Saturday, November 3, 2007
This past week, I reported that Hillary Clinton was expressing angst over the fact the candidates in the Presidential race appeared to "gang up" on her at the debates on Tuesday evening.
In support of my post, I cited an e-mail communication, in which Clinton's camp wrote,
If you saw the debate Tuesday night, or if you've seen the news coverage since, then you know that this campaign has entered a new phase.
On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six against one. Candidates who had pledged the politics of hope practiced the politics of pile on instead. Her opponents tried a whole host of attacks on Hillary."
Consequently, I was little surprised when I encountered a small article in the local daily the next day, alleging that Hillary was pulling the "gender card" and crying foul.
In today's paper, it was reported that Barack Obama scoffed at Hillary's alleged complaint that she was being forced to "compete in the all-boys club" of presidential politics.
Obama boldly went on to lament that he would never use his race to shield himself from attacks.
Well, I LOL.
In Law, there is a term...being on "point".
It essentially means to focus on the underlying, key issue, to avoid getting side-tracked.
Attorneys often go "off point" in court, in a deceptive effort to take attention away from the real issue, cause confusion - and hence - facilitate "smoke-and-mirrors" tactics to confound the matters at hand.
A clever trick!
But, Hillary Clinton never made that allegation.
As she correctly noted in today's New York Times,
"I don't think they're piling on me because I'm a woman. I think they're piling on me because I am winning."
For once, I have to side with Mrs. Clinton.
Overzealous, trigger-happy critics (and foes) jumped the gun, and consequently, fired off blanks!
Yeah, the boo-boo was not only made by Barack Obama - but key players in the political race, as well.
Advice to Mr. Obama?
Cooler heads prevail, Sir!
The Starbucks in West Hollywood, across from 24 Hour Fitness, is probably one of the busiest, most popular, cafes in the city.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, long lines are prone to snake through the eclectic outlet, as patrons patiently wait to move up in line and order their morning cup of steaming java.
Until recently, oft times there was a jumble of confusion, as the line spilled this way and that - but the crowd in Boys Town is so polite, generally - did it really matter if someone shoved ahead when a head was turned to cruise some sweet young thing?
Then, someone at Starbucks got a novel idea!
Management proceeded to install a couple of waist-high partitions through a section of Starbucks - to facilitate a sort-of runway - to guide the hordes gently into the service and cash areas.
Frankly, I thought I was the only one amused by this approach...surely the folly of it all had soared over the sleepy heads of the early morning gang as they sought to curb their cravings for caffeine to head off the crack-of-dawn blues.
Today, a delightful man in a natty suit, and fashionable tie, turned and smirked,
"Don't you like the way they've corralled us?"
Yeah, like a herd of cattle, we were heading off to slaughter - to snap up double lattes, breakfast sandwiches, the latest tunes from their music roster, aesthetically-pleasing designer mugs, high-tech coffee grinders - you name it!
Clever marketing, yeah!
But, the pharmacy down the street had a keen idea, too.
They etched some footprints on the polished tile floor, so the teaming masses could fathom where to queue up, wait their turn, and pay for their super mega-vitamins, trojans, metrosexual hair products, and the like.
One day, two customers were arguing over where to stand, at which point, the pharmacist thrust a forefinger to the direction of the floor to confirm that the line should follow the neat patterns of little feet below.
Yeah, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them toe the line!
Friday, November 2, 2007
The Ambassador to Sudan states that there is no genocide in his country.
In fact, in the documentary film - "Darfur Now", he boldly alleges that the idea is a myth created by politicians in the United States to land black votes.
In a matter of minutes, though, those absurd notions are quickly put to rest as the tragedy in Darfur unfolds on screen.
Villages have been looted and burned, women have been raped, and children murdered mercilessly at the hands of the Janjaweed (known as the "Devil on Horseback") and all is sanctioned by the Government of Sudan.
Accusers say Sudan's government is guilty of "ethnic cleansing" and crimes against humanity.
Likewise, "The Human Rights" watch accuses government-backed Arab militias of systematic attacks on black Sudanese peasants and government forces of starving black Sudanese to death in concentration camps.
On the heels of these reports, the United Nations has alleged that the government and the militias (the Janjaweed) have systematically starved refugees under their control.
More than seven million of the world's nearly twelve million refugees have been confined to camps, special settlements, or other conditions in which their basic human rights have been denied for ten years or more, according to the 2004 World Refugee Survey released by the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR).
Without doubt - it's a complex situation fraught with unnerving truths, sinister characters and enough mysteries - to satisfy any amateur sleuth pining for closure.
In this stirring documentary, the filmmakers engage in an admirable effort to lay bare any uncertainties, with the specific aim of exposing the corrupt underbelly of an ugly all-powerful criminal regime in control.
And, the filmmakers accomplish the task in a novel potent way.
With great insight, the camera focuses on six different individuals from inside Darfur and around the globe who are involved in bold-faced efforts to throw a searing spotlight on the tragedy in Sudan.
These brave activists consist of a Darfurian woman who becomes a rebel, a Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, a focused United Nations worker, and a justice-seeking UCLA graduate with ties to Sudan.
In the process, the producers unmask a noble truth:
One person can bring about a difference to millions in the scheme of things.
It only takes one foot to step forward to start effecting real change.
A thread of the intricate tapestry which is Darfu - unravels - as one man (the head prosecutor at the International Criminal Court) begins an investigation into the alleged atrocities with the specific aim of bringing the responsible culprits to justice.
With a pervading sadness - the Official recalls the criminal proceedings in his own homeland (Argentina) - where corrupt officials were brought to trial.
Those humble beginnings in that heady historical era ended up forging a foundation for his life's work ahead.
When frustrated reporters quiz him as to why the wheels of justice are turning so slowly - and hint that there appears to be a failure to bring the evil-doers before the court for speedy prosecution - he is crestfallen.
Bottom line - he'd like to surge ahead - but understands from past litigation that an airtight case backed with solid indisputable evidence - is the key.
Then, the tale shifts to a U.N. worker and his frustrations in dealing with mounting problems on the battlefront.
Although the "World Food Project" delivers tons of food daily, the shipments are often hijacked by the Janjaweed, stolen, or kept from the mouths of the hungry and the needy.
At times, he feels as if he is just spinning his wheels.
There must be action, now!
The filmmakers proceed to expertly weave into the tale the quest of two men - who hatch up the idea (out-of-frustration really) to hit Sudan where it hurts most - in the pocketbook.
The dedicated duo commence with the arduous task of organizing a petition and gathering signatures with the ultimate aim of introducing a "Bill" in California for the "Divestment of Funds" (pension monies) from Sudan.
Meanwhile, the story shifts to the countryside, where a handful of rebels - rest, perch in trees and hide behind rocks - at the ready to hold back the Janjaweed, if necessary.
The intense fearful talk drifts to lofty ideas.
The villagers imagine what it will be like when the "white people" come. Ah, they envision paved roads, electricity, and the creature comforts of a home.
All manner of manna from heaven.
Until then - rag-tag members of the Woman's Union vow to fight for their lives and for Darfur - as ubiquitous automatic rifles protrude from their laps.
With suppressed smiles, they recall a day when there were orchards and lush gardens, and plenty for all.
Darfur had been a virtual Garden of Eden, but was thrown asunder for some inexplicable reason.
Don Cheadle, one of the producers for the gripping documentary argues,
"If all the people who call up American Idol each week also rang up the Government and protested," he asserted, "Some legitimate action would be underway today."
As he stood on the sidelines - the Ambassador to Sudan - taunted the filmmakers by boasting that the protests of outsiders would fall on deaf ears and that rebels fighting his regime would be pushed back.
"The Government has a monopoly on violence," he remarks matter-of-fact.
But, near the end of the documentary, there is good news.
The "Bill" to divest investments in the Sudan has not been vetoed by the Governor.
In one of the few humorous scenes in the movie - Schwarzenegger strides out - and strikes up some idle talk with Don Cheadle.
"I've never seen you in a suit. You look good," - something to that effect.
In another scene, Hillary Clinton steps into a meeting room looking for-all-the-world like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
Will she inherit this legacy?
Is that why she's being cautious?
With a flourish, Schwarzenegger signs the "Bill", and it is introduced into Law in the State of California.
To add to the joy of the tireless workers - the two political figures responsible for the heinous crimes are finally indicted and named as defendants - to be arrested and prosecuted at trial in the Hague.
But, the Ambassador is resolute.
The two political bag men will never be turned over to authorities, he assures the filmmakers.
At the close of the movie - it's evident the "heroes" of this documentary have impacted the Sudanese horrors - significantly.
But, life (and death) goes on in Darfur.
"Unless this criminal conduct is stopped," says one political insider, "The rest of the world will be like this in twenty-five years."
The price of apathy, perhaps?
Henri Frederic Amiel once noted,
Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.
According to the Democrats, "It's time for our party to show a little backbone and to have a little guts..."
That's the message that arrived by e-mail communication this morning from the JOHN EDWARDS camp.
Heh, where have THEY been?
In the past few months, major press outlets have been swirling around two major galaxies - that of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Now, John Edwards comes out swinging, at last.
His campaign slogan is,
"Heroes...join the campaign to change America"
Who are the heroes?
Edwards assures us the heroes are,
"The working men and women of this country"
It has appeal, to be sure!
All-American in approach.
But, what of the man who would be the future King of Camelot?
Well, he has all the trappings...the accent - a good sign (John F. Kennedy had a distinctive one and look where it propelled him); the good looks, albeit, a bit on the pretty side (Mrs. Edwards no doubt worries a lot when he's on the campaign trail); and, the demeanor...indeed, he has the ability to appear honest and straightforward - prerequisites for a PREZ, don't you think?
Everyone loves the Cowboy who rides into a troubled town and sets things straight.
According to his Deputy Campaign manager, Jonathan Prince, Edwards intends to do that.
In yesterday's e-mail (get a lot of 'em lately) he tackled the hardcore issues...
Edwards had the courage to speak out against the big, bad oil companies and the evil pharmaceutical giants; in fact, he took a nasty slap at the all-pervading corruption and incompetence, he says is awash, in Washington, D.C.
Then, the youngster Senator argued that the founding fathers in Philadelphia knew where the governmental reins should reside - why, with humble Americans, of course - not in the custody of the rich or the powerful.
Wouldn't you agree?
Yup, he "hit on" the issues that trigger the emotions, make people spring into action, and incite a Nation - to vote!
The agitated Senator ended with a poignant question...do we want to turn a mess over to our children?
He's clever, too; after all, Edwards knows it's in poor taste to point an accusing finger, so - he admits he's at fault, too.
You know what, though? He's willing to change!
Give yourself a pat on the back, John.
But, there's one problem...he has a crooked mouth, see?
That must portent something ominous, don't you think?
And, for what it's worth,...most Americans are under the impression, too, that John Edwards is but scant Vice-Presidential material; clearly, not the man to throw up his feet on the big desk in the Oval office and bark orders to the Chief of Staff.
Can he lead?
Well, he's sure capable of orchestrating hysteria in short spasms of time, and adept at offering up good public relations lip - as the race gathers steam, anyway.
Here's what his team is spinning out,
"The American people are hungry for change. They don't want a candidate who defends the broken system in Washington. Any candidate who stands with the lobbyists instead of the American people will lose."
"But with John Edwards at the top of the ticket, we can turn red states blue, build stronger Democratic majorities in Congress, and help Democrats take back more governorships and state legislatures across the country."
"Because John knows that in this election, we need a bold leader—not someone who's just a little better than the Republicans. John is the only candidate in the race who has won in a red state. And poll after poll show him out-performing all the other Democrats against all of the top Republican candidates—especially in the swing states and red states we'll need to win to take back the White House."
Then, he boldly lays claim to victory at Tuesday night's debate.
His actions are typical...in the promotional clip he broadcasts his most strident, powerful moments - with a big thrust on the attack mode (spoken of in the press in recent days) - which was levelled at Mrs. Clinton.
But, just as Hillary clears her throat to respond, she is cut off.
Unlike Barack Obama, John Edwards is no fool.
For sure, he's not going to budge, or give credit to his opponent - or precious air time, for that matter - not on his meager purse strings, anyway!
The pitch hits hard at the end,
"Polls show that with candidates other than John Edwards at the top of the Democratic ticket, Democrats will have a tough time defending the blue states and winning the swing states we'll need to take the White House in 2008. We could even lose our majorities in Congress!"
For this reason, Edwards begs for my my support, and $$$ would be appreciated, of course.
And, what a send off!
Deputy Campaign Manager, Jonathan Prince, wished me a Happy Halloween.
Yeah, trick or treat!
The Geffen Playhouse is a pleasant venue...
The front foyer is softly lit and aesthetically-pleasing to the eye. And, the courtyard is a lovely sanctuary to sip on a glass of wine, munch on a cheese and fruit plate, or engage in a quiet tete-a-tete.
As the curtain call rang, my eye quickly scanned a brief synopsis of the featured play I was attending - "Third" - by celebrated playwright, Wendy Wasserstein ( Heidi Chronicles).
Laurie Jameson is a professor who has made a number of important inroads - academically-speaking - at a private Liberal Arts College.
When Woodson Bull III (as in "Third") - a jock - who, in his own words, "just wants to learn, wrestle, and graduate" - is accused of "alleged plagiarism" by Jameson, the two hard-heads end up sparring over politics, Shakespeare, and campus culture - with dramatic results.
Sub-plots weave through the main story, which include - an insightful peek at the emotional trauma of a friend who is terminally-ill; the baffling rebellion of a troubled daughter; and an intriguing foray into the issue of "senility" and its impact - by way of a father...who, in the words of the daughter, "always made me feel safe".
The play is in two acts; each consisting of small scenes, which suffice to cut short material which often strains a little here and there throughout the production.
There are a number of problems with "Third" in its new incarnation at the Geffen.
First and foremost, it appears that Christine Lahti is miscast in the lead.
A case in point...
In the opening classroom scene, Lahti stands center stage, and talks to the audience as if they are her students.
Right off the bat, it is evident that Ms. Lahti lacks the ability to make the scene work; there is no subtlety or appropriate nuance in her characterization, for example.
While stage acting may require a role be played "bigger" - as opposed to those in another medium such as Film or Television - here, Lahti struggles to attain a proper balance.
Consequently, her acting comes across as forced and stilted; realism suffers, as a result.
Part of the problem is with the material.
Ms. Wasserstein's characters are mere puppets, manipulated to spill out her ideas, philosophies - whatever.
At times, it appears the playwright is using Jameson's character as a mere vehicle, to convey how intelligent, insightful, or educated she is...but frankly, people don't talk like that; subsequently, the material falls flat.
Matt Czuchry - who plays "Third" - uses a lot of body language in this play to effect a macho stance...but he lacks the acting ability to pull it off; in fact, at times, the excessive posturing - the strange flexing of upper-body parts, for instance - is distracting, does not ring true.
Years ago, a coach offered up classes on how to act "straight", with the aim of making actors more marketable for producers who oft times are homophobic - when it comes to leading men, anyway.
For some inexplicable reason, I got the distinct impression Czuchry was schooled there, but failed to land a certificate.
At times, his performance reminded me of another play by renowned writer, Edward Albee - "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf".
In the movie version, George Segal effectively plays the role of young stud on campus. At times, I surmised Mr. Czuchry was imitating Segal, poorly.
I wouldn't write him off entirely, though.
In one key scene with Jameson's daughter, his acting style transformed considerably...became more natural.
A chemistry between the two young characters registered honestly, and showed a lot of promise, for both actors.
Maybe, Czuchry needs more seasoning, a better director, material of higher calibre... so that his talent may render itself more palpable to a paying, theatre-going public.
Originally, "Third" was a one-act play, which was expanded.
Maybe, this is where the trouble arises.
Material that is re-worked is often best left alone.
Here, there is too much dabbling, intellectualizing, mind-speak, shallowness of character...to be substance of a hit, or even a satisfying night of theatre.
Ironically, the promotional material in the program notes,
F. Scott Fitzgerald once proclaimed that there are no second acts in American lives...
Here, it applies to the "T", as in Theatre 1.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Oh, those magnificent men and their flying machines...
David Boyle's venture into the SCI-FI arena with "SUNSHINE" is kind-of a new twist on that.
If you pay attention to the reviews, you won't be fooled by this wide-screen event.
For example, one critic notes that it is a "staggering spectacle"; another raves that Boyle and screenwriter, Alex Garland, have admittedly, "...goosed up their science fiction with action, increasingly turning up the chills and thrills."
And, Kenneth Turan, a reviewer at the Los Angeles Times, reports it's "...a nail-bitingly tense science-fiction thriller."
But, not one critic is hailing it is a masterpiece or even potential best-film entry for the upcoming Oscar-race.
Why is that?
In essence, SUNSHINE is an action-thriller set in hyper-space; there's nothing innovative or ground-breaking about this futuristic yarn.
In sum, the tale is about a motley crew from planet Earth who are propelled into space for a journey to the Sun to resolve matters pressing to the human race.
Once you wade through the dazzlin' special effects ("every frame wows", notes Film Reviewer Jan Stuart at Newsday) gagetry, and CGI - the bare bones ot it - there's not much left.
The script - what there is of it - is weak.
In sum, a U.S. space crew second-guesses a computer genius charting their course - then, of course - the monkey wrench they throw into the midst to circumvent the dilemma they've created skyrockets the mission awry.
At this juncture, almost on cue, squabbles among the astronauts send all the onboard relationships spinning out-of-control.
Yes, in spite of the fact man has imagined and realized space travel to the ends of the Universe, sentient beings can not seem to quell - or control - their insatiable appetite for strife within the ranks.
In a nutshell, it's a poor imitation of A SPACE ODYSSEY: 2001.
In this instant case, man should leave well enough alone.
I'm such a popular fellow, lately.
A flow of e-mail communications from John Edwards this past week, urged me to support his campaign for..."Change in America".
In particular, campaign manager, Jonathan Prince, noted that a vote for Edwards was a ballot cast for the "Heroes".
Who are the heroes?
Why, they're the working men and women in this country, Edwards is fighting for.
Yeah, the political machine is gearing up, and it's getting dirty.
Just ask Hillary Clinton...
I just received a communication from her camp and this is what she had to say,
If you saw the debate Tuesday night, or if you've seen the news coverage since, then you know that this campaign has entered a new phase.
On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six against one. Candidates who had pledged the politics of hope practiced the politics of pile on instead. Her opponents tried a whole host of attacks on Hillary.
She is one strong woman. She came through it well. But Hillary's going to need your help.
Her opponents, trying to boost their falling poll numbers, started attacking Hillary weeks ago on the stump. Now they're doing it in the debates. And soon they'll begin a barrage of negative TV ads and mailings in the early primary and caucus states.
But Hillary knows that voters want real change - not more negative attacks.
And with just 60 days left before the Iowa caucuses, now is the time to show her that you are right there with her."
Whew, I'll do my best, Hill!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Apparently, Barack Obama showed up on voters' doorsteps back east a few days ago, to meet constituents face-to-face.
The Presidential hopeful caused quite a stir, what with the gaggle of reporters in tow - snapping away, and jotting down quotable quotes - and a team of ubiquitous security guards protecting their charge.
When one woman stepped outside and caught the tail of the hurricane, she was taken aback, to say the least.
"What's all the commotion about," she asked?
Her neighbor responded,
"It's that black guy who's running for President."
In a flash, she was elbowing her way through the throng, to get a gander at the long-shot for the next Presidential Race.
Although Obama's been racking in the big bucks, and breathing down Hillary's mercurial back in the process, the polls tell a different story.
Obama's not much of a blip on the radar screen.
Without doubt, he'll have to engage in a few clever maneuvers with the staff who man the polling stations.
For starters, he's gotta ensure that below his name, it states in bold face type, one of two things: "The Black Guy", or, in the alternative - "No relation to Osama bin Laden".
To keep confusion to a minimum, please!
Some critics argue that Obama faces a major dilemma: one candidate's on the right, another is on the left, but - he remains perched loftily above.
To many, it's evident that Obama needs to conjure up a platform based on solid, American values - one that potential supporters can relate to.
Yeah, Americans are down-to-earth folks; they're meat 'n potatoes, kind of voters.
Bottom line, the young dandy needs to find a slogan middle America can sink its teeth into.
"A chicken in every pot?"
Hillary got the voters' attention with Baby Bonds, so why not!
One of the glaring problems with the Presidential hopeful is that he doesn't push hard enough - least of all, manage to get under Clinton's skin - or that of anyone else, for that matter.
Hill treats him like a naive young lad, and for the most part, the majority of Americans think he's namby-pamby.
At a photo op in Massac County, Barack posed in front of a Superman Statue in downtown Metropolis, home of DC Comics.
What was the subliminal message supposed to be?
Once you've had black, you never go back?
Most assuredly, it would be off-base to infer any kind of "super" manhood...for obvious reasons.
For example, in the hood - when asked about Hillary Clinton - he responded with gems like - "She's tough" - that sort-of-thing.
Terms like tough, when referring to a woman, often conjure of images of the "B" word.
But clearly, Obama's too much of an Illinois gentleman, for that kind of mud-slinging.
In spite of the fact he was given the opportunity to seize the day, he wimped out!
Yeah, standing up to a woman with ****, can be pretty intimidating.
But isn't it time you came out swinging, Mr. Obama?
In today's dailies, reporters across the board criticized the Illinois Senator, for taking gentle swipes at Hillary in the night's debates.
Yup, you're no contender, Sir; you're not even close to a knock-out.
And, what about that photograph in the LA Times?
Mr. Edwards, a little fey, "this-close" and up-personal, in-the-face of opponent, Obama - well, you get the idea.
The image of the two smacked of an interracial couple, right out of West Hollywood, or more obvious environs in San Francisco, or Palm Springs.
Say, the innuendo might just land Obama some pink votes!
Speaking of votes, let's get real.
Mr. Obama, it's high time to do the math...
Although they won't openly admit it, most Afro-Americans plan to cast Obama's way in the secrecy of the polling station. Heh, he's one of their own, right?
Who's kidding, who?
But if Barack wants a fistful of votes, above and beyond that, he's got some campaigning to do.
I mean, it's pretty obvious that Mrs. Clinton will land the female vote, fair and square; and a bushel-full from some girly-men, here and there.
And, there's a bevy of votes from cronies loyal to Bill, lurking in the shadows.
So, maybe it's time to do so rat *******, as the Watergate gang would say.
Mr. Obama, announce that you're all for gay marriage.
Promise to tax the rich and give back to the poor (most Americans).
Then, give them some razzle-dazzle about affordable health care.
Promise to fix the environment.
Go one step further, tell them you're a good friend of Al Gore.
Why not offer up tax breaks for Americans who invest in our children's future by purchasing an electric car?
Of course, you've gotta get the immigrant vote; so, map out your plans to open up the "gates".
Finally, with a touch of conviction in your voice, tell 'em you'll end the ongoing War in Irag.
Quicker than you can say "oil, smoil", you'll be elected!
One piece of advice, though.
First and foremost, remember to take a nod from the Master, slick Willy; for instance, be careful what you say, and how you say it.
Essentially, leave a lot of wiggle room!
With some skillful wording, you'll be able to waffle later, if the occasion arises.
With this in mind, you may be able to muster up great triumphs, too, on the pettiest of issues.
For example, didn't you feel a ripple of admiration for Bill Clinton when he remarked - with a straight face, mind you -
"It depends on what "is", is?"
You got it, it's all semantics!
Finally, don't map out too much of your plans to the public; take a pointer from Hillary, she's a whiz at this.
To paraphrase Bill, "if they don't ask, don't tell".
Remember, electable politicians "sit on the fence".
And, work on the "image", Mr. Obama.
Somehow, try to look or sound "Presidential" - yeah, with a large "P".
A word of advice?
Americans love passionate, uplifting speeches.
And, they're really into "sequels".
If you can fathom a follow-up to - "I had a Dream" - well, you've cinched it, man.
Welcome to the Oval office, you deserved it!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
DEA sued...lawsuit alleges personal injury, emotional abuse, rights' violations; under color of authority!
The DEA, at least ten agents, and Riverside County, are being sued in United States District Court...
The complaint alleges that on the morning of March 14th, 2006,
"Defendants and each of them knowingly and willingly deprived plaintiffs of the right of privacy, the right to security of the person from unreasonable and unjustified force, and bodily injury, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to due process of Law."
In a nutshell...on the premise that the Plaintiffs were illegally engaged in the traffic and/or possession of marijuana, the DEA secured a warrant and proceeded to their home in Desert Hot Springs, California, to effect a search of the premises.
In spite of the fact there was an apparent willingness on the part of the suspect and his wife to cooperate, the DEA battered down the door, and then - Mr. Silva, a man in his mid-fifties - was allegedly grabbed from behind with great force, manipulated into a deadly "bear hug", then thrust to the ground.
As a result, he suffered severe injuries.
The suit alleges further...that Mr. Silva's wife was forced to stand naked from the waist down, and bear witness to the events - which resulted in humiliation, shame, and disgrace.
Imagine that, at least ten DEA agents in the room, and not one had the decency to hand the woman a housecoat or blanket?
Frankly, this amounted to inexcusable, shocking, and reprehensible conduct - which warrants a full investigation and appropriate disciplinary action - and most certainly, monetary compensation.
The suit for money damages is brought under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents (1971) 403 U.S. 388 and under Title 42, United States Code, Sections 1983, 1985, 1988 to redress deprivations under Color of Law of rights, privileges and immunities secured to plaintiffs by said statutes and by the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Jurisdiction is invoked under the Bivens case and pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 1343, subsections (1) through (4) inclusive.
A source provided me with a copy of the First Amended Complaint (U.S. District Court) in the wake of the recent DEA pot busts in the Los Angeles area which resulted in a lot of negative publicity for the top Drug Enforcement Agency.
In recent weeks, press outlets have been awash with allegations of abusive conduct by agents and have openly questioned a DEA inclination towards a kind-of "reefer madness", which has subsequently resulted in harassment of patients who use medicinal marijuana and their suppliers.
In spite of the fact California voters approved a measure (Bill 215) allowing for compassionate use of Marijuana for medicinal purposes, the DEA has been cracking down on the local suppliers, alleging that their outlets are engaging in conduct which amounts to the:
"...illegal sale of an illicit drug which is outlawed by the Federal Government."
Granted, recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its prior ruling that Marijuana be deemed a banned substance without any recognizable medicinal qualities; but, the truth remains...there is a conflict between State and Federal Laws which is crying out for redress.
Essentially, an all-out turf war has broken out in California - with providers, patients, and doctors twisting in the fray!
Notwithstanding the conflict between State and Federal Laws, there remains the question of the heinous conduct of DEA officers.
When I attended a protest in front of the Governor's Los Angeles office this past month, I listened sadly as citizens recalled incidents where doors had been battered, homes trashed, and bodies physically injured - due to the overzealous, careless disregard for rights, and the laws of the State of California - by the FEDS.
(Medical Marijuana Rally; Post, 10/11/07)
With great fervor, the DEA has been busting local medical marijuana suppliers in the Los Angeles area; surprisingly, in spite of public protest, there has not been any intervention from the Governor or State Officials.
The conduct of the DEA has been despicable.
And, they are prone to retaliate against those who stand up to them, or protest.
A case in point...
At the protest on October 11th, protesters at the rally lamented to the press - and anyone within earshot - about the abusive conduct of DEA Officers.
Although there was no "visible" evidence of DEA presence at the protest, it is apparent from what transpired later in the evening that day, that agents must have been among the crowd undercover.
After a woman distributed hand fliers inviting protesters to an after-party at the Healing Arts Center to celebrate the success of the rally - in a matter of hours - the DEA organized a posse, then sprang into action.
That evening, the DEA busted the center, and confiscated cash and paperwork, in spite of the fact no drugs (specifically marijuana) were located.
Clearly, it was a retaliatory act, to punish the protesters who spoke out against their Machiavellian tactics!
Can't U.S. Citizens protest in the streets of America about relevant social, legal, and political issues, without the threat of retaliation?
Increasingly, it has been revealed that DEA methods - breaking down doors, destroying personal property, smashing human bodies - and asking questions later - has not amounted to isolated acts of violence or random rights' violations...but rather, the ongoing modus operandi for the Agency.
In view of the fact the lawsuit mentioned here arose out of incidents last year, it is quite obvious that the recent atrocities were not due to an oversight, nor did they arise out of a frustrated attempt to deal with an uncertain climate caused by confusion or any misunderstanding over the marijuana laws - especially as they relate to the California landscape.
In the case of Mr. Silva, it should be noted, he uses medical marijuana to alleviate pain from degenerative disk disease and nerve damage.
The complaint states, defendants should have known,
"...or reasonably known that unreasonable force was being used against the Plaintiffs as they willfully and knowingly failed to intevene, interfere with, or try to stop or prevent the use of such excessive force."
Pursuant to local law, Mr. Mintz - attorney of record for the Plaintiffs - filed a claim for damages with Riverside County.
As of this date, City officials have not responded.
However, said inaction is not considered out-of-the norm, nor does it amount to any negligent act in-and-of itself, according to Mr. Mintz.
As of this date, there has not been any response from the DEA, either.
According to the attorney of record, the defendants have thirty days to answer the complaint, and it has not passed.
I contacted the DEA Media Relations Department and asked that they provide a statement for the record.
Within a couple of hours, Special Agent Casey L. McEnry, e-mailed me a communication, requesting additional information pertaining to the pending case.
When I zipped off the details, within seconds, he dutifully responded...noting that the Los Angeles office had jurisdiction over the proceedings.
I located the local DEA website and clicked on a link for the Head Administrator.
When Ms. Karen Tandy's photo and promotional materials popped up on the screen, my intuitive response was "negative".
For some inexplicable reason, the still small voice inside of me, said,
"This is not a nice person".
My suspicions were verified a short time later.
When I did a search on DEA retaliation, a couple of articles popped up on screen, reporting that Ms. Karen Tandy had been accused of "retaliating" against a DEA employee under her charge for whistle-blowing.
According to the reports, Sandalio (Sandy) Gonzalez, the Agent in question, wrote a memo to an ICE counterpart in El Paso alleging Agent abuse and misconduct, with copy to the Justice Department.
That was the beginning of the end of his career, he lamented.
“It was a classic case of shooting the messenger,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez got a bad job review from DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, his boss.
And felt pressure to retire early.
Since then, he challenged and overturned the job review.
But the lack of investigation into the government’s actions, he said, has been a “black-eye on law enforcement.”
"It's an insult to every hard-working law enforcement officer to have the government act in this manner," Gonzalez said.
The article was written by Byron Harris and Mark Smith at WFAA-TV.
In view of Ms. Tandy's spurious background, I wanted a paper trail and full documentation.
So, I drafted a letter to Tandy, noted that I was writing an article on the Silva matter, and offered up the opportunity to state the DEA's position on the matter.
In spite of the fact I gave a deadline for responding, Ms. Tandy failed to follow through, or even give me the professional courtesy of a reply - as of the date of the announcement of her resignation, Monday, October 29th, 2007.
Something to hide, Ms. Tandy?
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation was recently accused of abuse of the Patriot Act, at least they apologized to the victims, and summarily paid damages. (Patriot Act; Post, 10/22/07)
Here, the DEA continues to thumb its nose at Justice and the American people.
High time they were cut off at the legs, don't you think?
Recently, I attended a screening of a retrospective of a young director's work, and found myself comparing the artist's filmic style to Hitchcock's - a compliment - to be sure.
What makes a film decidedly Hitchcockian in nature?
The way a location is used, for instance.
Hitchcock was a firm believer that if a director had a distinctive setting - it should be dramatized and become indigenous to the whole picture - not just remain in the background.
An exemplary example of this was in the intense drama, "Foreign Correspondent".
The tale was set in Holland.
What was the prominent landmark the auteur chose to weave into the storyline?
Ah, the windmill.
In one key scene, the character astutely notices that when his hat blows off - it does so in the direction of the wind - the opposite way the arms of the distinctive Dutch landmark were turning. It suddenly dawns on the lead character that the odd reaction to this natural force of nature is a secret signal to conspirators.
Pure genius on the part of Hitchcock, eh?
Placing an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances was a common element of Hitchcock's scenarios, as well.
In - "The Man Who Knew too Much" - an ordinary man from Indianapolis is vacationing in Morocco when his son is kidnapped.
In - "The Wrong Man" - Henry Fonda is arrested for a crime he didn't commit.
Also, Janet Leigh is an ordinary secretary whose plans are violently interrupted by a schizophrenic, in the outstanding spine-tingler - "Psycho".
Mistaken identity (or the loss of one) was a common plot device in the English director's films, too.
For example, in "North by Northwest" the lead character Roger Thornton is mistaken for a non-existent CIA agent.
In "Vertigo" - in a clever twist - the intriguing plot revolves around actor James Stuart's investigation of a woman (Kim Novak) and her elusive identity.
Hitchcock also leaned toward the use of suspense over surprise in his films.
If he relied on a jolt last minute, the director felt that was tantamount to simply banging the audience over the head with frightening things. Not very inventive, according to Hitch.
With the tools of suspense, on the other hand, the legendary director argued that he could reveal things to the filmgoer which the characters in the film did not know, and then artfully build tension as the characters began to learn the truth as it unfolded.
He was also fascinated by imagery and often used repeating themes.
For example, stairwells often played a central role in a Hitchcock films.
In Hitchcock's first movie - "The Lodger" - he tracked a suspected serial killer's movements on a staircase with diabolical effect.
Meanwhile, in "Psycho", several staircases were featured prominently; on the path up to the Bate's mansion and at the entrance to the fruit cellar, for instance.
And, who could forget the actual movie with the image in the title, "39 Steps"?
"39 Steps" is arguably Hitchcock's best British film.
The compositions on-screen were remarkable, too; undoubtedly influenced by the great German and Russian filmmakers of an earlier era.
The camera often angled up and down, cut off faces, and framed action in highly-unusual stunning and dramatic ways. A style of filmmaking European directors were well-known for.
Hitchcock also got a perverse thrill out of taking audiences on a voyeuristic roller-coaster ride.
In "Rear Window", as James Stewart's character stares across the courtyard at his adversary for most of the film - without the subject being none-the-wiser - the filmgoer titters over the intrigue on the sidelines.
Then, he used an unexpected element of surprise to rivet the audience to the edge of their seats.
The audience is thrown - and literally gasps out loud - when Raymond Burr's character suddenly (without warning) turns his face to the camera and pointedly asks,
"What do you want of me?"
In another instance in "Psycho", the camera zeroes in on a hotel-room window, through which the audience is first introduced to Marion Crane and her divorced boyfriend, Sam Loomis.
The characters are partially undressed. Subsequently, Marion and Sam end up titillating the filmgoers - who surmise from snatches of clues in the frame - that the two had been engaged in a passionate sex romp on their lunch break.
Later, in the same psychological thriller, Norman Bates delights in secretly watching Marion undress through a concealed peephole in the wall.
Hitchcock's films were regarded as highly sexed.
And, the English director often dealt with taboo subjects.
Sometimes, due to the conventions of the day, sexuality was cloaked in a symbolic fashion. For example, in one classic scene, the shot cuts abruptly from two aroused lovers to a train entering a tunnel in the next.
In fact, Hitchcock found a number of ways to convey sexuality without depicting it graphically; for instance, he inferred explicit sexual craving with the passionate consumption of food.
In an amusing scene in "Psycho", Anthony Perkins carries on a conversation with Janet Leigh while one of his hands strokes a dead animal and the other lingers on his crotch suggestively.
When it came to casting, the celebrated director was a firm believer in selecting unknowns for lesser roles, and for good reason.
Sure, he understood the need for star recognition and box office appeal and the value of high-calibre actors to the success of a film; but, felt the smaller parts - the cameo gems - should not be inhabited by faces that were recognized by the movie-going public at the local theatre.
This approach lended more credibility to the project, he felt.
In his own words, he noted,
"The best casting man is the novelist; his principals are always new, unfamiliar."
An old-familiar face popping up in a scene in some foreign far-off locale would jar the sense of reality to the audience, he conjectured.
How he achieved his effects on screen was legendary, too.
The infamous shower scene in "Psycho" was painstakingly achieved by facilitating the head of a nude - and a girl in full figure - with the woman doing the stabbing.
Hitchcock shot a lot of the nude scenes in slow motion because it was important to have the breast covered by an arm at a crucial moment. Later, Hitch sped up the footage for the final cut.
There were an amazing seventy-eight cuts used in a short forty-five second sequence.
His 1958 film "Vertigo", contains a camera trick that has been imitated and re-used so many times by filmmakers that it has become known as the Hitchcock zoom.
Although famous for inventive camera angles, Hitchcock generally avoided points of view that were physically impossible from a human perspective.
For example, he would never place the camera looking out from inside a refrigerator.
This was a device to draw the audience into the film's action, in his opinion.
During an interview conducted by Francois Truffaut a few years ago, Alfred Hitchcock said,
"What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out?"
Years ago, I had a funny experience near the set of "Frenzy" (a film about a necktie murderer) in London, England.
I noticed some cameras and a lot of activity in the street and asked someone what was going on.
A passer-by noted that Hitchcock was filming his latest movie.
Well, I thought to myself, Hitchcock is such a great director; with an eye for talent. Maybe I should watch from afar - who knows - I might get discovered.
A few minutes later, there was an announcement over a loud speaker,
"Would the man in the white shirt get out of the shot?"
Shame-faced, I realized it was me they were referring to, and moved on.
Oh well, that's show business.
Monday, October 29, 2007
In the Business Section of the LA Times, a writer for "Consumer Confidential", reported that he threw caution to the wind recently and jauntily stepped into a "storefront" establishment that offered "psychic readings" - to, as he demurely put it:
"Take a look at those who employ other-worldly means to help people prepare for the inevitable."
After lamely noting that an initial consultation for sixty dollars became a prolonged sales pitch for a five-hundred and seventy-five dollar "psychic cleansing" - which the young woman, Crystal, insisted was needed to restore his gloomy aura to its previously golden hue - he proceeded to cast aspersions on the "forecast" industry populated by psychics, astrologers - and the like - who use their talents to tap into the mysterious spirit world to conjure up messages from the other side.
If Mr. Lazarus departed the young seer's shop with a bad vibe in his aura, it's obviously due to his own negative "karma", in my estimation.
After all, he clearly was remiss in his duty as a journalist.
Judging from the ramblings of his expose, it's evident little constructive research was carried out; nor was there a fair open-minded approach to the subject.
In sum, Lazarus took an unkind swipe, which was unjust and uncalled for.
But, I guess a "Witch Hunt" is to be expected at Halloween.
When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the occult.
Because of my own unique, childhood experiences - and due to an obvious uncertainty about the future - I became a seeker.
At first, my spiritual travels led me into the arcane arts.
The field of palmistry was particularly intriguing.
One of the best texts to use for a guide on the topic is by noted palmist, Cheiro.
He was one of the most famous and colorful occult figures of the early Twentieth Century - a clairvoyant who used palmistry, astrology, and Chaldean numerology - to make startlingly revelations about future world events.
Cheiro was often coached into summoning forth predictions for a handful of celebrity clients - stage legend Sarah Bernhardt, literary giant Oscar Wilde, and the highly-regarded, Duke of Windsor - to name a few.
Yes, he predicted the abdication from the Throne!
Did you know that psychologist - Carl Jung - examined the hands of tots to verify the presence of "Down Syndrome" ?
Not content to base my conclusions on one set of mutts, I plucked up the sweaty palms of numerous friends, and was taken aback when they assured me my insightful dabblings rang true.
My foray into the I-Ching was equally as productive.
The I-Ching, is a calculated method of identifying order in what seems like chance events, and is central to a philosophy at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs.
The Querent tosses three coins - or yarrow sticks - in logical sequence.
By way of a hexagram, the subject is able to fathom improbable influences - and hence - plot a course to wisely effect a positive change in harmony with the forces of nature.
In sum, the I-Ching is a tool of Divination, capable of tapping into the synchronistic undercurrent that touches and orchestrates all life.
The ritual is not a parlor game and should be approached with solemn respect.
Eventually, when the word spread around the neighborhood about my own psychic stirrings, I was forced to set aside appointment dates to meet the demand for private consultations.
In time, the Vancouver Sun wrote a feature on me, and delved into the fascinating topic with remarkable insight.
On the heels of this article, a National Tabloid mailed me prints of three anonymous hands to peruse; when my analysis was right on the mark, the editors excitedly published a report on the results.
The phone rang off the hook, after that.
A short time later, I was invited to appear on a popular morning TV Show - "Tomorrow's Fortune" - at CKVU in Vancouver, B.C.
Anonymous callers dialed in each day and asked a question; at which point, I'd offer up responses based on a three-point Tarot card lay-out on the podium before me.
Oftentimes - callers let out a gasp - or cried out, "Yes, that's true!"
Within minutes the switchboard would light up and operators invariably struggled to keep on top of the onslaught of frenzied calls.
Of course, the Tarot cards are only a focal point for the concentration; ultimately, the messages are triggered by, and spring from, the deep recesses of the all-knowing subconscious mind.
When the popular morning show finished its run - I continued to coach clients spanning the far reaches of the globe - usually on issues pertaining to pressing business deals or those intimately related to the secrets of the heart.
One day, without warning, I was blessed with an epiphany of sorts.
As a matter of record, it should be noted, that I studied Buddhism and Yoga for a number of years.
I gleaned much from the teachings of the Great Masters; in particular, Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism.
But, after much soul-searching - and an awakening - the Holy Spirit urged me to return to the Catholic faith.
In a startling, mystical encounter last fall, the Holy Trinity descended upon me late one dark night and blessed my heart.
At this juncture, I was forced to reevaluate my involvement with the esoteric and other-worldly pursuits.
I came to the conclusion that - shuffling cards brimming with symbolic meaning, peering into ominous swirls of tea leaves, and the reading of "limbs" - simply amounted to a lot of tom-foolery in the black arts.
Shortly after that revelation - during a reading of the scriptures one day - there was a moment of illumination.
It hit me like a bolt of lightning, in fact.
The gifts of prophecy, of healing, and the speaking of tongues, are precious gifts from God.
In the scriptures it notes as follows:
1 Co 12:8
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
1 Co 12:9
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
1 Co 12:10
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
However, the "gifts" must be used wisely.
The gifts of prophecy and healing, for instance, are not to be used for profit, to acquire fame, or to set into motion motives for selfish gain.
Just as surely as the precious gift may be bestowed upon a disciple - by the Divine Grace of the Lord - it just as swiftly may be snatched away from a young prophet because of misuse.
In addition, it should be wisely noted, that the gift must always be attributed to the Lord.
A case in point.
Last fall, the Church of the Good Shepherd sponsored a healing mass.
A firm believer in the "healing arts", I attended with great enthusiasm.
But - I was jolted into reality when the "faith healers" laid their "hands" on the subject - without undertaking proper precautions.
Moreover, it was evident to me by the dramatic "showiness" of the occasion - and the bold assertions by the practioners that the subjects would be "healed" - that I was forced to admit their efforts were entirely misguided.
To give false hope to the sick and needy is a mortal sin!
In essence, the Healing was a "sham".
When placing the "hands" on a subject, there must be a prayer to the Lord requesting that the "healing" be granted.
Notwithstanding - during the "laying-on" of the hands - the "disciple" must concentrate on Christ and the healing power of the Saviour's Love.
When spiritulists allege verbal communications with the dead - it annoys me somewhat - too.
For instance - some celebrated "mediums" step into the spotlight on a myriad of slick, enticing TV Shows - alleging to have had conversations with "spirits" who have passed over to the other side.
In spite of the fact the loved ones departed this realm decades ago!
According to Buddhists, when a sentient being passes away, the soul is reincarnated immediately into another body.
So, in this scenario, it would be impossible for "sensitives" to realistically engage in such an activity.
However, in some instances, it is wholly possible to make contact with a spirit for a brief period shortly after a release from the physical body.
The reason for this is quite simple.
In the scriptures, it states quite emphatically that the spirit hovers between this realm and the next for seven days after death.
Some assert, that during this time frame, the soul is permitted to contemplate its acts, reflect on earthly existence, and prepare for the next plane.
At times the transition may be difficult, though; especially when the individual died in a sudden, tragic, or shocking manner.
A trauma such as this, requires a period of adjustment, before the soul is able to move on.
Until such time, the spirit may be unable to release "ties".
But the Bible is firm on one issue.
In seven days, the soul rises up, to come face to face with God.
To meet the maker?
So, today, I use my gifts quietly.
After all, I'm only dancing on this earth for a short while.
I lend a healing hand to one in need, or offer up advice to a stranger when there is a window of opportunity, to do so.
As much as possible, I endeavor to be an instrument of God; ultimately, allowing his invisible hand to work through me, whenever possible.
Talk about a spooky event!
The "Forever Hollywood Cemetery" will be screening "The Shining" on Halloween evening, at 7 p.m.
To avid cinema buffs, the film was Stanley Kubrick's most notable, knock-out, Gothic horror, film masterpiece.
The film, starring Jack Nicholson, caused quite a sensation when it was first released, but still reverberates today...a spine-tingling supernatural thriller that makes the heart beat faster, and capable of hurling the mentally weak into near insanity.
As to why he chose to direct the film, Kubrick noted,
"I thought it was the most ingenious and exciting stories of the genre I had read. It seemed to strike an extraordinary balance between the psychological and the supernatural in such a way as to lead you to think that the supernatural would eventually be explained by the psychological."
"If you can be frightened by a ghost story, then you must accept the possibility that supernatural beings exist. If they do, then there is more than just oblivion waiting beyond the grave."
Guess you'll find out on Halloween eve!!!
He took the Nation by storm in a more innocent era when "Star Search" was the top precursor to today's hit show, "American Idol".
Mr. Harris not only captured the subtle nuances of the Wizard of Oz hit "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (a standard sung by Ms. Garland) - but in the process - managed to make the song-styling an unforgettable moment in show business history.
And, each week, millions tuned in to see how far the little charmer could go!
Those were heady days for the pint-sized bundle of talent.
So, where is Sam today?
Shucks, just missed a performance in Orange County recently; but, that doesn't stop me from raving about this young man's remarkable gift and charismatic style!
He noted in a throw-away local paper that he's working with Liza Minnelli on a show she's developing about the legendary Kay Thompson (a Judy Garland friend who had a big impact on Minnelli's life).
Mr. Harris noted that he is penning (!) the show for Liza.
Originally from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, he started his career at 15.
Although he started on the boards at a young age, he managed to finish his education by correspondence courses. The boy obviously recognized the need for an education even if it was through the U.S. Mail.
Looking back, he fondly recalled his eagerness to take any job in any dump or dive; after all, he just wanted to hone his talent and sing out!
In a show - "OUT OF CONTROL" - he invented his "look".
You know, the oversize tuxedo jacket paired with humble sneakers which became his trademark on "Star Search".
Go figure, first time out for "Star Search", he did not even make the cut; but, a couple of people in his corner pushed for him until he finally scored.
Almost overnight, the diminutive songster was a sensation; although, like many in the business, it was ten years in the making.
A recording contract with Motown followed which produced two hit albums.
Clearly, being ready for the spotlight, was the key.
Broadway followed, and two Tony nominations, and a handful of TV roles,
Mr. Harris is in a relationship; happy, and thankful for his sobriety.
In a parting comment, he hit a poignant note,
"I realize that what I do is not who I am. The illusion of my identity isn't wrapped up in whether or not I'm liked. My survival no longer depends on it."
Undoubtedly, any fears he once entertained are far behind him.
In my estimation, Sam's star will continue to shine brightly for quite some time.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Well, the "Los Angeles Latino Film Festival" wound up a successful week at the Arclight Theatre...
As we anxiously wait for the "American Film Institute Festival" in early November, will we have to settle for second-run films at the local discount movie-houses?
Why not venture out and take a gander at some intriguing new films from the Arab world of filmmaking?
For the first time, Los Angeles will play host to a series of films - written, directed, and/or produced by Arabian artists.
Scheduling dates: October 31st thru November 4, 2007
The mission of the Arab Film Festival (AFF) is to enhance public understanding of Arab culture and to provide alternative representations of Arabs that contradict the stereotypical images frequently encountered in the American mass media.
The Arab Film Festival screens films from and about the Arab World that provide realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics.
The spotlight will shine on Tunisia, Lebanon, and Palestine.
Films that are causing pre-screening buzz are "Falafel", a University Student's nocturnal adventures in Beirut.
On first impression, "Falafel" is a stylish young party movie filled with comedy and sexual chemistry, but just below the surface, it possesses a subtle analysis of the ways in which the Lebanese war still lingers in the lives of those barely old enough to remember it.
And, then there is a second option: Ashura: Blood and Beauty...
"Blood and Beauty" is a contemporary look at the 1300-year-old Ashura Muslim ritual that demonstrates that a mix of modernity and tradition in Lebanon has made Ashura a platform for young people to meet each other.
This short documentary reveals a side to Ashura that the world has not yet seen, a side that is not bloody and violent, but rather ambiguous and compelling.
Screenings will be held at the Writers Guild Theatre and other local venues within shouting distance of each other.
For ticket info: aff.org