Saturday, December 22, 2007
The dailies are awash with news that Hillary Clinton picked up endorsements from three major organizations, willing to roll up their sleeves, and take on some of the tough tasks awaiting the Presidential candidate on the troubled trek in Iowa over the next few weeks.
The big 3 backers are: "Emily's List" (Nation's largest political action committee), the "American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees", and the "American Federation of Teachers".
On the heels of this stunning announcement for the Clinton camp, "Emily's List" has released a statement noting that they are "trying a new technique developed with the help of GOOGLE, to reach female voters there, especially those who are unsure how to navigate the state's complex caucus system."
For instance, when someone launches a search on GOOGLE, by inputting a word or term - such as "yoga", "stocking stuffer", or "recipe" - a banner pop-up will invite the net cruiser to visit a website supporting Hillary Clinton.
So, if you don't want to see the leering - er - cheery face of Hillary, it may behoove you to install "pop-up" blocking software, right away!
I thought I might approach GOOGLE about setting up a similar scam - er - proposal for a handful of the other candidates.
For example, key in the words "Liberty Coins", "Texas Rednecks", or "Property Deeds", and you'll be linked to Ron Paul's All-American web site.
Likewise, input "medical marijuana", "GQ", or "Oprah Winfrey", and sooner than you can say - "favorite things" - Barack Obama's smiling face will show up on the screen wearing a button that says something to the effect of, "Experience the Difference", whatever.
But don't forget to search for "Hallmark cards", "American Heroes", and the "working class", because the surprise high-ranking results will conjure up web sites for the John Edwards campaign, champion of the underdog - the American worker.
Huckabee's trail may be located - if the site address escapes your foggy memory - by inputting "Quarantine", "Preacher", and, of course, "AIDS Awareness".
I feel badly for Rudy Giuliani, though, he gets hits from searches on "hairpieces", "911 Backlash", and "Rich Folks".
At a sneak preview for - "Fork in the Road" - the filmmakers noted that they were seeking distribution for their project.
Well, without distribution, producers are just sittin' in the water.
There are two major ways to finance a film for distribution, says Stacey Parks (a book author) who has worked in independent film for over 10 years and is currently a sales executive at the BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles.
In a recent interview with Student Filmmaker Magazine, Ms. Parks noted she is familiar with the aggressive "down and dirty" philosophy of filmmakers who put together whatever funds they have, slap together something on a mini DV camera, use relatives as actors, then expect to land movie distribution.
So, Parks offered up a couple of solutions for the aspiring auteur.
For example, she suggests either a well-packaged pre-sale scheme or an International co-production.
A pre-sale, she notes, is literally a sale of the film to a particular territory before the film is made.
If a filmmaker has a script with actors signed on for the project, they are eligible for a pre-sale.
A U.K. distributor, for instance, might assess the film package and give it the nod if it has sales potential for their territory.
Parks adds that when a distributor pre-buys rights it is advantageous to them.
For example, if they know in advance the filmmaker has a hot property, they can secure the distribution rights up front instead of waiting until the film is completed to compete with other companies.
For this reason, distributors tend to get a good deal when they pre-buy because they are taking a risk once the contractual agreement is executed.
For filmmakers, this route is quite advantageous, too.
For one thing, it's a savvy way to raise funds for a film while securing a distributor at the same time.
Also, this approach gives the creators stature in the film community.
The theory is that since someone believed in the project to pre-buy for the territory, the project is a worthwhile investment.
As a result, there is an excellent PR advantage, as well.
One downside to pre-sales is obvious.
The filmmaker may have to bang on doors and secure the pre-sale on their own by submitting to distributors directly.
Understandably, Ms. Parks admits this form of financing is rarer to obtain.
In respect to International co-productions, she is quick to point out that distributor usually snaps up a larger stake of the film and becomes a co-producer of the project. But, such a lucrative deal is not always easy to secure, either.
A filmmaker's best bet is to work with a foreign sales agent, since they have relationships and know the intricacies in a co-production deal, including all the contract issues.
If these two options fail, then the producers may have to secure private investors, raise funds with family and friends, or max out credit cards.
In the event of the latter, a titanium American Express Card may come in handy!
A Plan B option is to go low budget with $250 K, for example.
Ms. Parks figures if the project turns out well, the filmmaker can - at a minimum - recoup that amount in U.S. DVD distribution sales over time.
In closing, Parks adds that it would be wise to cut a trailer or promo to preview to potential investors when pursuing pre-sale and international co-production deals.
One novel approach she offers up makes sense and is practical.
It is recommended, for instance, that a filmmaker shoot some footage of sample scenes with the aim of establishing what the production team hopes to accomplish with the feature.
In that event, present the footage as professionally as possible, to signal you're capable of turning out a quality product.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Today when I opened up my mailbox, I came across an envelope with a cheery holiday greeting inside, from my attorney.
Gee, what a surprise!
I don't recall ever receiving such a welcome surprise in the mail from a lawyer, unless it was a check, of course!
Years ago, a friend in the legal profession informed me, that when it came to legal Eagles, "...some wear white hats, and others wear black."
The truth of the matter is ...most naive students go into Law because they are under the impression it is a noble profession, worthwhile pursuing.
But somehow, along the long and winding road, a handful get corrupted.
Yeah, for the most part, attorneys have a bad rep.
One business associate assures me he'll never vote for Candidate John Edwards, after all, "...he's an attorney, not to be trusted."
From experience, I am inclined to conjecture that the ranks at the State Bar are comprised of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yes, lawyers come in a garden variety...from ambulance chasers, to rights' fighters, to those opposed to police brutality (who usually end up in the brig for something as silly as tax evasion).
One of my favorite attorney jokes?
"It is unfair to believe everything we hear about lawyers because some of it might not be true." (Gerald F. Lieberman )
You can always figure out who is the attorney in a crowded room...when anyone enters unannounced, the attorney is the last to glance up to acknowledge the individual - after all - he's under the impression he's the most important person in the room. He'll take note when he's darn-well ready to!
In a bank, or in a Hotel Lobby, you can always pick 'em out, too - they're the precise ones always dotting their "i's" and crossing their "t's", among other things.
Ever notice that a lawyer is quiet before answering a question you've posed 'em? That's because they've been taught to think before they leap - er - speak; yes, the sly devils are painfully aware there are serious ramifications for musing out-of-turn. Hillary Clinton is a classic example of what happens when this principle theory of lawyering goes unchecked.
There have been a proliferation of attorney jokes over the years, but the truth of the matter is - as soon as a person gets into trouble with the Law - who do they call first?
You got it - a legal rep - to be sure!
I think folks are jealous 'cause lawyers have control over client trust accounts, are usually put in charge of distributing estates (guaranteeing a hefty administration fee, to boot) and quite generally, are given the benefit of the doubt by professionals and officials all around - being an officer of the court - and all.
So, of course, an unethical law "man" (or woman) may succumb to temptation and the urge to - ah! - co-mingle funds.
As the old saying goes, "...there's a bad apple in every cart."
So, of course, a sorry few will be tempted to eat the forbidden fruit...the spoils of their profession.
I suppose if there was no strife in the world, or quarreling within social circles - and people were inclined to keep their promises - there would be no need for lawyers, that's for sure.
But, until there is "Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men", I expect we'll have to put up with 'em.
Til then, Happy Holidays, all 'ya barristers, each and every one!
According to the Los Angeles Times this morning, when Josh Groban was asked about - "Noel" - and the stupendous success of the album, he remarked in a tired old fashion, "I've been singing Carols since June, and I just want to move on."
This, in spite of the fact the Christmas holiday doesn't go into full swing, until this weekend.
Talk about ungrateful!
Which begs the question, did Groban press the CD for music lovers from the heart, or with the specific aim of rustling up a few fast bucks?
If he's on his last legs and can't make it into the home stretch, he shouldn't take it out on the rest of us, in the holiday spirit.
His response kinda reminds me of the tale of the horse who's purchased for stud services, but doesn't deliver, '...cause he's got a headache!"
Maybe in the future, Joe Public won't be so supportive.
After all, no one likes a party pooper, 'specially not at X-mas!
Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, responds to Burma issues! At behest of Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
Dear Mr. Ayrs:
The Office of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, has forwarded to me on September 27, 2007, your email concerning the situation in Burma.
I regret the delay in replying to you.
I share your concern about the situation in Burma and the safety and well-being of its people. Over the last months I have made several statements on Burma. I have strongly reiterated Canada's condemnation of the use of deadly force by the military and police against monks and other protesters in Burma who were exercising their right to peaceful dissent.
I sent a Canadian diplomat to Rangoon to assess the situation and to show Canada's support for the democratic movement.
Canadian embassies and high commissions around the world have been working with representatives of other like-minded countries to seek creative solutions and to coordinate our approach to Burma.
In Ottawa, senior officials of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) called in the Burmese Chargé d'affaires to ensure that Canada's interest in this matter was clearly understood.
I have also called upon the Government of Burma to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
On October 2, 2007, I stated at the United Nations General Assembly that it was imperative to restore democracy and human rights in Burma.
I invite you to view my news releases and statements on Burma at:
On October 17, 2007, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, tabled a motion in the House of Commons to confer honorary citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi, which was adopted by all party agreement.
In doing so, he stated: " We must ally ourselves with those in the world who share our values, and especially those who are denied them...the adoption of today's motion sends a message to her, her people, and the world, that Canada stands up for the universal values that are under siege in Burma today."
On November 14, 2007, I announced that Canada intends to impose economic sanctions against Burma under the Special Economic Measures Act in order to demonstrate Canada's abhorrence for the regime's complete disregard for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Burma. These sanctions, the toughest in the world, will:
*Ban all goods exported to Burma, except those humanitarian goods
*Ban all goods imported from Burma into Canada
*Freeze assets in Canada of designated Burma Nationals
*Prohibit the provision of Canadian financial services to Burma
*Prohibit the export of any technical data to Burma
*Ban new investment in Burma by Canadian persons & companies
*Prohibit Canada's registered ships or planes from docking/landing
*Prohibit Burmese ships/aircraft from docking & passing thru Canada
Furthermore, a number of measures have been taken at the multilateral level to address this situation.
At the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in New York on September 26, 2007, I joined my counterparts in unanimously condemning the violence in Burma and calling for a resumption of dialogue.
Canada continues to urge Burma's neighbours such as China and India to encourage Burma to undertake genuine reform.
On October 12, 2007, I issued a news release following the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) statement on Burma, which strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees.
Moreover, Canada welcomes the UNSC's reaffirmation of its strong and unwavering support for the mission of Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Burma, as well as its recognition of the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 2, 2007.
Canada also welcomes the efforts of Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to address the situation in Burma, and has called upon the Government of Burma to facilitate his work.
Canada will continue to work with the international community to put pressure on the Burmese government to respect the human rights and fundamental freedom of the people of Burma, and engage in a genuine dialogue with the democratic opposition.
The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canadian foreign policy. Canada will continue to stand up for human rights and take principled positions on important issues to ensure that freedom, democracy and the rule of law, values that define our country, are enjoyed around the world.
Thank you for writing and sharing your concerns.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
This morning I popped into Rite Aide at their location at Long Beach Avenue and Willow to pick up a copy of the daily paper.
If the LA TIMES isn't purchased from a box on the street, retailers charge 4 cents above and beyond the regular price of fifty cents.
I handed the cashier at the counter $5.04 to make the computation simple.
Imagine my surprise when the tall, lumbering fellow, handed me back $3.50 - yes, my change was a buck short.
Did he miscount the change - I mean - was it an innocent mistake? Or was the shortfall intentional? In view of fact he neglected to give me a receipt, I was forced to consider the worst: the employee was skimming cash off the top from unsuspecting customers.
Yes, 'tis the season to take advantage of a shopper's good spirits!
There are other scams going down, too, during the festive season.
On many occasions, I've witnessed a cashier at a liquor convenience store tabulate the purchases without running them through a register and without providing a receipt. When a shopper asked for a precise tabulation and proof of purchase, I noticed that when the groceries were re-added, the total generally fluctuated by various sums - always to the buyer's advantage!
Yup, unscrupulous store owners try to overcharge the customer - and claim "innocent mistake" - when caught.
In addition, there appears to be some ongoing dishonesty with regard to products without price tags affixed. At stores I patronize regularly, I have noticed there is a tendency for part-time staff to overcharge on unmarked items.
It may seem petty to some to quibble over such matters, but personally, I don't like being ripped off; besides, its the principle of the thing.
There's also some sleight of hand going down too, which recently came to my attention, as well. For instance, in the old days, a cashier would count out your change - to the penny - in your hand. Today, the coins are dropped quickly into the consumer's hand, leaving it up to the individual to check for accuracy.
I guess it's human nature...many customers don't count the change in front of the store employee for fear of inferring they don't trust the cashier.
Each time I made a point of checking my change in recent weeks, I noticed an alarming, on-going trend. When I counted the coins in my sweaty hand, I was usually short-changed anywhere from twenty-five cents to a dollar. Small change?
Not when you consider the fact that coins are palmed throughout the day to dozens of customers. It all adds up, don't you think?
Caution should also be extended to public transportation, too; after all, pick-pockets have been known to take advantage of the jostling, bumping crowds during the holiday season...to slip into pockets unnoticed and steal wallets - and, on occasion - may be stealthy enough to slip a watch right off an unsuspecting traveller's wrist.
Yes, 'tis the season to be wary!
Oh, by the way, Happy Holidays!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Reportedly, actor Aaron Eckhart came up with a novel solution for a scripted scene where he was required to demonstrate pain in the groin area.
The thespian allegedly clipped a clothespin on his - um - manhood.
While Eckhart may have had "no reservations" about it - when it comes to the family jewels - I don't take any risks!
Meanwhile, intriguing gossip about Christian Bale wormed its way into the tabloid rags, as well.
At the "Rescue Dawn" screening, the handsome actor firmed up reports that he crashed-dieted on occasion to achieve the weight fluctuations that were a definite prerequisite for a particular role.
The busy star - who was cast in the big screen bio of U.S. Fighter Pilot, Dieter Dengler - is allegedly not comfortable talking about such things for fear it will invariably "take away" from the film project.
Actors have been known to stretch the limits when it comes to preparing for a part.
For Othello, Laurence Olivier apparently underwent a transformation with extensive study and heavy weightlifting in order to get the right bodily form for the "Moor of Venice".
Allegedly, he even bellowed at a herd of cows for an hour to acquire a deep rich voice.
Likewise, in spite of the fact Brad Pitt was blessed with great genes, the sexy icon nonetheless immersed himself in exhausting rounds of mind-boggling physical routines to chisel awesome rippling abs and beauteous physique on glorious display in “Troy" which placed him on a plateau with the very Gods.
But it is not always necessary for an actor to starve, inflict pain on body parts, or venture down such strenuous pathways to achieve such lofty goals.
On most occasions, a trained actor has simply to draw on professional devices or a clever bag of tricks - a finely-tuned accent, irregular gait, calculated slouch in posture, a distinctive mannerism or two - to effect personality traits peculiar to the character.
In Sariana, George Clooney achieved this without effort when he simply packed on a few pounds and used some effective body language to pull off the acting turn of his career.
Indeed, his characterization plausibly evoked the image of a man losing his grip, slipping slowly into desperation and middle-age.
It's not always necessary to pinch your ****s, dear boy.
Jared Leto crash-dieted for role of drug addict in Requiem for a Dream...
After all, Mr. Roshi is a considered one of the leading "Masters" in Zen Buddhism, today.
Each spring and fall, his followers meet at retreats - dressed in long-flowing robes, striving to attain "emptiness" - and live in the "now".
No mean feat, for a mortal man, in the Western World.
One hundred years old and in full control of his faculties - he is quite possibly one of the leading spiritual teachers in the World - alongside His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Earlier this year, I attended a retreat in San Francisco, founded by another celebrated Master (Shunryu Suzuki) - an authentic - who contributed a lot of insight into the ancient scriptures until he passed into spirit.
As I perused the article, it dredged up my own mystical experiences with a handful of the imposters, now in charge of that Buddhist center in downtown Frisco.
Yes, before I could lament - misguided meditators - I quickly discerned the Buddhist "temple" was overrun with carry-overs from the trippy-hippie age, a mishmash of displaced scary egos, and a handful of odd Zen enthusiasts who wouldn't know a "Master" if he bit them on their stuck-up noses.
When I noticed that the "alleged followers" were bent on mind-boggling, exhausting ritual - and prone to squander the precious sacred teachings in the process - I was inclined to beg the question of the chief honcho in the Buddhist residence.
Why do you bow nine times before the altar?"
"To show our respect," the disciple of the sect haughtily whispered.
"Well, you can do that with one bow," I calmly replied.
"After all," I quickly added, "Buddha was just a man, not a God.
Frankly, I doubted the "great one" would approve of their actions.
As I witnessed them sitting on their high platforms, on a multitude of plush cushions, I recalled that what I scoffed.
"The true Master sits in the lowest place."
Ah, that's when it hit me.
In the New York Times, the reporter noted that Joshu Roshi practised in the manner of the "old school".
For instance, he assigned each student a "Koan".
For example, he gifted the seeker with a baffling question pointing at some ultimate truth like, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Later, he allegedlyl met privately with each student four times a day, and offered up a daily lecture (teisho) from a high seat in the center of the Hall.
Yes - by virtue of the Zen teacher's actions - I was able to discern that Roshi is not the "enlightened one" he purports to be.
After all, the true "Master" squats in the lowest place, not on highest.
During the retreat at the Buddhist Temple up north, Master Suzuki (he wrote the best-selling book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind") made a revelation to me in a uniquely mystical way.
While sitting comfortably cross-legged in the meditation room one afternoon, a door - previously shut tight - sprang open and swung slowly in my direction.
Then, a voice in spirit, whispered to me at that precise moment.
"The door is open, when you're ready."
Indeed, Suzuki's presence was wandering the solemn joyless halls.
In fact, a curious phenomenon occurred at least several times a day, verifying his displeasure about what was transpiring at the center.
For example - the windows and doors slammed open and shut all hours without warning - and in furious regularity - which was an obvious omen to me.
The priests poohed poohed the idea that it was Suzuki's spirt.
"It was just the wind, " they'd insist as they looked at me askance.
But isn't Buddha also the wind?
The message was crystal clear.
Master Suzuki was angry (!) and unhappy (!) about the way the master disciples were "running" things.
I departed, the wiser - they, the sadder - for having exposed them for who and what they were...a pack of righteous phonies, without souls, caught up in the ritual of "ego", without a clue about the wondrous mysteries of Zen.
They say, when you're ready, the Master will appear.
For me, it was Christ.
For others, it may be Roshi.
If so, the cult is trying to crack the wrong "Koan".
Their spiritual leader is either a false prophet - or has a long journey ahead - to attain Buddahood.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Generally, I am not inclined to take in big budget full-length animated features. After three invites to attend a preview of Beowulf over the past few weeks, I finally succumbed.
Essentially, the story is a mythical tale about a King and his subjects in a far-away land, plagued by a monster that terrorizes their quaint mountain village. Beowulf sails into harbor all brawn and guts to purge the tiny Kingdom of the menace because it is his want to do so.
After the beast is destroyed, the mother - a seductress with great mystical powers - tempts the mighty hero with gifts of everlasting life; before any filmgoer in the theatre can whisper - "sold his soul to the devil" - a pact is struck between the two and kept secret from the proud villagers who hail him as a conquering Hero!
The moment the King (played by Anthony Hopkins) lumbers onto the silver screen, the filmmakers hold the audience in their thrall by virtue of the stunning special effects conjured up by the state-of-the art CG imagery.
The concept of live action reference footage providing the skeleton upon which animators build the characters performance is nothing new, according to animation historian Leonard Maltin.
"The first real motion caption occurred when Dave Fleischer put on a clown suit and his brother Max traced his movements one frame at a time in 1915. They patented the device that enabled them to do this and call it rotoscope."
Many of the scenes are hilarious. For example, when the slovenly Monarch slips off his throne to strut and stroke his subjects with thoughtful musings, filmgoers snicker at the smartly theatrical articulated gestures - and wildly chortle- as they witness rolls of fat rise and fall at his waist or catch sight of his whimsical features contorting in odd intriguing ways. In fact, at times the actor's face appears to poke through the exterior features in a liquid jello of sorts.
"The data that drives the face looks like a flapping puppet," the animator notes, "it won't record volume, meaning if the actor squints or purses his lips, it tells you when they did it, but it won't tell you how much they actually moved."
In contrast, the bodies are carved out to perfection depending on plotline twists.
For instance, when Beowulf announces his intention to tackle the task of downing the monster, he notes he'll undertake the challenge naked. After all, the demon has no clothes on, either.
In a flash, he strips off his outer garments at the torso to reveal a buffed bod with fabulous pecs and chiseled abs. Then, in a cat 'n mouse moment, he teasingly half-turns and slips off his trousers to reveal a tight attractive butt which appears to have been "airbrushed" to perfection.
Heh, I yearn for an a** that looks like that!
But, Beowulf's precious manhood remains out of view.
In fact, the filmmakers taunt the filmgoers on occasion.
For instance, after a lout hurls a sword and the razor-sharp tip lands upright in a sturdy oak table - Beowulf strides towards it - the blade subliminally-suggesting the width and breadth of the warrior's steely-hard ****. The audience roars!
In another scene there is a gasp from the audience when Angelina Jolie's character sensually rises up from a calm pool of water to reveal full luscious breasts and an awesome breathtaking nubile frame.
In fact, Ms. Jolie remarked to the press on the heels of the sensation she caused, "I had no idea the imagery would be so real."
Essentially, the film is a piece of eye-catching fluff.
But, there are a couple of morals to the intriguing tale, nonetheless.
For one, a stiff d*** has no conscience.
Two, myths are made of just that, myth...
Actors taking the long trek out to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune often have one major hurdle to surmount...securing that elusive Screen Actors Guild card, so they can land work in the industry.
For many years, it was kind-of-like a Catch 22 situation.
For example, an actor was barred from joining SAG unless a job prospect was lined up. And, complicated by the fact, that a performer was required to be in the Union to be considered for a role.
In addition, most agents wouldn't represent an actor until he or she was a bona fide member of the Guild.
Understandably, a performer was inclined to practically jump through hoops, to get gainful employment in Tinsel Town.
So, why would an actor choose to quit the Screen Actors Guild?
For many reasons...maybe a performer was returning to school, or was starting a family, and opted to take a sabbatical from the business for a short duration.
In the alternative, some actors often chose to go on "Financial Core Status". In that event, the performer was only required to pay a portion of their dues; however, in that instance, the right to vote in elections and participate in the daily business of the guild was revoked. Actors often used "core" status to protest when they were unhappy about the political regime (elected officials) or disagreed with Guild policies (in recent years the issue of a merger with AFTRA has been a hotly-debated bone of contention among members, for instance).
Because the Guild must have a solid financial base to run operations and to ensure there are funds on hand in the event of a strike (if there's enough money in the coffers, performers can hold out on the picket line until their demands are met), financial core status has the potential to cripple the union.
Earlier this year, SAG made it tougher to rejoin under new rules adopted by the Union's Board of Directors. The move was particularly aimed at actors who quit SAG to work on non-union jobs in-between union gigs.
Up until the recent past, actors were granted free reign to rejoin the Guild with little ado, provided they paid upfront assessment fees.
According to the new rules, quitting will be considered permanent. And, members can only be reinstated if they undergo a sort-of "litmus test" that involves petitioning a disciplinary committee. The strict policy comes on the heels of concerted efforts by SAG to organize producers who aren't covered under the Guild's jurisdiction.
"Individuals who make the choice to quit the Union cannot expect to be allowed back in without the Union asking some questions about why they quit and what sort of work they were doing," noted Todd Amorde, the Guild's director of organizing.
Personally, I am opposed to the new rules, which amount to coercion and intimidation tactics, in my opinion. In their role as super cop, heading up witch-hunts, SAG Officials have created a working environment that is rife with dread and fear.
However, for what it’s worth, SAG has granted a deadline for SAG Members to reconsider their membership status.
Until December 31st, 2007, members who bowed out for personal reasons (prior to June 13th, 2007), have the opportunity to reinstate after fulfilling the new Screen Actors Guild requirements (interrogation, turning over first born, etc.)
Of course, this does not apply to Members who are on honorable withdrawal (sounds a little like AA, doesn't it?) or on suspended pay status. Nor does the petition process apply to members who lost their guild cards over failure to pay dues.
Direct Policy Questions to Branch office or Guild Headquarters...
(323)549-6019 or (323)549-6026
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Dear Mr. Ayrs:
Thank you for writing regarding the Bush Administration's request for legislation that would provide liability relief for telecommunications companies that are alleged to have provided assistance to the National Security Agency after September 11, 2001.
I appreciate your thoughts on this topic and welcome the opportunity to respond.
The Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill on October 18th amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) by a vote of 13-2.
That bill, among many provisions, would provide immunity for such companies if they were specifically requested or directed to provide assistance to the government.
The Intelligence Committee's report on the bill includes declassified text stating that the Executive branch provided letters to electronic communication service providers at regular intervals. These letters all directed or requested assistance and noted that the assistance was authorized by the President and was legal.
The Committee's report is at, http://intelligence.senate.gov/071025/report.pdf.
I voted for the FISA legislation that passed out of the Intelligence Committee by a bipartisan vote of 13-2.
The Senate Judiciary Committee did not take action on the portions of the bill dealing with immunity. The bill is now scheduled to go to the Senate floor.
I am keeping an open mind to whether some other legislative approach besides immunity would be best.
Rest assured that I will make every effort to ensure that new FISA legislation will protect the privacy rights of all Americans without restricting the intelligence community's ability to protect us from attack.
Again, thank you for writing.
I hope that you will continue to write on matters of importance to you.
For comments or questions - contact: (202) 224-3841
United States Senator
Maybe it's a sign of getting older, but now and then I slip into the past, and reflect on personalities I've crossed paths with.
Well, Tom Hanks was sure a piece of work!
Around the time he garnered rave reviews for "BIG", I struck up a relationship with a production company in my capacity as a Literary Agent.
My contact got in touch one day and noted that Tom was striving to change his image - find projects that would allow him to "stretch" his acting muscles - and show another facet of his talent to the industry besides the comedic bill of fare he was known for.
The task at hand was simple.
I was invited to submit a handful of one-line ideas, with the specific aim of developing seven potential film projects for the rising star.
I put the word out to my roster of talented writers - at which point - original pitches for full-length features began to pour in.
The top-notch ones were summarily forwarded on to the production company for Mr. Hank's consideration.
In spite of the width and breadth of the great ideas, my gal at the production office continued to return them marked "reject".
Heck, I could probably fair better than my gang of talented scriptwriters, I thought to myself one calm day.
Around that time frame, the AIDS crisis was just starting to unfold around the Nation.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that a touching script on the subject - featuring a name star - was ripe for the American market.
So, I keyed in my story idea on a piece of the Agency Stationary, and fired it off to the production company.
I waited excitedly for a response, but none was forthcoming.
That struck me as odd.
Normally, proposals were gleaned over and returned within a couple of days.
When a week passed, I picked up the phone to determine the status of the submission.
"I'll get back to you," the young exec responded.
Again, a strange turn of events, in view of my past dealings with Tom's "people".
Finally, I got a call that Tom "didn't want to do an AIDS story."
Curiously, the material was never returned.
Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Tom - in fact - was interested in sinking his acting chops into a drama about a lawyer afflicted with AIDS.
Yes, if you recall, Hanks signed on for "Philadelphia" and went on to win an Oscar for his performance - in a role - I developed!
When I turned on the television Oscar Night and witnessed the big phony at the podium, tearfully making heartfelt comments about "Angels", I was inclined to throw up!
I yelled at the screen.
"Tom, you thief!"
Yeah, what a piece of ka-ka.
Today, if I flick the dial on the television - and his smug face appears on the screen - I change the channel pronto.
In my books, Tom Hanks is boycott box office bum No. 1.
If life is a box of chocolates, he's the one that's hollow, that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Today there is an amusing article in the Los Angeles Times Calendar section about a feud erupting among self-proclaimed film critics.
According to Patrick Goldstein, "Hollywood has never been so full of nasty denunciations, agonized hand-wringing and self-monitoring rhetoric."
Apparently, a movie reviewer (!) at the LA WEEKLY has been bitchin' and complainin' about a handful of fellow reviewers, and at one point accused some of being, "...white noise taking up valuable column inches that could be devoted to legitimate (!) Film criticism."
For starters, I rarely read the weekly because I generally find the articles strive for lofty heights that the writers are creatively and intellectually incapable of achieving. The cheap sex ads - which pay for the writers' salaries - are too cheesy for my taste, as well.
Generally, I flip through to the "Rocky Horoscope", and peruse Savage's sex column - at which point - I use the overly-thick throw-away for something practical. In case you were unware of it, the LA WEEKLY makes a great liner for the kitty litter box.
A couple of critics have been accused of casting aspersions on "bloggers", who - some claim - are out of their league, for want of a better term. Just because an individual blogs does not mean he or she is lacking in formal training or professional credits, you know?
For example, I majored in English Literature and Art.
My own background education included a focus on the "art" of critiquing, with foundation courses in the "History of Cinema", and actual hands-on experience in the technique of filmmaking.
I was also a journalist with a major daily newspaper. In addition, a handful of literary works have been published by reputable printing houses. For a couple of years, I poured over dozens of scripts in my capacity as a Literary Agent, representing script writers in the area of Film and Television, as well.
For a short duration, I produced low-budget features for cable.
Why do I love my blog?
For starters, the fact no editor is breathing down my neck, appeals to me. Also, I savor the privilege of penning my articles, without censorship. Of course, it's also a creative joy to conjure up catchy captions for my posts and personally select eye-catching, thought-provoking images, to enhance my articles.
In contrast, many filmmakers have no training or background in the arts. In some instances, a rambunctious logger literally snatched up a video camera, shot reams of raw footage without much reflection, edited and shaped the ball of wax on the fly, then - flogged the humble offering at local film festivals...with an eye for distribution, a production deal, instant fame and fortune - you name it!
As to critics - well, it's a given.
Each has a varied educational background, unique vantage point, opinion about the cinema - a specialized taste, whatever. Consequently, reviews reflect a myriad of insights, musings, and harsh criticisms.
One critic referred to in the LA TIMES article, allegedly slammed the establishment, film foundations, and - in particular - awards outfits...went so far as to lament the "Hollywood Foreign Press Association" was, "...one of the most corrupt, pathetic, kow-towing groups of award voters imaginable."
True, their selections often boggle my own sensibilities. In view of that, on occasion, I've pondered what sinister outside influences - payola perhaps? - may be afoot, lurking in the shadows.
I understand the frustration. After all, in my humble opinion the feature film - "Eastern Promises" - was the worst movie of the year...a piece of celebrated junk. Yet, it garnered a couple of "Golden Globe" nominations.
Years ago, one of my professors gave me a great piece of advice, I'm still inclined to adhere to. She articulated quite succinctly that, "When you view a work of art - be it a painting or film - you should stand back for a moment and figure out what "washed over" you."
"Were you seduced or manipulated?" she asked pointedly.
In my critiques, I strive to be constructive...and, when I literally loathe a movie, often turn to filmgoers in the theatre for an outside opinion to be fair. Usually, I am astounded by the fact that so few filmgoers noticed the obvious flaws and shortcomings of the filmmakers.
In sum, it appears that most moviegoers are "open" to the film experience, without any inclination to critique from the offset...yeah, they appear to be content to settle for a couple of hours of solid, tangible entertainment.
What's wrong with that?
The "Joe" public may not know what celluloid art is, but they know what they like.
For this reason, you can't ever second guess 'em...in spite of a rave review or vitriolic jab.
A last word to the critics?
Elbert Hubbard probably said it best,
"To escape criticism - do nothing, say nothing, be nothing..."
A book which advocates positive thinking has stirred up a hornet's nest.
"The Secret", labeled a pop culture phenomenon, has irritated some critics who assert that the philosophy expounded within its pages - simply put - amounts to a "blame-the-victim" mentality.
The main thrust of the best-selling book by author Rhonda Byrne is that "like attracts like" - or more succinctly - by virtue of the actual "laws of attraction" we are responsible for the source of our misery or success in life.
For example, the author infers that if you're poor and struggling, you have an inner desire to fail.
According to the new-age thinking expressed in the book, an individual has only to desire something through visualization, to change their lot in life.
Think about wealth, and magically, a check will arrive in the mail the following day.
The idea is nothing new; it's just being packaged in a new box for a modern-day era of "dreamers".
The assertion that one has only to ask for something - and focus intently on it - to manifest the "goods" is a sorry commentary on our times.
Today, it appears, many seek quick fixes and short-cuts to fame and fortune; forget about earning something from the sweat of one’s brow.
Of course, it is true that if you are positive and outgoing, you may attract people into your circle - which, in turn - may open up doors to opportunity.
This makes sense.
The truism is practiced by Buddhists, for instance.
The Masters teach that the "Law of Karma' is the underlying force which weaves our destiny on this plane. While an individual may be born into a set of circumstances, through right action, he or she can alter the course of their destiny.
For instance, when encountering another sentient being in daily life, an individual has the opportunity to give alms to a beggar (or turn them away empty-handed), lend a compassionate ear, or engage in altruistic efforts to raise the consciousness on the planet.
The wise man understands the laws of the universe and treats all things living equally and with respect.
It's important to focus on the moment and be in the "now".
After all, the past and the future are both illusions.
How you - act, interact, or react to each situation - will affect your "karma" and your destiny, ultimately. Knowing when to sit "still" is a sign you may be on your way to self-realization and enlightenment.
I read a funny article in the newspaper the other day about a Priest who wandered around in the wilderness for seven years with the aim of attaining enlightenment, suffering all manner of tortures.
It reminded me of an interview I once read on Dustin Hoffman.
When the Oscar-winner was asked how he prepared for his role in the "Marathon Man", he noted that he stayed up all night and deprived himself of sleep, in order to get into the frame of mind for the part.
On the sidelines, celebrated actor - Laurence Olivier - chided him.
"Just act, dear boy".
Similarly, the act of attaining enlightenment is no ordeal either.
After you've reached that plateau, it does not require you sit on a mountaintop - the wise one - passing judgment on those below.
An Old Master once said,
Chopping wood & drawing water
Chopping wood & drawing water
Makes sense, doesn't it?
At the last stretch of the highway just before the lush oasis that is Palm Springs sprawls outward ahead of you on the horizon, a handful of delightfully-designed windmills spring up on either side dotting the landscape.
And, when the night sky turns full, the whirl of their ultra-thin blades are the only sound that gently whisper in the good night.
No one down yonder has complained the windmills are a blight on the sweeping landscape.
But, an unholy war is raging between country cowpokes and city-slickers over the issue, back east.
For cash-strapped farmers, wind-energy turbines offer an infusion of cold hard cash in tough times.
But, the cry of - "not in my backyard" - echoes across the rugged terrain.
Epecially in the mid-Atlantic regions where the property lines have been quickly drawn in the rich soil.
Yes, harsh words are uttered, and a little name-calling appears to be the order of the day.
In the local farming community, the city dwellers (who have second homes near the turbine farms) are being called "citiots" because of what is perceived as a farcical stand on the terra firma.
The "citiots" respond with fired-up notions that the windmills are an eyesore that blemish the unspoiled idyll they've come to call "home".
Louis Freedman, a public policy consultant in Washington, D.C., opposes a project near his country homestead in Virginia on the grounds that the land is "sacred".
"More valuable than energy savings," he grunts.
With one turbine a farmer is capable of generating about $5,000.00 a year in rent compared with $300.00 in revenue based on corn or soybean crops.
Steven Schwoerer, a dairy farmer in Normal, Ill (whose efforts have been blocked by the opposition) underscores the reality of the situation.
"These people don't understand that they're living in the middle of my business."
He argues that the turbine projects are "good for my community and for my grandchildren, and if they don't like it, go back to town."
Maybe they'd be happier if you installed a rickety old oil rig on the property, eh Mr. Schwoerer?
No, things are not "normal" in Illinois, folks!
Monday, December 17, 2007
The moon must have been - trine, or retrograde, or something - what with all the weird vibrations and screw-ball antics going on all 'round me.
As I channel-surfed at a fellow dude's digs around grub hour, I stumbled across a curious E Entertainment re-run - come lately or Chase somethin' - or other.
The show titillated me, somewhat!
My best bud noted that "Chelsea" (the hostess with the moistest) was one of those slutty Lindsay Lohan "mean girls".
Ah, it dawned on me now, why she was being so nasty to the guests!
Notwithstanding, on occasion - the dizzy, sexy, bimbo blonde babe - was prone to ask some pretty insightful hard-hitting questions as they squirmed in their comfy seats.
For starters, when VJ Logan - Smartest Model in America - sprawled down on the couch next to the show's host - Ben Stein - she poignantly asked,
"Do you have a lot of gay guys comin' on to ya?"
The handsome stud laughingly noted that having a brown belt was a prerequisite for a male model - not to hold up his tight, packed, faded jeans - but to deftly fight the limp-wristed dudes off.
I expect his initials - VJ - stand for "very jock".
One of his eyebrows was wandering off a little too much for my liking, though.
Yes, VJ was a bit too preened, for my tastes.
I guess he's what ya'd call a "metro sexual".
A friend of Ryan Seacrest, no doubt.
Ben Stein, silent 'til now, was probed further.
"So, tell me, how long have you and VJ (stands for very jock?) been married?"
On the heels of this dumb probe which elicited a pregnant pause, she continued.
"Seriously, folks, what is the point of determining if models are intelligent?"
Stein responded, rightly so.
"Well, you know, people want to know if good-looking people are smart."
Not me, I just lay 'em down and go at it, if you know what I mean!
When VJ asked Chase - uh - Chelsea - if she'd like to see his chiseled abs, the perky hostess jumped at the chance to peek at his succulent tender flesh.
But, the show obviously was hindered by a stifling low-budget.
After all, when VJ thrust up his sweater, the camera failed to pan in.
In fact - when Chelsea stroked the gorgeous model's smoothe hard body - only she and VJ were privy to the sensual moment.
Can't afford a zoom lens, E?
Or, maybe VJ wanted a bump (more cash) to flash the bod naked on the idiot box?
In one odd-ball moment - well, she's inclined to slip into a few - Ms. Lately assured the audience she'd give Tom Cruise material a wide berth
"Cause he's probably got lawyers hangin' around inside the woodwork."
What a scandal.
When one guest made an off-the-wall remark about Marie Osmond, the mean girl softened a bit.
"Gee, if I made a negative comment about Donnie's sister, I'd feel like I attacked the American flag, or something."
Her gaggle of back-up side-kicks - a smidgen of comics - amounted to a handful of squirming worms.
No, they weren't clever or witty, not a bit funny ha-ha.
Well, one joke about a Mormon's six wives all having a headache one night, wasn't so bad.
But, when I realized the show was taped during the writer's strike, it was obvious the picket lines had taken their toll on the quality of the show.
In another "bit" - I guess it's what they used to refer to in TV's heyday as a comedy "sketch" - Lately asked an attorney how to defend herself in the event actor Scott Baio's penis ever slapped her in the face.
I swear, I'm not makin' this s**t up!
At this juncture, I flipped the dial!
Over at "Soup" (Greg Kinnear's previous gig) the camera was focused on a close-up shot of David Beckham on a couch in tight white undies - with shirt in a fly-away position - revealing fabulous rippled abs.
Suddenly, the soccer stud's crotch started to pulsate wildly!
Then, a frothy explosion of somethin' or other, ejaculated all over the place!
Becks - you do inspire fantasies - even among male hosts who doth protest too much!
I couldn't help but wonder at this point, what does "E" stand for?
Students in the Southern California region are invited to participate in an exciting essay writing contest.
The subject for the piece, posed by "The Color Purple" book author, Alice Walker, is:
"How I Changed my Life..."
The literary work must be approximately 500 words in length.
When penning an essay, a writer may be wise to ponder what celebrated author Virginia Woolf once said,
“A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.”
The top three prizes are...$1500, $1000, and $500 respectively.
The 1st prize winner will also receive four tickets for the stage show, a framed copy of the essay with notes from Walker, and a signed copy of a book with a forward by popular talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, "THE COLOR PURPLE: A MEMORY BOOK".
In addition, part of the winning essay will be published in the Los Angeles Times and online at...www.colorpurple.com
The remaining nine finalists will each receive a pair of tickets to see the musical, "THE COLOR PURPLE", at the Ahmanson Theatre.
The show - billed as the "Musical about Love" - is on stage at the Ahmanson from December 13th (2007) thru March 9 (2008).
Official contest rules: www.thecolorpurple.com/essay
Sunday, December 16, 2007
America's cultural legacy resonates around the world through movies and television.
"When placed in an historical context, these stories archive a complex, rich, visual record of our modern civilization," according to Officials at the AFI.
With this foremost in mind, the American Film Institute awards honors for excellence in the moving image arts within the context of a year in review, with the specific aim of meeting a National mandate...to create an annual almanac that records and preserves the evolution of the moving image arts in the 21st century.
The Award-winners are as follows,
AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR (OFFICIAL SELECTIONS)
*BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD
*THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
*INTO THE WILD
*NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
*THERE WILL BE BLOOD
AFI TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR (OFFICIAL SELECTIONS)
*EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS
*FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
*TELL ME YOU LOVE ME
By virtue of the "AWARDS" program, the AFI subsequently adds volume to the history of American film and television each year by documenting the collective opinion of the moving image communities, recognizing the year's significant moments, and honoring the individuals and creative ensembles who have created the year's outstanding achievements.
The AFI came about when President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation in the White House Rose Garden, in 1962, creating the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
On that occasion, he noted,
"We will create an American Film Institute that will bring together leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators, and young men and women who wish to pursue this 20th century art form as their life's work."
Today, AFI is a National Institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media.
In addition, AFI trains the next generation of filmmakers at its world-renowned Conservatory, maintains America's film heritage through the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, and explores new digital technologies in entertainment and education through the AFI Digital Content Lab and K-12 Screen Education Center.
Dexter (TV AWARD SELECTION)
Seems like yesterday, the saga over the intriguing finale for the Sopranos dragged on; and, the reaction was mixed...
One viewer noted to the editor of the Los Angeles Times,
"I'm OK with how "The Sopranos" ended and here's why: David Chase is a writer. The writer is "the decider". He gets to decide how it ends, regardless of the usual television convention of wrapping things up in a neat package. David Chase didn't kill Tony, he killed the audience. By "pulling" the plug at the most pregnant moment, he forced us to look at our own anticipation of that moment, to fill in the blank for ourselves. The blank said two things to me: (1) Well, that's a wide avenue for the start of a great feature; (2) the bad guy does get away with it. Despite taking some hits, Tony is still king. Same as it ever was." Kelly L.C. Russell (Pasadena)
"An over-hyped ending to an underwhelming and, frankly, uncreative ending . Now we can can all concentrate on those shows that respect their audiences enough by not leaving things up in the air and trying to call it "art". Ken Marcus (Los Angeles)
And, from a fan who approved of the ending,
"Why all the outcry to the ending of "The Sopranos"? It was a brilliant ending. The onion represents the multi-layers of Tony Soprano. The hole in the onion ring represents the hole that would be blasted into Tony Soprano by the man who went into the men's room to get the gun taped under the lid of the toilet, as was done in "Godfather", writer David Chase's tribute to that book and movie. The blackout at the end represents the dumbing down of Americans who just didn't get it and are unable to think for themselves."
Leon M. Salter (Los Angeles)
And last, but not least,
Michael Hickey , of Palm Springs remarked..."No, the TV didn't go dead; Tony Soprano did. Death is frustrating. It provides no resolution for any of the plot threads of life; it merely ends them, all at once."
The experts offered their two cents worth, as well...
Dr. Glen O. Gabbard, Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, in Texas, noted there are two kinds of people: "those who expect Television's typically black-and white characterizations and tidied up endings and those who love the rebellious attitude of Sopranos' creator, Chase."
For eight seasons the writer persisted with character plot lines that were cast from a different mold.
"Many people would argue that's what was brilliant about the show; things were not tied up in a bow," stressed Gabbard.
"We've been conditioned as a television audience to expect an operatic finale with blood and gore and tears and wailing and gnashing of the teeth," Gabbard said. "Instead we got life as usual, a humdrum routine, and some in the audience felt robbed."
On that note, a Senior research scientist in the Psychology Department of Yale University's TV Research Center, expressed her own concerns about the finale.
"Closure is good for mental health," she stressed, "Without closure, people are left feeling a little anxious."
"People identified with the characters. They felt like family, and viewers wanted to know what happened to them."
Undoubtedly, that is why fans have appeared in throngs the past few months at the restaurant where the last scene of the Sopranos was shot. The addiction to the show is as strong as it ever was; after all, fans cue up daily to plunk down at the table where Tony last stretched back.
Many trek by way of a bus tour, at $42.00 a pop (no pun intended).
At "Pizzaland", which was featured in the opening credits, there has been an unforeseen jump in business over the past few months, claim the owners.
Meanwhile, sales of the music single - "Don't Stop Believin'" - which aired in the last show have skyrocketed. An appropriate theme song for "Sopranos" fans who find it painful to let go?
Can't wait for the movie, can you?