Seducing The Muse. …more like a desperate plea.

Did you miss me? Well I missed you too!

Sorry for my absence. I promise I have a good excuse though. Well, it’s mostly a good excuse. I’ve been fighting the forces of evil with a couple of groovy friends, a stoner, and a talking dog. What? What do you mean you don’t believe me? Yeah, well it sounded good in my head.

The truth is rather boring. I’ve been having technical difficulties.

The good news is that, after scrimping and saving, and doing more research than an undergrad studying for his finals, I bought a new laptop. Yay!

The bad news is that, a few hours after finishing the final draft of “What’s Going On“, my wandering rant about race in America, my two month old laptop got the dreaded ‘blue screen’.– NOOO! Not my baby! — Needless to say I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the remedy was relatively painless. Customer service could not have handled the situation better. The woman on the phone was able to remotely diagnose the trouble. I sent the laptop to the Texas care center on the Friday before Labor Day and received it back ten days later.

Yeah. I was surprised too.

The whole reason for the laptop was to encourage me to write more. I’m one of those people that have ideas flying through my head all day long but the moment I sit down in front of the computer… nothing. Then there’s the issue of my grammar, which needs improvement. I live in constant fear of the run-on sentence so I tend to drop commas every few words in the hope that a few land in their proper place.– Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. — The point is that I wanted to start putting thoughts to paper (screen?) and thought a laptop might make it a little easier.

In high school I loved creative writing. Of course, in high school, I had English teachers who gave us direction and deadlines and… Dickens! — Sorry. Then in tech school I got to let my imagination run free. Tech school was essentially an introduction to communications. We covered the basics of radio and television. The idea was to give you enough knowledge that upon graduation you could easily find an interning position or continue your education. My dream was editing for television so that’s where I focused my energy. My specialty was short subjects. I wrote a lot of commercials. My magnum opus was a hidden camera short where I pranked our instructor. The poor guy was the target of much of our humor. He was a good sport though. He never asked us to compromise our creativity, no matter how ill conceived our ideas. Our world would be a much better place if we had more teachers like Ed Gannon.

There’s truth to the old adage, “If you don’t use it you’ll lose it”.

It’s been a long while since I’ve had to engage my imagination on a regular basis. I’ve been so preoccupied with writing big and brilliant that I forgot a few basic rules. Write, write what you know, write some more and, for God’s sake, Keep It Simple Stupid! — KISS for short.

So, for me, the trick is to try to get in the habit of writing again. That’s what this meandering mess is: an exercise to get the juices flowing, an attempt to seduce my elusive muse, to just write whatever pops into my head at this particular moment. — Even if it means boring you all to death. 😉

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Bubbling Anger, a plea for sanity.

Everyone is angry.

I’m sure that you have noticed.

We are all angrier than usual these days.

Everyone is talking.

Loudly.

No one is listening.

Eyes glaze over.

The volume increases.

The cacophony fades like static into the background

as we scream

and shout

desperately seeking to be heard.

But still

no one is listening.

It’s almost like we’re living in some alternate reality

created by Springer

and populated

almost entirely

with Mamma Grizzlies and gun crazy Hee Haws.

Self centered righteous indignation

leads to anger.

Anger breeds more anger.

No one is immune.

Even I have become angry.

It’s scary.

Sometimes I can’t identify the source of my anger.

That makes me uncomfortable because,

if I can’t determine the cause, I risk taking it out on the innocent.

And that is just not right.

So I withdraw

from life

from social interaction

just so I don’t inadvertently unleash my aggression on some poor unsuspecting soul.

Fresh air helps.

…a little.

Music helps.

…a little.

The political climate does not help.

…at all.

Everything

is blown out of proportion.

Everything

is a scandal.

Everything

is an emergency.

How are we to identify real crises when everything demands our immediate attention?

News is no longer balanced.

Facts are twisted.

No one reads past the headlines.

Everyone has an opinion based often, on assumptions.

Never mind discourse.

Never mind trying to understand

another point of view,

another person’s experience

Never mind accepting

another person’s existence.

There’s little common courtesy.

It’s my way or the highway.

If your opinion differs, then you are the enemy.

And every day we get more angry.

So stop!

Please.

Clear you mind.

Breathe.

Turn off the TV.

Put the phone away.

Power down the electronics.

And Listen.

Carefully.

Before

it’s too late.

“Reality…What A Concept” Remembering Robin Williams

The news of Robin’s death was such a shock. I’m still having a difficult time believing that it’s true.

There are people who touch our lives in such profound, undefinable ways. Robin Williams was one of them. He made us laugh, but he also made us think. He made us question things while we were laughing at them.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

Like many Americans, I first saw Robin Williams in an episode of Happy Days called My Favorite Orkan. My six year old sister was madly in love with Henry Winkler’s Fonzie so we never missed an episode. So when Mork and Mindy debuted the following fall, it was naturally added to our viewing line up.

31CY4KZFFELWhile my family was gathered around the tube watching the weekly adventures of Robin and Pam Dawber, my friends and I were memorizing the jokes form the “Reality…What a Concept” LP, a live recording of Robin’s 1978 Roxy performance.

Through the years, Robin Williams has brought us nothing but happiness. News of his death was a complete shock. I still can’t believe it.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

 Rest in peace, sir.

Things To Do In Philly When The Internet Goes Down.

You never really understand how much of your life is dependent upon the internet until it’s not there anymore.

For almost a month, my internet has been suffering drop outs and sluggish speeds. It’s been a nightmare for which I’ve been preparing a long vengeful blog post that, because of outlandish accusations and rough profanity, will probably never be published in it’s entirety.

We did find productive things to do around the house while the internet was down. Sunglasses are now required in the bathroom because the bathtub sparkles so brightly! 😎

In our downtime we caught a few good movies, some of which I share with you here.

I happened to catch a late night broadcast of Crime and Punishment (1935) starring Peter Lorre, on GetTV (one of the myriad broadcast movie channels that have been popping up lately.) I’ve never seen this early adaptation. Lorre is brilliant. Strangely enough, this version is not available on Netflix but it is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

“The story goes that Peter Lorre wanted to star in the film version of the Dostoyevsky novel, but was certain that Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn would turn the project down. So Lorre hired a secretary to type up a synopsis of the story in words of one syllable then submitted this simplified resume to Cohn. Enthusiastic over the project, Cohn gave Lorre the go-ahead — but first he asked “Tell me —  has this book got a publisher?”” – Hal Erickson (Rovi)

Whether true or not, that rumor makes for good entertainment.

Here’s the movie, in it’s entirety. Bookmark it. Save it for when you’re looking for something good to watch.

Out of the Furnace (2013) stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker and Casey Afleck (yes, THAT Afleck). When police stop looking for his missing veteran brother, Russell Baze takes matters into his own hands.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but clearly not anything as deep and thoughtful as this flick turned out to be. It’s slow to unfold but it’s good story telling. Woody Harrelson is creepy as hell.

While we’re on the subject of Christian Bale… If you haven’t seen American Hustle (2013), put it on your list. it’s a great piece of entertainment that’s loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t know why people love to hate this film so much. I enjoyed it. The clothes and the cars alone gave me flashbacks.

Warm Bodies (2013) A zombie saves a teenager. They fall in love and save the world. What’s not to love? Even the Romeo and Juliet references that get shamelessly thrown in your face didn’t manage to ruin the film for me. It’s cheesy, pop corn chomping fun.

The Call (2013) How can you go wrong with Halle Berry? A 911 operator gets a call from a kidnapped teen. This is a joyride movie! It had me shouting at the screen.

The 2014 Robocop reboot was a lot better than I had expected. It’s still silly and a bit of a stretch for suspension of disbelief, but it was good entertainment. Perhaps I’m just a little biased. I’ve been a huge fan of Gary Oldman since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one of my all time favorite films.

I started following Simon Pegg on twitter long before I learned of his incredible career as an actor/writer/comedian. Seriously, I had no idea. That was almost four years ago. Since then I’ve gotten all caught up. I’ve enjoyed him in everything from Shaun of the Dead to Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Star Trek and everything in between. On Monday night we had the pleasure of watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything. It’s about a crime writer whose research has turned him into a paranoid mess. It’s a little strange but bizarrely funny. Pegg spends half of the movie in his underwear chasing his imagination. The running gag is incredibly funny.

Thankfully, our internet trouble has been dealt with. Everything is running smoothly. We sacrificed a goat and danced around in circles naked while singing the alphabet song backwards. That seemed to have appeased the internet gods. …for now. 😉

Bonus Material…

Everything Wrong With Robocop (1987) in 7 Minutes or Less. by CinemaSins

 And finally…

Simon Pegg rapping old school style in ‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Oh, fair warning. The following clip is probably not safe for work.

 

“Just One Book” Bette Davis – Storm Center

“Sure she talks sweet as honey. All the time you can bet she was working away back there. She has twenty five years to fill those shelves with poison. She and those books of hers. All they want is one thing: smash and destroy. Smash everything we’ve ever built up in this country.” –  George Slater (Joe Mantell) via IMDB

I thought I had seen every Bette Davis film ever made until last week, when I happened to catch ‘Storm Center’ on GetTVone of several new movie channels popping up on broadcast television.

Storm Center (1956) stars Bette Davis as a small town librarian branded as a communist because she refuses to remove a controversial book from the library’s shelves.

 

The film was released two years after the *McCarthy hearings, at the height of the cold war. It plays up the McCarthyism theme. Complaints are made to the city council about a library book called ‘The Communist Dream’. Mrs Hull (Davis) is asked by the council to remove the book from circulation because they feel it promotes communism and could corrupt young minds. Hull agrees at first, then changes her mind. The council fires her and here is where things spin out of control.

A young lawyer (Brian Keith) takes the opportunity to use “The Red Scare” as a platform for his political future. Rumors spread. Lies are told. Mrs Hull is branded a communist. Even her favorite little book worm, Freddie Slater (Kevin Coughlin) makes up far-fetched tales about his mentor. Everyone is willing to believe the outlandish stories in spite of their personal experiences with the librarian. The extremism reminded me of today’s political climate. In particular, our Tea Party movement.

*For those of you too young to remember, Joe McCarthy was a Republican senator from Wisconsin who led the witch hunt against American citizens, including famous actors, writers, and fellow politicians, whom he thought might be associated with the communist party. It was the height of the cold war. America was hyper paranoid about Russia. Many people lost their jobs, homes, and families in disgrace because McCarthy branded them “Un-American”.

Sound familiar?

It’s striking how little has changed in fifty-eight years. Oh sure, we like to convince ourselves that we are more evolved than our elders but when it comes right down to it, we are just as susceptible as they were to fear and propaganda. It’s how George W Bush got away with invading Iraq. Everyone of us who argued against it was branded “UnAmerican”. My own father questioned my allegiance. I think he even called me a commie. 🙂

We humans do love to rally around a common enemy. — even if the enemy is made up.

Storm Center is a little melodramatic. The ending is kinda corny, but overall, the film is enjoyable. Kevin Coughlin’s Freddie reminds me of me as a little bookworm. Like Freddie, my neighborhood librarian was my best friend. She helped me navigate through the library’s stacks and even allowed me extra books when she thought I could handle it.

You’ll have to hunt for Storm Center. It’s not available through Netflix. If you see it scheduled on a local TV station, set your DVR. It’s worth your attention.

BONUS: Trivia

  • Storm Center was the first movie to criticize the McCarthy era directly.
  • The Legion of Decency did not like the movie because of what it considered the film’s “pro-Communist” leanings. Instead of condemning the picture, though, it used a “separate classification” for it. That had previously been used on Blockade (1938) (a Spanish Civil War film that the League also thought was anti-Catholic and pro-Communist) and Martin Luther (1953) (because the film portrayed the life of the man who split Christianity, and also because the League thought it was full of inaccurate presentations of Church teachings).

Trivia via IMDB

 

James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1965)

“Historic debate between James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley Jr. at Cambridge University on the question: “Is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro?” – The Riverbends Channel

James Baldwin was one of the most brilliant minds of our time. He was unapologetic about his blackness and his sexuality. Rightfully so, as there was nothing he could (or should) have done to change either.

I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on racism for quite a while now. But so much has already been said on the subject by people far better qualified than myself. One of whom is the incredibly brilliant James Baldwin.

Note: This video runs about an hour. It’s worth your attention, if for no other reason than to get a glimpse of American history through the eyes of non-US citizens. So if you don’t have the time to watch it now please bookmark it and save it for a future time when you can.

Thanks.