30 November 2007

Don't rain on my parade

It's ben months since we've had any measurable rain here in SolCal, but today the skies opened up and let out a crap load. At least at work, anyways. I'm always amazed at the micro weather here, as it can be 10 degrees cooler where I live to where I work, less than 15 miles away.

When I got to work at 6, it was just starting to drizzle. Then it just rained the entire day, sometimes real hard, other's just lightly. When I left at about 2:30, it was still coming down. But, by the time I got home, it just damp and only a drop here and there.

And nothing kills buisness in an open air mall than rain. Even during this Christmas shopping season, today's plan will never be made. Oh well, there's nothing you can do about that.

Roomie's home tonight, after a day of car problems. I look forward to the nights he works, as I like my quietness. Oh well, life goes on.

On Sunday, I return to the directors seat to continue filming 1.03 of Odyssey. It's the last shoot of the year, so yeah. Last Sunday, Rob, Beo, Stephen and I went to scout location stuff for the January shoot. Last January, I got to direct the penultimate episode of Hidden Frontier, which meant setting up all the things for 7.08. Now, almost a 8 months later saying I wanted to helm 1.03 of Odyssey, I've been handed the most complex episode yet. There is a ton of stuff in this episode, a location shoot not withstanding.

I hope I get what I want, with out killing myself.

And while the location shoot will be long, it is January, so the weather should be cool. Rain could be the only problem that day, but we are in SolCal, so the odds are in our favor that it will not rain.

Fingers crossed.

Val Emmich: Singer/songwriter

This little cutie had a guest star role on tonight's 30 Rock. Nice song, plus you got to love those dimples.

29 November 2007

Stephen King's The Mist faces the indifferent fans of the horror genre

Horror films have proven profitable for the studios, both major and independent. And the more gory, the more successful it seems. But was the $8.9 million opening of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella, The Mist bad or good? Well, it really was not bad, as it had to go up against the critically well received Enchanted. However, of the five major films that opened over the Thanksgiving weekend, it did come in last place, despite being the second best reviewed film (based on the Rotten Tomatoes web site, and take what you may from that).

The sad part of it was that Hitman, a sadistically violent film, couched with blatant misogyny and at its best, incoherent plotting, favored better than The Mist. I asked a co-worker, who is huge film goer (him and his girlfriend saw 6 films over the holiday), what caused the movie to come in 9th place.

He said the biggest thing that might scare the young, usually rampant fans of the horror genre, was the film was character based, and not plot driven. It’s cast consisted of older, more mature actors such as Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher and Marcia Gay Harden. He also mentioned, perhaps, some might’ve thought the movie was a remake of The Fog, the 1980 horror film directed by John Carpenter.

Plus the chills and thrills came more off screen than on, leaving the audience to imagine what was going on, as with the rope scene when Braugher’s skeptic lawyer character ventures out into the mist.

It’s a B film none the less, but best B film in a long time. Still, one wonders if that’s all today’s audience wants: plot driven set pieces filled with creepy characters and soggy scripts -which is exactly what the up coming Timber Falls looks like.

24 November 2007

My sister the enabler

On Thanksgiving, I called my older brothers house where the family had gathered to wish them a happy turkey day. I could only talk for a few minutes, as I was about to sit down to dinner my self here in California. I talked to my brothers oldest daughter, getting caught up on the holiday festivities in McHenry Illinois and her life. I found some irony in her telling me that she has to travel and hour back in forth when she does visit her parents. I told her, I did that all time when I lived back there. My three siblings, including the one who will be talked about here, all lived an hour away when I lived in Oak Park.

Funny how things change, yet remain the same.

Anyways, after years of hemming and hawing about the expense of Christmas, how getting individual presents for everyone was costing more and more each passing year, my older sister brought back the name pulling thing. Essentially, all the family names would be thrown into a hat, and you would pick a random name and get that person a present. One gift and that was it. Again, that theme had been kicking around long before I left the state of my birth.

So, while talking to my niece, she mentioned that they were going to do this name pulling thing, and I agreed to be part of it. Since moving here 27 months ago, my financial growth has not really grown. So, I backed out of Christmas 2005, due to just moving here, and continued with Christmas 2006, citing money issues again (and had I stayed in Illinois, while I would’ve contributed to presents in those past two Christmases, I would’ve cut back severely).

I could say at this point, that the name chosen for me was God’s way of telling me something. But buying something for my younger sister is not something I’m comfortable with. I’ve not spoken to her since January, if only because I feel she has lost what ever respect I once had for her.

In the last 6 years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that my sister is a liar and a very bad mother. When her late husband was diagnosed with cancer, all the focus of her family, including her two children, went towards her husband -a man who refused to give up the smoking that was killing him. Had he stopped, there might’ve been some hope, but once he had the facts, it appears my brother-in-law decided that his fate was sealed and he took the soul of my sister with him when he died in April 2006.

Now, as my sister began to take care of her ill husband, her attention began to drift from her two kids, who both soon discovered that the only way to get attention from her was do things that got them in trouble. Both niece and nephew were at critical junctions in their lives during this period, with my nephew just entering into his teens, and my niece only a few years behind.

And as my sister became an enabler to her sick husband, she did the same for her kids. She was allowing these loved ones to behave in very destructive ways. I understand she acted out of love for her husband and her children, but she made a chronic problem worse by being this way.

I cannot list the things that both of her kids did, but I will say these two kids where super smart and had great potential. But all of that has been thrown away, caused by my sisters inability to see the forest for the trees.

I kick myself these days for defending her during her husbands illness, when I heard the things my nephew was doing. I yelled at him, made him cry because I thought my sister need support and not problems. But I was a fool, and did not see until a few years later that this was not all of my nephews fault. Nope, a lot can be laid at my sister’s door.

I know that both my niece and nephew are not fully innocent in the things that have happened. They created their problems, but from my outside point of view, they did what they did because their mother never taught them the values they needed.

Those kids got everything they asked for, never caring or wondering what the expense might be to their parents. They were never taught that world is cruel and unforgiving and that you have give a lot before you receive.

That the universe runs on one principle: cause and effect.

I know my supposable smart nephew has no idea what this means, and I’m beginning to think my younger sister, who I always thought was smarter than me, does not know either.

Now, as I hear from my Mom and older sister, that my younger sister believes the family has abandoned her, because she’s getting on with her life, by seeing another man and pointing out her children need to grow up and move on from the death of their father.

To that point, I give her. Yes, both of her kids need to move on, but the point remains that I don’t think either of the know how, because they were never taught that by either of their parents. They lack the necessary tools to achieve the goals that will put them on the track to success.

And I could careless how many lovers my sister wants to have to fill the void in her life, but at the end of the day, she is still responsible for a 16 year-old and a 20 year-old. She needs to be home, not spending days away from them. She needs to give -if I can use the term - the moral compass to point her two children in the right direction.

Right now, both are rudderless kids, navigating an unstable waters filled with sharks who prey on the weak and the uniformed. Both need a mother willing to sacrifice -because, I think that is the ultimate definition of a mother - sometime with her boyfriend to make sure her children are on a path that will lead them to a better life.

It’s her job, in many ways, and she’s given up on it. She apparently feels that there is nothing more she can do for either of them, and seems to think the die is cast with them.

So here I sit, in November of 2007, given the task of buying a gift for her this Christmas. Maybe God is telling me to forgive her, but I cannot see what for. Will she change and take the responsibility she took when she decided to have children? Her kids are not bad, but they lack the mentor they need to make sure they grow up to be somewhat good humans. Will she listen to anyone of us, with out countering our points with a “but?” Will she care that her oldest son is doomed to be nothing but white trash like his half-brother? Will she care that her daughter is bound to end up in a self-destructive relationship like her mother, as history is on a runaway train towards repeating itself?

She is my sister, and I love her, but she needs to understand that I cannot forgive her anytime soon, for letting her two precious children become what seems to be destined to be, unless she comes to her senses. And that she needs to understand she is an enabler and must stop that practice, beyond the whole liar thing.

I cannot in any good conscience become an enabler either, by getting her a present for Christmas.

And the sad part is, I do feel some guilt for not doing this. But, I also feel in many ways, this is the right thing to do, because redemption and forgiveness cannot be handed out like so much Halloween candy. It needs to earned, and I feel my sister has not seen the light.

Until she does, I will love her, but I will not be made an ass and I will not be sucked into her psycho-drama any more.

23 November 2007

The bizzare fascination of the Right

A few months ago, Virgil Griffith, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, developed the Wikipedia Scanner to see how many times articles on the site were altered and by whom, by backtracking the IP addresses. It also discovered the top searches on the site.

Until today, I did not know there was something called Conservapedia, which is like Wikipedia, but obviously designed for conservatives (despite the fact that anyone can post on the site, just like Wikipedia, Conservapedia claims its “the trustworthy encyclopedia”).

One fun thing is see the statistics of what is being searched on either of them, and apparently on Conservapedia, those conservatives are really, really, obsessed with homosexuality.

Click to Embiggem.

20 November 2007

Winehouse Vs Spears: Which is more fun to watch self-destruct?

Not that I really care, but I kind of think the trainwreck that is Amy Winehouse is much more interesting and fun to watch than the Britney Spears trainwreck.

Maybe it's because Winehouse has actual talent, and its being wasted by all her internal issues. Or maybe it's because she admits she has a drinking/drug problem and looks you in the eye and says "So, what about it."

Spears just tootles along, doing one more stupid thing after another, and wants the world to think its not her with any problem.

Wake up and smell the Lindsey Lohan

Just a thought.

19 November 2007

When Christmas meant something

When I was a kid every Labor Day weekend, my mom would pack all four of her children into the car and head to Leewards in Elgin, Illinois, a craft store that I believe no longer exists. It was yesteryears version of today’s Michaels, I guess.

It all began after my Dad died, and my mom had to some how make the money she was getting from social security stretch. Her goal was to teach us that we cannot expect to get things without giving also. And Christmas was the prime example of her thinking.

So, all four of us would buy (though she paid for them) an unmade ornament, one for our grandparents, one for our aunt and uncle and one for her. And we would have, essentially, from Labor Day on to make them up and have them ready for Christmas Eve (which is when my family exchanged presents. Then on Christmas Day, we would all get together for a big dinner, usually wearing what we got the previous night).

Gosh, none of us had those things done early. All four of us were usually struggling to get them finished, some just being done Christmas Eve morning. My older brother generally tried to get the more complex ones, while I tried to get the pretty ones (so gay then). My older sister seemed to go the same way, while my younger sister tried to be like the oldest; more complex.

Then, when my family members opened them, they would oh and ah over them like it was the best present they ever got. Which was the point. I never understood why they liked them so much, until my nieces and nephews started doing the same thing. I treasure those gifts, the time and the love that went into them, more any other thing I’ve gotten then and since.

To me, that is what Christmas represents. It’s not about giving the most expensive present to someone and hoping they gave you something equal or more. It’s about the love that went into the gift. I mean, for me, no love what so ever goes into a pair of expensive jeans of an iPod.

Making someone something, even something like an ornament, does not say you’re cheap. I think it means you love the person very much. And when I say that, it’s because my family still has everyone of those ornaments. Every damn one of them.

Some are 30 years old, but they’re on their trees every year. Can’t say that about those parachute pants.

17 November 2007

The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari

There was a time, about 20 plus years ago, where I bought and read many fantasy novels. While I never started with the granddaddy of the all, The Lord of The Rings, I none the less read a many.

However, beginning in the 90's, my thirst for them waned -same thing that happened mysteries between 1977 and 1981. There was so many, and mostly multi-volumed, that I could not finish them all. Some where just badly written, and others where just too close to Lord of the Rings to be inventive.

Over the intervening two decades, I’ve read only a few fantasy series that went beyond three books, mainly because I could not wait years between volumes. I mean, a year or two between books created this problem where I kind of forgot what happened.

There are some authors, I think, who realize that many people no longer have the time, or the motivation to devote years to a series. But, as the world goes, publishers are looking for series titles, franchises. A single volume “epic fantasy” is sort of frowned upon.

A couple of years ago, Tad Williams (who wrote one of my favorite multi-volume series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn) wrote a stand-alone fantasy novel called the War of the Flowers. While I like him, I was a bit hesitant to read (and still have not) his 4 volume Otherland series. Again, I argued, too many years between releases. Anyway, War of the Flowers was great time to sit and read an epic story, but told in only in one, if a bit overlong, volume.

Of course, Williams is an established author, so he can get away with this one-off. He’s back at the multi-book series format with the Shadowmarch, book one in which I read, and awaiting the paperback release of book 2.

A couple of weeks ago, I un-boxed The Book of Joby at my Borders, by first time novelist Mark J. Ferrari. As it boldly claims on its backcover, it is “An epic fantasy complete in one volume.” So, I had to read it.

Delving into Judeo-Christianity “mythology,” he drums up take on the Old Testament character of Job, here called Joby. The character of Job -(from wikipedia) is described as a rich, blessed man who fears God and lives righteously. Satan, however, challenges Job's integrity, and so it is revealed to Satan by God that Job exceeded the protective hedge with the word "behold" in effect God is saying look he is outside his protective boundry, resulting in tragedy for Job: the loss of his children, wealth, and physical soundness.

But this is no fantasy novel for the Left Behind crowd -as suggested by a review from Publisher’s Weekly that appears on Amazon.com’s web site. In truth it is a modern take on the classic Good vs Evil, with Lucifer wagering (what God calls a “stupid bet”) to undo God’s Creation of the Earth, and more importantly, free will.

Here, the novel becomes more interesting, as Ferrari also adds elements of Camelot and King Arthur, along with Jody’s devotion to be the best kid -and then, man - there is.

Joby is sweet child when we meet him, growing up in a normal, if not one bound to enormous amounts of coincidence and circumstance, world. But as Lucifer’s plan to take on God’s Champion, proceeds, everything Joby lives and loves for, begins to collapse around him. Yet, he retains his sense of love for God and the world, believing that there is more good in the world than evil.

But as his universe shatters, there is still hope, as a forgotten seaside town holds many unusual people and seems to defy a modern world. There a long-lost love, and her loving, yet emotionally damaged son, that holds Joby’s future and King Arthur’s past.

Ferrari’s mentions in an interview over at A Dribble of Ink, the challenges of crafting a novel that is heavily influenced by Christianity. He worried he might turn off the fantasy junkies, and also feel the rage of Christians, who seem to not want anyone mess with their religious history.

So, as a gay man, I kind of worried that Ferrari was going to make some Left Behind novel, where he condones many things, including gay people. But, to my surprise, while the novel is a bit heavy handed, it neither panders to or criticizes religion. It also never sort diverges into a soapbox on liberal points of view, either.

I kind of did not like the cliched notion that all “sensitive” kids are thought as gay, but sadly, that seems to be all too real. In correspondence with Ferrari, he explained to me that he was one of “sensitive”, artistic kids that most fathers seem to dread. So, it opened my eyes a bit on why Joby’s dad has issues with his son’s potential possibilities that he could be gay (although planted by Lucifer’s minions).

But, overall, I like the book, loved the characters and liked the way he addressed issues that -as I read - came into my mind. But you got to like the balls of a guy who would take on the Bible (and the Book of Job) and mesh it with a retelling of King Arthur and The Round Table.

And make it work.

14 November 2007

John Francis Daley

22 year-old John Francis Daley, who shined in NBC's Freaks and Geeks, has grown up to be one hot kid. Still, he seems have way to many teeth in his mouth, but got to love those cheekbones.

Anyways, he'll be joining the cast of Bones, FOX's procedural drama that airs on Tuesdays.

11 November 2007

Where art thou Gavin DeGraw?

Back in May of 2003, I was handed by my friend Marc a five song CD sampler from Gavin DeGraw called "Chariot". Marc, as I may've mentioned before here, knows what I like, so he knew I would like this.

Well, yes, I did fall in love with the CD, though I would have to eventually wait until July of that year to pick up the full album. Soon after, Marc told me DeGraw would be appearing at the Borders on State Street, so you know, I had to go.

I enjoyed the songs, learned the lyrics and when later I saw him at said Borders, I could sing along. I also got a chance then to see him at The House of Blues later for free, where I actually got to meet him, to fawn all over him (cause he is hawt). As I said, I liked the CD a lot and continued to keep it in rotation on my CD player.

The, in an interesting, but very confusing marketing strategy, a year after "Chariot" came out, they released a "stripped" version of the album, which was just the like the first version recorded on one take in the studio. No new songs were added

After the release of "Chariot", DeGraw popped up on many TV shows like Jay Leno and Carson Daly and Live with Regis and Kelly. He also had cameo appearances in such TV shows as American Dreams and Dead Like Me. He also appeared in One Tree Hill, the former WB show that used his song "I Don’t Want To Be" as its opening theme.

But there's been nothing since. Why does this up and coming singer/songwriter not release a new CD of music in over 4 ½ years?

I had heard back in the fall of 2006, he was going back into the studio to record a new album, but as of right now, and according to his “under construction” web site, a CD is in the works, with the nebulas Fall/Winter timeframe.

I’m unsure what the issue is, though I’m guessing he did not become the huge hit everyone at J Records thought he would. But that’s fine with me, I just like him and his music.

I have faith in him, but close to five years is way too long between CD's. It’s almost an eternity.

07 November 2007

Writers Strike gives me a reason never to turn on TV

In someways, this writers strike -and the probable actors/director strike in June 2008 - might make the final decision I’ve been mulling for a few years. First, I believe the writers, actor and directors are entitled to the monies that come from the new media, the DVD sales and what-not that is posted on the internet. Even if -as they claim - its only a few dollars here and there.

But as I’ve gotten older, as the studios rely more heavily on demographics that place more stock in plot driven stories instead of character driven ones, the more they’ve alienated me. The more they’ve wasted air time with craptacular programs such as Survivor, Dancing with the Stars and Deal or No Deal, the more they push me to turning the TV off for good. The more they choose to let good shows -such as Arrested Development, as an example - go because it did not have spectacular numbers out of the gate, the more I want to say screw you.

I’ve already stopped going to movies, even though I can see them free, thanks to a house mate who works for the movie theaters. I think I’ve only seen no more than five films this year, and not one of them was Spider-Man 3 or Transformers. I just can’t seem to waste my time sitting through TV commercials on the big screen, endless previews for more franchise films than anything close to original and people who think they’re in their homes, giving them a right to talk aloud -or, for that matter, chat on their mobile phones.

I’ve let my reading lapse, because of the magical idiot box and hundreds of stations. I’ve sacrificed a good number of waking hours to stupid shows that five minutes after their off, I could not tell you what they’re about. I’ve let gas prices get in the way of actually getting out of the house and do something that does not involve watching TV. I’ve gotten fat, because when I come home from work, it was easier to turn on the tube instead of doing something with friends.
As far as I’m concerned, this strike could provide me with the best reason yet to not to turn it on any time soon. And as I already spend too much time on the internet, if there is a TV show that has great buzz, and its something I might want to watch, I can always wait for it on DVD.

I can wait.

But my life cannot. Sorry, TV, but along with going to the movies, you’ve outlived your usefulness.