Saturday, May 10, 2008
As I waited in the early morning light for Jack-in-the-box to open, I spied a worker scrubbing down a paper stall at the curb.
Frankly, I was surprised. By the look of some of those money-grubbing contraptions, it appeared they were rarely ever cleaned.
Just as the thought crossed my mind, an elderly homeless man shuffled up and muttered to the man, "You're doing a great job".
As the paper carrier was about to recoil in horror, the curious street inhabitant rustled in his pocket and conjured up a crumpled bill.
"Here's five bucks. God bless," the street person uttered gruffly as he pressed the cash into the man's palm with a trembling hand.
Well, the startled fellow could have done one of two things, in my estimation.
He could have recognized the need of the homeless was greater than his own and politely refused the money with thanks.
Or, accepted the gift graciously.
After all, it is just as important to know how to "receive" as it is to give. Yes, on occasion people need to experience the joy of sharing, too.
In this instant case, the worker chuckled in a bemused manner, took the five bucks without hesitation, then watched the indigent man maneuver his body slowly down the pavement.
When a fellow worker returned after fussing about in a company truck, the recipient of the gift could have done one of two things - either kept the incident a secret - or shared the precious moment with his buddy.
"A guy just gave me five bucks for doing a great job cleaning the boxes," he jovially noted to his co-worker.
"That old guy, that homeless man over there," he chuckled wickedly.
It was obvious to me what was coming next.
His friend chided him, "Are you going to give half to me?"
After all, he was on the job, too.
"No way," the gift-getter cackled.
"This has never happened to me before in all the days I have worked on this job. The Universe is speaking to me."
In a nutshell, he was right. God appears in the humblest of places.
The Universe was not only speaking to him, but testing him as well.
In the final analysis, he failed on all counts.
Heda Bejar once said,
The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.
Friday, May 9, 2008
24th Annual Asian Pacific Film Festival...Jury Awards close out Gala Reception. High Note of best-ever yet fest!
"Ocean Of Pearls" - directed by probably one of the only Sikh directors in America - won the Jury Prize "hands down"; meanwhile, actor Jimmy Tsai scrambled up on stage astonished to snatch up the "Best Newcomer" award, virtually tongued-tied by his good fortune.
Yes, that was the tone of an evening full of surprises and good humor, as the 24th Annual Asian Pacific Festival wound down after record attendances this year.
Indeed, Sunday afternoon there was barely standing room at the DGA, as filmgoers jostled amid leading-edge filmmakers in the brimming-to-capacity lobby.
Today, the anxious throngs were anxious to nab good seats at two of the sold-out offerings - "The Sensei" and "Kissing Cousins" - respectively.
The season for the unprecedented success of the Asian Film Festival this year?
Well - it was obviously due to the fact there was something on the program to appeal to every taste - whether it was an insightful documentary, sizzlin' hilarious short, or captivating drama crafted to transport the audience into a mesmerizing world of make-believe.
The Aratani/Japan Theatre was a lovely setting for the closing night festivities.
A sly breeze wafted across the open square as well-heeled film enthusiasts sipped on exotic cocktails and mingled below an expansive cloudless sky.
And, within shouting distance, the breathtaking lights of a handful of office buildings beyond - scraped the sky - and hinted at the promise to come.
Once everyone was seated indoors for the gala event, Abe Ferrer - one of the directors of the popular annual event - started off by excitedly noting a couple of facts for the record.
"The entries this year were wide-ranging, all excellent in quality."
Consequently, when it was time to hand out awards to honor filmmakers for their artistic visions, it amounted to a tight race in all the prestigious categories.
There was one exception, though, in respect to the Jury Award.
"Ocean of Pearls" - a film that was ten years in the making by first-time director Sarab Neelam - effortlessly nabbed the coveted prize.
The Festival officials commended Neelam for his integrity, amazing story-telling techniques, and for crafting a film that not only appealed on a personal level but on a universal one, as well.
When the red-turbaned director humbly strolled up on the stage, he was quick to thank God for the blessing.
The director of - "Oh, Saigon" - was lauded by the Festival Officials for incorporating spell-binding story-telling elements such as - intrigue, betrayal, and denial - which kept audiences riveted to the edge of their seats.
"Difficult to resist," noted one Judge, who handed over the Grand Jury Prize to Director Doan Hoang.
In a highly-charged emotional moment, one of the Judges noted that the Special Jury Award was going to the film, "Up the Yangtze".
Describing the feature as - "Love Boat meets Apocalypse Now" - a presenter poignantly noted that in this instant case there was a shining example of "life going on beyond the film."
Director Yung Chang was applauded for remaining in touch with the subjects of the project long after he lensed the footage.
Festival officials proudly noted that "Up the Yangtze" also won the Best Film Award this year at the San Francisco Film Festival.
So, there were special kudos all around.
When an Achievement Award went to charming Christine Choy for - "Long Story Short" - she dashed up to the stage, ecstatic.
"I'm overwhelmed", she cried out, as she gasped for breath in what must have been a very surreal, Oscar-style moment for a young filmmaker.
"This film was rejected by every non-Asian Film Festival. Welcome to my life," she nervously giggled.
She thanked the Visual Communications Center and Festival Staff for their support, and for providing a forum for Asian American Filmmakers to "tell their stories".
Likewise, when the Director Richard Wong won for "Best Technical Artistry", he strode up to the stage and expressed disbelief at his good fortune, too.
"This project came from a very dark place. So, I am surprised."
Although he felt his work - "Option 3" - was too off-beat and off-the-wall to be recognized as a stand-out entry in the fest, Judges noted that - on the contrary - more films should "look" and "sound" like this project did.
Best 1st Film prize went to "Always be Boyz", which was five years in the making.
One judge noted the honor was snatched from the jaws of the competition partly due to some kick-ass dancing and original lensing.
The New Director award was nabbed by Director Na Hong Jin for his well-received project, Sweat.
Honorable Mention went to Postcard, amid a lot of applause from the audience, who obviously favorited it.
And, the Golden Reel trophy went to "Tailor-Made" which was directed by Leonard Lee and Marsha Newberry.
In a parting commentary, Abe Ferrer noted the importance of Short Films, which were in abundance this year at the Festival.
"They are the backbone of the Festival. For an Asian director, the short film programs are the future."
It is usually from this ever-growing medium that directors often get noticed - at which point - their careers are often launched into the feature film arena.
In closing, Ferrer asked the audience, sponsors, and film enthusiasts present, to make a good faith effort to get the word out about the celluloid art pieces they took in.
"So the festival won't have been just a week of dead-end films".
A handful of the high-caliber projects I screened, are currently without distribution, and deserve to be ushered onto the wide-screen for mass consumption around the nation.
Yes, 2008 produced a bumper crop of films.
Indeed, for the Asian Film Festival, there's no looking back.
Guess he was trying on the head honcho's shoes for size. Something tells me they were a tight fit!
For many, the occasion was not unlike a scene from a futuristic movie. After trouncing Hillary Clinton in recent weeks, I guess the future is "now".
Obama, I'll sell that slogan to 'ya cheap!
Meanwhile, Hillary is schlepping around the Nation, getting used to the idea of being just plain old Mrs. Clinton, once again.
No salutes in her future, no Air Force One, nada!
After twenty years of on-the-fence no-brain policies like - "Don't Ask, Don't tell" - titillating sex scandals, financial shenanigans, needless imperialistic wars - wherein "evil-doers" have held sway over this great Nation for no good reason as a consequence - looks like America is finally going to be heading down a fresh path, minus a Bush and a Clinton or two.
Hail to the Chief!
I was gobbling down my morning oatmeal at Norm's down-to-earth twenty-four hour restaurant in West Hollywood, when I turned the page of a glossy magazine and was taken aback to encounter a publicity still of Bruce Jenner.
Is it my imagination, or is Jenner starting to look like a gay woman?
Well, the "image" is a far cry from the heady days when he crossed the finish line and struck "Gold" at the Olympics.
Too many hormones, perhaps?
The macho athlete has obviously put away his jock strap.
Or, is there a gender-bending decision in his future ripe for announcement?
There's something to be said about the raw, masculine look...
Thursday, May 8, 2008
To the delight of many, Insomniac Cinema screened - "Plan 9 from Outer Space" - recently at the Regency Theatre in the Fairfax district.
"Plan 9 from Outer Space" was written, produced, and directed by eccentric Hollywood filmmaker - Ed Wood - in 1958 (released in 1959).
The film stars Maila "Vampira" Nurmi, Gregory Walcott, and Tom Mason.
In an odd-ball scenario, Wood claimed that "Plane 9" also posthumously starred horror film star - Bela Lugosi - through use of archive footage and a brief scene of the actor shot by Wood just before Lugosi's death in 1956.
However, it is important to note that Lugosi's character was primarily portrayed by chiropractor, Tom Mason.
In a nutshell, the hilarious cult piece is about a race of extraterrestrials who seek to stop humans from creating a doomsday weapon that may destroy the universe.
In the course of doing so, the aliens implement a surefire - "Plan 9" - scheme to resurrect Earth's dead as zombies to get the planet's attention, which ends up causing chaos.
Johnny Depp fans may recall that the popular screen actor portrayed the eccentric director in a Hollywood-style film version of his life, "Ed Wood".
In conjunction with the "new" "improved" "colorized version" of "Plan 9", the Regency screened an offbeat collection of home videos which took a rare hilarious glimpse into Wood's real-life character and upside-down personal life.
Clips showed jaw-dropping scenes of Wood waltzing about the house in drag, feeding his dog birthday cake, you name it!
Of course, "Plan 9" was the piece de resistance.
Ed Wood was in top "worst" directing form at the helm here.
The god-awful writing, cheesy special effects, and numerous glaring production errors, herald the myriad reasons why "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is often regarded as a leading candidate for the title of "worst movie ever made".
In fact, the revival-house classic earned Edward D. Wood, Jr. a posthumous "Golden Turkey Award" for worst director ever.
It's a hoot!
Yesterday, I received a notice that Blue Group has two tables available for a prestigious Film Festival event next week on the Riviera, in France.
A handful of the well-heeled tony elite will join Prince Albert and his VIP guests for a unique evening at the exclusive Greenhouse in Cannes, Thursday May 15th.
The private dinner for VIP's is being tossed in aid of the celebrated "Prince Albert of Monaco Foundation".
Expected attendees at the gala dinner include: President Sarkozy, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, Bono, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Shania Twain, Paz Vega, Quentin Tarantino, Emile Hirsch, Steven Spielberg, Edward Norton, and others.
The price tag for one table at the exclusive upscale event?
$30,000.00. (U.S. funds)
Each table seats ten people (with ample leg room, I expect); so - if you're short on cash - get your buddies to divvy up!
The prestigious A-list spot in the inner circle includes six bottles of premium liquor to quench the most discerning thirst.
(Vodka & Champagne).
Soda & Juice? Extra, I guess!
Since you'll get to mingle with the celebrated elite, why not splurge?
Well, it is inclined to be "the" ultimate soiree to schmooze at.
But, exhibit some class - please!
Leave the 8 X 10 glossy publicity stills at home and forgo on the tendency to scramble for autographs for the kids as you circulate the high-profile room.
Blue Group is an innovative exclusive high-end provider of creative VIP showbiz entertainment events in the UK and US.
Whether it's a trip to the International Space Station, a flight in the cockpit of a 5G fighter jet, or a power boat racing at over 100 miles an hour you're pining for - Blue Bespoke can design and deliver an experience of a lifetime for you and your pampered clients.
According to Bespoke spokesperson, "Life is short".
So, live it to the hilt. No regrets!
Their tag line is: ask us for help and open Pandora's Box!
The professional party people are capable of deftly pulling off the event without a hitch, too. After all, their roster is rife with an extensive list of iconic individuals, celebrity entertainers, and musical ensembles sure to enhance and complement any event or client experience.
Whether it is a swanky summer party overlooking the Thames, a Xmas party with celebrity entertainment to wow your clients - or, quite simply - an "After-dinner" speaker or a Blue Bespoke branded "An Evening With" experience...it can be designed to suit your specific needs.
Bottom line - a top-notch footballer, charismatic politician, or concert soloist are within arm's length and - and ready to be at your beck and call.
Ritzy Riviera beckons...
"Smart People" started screening at the cheap movie house (Regency Theatre) so I sauntered in the other afternoon to take a gander at Dennis Quaid's latest offering.
In this intelligent comedy, Quaid schleps about the scenes with a noticeable slouch in his posture and a nasty beer gut up front, signaling a middle-age decline in the male Greek form.
Say it ain't so!
I wonder, did the recent father of twins pack on the pounds - like fellow method actors Leto and Bale - to lend an authentic air to his role? Or, is the paunch just a handful of artfully placed stuffin' to effect the image of an aging Lothario past his prime?
Either way, a lot of women (and men) wouldn't kick the handsome thespian out of bed for eating crackers!
Quaid had the best abs in the business - cut, rippled - crafted in marbled flesh.
Just screen "The Big Easy"; he'll take your breath away.
A lean, mean, manly machine!
In searching for a photo for this post, I was quite surprised to stumble across a full frontal nude of Dennis with a roaring hard-**.
Say it's so, Dennis!
Viagra, what's that?
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
24th Annual Asian Pacific Film Festival...John Woo premieres new feature, "Blood Brothers" at DGA, Hollywood. Style above substance!
John Woo's new feature film - Blood Brothers - premiered at the DGA under the auspices of the Pacific Asian Film Festival without much fanfare.
In spite of the fact the period piece was actually directed by Alexi Tan, Woo's fingerprints were all over the mixed-genre feature.
But a lot of slow-mo action, nifty blurred effects, and post-production wizardly could not - a hit - make.
Overall, Blood Brothers was pretty lackluster.
At best, it was a mediocre entry at the Asian Pacific Film Festival, where much more riveting celluloid pieces were being offered up by young, first-time out directors.
"Blood Brothers" is the tale of three men in search of their fortunes and a better life on the other side of the tracks in Shanghai (circa 1930's).
In one of the few down-to-earth believable moments in the film, the three likable characters fantasize about trekking off to the big city to find employ as professional servers in fancy upscale restaurants - with the ultimate aim of rustling up quick cash.
Cut to the mean streets of the city and our young heroes - hauling city dwellers 'round town in rickshaws - no less!
What else for an able-bodied man without contacts to do?
As Eric Burton of the "Animals" might say:
"It's a hard world to get a break in."
Before you could utter - "stretches one's credulity" - the ambitious lads are thrust into the nefarious Chinese underworld - and in the blink of an eye - are meting out punishment as enforcers at the behest of their employer who is the kingpin of a prominent gang.
Tan uses broad strokes to paint a canvas that is rich in texture.
And, by way of precise cinematic technique, facilitates exquisite visuals and a clever juxtaposition of images to stir up the filmgoer's passions and seduce them somewhat in the process.
Blood Brothers starts off measured, but later on (as if Woo could ever contain himself) busts loose in a wild sprawl of mayhem, raw violence, and blood and guts.
In spite of the fact Woo has a few potent features under his belt, he has yet to recognize the importance of a well-crafted script, story development, or even the need to flesh out characters.
In essence, that is his failing.
What we have here, is a classic example of style over substance.
Just a lot of eye candy, Blood Brothers leaves a sickly sweet aftertaste.
No cigar, though!
Air thick with melodrama...
Yesterday was a carefree day...
As I zipped along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, a snazzy white Humvee (cool, dudes!) cruised up next to me in bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic.
Yeah, a lot of toy-boys in the neighborhood were dashing home to toss off sweaty work uniforms and head out for the cocktail hour!
As I casually glanced over at the vehicle in the next lane, I almost did a double-take. There, ensconced comfortably in the passenger side of the luxury military-style roadster, was a well-known actress (some might argue about that label). And, the stunning beauty (who I have written about in these environs) was staring right back at me with those luminous penetrating eyes!
I grinned. I tend to do that around gorgeous, classy babes!
Suddenly, she turned to the driver - and in a whisper just loud enough that I could hear over the din of the humming engines on the busy street - heard her gush to her companion,
"Do you know who that is?"
They engaged in a hush-hush bit of chit-chat for a sec, then - without warning - the blacked-out window at the rear of the passenger side slowly crept down as the driver jockeyed for a position inside to get a gander at me.
As the traffic inched forward a bit, I stepped on the gas and cruised up a tad; but, they slowed and - from a respectful distance behind me - continued with their animated conversation as they kept their eyes glued on my SUV ahead.
Ah, the beauty of well-positioned rear-view mirrors!
Imagine that, being stalked by celebrities! But, not for long!
When they were distracted for a sec, I quickly turned down a side street and left them in a cloud of dust.
C. Wright Mills once wrote,
In the world of the celebrity, the hierarchy of publicity has replaced the hierarchy of descent and even of great wealth.”
Life in the abstract?
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Through my sources I managed to secure a copy of a damning letter John Conyers - Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - has sent on to the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) requesting information on widespread raids which have gone down in the Los Angeles area since last fall.
The DEA has been targeting "pot" dispensaries that have been providing medicinal marijuana to California residents legally entitled to use the leafy product under current law in the State.
At issue, are shocking enforcement raids in which DEA Agents were prone to defiantly engage in abusive conduct - and on many occasions - act in direct Violation of individual rights.
In spite of the fact California voters approved a measure to allow the compassionate use of cannabis for medicinal purposes several years ago by ballot, the DEA responded by accusing the suppliers of being engaged in an "...illegal sale of an illicit drug which is outlawed by the Federal Government."
Although local officials (West Hollywood City Council & Los Angeles Board of Supervisors) held emergency meetings with local law enforcement to try to stave off future arrests until the conflicts in State & Federal Statutes could be resolved - bottom line - the FEDS ignored the good-faith attentions of the many to actively pursue the matter in a cavalier abusive manner.
Over the past few months, I not only reported on the outrageous DEA tactics, but also attended a handful of the spirited rallies in front of Governor Schwarzenegger's downtown office in Los Angeles and the DEA headquarters on Temple Street, respectively.
The protests fell on deaf ears.
Pot Post (9/13/07)
DEA Raids (10/12/07)
DEA Protest (3/24/07)
Consequently, thousands of complaints from U.S. Citizens - and grass-roots organizers and attorneys at Americans for Safe Access - have resulted in the launching of an investigation by Chairman John Conyers at the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C.
In his letter to Acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, Mr. Conyers starts off by stating as follows,
"I am writing to you because I have received a number of letters from Californians, including mayors and city councils, expressing concern about DEA enforcement tactics which urge me to hold oversight hearings in the Judiciary Committee."
Mr. Conyers goes on to characterize the actions of the DEA as follows,
"According to the letters, the DEA has dramatically intensified the frequency of paramilitary-style enforcement raids against individuals qualified to use medical cannabis under state law, their caregivers, and the dispensing collectives established to provide a safe place to access medical cannabis."
He goes on to note that he is aware that the DEA sent out "hundreds of letters to property owners who lease property to medical cannabis dispensaries, threatening them with arrest, and forfeiture of property."
At this juncture, Mr. Conyers made a surprising overture to the Acting DEA head, with the specific aim of determining the facts from the horse's mouth - so-to-speak - prior to the commencement of the formal investigation.
In his communication, Conyers has asked that Michele Leonhart answer the following queries:
Question No. 1:
Is the use of civil asset forfeiture, which has been typically reserved for the worst drug traffickers and kingpins, an appropriate tactic to employ against individuals who suffer from severe or chronic illness and are authorized to use medical marijuana under California Law?
Has the DEA conducted any analysis of the potential economic consequences of using civil asset forfeiture in an area that is experiencing some of the Nation's sharpest declines in property values?
Lastly, has the DEA considered the consequences of shutting down legally-operated public dispensaries and whether that might drive the cannabis sales activity underground?
Question No. 2
Given the increased level of trafficking and violence associated with international drug cartels across Mexico, South America, and elsewhere, do you think the DEA's limited resources are best utilized conducting enforcement raids on individuals and their caregivers who are conducting themselves legally under California Law?
Question No. 3
Have you considered that DEA activities against qualified individuals is negatively impacting the ability of state and local officials across California to collect tax revenue which they are entitled to under California Law?
Question No. 4
Every month new science supporting the therapeutic value of cannabis is published. As a result, medical and scientific organizations, like the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association, are arguing reform of the laws that place in legal jeopardy physicians or their individual patients who may benefit from the use of cannabis.
As the Administrator, you have the discretion to decide whether to continue heightened enforcement activities in California and in other states that have authorized use of medical cannabis by qualified individuals.
Please explain what role, if any, emerging scientific data plays in your decision-making process to conduct enforcement raids on individuals authorized to use or provide medical cannabis under state law.
Question No. 5
Would you support the creation of an inter-governmental commission comprised of law enforcement, law makers and people affected by the laws, to review policy and provide recommendations that aim to bring harmony to federal and state laws?
In closing, Mr. Conyers included a list of approximately sixty raids that the DEA conducted between June 2005 and November 2007.
In reference to those raids, Mr. Conyers has asked that the DEA provide an accounting of costs, in dollars and resources, used to conduct the law enforcement raids on said individuals.
Included in the package of information, Mr. Conyers has asked: whether arrests were made in the course of the raids, and if so, how many people were arrested; under what circumstances the warrants were issued; and for what content, whether criminal or other charges have been brought by the DOJ; what, if any, content was seized or destroyed; and finally, the current status of each case.
A response has been requested prior to a deadline date set for July 1, 2008.
As usual, the DEA has "no comment", pursuant to their ongoing policy not to speak with the media regarding such matters.
Profile of Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain...discriminates against IN PRO PER litigants; Violates rights!
On occasion, a review of court documents reveals that a Judge presiding over a case not only failed to adjudicate an issue correctly, but made grievous error(s) which resulted in a gross violation of a party's Constitutional rights.
In addition, the facts may also signal a lack of integrity on the part of the Judge, which may have resulted in a corruption of the court.
Such is the case with Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, a Judge sitting on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - who has demonstrated in one case that I know of - that he is not fit to "warm" the bench.
For example, in a case Judge O’Scannlain presided over a few years ago, a litigant appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on several issues - one of which - was pertaining to a lower court ruling denying a right to proceed IN FORMA PAUPERIS (waiver of filing fees).
In respect to the fee waiver issue, O'Scannlain incorrectly ruled that because the "Petition for Relief" was denied in the lower court, and the appellant subsequently paid the filing fees thereafter, that the issue was "moot" in the Appellate court.
On the contrary.
Judge O'Scannlain not only established his ignorance of applicable statutes, but a shocking willingness to deceitfully ignore his duty to uphold Justice in a "Court of Law" and openly discriminate against an IN PRO PER litigant.
Notwithstanding, his grievous legal error caused considerable hardship to the litigant involved, for which he should be ashamed.
For example, in the lower court the litigant was entitled to a "waiver of fees” based on his low income. That right was protected by Statute.
When the court failed to issue a ruling, and serve him with notice, the litigant was forced to pay the fees out of his meager earnings to salvage his "case".
Just because the appellant paid the filing fee, did not make the issue "moot". In fact, it made it more grievous and ripe for legal issue.
In sum, the litigant was denied his right to a waiver of fees. Because of this, he was forced to use funds - that would normally be used to pay for food, rent, and the necessities of life - to pay court costs to which he was legally entitled a waiver.
Was Judge O'Scannlain too stupid to figure this out, or was he demonstrating his distaste for disadvantaged litigants without the benefit of funds to secure legal counsel?
The fact the appellant paid the fees under great hardship - and "did without the necessities of life" to do so - does not negate the fact he was denied his legal right to a waiver of fees, nor does it make the issue "moot".
In sum, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain’s ruling is a bunch of hocus-pocus bullsh**.
In fact, the erroneous ruling - in the public record and available for close scrutiny by the wise, the mighty, and the compassionate - calls attention to a man who has not only fallen from Grace, but - ultimately - "is a disgrace" to the Judiciary and in the eyes of the Lord.
As Martin Erdmann aptly put it,
Appellate Division judges [are] the whores who became madams.”
24th Annual Asian Pacific Film Festival...Ping Pong Playa, a delightful comedy offered up by Jessica Yu.
PING PONG PLAYA, which kicked off the 24th Annual Asian Pacific Film Festival this year, is a delightful off-beat comedy offered up by the Asian Community.
Essentially, the low-budget farce is about an Asian male still chasing pipe dreams - in particular, a shot at the big leagues in pro basketball - unable to hold down gainful employment or even conjure up any meaningful direction in his life.
Through a quirky set of circumstances, C-dub (his nickname) - played with great aplomb by actor Jimmy Tsai - is forced to teach ping pong at the family business to a handful of lovable, but hapless kids in the neighborhood.
As the little darlings astutely lament to each other - what choice is there otherwise?
Violin, piano, or dreaded choir - go figure!
Yes, early on - the film takes a wild jab at the Asian American culture and its values - in a light-hearted, upbeat way.
Director Jessica Yu (SOUR DEATH BALLS) was in a jovial mood at the premiere.
"Jimmy and I both saw in C-dub the chance for some healthy self-mockery in our generation’s navigation of the ethnic American experience. From the oversensitivity of the politicized to perceived racist slights, the impulse to dismiss ethic stereotyping, while simultaneously mocking those who fit the stereotypes, to the resentment of the non-model minority."
That's quite a mouthful!
On occasion, PING PONG borders on the edge of controversy in this regard.
If a big-budget Hollywood production poked fun at the Asian Community (and other diverse groups represented in the film) the way Yu did - it is wholly possible - there may have been an outcry in the community.
At the Q & A session - when I asked Yu and the cast if the underlying message (in light of all the glaring racial issues raised in the media in recent days on the campaign trail) signaled a need to "lighten up", "have a sense of humor", and "get real" - the response was amusing.
"Actually, we did get accused of white-bashing," Yu chortled.
"Because of some of the comments we made about people in Encino."
But, none of the quips in respect to "race" in PING PONG PLAYA are particularly mean-spirited or offensive, to be sure.
But, I have to take note for the record.
Last year, at the Los Angeles Film Festival, there was a panel discussion about diversity in Hollywood which focused on how Asians, Blacks, and others were portrayed by the industry.
Some of the stereotypes the panel objected to there, run rampant here.
And, a handful of politically-correct individuals, might put forth the proposition that films like "Ping Pong" may perpetuate those myths.
I guess that old adage is true.
It's okay for any ethnic group - or person of a certain religious or sexual persuasion - to make fun of members of their own.
Just don't anyone else dare!
For the most part, there's a lot of side-splitting shtick and odd-ball humor, with a big satirical thrust on the annual Ping Pong tournament that C-dub must win to ensure the family honor is upheld in the community - and, of course - that sign-ups for lessons on the hot little table keep filtering in.
Enter the competition.
A couple of wacky ping pong enthusiasts (who take the rules of the game "to the max") sashay in and throw a curve ball into the mix.
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell (Queer as Folk) are wildly amusing as a couple of players out to win the tourney at any cost.
Paige goes all out here, explores new ground as a comic actor, and succeeds admirably in a break-out role.
No doubt, both the gay community - and the straight one - will get a kick out of his characterization of a man who is noticeably "gay" to everyone but himself.
In the classic tradition of a closeted man, he puffs up his manhood, and all-the-while crows unconvincingly about chicks.
To divert attention elsewhere, 'ya think?
There's a lot of visual humor in PING PONG, too; shots of tight shorts on wiggling butts and kids with odd-ball expressions on their silly mugs which bring a smile to the face.
All the broad character reactions are right on the money, by the way, and keep the hilarity running throughout at a fast pace.
A thumbs up!
Last night I stopped into the local 711 convenience store in Hollywood proper, snatched up my favorite snack, and headed towards the register to pay up.
But, when the cashier rang up the charges, it was obvious something was amiss.
When I asked him for the price of the items, I was able to ascertain that I was being billed $1.39 for a pastry that was just 69 cents yesterday!
I pushed the package back towards the clerk and informed him politely that I would forgo on purchasing the item.
Surprisingly, a tall studious-looking young man standing next to me piped in,
"How much do you need?"
I quickly noted that I could afford to pay, thanked him for his kind offer, then pointed out that I refused to support greed.
"One day the item costs 69 cents. The next day they hike it up to $1.39. If we don't stand up and voice our concerns the problem will persist," I noted in a voice as polite as I could muster up under the circumstances.
The cashier (looking a little embarrassed at this juncture) informed me he would only charge me for the price I was accustomed to paying previously.
See! It pays to speak up.
Just say "no". Don't allow yourself to get ripped off.
As Mahatma Gandhi once noted,
"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed"
Monday, May 5, 2008
It stands to reason - that since I gave birth to my blog - that it is kind-of like my baby!
And, you know what?
The two of us have a psychic bond!
If ever there is a primal scream, I hear it, too.
And, in recent months, I have experienced a strange phenomenon in respect to that.
For instance, occasionally when I am on a tight schedule and pressed for time, I may have to rush an edit - and quickly polish the post - before I dash out the door.
Then - an hour or so later when I am in a restaurant chowing down on dinner - let's say - I hear a voice cry out in disgust inside of me.
"You incorrectly spelled the word. Moron!"
Sure enough, when I flick on the PC and peruse the post, I spy the spelling error right away.
This past weekend my focus shifted to a couple of words I used in a post to describe an incident I was reporting on.
When I was on my way to the Theatre a short while later, it suddenly dawned on me out-of-the-blue in busy traffic - that I screwed up.
The words continued to rattle around inside my head until I performed a spell-check a few seconds ago.
The blog's emergency message service got it right again.
At midnight, it's my birthday.
Do 'ya know what I'm wishing for?
A new spellcheck program, because the one I am using at Google sucks big time!
As to the birth of the blog, Friedrich Nietzsche once opined:
“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
What a novel idea!
If you surf to - freerice.com - you can test your facility for words - and at the same time - make a contribution to feed hungry mouths of the world.
For example, when you surf to the automated web site, just click on a word to test your knowledge of its meaning.
If you get the answer correct, the UN World Food Program will donate twenty grains of rice in your name!
Essentially, FreeRice has two goals:
First, to provide an English vocabulary to everyone for free.
Secondly, to end world hunger by providing rice to needy people without cost.
The project is made possible by concerned sponsors who advertise on the site.
Whether you are a CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your vocabulary can improve your life. Subsequently, the goal is not only a worthwhile one, but a great investment for the future.
More importantly - the organizers note - a hands-on involvement in the project results in a donation of rice to the impoverished of the world, which later - by virtue of its nutritional value - not only nourishes, but enables the needy to function - and hence - be more productive with their lives.
If you contribute to the effort in the near future, somewhere around the globe a hungry individual will be eating rice you helped provide!
You may wonder how playing the "vocabulary game" at FreeRice may help a person. For starters, a grasp of new vocabulary has tremendous benefits.
For example, a facility with words can help an individual:
*Formulate ideas better
*Write better papers, emails and business letters
*Speak more precisely and persuasively
*Comprehend more of what is read
*Read faster because the ideas are comprehended better
*Get better grades in high school, college and graduate school
*Score higher on tests like the SAT, GRE, LSAT and GMAT
*Perform better at job interviews and conferences
*Sell themselves, services, and products better
*Be more effective and successful at their job
And, after participating in the FreeRice program for a couple of days, organizers allege participants may notice an odd phenomenon. Words that were never consciously used before will begin to pop into the head while a person is speaking or writing. In sum, those who get involved in the project, may find themselves facilitating words in remarkably new and interesting ways, according to the sponsors.
This is how the program works at the site:
FreeRice has a custom database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In addition, there are thousands of words tailor-made for students, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people - you name it.
FreeRice automatically adjusts to the player's level of vocabulary as they engage in word play at the site. For instance, it starts off by giving words at different levels of difficulty - and then, based on how well a person does - assigns an approximate starting level. Then, the individual may determine a more exact level as they continue to play.
When word turns out to be wrong, the person is kicked down to an easier level. When three words in a row are right, a harder level is activated. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping individuals at the “outer fringe” of their vocabulary where learning can take place, note the experts.
There are 55 levels in all, but it is rare for people to get much above level 48.
How is the difficulty level for each word determined?
The program keeps track of how many people get each word right or wrong, and then adjusts each word’s difficulty level accordingly. So the words at the easiest levels are the ones that people most often get right. The words at the hardest levels are the ones that people most often get wrong. As more and more people have played the game, these levels have become increasingly more accurate.
The rice is paid for by the advertisers posted on the bottom of the vocabulary screen. This is regular advertising for these companies, but it is also something more. Through their advertising at FreeRice these companies support both learning (free vocabulary for everyone) and reducing hunger (free rice for the hungry).
The rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
The World Food Program is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good. Wherever possible, the World Food Program buys food locally to support local farmers and the local economy.
People may wonder why the rice is not handed out right away...
FreeRice is not sitting on a pile of rice; the players are earning it at twenty grains at a time.
Here's how it works. When a person plays the game, advertisements appear on the bottom of the screen. The money generated by these advertisements is then used to buy the rice. So by playing, the interactive party generates the money that pays for the rice donated to hungry people.
Facts about World Hunger
In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank refers to as "absolute poverty"
Every year 15 million children die of hunger.
For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for five years, according to the latest research.
Throughout the 1990's more than 100 million children will die from illness and starvation. Those 100 million deaths could be prevented for the price of ten spanking-new stealth bombers or what the world spends on its military in two days, apparently.
The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed, while the remaining one-third is starving.
When a person first enters the freerice site, at least 200 people will have died of starvation. And, according to the latest statistics, over 4 million will perish this year.
One in twelve people worldwide is malnourished, including 160 million children under the age of 5.
The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world's hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately forty percent, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world.
Nearly one in four people (1.3 billion - a majority of humanity) live on less than on dollar per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with forty-five percent of the world's people.
3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on two dollars (U.S. funds) a day.
In 1994 the Urban Institute in Washington DC estimated that one out of six elderly people in the U.S. have an inadequate diet.
And, in the United States, it is alleged that hunger and race are related. In 1991 forty-six percent of African-American children were chronically hungry, and forty percent of Latino children were chronically hungry compared to sixteen percent of white children.
The infant mortality rate is closely linked to inadequate nutrition among pregnant women. The U.S. ranks 23rd among industrial nations in infant mortality. African-American infants die at nearly twice the rate of white infants.
One out of every eight children under the age of twelve in the U.S. goes to bed hungry every night and half of all children under five years of age in South Asia. One third of the populace’s children in sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished.
In 1997 alone, the lives of at least 300,000 young children were saved by vitamin A supplementation programmes in developing countries.
Malnutrition is implicated in more than half of all child deaths worldwide - a proportion unmatched by any infectious disease since the Black Death
About 183 million children weigh less than they should for their age.
To satisfy the world's sanitation and food requirements would cost only thirteen billion (U.S. funds) - a sum consumers in the United States and the European Union - spend on perfume and cosmetics each year.
The assets of the world's three richest men are more than the combined GNP of all the least developed countries on the planet.
Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.
It is estimated that some 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, about 100 times as many as those who actually die from it each year.
Do you part today, to end world hunger tomorrow!
FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site at Poverty.com
I believe in the immortality of the soul.
I would like to give you the analogy of the ocean.
The ocean is composed of drops of water, each drop is an entity and yet is part of the whole, "The one and the many".
In this ocean of life we are all little drops.
My doctrine means that I must identify myself with life, with everything that lives, that I must share the majesty of life in the presence of God.
The sum total of this life is God.
India's Case for Swaraj
Sunday, May 4, 2008
24th Annual Asian Pacific Film Festival...Jaycee Chan & Kenneth Bi appear at screening of THE DRUMMER. A remarkable film!
"For me," noted director Kenneth Bi,
"It began with a stage performance."
After attending a theatrical production by the world-renowned drummers, the genesis of an idea for the feature film crystallized.
Jaycee Chan - son of famed actor Jackie Chan - adeptly plays a lost young man born into a crime family in the mean streets of Hong Kong.
When a gang war breaks out, and a bounty is placed on his head, SID flees to Taiwan to escape their wrath with the help of his father's tainted cash.
One day, the bored young man hears the sounds of drums echoing throughout the valleys of the majestic mountains, which sparks a journey up a path to their humble community.
Over the crest of a hill, he is startled to spy a serene group of men and women pounding on a set of drums in a rigorous, almost sacred manner.
He later learns they are Zen Drummers practising for an upcoming world tour.
Because Chan's character played the drums when he was a youth - mainly to vent his anger and distract himself from the painful memories of a broken home life - he strides up, cocky and full of swagger, and demands to demonstrate his skills on the skins.
When the Buddhists are hesitant to respond, he retorts like any typical spoiled American brat.
"I'll pay you."
It is quickly impressed on the lad that drum-playing is whole different musical experience in this spiritual community.
In fact, the rhythmic playing is not the "be all" and "end all" at all; but rather, part of a Zen philosophy in a holistic approach to life.
When SID begs a teacher for the chance to step forward and display his skills on the drums, a wise Master solemnly responds.
"He teaches you how to play the drums and I teach you 'how not' to."
Moments later, after beating the heck out of the skins (in what amounts to an audition) it is evident to the Masters that while SID is "talented", he is not ready spiritually to join in.
So, like a typical disciple, he is assigned various tasks designed to steer him on the right path.
In essence, he must come to understand the "hearbeat" of the mountain, the meaning of day-to-day existence - and likewise - be able to fathom the rhythms of life itself.
When the angry young man is asked to fetch water for the drummers, he is forced to walk several miles for gas when it is discovered the tank for the water-pump is empty. After a long arduous stroll to purchase the fuel, he toils with his unwelcome burden all the way back to camp.
Frustrated by these seemingly worthless annoyances, he ends up lashing out.
"I'm just a slave to you."
After all, he doesn't understand the methodology of the teacher, or the reasoning behind the daily chores.
The incident reminded me of an old proverb:t
Before enlightenment -
Chopping wood, drawing water;
After enlightenment -
Chopping wood, drawing water.
The Master then asks SID to go down to the stream and pluck up forty rocks and return to the camp with them in tow. Although bewildered by the request, he proceeds to carry out the task. When he returns with the odd assortment of pebbles, SID is then instructed to place the rubble into a satchel.
Once accomplished, he is instructed to carry the bag of stones over his shoulder wherever he journeys around the mountain each day.
For those who are familiar with practice of ZEN, the instructions of the teacher are not entirely bizarre in nature.
A Master glimpses into the soul of the disciple and assigns a koan (a puzzle) for the seeker to solve - one that is uniquely tailored to ensure a disciple's spiritual growth - with the ultimate aim of setting them squarely on their "path".
In essence, the seemingly innocuous teachings aid the student in fathoming their place in the grand scheme of things, so that they may come to know the true essence of existence on the earth plane.
Only in this way, can the mystery of the "moment" be realized.
Mr. Bi noted that when he first arrived in Taiwan, he sauntered up the mountain and stumbled across the Zen Drummers, much like the character does in the film.
"There I was in the wilderness of the mountain. At the top, when I turned and looked back, a modern city sat in the distance."
In a moment of revelation - it struck him that the "people" were living in the mountains - and that the "animals" were stalking the city below.
With powerful insight and expert storytelling techniques under his belt, Kenneth Bi manages to capture the remarkable transformation that occurs for SID on the journey from the dark underbelly of life into the Divine light of the Godhead.