (even hard science fiction) gives us a glimpse of what is coming up, concerning to us and what needs to be concerning for us. It has become diluted in today's world because of the popularity of what is most entertaining...and profitable.

Still, that is a form involved in the maturation of SF in understanding it is a form to reckon with and to pay attention to.

And so we see now in its future it's coming into its own. More succinctly, more impactfully. Like a surgeon's blade cutting on the bad, exposing and leaving the good that is there, that can be there and that should be there. No matter how hard it is for some to look into that snapshot of humanity. No matter how it disturbs or cajoles.

Dystopian stories have become popular as they always do during years of difficult times. The show us the horrors of our potential futures and make us consider, should we avoid that? The Handmaid's Tale, is one of those. It speaks to us saying, "It doesn't have to turn into this horror, if we just act to keep it from becoming so."

It is a form of education we need and gives little thought to. That includes things like Transgenderism is one of those subjects.

As one article says about that:

"Transgender people have always been part of science fiction and fantasy, but the past few years have seen a whole new generation of trans creators bursting onto the scene. Why are so many trans people flocking to SF and what kind of stories are they telling? Also, we delve into the controversy over Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, and explain why so many people are questioning the science behind this concept. Why can't teenagers shape their own identities without being accused of some mysterious new malady?}


Science fiction has given us real astronauts and scientists, computers and devices. One example is all that came from a single offering in the Star Trek TV show of the 1960s and as well, its descendent shows and films, comic books and novel and so on.

So many childhood fans grew up into careers they first learned about in a science fiction show. They created devices that now exist because they were first imagined by these kids when seen on Star Trek. All because they were first made aware of the possibility and then grew to become their future inventors.

It was a show ignorantly canceled due to concerns of profit, when the service it was performing should have been seen as the news back then, a loss leader sorely needed by our society and humanity at large. The costs of that show were minimal to what benefits we have since reaped from them.

How many astronauts today can say they wanted to be an astronaut because of watching Star Trek shows? From the article:

"When "Star Trek" first aired, on Sept. 8, 1966, the American human space program was only four years old. NASA was practicing rendezvous, docking and spacewalks in the agency's Gemini program. The Apollo moon landings were still three years away, and the space shuttle was only just being designed.

"It was an exciting time for future American astronauts, including Virts, Tom Jones and Mike Massimino. All three would become shuttle and space station astronauts, and they told Space.com that the 1960s space program highly inspired them as children. "Star Trek" was a lesser influence, they said."

We are today living our realities from the science fiction of those past days.

I could go on and on about all the shows and books and various media types of science fiction. All we need to know is though, it is a useful tool we should pay attention to and better utilize. It is forward thinking. It creates and invents as it goes and its goal really, is to make our world and universe a better place, for all. Not just humanity. But intelligent life everywhere.

Appreciate it. Pay attention to it. Support it.

And we will all be the better for it.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Who were your direct personal Heroes in your life?

We all have personal heroes. People who affected us directly and changed the course of our lives, forever. People we never may have gotten a chance to thank in later years. People who we never saw again.

Who are these people? Your teachers, friends, significant others, romantic relationships. I'm not talking about political leaders who will never know they affected you or accept they have as you're being a part of a group. But those who have touched you directly even physically, who knew you, who were in your daily life.

Regarding family, my siblings, my mother and especially my grandmother (my mother's mother) were major influences. But I'm not talking about our parents, grandparents, or siblings. That should be a given. Rather those beyond your nuclear family and family in general.

Here is a chance to thank them in a public forum. They will never see this, some of them are gone now, but here is my chance anyway and the reasons I have to thank them for. I almost didn't post this because it's not a brag post. Some of what I say below isn't so great. I'm not perfect nor the best person I've ever met. I try always to be better, to update my life view. But it's all founded, as are we all, on our past and our choices.

I had ADHD as a kid and I guess I matured out of it into ADD, without the hyperactive physical concerns. But my mind still works in a not quite normal way. This has led to my excelling in many things. But it has also caused me, and others, grief, and difficulties.

For those few who saw something in me, who took that extra time and concern for me, it made my life just a little bit easier and overall, better. I remember after graduating high school, years later, considering who that was in my high school years and came to realize there were three teachers pretty much all the kids who knew them believed them to be the three smartest teachers in our school. And I realized those three were the only three who realized my potential and had patience with me and helped me along.

So just remember, you never know what you do for others that could change the course of someone's life for the better. Or the course of the world, for that matter.

Remember too, that in changing someone's life like that, we also can change our own. These are some of mine.

ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS - This is a difficult one to address for obvious reasons, but I'm brave and will do my best. I'll only mention a few major ones. I wish them all well and have always hoped they would do better after we separated.

--M., my first wife (yes, I had a few, see below). She was my best friend and we married (I married, she had pointed out that we didn't have to, but I had been raised Catholic, hadn't quite washed that out of my mind yet and so, we got married) undoubtedly too young (at 20). We went through our early 20s together and for that, I am forever grateful. We were a great match, until, as happens, we weren't.
--M., my long-term friend before, during and a bit after college. Never my legal spouse but I always credited us as a half marriage (not quite common law, not quite, not, and so I've always felt I've had 3.5 marriages) and she certainly deserves the credit. This was my most honest relationship in my entire life. Something I only realized in recent years. Even though we were both exploring our selves through our lives and through getting our university degrees in psychology, I wish we could both have been more emotionally mature. Especially myself. I have thought of her often all through my life and I know she was something extraordinary. Sadly perhaps other relationships after suffered in comparison. Not so much because I was thinking in comparison, but because I had seen what could be in a relationship. Even when it wasn't.
--K., my second wife who gave me an amazing albeit difficult to raise son. Actually exactly, according to my mother, like me...and it was then I began to appreciate how much I owed my mother for not having killed me as a child, but instead, found creative ways I could excel and she could retain her sanity.  We had a great deal of fun in the beginning. She met me when I was at a point of growing somewhat suicidal after my previous relationship break up. I was partying myself to death over about a year and a half, on purpose and with intent. I was growing more serious about questioning my life and existence when she showed up and ... made me smile again. While we probably should have ended things before marriage, it happened. And I got my son out of it who has been my friend and a became a stabilizing factor for me until I grew into being a father.
--C., my third (and final?) wife who gave me an amazing daughter. I had thought maybe this marriage would finally be the one to last forever. But I can see now that was never going to happen. Still, I gathered many interesting and rewarding experiences from our relationship and for a few years, it was a great romance. Perhaps because I was more mature and educated by then? Raising a son with ADHD (especially as a step parent), while married to a spouse with ADD, never an easy thing to deal with and in the end it, among other things was our downfall.

FRIENDS

Jimmy Snowberger, 3rd grade, he led to my character "Jimmy", in DEATH OF HEAVEN's first full chapter, The Conqueror Worm, available as a standalone ebook and audiobook.
James Snow, 3rd grade, he led to my character "James", in DEATH OF HEAVEN's first full chapter, The Conqueror Worm, available as a standalone ebook and audiobook.
Bill A. 5th - 7th grades (moved away), introduced me to Dave.


Dave H. 6th - 12th grades and beyond, a compilation character in my true crime screenplay, THE TEENAGE BODYGUARD.
Rod W. - 11th -12th grades and beyond, a compilation character in my true crime screenplay, THE TEENAGE BODYGUARD.
Curt W. - childhood until he died in the late 1990s, friend of my older brother and our family and my extra brother from another mother and father.


K-12 EDUCATION

Horace Mann Elementary School, Tacoma, WA 1965-1966
Mr. Llewellyn (5th grade) - Aside from being a good teacher and a decent person, my mother paid him to tutor me in math after school. It was a painful and laborious process. Even he was surprised how hard it was for me to grasp certain concepts.
Mrs. VanArnum (6th grade), an amazing teacher who pushed me and put up with me and set me up for better success in junior high school. On our last day in 6th grade, she brought in caviar (I hated it), and other things to stimulate us and introduce us to new things and played a 45 records for us.

Stewart Jr. High, Tacoma, WA 1967-8, 1969-70
Mr. (9th grade Industrial Design (Mechanical Drawing))
Mrs. Arden (Earth Sciences), just a great all around teacher. We loved her so much, the entire class held her hostage and held a kangaroo court about her teaching. At the end of the class hour, she was pissed off, but hid it well, and we judged her a great teacher.
Mrs. X (Algebra) - I'd love to tell you who she is. Was probably, she was older even in 1969. She is listed as "X" on purpose, because in giving me a passing grade out of junior high school with all Ds and one B (mechanical drawing), she made me promise her two things: One, never ever tell anyone she taught me (thus the "X") and Two, promise not to go on in high school to take Geometry (I broke that promise and yes, though I loved that class, I got a D,  and for two semesters. But I got through it, and never told anyone who my Algebra teacher was).


Holy Rosary Catholic School
Ms. X, I do not remember her name. She did not normally teach at this school. I had the principle and head nun of that school in my only grade there, eighth grade. I went only for that last year they taught, then returned to public school. Why, is a long story. My younger brother five years my junior started there in first grade until he died of liver cancer. Ms. X was a teacher for Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics and taught it to us in 8th grade. It was an amazing time and experience. I read 60 novels that year. My reading went from what I found to be a disappointing below average 280 words per minute at 60% comprehension, to 20,000 words per minute at 80% comprehension. But I settled into a comfortable rate of reading a novel in about an hour. And I was already a comparatively voracious reader compared to children my age. Over time I found that, even though reading a novel in an hour was like watching a movie in my head, I really did enjoy taking a week (or two) to read a novel, to savor it over days, rather than have it over in an hour. Reading dynamics was better suited to what JFK used it for, reading newspapers.
Lincoln High School, Tacoma, WA 1970-1973
Mr. Coe (Literature, 10th grade), was helpful to me in my reading in independent reading and literature classes.
Mrs. Barden (English Comp., 10th grade), saw I could be a writer and tried to invigorate that side of me.
Ms. Wooten (Civics / World Problems during the Watergate years, 12th grade). She actually met Zhou Enlai. She was an amazing teacher during things like Nixon, China and Watergate.
Willie Stewart, principle. Just an amazing man. He was black thankfully as we had the largest percentage of black students in the city and a very volatile time in our history, when there were still civil (race oriented) riots downtown in the hilltop district. Everyone loved him. Yes, I got to know him better than many, in visiting his office more than once.
1973 Lincoln High School Rifle Team
Mr. Williams, rifle team coach. I was on the team for all three years of high school though not so active the final year as I had a job as snack bar manager at the Auto-View Drive-in Theater I worked at since 9th grade. But when I became manager my time was limited. Mr. Williams would talk to us and tell us stories about his time in the army in Central America and just stuff about life in general.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. My mother always said to get the best possible teachers in anything and she did that for me. Because I was so active, she knew she had to wear me out and get me out of the house a lot to save her sanity... and mine. So I took guitar lessons (2nd grade), tap dancing and acrobatics (4th grade), foil fencing, and other things. I was also in a variety of organizations like YMCA Indian Guides, Cub Scouts and so on.
Me and Steve Armstrong Sensei day of my blue belt
Steve Armstong Sensei, Isshinryu Karate. Steve is gone now but was like a second dad and role model to me and many of us. I started there in about 5th grade. He had been a Marine drill instructor and based in Okinawa where he learned under style founder Shimabuku Tatsuo. I had to fight in tournaments and he started the first Seattle Open International Karate Tournaments. I met interesting people in the 1960s like the later infamous Chuck Norris, Ed Parker, and others.
Dan Delaney Sensei, his wife (bowing), visiting Lorraine DiAnne Shihan, and myself
Dan Delaney Sensei, Aikido. This was after the year 2000. I studied various martial arts in my life but found Aikido in college. First time I had a dojo nearby, I went and stayed until years later I had knee problems and gave up active training. Still, I am to this day on the Board of Directors for our non-profit 501c3 school. Dan had a stroke some years ago sadly and had to give up active practice himself but it still on our board.

Mr. Ekes, private youth gun club leader. One day in junior high, about 8th grade, I don't know what sparked it but my mother said, "I've had it with you're being gun crazy. I called the police department and they suggested a guy who has a kid's gun club and they highly recommend him. He also reloads some ammunition for the police and uses their gun range downtown Tacoma. You're going." He was an inspiration. In the actual handling of guns, I learned to respect and got over my fascination. Guns he said are a tool, not a toy.

Flight Commander, I'm on left, my First Sgt. on right
Sgt. Davidson, TPD & Civil Air Patrol, in my 8th-grade year. Our neighbor was a Tacoma Police Department Sergeant and CAP leader. CAP is an auxiliary of the USAF. His kids were in it also. They got my sister, three years my senior into it but she didn't like the military aspects and wearing a uniform. She becomes a flight attendant and is one to this day. I learned so much in this about search and rescue, aviation, communications, and flew small planes (also in my screenplay The Teenage Bodyguard).


MILITARY

USAF 1976-1979 (my service began in 1975 Vietnam era, ended in 1981)
TSgt. Pete Pettina (Fairchild, AFB, Spokane, WA 92nd FMS, Survival Equipment Shop, he was like a second dad and even told me on my last days in the service that I was like a second son to him.
Dan M., my best friend at that time. I'd tell you more but I could go to jail. Kidding. Sort of. I was also his parachute shop Sgt. though I think he was actually in the front shop in Fabric and Rubbergear (life vests, 20 man and 1 man life rafts, environmental suits, and Thermal Nuclear Flash Barrier Radiation curtains for nuclear weapons platforms (B52 Stratofortress bombers).
Craig T., my other best friend at that time. Again, I'd tell you more but I could go to jail. Kidding. Sort of. I was also his parachute shop Sgt.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Ft. Steilacoom Community College (now Pierce College), Steilacoom, WA 1980-1982
Prof. X - English Composition. I simply cannot remember his name but can see him in my mind. He was an ecologist and was building a replica of Henry Thoreau's cabin from Walden's Pond. This was my first professor to actively try to engage me to become a writer saying that I simply had to become a writer and he could see that clearly, because my writings "sparked with ideas". When I rebuked that belief and he asked why I said because I was terrible at the rules of grammar. His response was that was why we have editors and I should forget about that and just write. Thereby for the first time really as an adult giving me license to go for it. I owe him for that.
1984 University graduation with siblings
Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 1982-1984
Prof. Rod Rees (Psychology Dept./Phenomenology Bellingham, WA), my departmental advisor. A massive brain who attended Brown University in the 60s and who's student think tank was instrumental in the famous shut down of that campus in protest. Through his guidance and advice, I learned so much about myself, psychology, the mind and brain, and life.
Prof. (now) Perry Mills (Theater Dept. Bellingham, WA), another massive brain and aggressive dynamic teacher who I couldn't get enough of. To sit in his presence and listen was to go on a journey into history and brilliant academics.
Instructor Bob Schelonka, Theatre Dept./Team Script & Screenwriting series of classes. He was my introduction to writing in this format and had a gentle and incisive style that led with humor and dealing with the eight rabble-rousers that we were.
Prof. Cvetkovic, Linguistics. Wow, I forgot all about sentence diagramming. I also took linguistics at one of my universities. "Alveolar fricative", that just stuck in my mind. lol
Fascinating stuff I was lucky enough to have an amazing professor for during the year I graduated, in a class that could have been dry as dist with another instructor. I remember he had an accent. He was passionate, energetic, funny, like a kid teaching something he was fascinated by. I don't know how I could have gotten through that class without him. My gf had the class with me and she agreed, he was amazing. At graduation he was given a professor of the year award or something like that to my surprise, and we both had to fully agree.

FILM PRODUCTION

Stanley Kramer, film director. Bellevue Community College. I took a serious of film production classes from him in about 1985 and only on Saturdays for a series of weeks, he was an amazing and impactful teacher and storyteller. Amazing stories.

These were many of if not most of MY personal heroes from my life.

Have a great New Years in 2019! 
And, remember those of your own personal heroes in YOUR life.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas! OR, Happy Holidays. Why? I'll tell you....

Merry Christmas! It seems like a fairly innocuous greeting.

Do you find this offensive? Some do.
It has inherent goodwill intended. Which confuses some.

Because we live in a diverse world, a diverse multicultural, multitheistic country and environment, we merely need to be aware of that in our thoughts, speech and actions. No, it's not asking that much of us.

IF one cannot function appropriately and positively in that kind of a life, one is of limited mental, emotional and cultural capacities.
Do you find this offensive? Some do.
So before you start ranting about the ludicrous immature belief in a "war on Christmas", of which there is none, but is rather an opening of awareness of others besides one's self or one's culture or religion, or in some cases, one's "bubble", do consider you are merely extending that well-intentioned greeting to other to whom it may have no meaning to them.
Not everything is as we believe. 
  • December 25th is understood to not be the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. 
  • The song Jingle Bells was originally intended for Thanksgiving, and was titled, "One Horse Open Sleigh" 
  • December 25th was originally a pagan festival day but the Catholic church absorbed it in order to compromise and assimilate pagan cultures when they were moving into.their region. 
  • Christmas now has transcended the Christian faith and spread out in a secular fashion to those of other cultures and religions. How is that a bad thing? The underlying principles are still there and if Jesus were alive to see this, he just might be okay with it. Because what he preached was the reality and not the dogma, not the diction, not the rules. But the people. And compassion for one another. 
  • The Golden Rule is based on the principle Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,” adding, “for this is the Law and the Prophets.” The significance of Jesus "Christ’s" statement here is huge. What we call the Golden Rule is the summation of God’s entire way of life.
So much of Christmas is about peace and love, make it so!

What we believe to be is different originally than we thought to begin with. So there is really no need to be zero tolerant, or uncompromising, or to believe in a war on something merely because of a call for greater awareness and understanding of other's different cultures or religion. Essentially...

It's Okay! We need either greater awareness and compassion for one another, or have more wars and cultural friction and misunderstanding of one another. Especially during a season that calls out for greater compassion and caring, help and sacrifice for others, it truly is, okay.

So why would you offer it to them? It is obviously out of ignorance either in an understanding of our country or specifically in another person, you do not know very well and perhaps should take the time to consider and address them appropriately in a way they can understand what you mean and intend.

To wish them goodwill and happiness this season.

It just means we have to give some thought to something we may never have given much thought TO. Which is actually the original intent of that greeting. to wit, if you are NOT giving it enough thought in the first place, you are actually going counter to what you are trying to say anyway and pointing out to others that there may be a war on Christmas, but it is coming from Christians who cannot give the greeting enough thought and feeling to share it in appropriate ways.

Even if that means using another greeting.

What we all really need more than anything in this world, is to all get along.

Because it is in the end, the thought... that counts. Isn't it?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Middle East, Vietnam, All Over Again?

As a fiction writer, horror and science fiction writer and filmmaker, I wish you all a very Merry (or, Scary) Christmas Eve Day. Scary for fun. Not the scary reality we feel crushing us from every direction.

We do live in interesting times.

I had thought America lost its taste for war and playing chess with another country during in Vietnam. Although today with a ridiculous Pres. Donald Trump, we can all see we are now playing checkers... and losing.

And yet, Iraq. And then, Afghanistan. And illegally, Iraq and so on now within and all over the Middle East. Interesting times, indeed.

It feels like Russia and America are simply trying to sow chaos throughout in the Middle East for reasons of unethical self-interest. All when we should be trying to solidify the region and get the hell off fossil fuels, the Middle East's primary source of wealth.

In 1984 I wrote a screenplay. My first. It was titled, Ahriman. He was a prince/prophet on a violent desert planet who was trying to lead his historically extremely violent people to peace.

Not unlike sectors of the Middle East and even America today in many hating the idea of peace and many luxuriating in the cathartic concept of...hating.

I set it on that desert planet for the interaction between them and earth. I got two professors to let me write it as a self-study class I'd get credit for, and so I'd leave college with a full screenplay. I got two A's on it.

After a year of a special team script/screenwriting class toward my minor (psychology being my major), I was selected with seven others from my playwriting class. A class I was sent to by my intro to fiction writing professor to improve my short story dialog. Even though I was one of the top two top writers in the class.

At the end of my college career that spring, I was surprised to realize I still didn't have a full feature screenplay to leave my university with. Just short plays and TV scripts.

One of my university professors read it and asked, "Why a desert planet?"

I said that it fit what I was trying to do in using the ancient middle east religions and associations. I was concerned at the time about Dune, in having just come out as I was NOT trying to associate with that film.

Though I didn't see the film Dune until months after finishing the screenplay, I had heard about it and had loved the book when I first read it in 10th grade in high school. Which led to me finishing the book and writing my first ever short story, a science fiction story of an assassin school and one student's coming of age and realizing that the authorities were not what he had been led to believe.

As was happening to America at that time in 1970 with the Vietnam war and so many other things. Eventually, I did see and like the film and so I am now and ever since a David Lynch fan, who directed the film. I must say I would have loved to see the film that it almost became in having Alejandro Jodorowsky direct it, a project which fell through.

My professor thought about it for a moment and then said, "Well, desert or jungle, I guess you could go either way." And I didn't want to go jungle.

Which brings me back to the Vietnam jungle war and now these desert wars, and these problematic desert religions of Judaism, Catholicism and the youngest sibling, Islam. None of them towers of intellect or humanity as we've seen. And most recently in the actions of sectors of the Islamic Jihadi actors. Not to blame an entire religion for the actions of a few fools.

Our, Humanity's need or desperate lack of need for religion in today's modern world is another topic for another time. One which I've covered extensively in past blogs.

The Middle East did not just do all this to themselves. I'm just unsure now if we are trying to clean it up and retract to leave them to their own devices as should be done. We are seeing some behind the scenes defensiveness going on. But with this President Trump, not so much behind the scenes really. We are seeing clearly some of his actions as being for himself and that in any president is a serious if not a treasonous issue.

Or are simply disingenuously continuing the madness for fun and profit. Of which I assume we are and will continue do in following our trail of destruction of the latter. Along with the primary actors of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran. And how (or where) is China not surreptitiously involved?

The president's own party is not with him any longer.

Description

John Michael Mulvaney is an American politician of the Republican Party who is serving in President Donald Trump's cabinet as Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who called Trump a "terrible human being" on video, leading up to the 2016 election.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has just said: "It could be a costly mistake." And that it, "...not only threatens the safety and security of the United States, but also emboldens ISIS [which Mr. Trump just said was gone and we won the war against them, which is patently not true], Bashar al Assad, Iran, and Russia."

People elected Donald Trump to break the nonsense. To shatter the status quo. Oddly enough, maintaining a now gone perceived status quo is also the primary goal of conservatives who voted for him. That pretty much sums up the confusion of conservatives and the Republican party. And in part why we are in this mess in the first place.

Indeed, Donald Trump has shaken things up. Which in some ways is good. But that was incidental and truly not his plan, if he even had one. Which he does not. He has not. He's simply injected even more nonsense into an already self-induced mess. And for his own devices and profit. In fact, he has done far more damage than anyone could foresee. Except those many who would never vote for him.

What we need now is a real POTUS. One who will look around and fix this mess. For America. Not for one man. Putin. Or Trump.

We need to bring back America. Bring back sanity. Return democracy to the world and America in a better format.

And give the world once again, Peace. War, it is said, is failed politics. We need to elect high-quality politicians from here forward. Purge our ranks of these failed politicians.

I wish you all an island of peace in all this in this holiday season. A brief moment where you can look down and see you are all right. Your loved ones alive and hopefully well and around you.

All the best this season. We deserve a break. We deserve peace and a humane world.

It will come to us if we want ti enough. It will take time to be sure.

It will arrive sooner, if we pay ever more attention to it, nurturing it to move toward us every day, in ever action.


Monday, December 17, 2018

21 Reasons I Like Working For Myself

I've had a variety of jobs. Retails sales from 10th grade nights in high school on and for longer than I wish to remember. There was a time I thought i could never get out of retail sales. then after high school I worked in an insurance company in various departments like shipping and receiving, mailroom, printing, deliveries, etc.

Then years in the USAF. I went in Law Enforcement, got changed because of bad feet in basic training (when inducted I asked if I should remove my socks and the doctor said, "No, not if you want to get in."), went into being a parachute rigger in survival equipment (because I'd been sky diving (as detailed in my true crime screenplay, The Teenage Bodyguard). I just missed out on becoming a flight simulator technician), joined the OSI at end, then got out for college where I eventually graduated.

I'm the one taking the photo
After that some unbelievable jobs both bad and good. Through college and university years I worked at Tacoma Tower...Posters, then Records, then after graduating, Video (in both Tacoma and then moved to Seattle Mercer store...
Tower Posters in Tacoma
So many great stories and friends from there (some no longer with us). Then years in a corporate environment I eventually retired from as a Sr. Tech Writer, and various kinds of IT administration jobs.
Corporate office in 2008 Seattle 
It paid for my kids growing up, for us to live. Then when they moved out and I could do whatever I liked or wanted to do, I kept working and started writing day and night toward retiring.

I just wanted to write and be involved in filmmaking. Something I grew up being fascinated with and really, should have started doing after high school.

So now that I'm doing it, what is so great about it? What are the things I like about working for myself. Obviously there are some down sides. That being said, I also do work as hard as ever but I also may put in more hours day or night or whenever as I feel necessary and wanting to do it.

My home office
Well, I'll give you a look inside:
  1. There is no limit to how many hours you have to work or how few. You cannot work more hours than are allowed if you want to. No concerns about allowed overtime or required minimums. And so, my hours are obviously my own.
  2. Work is always judged by myself and not a committee of those who do not have even an inkling or any a background in whatever the hell I'm doing.
  3. Absolutely no commuting. Unless I want to.
  4. No Christmas or New Year's holiday layoffs. In fact, NO layoffs. 
  5. Casual Friday is EVERY day. Dress code is what I put on in the morning. If anything.
  6. I can go anywhere on the Internet at any time without repercussion or concern from management with no worry about firewall, seeing the principle or being fired. Only maybe, the Federal government. 
  7. I get lunch or breaks whenever I want them. NO limit in their time or number. Lunch is when I take it and it's over when (if) I return. 
  8. If I ever want a drink or a vape hit...done. I can use any substances I want to aide in creativity, if and whenever I want. NO Drug Testing. In fact, I think I'll have one right now! Which brings us to number 9....
  9. I can have as much fun as I want.
  10. I can now actually give a damn about what I'm doing 99% of the time. Sometimes even 100% of the time.
  11. I feel far more alive now!
  12. There is no one to blame but myself. Meaning, when there actually was someone else to blame, you couldn't really point that out. Now there IS no one else to blame and you CAN point it out! Or uh, wait....
  13. I can jump between projects at the drop of a hat as energy and creativity dictate, to do whatever I FEEL I NEED to be doing, and when. 
  14. There is no "Monday Morning Blues". In fact, there is no "Mondays", or "Fridays" for that matter. My week starts every week, today. Or tomorrow. 
  15. I can actually be myself, 100% of the time. On the other hand, I am also the only one who annoys me, or for that matter, who makes me laugh. That last one though I'll admit, can be a bit weird at times.
  16. Only I decide the projects. When they start, finish and how good the finished product turned out. 
  17. No cubicles! EVERY one gets an office. No one argues about any of that!
  18. Great coffee and treats! Always. 
  19. No guilt when personal things crop up.
  20. Finally...NO corporate BS. No shareholders \ no stockholders \ no management at all to answer to.
Happy Holidays!