Monday, June 19, 2017

Why are we so much less than them?

How did we ever get here?

Once we realized that higher education was as important as basic (K-12) education, once we realized that not all could achieve higher education, that perhaps not all even should, and that it should be paid for not by all but by only those few well off enough who could afford it (or with great sacrifice, might be able to), for those who could suffer for it to happen when others had to suffer nothing for it, then we most definitely started that long decline back to being less than we had once become, once we had realized just how important education for all really is.

You got that, right? Because if you didn't, read on. If you did, already know what I'm going to say. Right?

Those who could afford higher education, and even many of those who couldn't, started into the mindset of wanting more for their child than they had or their parents. It began their striving to find the money to get them into the best schools possible in order to eventually get into a college or university at all, or to gain entrance to the best of those possible.

That...led to a disparity and a gap opened. A gap we see daily in misunderstandings of government and politics of what is real and unreal or fake, of who the "enemy" is, and what is the best interests of each and every individual person. A situation that has mired us in nonsense and given our for profit news a platform for confusion and raking in money. All based on our ignorance and our desire to be more knowledgeable and wise than many of us are.

Once that mindset became ubiquitous or nearly so, that gap widened. As the financial disparity grew between the wealthy and the poor, between the middle class and either of those others, the belief that we had individually a need to find a way for our children to attain higher education, rather than everyone attaining it, then the situation grew ever more ominous.

Until finally we find ourselves here and now. With a situation where we wonder, just how did we get here?

People started to seek out the best of charter schools, rather than supported public schools. "Remove my child from public school so they get a "good" education at a "good" school," became the mindset of far too many.

We need to support public schools so that they are the best schools. We need to make them all free, so we can enhance the intelligence of the American citizen, be they rich or poor. This is not about who can earn and should deserve education, but about our country, bettering itself.

This is not socialism as the rich suffer upon us to keep those down, remaining down. It in fact sounds very familiar to the old Tom Crow laws to keep ex slaves down. It is something that has not gone away but become inculcated into mainstream society and government.

We have dumbed down our citizens. Which is sad as with the media and Internet situation, the easy access (for most) to knowledge and shared ideas, we should be the most intelligent country on the planet. And yet, we are not and we are continuing to slip down the ladder of education.

We should not be so much less than them, than those with money, without concerns about where the next month's rent, electricity, food or even water will come from. Where can there even be a consideration in that situation for a child's education?

There cannot. But that seems to matter nothing whatsoever to those who "have", for whatever reasons. Reasons of being born into a wealthy or well off family. Reasons of being extraordinary in mind. But we need to raise up not just the special, because of money or intellect. We need to raise up all our citizens. We are all Americans in this country, not just the select few. Selected by family wealth, or luck or destiny.

Just as was discovered when we made K-12 grades free, free and compulsory because it affected not just citizens individually but the nation as a whole, we now need to make them good again. And because of advancing technologies and a world evolving out of the industrial age, higher education beyond those basic levels needs to be made as free and available to everyone. Not because it is easy, but because, as Pres. Kennedy said, it is hard.

And it is the right thing to do.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Divorcing America from America

Okay, this should be interesting....

It's being said that America is in a divorce mentality. Americans don't like Americans who hold different beliefs anymore. We can't seem to just agree to disagree and continue to be productive. One side is loathing the other. How exactly did that happen?

Partisan and for profit news, instant media, Internet, too much information finally coming out about the "other" side, and so on. Also, power plays, big money, greed and ignorance. Ignorance in the face of so much information people can't absorb it all or tell reality from lies any longer.

Progressives react against the extremes of ridiculous religious mentalities, conservative extremism, Republican fiscal ridiculousness, and so on.

Conservatives react against that response to them because they do not see themselves as defective in beliefs or actions. They are sick of being ignored. Even though so many of their beliefs should be ignored, or better, massaged into non existence and a better more useful way of viewing the world. While they mean well, they wonder why they are they held in such disdain? And so they react equally against that.

We're all equal, or supposed to be, so why do they not feel equal? First of all, if you hold a foolish view, you have set yourself up for that in the first place. And there are some progressives who do go too far into utter ridiculousness. But not overall.

If we need to follow one group or the other, regression and fear int he conservative mentality surely isn't the path to better living. A shark, as they say regarding a relationship, always needs to move forward, or it dies. Just like a country. Conservatives want to be that shark that refuses to move.

Progressives need not to loathe their "spouses" in the other side, but see them as the ignorant, dysfunctional, damaged goods stuck in ancient ways in this marriage they are joined to in perpetuity. The need not to hate their partners, but love them and exhibit understanding. Manage the relationship somehow into functionality. They obviously are moving too fast for conservatives who in their best of times, fear reality and the future, change and new and novel things.

Those on that other conservative side need also in a way, to do the same. Only they also really need to begin that long uphill road in seeing how they are viewing things... incorrectly. How they are steeped in unfounded and unsustainable realities as we move forward into a future that will not put up with their beliefs any longer without killing and damaging the planet and multiple economies.

Yes, I clearly see where that is all a contradiction, an unequal playing field, how each side sees the other as being wrong. Where one side is wrong to a degree, but the other side is wrong to a much larger degree. We need to be moving INTO THE FUTURE, not BACK INTO THE PAST. Not back to dysfunctional antiquity.

Bring back the coal industry? What the hell is wrong with your mind? Nothing? So it's just all about politics and money, greed and clutching unto death, old ways designed for a long past lifestyle? Oh, I see....

The bottom line is this, either way we need to get along and move forward, no matter how much conservatives keep wishing to weigh humanity down into a sticky pit of smelly old ways and sad, dysfunctional beliefs.

And yes. We need to keep this marriage working. Even if one side is delusional and unbalanced.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Did I hear you correctly? Did I try?

The person trying to communicate something has to listen harder than the person they are trying to communicate to. - Alan Alda

When you listen, are you just waiting for them to stop so you can talk? Then how much are you really listening? As with two actors on stage, one does not say their lines, once the other's lines are completed. Rather, one speaks their lines in response to the content of what the other's actor's lines were.

I would actually rather say, "...the person they are trying to communicate WITH". I've said for a very long time that communication in discourse is a two way street. In considering talking with another from a foreign country where English is a second language to them, we would do well to understand that even to the person closest to us, there may be a very similar process going on.

We tend to communicate in generalizations that if examined leave much to be desired in the way of clarity and understanding. Some people, confidence types and politicians for example, abuse and make use of this known unknown.

The one imparting information in a communication has to communicate their intention (and information) as they wish it to be understood. Yet they also have to do so in such a way as to best impart that knowledge to the other (for them to assimilate it) in a way (in ways?) where that person is capable of understanding it. And understanding it as much as is possible. As long as they understand the majority of it, or enough of it, then the communication is typically considered successful. Not infrequently however, it is later found that was simply not the case.

Just as well, the one being communicated to needs to actively try to understand not just what is being imparted to them (simply listening), but they also need to try to understand what the person communicating them them is attempting to communicate. This can be done by viewing the information coming in on a variety of levels and encompassing various degrees of specificity and generalities. Some of this is done invisible without thinking. However not always and not with as good a degree of understanding as is frequently required.

The point being... in simply telling what you have to say to someone, in their simply listening what someone is saying to someone, in the one imparting what they understand in a baseline format where the information is wholly contained within the information, it disregards how another is able to decode and associate that information in such a way that they are not only getting the baselines information, but also the intent and scope of what the person is trying to share.

Sounds like an overly complicated way of expressing a very simple concept.
Yet, in observing people's communication and listening skills, and at times the result of that communication, it is in no way simple. Otherwise we wouldn't have so many misunderstandings where so much of the time even in discourse where it is "understood" that it was understood by both, it frequently is not in both reflection and examination.

So. Go communicate. :)

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Criminal President - Donald J Trump

Trump tweet: Wow, Comey is a leakier.
America: Wow, very believable former FBI director says Trump is a liar and potentially abusing his power as president into potential obstruction of justice and fired the FBI Director to stop an investigation into Trump. By the way, Comey didn't leak.

These weren't classified documents by any sense of the term. he disseminated, in part because of Trump's disparaging tweets. Another example that Trump tweeting is working against him and typically America, although in this case anyway, it worked for America in inspiring Comey to share information we needed to know. Why? Because others at Comey's level, have apparently followed Trump's request to slow down or stop this investigation as we say the day before Comey testified.

Trump: Comey vindicated me!
America: Really? THAT's what you got out of that?

Did Trump direct Comey to drop an investigation? Not exactly. He did not directly say or request that. But really?

Have you really NEVER watched a movie about how criminals, or organized crime, the mob, la cosa nostra works?

Or a disreputable president in say, House of Cards.

Only the most stupid and characterized versions of these criminal types actually says what they mean, for purposes of plausible dependability and the potential for the meeting being taped or recorded by the authorities. Which Trump said was "taped" though no one tapes anymore, they digitally record. Which I doubt because true criminals don't want their meetings recorded as it will be used against them so I'd be stunned to find there are "tapes" or recordings, which would I'm sure, vindicate not Trump, but Comey.

By the way, why ARE we seeing so many leaks from the Trump administration? I'll tell you. People are afraid for America and they dislike a criminal in the white house, Some of us truly despise the Office of President being tarnished so badly and so often.

The connections between Trump's people and Putin and Russia are a consistently bad taste in the mouth of Lady Justice. Russia is the largest organized crime nation state on the entire planet. Trump loves them.

And why is Trump the only one not concerned about Russia hacking America and American elections? Even going so far as to deflect in having said it could have been anyone else? A claim Putin even picked up on recently. All when we clearly know it's not and that Russia directed the hacks themselves, all the way up to Putin. Don't believe that man when he says he doesn't know what is going on in his administration. Russia, is not America.

Let's face it, Trump is a "criminal".

Someone my mother would have called, "a real louse". One who although he is not technically a criminal, it is only because he is used to bullying people through his position, power and money. He is one who uses lawyers and the courts (and politicians) like weapons against the innocent. He is one who abuses people he hires and then refuses payment as in one case and I'm sure many, many more, Trump claimed the contractor did bad work... then tried to rehire him.

If Trump were an average person like you or me, he'd have been jailed years ago merely because like us, he would have had a lack of funds to bribe and over burden the court system until he won or more typically until his opponents simply went bankrupt in our too heavily weighted toward the wealthy judicial system.

So. Who does one believe? A man we all know lies, or a man who has consistently been if not perfect, perfectly rational and forthright? Unlike potentially our worst president in history.

Who are we going to believe? An actual criminal in Trump? Or an ex Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

We are giving President Trump a multi billion dollar education on the constitution.

From this president on,how about let's only elect those who are already educated on the constitution (and decency) on their own time, because they give a damn about it, and us. And not just acquiring and abusing even more power and money,and being so focused on self aggrandizement while continually inflating an already massively inflated ego and bank accounts.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cowardly Islamic Terrorist's Final Religion War

Yet another attack this past weekend by yet more alleged religious mental defects, murderers and criminals in London. Wishing all the best to those in London who have been killed, harmed, frightened or who have to repeatedly put up with the assholes who think their victim mentality, their need for relevancy through foolish banal religious mindsets, through the sick theistic belief system of fools, cretins and underachievers gives them any kind of license whatsoever to do harm to others.

First off, Islamic terrorists are cowards, pure and simple. Sort of, Not so much perhaps in many of their physical actions in combat or even suicidal actions, but most assuredly in their inability to be a part of human society and achieve change through means that do not harm or destroy others. Especially those innocents and members of their own religion.

However, suicide murder can also be considered a cowardly act in that once one disregard one's death in the event, there is clearly then no need, no strife, no efforts, no thoughts needed in achieving the difficult issues of evoking a movement through slower and more acceptable forms of political and social changes.

In that, they are pure cowards, lazy, stupid even and all those other things Republicans tend to label the poor and non Republican types with.

Is this going to be how the final global Religion War to end all religious wars begins? It may not start today, or next week, next year, or even ten years from now. But someone will one day have to ask, is today where it all started?

Will it end religions around the planet finally evolving us into the future? Finally? Actually one could call this the Reality Wars, except it's not a war against reality, it's a war against unreality. We have to start seeing the real world how it really is and not through a filter of unreality in religious thought and those who have taken that to their secular way of thinking. Yes, it's a hot mess.

Not these vastly silly Middle Eastern desert religions eschatological end of times crap. But the actual end to the childish religious beliefs that have infected this planet since we first pulled ourselves out of the muck and the slime, looked up at the sun in the sky and began to worship it's power and majesty out of fear. Because religion was indeed bread from fear of an ignorant and ancient people. One that I would submit, began before we could think clearly, through out ignorance and fear of things like darkness and being within the food chain, and not at the top of it for a very, very long time.

After all, how could religions not evolve in that environment?

Religious Wars that begin from what will start merely as a lash out at religiously spawned murderers? Then when all religious and religious, especially Islamic followers and leader do not stand up and take action in order to support their reasons to exist outside of realms of science, of facts, of objective reality, then finally the rest of the world in all it's rationalist and atheists, then in one religion against another, those who can finally simply no longer take it anymore, attack the fantasy cults of Islamic terrorists and other religions not their own, as we then all devolve into utter and murderous insanity?

Before that happens w all need Islam, as well as all religious believers and leaders in general to express an ever viral allergic reaction to their way of thinking in any of those cultures who might be leaning in the directions of fantasy beliefs systems and especially the death oriented religions such as the Middle Eastern Death cults of Judaism, Catholicism and Christianity and Islam.

Is this the beginning of the end of all religions worldwide? Do we really want to take these immature belief systems into the stars with us? Is this why no extraterrestrials want to visit this planet because religion in their minds is simply too childish, too dangerous a belief system to allow contact with or to allow to expand into the cosmos?

Getting back to the hard facts, do we allow religions to continue, to allow these sick cults like Islamic terrorism to continue to fester and grow like a mold on our minds around the world? Are we seeing the beginning of how religion on planet Earth, ends?

Humans have a basic sense of OCD, of Obsessive Compulsivity which when it gets out of control turns into a disorder. We see it time and against in systems and processes that break down in human culture and business. In believing things like religion, we give a nod and a smile to the potential for some very bad things to happen.

Humans will turn anything into a religion, merely by their OCD leanings of turning anything into a religion, into a ridiculous belief system that goes beyond rationality to the ethereal. Our desire to believe that if a little of something is good or great, then much much more is fantastic when in reality is is typically death, pure and simple.

Even one of our greatest forms of thought like Buddhism, which is not and should never have been a religion has, by those raised in many of those Buddhist cultures, striven to turn it too into a religion. We have done this with sex, with money and economies. With just about anything if you give us a chance.

Even calling it in the western sense, Buddhism, rather than Dharma, is in a sense trying to turn it into something it's not, merely out of our ignorance of what it was originally meant to be. And even some of that original thought on it from the first Buddha was out of some degree of ignorance which with time and knowledge we could have honed to a sharp basis of reality and betterment and yet, has been turned into a religion.

What is Buddhism?

The name Buddhism comes from the word 'budhi' which means 'to wake up' and thus Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. This philosophy has its origins in the experience of the man Siddhata Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the age of 35. Buddhism is now 2,500 years old and has about 300 million followers world-wide. Until a hundred years ago, Buddhism was mainly an Asian philosophy but increasingly it is gaining adherents in Europe and America.

So Buddhism is just a philosophy?

The word philosophy comes from two words 'philo' which means 'love' and 'sophia' which means 'wisdom'. So philosophy is the love of wisdom or love and wisdom, both meanings describing Buddhism perfectly. Buddhism teaches that we should try to develop our intellectual capacity to the fullest so that we can understand clearly. It also teaches us to develop love and kindness so that we can be like a true friend to all beings. Thus Buddhism is a philosophy but not just a philosophy. It is the supreme philosophy.
From Buddhanet

The argument about how great religions are, have been countered by how horrifying they have at times been. It's not just all about finding the disaffected, but in finding the veins of cancer in these communities, in their advocates and religions, in the religious and the criminal leaders overall, and in religions themselves.

How do you justify the criminals who run mega churches and do not do what their religions teach? How do you justify the slut shaming , gender shaming, and other types of shaming by religions and their religious against their own for merely having a human nature? One their are taught to hate, to hate the basics of being human.

Eliminating these religious terrorists is not just about eliminating these terrorists, but in eliminating the hold religions have in a growing force of unreality and in eliminating these religions themselves. We have to divest ourselves of religions before we can grow beyond this nonsense.

As we have seen the only way religions are any good is when they are diluted, when much of what their tenets teach are ignored, when humans, pick and choose what is best to believe in what their religion has taught since the beginning. The basis, the foundation, the history of which is so typically ridiculous.

When are we going to grow up and see clearly what the problem is here, and it is not just that of those who take the worst of their religion and run with it, leading to death and destruction. And as in Muslim terrorists, typically the death and destruction of there own?

Wake up and smell the religious mayhem, the theistic sadism, the fantasy idiocy.

We can do so much better. But we need a massive change and real understanding of our nature of that of our universe. But religion certainly is not IT.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kathy Griffin's Ridiculous Trump Prop Head Shot Outrage

Comedian Kathy Griffin, always known for being outrageous, is being lambasted in the media because of a photo shoot where she holds up the several prop head of notoriously thin skinned, Pres. Donald Trump. Nonsense! Utter nonsense.

It's obviously a statement made to be over the top, to garner attention, to speak out as outrageously against a man who is as outrageous as Kathy and celebrity photographer and director Tyler Shields were in making this statement. She has apologized now, seeming to be very serious about it. But should she be? I'm not so sure.

This is art, it's a prop head, it's a statement. It's being over reacted to. Stop it! For those like Trump (THIS Trump) whining about this, how OLD ARE YOU? This is what you get when you kill education and art in schools. Ignorance. Intolerance. Fear.

What't the big deal?

Is the above true? Because face it, we have to judge Kathy's photo shoot by the actual quality of the man she was denigrating.

I really don't know about this one because although I do think it was going too far, it was ONLY going to far because of Terrorism lately and its obvious connection that is drawn with that.

Still, I've always liked Kathy. And I still do. This only strengthens my feelings for her as a professional. Again, I'm just sad she felt compelled to apologize and give Trump a chance to dwell on what, what a good guy he is and how he didn't deserve this, when he certainly did.

Free speech, right? Remember that? Comics speaking out clearly and politically incorrectly, against the monsters among us. Right?

When you consider how right wing nuts have pushed things since Trump came on the presidential stage, how they HATE being politically correct (unless you disagree with them and how is this not like that?), how it's okay to grab a woman anywhere because of Trump, in the mind of many of his neanderthal supporters, or to simply say whatever you like, whenever you like.

Seriously, get over it Melania (I feel it's abusive to call you Mrs. Trump, perhaps, First Lady Trump?). This is what it's like being married to POTUS. What do you think Michelle Obama went through? And Barack Obama never deserved what Donald has earned in all this. Good to hear now that Kathy is fighting back against what has become Trump bullying.

How some degenerates merely from Trump's lead, have become more blatantly racist, even to the point of actually stabbing people, even killing people, I'm not so sure if this isn't utterly and completely acceptable and appropriate as a statement of protest against a president who truly doesn't deserve his position and has proven already to have damaged this country, its reputation and the stability of an entire planet in forcing the readjustment of alliances away from us.

We SHOULD be outraged. But not at Kathy, surely. It is after all only a statement, not a call to actually kill the president. It's Art. If one can even understand art at even a child's level, that is.

If one drops the consideration of terrorism with this photo shoot, and then simply consider Trump and his own disagreeableness, lying, despicable personality, narcissistic ways, unending grandiose self aggrandizement, and so on and on and on during his campaign and after, in his chumming up to the Russians, to Putin, to the right wing nuts, to crazy evangelist types, and to outright racists and white supremacists.

EXACTLY how is this wrong and not simply an appropriate statement against a miserable human being who somehow pushed the concept of the Peter Principle to its breaking point in becoming President?

Kathy's a comic. This is her job. I wish she didn't feel compelled to apologize frankly. It's no less than Trump deserves because he's a man who can dish it out, but is unable to take it. So not really a "man", in the manly sense.

If I were him, well, I wouldn't have been him, but I also would have simply found a way to be positive about something like this. Instead, he does what he does best. Whine.
Get a couple of brass balls sir, you're the President of the United States of America. If it weren't for humor I seriously don't know how any of us would survive this Trump administration for the next four years.

We're ALL waiting for you to start acting like a rational and well adjusted President. But then, what with the FBI and Congressional investigations, you actually may never get a chance to mature into that role. I look forward to you off the world stage. Perhaps one day living in Moscow?

As for Kathy, all the best, you rock. Keep on keeping on!

Remember, if comics are our national canaries in a coal mine, do go gently in how you handle our canaries. And pay attention. It may be the last thing you do.

Monday, May 29, 2017

About the production of, The Rapping

We are currently deep into pre-production of Last good Nerve Production's short horror film, The Rapping. Originally intended as a three minute short horror film it is currently around ten minutes and will hopefully be completed under fifteen minutes in length.

Originally we had planned to have as our first narrative horror short film be one titled: The Bremerton Mea Culpa. It is a story I first wrote in college, published in Anthology of Evil and was further expanded in my book, Death of heaven.

I have built a tiny universe of my characters. In reading all of my fiction you at times can find characters from one story popping up elsewhere. So I have decided to build on my written fiction now in my produced films whenever possible. I love when I find characters I like in other places than where I expect to find them. Also some of my stories in books are available as short ebooks or audiobooks.

One example is from my story, Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer to a Question He Knever Knew. And yes I researched it, believe it or not back in that character's era there was indeed a Lord Ritchie. He also pops up in the World of Pirates anthology in a story titled, Breaking on Cave Island. It details a piece of Ritchie's life previous to "Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer..." during a time when he was, of all things, a pirate. I am currently also compiling a sequel, Anthology of Evil II, with some of these stories that were in anthologies. I'm hoping to have that out and available sometime this year.

When the World of Pirates anthology publisher offered to include a story of mine, I decided to use a previous character of mine and Lord Ritchie just seemed an obvious one to expand upon. Odd how these things pop up, altering things, heading you into directions you had never seen coming. Up to that point I had never even considered Ritchie might have been a pirate but it does fill out his background and perhaps explain some of his damage in life (you'd have to read the original to see what I mean). And trust me, his life is pretty damaged. But then, tampering with things one shouldn't bother can affect one in those ways.

Expanding on previous works is pretty much the same with my Mea Culpa Document of London story. That one is about a medieval witch hunter and judge. It too will be added to that overarching compendium of my characters as yet another branch of its own storyline.

So when we finally do get to that project after wrapping up The Rapping, it will already have a rich background to draw from. As the screenplay for Mea Culpa was being written, along with considerations of SFX, it grew, if not out of control, then much larger than we had intended for an initial project. A project that should be selected for its simplicity. But then, I always do tend to go full crazy...regardless.

So it was decided to first film a shorter and easier to shoot production. I've also been practicing writing "smaller" for years now. Consider my first screenplay, Ahriman, involved massive special effects and two planets. Good story though. One I may well update and put back out there to be produced. It has elements of Brainstorm, The 13th Floor and other such films.

Looking around at my writings of what to choose from, as these films were initially going to be drawn from my writings, nothing easy or simple was rising to the surface. As we had easy access to a location, a house with a sizable yard and garage where we can shoot literally any time we want, that was in part how the concept for the first film came up and the Garage Tales series was born.

However while discussing all this with fellow producers Nik and Gordon Hayes, we started to consider the attic in the home. The garage for Garage Tales lent itself to a larger concept. While the attic allowed (in my tiny mind anyway) a much smaller consideration somehow. Even though its square footage might just be greater than the garage. But an attic, well, attics have a built in fear factors. It's the unknown, the seldom gone into. The "what in the hell is that creeping around above us?"

It was right there, in the house. The attic, with its built in spookiness factor. Like basements, but different. Basements tend to be used more after all. So from there we developed a smaller conceit and delivery for our first narrative.

We just needed a story. We came up with the concept of a couple in a living room who hear a sound, seek it out and well, things happen. But what sound? Perhaps just a knocking sound, a tapping, sound a rapping. Why did rapping pop into my head?

Because it was Poe, pure and simple. I've  always been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, since I was a kid. I was a fan as a child of the Roger Corman films and the British Hammer horror films. I immediately realized I had been thinking about Poe's poem, The Raven. Just the first stanza though:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

And there it was. "The Rapping".

Immediately it was brought up about a conflict with modern Rap music and how it can be confused with that. But that is really just a double entendre. How is that a bad thing, at least in this case? Besides been there before. "JZ" Murdock, right? Not my fault and I'm older than Jay-Z after all.

Originally I was just thinking as executive producer and as screenwriter and editor, of using only the first stanza. But as the project developed I realized I needed to read the entire poem again and consider it in its entirety.

Which made me realize that it is really about grief and a lost love. Not a direction we were headed in. We had built this story with the love, the significant other, right there. The "love" was named Poppet, not Lenore as in the poem. I realized we needed a rewrite. The screenplay had already had some major changes made to it by then but this was much bigger.

I had to rethink that. In fact it stopped me dead in my rewrite. I also had to submit the paperwork to SAG\AFTRA (more about that later). To submit to them as an Indie signatory, I have a few documents to submit. One of which is the screenplay itself. As we now have a SAG\AFTRA actor (more about that later, too), we have to go this route if we wish to use her. The documents we have to initially submit to get the ball rolling are:

-Pre-Production Cast List
-Line-Item Budget
-Copy of the Screenplay (Treatments/Outlines are acceptable for non-scripted projects.)
-Signatory Verification
 Copy of Personal Photo ID (If signing as an Individual)
 Formation Documents (If signing as a Corporation, LLC, etc.)

So I had to have a good version of the screenplay to submit. I already have all the documents signed by the actors. But I was jammed up as there was now a reversal to my (our) original concept. As we have been realizing through this entire project and development, every stoppage like this has led us to a better project.

I took some time off and thought about it over a few days, all the while having it bouncing around in the back of my mind. I took my Harley out for a ride around Port Orchard, which was quite beautiful and a great repast after too many months of cold and rain.

Eventually I got back to it. Sitting down one day with Nik, I told him my problem and we discussed the storyline. It just all started to fall into place. Feeling rejuvenated, I began again to rewrite the screenplay. This time I got it done in one quick sitting. I now have a screenplay I can use to submit all these docs with. As I'm writing this the day before this blog is published, I just need to go over it one more time today and submit it.

Backing up... what have been the issues we've had that kept stopping us? We have brand new equipment, new software for editing the shots, and we've never done a narrative film, just documentary. So we have the experience of building a film, just not a narrative, and one with FX.

The story is of an entity that invades a home and affects the inhabitants. But what kind of an entity is it? Alien, specter (ghost, interdimensional being), demon, military invention, technological horror? What? Is the, are the invaded crazy, on drugs? This is all reflected in the opening establishing shots around Bremerton leading to the home.

Backing up again... Starting on a Friday, I was at the Port Orchard Dragonfly Cinema Film Festival. I had so much fun and got to be in another Kelly Hughes (Leprechaun Productions) horror film. Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson in Little House on the Prairie) was also in that film. Last year she had "murdered" me in another Hughes' production. So I knew her a little. I got to hang with Kelly and helped him with Alison over the weekend.

At some point it occurred to me to ask her if she'd like to be involved in our project. But how? She was busy and leaving on Sunday to speak to legislators in Sacramento on Monday. I couldn't let this opportunity pass us by. At the beginning of the film there is a place where the words of the first stanza of The Raven are superimposed on the screen. After a while I'd thought to have someone read those words rather that put them on the screen.

We'd found in a friend of Nik's and mine, Tom Remick, that he used to be a professional announcer. The fix for these words on the screen was obvious. But then Alison came into the scene and this was the obvious and a reasonable possibility of how to get her in the film. As a narrator of the poem I simply couldn't turn down this opportunity. And what actor wouldn't want to be involved in a Poe project?

So I asked her and she was happy to be a part of our project. She said when she was a child she had her mother read Poe to her before bed. Perfect! I spoke with Tom and he was happy to be a team player and understand the importance of having someone like Alison on the project. This led me to consider how to keep Tom on the project. Again it enhanced our project.

Thoughts were that he could do an underlying deeper voice to enhance the oddity of Alison's voice, or have him do some voice work at various places as an audio FX. Or perhaps have Tom read the stanza again at the end of the film. Perhaps having Alison's voice underly his at the end in a reversal of the opening lines. Having text read again at the end as well as the beginning of a film has been done many times before. Reading text at the beginning that when reread at the end, has an enhanced meaning by that point to the audience.

This past weekend I submitted the documents to SAG\AFTRA and have therefore begun the process of becoming a SAG\AFTRA signatory and actually being able to use Alison on this project. It's been a vastly educational project for all of us so far. Not Alison really, as she already has vastly more experience in film than all of us put together do, having started in TV\film back in the late 1960s.

We have now set the official start of the project for early July and need only to submit to SAG\AFTRA. This has already been a rich and rewarding experience.

And I only see more coming. I'll keep you apprised.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Delicate Nature of Creativity

I am a writer. I'm a solid writer. I was a Senior Technical Writer for companies like US West Technologies, The Regence Group, Holland America Cruise Lines and others. It's not a job for the weak of constitution. Managers do not hold back on critiquing your work, your writings. But after years of that job, I had gotten pretty damn tough on a mental abuse standing. Something my childhood fed into quite well.

Anyone getting through a childhood like I had or my last marriage for that matter, isn't a weak minded person. It didn't make for a weak minded artist in my endeavors either. I have written much non-fiction, horror and sci fi. My book Death of heaven testifies to that.

I am now striving to be a filmmaker. I've produced two documentaries. One at Western Washington University in the Psychology Department, one for Public Access Cable TV. I would have done more for cable and would probably have gotten my own show on a fledgling Cable TV industry back in its beginnings, but as it happened, I moved out of town and got involved in other areas. All water under the bridge now.

My first film now is a short horror film. Shooting for three minutes, at seven it was only half done. Now I'm at 9.5 minutes. I'm doing it all by myself with the help of two others living in my house. Family and friend. But it's led to an interesting epiphany and a realization in working with family rather than a crew you hire on.

There came to be a few issues in viewing the dailies. I now understand some directors locking down the dailies for only a select few. Some comments are useful, most aren't. Some also, considering how they are delivered and the mindset of the messenger, can be somewhat damaging. Both to the project and the creative involved. Me. I'm the creative I'm referring to.

This has been going on for weeks on this, my first narrative film project titled, "The Rapping". An issue came up about an F/X shot. I knew it would be judged as weird, but then that was my purpose. Over a week or so it kept coming back up. The two others in a relationship discussed it separately, then it came up in a viewing of the latest version. All as I'm building the shots into the project as new shots become available.

Understand, I've been studying cinema since before these two crew member and talent (it's a small production), were born. They are viewing this as if they have as much experience as I do. Yes, they have watched films. Yes, they are both very intelligent. Yes, their views have relevance. Yes, I try to listen and adjust accordingly. I have after all cut some shots that took a lot of time to get. I have even altered the pacing (in one instance, I cut shots, then later heard it was now too, too slow or too fast, make up your mind?).

The point I'm trying to make here is that I know what's best for my own project. I have the talent, skill and experience. It's the confidence, and the desire to be polite (and not lose volunteers, always a problem in situations like this), that are the problem.

They do also have cred for being an audience. Trouble there being, it takes skill to watch dailies or rough cuts of a film and "see" where it's going, or "see" the screenwriter's and the director's intentions and overall vision. But that's not all of it.

I admit it. I have an odd creative style. I don't know where I'm going much of the time, but in my subconscious, from what I see in the end products, I do know where I'm going. I just don't always see it or understand it until much later in the project. That's not only hard on others, but near impossible for me sometimes to see exactly where I'm going.

Example. I went through the same experience with every manager on my technical writing. And at every company I worked at. It goes old always having to prove yourself again and again. However once they got used to me, to my style, they got very comfortable and trusted me. Depended on me. Sometimes to absurd degrees and impossible deadlines. But up until then, I had to listen to their vision. I had to attend meetings. I had to research. Then I would take my notes and write.

When I turned in my first draft (second draft really, NEVER show ANYone your first draft), things got interesting. Frustrating, but after a while, after getting used to it, it became an interesting test of patience. Both mine, and theirs.

I'll use one manager and paper I wrote as an example. On his reading my first draft (second, remember?), I warned him that it was only an initial draft. He read it. He was horrified. He said in fact that he was worried I wasn't getting it at all. But I took notes from hism and told him to relax, it will come out fine in the end. Still, he wasn't so sure. I remember his worried look on his face as I headed back to my cubicle.

I wrote a second (third) draft and showed it to him. This was days later. He read it and said that although it was better, he still doubted I could finish it in time and get it correct, as he still thought I way off path from what he wanted. So again, I took my notes from that meeting and went back to writing.

A few days later, only a couple of days before the paper absolutely had to be perfected and finished, I showed him my third and final draft. Typically, I never hod to do more than three drafts but also typically, it usually took me three.

Tenuously he took it and read it while I waited. This time he was quite excited, and pleased. He said he couldn't see how I got to that draft from the previous drafts. He said it was far better than he had expected even before he had read any of my previous drafts. I then handed him two other very different forms of the finished draft, again much to his surprise.

That was something that happened again and again just like that throughout my tech writing career. I would go through three drafts, they wouldn't like what I was doing until the final draft which they would then simply love, AND, I would give them two other very different forms of the same product. I also always finished this much faster than any other writer they had worked with.

That's just how I worked. The first time that happened I was myself very concerned. But then it kept happening that way so that whenever a manger reacted poorly, even angry almost, it just no longer bothered me. I understood my process.

Now that I'm producing a film, once again I'm not concerned that I'm the only one who can see my personal vision of where I'm headed and what I'm doing. When I tried to explain that to my helpers on this current project, blank stares and a belief that perhaps I don't know what they were saying.

In reality it is actually they who cannot see what I am doing. To be fair, we're all new to this. Although I have done other projects, documentaries, but it was years ago. Honestly I have probably forgotten more than they ever knew about cinema and filmmaking. Still, in the end I would expect them to stick to their guns as an audience, even though in watching the final form they will hopefully no longer see their concerns on screen with what I have been doing.

I'll even give it to them that there could be negative audience comments about the shot in question from its initial public screening. And yet, the overall piece will still be cohesive and work just how I planned it. One has to be careful in forgetting the forest for the trees. A short shot zipping by can be lost as an issue, if it blends with the narrative, supports the vision, enhances the format, uses the movie magic that is being applied overall.

"To thine own self be true" never meant more than this. Stick to your guns, and work toward making your truth a reality.

My first screenplay ever is titled, Ahriman. I wrote it in 1984, the summer after I received my university degree in Psychology from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I had taken one final summer quarter just to finish a screenplay. I wanted to leave my college years with a completed screenplay.

I wrote it for two professors, one in psychology and one in the Theatre department. I got As from both of them on this. This was all after a year long special team screenwriting and script writing series of classes I had been chosen for from a playwriting class. One I was sent to take because my first fiction writing professor said I needed practice writing dialog. Mostly because I hated writing it into short stories. Also, I had been disappointed that we didn't get to write a full screenplay to take into the real world with us, in our post university years.

One professor asked me why I had written three screenplays in one. I told him, I was trying to blend things. To experiment. One experiment was never to see the lead character. Well, that didn't' work out so well. But at least I tried.

I also tried to peddle that screenplay for several years but didn't have the connections and it never got sold. Actually, years later I worked remotely as an unpaid screenwriter for over five years with a production company. One of the producers nearly sold it to exactly who I told him not to market it to. A group of Middle Eastern investors.

Angra Mainyu (also: Aŋra Mainiiu) is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit". The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman (Anglicised pronunciation: /ˈɑːrɪmən/). - Wikipedia

Ahura Mazda (/əˌhʊrəˌmæzdə/;[1]) (also known as Ohrmazd, Ahuramazda, Hourmazd, Hormazd, Harzoo and Hurmuz, Lord or simply as spirit) is the Avestan name for the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism, the old Iranian religion which spread across Asia predating Christianity, before ultimately being almost annihilated by Muslim invasions and violence. - Wikipedia

I had warned him that I had taken ancient deities of Ormazd and Ahriman and reversed them. I was sure they'd hate it and I didn't want anyone tracking me down and killing me out of disrespect for their beliefs. To the contrary, he laughed and said that was one of the things they loved about it. Alas, he had a falling out with the east coast executive producer and he headed for Hollywood. He said he'd be in contact and I never heard from him again.

Ahriman is a story about a  prophet prince on a desert planet. Scientists on Earth accidentally sucked him up during an experiment and he was transported to Earth. His people were a warring people and he knew they would attack Earth once they knew of a portal. Once they found a way to get to Earth, they would attack.

It was a bittersweet story with a great ending. It also has another relevance in this story about the current issue I'm writing about. About the delicate nature of creativity. My point there being that it was ten years before I saw in other films some of the things I had written into my own screenplay. Which sucks because once that starting happening, if I did sell it, someone would say "but that's been done in other films." Yeah, but I wrote those ideas years before those were done. Which in the real world has no bearing. If you don't sell it, don't produce it, you don't count. Tough beans old man.

Apparently I was ahead of my time. So I must have some kind of understanding for film, something I've studied all my life since childhood as well as in college. And I'm twice the age of my current crew and talent for the current production. Just saying.

Years after I wrote Ahrman, web sites popped up like Keven Spacey's, so named for his childhood street he grew up on. It's gone now. Another similar screenplay peer reviewed web site lab was Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Project Greenlight. Many may now know that name as something else.

On those sites, you posted your screenplay and you reviewed other's works in a quid pro quo format. I rewrote my 100 page screenplay nine times one year, taking comments and reviews from others and incorporating them.

Finally one day I read my now 180 page basically, a mini series and realized I had completely lost myself in other people's opinions. Some not such great opinions. But it was a great learning experience. There is after all a balance in following your own vision and taking constructive criticism and comments and incorporating them. But it can most definitely get out of hand if you're not careful and protective of your original vision.

To get to the point.

In sitting here one night this week alone and yet again ruminating on this situation about the commentary from my crew (and talent), something unmanageable was happening to me. It was damaging my vision, my creative understanding of my screenplay and my production.

I likened it in my mind to a road (the screenplay) supported by an intricate and delicate framework of underlying supports, the concepts. I was seeing this in my mind as a train trestle.

Holcomb Creek Train Trestle
That underlying structure isn't just the screenplay, but my mind as elements in the screenplay are situated therein and the supporting structures in my mind as they created and supported the overall concept and storyline.

Each critique from my crew alters or removes one of those struts, the top beams touching and supporting the road that is the story. Changing one of any of those alters the overall structure, if not in the overt storyline then in my underlying understanding of the story structure. That also delves into emotive elements, my self esteem, even more dangerously, my motivation.

When I said I'm a solid writer, I'm also a pretty tough individual. I won't bore you with proof of that from my history and experiences. Just know it's true. To say these critiques to affected me emotionally, isn't quite accurate. But then they did, at least somewhat.

I came to realize all this the other day. While I had been greatly enjoying producing and directing this film, it was becoming a burden. But why? Not because of the critiques that were going against what I was doing, but because of their recurrences.

On set if a director asks for critique, opens it up for comment, make it brief, positive and production. Give it once. If you think it's not being understood, you can push the point, making it clear that you do not think your concern is being understood, or given the weight you believe it needs. . For the good of the project.

However once the director understands, or even if it's simply made clear to drop it, then drop it. Because as important as your concern maybe, and this is important, it is the director's vision that is most likely going to be more important not to disrupt. While one shot or issue may be important, it cannot possibly be as important as maintaining the integrity of the director's focus and therefore the project overall. While a single shot affects a portion of the film, the director affects the entire project.

I was losing the momentum, the energy I had used in order to work on and finish this project. Hearing critiques is one thing. Hearing them again and again and it turning into an argument, is counterproductive. Even damaging.

A film is indeed a collaborative process. Even if you're an Alfred Hitchcock. But there is one head to it, the director. It is in the end a kind of dictatorship. The director takes the screenwriter's vision and the screenplay and runs with it.

The screenwriter can at times become disheartened over what is being done to his or her work because of money, direction, producers, studio, or any of various elements. But the screenwriter has typically finished the job by time the production begins. Whereas the director is dealing with all this in an ongoing manner.

While the screenwriter can have a nervous breakdown over all this, he can. While the director has to be there, day in and day out, in top form to complete the project. The crew, simply has to do what they are told to do, to find ways to do what is being asked of them. The talent (actor) is the same with some more need and input to the process because they are the focus of the action and the camera. Same can be said for the sets and costume and so on, but it can be argued that the talent have more directly invested in an ongoing manner.

Still, the weight of all this rests on the director's head (and to be sure above that level, the producers). The crew (and talent) need to remember that. As long as they do their jobs well, the overall potential for failure of the project is not on their heads. Not if people can point to their work and say, "Well, they did excellent! The direction, or editing are what suck."

This is why on most, certainly larger productions, there are people to screen and protect the director. Like the assistant director (AD) for the most part, or production assistants (PA) who can take the brunt of these interactions that would otherwise be aimed directly at the director. Something the director cannot suffer because they for one need to helm the project and see it to its finish.

In the end the creativity needs to be protected, not so much the individual. In the end, the project has to be completed as well as it can be done. To thine own self be true, is true enough. But also to the project be true. The mission, in any endeavor is important to complete in the best form possible.

Sometimes that simply means one has to protect one's own vision, and oneself.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hanging with Alison Arngrim at Dragonfly Film Festival

Last weekend was the first annual Port Orchard (WA) Dragonfly Cinema Film Festival. It was awesome! They have stated that they plan for a second one next year. I went to a film festival, and ended up getting to hang out all weekend with local director and friend Kelly Hughes and actor Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson on the TV show, Little House on the Prairie). Alison looks quite different now in Kelly's new horror film than her younger self did on that world famous TV show.

Alison Arngrim
I've known Kelly for a couple of years now. I first met Alison last year when her character killed me in a film. My first on screen death. So I was looking forward to having a fun weekend. It turned into a fun working weekend and potential for learning and making new friends. And getting to better know the town of Port Orchard, WA.

I got my weekend pass and showed up to do nothing by enjoy the festivities. Well, thankfully, that was not what happened.

Director Kelly Hughes with actor Alison Arngrim on shoot
Friend and fellow director, Kelly Hughes invited me to a shoot he was doing early on Friday May 5, 2017 on a friend's thirty some acres out in Olalla next to Port Orchard.

Last year I had the honor and pleasure to first meet and then play a scene with Alison in one of Kelly's film, The Mephisto Box, for his company Leprechaun Productions. Parts of that film, as well as the head shot of Alison above, which I had her sign at her recent book signing at the film festival, was shot at my old house.

For fifteen years we lived on a couple of park like acres and Kelly took advantage of it while we had time. I was also previously in Kelly's short horror film, Don't Kill Grandpa Until We Strangle the Babysitter. That's me as Grandma's ghost in the trailer with my son as crew dumping fuel on the fire. What a day that was!

I've since sold that home in Suquamish, WA and moved to Bremerton, right next to Port Orchard. As always it was a good deal of fun on this new filming and I learned new things simply from being on a film production set around an experienced director.

My first time on a film set was in 1986 in Seattle. It was the set of the pilot for the TV version of the John Carpenter film, Starman, with Robert Hays. A single season sci fi series, it was an interesting day. I got onto two set locations that day (the other on Queen Anne Hill) and was befriended by the location manager. He put me right next to the 2nd unit director and camera at the Monorail at the Seattle Center. We were all there until about 3AM. Extras were all over the place off camera, just hanging out and being bored as is normal. The location manager was starting and stopping all the rides and lights in the background as the camera and director required. Nice guy. It was a busy set.

Robert Hays, with costars
It may have been even later that night that we got out of there but I wasn't leaving until I had absorbed all I could. I'm being conservative here since I don't clearly remember what time they broke for the night.  I do remember that I was exhausted. I would have been standing just to the right of the camera that took that photo above, only with the stand ins. I never got to see the lead actors.

But back to our shoot at my old house. I wish I had a cell phone back then with a camera as I have no record of that night.

Alison slashed my throat in our scene, during that, my, first ever working with a SAG/AFTRA actress. Even though I'm related to one myself. Like my brilliant and beautiful niece Brandi Nicole Wilson, my sister's daughter. But I have never actually acted in a scene with one before. It was a lot of fun and we had a great day. Alison is a funny, bright light of a professional. Because of some scheduling issues, I even got to host her for the night at my house.

I showed up this past weekend just to help out as I have many times on Kelly's shoots. But I got wrangled into a speaking part (yay!) in his film from which Kelly said he saw some real acting from me (Yay, finally! Progress!).

See, I never wanted to be in front of the camera, just behind the scenes as writer, producer, perhaps director. Indeed, I have resurrected my old production company from the early 90s (Last good Nerve Productions) which produced one of only two 25th anniversary documentaries of the 1960s TV show, Lost in Space. The other was by an Australian production company.

My current and first new small horror film project, The Rapping (no, not Rap music, think, Edgar Allan Poe), will be much higher production values and is using much better equipment. And, it has Alison as The Narrator, an awesome win for our first project.

We shot Kelly's latest project, a continuation of his Mephisto Box project, in the woods. I had read my lines, but hadn't had time to read the script, so what I saw being shot in the woods was pretty unusual. To say the least. There was a lot of work, and laughter, as usual.
Actor Jennifer True after losing an eye to Alison's character
Aside from my scene, five guys around a  fire in a kind of guy's anti adultery support group, I shot footage for a behind the scenes piece, something Kelly has been lacking. Also, I shot some footage in such a way that could garner me some 2nd unit IMDB credits. Racking these credits up!

Me on left shooting, Kelly back to camera - photo by Stan Wankowski
After we shot for the day, and we were running late to get to the film festival, we headed into Port Orchard. I for one was beat and headed home for the day, only to return on Saturday.

JZ Murdock, Ernie (thanks for photo) and Alison Arngrim in Port Orchard
I showed up on Saturday in a hooded sweatshirt and a black leather jacket, thinking (mistakenly) that I could just watch films and take it easy. Instead I ended up (happily) as Kelly's assistant and Alison's support team. It was an experience.

Alison and "King" Louie
We went to the opening of the season" for the local museums and Alison cut the ribbon. The Mayor of Port Orchard was even there. A log cabin museum, another called the Snider Museum which is situated in an old Freemason's Lodge. I am a Mason myself as was my Grandfather who was also a Shriner.
Louie and Allison at Sidney Museum in period costume
I made new friends, got to see two museums in Port Orchard, met "King" Louie who runs a couple of museums and is a photographer in his own right. Also met filmmakers and got to see Alison do her show. She was brilliant.
Screen 2 at Dragonfly Cinema Film Festival
35mm print of Rocky Horror Picture Show - Dragonfly Cinema
As I told her at one point, the more I get to know her, the more impressed with her I am. She is one huge bundle of professional and talent in a rather small package. After her show (I highly recommend seeing her do this if you ever get the opportunity), we held a book signing for her at the next door Bay Street Bistro.
Alison Arngrim book signing with fan and actor Ernie
Alison at book signing at Port Orchard Bay Street Bistro
How to sum up the weekend?

That's difficult. I made some great new friends. Got to know Alison better, more impressed with her at every new encounter. And I heard some amazing stories (like the William Shatner one if no other, and learned about "shipers" (relationshipers who wish characters in shows would get together, if not the actors themselves), and really, just so much more. Yeah, I'm not getting into that mess....

Film festivals are a lot of fun. Especially when you get to meet new and interesting people and see such creativity played out before you. Get out, check out, support your local creative community, if you're so inclined. Because if you wait you're really just keeping yourself from a good deal of what makes life so great to live in. And in these times, can't we all really use a healthy does of that?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Dad... Capt. Kirk?

Capt. Kirk? My  Dad? Okay, not really. But to explain my ancient William Shatner story I have to relate several stories and in part one told to me by actor Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) one night last weekend at dinner...but it's a harmless tale. I also acted in a film with her last weekend, and she had previously "killed" me in a film a year ago.

And, I officially have Alison's voice reading The Raven, for my first and currently in production film, The Rapping (no, not rap, think, Edgar Allan Poe).

This (for me anyway) is a fun tale. One originally told and excerpted here in this blog, from a previous 2012 blog of mine and now expanded upon by way of Alison's input. I'm still chuckling over this. I just wish my little brother had lived to hear the end of it. Closure is a great thing.

William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock on set of Star Trek
Finally! Here it is! @WilliamShatner speaking (tweeting) at me. I'd waited so long with no expectation of it ever happening. I'm sure he's heard many, many stories like this one. How can you not when you're that famous, that much of a cultural icon?

Allow me to explain, to give you a bit of background on this joy, exclamation...and closure.

Back in the 1960s my younger and late brother and I tried to talk to "Capt. Kirk". Not on a communicator, but on our home phone while the actor who portrayed him on TV every week, was at the Jerry Lewis Marathon in Seattle.

He was there with Leonard Nimoy who played Spock. Do I even have to say he was the half human, half Vulcan character on that "wagon train to the stars", that " 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to the stars" TV show known as Star Trek? And now due to it's longevity and popularity, known lovingly as Star Trek-TOS (The Original Show).

One called into the week long 24 hour a day Telethon, offered to donate money to Jerry's kids for MS, and maybe got to talk to a special guest. In the end we did get to talk to the also late Leonard Nimoy. Who couldn't have been nicer. Shatner was swamped with people wanting to talk to him so we never got to. But the person answering the phone asked if we'd prefer Nimoy. Our mom, also on one of the three phone extensions at our house, was paying for this long distance call, so she said, "Yes, please."

We never did get to talk to Shatner. We were at first disappointed, but in talking with Nimoy, we were pretty floored. Like forever after that call. We talked to Spock! We actually talked to him!

Years later I came to appreciate Nimoy even more. Decades later even, my kids did too. Not just through Star Trek, though that's a big part of it, but also through his project called, Alien Voices. An awesome attempt to bring people to the spoken word of classic literature that is interesting to the masses, bringing it alive for us. One of my favorites among their catalog are the two Spock vs Q shows. Which oddly enough isn't on that Alien Voices site.

Indirectly, thanks go to actor Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie fame and many of her projects since then), Because of her, finally, I got William Shatner to say something to me!

So this one is for my long passed, little brother, Kim.

At dinner last night as of the writing of this at Puerto Vallarta Mexican restaurant in Port Orchard, Alison was sitting across from me. There were four of us. Kelly Hughes, and our actor friend Ernie. Alison and I got to talking and she started telling me this long story about Bill Shatner and her Twitter account... and "shipers".

So damn funny how this all worked out. By the way, I just realized, that for lunch today I ate the other half of my huge and tasty dinner from last night, and the rest of Alison's. She had asked if someone shouldn't take the last of her fajita plate (from the hot side dish). So I dumped it on mine and no one else spoke up.

Therefore this next day I ate the rest of Alison Arngrim's dinner. Fans. Such odd ones. But, it's all out of love. I never had watched "Little House", but I became a fan of Alison's anyway, once I got to know her, and in spending time working with her.

Back to Shatner. Beginning in 1966 (until 2010) while Star Trek was still on, while I was a kid, we always watched the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethons. We loved watching them. He'd get little sleep over the weekend of stars and entertainment 24/7 on air. It was interesting and entertaining, fascinating one might say watching someone deteriorate on screen and for a cause. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were on it one year in Seattle. We lived a mere thirty miles away in Tacoma.

I was a huge Star Trek fan. My little brother too. I remember the first episode I ever missed. I was at a store with my mother and grandmother. Mom went into the store to return something and when I realized we'd miss Star Trek, I broke into tears. My poor grandmother couldn't figure out how a TV show had such a hold on me.

I didn't have a great fatherly parental situation. My own dad had remarried and then had eleven kids so I never really had him as a dad after I was three. My step father didn't much like me at all and we had a turbulent relationship. So instead I emotionally bonded with my "TV Dads". Positive (in my mind) role models like Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) on The Rifleman. Lloyd Bridges on Sea Hunt. There were others. And there was Kirk on Star Trek. Hey, that's just how it was in my childhood brain and it got me through my childhood, sooo....

My little brother Kim, five years my junior, liked Star Trek too (my step dad  by the way, was HIS dad). Kim later died of liver cancer in 1975 after a couple of difficult years after diagnosis. He died days from being 15 in 1975. A real MOW story, that one. Painful.

Mom had said we could call the Telethon, donate a few bucks just to get to talk to Kirk. So me, my little brother and mom got on the phone long distance to Seattle. We waited on the line for nearly forty minutes before we got someone on from Star Trek. Kirk was the end all be all for me and my brother at that time and always had been.

Though after a short time, Spock did somewhat overshadow him. But it really was always the team of Kirk and Spock, and Bones, and Scotty, and the others. That's just how that show was. It was family.

We never did get to hear from William Shatner that day. Never have since, not that he knew any of this. Not until he tweeted back at me yesterday, May 7, 2017. Finally. I got closure to this story after nearly 50 years! I can now die a happy man in that realm.

Here's an excerpt from my 2012 blog on this:

A few years before I read the LOTR trilogy, my little brother by five years, Kim and I got to talk to Nimoy when he and Shatner were in Seattle for the Jerry Lewis Telethon in the late 60s. We badly wanted to talk to Capt. Kirk. He was after all, "The Man" (or "The Captain" if you prefer). And so we waited on the phone for forty minutes! It was long distance and my brother and I, both breathless, and our mom, all waited on different phone extensions.

Finally the phone guy who answered the phone at the Telethon said, "You know, Mr. Shatner is just too much in demand. It's going to be hard to get him online. Everyone wants to talk to him. Would you like to talk to Leonard Nimoy, Spock", instead?"

Our mom, knowing this was costing us maybe as much as the little she was going to pledge, convinced us to talk to Nimoy. We were a bit crushed. We said okay, but we were a bit disappointed. Then we realized, were going to get to talk to Spock!

So he gets on the phone and says, "Hello boys, how are you doing?"

I'll never forget it. That Nimoy/Spock voice. Amazing. We were on the phone with Spock! Hearing his voice locked up our own voice/brain/life and no one said a word. Finally our Mom said, "I think the boys are in shock. Say something boys. Mr. Nimoy is busy. Talk to him."

Nimoy just chuckled. I'm sure he was used to it by now. So he just stated talking, getting us finally to and tentatively speak to him. We talked to him for a few minutes and then he thanked us for our pledge and mom talked to him for a second; and then... it was over.

Later, when we got the phone bill, our mom almost had a heart attack. She said maybe there is a way around this. So she called the phone company and complained at there being a forty minute long-distance bill to the Telethon.

She called the phone company and reasoned with them, "Why in the world would we call and talk for forty minutes when all we were doing was to call to make a quick pledge"

That sounded rational to the operator. So they removed the charge from the bill and we got a free forty minute phone call to Seattle to talk to Spock, for free. She thought that was cooler than our getting to talk to Leonard Nimoy and would mention it from time to time. She had gotten one over on "Ma Bell"!

This is funny. About the Shatner thing yesterday.

I was (still am) beat to hell from this weekend (and allergies aren't helping...I had one beer on Saturday but yesterday probably looked like I'd been on a three day bender).

I had more fun this weekend than I've had in a month of Sundays. After telling my son that William Shatner tweeted back too me, my son said yesterday that I should tweet to him about our unknown-to-Shatner, 1960s connection... and finally how finally we communicated after the debacle of trying to talk to him decades ago when I was just a kid (see previous post). And he never even knew about it. As I'm sure there are so many of these kinds of stories when you are someone as famous as Shatner.

As a side note, it was late yesterday when I was tired and just wanted make it, staying up late enough to go to bed and get some sleep. My son said I should tweet to Shatner about this connection I had with him from my childhood. I said to my son (to paraphrase), "Maybe I'll post something tomorrow about it. What If he called me or something, who knows? I'm not really even functional at this point."

Then today my son tweeted something himself about it. So feeling rested finally, I went ahead and responded. I got that out to where Shatner could see it. He did, as you know he responded, and thus, this blog came into being.

But my son last night had started laughing when I said I might tweet something after I get rest, the next day. I asked why he was laughing. He said (again to paraphrase), "Listen to yourself. You'll post tomorrow in case William Shatner might call you? Think about that? How cool is that even to be able to say it?" And he laughed again. I thought about it, and so did I.

Point well taken.

And finally...Thanks, Mr. Shatner!

Monday, May 8, 2017

America's Existential President

a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.

the science of phenomena as distinct from that of the nature of being.
an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.

When I was getting my degree in psychology from Western Washington University, I began to notice two things.

Of my fellow students there were some who went the existential path and others, fewer (and I was one) who went the phenomenological path. We were all similar, but with an important difference. Myself and my phenomenological friends were observers. The existentialists wanted to affect things, to put their imprint upon it. And this is important, if it pleased them. And they had many rationales for that. I was surprised they couldn't see it, no matter how much I (we) tried to explain that orientation to them.

My girlfriend and I lived together through our college years, and took many of the same classes. We studied together. We finished each other's sentences to an absurd degree that caused our professor one day in class to stop us and make us prove we were actually saying something. We were. He was stunned, because we were carrying on a conversation in paragraphs by using single words.

The first thing I noticed was that those who went the existential path, leaned toward a more hedonistic view of life. The second was, my girlfriend was heading down that path.

So what?

What I started to notice was those who took the existential path seemed to be using it to justify their doing whatever they wanted. They were the ones who were having affairs, who were stepping out on their significant others. The phenomenology students seemed to be more centered, more socially responsible (both groups were, but the latter seemed to put themselves forward as a primary element).

Once I started to notice that, I noticed how self oriented the existential people's arguments were. Sometimes to the point of invalidating their arguments. I liked hedonistic pursuits as much as they next person, I just wouldn't put my own desires or needs before that of others, if those others might suffer for my actions.

I wasn't seeing that in the existential crowd. They were simply narcissists of varying degrees. Yes, college is that time to be that way. To test limits, to experience the novel situation and environments. It is something however that you should resolve before you are into your mid twenties, or you twenties overall. It is not something we should be seeing in your 60s or 70s.

I should have seen it coming. I never went out on my girlfriend. But in the end, after we graduated college, after we moved back home into a house together, I discovered she was having an affair with a coworker. That ended our many year relationship. I took it hard and it literally nearly killed me over that next eighteen month period.

And yes, in the end, after it passed, after I survived it, I was much stronger for it. I just had never had a girlfriend (or wife) have an affair on me. Or for that matter, break up with me. I was thirty when this happened and I simply had no coping mechanisms to deal with that kind of thing. So I partied myself nearly to death. Slept around. Kind of went off the deep end.

I'm seeing now so much of all this in our current president. In my experience, this isn't a good thing. Because no one is as important, as that individual, to that individual. We are at the whim of what he wants, what pleases him. At our expense, because we simply do not count. Unless it affects him.

Obviously, this isn't true of all existentialists. But it certainly is true about Pres. Donald J. Trump. I also notice this in many Republicans. Though those who are beginning now to oppose him, simply aren't as much the narcissist as he is.

Since a stopped clock is always correct twice a day, every day of the week, 24/7/365, Pres. Trump will surely do some things that are good for us. It's inevitable. However, I do not expect great things to come of a Trump presidency. Far from it.

The concept of existentialism can be intoxicating
phenomenology to me, just seemed more mature, enlightened.
A coherent and educated individual, observing.

Allow me to leave you with this....Fascism.