Saturday, April 13, 2013

Moving day

Hey… If you keeping watching this space you might notice that it’s not getting updated after a while…. That’s because I’ve moved this blog over to Wordpress. Some cool additional features and the way crossposting works better with Facebook have enticed me to make the switch.

So here’s where this blog will live now:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gray stories

Here's the grayness at the heart of all storytelling: Every fiction is based on true stories, but every true story is constructed of fictions. And what's true and what's fiction are often interchangeable the way quantum particles are sometimes there and not there at the same time. What kind of crazy bastard does it take to dance across tightropes made out of both cable and smoke?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

George Goes Fishing

George goes fishingMy grandfather used to be such a big guy to me. A big fisherman, taking me out on the lake and showing me how to fish for bass, patient with me even though I got bored with it so fast, me being not even 10 years old yet. But maybe he seemed so big because I was so small then.

But now he seemed skin and bones, so much of him wasted away, evaporated into the dry, sterile air of the hospital room. He’d had a flop of gray hair back then, but now it was flat and dead, like he was soon to be. He was already still like death. And his mind was as gone as anyone already in the ground. Alzheimer’s had killed and was killing him.

Yeah, I showed up. I hadn’t for a long, long time. But I showed up because I knew, deep down inside, like animals know another animal is dying, that the end was near.

My grandmother was there and was polite, but I knew that if we weren’t so closed off and reserved she would have been yelling at me, because I worked in disappointing her the way Rembrandt worked in paint. Her good little Bible boy had long ago stopped going to church, and eventually I would stop believing altogether. The one unforgiveable sin. But she was really okay with it because she knew in the end her god was going to burn my ass in my very own eternal prison cell and then I’d be sorry. And that seemed to be enough for her.

Every once in a while there was just the smallest movement of my grandfather’s stomach that showed he was still breathing, but it was so small I had to wonder how the hell anyone could live on so little air. Even with all those tubes running in and out of him.

God had been a major disappointment by not existing, but Science wasn’t making me feel much better – it sure seemed to be keeping my grandfather alive a lot longer than he had any right to be, long after his brain had turned into soggy Rice Krispies that would never ever snap, crackle or pop again.

I went over and brushed my hand through his hair. It felt like dust. He was as dry as my eyes. I wasn’t going to cry. He had already been gone a long time.

His eyes moved under his lids then, like he was dreaming. What the hell can you dream when your mind is gone? What the hell goes on in there? Does it make sense inside there?

Hell, dreams don’t mean anything even when you’ve got a working brain. It’s just your subconscious trying to make sense out of the random electrical impulses as your brain slips into and out of sleep. Our minds are terrific at pretending to make sense out of senselessness. I wondered if in his brain it was senselessness out of senselessness.

“We need to go fishing.”

I didn’t even recognize his voice.

“We need to go fishing,” he said again.

“Yeah, maybe when you get better,” I said to him. My grandmother rushed to the bed yelling, “Praise Jesus!” She was probably thinking he was healed or something.

And then he said, “Crayons.” And then he said, “Look, the cat is dead.”

And then he was asleep again.

Well, I left. He wasn’t there. That was just some kind of echo of him, a sick joke of time that rolls on way too fast and does obscene things to our minds and our bodies, as I knew it would do to me before I was ready for it, and I can feel its creeping fingers even now, longing to molest me and fuck me up for good.

And that night inside my still-working brain my subconscious mucked about with the random electrical impulses, and I was a little bored boy again, in my grandfather’s fishing boat, backing out of the slip but for some reason we couldn’t get the boat moving out into the lake. My grandfather, who was big again, was muttering, “We’ve got to catch the current, we’ve got to catch the current,” and I tried to help, I tried to help, but nothing got us moving. We were stuck. “We’ve got to catch the current,” he kept saying.

And I woke up saying “I’m sorry,” but I have no earthly idea why. And when the phone rang, I knew it was my mom, calling to tell me that my grandfather had passed away last night. “How could we tell?” I wanted to snark, but I didn’t, because I could never catch the current, no matter how hard I tried. That goddamn boat was going to be stuck there forever.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Last night’s Mad Men

So here's what was going on beneath the surface in last night's Mad Men (where EVERYTHING happens beneath the surface): death, death, lying, death, dying, death, death, dying, death, death and death. And violence and ugliness are beginning to creep in to the chic and sexy fatalism as 1968 dawns.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Bye, Roger

Roger Ebert wrote, "I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state." I feel the same way. I personally don't believe in any existence after death. I think we just stop being, and that's it. That idea frightens people. It's frightening because it's impossible to imagine... You really can't imagine not being. But I look at it this way: For the trillions of years before I was born, non-existence didn't seem to trouble me, so I guess non-existence will be a similar breeze after I'm gone.

The only trouble with non-existence is that we who are left behind have to carry on a little longer.

I'm going to miss Roger Ebert.

Monday, April 01, 2013

After years of hard work…

My new book, “Narcissism and What It Means to Me” is finally hitting store shelves and e-readers today! I’ll be doing a book signing at 1433 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles 90028 at 4 this afternoon... The first 25 people in line will also get an autographed DVD copy of my live Broadway musical, "Have Her Scrubbed and Sent to My Tent," the story of how I met my third wife. I expect people will start lining up around 10am, so you may want to get there early. I know I will.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Star Wars 7? I’ve got an idea…

J.J. Abrams is directing Star Wars 7? Here's a thought, a crazy, crazy thought... Have him "reboot" the prequels, but do it in one film. Do it right. Write a better, tighter story. Write dialog that doesn't make the audience puke. Make Jar Jar an unperson and drop all records and photos of him into a memory hole. Please dear god find an actual actor to play Anakin.

J.J. angered some Trek purists with his reboot of Star Trek. Granted, some of the elements that made Trek transcend itself just weren't there. But also granted, it was a fun action ride of a movie -- just what the original Star Wars films had in abundance, and the prequels totally forgot. If J.J. did for a Wars prequel what he did to Trek, we'd have a *ride*, baby.

Okay, I know that's not going to happen. And I'm sure Star Wars 7 will have that swashbuckling fun we all miss. J.J. obviously knows how to make a fun, summer thrill ride of a flick with just enough story and decent acting and a good cast to hold it together. (Again, see Trek.)

The story of Darth Vader's origin was not a bad one to want to show, it's just that Lucas screwed the pooch by not letting someone else take his story outline and write it up all pretty, and by not letting someone talk him out of pointlessly stretching it into a trilogy. The one and only thing that I can even stomach from the prequels is that brief shot in Revenge of the Sith with Obi-Wan and Anakin laser saber fighting way off in the distance. That was a cool shot. But that's it.

Maybe I'm wishing this because there's a place deep inside of me, where I'm dark and paranoid and scared like a little boy lost in the woods, that seeing an aging Luke and Leia and Han is just going to make me... sad.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lincoln Revisited

I’ve already written my shorthand review of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, but it’s now out on home media and it’s time to revisit this magnificent film.

I have no religion of my own, but my love and affection for the historical figure of Abraham Lincoln borders on religious devotion. If ever there were someone I would worship it would be the 16th President.

The great accomplishment of Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis here is making me feel that I have personally met the man in the history books and early photographs. Lincoln’s homespun manner, which hid an immense intelligence and unparalleled political savvy, shines through in the film, and though his speech was simple for the time, the words he strung together could have fallen from the lips of a god. Shakespeare in all his striving could never meet the genius of Lincoln cajoling his cabinet, entertaining a lowly private, or arguing with his wife.

The film captures all of it – the way he seemed to have a story for every occasion, his high, sometimes reedy voice (borne out by historical accounts), the way he was hunched over, carrying the weight of all the blood spilled on Civil War battlefields, his flat-footed step, as if there were a fear God might realize he’d made some mistake in allowing a figure so grand as Lincoln to set foot on this unworthy earth and snatch him back to heaven.

And who can deny how Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field put their indelible imprints on the story? The scene of Jones’ Thaddeus Stevens browbeating his hapless Democratic colleague alone is worth the price of admission. Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln also illustrates how his wife surely was as much of what made Lincoln a great man as his own righteousness and humility.

John Williams’ score, intimate and grand but always longing to soar with its echoes of Aaron Copland, seems to soften the emotional blow that surely comes at the end of any telling of Abraham Lincoln’s story. Williams has never written so sweet and touching a score as this one. It is an adagio for the end of an age, a requiem for the closing of one chapter of America and a gentle prelude for the beginning of another.

If there is any complaint I could make, as if I had the nerve to tell Spielberg how to make a movie, it would be this: I would have ended with Lincoln leaving the White House to go to the theater, and faded into his second inaugural speech to close the film. The scenes of the announcement that the president had been shot, and the moment of his passing, seemed unnecessary, almost tacked on like an afterthought. But perhaps that is because Lincoln’s death, even though it happened a century before I was born, cuts me as if it were a personal loss, and perhaps in my mind that is the moment in which I want to turn away. Surely, I would want to be left with the lingering image of a tired, exhausted president walking down the hallway, never to return home, because I already feel the loss in my heart and don’t need to see it with my eyes.

Abraham Lincoln was too great for his time, but so necessary for it.

Spielberg’s Lincoln captures all of that for me, and that’s why it’s now one of my favorite films of all time.

$8,000 for being forced to listen to ‘It’s A Small World” for 30 minutes

A man who got stuck inside Disney's It's A Small World ride for 30 minutes when it broke down, and had to listen to the song for a half hour straight, has been awarded $8,000 in damages.

While I might want money too if I was forced to listen to it for 30 minutes, there's actually a lot more to the story:

Disneyland paid disabled Jose Martinez $8,000 damages for failing to evacuate him when the ride broke down a day after Thanksgiving in 2009.

Martinez, of San Pedro in Los Angeles County, is in his 50s and paralyzed, needing a wheelchair. He was reportedly stuck in the "Goodbye Room" when the ride broke down.

However, he also suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, both of which became an issue as he sat in the boat with the "Small World" song playing over and over, his attorney, David Geffen said, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The condition was aggravated by Martinez's need to urinate, Geffen said, adding that his client could not medically stabilize for three hours after the ride broke down.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Future man

Had a strange dream the other night. A guy from a thousand years in the future showed up and asked to look around my apartment. When he went into the bathroom, he pointed at the toilet and asked me what it was. When I told him, he laughed and laughed...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Tudors

So I binge-watched The Tudors on Netflix, sue me.

The show had some faults, some of them amusing, like the telenovela soap opera opening credits, the conceit that every historic personage was young, virile and looked like fashion models, and the ridiculous attempt to "age" Henry VIII by merely streaking his hair with gray and having him speak in a husky voice. And it simply wouldn't have done to show Henry VIII's girth he gained early in life, even as he was wooing his second wife -- but then Jonathan Rhys Meyers didn't look at all like the paintings we have of the monarch.

And, of course, as soap opera, it displayed every motivation as coming from sex and lust, when it was not always the case. But all that was for television, and Showtime had demanded a sexy soap opera based on history, and that's what they got -- Will Durant with lots of breast shots, sweaty bodies and perfectly-lit thighs.

It departed from history in quite a few places, especially some seemingly random diversions, but in other ways was quite pleasantly devoted to it: some bits, especially letters and speeches delivered before beheadings, were taken directly from historical accounts. The portrayal of Henry composing Greensleeves made me laugh -- even though that theory has been debunked, it did persist in history for quite some time.

But in some places the show rose to poetry -- poetry in visuals as well as in words. I don't know why, but the portrayal of Ann Boleyn's downfall, final hours and execution have brutally haunted me. She had just seen her father disown her to save his own skin, but in her final moments, as the sword swung toward her neck, she imagined herself a little girl once again, being swung around in a green lawn by her smiling, loving father who was now gone. I can't get that episode out of my mind. It haunts me still.

There was also a brief scene in the middle of the 4th season, where the Duke of Suffolk and the Earl of Surrey have a conversation about the ephemeral nature of happiness (video below) -- which has stuck in my head too, hitting very close to home. The pleasures of life grow dim and small as we race toward the end, indeed.

All in all, the acting was generally good, with the characters of Cardinal Wolsey, Anne Boleyn and Thomas More elevating the enterprise. The show seemed to stumble a bit once these magnificent characters left the stage as many did in the reign of Henry VIII, but in a way that too captured the reign itself, as it peaked and then began a slide toward its inevitable end.

But in the final analysis the show captured the essence of Henry VIII, a behemoth (in more ways than one) astride English history -- probably the loudest, most colorful of the English monarchs.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Diagnosis by email: DJ's tinnitus nightmare 'cured' thanks to advice from expert 3,000 miles away

Diagnosis: Ian Turner


Diagnosis: Ian Turner

Wales News Service

A DJ whose ­worsening tinnitus drove him to consider suicide was cured after the cause was diagnosed via email by an American doctor.

Ian Turner said UK medics told him there was nothing wrong and then said surgery would be “too dangerous”.

In agony, he contacted New York doctor Maksim Shapiro, an expert he found through research on the internet, and sent him his brain scans.

Retired radio presenter Ian said: “He emailed back lots of arrows showing what was causing the whooshing.”

Ian, 56, took the email to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and told doctors: “This is how to cure me.”

He said: “Once they saw the arrows they knew how to fix it. It wasn’t as serious as doctors thought.”

Ian, of Llandudno, Conwy, has now made a full recovery.

He said: “I had four operations at Addenbrooke’s - three of them in three days.

“Addenbrooke’s were wonderful. I feel great.”

He added: “My life’s been transformed. I want to cross the Atlantic to look Dr Shapiro in the eye to thank him."