30 November 2008

27 Days of Christmas Music - Do They Know its Christmas -Band Aid

29 November 2008

The 27 Days of Christmas Music - Fairytale of New York -The Pogues

Movie: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace, the 22nd James Bond (and the second film in the sort-of reboot of the franchise) is the first direct sequel of the film series. It begins mere moments after Casino Royale and opens with Bond taking Mr. White to be interrogated after the events of Royale.

While it’s a good action film, ultimately it fails to live up to what was begun (again) in Casino Royale. Daniel Craig makes for a great Bond and is more in tune with Connery’s take in the action part, but the film fails to capture what made Connery’s Bond so much the better. The whimsy and humor is all but gone, replaced by less than impressive villains and too much of an attempt to set the film in real world.

And, at times, one felt the production had watched the Bourne films too many times and tried to replicate it, but with less than stellar success.

And while director Marc Forster paid homage to its past, the film also tried to force itself into the real world, with political comments on the CIA, Bolivia and Hati, and seemly attacking corporations who claim to be green, but are using it as a way to cover up their involvements in coups and shady deals that make them money, even if a terrorist of sorts are born.

The action is intense, but there were a many of times when I felt I didn’t know who was who in the fight sequences. But the script is muddled down and at times, a complete mess. The villainous Mr. Greene is nothing more than a spoiled rich man, who does appalling things in pursuant of his goals, but evil genius he is not.

Still there are some great set pieces in the film, including the fight in the Opera House, the plane dogfight (which could’ve been done via CGI) and the opening car chase sequence.

In the end, it is a good action film, but Bond was never supposed to be one, I think. It was always supposed to be entertainment of the highest order, with beautiful women -the Bond Girls - great battles with villains who were more fantasy than real and gadgets. This turn to redundant, and silly realism might work in the long run, but the first two Bond films set in a post 9/11 world (as opposed to the Cold War) have shown that they have a way to go to make a truly glorious Bond film in the tradition of the 1960's Bond classics.

My Black Friday

So, Black Friday came and went with little fanfare. Of course, I was at work at 6 am, the store opened at 7 and I was out the door at 3. In between, we had mad rushes, lulls and typical Saturday crowds. If I was to be asked what sold the most, what people seemed to buying, all I could say was one word: Twilight.

We have a Twilight center set up in the front of the store, where we have all four novels (in both hardcover and paperback) in the popular Stephanie Meyer series set up. Added to fray is a movie companion book, pens, posters, buttons, magnets, T-shirts, jewelry (there's also suppose to be a perfume, but we've yet to get that in), and a calendar. Now one of the good things is, Borders is the only place selling that 2009 calendar. Who ever got that deal over in HQ is looking really smart now, especially after last weeks $70 million opening.

Twilight, maybe, could be what saves our company. The sales of all four books have been steady and should remain strong through the holiday season. Even if the movie sinks -it should, theoretically lose about 65% of last weeks business - the books and other ancillary products will continue to sell.

All that can prevent that is not getting copies of the books in. Out of the four novels, we did not have the second book, New Moon, in hardcover (and we should be sold out of the paperback by the end of the weekend). My feelings are, that we should not be sold out of any of them, but there you have it.

Beyond that, I can't really say there was one book that people wanted, though Jon Meacham's American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House sold pretty well as part of the 11 titles we had at 50% for the holiday weekend.

Well beyond the Twilight series, I don't see any book being the one everyone has to have, unless Oprah chooses an obscure title from a small publisher or one that a publisher did not expect to hit big -much like what happened with The Secret.

Still, there is a chance Yes We Can: Barack Obama's History Making Presdiential Campaign by Scout Tufanjian could be the one book everyone has difficulty getting. The first print run of 55,000 copies have already sold out, and the publisher is going back to the press -and it does not go on sale until December 8.

But we'll see.

26 November 2008

More things from Oak Park

It has to be the oddest 24 hours of my life. After learning of the death of my former Borders co-worker back in Oak Park, IL, I contacted that store this morning from work and talked to my old friend Kevin. While he was unsure of the full details of Pete's death -whether it was an accidental overdose of pills associated with his depression, or suicide (and for life insurance POV, I'm assuming the family will push for accidental) - he said that his wake was attended by a lot of people, which is good.

Then Kevin asked me if I had heard about Mariam, the former GM of that store who allowed me to transfer there back in 2000 when the store opened. I said no, if only because I had not seen her since she was fired from Borders in late 2004. Shockingly, he said about two weeks ago she woke up in the middle of the night and was complaining to her husband about not feeling well.

By the time they realized something was up and they rushed her to the hospital, she was gone. Dead at 50 of a heart attack.

It's so bizarre to know both of them are gone and such young ages. And the fact they die with in a few weeks of each other is even more weird.

I like Miriam, but she was very passive/aggressive and at times, that made work difficult. But she also was the first to give me the latitude to do almost anything at Borders with little or no supervision. She trusted me to get the job done, and to do it right (or my version of right).

It was all so surreal today, as my mind was a wash in sadness and total shock.

When I told this to a few of my coworkers today, one said things always happen in three's.

Gosh, I hope not.

25 November 2008

For my friend Pete

His name was Peter, or just Pete. We met in 2000, when we were setting up the Oak Park Borders at Harlem and Lake. He must’ve been all of 22 or 23. He was this lanky kid, tall and with cheekbones you could cut cheese on.

As typical of me, I would flirt with this young cute boy. Even though I knew he was straight. But Pete, well, he went with the flow. He was easy going, always in a good mood and his love for music would rival another friend of mine.

He was smart, charming and witty. His humor came from a deep well and he was always, always smiling. He married young, and I would tease him relentlessly about it.

But his greatest gift and love was music. I remember when John Mayer’s first CD came out and he kept telling me that is was brilliant and that the kid was going to have a great career. He hounded me until I bought it. So he had an ear for music, and would tell anyone who would listen that this was good, that is was not do good. He was always going to concerts, always, it seemed to me enjoying life.

I had not seen him since I left Illinois in the summer of 2005. Even after he left Borders, I would see him from time to time. Like most employees of Borders, once you work for them, you never ever leave them.

Today I got an email from my friend Marc, another former Borders employee. Marc still has connections with upper BGI music people. He asked if I had known a Pete Merrick who worked at the Oak Park Borders. It took me a moment to think, cause at first I didn’t realize who he was talking about.

And then the tears came.

It seems sometime last week, Pete took his life. He was 31.

I have no idea why or how, but I’m shocked to my toes. Truly, you never think this married man, with a baby son, would do something like this. But when someone does take their life, I’m guessing that’s the first thing you say.

But now, as I think about this, while I’m sad for his family, I’m also sad for myself. I cannot help but think how empty my life will be without Pete Merrick in it.

24 November 2008

Pappa, can you hear the rain?

So, I'm sitting here, waiting for the rain. I know, my pathetic life. Still, rain here in SoCal is always a big event. Still, despite the dire warnings being issued by all the weather casters here, I'll not believe a word of it until I see the rain touching the ground before my eyes.

See, the other aspect of rain here is that it hardly ever covers the entire area. The foothills and the mountains prevent a lot of rain coverage, creating areas that get a lot, to some that get barely a drop.

Which means maybe only 20 miles north of me could see inches of rain, and I could see very little or none at all. Still, we need the rain. It's dry as a bone here, but if we get too much we end up a year from now battling the wildfires. It's a damn, vicious circle.


19 November 2008

Nothing

So what do you say when you have nothing to say?

When I started this blog, I thought I could post my daily thoughts, rants about pop culture and occasionally post images.

All too soon, I realized I have nothing to say. Or I just don't know how to get those thoughts out of my head and into the digital world. Sure, I can (and probably will) rant on about the Prop 8 failure here, and I'm waiting for the Star Trek re-boot, or whatever it truly is -but that's like seven months off.

Work is work, as we head in the holiday season. Nothing new to report there, as the customer are complete idiots and have no idea how things work. Plus they trash your store; so nothing new there.

And as for the future of Borders, well speculation continues. With Circuit City filing for bankruptcy protection and closing a 155 stores, one speculates that we'll either do that or go for total liquidation.

So, going forward, the hateful holiday season begins and add on the fate of the company, I guess I'm just depressed. Sometimes, I wish something would happen. At one time I wished for good and happy things, but I discovered that they are just pure fantasy.

My destiny lies not in happiness, but in the dark corners of nothingness and waste.

And why do I fall for straight men?

And when I do fall a gay guy, why does he not fall for me?

Why does God laugh at me?

13 November 2008

ABC pushing "Daisies" to the cancellation bin?

This week marks the end of shooting on episode 13 of ABC's under appreciated fantasy show Pushing Daisies.

Those are the only episodes the network ordered, and word has come through the trades that ABC will not order the back nine, which essentially means the series is at an end.

While ABC spokespeople are saying nothing, but the death of the show is a huge disappointment. Partly, though, its fall from grace can be blamed on last winters 100 day writer strike. Only 9 episodes were made before the show was shut down, and due to its complex production, no new shows could be made after the WGA strike ended. But faced with no new pilots, ABC picked the show up for a second season, but since it's return back on October 1, the show has failed to achieve its mediocre success from last year. It seems the viewers have moved on.

And sadly, it has trailed behind NBC's much lamented, and generally panned, re-do of Knight Rider (which is not a huge success in the ratings either, failing to match the ratings Bionic Woman got last year in the same time slot. And we know what happened to that show). Still, NBC picked up the show for a full season -and is revamping it for the back nine, dropping two cast members.

Daisies was one of the most creative shows on TV, sly and witty. Its a sad comment that American TV viewers would rather watch a craptacular show like Rider than one of quality and good humor.

Still, I must realize, that I'm a minority here. No-brainer TV shows like Knight Rider will always win, it seems, over intelligent and well-written, well acted programs like Pushing Daisies.

The one good aspect, if this becomes official, creator Bryan Fuller has said he’s sufficiently invested in the project to finish telling the tale of Ned, Chuck, Emerson and Olive via graphic novel or maybe a movie.

This cancellation could also help NBC's Heroes, as Fuller will probably return to the show to help shepard it through its final eight episodes (despite the firing of Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb last week, their stamp of approval will continue through episode 17). During its first season, Fuller was the showrunner and is credited with making the show the huge hit it was during that first year, include writing one the most critically acclaimed episodes of that season, Company Man.

Adam, JayTee, PeeKay and I (who took the photos) in Santa Barbara





11 November 2008

Movie: Tru Loved (2008)

On Saturday, I drove to Santa Barbara to support JayTee's last short I helped out with, And the Award Goes To... play at the 17th Annual LBGTQ Outrageous Film Festival. It's funny, as most of JayTee's shorts have played at festivals, but none near here. Which is why, I guess, he went with his husband Adam to Santa Barbara.

Anyhoo, I arrived at about quarter to six, after a 2 plus hour drive. We ended up having dinner and then went to the theater where the film festival was playing. And the Award Goes To was playing before the film Tru Loved, so I got to see it with an audience for the first time. It played okay, with the audience laughing in all the right places. One joke fell flat, but was laughed at the next night, so go figure.

So, Tru Loved is a from writer/director Stuart Wade, and tells the tale of teenage Tru, who has relocated San Francisco to conservative suburbia by her lesbian mothers. Tru struggles like all teens to fit in and find love, but her quest is complicated by sexual politics, closed minds, and closeted friends as she seeks to establish her school's first Gay-Straight Alliance (stolem from IMDB).

Wade deftly handles the comedy and drama, touching on some subjects that most gay films avoid, which is cross racial relationships. Matthew Thompson shines as Lodell, a young black boy trying his hardest to appear straight to all his friends. He hooks up with Tru (played with a beguiling sweetness by newcomer Najarra Townsend) to cover this -and who is clueless about his sexuality until one of her mothers points it out. The only one who blinks at the their relationship is his Grandmother, played by the legendary Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols (of all people). It becomes a running joke through out the film.

The film does work, but thrives on way too many coincidences (like everyone, it seems, has a gay relative) and unrealistic turn of opinions. Still, with a supporting cast led by Nichols, Jasmine Guy (who would’ve thought?), Alexandra Paul, Bruce Vilanch, and Alec Mapa makes the film work for the most part. Then there’s up and coming actors such as handsome boys Tye Olson as Walter and Jake Able as Trevor who work wonders in their supporting roles.

There’s a few great one-liners (one about “I’m your Katy” had everyone laughing) and a brilliant cameo by comedian Jane Lynch who nearly steals the film, along with Mapa, who tries to do it from the start.

A good film, earnest film with a message.

Paramount releases more pic for the Star Trek re-boot, including the new Enterprise


I'm of mixed feelings here, as I like everything except the nacelles, which reminds me of a tail fin on an old Chevy.

Still, unlike a few out there, I'm still willing to give the re-boot a chance.

06 November 2008

Second

It's time to fight the Good Fight


"In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains."

Do I live in the land of the free and the brave?

Two days ago, the state of California made it sure that gay people are not part of that land and free statement. Nope, with outside peddling from the Catholic Church and the Mormons, Prop 8 passed, ensuring that gay men and women can be and will be discriminated against.

What strikes me most about this blow to equal rights is how some folks who have really no problem with gay people, the so called friends, who seem to think this is all about some judges who acted in defiance of the constitution (with the often ubiquitous "activist judges" thrown around because that seems to be the only word they know how to use; besides it also makes them sound smart) and the will of Californians. They claim they had to pass it, because if they let it fail, then the Constitution means nothing. That some sort of anarchy would be created if it was to fail.

These so called friends are not that at all, because a true friend would help out, no matter what the cost. These people are nothing but the mouth piece to religious zealots who command power through the use of money.

The influence of both the Mormons and the Catholics does not surprise me, but the fact that they got away with it, and the fact the Mormons now want everyone to treat people with "civility, with respect and with love" just astounds me beyond belief.

Jebus on a crutch, can Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS be serious?

As Towleroad said, "Bitch, Please."

On Star Trek they say "revenge is a best dish served cold." And while revenge is petty and, at times, just as bad as the offense, I'm all for an appeal of all Church's tax exempt status. Force these weasels to start paying taxes, and they'll have less money to influence discrimination.

And this was never, ever about children (indecently, only children who are signed up for Comprehensive Sex Education in California schools are taught about gay relationships and sex., so you see how YES on 8 distorted the issue). I was talking to my cousins wife, a stalwart Republican. While she voted NO on Prop 8, she was able to shelter her two children, 11 and 8, from both the YES and NO groups. It wasn't until she passed a rally for YES on 8 that she had to explain to her kids what it was about. And as one who does not believe in lying to her children when they ask a question, she explained to them what was going on. She was not ready to say these things to her children, but she felt, in the end, that it was better to tell the truth.

So, ironically, it was the YES on 8 and not the NO people who forced her hand. Way to go.

But some of this failure to stop this was gays themselves. This was, perhaps, not the most important issue on our road to equal rights. Personally, as I've said before, call it a Civil Union. The word "marriage" carries too much baggage, too much pain and hate. Much like the abortion issue that polarizes a nation, having gays be able to call their commitment together a marriage is never, ever going to happen.

What we need to fight for, in all fifty states of this great Union, is equal rights when is comes to money, and life decisions. Once again, I'll note personal finance guru Suzie Orman when she says its sad that her partner is not entitled to get her money when she dies, because that partner is a woman and that their relationship is not seen as legal, like in straight and common law arrangements. Yes, even in common law arrangements, who ever survives does get their partners pension and inherits their belongings.

In a gay relationship, that is not so. If I have a pension and I die, my partner does not get it. As a matter of fact, my family members could then come to my survivng partner and take everything that was mine -including the roof over his head - and my partner would not have a legal foot to stand on.

And in anyone's book, that is not right.

And one more thing, before I leave, this is not a choice. The flimsy house of cards the religious right builds their argument on is quickly falling by the wayside, and that scares them. But the sad aspect, one I learned this past Saturday when a YES on rally was right outside my front door, that the only way these fools will change their argument is if science gives them 100% empirical evidence (though, they'll still cart out the "activist" phrase because, well, that's the only argument they'll have left). Nothing less than one hundred percent proof -as if the is any actual proof God actually exists.

And while the Catholics had modified their stance for the coming truth with the love the sinner, hate the sin propoganda, the Evangelical Christians will never, it appears, surrender to reality. They want to live in a closed world where only a few people have knowledge and power, and where the rest should be just just lambs, molified by endless episodes of Dancing with the Stars.

On Novemeber 4th, America overwhelming swept away the one of the last shackles of racial intolerence by electing a black man to lead our nation. We took a huge leap forward in this land of the free and brave, but after all the confetti settled, here in California, the people decided that discrimnating against the entire GLBT nation still okay.

After all, it was for the kids.

But like my friend JT said, I'm not done with Prop 8. It's time to become more visable in this battle for equality.

I can no longer sit back and let this intolerance continue. If the Mormons, if the Evangelicals, if the Catholics want a fight, well with my God behind me, I'll fight.

This separate but equal crap is over.


04 November 2008

History is made tonight as Barack Obama wins Presidency!




Barack Obama elected 44th President



NO on 8 -yep I VOTED!

Well, I voted.

And I, of course, voted NO on Prop 8.

Personally I do think they should call it a Civil Partnership or whatever. Calling it a marriage seems a lost cause and one I'm not really worried about.

What the YES on Prop fail to mention is that what we gays a really fighting for is the rights of our partner's benefits and other financial issues that straight couples get. If my partner dies, and he has a pension, I'm not entitled to it like a straight married couple is. Financial guru Suzie Orman has been saying this for years, that she finds it sad that when she dies, her partner - a woman - will not get any of her money and vise versa.

That's what this all about, really. Gay couples should get everything straight couples get -whether married or not, cause even common law gives the spouse the pensions and inheritance.

Plain and simple.

Fine, don't call it a marriage (but I will fight a constitutional change, if only because its unnecessary), but we should be entitled to our partners stuff when they die.

To deny us this, is to discriminate against us. And that, my friends, is where hate is born.

03 November 2008

On the eve of...

It's the eve of one the biggest -don't we say this every 4 years - presidential elections. We've come to the crossroads, folks. And now we all must decide who'll run this country for the next four years. I'm hopeful whoever wins, we as Americans will come together in unity. We've become a polarized country, fighting an endless battle between right and left, using religion as crutch for everything and failing to understand that our Founders had a reason to keep it separate from the rest of government.

Fundamentally, both Obama and McCain would -and should - govern down the center, if only because you have too. Going to far in either direction further opens the schism that is tearing this nation apart.

And let's not forget, we are a divided nation. I do believe in God, but I don't think a higher being such as a God would careless about who sits in a big white house. He wants us to live in peace and harmony, but we humans choose not live that way. Even the so called Jesus Freaks don't want that, you know.

Yes, we choose to be this way.

And until we decide its in the best interest to help all -instead of helping just yourself - we'll continue this schism.

America is great, but it can be a shallow greatness. Just scratch its surface, and you see the hate and the discrimination, the pettiness and the pain.

We need to grow up and stop acting like children on a playground.

Vote tomorrow, please.

01 November 2008

Discrimination comes to La Verne, Ca.




They claim its about protecting the word "marriage" and the kids, but what ever your feelings on marriage, Prop 8 is still about discrimination. That's why this must fail. Why we must fight anything that makes groups of people second class citizens.

And where were all the black folks?

It was a total white wash, and that made it even more scary.

I did end talking to one guy, and he admitted that he too was surprised that no one of color showed up.

Discrimination in any form must be stopped.

I also find it interesting that on City Hall grounds, this protest happened today.

"I'm ready to check out." Studs Terkel 1912-2008

I met him once when I still lived in Chicago, back in the mid 1990's when he was promoting his book Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. I was working at Waterstones -the British bookseller that tried to make a name for itself in US - on the Michigan Avenue. We had a few minutes before his book signing, so him and I sat and talked. Well, he talked. And no one seemed to call him Mr. Terkel, because that seemed so ordinary. Studs was his name and he liked it that way.

He was, as I remember, a man with a passion and as Roger Ebert said he "represented the joyous, scrappy, liberal, generous, wise-cracking heart of this city (Chicago)."

If you met him you were his friend.

His career spanned decades and though born in New York in 1912, he moved with his family to Chicago when he was 8, and would become an honored son of the city I still have some love for.

Studs was a writer of the oral history, becoming the voice of those who had no voice, his books include the classic Hard Times, Working, Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession and recent bestseller Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for a Faith (written after the death of his wife in 1999) and what is to be his last book, P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening due this November.

Listening was what he did, and what he heard, sometimes got him angry like when he got astonished in 2005, when he read a survey that showed "that most people think our best president was Reagan. Not Abraham Lincoln. FDR came in 10th. People don't pay attention any more. They don't read the news."

Or when he discovered that the FBI file on his wife was larger than his. J. Edgar Hoover thought he was a subversive. Hoover, he told Roger Ebert, had a lifelong suspicion of those who thought the Constitution actually meant something.

But at his heart, he cared for those voiceless people and he loved the city of Chicago.

Studs died yesterday, on Halloween of all days. Sadly, I think, he missed ever seeing his beloved the Cubs in World Series and will miss this election, something he had a passion for. As a liberal, you knew who was trumping for, but he once said "having been blacklisted from working in television during the McCarthy era, I know the harm of government using private corporations to intrude into the lives of innocent Americans. When government uses the telephone companies to create massive databases of all our phone calls it has gone too far."

He'll be missed.