Saturday, December 8, 2007
A homeless man looked up at the marquee of the New Beverly Cinema - noticed the caption emblazoned in bold letters across the front - and quizzically pondered, "What is the Wright stuff?"
For local film buffs, it was not a difficult question to answer.
The "Wright Stuff" was a festival of films which screened at the Art Film house - not necessarily the "right" stuff - but the stuff that director Edgar Wright "likes".
In fact - it occurred to me during the run of films - that Wright may be well-suited for a career in Public Relations.
For example, on one evening in particular - with writer/director Shane Black in tow - the mercurial little showman managed to enthuse a captive audience over a couple of films - "Last Boy Scout" and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" - which did not fare so well at the box office or muster up much critical acclaim.
As the old lyric goes Edgar, "You could sell an Eskimo snow".
Just before the lights went down and "Last Boy Scout" lit up the screen, Edgar raved about a film he argued "deconstructed" the genre. In addition, he had a shopping list of highlights in the Bruce Willis big-budgeter which he alleged set the film apart.
Well, fortunately, I opted to focus on the "event" rather than review the film.
Although there were a succession of rapid-fire hilarious quips and one of the best henchmen demises on screen - the scene with the puppet was imaginative too - the opening credits were ho hum. And, the explosion at the end was not funny or riveting, either.
In sum, "Boy Scout" was not ahead of any curve by any stretch of the imagination, Edgar!
Roger Ebert said in his review,
"As for my thumb, I'll use it and my forefinger to hold my nose."
Wright gusheth a bit too much; but, the packed house didn't appear to mind.
But - it's important to note - this is the crowd that roared and went gaga over the previews for films like "Action Jackson" and those starring B-list actors Segal and Chuck Norris when the clips splashed wildly across the screen!
Yeah, when Wright astutely noted "Boy Scout" was super-pumped with testosterone- boosting action, this enthusiastic crowd was ripe for the kinky sensations to wash all over 'em.
In fact, when Wright laughingly tittered - "I'm feeling a little bit homosexual because of it" - the feeling was mutual for many in the theatre, I'm sure.
Yeah, the guy is an astute pulse-taker.
Although Wright argued that Shane Black's aim in "Boy Scout" was to deconstruct the genre - when called up during the intermission - Shane Black disagreed.
Actually, Black hinted that concessions were made to - as he demurely put it - "get a**es in the seats" at the directive of the studio big-wigs.
Black was "pleasantly surprised" by the turn-out for the screening - but wondered aloud if the packed house was due to the "silliness of the retro moment" - or inspired by a sincere interest in "Boy Scout".
Some were taken aback when he confided that - in his opinion - the movie didn't work as a whole. Actually, the screenwriter harshly criticized the Willis vehicle.
Was he testing the waters?
Was the sting of a bad review still gnawing at him?
"Too choreographed," he shrugged. But, he admitted he liked the first half hour.
In addition, he was a little reluctant to reveal how much of the original scripted material ended up on screen, which scenes were rewritten, or how much of the plotline was overhauled to suit the suits.
The writer acknowledged he was frustrated over the fact there appeared to be a demand for smash-ups, football stadium theatrics, and odd-ball stunts.
Ultimately, he lamented that it was off-putting to have to adhere to the trend of the day.
When the subject turned to detective writers, Black confessed he was a great fan of Mickey Spillane and Dashiell Hammett.
Yes, he's fond of the old gumshoes.
In fact, he often draws on their rich history to lend background and weight to his own projects - in a bold-faced creative effort to make them resonate more fully - he conceded.
When he alleged that an homage to a "Private Dick" was a phenomenon peculiar to the American Cinema, Edgar Wright quipped,
"And, Sherlock Holmes?"
Black was quick on the uptake, "He did cocaine by the way."
At this juncture, the repartee between the two became quite engaging. Yes, Black and Wright were transformed before our eyes into a genuine stand-up comedy team.
The conversation drifted, funnily enough, to movie ratings. Both directors concurred that an appropriate rating appeared to depend on how many times the word **ck was actually used on screen. And, in what specific context.
"If you said - 'The car is **cked' - it's a PG-13," Wright joked.
"And, if you said - 'I want to **ck the car' - then, it would land an R rating," Wright added without batting a pretty eye.
The audience went wild.
Then, Black piped up that films featuring "cigarette smoking" tended to get a tougher rating, too.
At this juncture, it was noted that Black's original script for the action-thriller starring Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) - sold for the highest sum at that time.
In spite of the fact it was a first offering from a whiz kid - all of 22 - yet.
Memories of Dick Donner, who directed the project, were amusing to listen to.
Black kidded that the crew were forced to blindfold the director whenever they went anywhere because every time something caught Donner's keen eye, he hankered to squeeze the compelling images into the movie somewhere. The object of his affection might be a festive Indian wedding, a subtle metaphor, or whatever hit up his fancy!
When a film buff in the audience asked how Black worked - he asserted that knowing how a film would fade to credits - was not the be all or end all at all.
"It's important to know where you're going, though," he quickly added.
Maybe that's what's wrong with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang".
There wasn't enough preparation or thought put into the ending; hence, the close of the odd-ball detective story stinks.
Speaking of "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", according to Black, everyone in town turned the script down. Eventually, Joel Silver courageously backed it.
Black claims the reason distribution was poor, and the reason it basically got shelved, was because one exec at the studio originally passed on the project.
"He sought to bury it," Black accused.
The argument sounded ludicrous to me.
The fact is - while arty and somewhat original with a lot of flair - "Kiss Kiss" was not a solid or well-produced feature. In my estimation, that's why it bombed.
Black went on to further note that he was "okay" with the fact the intriguing feature was not "given a chance".
He boasted that he would rather have people stride up to him and say,
"You got a raw deal because that was a great film."
Better that, he concluded, than to have to take potshots from people for having produced a hit.
Frankly, that sounded like a lot of twisted logic to me. At this point, I was not so sure that Shane Black was entirely honest.
For example, at times during the Q & A, Black walked a fine line. He was inclined to tease a little - hold back a lot - then offer up just enough background info to titillate.
In the end scenario, he left a lot of questions unanswered.
Curiously - when one fellow in the audience asked about his prior writing relationship with Decker - he was hesitant to respond, at first.
After all, it has just been revealed that Decker - his former writing partner - had been accused of being "cool" towards Shane Black in Q & A sessions at other events elsewhere when his name was brought up.
However, in what amounted to a diplomatic moment, he applauded the writer's talent.
And, went so far as to state, "I'd work with him again."
Then, he uttered almost under his breath, "But..."
Yeah, there's always a but.
From his standpoint, he and Decker were both Alpha males, bent on getting their own way. In gay terminology - both were "tops" - neither versatile enough to go "bottom" to make the partnership of "strange bedfellows" work.
In "Kiss Kiss" - Black chose to feature a couple of off-beat characters he affectionately referred to as the - "fu** up" (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and "the fag" - a role inhabited by temperamental actor, Val Kilmer
At that time, no one wanted to hire Kilmer or Downey, for obvious reasons.
He theorized the reason both were so cooperative on this project was due to the fact that "both had to shape up and fly right" or suffer the consequences of losing further footing in their respective careers. Because both needed the project, they were humble, according to Black.
Then, he made a curious comment - something to the effect that "the scenario" would obviously change - when "both were back on top".
But, he corrected himself.
"Well, Downey will always remain humbled."
Inferring, of course, that Kilmer will no doubt be up to his old tricks once his fortunes change. If they ever do!
The audience roared!
He noted for the record there were no on-set troubles with either actor; in fact, he alleged there were more problems with actor Bruce Willis on "Boy Scout".
"Bruce wore a hairpiece in the movie, by the way," he casually pointed out for some inexplicable reason out-of-the-blue.
After noting that he turns 46 next week, Mr. Black confessed to recent Botox injections.
"My face is swollen and feels like a hose injected water into it."
Ah, perhaps that explains his tendency to stare at the floor during the interview. Was he a little self-conscious, perhaps?
Maybe he was embarrassed a little by the fact that he was garnering so much attention for a couple of forgettable films that didn't deserve the attention?
In a body of work, they're important, though.
It will be interesting to see where the man has positioned himself in coming years.
Life Achievement Award? "King" of the Hill?
The remarkable filmic style on display in "Kiss Kiss" is difficult to ignore - especially in view of the fact - it signals a potential for greatness pregnant with possiblities.
Friday, December 7, 2007
December 8th is the anniversary of John Lennon's death...
I have received an e mail communication from Yoko Ono noting that fans are invited to visit the "Imagine Peace" website to view a special message and video.
On December 8th, 11:15 pm (local time), Yoko asks that fans remember John by taking a quiet moment of reflection...play a song, sing "Imagine", or imagine a world of peace...knowing that each of you are together at one moment in time sharing a beautiful spiritual experience.
I have posted the music video "Give Peace a Chance"...
What was your memorable moment?
Send in stories and photos of what you did on December 8th to:
That would be lovely!
With deepest love
Yoko Ono Lennon
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Intelligent German Shepherd usually saves the day!
Years ago when Canada became concerned about saturation of the airwaves by American-made TV dramas & sitcoms, statutes were instituted by the CRTC to guarantee Canadian content on the networks North of the border.
Thereafter, most product for "Canadian" TV, appealed to the locals - but occasionally - producers feverishly tried to copycat the splashy American productions down south.
A couple of mainstays on CBC Television included - "The Beachcomber" and "The Littlest Hobo".
Well-known Canadian Actor, Bruno Gerussi (who?) played "Nick Adonidas" on Canada's longest running series - the "Beachcomber" - which was regarded by Canucks as the quintessential Canadian program.
The entertaining cast of characters, locations, and events strongly appealed to audiences abroad, too.
There was a lot of physical action each week, calclulated to rev up audiences - high-speed boat chases and rough-and-tumble break-neck chases through the wilds - for instance - but little actual violence.
The family-oriented show often featured picturesque scenes of fishing, logging, and beachcombing on the West Coast - sparked with a bit of homespun humor - of course.
The weekly serial also drew upon Canada's wide multi-cultural diversity for a wider appeal.
"The Littlest Hobo" - another show produced North of the border - followed the adventures of an intelligent German shepherd who sauntered into a different locale each episode and assisted hapless folks with their woes.
Probably one of the most exciting dramas to hit the CBC airwaves in recent years was a riveting mini-series about an alleged "fictional" gang of notorious bikers known as the "Triple Sixers".
Actually, a couple of the edgy motorcycle-gang toughs depicted in the sprawling criminal saga, were based on real-life characters - one of which - I crossed paths with in downtown Toronto years ago when I was just seventeen (a biker known as Zip).
The gritty drama, for the most part, focused on a cast of nasty ne' er do wells, drug lords, and mobsters - and the dedicated cops - out to nab 'em.
"The Last Chapter" was show-cased in six powerful hours of television programming.
Essentially set in the shadowy world of biker gangs, the well-written drama also focused in-depth on characters the outlaws' lives intertwined with - their wives, lovers, and children - for instance.
The Canadian offering was along the dramatic lines of the HBO hit series - "The Sopranos" - and ranked right up there in quality with any action-adventure drama on American or British Television.
Unlike many cutesy superficial pieces of fluff produced by the Canucks, "The Last Chapter" was chock full of realistic drama, great dialogue, and well-fleshed-out intriguing characters to root for or against.
Canada also tried to compete with the U.S. Networks when a soap opera along the lines of - "The Young and the Restless" and "Guiding light"- went into production at CFTO Television in Toronto a few years back.
Actor Gordon Thompson (who went on to land a prime role in Aaron Spellings' late-night soaper "Dynasty") played one of the leads.
Apparently, the "empty" sudsy serial went by way of the dinosaur, fast.
When I was last in Vancouver, I quickly became addicted to the stirring weekly drama titled, "Da Vinci's Inquest".
Essentially, the plot focuses on a coroner and his team of experts, who sort out crime in the lower mainland of Vancouver.
Part of the appeal of "Da Vinci" - starring Nicholas Campbell - derives from its basic earthiness.
Because the drama deals alot with police procedure, Da Vinci has been aptly labeled a hybrid of popular U.S. dramas in the same relative vein.
Many critics compare the popular show to "Law & Order" and "CSI" which are produced south of the border.
Because there are storylines that carry over several episodes, Da Vinci requires a bit of effort on the part of viewers to stay on top of the undercurrents and salient moments as they unexpectedly arc on the award-winning TV drama each season.
Some of the tales are gritty - about serial killers, for example - who prey on prostitutes.
In spite of the fact a handful of the material has been ripped from the headlines and manipulated to their maximum melodramatic effect on Da Vinci, solid realism prevails.
His supporting team is perfectly cast, too.
When friends of mine opened their house to me on a recent trip home to Canada, and casually informed me that the producer resided in the house across the street, I was tempted to hot-foot it over there in the dark-of-night and tuck my picture and resume in his mailbox.
Needless to say, since I have been back in California, I have missed watching the vastly entertaining drama each week.
However, TV Guide announced recently that the 2nd season of Da Vinci's Inquest will be available on DVD.
Great, I've got a lot of catching up to do!
Check it out.
The intelligent well-crafted material may win you over, too.
Keifer Sutherland was sentenced to forty-eight days in the city jail in connection with a misdemeanor drunk driving charge in West Hollywood a few months ago when he was stopped after making an illegal U-Turn at La Cienega and Beverly Blvd's in West Hollywood.
On the heels of the bust, the media noted that Sutherland had a history of alcohol abuse, and proceeded to tar-and-feather him in the press.
I was surprised that such a dedicated actor - succeeding in a challenging career as an actor - would allow such a monkey to ride on his back.
What was the problem?
A couple of weeks later one of the major weekly rags ran a story on the incident.
The in-depth feature threw the spotlight on Sutherland's past run-ins with alcohol and questionable conduct in public - outrageous and shameful, at times - that plagued the star of the Fox hit TV Drama Series, 24.
But, there was nothing constructive about the report.
For example, the write neglected to offer up any statistics on the issue of alchohol abuse.
Or, even enlighten the reader on how the "disease" might be cured.
Some say, that if your parents drank, you're bound to have a propensity for social drinking, too.
And, if your mother imbibed while you were in the womb, it is wholly conceivable you may end up a "born-alcoholic".
In fact, studies examining adopted children, have shown that offspring of alcoholic biological parents have an increased risk of becoming hard-core drinkers.
Also, recent research has implicated a gene (D2 dopamine receptor) that - when inherited in a specific form - may increase an individual's chance of developing chronic alcoholism.
According to researchers, twice as many men are alcoholics. And, ten to twenty-three percent of alcohol-consuming individuals, are considered bona fide alcoholics.
Alcoholism can be tricky, too.
It's a demon that often lurks beneath the surface, ready to trip up the individual without a watchful eye.
Usually, a variety of factors contribute to the development of alcoholism.
Social factors include family influence, peers, and society.
How quickly the problem develops may depend on the availability of alcohol, as well as psychological factors, which may elevate levels of stress, inadequate coping mechanisms, and reinforcement of alcohol use from other drinkers.
The factors contributing to initial alcohol use may vary from person to person.
The disorder is so complex, however, that no single gene is likely to be a major culprit.
The amygdala is an area of the brain thought to play a role in the emotional aspects of craving, which can lead to addiction.
One study found that the amygdala is smaller in subjects with family histories of alcoholism, suggesting that inherited differences in brain structure may affect risk.
Other studies suggest that certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and proteins in the amygdala region may be involved in the link between anxiety and alcoholism.
Because alcohol is not found easily in nature, genetic mechanisms to protect against excessive consumption may not have evolved in humans as they frequently have for protection against natural threats.
Therefore, some evidence indicates that a lack of genetic protection plays a major role in alcoholism.
In view of this, it is theorized that people with a family history of alcoholism tend to "hold their liquor" better than those without such a history.
Experts suggest some people may inherit a lack of those warning signals that ordinarily make people stop drinking.
Genes that regulate certain chemical byproducts of alcohol are under intense scrutiny as well.
Alcohol is metabolized in a two-stage process.
First, it is first converted to acetaldehyde (AcH), which is then converted into acetate.
AcH is being researched because it plays a role in most actions of alcohol, including damaging effects on the liver and upper airway.
It also may be protective.
For example, some people, particularly in Asian and Jewish populations, may be less likely to become alcoholic because of a genetic deficiency in AcH, which produces a buildup of acetate after drinking alcohol.
Because acetate is toxic and in high amounts causes flushing, dizziness, and nausea, individuals with this genetic factor are less likely to become alcoholic.
This deficiency is not completely protective against drinking, however, particularly if there is social pressure and high exposure to alcohol, such as among college fraternity members.
Other intriguing studies indicate that some people with alcoholism may have an inherited dysfunction in the transmission of serotonin. Serotonin is an important brain chemical messenger known as a neurotransmitter. It is important for well-being and associated behaviors (e.g., eating, relaxation, sleep).
Curiously, abnormal serotonin levels are associated with high levels of tolerance for alcohol. They are also linked to impulsive and aggressive behaviors, which can predispose people to drink and can increase the risk for dangerous behaviors and suicide in alcoholics. Serotonin abnormalities can also develop from environmental pressures as well, such as early loss in childhood.
Since that factor applies to me, it causes me pause to consider the ramifications.
Initially, I never thought I had a problem with drinking, until I backed my car into a pole in an alley one dark, drunken night.
The following morning as I surveyed the gash in the rear bumper, it suddenly hit me.
Until that moment, an alcoholic beverage was simply a stress-releaser.
I rarely ever sauntered out to a local bar for a social drink, for instance.
After a rough day on the set, I'd snatch up a couple of brewskies at the liquor store, and head home to nurse them by the TV 'til I dozed off to sleep.
There were other rules to my drinking, as well.
Imbibing in the day was a no-no. So, was taking "a hair of the dog that bit me".
But, early on, it did not escape my attention how clever the demon "rum" was.
I was able to go out one evening for a cocktail or two, then quit for the night.
But, the following week, I'd convince myself wholeheartedly that "three was okay".
After that, four was no problem, or so I convinced myself!
That's one of the characteristic of alcoholism, the inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed.
Not every alcoholic will drink themselves into a stupor, but he or she may be unable to recognize when too much alcohol is more than enough.
One of the most frustrating factors in dealing with alcoholism?
The phenomenon known as "denial".
On the long path towards mental, physical and moral decline, usually the first attribute "to go" is honesty, with self-esteem to follow.
Then, it becomes necessary - as the alcoholic increasingly drinks more - to hide the fact from those around him. Depending upon the circumstances, the alcoholic may drink openly, but more-often-than-not, usually conceals the amount imbibed.
The goal is accomplished by simply not drinking around those closest.
The frequency of consumption is often difficult to control, as well. An alcoholic may drink at inappropriate times during lunch hour or in the early hours of dawn. An alcoholic drinks alone, in a social setting, at any time during the day. In fact, for an alcoholic, there is a preoccupation with the desire to consume alcohol combined with a denial that there is a problem with actual drinking.
The problem for me? When I was drinking, I wanted everyone else to join in.
So, I ordered up rounds for the whole gang, in close proximity.
Yeah, it became costly. American Express? I had to leave home without it!
But, at least I was a happy drinker...some get mean, or morose, or have a tendency to slip into a bluesy, unhappy state.
For the most part, alcohol stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and other chemicals that produce the following pleasurable feelings; for instance, an increase of dopamine produces euphoria and a sensation of being rewarded.
In addition, serotonin production may be accelerated which is tied to feelings of well-being. Chemical balances as they relate to opioid peptides, important for well-being, may be affected, too.
Over time, however, heavy alcohol use appears to deplete the stores of dopamine and serotonin. Persistent drinking, therefore, eventually fails to restore mood, but by then the drinker has been conditioned to believe that alcohol will improve spirits
People forget that alcohol is a depressant. The first couple of drinks may result in a high, elevate the mood. After that, the habitual user is bound to get depressed, foggy-headed, and end up swimming in emotions of all kinds - positive and negative.
Some drink to steal away from problems.
Personally, I found that when I drank, my thought processes accelerated. So, in essence, I was not escaping - like most - but dealing with reality face-to-face.
Because alcohol blocks out emotional pain, it is often perceived as a safe haven in a moment of crisis. Associated with freedom and loss of inhibition, some conjecture the drinking experience offsets the tedium of daily routines.
But, when the alcoholic tries to quit drinking, the brain seeks to restore what it perceives to be its equilibrium. In that scenario, Doctors note that the brain's best weapons to achieve this are depression, anxiety, and stress (the emotional equivalents of physical pain), which are produced by brain chemical imbalances.
These negative moods continue to tempt alcoholics to return to drinking long after physical withdrawal symptoms have abated.
In spite of a high intelligence in some individuals, the over-agitated brain will use all its powers of rationalization to persuade the patient to return to drinking. According to a 1999 study, having a high or low IQ has little effect on quitting.
A handful of my own friends start drinking around five in the afternoon and continue non-stop until late in the evening. Do they have a problem?
I often wish I could just have a drink or two socially, relax, and be part of the crowd.
There is not a predetermined set of rules which clarifies the exact moment that social drinking becomes problem drinking and transforms into alcoholism, but - it is well-established that alcoholism eventually overcomes a person’s ability to think clearly. It can control one’s emotions and behaviors and ultimately dominate the life, environment, and relationships of the addled.
Long ago, I realized that if I sipped on one ale, I'd end up falling off the wagon; to stumble home later, after about ten drinks.
Thank God, misadventure did not get the best of me on those occasions, and I did not end up in serious legal trouble with the law due to some naughty behavior on the town.
Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence
According to the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders", the Fourth Edition...the symptoms of alcohol dependence are many.
For starters, a warning flag goes up when the individual starts to neglect other activities. Indeed, if alcohol use reduces or eliminates important social, work-related or recreational activities, a problem is underfoot.
Then, there's the issue of excessive consumption...if a drinker begins to consume larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period of time than intended, this is a sign of trouble on the horizon.
Repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control how much he or she drinks is an indication that alcoholism may have taken a hold and may be difficult to break free from without help from outside sources.
If the individual continues to consume alcohol - unaware that drinking is causing or contributing to a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem - then there may be a need for intervention.
If a so-called social drinker spends an abnormal amount of recreation time on activities involved with obtaining, using and/or recovering from the effects of alcohol, it is a surefire sign that a line has been crossed.
Actual physical withdrawal occurs when drinking for a short period of time is stopped and he or she experiences symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shaking or anxiety. Also, the issue may enter a new phase when the drinker has lost tolerance and needs increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the same level of intoxication.
The bottom line?
Alcoholism is a sneaky disease characterized by need and denial.
Alcoholics often do not realize they are addicted to alcohol until it is too late. If you have made the decision to stop drinking any alcoholic beverage for a relatively short amount of time, but found that you were unable to abstain from alcohol, you may be an alcoholic.
Do people often tell you that you have a problem with alcohol?
Do you argue with friends or family about the amounts of alcohol you drink?
Sometimes the family and friends of alcoholics recognize the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, but the alcoholic denies there is a problem. If this is true for you, and you find that you have negative thoughts about the people who are interfering or being bossy about your drinking, then you may be an alcoholic.
It is important to realize that any life change, even changes for the better, may cause temporary grief and anxiety.
With time and the substitution of healthier pleasures the emotional turmoil weakens and can be overcome.
Close friends and even intimate partners may have difficulty in changing their responses to the newly sober person - even worse - may encourage a return to drinking.
The recoveree may feel un-cool, left out.
These influences are known as "triggers".
Friends may not easily accept the sober, perhaps more subdued, ex-drinker.
In such cases, a separation from these "enablers" may be necessary for survival.
I drank non-alcoholic beer for awhile to give the appearance of drinking at social events, but cleverly hid the label, so no one would chastise me.
You know what they say, never trust a non-drinker.
A sense of isolation, a loss of enjoyment, and the ex-drinker's belief that pity, not respect, is guiding a friend's attitude can lead to loneliness, low self-esteem, and a strong desire to drink again.
For this reason, alcoholism is best treated by professionals trained in addiction medicine. Physicians and other health care workers are best suited to manage alcohol withdrawal and the medical disorders associated with alcoholism.
In fact, home therapy without supervision by a trained professional may be life threatening because of complications from alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Usually an alcoholic will experience alcohol withdrawal 6-8 hours after cutting down or stopping alcohol consumption.
Several levels of care are available to treat alcoholism.
Medically managed hospital-based detoxification and rehabilitation programs are used for more severe cases of dependence that occur with medical and psychiatric complications. Medically monitored detoxification and rehabilitation programs are used for people who are dependent on alcohol and who do not require more closely supervised medical care.
The purpose of detoxification is to safely withdraw the alcoholic from alcohol and to help him or her enter a treatment program. The purpose of a rehabilitation program is to help the alcoholic accept the disease, begin to develop skills for sober living, and get enrolled in ongoing treatment and self-help programs. Most detoxification programs last just a few days. Most medically managed or monitored rehabilitation programs last less than 2 weeks.
Many alcoholics benefit from longer-term rehabilitation programs, day treatment programs, or outpatient programs. These programs involve education, therapy, addressing problems contributing to or resulting from the alcoholism, and learning skills to manage the alcoholism over time.
These skills include, but are not limited to, the following: learning to identify and manage cravings to drink alcohol, resisting social pressures to engage in substance use, changing health care habits and lifestyle (for example, improving diet and sleep hygiene, and avoiding high-risk people, places, and events), learning to challenge alcoholic thinking (thoughts such as: I need a drink to fit in, have fun, or deal with stress), developing a recovery support system and learning how to reach out for help and support from others, learning to deal with emotions (anger, anxiety, boredom, depression) and stressors without reliance on alcohol, identifying and managing relapse warning signs before alcohol is used, and finally, anticipating the possibility of relapse and addressing high-risk relapse factors.
Several studies have shown that about half of alcoholics who have successfully undergone detoxification will relapse within 6-12 months. Remaining alcohol-free is a very difficult task for most alcoholics.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease not unlike diabetes or congestive heart failure.
If a person continues to drink excessively after numerous or ongoing treatments, their prognosis is very poor. Persistent heavy drinkers will often succumb to the effects of alcohol. At this juncture, physical health problems may arise.
Too late, the alcoholic must face the reality of the failure to deal with the problem; for instance, the excessive imbibing may have resulted in serious damage to the liver, overall health, without possibility of recovery.
Mortality is a severe end game to deal with in that scenario.
So, take action now, if alcohol is throwing your life off-kilter, eh?
On the morning Metro Rail, I noticed a prominent ad on the train, urging commuters to fight global warming.
At long last, rapid transit is getting into the "game".
The ad, a graphic of Earth wrapped in yellow "caution" tape - normally facilitated at homicide sites by Law Enforcement - is quite eye-catching.
A human figure mops a brow and laments,
"Is it just me, or is it getting hotter around here? Maybe it’s because I see so many cars on the road."
The Metro transit blurb notes that taking the light rail is a cool way to curb "Global warming" and urges passengers to go Metro at least once a week to reduce carbon footprints.
Metro has also published a "Trip Planner" to assist commuters unfamiliar with the new mode of transportation to help find their way.
"You can make a difference one train or bus ride at a time," the ad concludes.
Now, if we could only get those stinky old vehicles off the highway before we all turn blue in the face and keel over.
In the past year or so, the Screen Actors Guild has reacted to a number of industry issues in typical knee-jerk fashion.
For instance, in an effort to curb "runaway" production, some clever person at the Guild stumbled on the idea to bring legal action against Canadian Filmmakers pursuant to anti-trust laws.
You see, in the mind's eye of these odd-ball reps at SAG, Canadians are responsible for Hollywood's woes - in part - because they had the foresight to offer up tax incentives to attract film production north of the border decades ago.
Well, I laughed out loud when the Guild issued a notice to the membership regarding the pending action.
It was evident to me from the get-go that such action would not only be fruitless, but result in a costly waste of financial resource.
In a news bite in the recent edition of "Screen Actor" (the Guild newsletter) administration noted that the United States Trade Representative denied the 301 Petition challenging Canadian Film subsidies.
Now, maybe SAG will get on with business.
Like Canada, the Guild should make a concerted effort to push for tax incentives not only on the Federal level, but at the State level as well, to encourage local film production.
The problem with Hollywood is greed!
Although the pie is large enough for everyone to share, all the power-brokers (and workers) in Tinseltown are gluttons with an eye on the whole enchilada.
The idea that industry issues on the table relate to "us and them" is not only off-putting, but is the wrong approach.
Personally, I urge an ongoing harmonious effort to work out the issues so that there is equitable solution for all, not just a privileged few.
As Gandhi once said,
"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not every man's greed"
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Years ago, I packed up a small suitcase and headed off to New York, to pursue the elusive dream of becoming a stage actor.
As I jetted my way to NYC, a couple of passengers - aware that it was my first trip to the Big Apple - gave me the low-down on the ins-and-outs of the mean streets there.
Of course, they raved, I must saunter over to Studio 54!
The chic, bitchy couple excitedly gushed that it was the "in" place to be, provided passage was granted into the exalted confines of the trendy disco within.
Apparently, the stumbling block was a uneasily-bought doorman - with a keen eye - who gave potential party-goers a once over before making a snap decision as to whether to lift the red-tassled rope at the entrance to the club to admit.
How do I wangle my way in, then, I queried them?
"Just use a little psychology," they instructed. And, "you'll be in like Flynn", they mused.
For instance, they cautioned that I should not mince up to the line with a questioning look on my face, wondering if I'd get in.
"Act like you belong, there. That's the key," they noted, matter-of-fact.
So, after I was settled into my Hotel digs in a less-than ritzy part of town, I donned my most expensive knock-out ensemble - white linen slacks, silk shirt, and creme-colored sport jacket topped off with a white fedora slightly cocked to one side of my head - and headed off to meet my destiny.
I took the subway uptown - yeah, until I got situated - a budget was key.
But, at Times Square, I pulled a switcheroo.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, after all.
I hailed a cab, then gave instructions to the driver to cruise to a stop at the entrance to exclusive, Studio 54.
"Yes, sir," he responded curtly.
The chic watering hole ceremoniously opened at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan in the early seventies.
As the hired car cruised up in front of the old theatre, which housed the popular night spot, I couldn't help but wince at the long line snaking on down the street.
From behind frosted glass, I spied about thirty lookie-looks - amid elegant faces of the trendy set - chomping at the bit to catch the doorman's discerning eye.
As I alighted from the cab, and steered my way toward the fray, I heard a strong masculine voice call out - "let that man through".
The bystanders parted like the great sea, as I strolled up to the gated area, with a swagger theretofore unbeknownst to me!
The doorman gave a little bow, released the gold-tipped cord, and let me pass.
"Tabernacle", a French-Canadian part-of-me uttered, as my heart leapt out of my chest.
On the exterior Club 54 was pretty serene and cool.
Inside, however, a frenetic beat stirred up an emotional storm; after all, a nightly primal ritual was underway.
Suddenly - I was thrust amid a host of effervescent gyrating fashionistas, half-naked men, and elegant sophisticated ladies (all tarted up) thriving on an adrenalin rush.
Was that Halston in the corner sipping on cocktail?
At the bar, I spied Grace Jones - all in black - eyeing me mysteriously from behind a thin black veil that sheathed her face and dipped down below her elegant chin.
Studio 54 was operated by the flamboyant - publicly visible Rubell - and a retiring silent partner. During the club's heyday, Rubell became widely known for hand selecting guests from the madding crowds outside and was prone to mix the delicious beautiful "nobodies" with glamorous celebrities in the same venue.
The illustrious manager was nowhere in sight on this occasion, but bound to put in a perfunctory appearance, yet.
As celebrated Jester of the day, he was inclined to hold court, wasn't he?
The theatre, itself, had quite a history.
Studio 54 originated as the Gallo Opera House in 1927, then later became known as the New Yorker Theatre in 1930, the Casino de Paris in 1933, the Palladium Theatre in 1936 and the Federal Music Theatre in 1937.
In 1937, the name was changed back to the New Yorker Theatre - until CBS purchased the facility in the 1950s - when the hot spot was summarily renamed Studio 52.
From the 1950s to the mid-1970s, CBS used the location as a radio and TV stage that aired the shows "Password", "To Tell the Truth", and "The Jack Benny Show" respectively.
The soap opera - "Love of Life" - was produced there until 1975.
In 1976, CBS concentrated most of its New York TV Broadcasts at the Ed Sullivan Theater (Studio 50) further west at the CBS Broadcast Center; so, Studio 52 was sold.
The Ed Sullivan Theater once had a pathway to Studio 54 through an access door which was summarily cinder-blocked during the Theater's David Letterman renovation days.
The building was purchased and renamed for its street address at 254 West 54th Street situated between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. The prominent location was highly visible due to other tenants in the building - two famed disco record labels - West End Records and Scepter.
Carmen D'Alessio, a former PR Agent, was initially retained by model - Uva Harden - to promote the club.
Later, D'Allessio nabbed nightclub owners Rubell & Schrager to head up the disco. Their own club - The Enchanted Garden - had met with considerable success, so they were sure-fire candidates to head up Studio 54.
D'Allessio was uniquely connected in the fashion, music and film scenes, and often hobnobbed with "A" list jet setters, movers and shakers, and celebrities throughout the free-world.
So, Rubell & Shrager gave D'Alessio much of the control for the design and promotion of the club.
For the opening, D'Alessio sent out 5,000 invitations to her very "closest friends", luring each one to the much-anticipated opening with the promise of enticing surprise gifts for those who attended.
Liz Smith, Cindy Adams and other New York gossip columnists reported on the much-ballyhooed opening - at which point, Studio 54 (the most notorious nightclub in history) was born.
At the glitzy, star-studded premier - Bianca Jagger, Brooke Shields, Cher, Margaux Hemingway, and Donald Trump - put in high-profile appearances.
Excited hordes outside scrambled to gain entry but only the lucky ones with connections, a dazzling outfit, or gorgeous face, made the cut.
Imagine that - Mick Jagger and Frank Sinatra - were turned away at the door!
I guess Mick was on-the-outs with Bianca on that occasion!
Shortly after the opening, D'Alessio hosted a birthday party for Bianca Jagger.
Jagger entered on a white horse and the resulting publicity firmly established Studio 54 as the preferred nightclub for New York celebrities including the likes of Halston, Elton John, Liza Minnelli, Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, and Andy Warhol.
Unfortunately, the merry-making would not last forever; after all, there was a scandal brewing in the wings over rumors that scads of cash was allegedly stashed away at the club, complicated by gossip that door receipts were going unreported, illicit drugs were on the premises, and that the owners were bona fide tax evaders.
At the height of the hysteria, Federal agents grabbed Ian Schrager at the disco one morning, and found almost a million dollars hidden in the walls of the premises.
When Steve Rubell was stopped in his Mercedes, another hundred thousand dollars was found stashed in the trunk.
The raid was the story of the decade.
Although the FBI telephoned Andy Warhol as a potential witness (his staff slyly alleged he was out of the office) he escaped the long arm of the law.
Even still, he was unscathed.
In response to the drama, Warhol was alleged to have said,
"All scandals help business because there's no publicity like bad publicity."
In fact, his first reaction was to put Steve on the cover of Interview Magazine!
Indeed, Mr. Rubell was rushed into an elegant tux, photographed, and plastered on the February 1979 cover.
As the Studio 54 scandal hit the front pages of major dailies across the world, Steve Rubell was already cleverly conjuring up a defense.
For instance, he blabbed to everyone within earshot that the White House's "Chief of staff" - Hamilton Jordan - pestered him for cocaine on more than one occasion at Studio 54.
"I don't think Steve is a nice person."
Well, to Law Enforcement, he was a criminal - that's for sure.
He was charged, and booked, and served time over the whole fiasco.
Ah, but the memories!
Today, I received a rather official-looking legal document in the mail from the United States District Court.
In a prior post, I noted that the "Evil Empire" - the Bank of America - was being sued in a class-action suit for dinging credit card holders with questionable charges from 1996 until 2006, respectively...and that I was a plaintiff in the proceedings.
According to the notice, the U.S. District Court has arrived at a settlement agreement with the banking giant.
Plaintiffs in the proceeding may choose one of three settlement options.
In the first refund option, parties to the action may choose what is referred to as an "easy refund" or flat sum. This offer is suggested for individuals who travelled outside of the U.S. for less than one week, or had foreign transactions of less than $2,500.00, using eligible credit cards during the 1996 to 2006 period.
In the alternative, a plaintiff may choose a second option - a total estimation refund based on typical spending - supported by particulars in respect to travel outside of the U.S. The second offer is recommended for those who travelled abroad for more than one week or had foreign transactions of more than $2,500.00 using eligible cards during the same time span cited in Option No. 1 above.
The third settlement offer amounts to a refund based on information provided concerning annual estimated foreign transactions during 1996 thru 2006. This choice is recommended for those with extensive foreign travel or foreign transactions who are willing to submit year-by-year documented information in support of the claim. Refunds, in this instance, will be a maximum of 1% to 3% of foreign transactions.
Well, I'm settling for Option 1.
Heh, Christmas is coming up; the extra cash will come in handy!
Well, there may be a WGA strike underway in the industry, but actor Brad Pitt's hands won't be idle.
Pitt expects foundations to be dug out for at least 150 eco-friendly homes in New Orleans' lower Ninth Ward by the end of next summer.
"Make it Right" - an initiative he started up to make the dream a reality - represents seed money from his own pocket, too; a whopping $5 million was donated by the fan of architectural aesthetics to aid in the bold-faced effort to restore neighborhoods devastated by the Hurricane Katrina.
Last year the activist (who also donates time, energy and $$$ to Global Green USA) and his sensuous wife - Angelina Jolie - purchased an elegant home in the city's French Quarter...so he'll be nearby to watch over the construction.
In spite of his own major contribution to kick-start the program, he's approaching foundations, big bucks individuals with a heart, church outreach groups, and corporate sponsors to ante up $150,000.00 to basically "adopt-a-home"...the cost of situating a struggling family into new digs.
About thirteen architects have been hired to create innovative housing; in this instance, structures that will be smartly constructed on stilts as a precaution against future flooding in the area.
Undoubtedly, his past involvement with environmental groups, has stressed the need to be forward-thinking in the approach now.
For this reason, the homes will be affordable, sustainable, safe from the elements...with all the creature comforts, too.
In recent months, Brad was somewhat preoccupied - it seems - with fashion shoots and other superficial pursuits. In a feature in the LA TIMES recently, he waxed philosophically about this 'n that - giving the impression of being a bit of a phony.
Today, it appears he is on track, getting down 'n dirty, and lending a much-needed hand where it is needed most.
Construction hats off to Pitt for not only making it right, but making a difference.
Those interested in checking out the progress of the project, or making a donation, should check out the web site: www.makeitrightnola.org
Peyton Conway March once said,
There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life - happiness, freedom, and peace of mind - are always attained by giving them to someone else.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
If you were paying attention to the full-page ads for the feature film "LIONS for LAMBS" in recent weeks, you undoubtedly noticed some curious goings-on!
Shortly after the film - which had a tepid opening performance - was released, snippets of reviews touting Cruise's acting ability nudged their way to the top of the advertisements in all their radiance. (!)
Of course, many were under the impression, that "LIONS for LAMBS" was a Robert Redford film; after all, the SUNDANCE kid starred and directed, right?
Actually, "LIONS" was the first project Cruise and his producer-partner, Paula Wagner, undertook since Tom got the boot from Paramount.
If you recall, Sumner Redstone (Head of Paramount) did not renew Cruise's contract with the studio biggie because he felt that the star's outside activities - an involvement with the controversial Church of Scientology, for instance - were hurting box office receipts.
Notwithstanding, it's evident at this juncture, that the spotlight was placed on Cruise's acting - by virtue of his own hand!
Think about it...
As Executive Producer on "Lions for Lambs" - Tom was "top dog" - who managed and controlled publicity for the feature.
One has to wonder, then - was it vanity?
A big ego, perhaps.
Or, just plain old insecurity, that prompted Cruise to put his own reviews upfront and center in advertisements in all the major dailies, above everyone else in the cast?
You see, Tom made a classic mistake in the business, which would be wise to pay heed to.
True, for a number of years - the No. 1 Box Office actor - basked in good press, kind thoughts, and was showered with all good intentions.
In addition, one of the sexiest men alive, was the subject of image-boosting articles, a proliferation of flattering photos, and a lot of ego-stroking; uh-huh, from all quarters of the business.
In the early days of his fledgling career, Tom was smart enough to recognize the importance of an excellent publicist - so - the astute star proceeded to hire a handful of the most capable, powerful, PR agents in all of Hollywood.
With the stellar team at the helm, all was well in Tinseltown, for decades to come.
But, out-of-the-blue one day - without warning - the agitated actor (for some inexplicable reason) fired his loyal Public Relations folks - yeah, he sent 'em packing!
Oh my, it appears he opened Pandora's box, because all manner of strange occurrences befell him.
Suddenly, Tom was fighting with Brook Shields about psychiatry on National Television, jumping on couches, and tooling around town on a - what?
The subliminal message was "crystal clear"...the aging Lothario was pining for the heady days when he was once a TOP GUN.
Bottom line, Cruise was spilling out negative print as fast as the presses could run it...
And, before you could say - "Mission Impossible" - Cruise's image was not only in tatters, but his whole career was in a free fall, to the bottom of showbiz infamy.
Up until the exit of his handlers, there hadn't been any risky business to speak of; in fact, Tom had been blessed with good fortune.
Yes, he was in the enviable position to dictate the questions fielded at exclusive interview sessions, pick and choose the snippets of chit-chat to incorporate into news features, and - most importantly - was able to appease the beast inside...an obvious control-freak, lurking beneath the sunny, outgoing surface.
But all that evaporated into thin air when he ventured into the unknown, after sending his Public Relations officers, packing.
From the sidelines, naysayers titter, that the once affable star is a hair's breath away from the dreaded B-list.
But, with $$$ in the bank, for the moment he's secure - financially - at least.
Tom, you once had us at "hello", what happened?
I did not have sex with that man!
A forced kiss?
In the December 3rd edition of the LA TIMES, the editorial department alleges that there has been an ongoing effort on the Internet to "smear" Presidential Candidate Barack Obama.
In the Editorial section of the daily, unknown writers, state quite emphatically that - as a result - the "American Smear" is revealing its ugly head once again.
The editorial team reported that there have been persistent rumors circulating on the Internet that Obama (well-known to Chicagoans as a Christian) is actually a "stealth Muslim”, a "Manchurian Candidate", who would take the presidential oath with his hand on the Koran.
The paper asserts that the first rumors surfaced during Obama's run for Senate, but it was not until a recent "virile" e-mail campaign - wherein accusers labeled Obama of being the "enemy within" - finally stuck.
In fact, the false allegations became so serious, that the campaign team was forced to denounce Fox News for repeating what they assert was a false Insight Magazine report that "Obama spent four years in an Indonesian madrasa, an Islamic School".
Although CNN confirmed that the school in question had nothing in common with Pakistant incubators for jihadists, and the record has been set straight, the popular morning daily noted that the Washington Post proceeded to run a front-page story about Obama's alleged "Muslim" ties.
In response, Editors at the TIMES have summarily labeled the allegations "false and vile" - and further articulated - that the fact they persist in the face of the facts..."speaks to the power of the underlying calumny - that Muslim Americans in positions of power in the U.S. represent a fifth column, and internal security threat of the sort believed to have been posed by Japanese Americans during World War II."
They further argue that the issue..."speaks to the post 9/11 revival of the ancient Christian loathing of Muslims that predated by centuries the 1529 Ottoman Siege of Vienna."
Because American voters are probably not ready to vote in a Muslim President, it is conjectured that the "rumor-mongers" are spreading the hateful lies in a bold-faced effort to sabotage Obama's run for the White House.
In conclusion, the LA TIMES staff note that it is the duty of candidates of both parties - to not only denounce the smear against Obama - but the bigotry that lies beneath the movement.
Henry Adams once said,
Politics, as a practice - whatever its professions - has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.
When film director Michael Moore unveiled his new documentary SiCKO - amid a lot of fanfare in earlier this year in Sacramento - some said:
Taking in a documentary is one of my favorite past-times.
Of course, the "doc" comes in all varieties. A director may focus on thought-provoking pieces about nature's astounding wonders, or take an insightful foray into an important social or political issue of the day, you name it.
In my mind's eye, when it comes to the latter, the facts should be presented fairly so that the viewer may weigh all the information - and henceforth - arrive at an intelligent reasoned decision about the issues.
For the most part, documentary filmmakers are inspired to "log" a topic because they are all fired up about a project. I mean, somethin' must have got 'em all hopped up to tackle the issues, eh?
For this reason I am inclined to believe that the creators may have a tendency to lean a little.
Undoubtedly, a subtle manipulation of the content is capable of swaying an audience in a particular way.
For instance, whether an insightful (or inflammatory) interview or news clip is placed at the beginning or end of the reel may have a dramatic impact on the viewer.
Although 60 minutes promises to follow the strict dictates of professional journalism - on occasion you can tell by the way the piece was constructed - where their loyalty falls.
One critic spouted recently that documentaries reminded him of "homework".
Joe Queenan - at the LA TIMES - recalled the empty experience of being locked in a steamy smelly auditorium forced to watch grainy films about boring topics produced by the Department of Agriculture.
"I'd rather watch the worst Keanu Reeves movie, I would rather sit through eleven consecutive Demi Moore films (are there that many?) than sit through a documentary," he noted with distaste.
Or maybe he was responding tongue-in-cheek?
His statements caused a firestorm from the documentary camp from those who assert that this forum is where political causes, life's injustices and social ills may be brought to the fore.
June Macquire of Mission Viejo quoted Thomas Jefferson:
"If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be".
Recently, I caught a couple of compelling informative documentaries.
The "Orange Chronicles", for instance.
THE ORANGE CHRONICLES is an examination of Ukraine's Orange Revolution from the perspective of an intrepid Ukrainian-American filmmaker who criss-crossed the country in the weeks before the remarkable events of 2004 as a volunteer Election Observer. The director chronicled what turned out to be a most astonishing bloodless political turnaround.
It helps to have an intelligent articulate public figure involved with a cause to ensure a spotlight will be thrown on the subject.
In recent months, fans of documentaries have demonstrated their loyalty by attending recent screenings at local and national theatres.
For example, the New Beverly Cinema screened a handful of rarely-seen films by one of America's greatest living directors, Martin Scorsese.
In ITALIANAMERICAN (1974, 48 minutes, color) Scorsese focused on the home of his late parents Catherin and Charles (who have appeared in Goodfellas, Mean Streets and Raging Bull). The couple discussed everything from their immigrant heritage to on-camera behavior and the family's secret spaghetti sauce recipe.
In another precious gem Scorsese introduces a main character to the tune of Bunny Berigan's - "I Can't Get Started" - and a shave turns into a musical bloodletting in THE BIG SHAVE (1968, 6 minutes, color). In essence, it's an early black comedy gem that has remained in dusty film vaults unscreened for years.
The American Film Institute got in on the screening trend this year, too, when they presented a few intelligent thought-provoking documentaries in their forum on the genre.
In the future, keep your eye out for them. They're worth catching the second time around.
A rare look into the psyche of the man who created Blue Velvet and ERASERHEAD, LYNCH documents the making of INLAND EMPIRE.
LYNCH talks about the beauty of discovering ideas and the struggle to unveil his cinematic vision. In this film, he is infectious and inspiring.
Arthur Dong critically re-examines the history of Hollywood's creation of the stereotypic Chinese identity on film. He artfully weaves together 75 years of film clips with insightful commentaries by Ang Lee, Joan Chen, James Hong - and others - who are reshaping the image of Chinese People in the cinema today.
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story
This documentary chronicles the last great American showman, William Castle.
A master of ballyhoo - who became a brand name in movie horror with his outrageous audience participation gimmicks - Castle treated delighted moviegoers to buzzing seats, flying skeletons, luminescent ghosts and life insurance policies against "death by fright". Director Jeffrey Schwarz artfully unfolds Castle's rags-to-riches role with brio and a wealth of archival footage along with numerous interviews with the impresario's friends, family, and fans.
The Man in the Shadows: Val Lewton
Between 1942 and 1951, Val Lewton stretched his modest $125K budgets into a series of classic genre films.
Martin Scorsese and Kent James celebrate Lewton and his key team (director Jacques Tourneur, editor/director Mark Robson and writer DeWitt Bodeen) and their films which included Cat People, The Seventh Victim, and the Ghost Ship.
Well, looks like Governor Schwarzenegger is not the only politician capable of flexing some muscle...
In recent weeks, I penned posts, noting that John Edwards was seeking to raise $500,000.00 by December 1st (2007) so that his campaign would be entitled to matching funds from the Government.
John Edwards’ supporters may be glad to hear the good news!
Over the week-end, campaign Manager - Joe Trippi - send me an e-mail communication noting that the sum of $751,000.00 was raised prior to the deadline.
So, it is onward and upward for Edwards.
Remember, the Democrats will need a strong candidate to stand up against John Paul in the upcoming Presidential Race.
So, do your part today to put the best candidate in the White House.
John Edwards in sexier campaign trail moment...
Monday, December 3, 2007
Paul Williams...Hollywood screening of "Phantom of the Paradise" triggers an insightful heart to heart!
At the screening of "Phantom of the Paradise" - which was paired with the musical comedy Bugsy Malone - there were so many filmgoers jostling for seats that they were inclined to wait patiently in a long line which snaked along Beverly Boulevard in front of the theatre and offshooted down a dark side street into the great beyond.
Edgar Wright - the adventurous director of two recent blockbuster hits - "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" - promised surprise guests and he did not disappoint.
It was rumored that Paul Williams - composer of the film score for "Bugsy Malone" and the unlikely star of the cult phenomenon "Phantom of the Paradise" - was on hand to field questions and sign autographs in a Q & A session during admission.
The crowd was tame, but antsy.
Normally, the New Beverly Cinema opens promptly at 7:30 pm, but on this harried occasion - for some inexplicable reason - ticket-holders stood in line for over an hour before the doors were flung open and excited fans were allowed to storm the theatre in search of the best available seats.
Then, a few die-hards had to wrangle their way through a second more oddly-configured line to order up tasty snacks at the confection booth.
Heh, business is good!
There was a lot to take a gander at while stumbling through the queues; a film crew - for instance - logging footage for a documentary on Paul Williams, surreptitiously hung around the lobby catching candid shots of the attendees.
On the street, Scott Caan - son of James - caught the ire of a few filmgoers when he persistently revved up his motorcycle out front - some say - in a selfish attempt to nab some attention.
After working with the actor on one project, Robert Duvall was alleged to have snidely remarked in a TV interview once that young Caan, "Occasionally needed a pat on the back."
No one was offering it last night; they were too preoccupied with the celebrated guests in attendance and the adrenalin rush of the festivities underway.
Edgar Wright was in good form, dashing around the theatre like an excited kid with a new toy.
After all, this was his baby.
Edgar organized "The Wright Stuff" - a festival of his favorite films - which included preparing the press releases, lining up all the projects, and arranging for special surprise celebrities to appear.
Before the main features screened, the handsome heavyweight treated the enthusiastic audience to a short video he directed and produced - aptly titled - "After Hours" - which featured music by the "Blue Tones".
Without doubt, the award-winning auteur has on-camera talent, as well.
I particularly enjoyed one dance number where he planted his hands firmly on a table top, half-turned - thrust his little butt into camera with a twist and a kick of agile legs - then popped back upright to finish the snazzy choreographed number which was a sassy tribute to "Bugsy Malone".
During half-time, Edgar stood up-front and center with Paul Williams, and managed to extract some intriguing behind-the-scenes gossip about the two projects, too.
Apparently, "Bugsy Malone" came about when the director - Alan Parker - put in a call to the Paul Williams tossing up an idea about a musical featuring kid gangsters.
The tale started out as a bedtime story for his children. Each night, as Parker tucked each child in before their journey on to dreamland, a new chapter was added. Then, one thing led to another.
The visionary director met with the songwriter in Las Vegas - where Williams was performing on stage at the time - and hammered out the details.
Curiously, the duo hired army brats for all the key roles.
In respone to a query from the audience, the award-winning composer noted that the voices of the young performers - including Jodie Foster's - were dubbed to create a jarring odd-ball effect.
"Bugsy Malone" was a personally rewarding experience for Williams, who joked in an afterthought,
"I got to keep a lot of the clothes, too."
In reply to another fan's question, the charismatic guest confirmed that he started out as an actor in a throw-away role in the film, "The Loved One".
He laughingly noted to the audience that he was difficult to cast for two reasons; for starters, he gave the appearance of being a kid. Secondly, when placed next to a child actor, he looked - for all-the-world - like a youth with a hang-over!
The audience roared!
At this juncture, Williams had a confession to make.
For the record, he admitted to gaps in his consciousness over the years due to acute alcoholism.
For sure, the alcohol "got the better of him" on more than one occasion - and clouded his memories - he admitted without shame.
In respect to composing, he says the career path presented itself in a round-about-way.
On a set one day, he allegedly plucked up a guitar and started to strum a little, without much thought or consternation.
Robert Duvall turned an ear to the musical whimsies, and finding them appealing, brought them to the attention of Arthur Penn.
Slowly, thereafter, his composing career unfolded as if directed by a finger of fate.
When asked about his favorite tune in "Phantom" - without hesitation - he noted with pride it was the haunting "Old Souls".
On the heels of this revelation - he added sadly that - "Old Souls" has never been recorded yet. Gloria Estevan expressed an interest at one point, but nothing came of the overture.
Williams - looking more the record exec than pop star or composer - was smartly attired in a sharp black suit which was tastefully matched up with a blood red shirt which added a dash of color to the mix.
To the surprise of many, the diminutive star noted that "Phantom" was a big hit in Winnipeg!
He surmised that the movie hit gold in the city north of the border because parents dropped their kids off at the movie theatre "to devour" Phantom for hours on end - while they went off to shop and do chores - confident that their "babysitter" would keep them under a spell 'til they returned to gather 'em up.
Williams proudly noted for the record that there is an annual "Phantom" festival in Winnipeg, now. The songwriter attended the festivities for the first time this past year.
Go figure, "Phantom of the Paradise", is also popular in Paris.
"Well, they love comedy over there," he chirped.
He labelled Phantom - "a cartoon with real people" - and added that when it was originally produced the project was timely.
"The Vietnam War was raging and the body count was high," he recalled. And, "The idea of an assassination - like the one depicted in the film - did not appear to be so far-fetched."
In sum, he surmised that the foregoing reasons may have accounted for the popularity and success of "Phantom" during that era.
Near the end of the Question & Answer session, Paul Williams lamented to the audience - "I love to act" - as he turned and gave Wright a little wink.
Edgar, I think that was a hint. Williams is pining to be cast in one of your films!
As if there wasn't enough headiness for one night, there were more surprises on tap, too.
As promised on Wright's "myspace" web site, there was a surprise feature beckoning at midnight, too. Around the witchin' hour it was ceremoniously unveiled - "Ishtar".
To get the ball rollin', Quentin Tarantino rushed up, baseball cap askew, and gave a brief intro to the delight of everyone.
He noted that when he first saw "Ish", he was gainfully employed at a Video Store in Manhattan Beach.
So, a group of his work buddies proceeded to ensconce themselves in the second row of the theatre at the screening, when - Elaine Mae, director of the Warren Beatty/Dustin Hoffman stinker - strode down the aisle and plunked herself right down in the front row.
"She laughed at everything throughout the entire film."
But shamefaced admitted, "they did too!"
Then, he treated us to his favorite tune from "Ishtar".
With tongue firmly in cheek, he sang out "Hot Fudge Love".
In a quick uptake, Paul Williams argued that were it not for the big salaries of Beatty and Hoffman, perhaps "Ishtar" would not have been so roundly panned by the crtics for having been such a self-indulgent lack-luster over-budget bomb.
Undeniably, the film is still a stinker.
It has stood the test of time in that regard.
But, it was a hoot to take in once again, none-the-less.
Since I am a big fan of Christopher Plummer - I was quick to trundle up to the Fine Arts Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard (Beverly Hills) - to catch a preview of the "Man in the Chair", starring the Canadian actor.
Although the Independent project has remained under the radar of the theatre-going public for the most part, it has been winning Film Festival Awards, here and there around the country.
A high school student enters a contest where the coveted prize is a scholarship for a prestigious film school.
Initially, the young maverick toys with some lame concepts for the project - but it is not until he crosses paths with a crotchety old-timer in the industry - that he finds his footing, and ultimately, a social conscience.
With the help of the retired gent's friends - a handful of talented, industry cast-offs biding time in a Hollywood Retirement home - the lad rises to the occasion and turns out a solid documentary worthy of attention.
For those familiar with the Hollywood scene, there are some amusing inside jokes.
For example, when Christopher Plummer's character (Flash Madden) tries to hammer some sense into the young auteur, he notes that "the glitter stops at La Brea".
Of course, folks in-town are privy to the inside joke.
If you've strolled Hollywood Boulevard in the twilight hours, you've obviously noticed that the Walk of Fame is sprinkled with a light spray of stardust, which glistens with an eerie glow under the silky rays of the moonlight.
But, the glitter ends - you got it - at Hollywood Blvd and La Brea Avenue.
For those interested in filmmaking, or just looking for a night of solid entertainment, then "Man in the Chair" is just the ticket.
A fresh, charming production - directed by Michael Schroeder - with stellar performances by Plummer and M. Emmet Walsh.
And, a kick-a** soundtrack.
Robert Wagner plays cameo role...
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Occasionally - when I reflect on the past - a few familiar faces pop into my mind and I am inclined to fondly recall old memories and good times.
This is particularly so, when I recall my friendship with Judith Merril.
A writer, editor, and critic, Merril was a major figure in the field of Science Fiction.
In the late 1960's, citing what she called - "the undemocratic suppression of anti-war activities by the U.S. government" - she moved to Canada to take up residence at Rochdale College.
When I was 17, I attended the controversial free college which was situated right smack dab in downtown Toronto.
At the time, the experimental school attracted a number of artists, musicians, and forward-thinking individuals.
So, when Judith Merril immigrated to Toronto (with a few draft-dodger friends in tow) in 1968, she chose 341 Bloor Street West as the place to alight.
Rochdale was not only an educational institution which focused on the arts and the humanities, but one which celebrated the very idea that the daily routine - itself - should be a vital living and breathing learning experience.
For this reason, Ashram accommodations were set up to encourage communal living.
By way of a shared common-room, communal kitchen, and unisex bathroom facilities, students were pressed into close quarters and forced to learn how to achieve balance and harmony in their day-to-day relationships with their peers.
In the early days, Rochdale prospered. In fact, it was a thriving, energetic, creative hub in one of Canada's fastest growing cities.
Theatre Passé Muraille - one of the most celebrated Theatre companies on the Eastern Seaboard - sprang from these humble origins - as did Coach House Press and a host of promising young authors in its charge.
I flourished at Rochdale, too.
In fact, when Time Magazine appeared one day to pen an article on the controversial college, they were so taken aback with my "cave" that they instructed the photographer to capture the unique setting on film to head up the feature.
Frankly, I was flattered; after all, Raquel Welch - the screen siren - was scheduled to appear on the cover of that issue.
In a short while, Ms. Merril settled into the Canadian way of life and soon became revered as a national treasure, of sorts.
As I recall, Judith was a bright articulate woman.
There was not only a beautiful light in her soulful eyes, but a persistent charismatic glow which constantly emanated from her sentient being.
The woman loved Jazz, chatting up friends, and being a part of the vital local scene populated by the top intellectuals of the era.
One day, it dawned on Judith that her collection of books had great value and should be shared. So, she donated the whole kit 'n kaboodle - about 5,000 books in all - to the Toronto Public Library.
Originally called the "Spaced out Library" - there are many connotations, I know - it was later renamed:
"The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy"
Her own highly-lauded literary works included: Shadow on the Hearth (1950), Daughters of Earth (1968), and Survival Ship and Other Stories (1973).
Known as - "The little Mother of Science Fiction" - Judith Merril burst onto the New York literary scene in 1948 with a disturbing story about nuclear radiation.
Merril’s contribution to science fiction was summed up author J. G. Ballard (Crash and Empire of the Sun) in 1992:
"Science fiction, I suspect, is now dead, and probably died about the time that Judy closed her anthology and left to found her memorial library to the genre in Toronto. I remember my last sight of her, surrounded by her friends and all the books she loved, shouting me down whenever I tried to argue with her, the strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men."
Judith - without doubt - was one of the first ball** ladies to make it in a man's world five decades ago!
Her writing reflected her passionate convictions; in fact, her inventive stories were rife with images of strong women and a society ripe with all its possibilities.
An admiring colleague once noted,
"Few people have the strength of will to act upon their beliefs, however deeply felt, but Judy did and in spades. She brought intelligence, wit, and relentless determination to every cause she espoused, and those causes were numerous and varied."
In "The Year's Best SF: 11th Annual Edition (1966)" Judith wrote,
"We erect tombstones for our dead relatives and build monuments to our dead leaders. When a beloved writer dies, we read his works, again. A writer, if what he says is worth the hearing, and if his skill is sufficient to make it worth hearing twice, builds his own memorial while he lives."
Although she was referring to Shirley Jackson, a colleague, many thought the sentiments - rightly so - were poignant thoughts that expressed best how many felt about Ms. Merrill herself.
One close friend confided,
"Judy touched the souls of countless people over the years and whether that touch was tender or a swift kick to one's motivational backside, it was always honest and honestly intended to help rather than harm."
And, her contribution to the science fiction community was exceptional.
In that capacity, she wore a number of hats: author, editor, teacher, media commentator, and upstart - too!
She nearly earned the title - "foster mother" - as well.
In the spring of that year when a negative element started to creep into the Rochdale, a number of artists started to move on.
Shortly after situating in a comfy little home in an up-and-coming section of town known as "Cabbage Town", Judith offered to be my foster parent since I was still a Ward of the State and not yet eighteen years old.
What an amazing thought!
My social worker toyed with the idea - but undoubtedly wrung his hands over the idea - sure the free-spirited bohemian Merril might liberate me to the point of no return.
Fortunately - for him - I opted to "Go West" with a handful of friends that spring and he was not forced to make a decision on the issue.
When I hopped into the VW bug to commence the long jaunt out to Vancouver (B.C.), I saw Judith's face for the last time as she merrily waved good-bye!
The image shall remain etched in my mind forever.
In 1976, Judy became a Canadian Citizen.
Shortly thereafter, she became active in the Writers' Union (Toronto Chapter).
At an annual Union meeting when members questioned whether people should write about other genders and ethnic groups, she allegedly exclaimed,
"Who will speak for the aliens?"
The debate was closed.
It's worthy to note that in her editorial introductions to books, talks and other writings - she actively argued that science fiction should not be isolated - but become part of the literary mainstream.
For a short period, Judith starred as the introducer ("the UnDoctor") for the Canadian offering "Doctor Who" (1978-1981). In broadcasts about six or seven minutes in duration, she presented short philosophical commentaries on the show's themes.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (renamed SFWA) made Merril its Author Emeritus for 1997.
Sadly, shortly thereafter, on Sept 12, 1997 - approximately twenty years after I first crossed paths with the "little mother" - Ms. Merril passed away of heart failure.
In contemplation of her death, she bequeathed a sizable sum of money to hold a celebratory memorial party at Toronto's Bamboo Club.
Ah, always the organizer, to the very end.
According to astute observers, Merril, "encouraged careers", "rattled more than a few cages", and "challenged many to look outside themselves and the world from a myriad of viewpoints".
Oh yes, she could jolt a person out of complacency with her powerful facility for words, which was a rare and precious gift.
Judith was a vibrant spirit, indeed.
Her intriguing personal life and illustrious career - which spanned thirty years - was filled with many fascinating twists and turns and highlights.
Ms. Merrill was born Josephine Judith Grossman in New York on January 21st to Schlomo S. and Ethel Hurwitch Grossman.
After her father's suicide during her grade-school years, her mother found a job at Bronx House - at which point - the family moved to a borough outside New York City.
Shortly thereafter, Merril's life was a spawning ground for alternative cultural and political movements.
For example, Judith first discovered the Trotskyite group - "The Young People's Socialist League" - in the late 1930's and became a member.
Later on, when her husband was in the army, Judith became involved with the Futurian Society. Other celebrated members included Isaac Asimov and Frederick Pohl.
Judith then landed a post as an editor at Bantam Books (1947-1949).
"That Only a Mother" was then published in "Astounding" in 1948.
"Mother" dealt with the issues of nuclear power and maternal love.
Concern about nuclear power, weapons, and war was an increasingly common theme in science fiction throughout the 40s-50s, but Merril handled the subject with her own inimitable style which won her a number of accolades.
As a result, Merril became a giant in the field of science fiction - proof positive that women were not only able to make strides in the arena - but capable of making important contributions to literature.
Ms. Merril's first anthology - "Shot in the Dark" - was published by Bantam in 1948. And, her first novel - "Shadow on the Hearth" - was later published by Doubleday.
With her career in full swing - she, Damon Knight and James Blish - proceeded to organize the first "Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference".
The conference became an annual event.
At this juncture - the first edition of "SF: The Year's Greatest" (an anthology) - was edited by Judith and summarily published to wide acclaim.
The annual series continued to publish for eleven volumes and displayed - according to critics - "a daringly eclectic taste that published work from outside the standard boundaries of the genre."
In 1965, the career plaudits continued; Judith, for instance, began tenure as a "Books" columnist for "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" (until 1969).
For a brief period, Judith followed up with a bit of a sabbatical. On a year-long stay in England, she gathered material for the "New Wave" anthology of works titled - "England Swings SF" - which was aimed at championing experimental fiction and stylistic innovation in the field.
In 2005, Science fiction scholar Rob Latham noted,
"Throughout the 1950s, Merril, along with fellow SF authors James Blish and Damon Knight, had taken the lead in promoting higher literary standards and a greater sense of professionalism within the field"...especially by establishing an annual series of writers' conferences in Milford, Pennsylvania, where Merril then lived. Manuscripts were workshopped at these avid gatherings, thus encouraging more care in the planning of stories, and a sense of solidarity was promoted, eventually leading to the formation of the Science Fiction Writers Association".
However, he did not ignore the fact that several - "disaffected authors began griping about a 'Milford Mafia' that was endangering SF's unique virtues by imposing literary standards essentially alien to the field".
Undoubtedly, those were "the cages" - people spoke of - that Judith rattled!
In addition to being a founding member of the Science Fiction Research Association, she was active with the "Voice of Women", "Mensa", the "Futurians", the "Hydra Club" (founding member), "21 McGill Women's Club" (Toronto, founding member); "Elves, Gnomes & Little Men Chowder & Marching Society" (Honorary Member); and the "Witchdoctors" Club (NYC).
She was a remarkable dynamic woman - one-of-kind - and I miss her dearly!
Novel: Shadow on the Hearth, 1950
Novel: Gunner Cade (writing with C. M. Kornbluth as 'Cyril Judd')
Collection: Daughters of Earth and Other Stories
Collection: Survival Ship and Other Stories 1973
Collection: The Best of Judith Merril, 1976 ISBN 0-446-86058-1
Short story: That Only a Mother, 1948
Anthology: The Year's Best S-F, 1st-11th, 1956-1966
Anthology: SF12, 1967
Collection: Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril, Edited by Elisabeth Carey 2005 NESFA Press ISBN 1-886778-54-X
Anthology: Tesseracts (editor)