Monday, November 19, 2018




    Remember near the end of FIELD OF DREAMS when James Earl Jones does the poetic soliloquy about how the history of baseball has been like signposts marking momentous events in our own personal history? That's how film has always been for me. In fact there have been times I've attempted to remember which year (and month of a year) when something momentous happened in my life, and remembering which film I saw at the movies around that same time helped me lock in on / pinpoint the date.

     I'm a hardcore realist (as I think is fairly evident / obvious by some of those more political postings some have seen). But I'm also perhaps ironically one of those freakish individuals who actually still believes in a lot of the idealistic sh*t you see in many films. In other words I've never been one of those, y'know, like we all know (and maybe some are themselves) who will cheer a character in some true story who dies for what they believe in, but on Monday morning won't have the courage to tell their supervisor they think next week's schedule is unfair, or won't speak up when observing a sexist or racist scenario in the workplace or school environment or whatever. I personally can't cheer something then not live it myself. I don't understand how anyone can. But that's another subject for another posting. Anyway ...

The (tired) guy who wrote this

     I'm presently working on a script to be handed over to a notable producer. And he's an awesome fellow who loves and knows film every bit as much as I do. And believe me / believe it or not this isn't always the case with some (maybe even many) producers. In fact with this guy our "pitch" sit down ran almost two hours, ... and we spent the first hour and 15 mins of it just laughing and reminiscing about favorite films while growing up, and sharing similar tales from years working in both video stores and as restaurant waiters before we even got to me pitching my "top five". So, while I seriously respect the man, I'm not "intimidated" by him. And that's great. In fact that's how I think it should be. That doesn't mean however that sometimes you don't allow your "creative attention" to drift into hazardous shores. And I believe among those water breakers can be that thing where - before you realize it - you find yourself writing (or altering something in your story) because a part of you thinks this particular person will dig it, or it will make it "easier to sell".

Losing one's creative way: BARTON FINK (1991)

     I learned a long time ago you just can't do that. That's the dive-into-a-swimming-pool-with-no-water / rope-yourself-up-from-the-ceiling-by-the-neck death of creativity which will strangle every breath of magic out of whatever it is you're doing. Now, you don't want to do the opposite end of the equation - which is "creative masturbation" - where you write for yourself alone, and the audience and those "bean counting suits and hack critics" be damned if they don't "get my vision". Uh uh! But you've got to keep in mind, remember, stay faithful to the idea that there was something about your earlier work which this person or persons connected with - some fire / magic / passion which was distinctly you. That's what you need to be faithful to because that "certain something" which you had and others didn't is what attracted them to you and your work in the first place.

Losing one's creative way: THE PLAYER (1992)

     It's easy to look around and become distracted by the "bigness" of where your work is to go after it leaves your desk or easel or studio or whatever. But in order to do that work faithfully and well, and in order to keep the magic - the creative "oxygen feed" (if you will) - even and pure and well regulated and pressurized, and to keep it steady regardless of the orbital heights or sub-sea depths that work will travel to, you've got to just sit there in the room alone in the wee hours and do the exact same thing you did when no one knew your name or gave a damn about what you were working on. Y'know, when you were just doing it ... because.

Losing one's creative way: THE BIG PICTURE (1989)

     If the fire and the magic is there when you finish that work (and if you remain faithful to yourself it will be), then afterwards the notes and pruning and editing and rewrites will come / begin. And the challenge then becomes how to adjust and prune and change while remaining faithful to the fire / magic born in that room alone. Heh heh! But that's another blog train entirely - one of which we'll maybe get into somewhere later down the line. In the meantime, however, one has to not get distracted before reaching that point by the "bigness" of the environment - by the "grandness" of the arena into which your work is slated to enter. In this regard one of those "movie life signposts" which has become a philosophical stanchion for me over the years is that scene near the end of HOOSIERS.


     The Huskers high school basketball team - from the flea speck farming town of Hickory, Indiana, and lead by coach Gene Hackman - makes it all the way to the State Championship Game in Indianapolis. And upon first entering the huge indoor arena where the match will take place, Hackman notices the look of overwhelming nervousness (no, downright fear) on the faces of his players. Then he does what's in the clip below.

     I always think of this scene when I notice myself "mentally drifting" a little, and find myself possibly losing the importance above all else of remembering being alone in the small room. As soon as you remember the small room any and all nervousness suddenly vanishes, and you find yourself infused with another fresh creative wind of the soul.

     This recurring lesson couldn't be more profound if it was told to you face to face by the Dalai Lama himself. So, to Norman Dale (oh, that's Hackman's character in the movie, BTW!) ...

     ... Whew! Thanks big time, Coach! ;)


Friday, March 30, 2018




     It never ceases to amaze me how those who've seldom (if ever) stood face to face in actual physical confrontation with an adversary and / or have seldom had to physically fight to survive (y'know, as in an old fashioned fisticuff throwdown, ... and getting beat up in school doesn't count if you never learned how to fight back!), are often those full of words and "this is how you do it" draconian advice on how to deal with an adversary or adversarial situation in life. Yknow, kind of how on the extreme Right you have people like "bone spurs" Donald filled with ideas and wisdom about military parades and patriotism, ... along with insults hurled at former POWs and Gold Star families; and how on the Left you too often get those who are "brave" enough to unfriend people on social media who disagree with them politically, and are "bold" enough to school you on how your willingness to want to know how others think, or how your desire to maintain an open line of dialog with those others, is akin to sitting down to sup with Lucifer. But catch those "brave ones" on an average Monday to Friday at work and you find most of 'em actually don't even have the balls to tell their supervisor they think next week's schedule is a little unfair.

     Why is it so often, huh, that when you not only look at history (ancient as well as more contemporary), and maybe even just take a look around where you happen to be right now - subway, school, workplace, whatever, you find that those who've spent time in combat, or who have lost those close to them to violence are often the one's who sure as hell aren't timid about "puttin' some hair on the wall" or "chewin' bubble-gum and kicking ass, ... and being all outta bubble-gum" when such action proves necessary, but they also end up being the ones who usually prefer to try other possible solutions before arriving at the "last ultimatum" which says either "kick ass" or "cut off everyone"?

     A lengthy intro, perhaps. But necessary as such head-butting encounters with butt-headed non-logic constantly sends me back for refuge and refueling to that brilliant scene near the climax of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.

     There are precious few (if any) who disagree that THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) is one the most bad-assed westerns ever made. But arguably more important and supremely realized than is its incredibly well executed surface as a sage brush gun opera is its more impressive below-the-strata thematic about a group of people who have absolutely no business being together, yet they form a surrogate family. There's Clint Eastwood's former Confederate soldier - who swore a blood oath of revenge after his wife and child were murdered by renegade Union soldiers, a couple of Native Americans whose families were murdered by whites, a young girl who was (it's implied) sexually assaulted by military men, and an elderly woman whose killed-in-Civil-War-combat son was a member of not the same, but of the same kind of Union unit which killed Wale's family.

     They aren't brought together by politics or any kind of b.s. "Let's hold hands, sing Kumbaya and have a meaningful discussion" sentiments. Uh, uh! They're the products of death, destruction and personal violence, and whose personal experiences on the hellish side of life have thrown them together in a scenario of "Well, what the f**k, we've pretty much experienced as much death and hell as is possible without being six feet under ourselves, so why not as a last resort try this 'not killing each other thing' for awhile and see how that works. It sure as hell can't be any worse".

Menachem Begin & Anwar Sadat (March, 1979)

     The reason they choose to try a more (dirty word to some) "diplomatic" solution isn't because they're naive, it's because they aren't. The truly naive ones (in the film and in life - yes, that's where we're heading) end up being those who've never personally experienced violence, death, near death, hand to hand combat, and / or that never ending netherworld of wondering whether or not you're going to survive the night. And because (for whatever reason - being more privileged or more lucky or whatever) some have never experienced any of that first hand life violence and darkness, some of them (though certainly not all) have adopted the "privilege" of ignorance to presume to tell those who have lived through hell what they should be thinking and doing in regards to the darkness those others may now be exposed to via the second hand delivery system of news and social media.

     Like I said, it's certainly not all. But lately I've crossed paths, ... words, ... swords with far too many who need to (no punches pulled in this one) take one or two steps back and re-evaluate where the f**k they're coming from, and how they presume to speak to those they really don't know other than via the clouded looking glass that is contemporary social media.

     Yeah, this is gonna be a not-very-polite, and more than a little angry, one. But I think by the end you'll see where I'm coming from as well as why. Oh, and (even though I'm sure few will believe it) this isn't directed towards any one person. It's been growing over a few months. So don't let that already swollen presumptive head swell any larger with additional fantasies of self importance. Let's deal with one thing at a time, huh? Anyway ...

     The primary "central nervous system" thematic of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is beautifully summed up in the climactic sequence where Eastwood's Josey stands before the Commanche leader Ten Bears - in the film portrayed by the legendary Will Sampson. Do you remember it? ... 

     After spending the entire film on the run, when Wales new surrogate "family" finally finds a place to hopefully peacefully settle down and take roots, they come to realize they're on Commanche land, and as such will most likely be attacked by Ten Bears and his people. So, Wales (entirely willing, and maybe even expecting, to die) ventures out alone one morning to meet Ten Bears - a white flag on one side of Wales' horse and rifles on the other. He and Ten Bears have a lot in common - mostly a shared history of not only seeing those around them slaughtered, but of they themselves doing a lot of killing as well. And neither is afraid to die (and that's an important aspect here!). In fact in certain respects they're numb to it; and living and dying are simply sides of the same "no big deal" daily coin.

Nelson Mandela & F.W. de Klerk (October, 1993)

     Because of this mutual shared history, and "numbness" / willingness to live or die, they come to respect one another; and ultimately a peace treaty is forged between them - not based upon a paper contract, but based upon the fact that, as Ten Bears says to Wales, "Because there is iron (sincere and determined truth; and no bluffing or bullsh*t) ..."  in both men's promissory words - in both men's promise of death, there is also by extension iron in their other words -  in both men's promise of life. It's that's simple. Not necessarily easy for most to comprehend, but it is ultimately that simple. All of this to say to both you on the Right and those on the Left who have a problem, or an unshakable disbelief in the concept of bridging gaps, "Take a flying f**king leap into your own narrow minded pit of over privileged self destruction", because you're proceeding from emotionalism and an intellectual point of origin in tackling a messy subject rather than the gut-level POV of having lived through such. Kind of how GPS is a wonderful technology. To have it is certainly better than not having it. But (if you've ever gotten lost following it's directions) you realize it's an imperfect one too. In order to truly understand the turns, inclines, potholes, fallen trees, dangerous animals crossing in front of you, washed out bridges, detours and more, ... you actually have to personally travel the road.

"The Best of Times / The (sometimes) Worst of Times":
Your's truly (center left) and older brother Harold (center right)

     Don't ever make the mistake of making presuppositions about someone's past, or the inspiration, modus operandi or results of their current actions in seeking to bridge gaps with others: a "bridging" which may not seem - in another's limited, sheltered and bubbled past to present life - to be considered "strong" enough. Y'know, that landscape where some believe that to boldly post pithy meme-supported platitudes on social media is the same as taking a personal stand; and where the positions of those who don't dovetail with one's own limited POV are somehow mislead positions.

     Please, get into a few serious fights, get your ass kicked a few times, and do a little kicking in return to earn respect. Carry a gun into combat, face down neighborhood drug dealers then, because you're a smart-as-f**k individual, convince those dealers that they'd do better taking their business elsewhere; then come back and lecture me and others about what truly constitutes right, wrong, strong, weak, wise or foolish, and what works and what doesn't, as opposed to that which on the other end, ... on the other hand (if you will) amounts to little more than the social media version of masturbation.

     My brothers and I grew up in a couple of really dicey neighborhoods for awhile - where as children we had people shove guns and knives in our faces, and where I even had a wire noose placed around my neck. This was certainly a scenario wherein you quickly learned the necessity to fight back or die. But it was also where you learned the just-as-important necessity of training oneself to be the smartest guy in the room. Where you conditioned yourself to, just as in chess, always look a few steps ahead, and to plan for the end game, and not just get caught up in the present tense emotionality of the argument or conflict. Actions speak louder than words. And actions, as Ten Bears reminds us, is that which ultimately carries the "iron", and not memes, social media declarations and other illusionary 21st century acts of bravado and pseudo social consciousness and conviction. Let's compare. And forgive me if it sounds a little braggadocious. It isn't at all. It's merely the old fashioned axiom of "Hey, actually put up or shut the f**k up!".

Emmit Till and Carolyn Bryant (1955)

     I got into it a couple'a months ago with a few MeToo folks. And I'm totally in support of the movement. It's been far too long delayed. But I did have to upset the peace a little in order to set a few things straight when a few women folk felt it was okay to condemn all men as "deserving to be viewed with suspicion", and when one person even said, "If a few innocent men get caught up in things unfairly, then so be it". Of course I pointed out that, as a member of a group (black men) who have a long history of being killed and imprisoned based upon someone's non proven accusation - usually that of a white woman (and these accusations then proven false many years later via DNA evidence or when the accuser recants), that I didn't see eye to eye with her "logic" along those lines.

Falsely convicted then imprisoned for 23 yrs., Nevest Coleman
(center) returns to his beloved Chicago White Sox in March 2018 

     Of course among the most infamous such case in the history books is that of 14 yr. old Emmit Till, who was falsely accused in Money, Mississippi in 1955 by 21 yr. old Carolyn Bryant of making threatening sexual advances towards her in a grocery store - an accusation which lead to young Till's brutal murder, and the later acquittal by an all white jury of the murderers. In many respects Till's execution was the gasoline tossed onto the already smoldering coals of the early Civil Rights Movement in America. And in the early 2000s, shortly before her death, Bryant confessed to fabricating the entire grocery store incident. Well, all except the part about being sexually threatened. She admitted that it was her husband who had been threatening her physically and otherwise.

     Such "lynch mob justice" isn't confined to a primitive American yesteryear however. I'm fairly certain nowadays most out there can attest to seeing at least one to two "black man falsely accused of assaulting a white woman, then serving prison time for years" stories on the local and national news every damned week. Those stories are as common place as those of Donald Trump firing another cabinet member. In fact at the time of this writing one of the most recent instances is that of Chicago native, and White Sox baseball team groundskeeper, Nevest Coleman - who in 1994 was falsely convicted and imprisoned for rape and murder, only to have his conviction overturned in March 2018 by the aforementioned newly acquired DNA evidence.

     More personally addressing the comments of these women, I pointed out how years ago your's truly got so pissed at a male supervisor under whom I worked - a person whom I felt was so blatantly (and proudly) committing actions which qualified as sexual harassment, that in a Saturday night furor I said "F**k the job", and handed in my written resignation so that I could personally take the guy out back and kick his a** up and down the alley without the company being legally held liable for my actions. Yknow, so that if he was going to later sue anyone for assault, it would be me alone and not the company for which I worked.

Picture post card-y South Marshall St. (Dec., 2017)

     Yeah, maybe in retrospect not the best way to handle the situation, I admit. But it was certainly actually living "the iron", and not just talking it. And interestingly that "maybe not the best way to handle it" action caused the owners to surprisingly not accept my resignation, but rather to have a sit down with me and this person - who eventually left and got involved in a harassment suit elsewhere. Then from that point on it became policy at this company for all management and supervisors (men and women, present and future) to undergo training in how to not be a part of, and how to identify, sexual harassment situations.

     I therefore said to these women who felt that all men should be viewed with suspicion, and said "So be it" if some innocent guys are wrongly involved and accused of things,  "Hey, years before all the Harvey Weinstein news, I literally put my money - my livelihood - where my mouth (and convictions) were; so don't ever pull that 'all men are in the same boat' bullsh*t" - especially since we all know both men and women who looked (and continue to look) the other way in such scenarios because they're afraid of losing their jobs.

     This qualifies as a situation where one has earned the right to a legitimate opinion and a say at the table of debate because you took the actual action of putting your ass on the line for what you say you believe. Now if I had simply responded to the comments of these women by saying, "That's an unfair blanket statement", then they would have had every right to tell me to go screw myself as I could not back up my complaint with personal solid evidence to the contrary. But because my words and opinion carried the weight of the "iron" of previous action, they acknowledged the legitimacy of my stance.

     I live on a wonderfully old school South Philly neighborhood street called South Marshall - the kind of place where it takes a half hour to go around the corner to get a Sunday paper (yes, people still actually read actual physical newspapers, glance up from that iPhone every now and then; you'd be surprised!) because you end up chatting with your neighbors, store owners and others about, well ... about whatever. Marshall St. has a bit of a picture postcard quality in winter and an "old world" throw-back sensibility during the summer months where kids still play in the street because there are always parents and other residents sitting on their porches or stoops, or gardening or working on their cars or whatever. It's got this sort of unofficial but very personal block party and stickball "everyone looking out for each other's backs" neighborhood umbrella kind of feel.

     Well, every now and then an older home owner will sell their property and move away, or they'll pass away, and a younger person or group of people may move into the neighborhood. And that's awesome; and they usually fit right in; and they comfortably see their kids joining into the neighborhood play. And yeah, during those Monday holiday block parties those newer Marshall St. residents will really show how comfortable they are in their new surroundings by drunkenly tossing caution (and pride) to the wind to partake in an embarrassingly entertaining version of the Electric Slide (cue Cameo's song "Candy" right about here ... if you dare! Haha!).

     Over the last couple of years however one or two residents moved onto the block, and they (shall we say) had peripheral acquaintances and "business associates" who felt it was normal and okay to "ply their trade of controlled substances" here as it may have been so elsewhere. Now, as far as I'm personally concerned, hey, man, if you wanna do whatever you wanna do in the privacy of your own home, that's your business, and more power to you. I don't give a damn. But if and when you start selling it in front of my house, in front of the kids, and camping out on my bench and under my tree, and hiding your stash in the vases and / or soil of the plants in my garden, well, ... that's when you've crossed the f**king line.

When "Please curb your dog!" isn't enough

     I confronted the guys firmly but politely, and said, "Yo, I don't mind if people crash on the bench / under the tree to get out of the sun, but don't stash sh*t on my property, okay? Or I'm gonna give the police permission to swing by every now and then and sift through my garden, and keep whatever they find". I even posted a sign among the flora and fauna for those who may not have received the one-on-one verbal version of the notice. At first miffed that someone would talk to them like that, they eventually realized I wasn't bluffing or bullsh*tting, and that this wasn't the first time I'd dealt with folks like them. I mean, hell, I grew up around that crap before most of them were even born.

     The most interesting turn of events however was one night when I got in from work, and one of the higher-up-the-ladder neighborhood dealers couldn't get his car started, and I actually tried to give him a jump, and even sprayed some Engine Start into his carburetor, but to no avail. When he asked, I even said I'd keep his bicycle (which he had in the back seat of the car) in my basement until he could return to pick up both it and the car at a later date. Now, when I mentioned this to some friends and family they of course thought I was crazy, saying "You really don't want to get involved with these people". To which my response was, "Yeah, no sh*t, you're right, I don't want to, but it's the right thing to do". And not "right" in any "kind and neighborly Mister Rogers" sort of way, but more in a "thinking ahead" manner.

     Eventually he picked up his car and bike, then a few months passed, and a younger dealer (whom I actually remembered from when he was just a Junior High School neighborhood punk trying to pick up girls on our block) tried to start "hanging on the corner" near Marshall St. But lo and behold this younger punk, who tried on a couple of occasions to jump bad with me - and I jumped right back, didn't realize that the guy to which he answered (his boss) was the dude who was grateful to me for helping him out with the car and bike that night. So, he made the young punk get the hell out of our neighborhood.

     Now, I'm not crazy. I'm not suggesting that others do that. I'm sure the fact that I'm a 6'5" black man who can when necessary do an instant "Bruce Banner to Hulk" thing added a little more weight to my initial "Hey, don't sell sh*t on my property" statement than had the same words come from a petite older Jewish or Chinese lady from the same block. So, yeah, I understand that. A little more weight could also later be added to the scale in that since then I've also gotten to know very well the local police precinct Captain, and I now also have an open dialog with a member of our local City Council. Via me bugging the living hell out of them, they've over the last few years beefed up patrols and undercovers and more in the neighborhood; and things have been mostly good since.

     But even that didn't happen overnight and without a little effort and "iron". In fact it didn't happen until I personally went to the precinct and (almost) threatened individual personnel with possible libel suits if any violence was to occur in our neighborhood, and some innocent child was caught in the crossfire because those at the precinct knew of potential danger and didn't do anything about it. In this instance the action / chess move there was not in the threat of libel (which pretty much any police department can circumvent if they really want to), but it would have been in the uber negative P.R. in them having to explain to the news media and members of City Council why such a suit was enacted in the first place. Interestingly there's a nuisance bar around the corner, and about a month or so after my "veiled threats", a drunken shot or two rang out there one Saturday night.

     That proved to be a holy fire lit under City Council and the local precinct's ass. But like I said, even this wouldn't have happened if I didn't face down the local police - who are overworked and understaffed as hell - to get them to focus just a little more attention on our neighborhood. "Iron" (of a sort anyway) needed to be used with them too. And in that case the "iron" was "I'm not bluffing; if you don't get off your asses, I'm contacting the news and letting them know you dropped the ball in a possible tragedy which could have been avoided". Anyway, all of this to say (in admittedly not the most polite of ways) ...

     To those of you living within your safe and secure bubble of social media opinion about how I and others seek to bridge and connect with others, "What the hell have you actually done to prove that my and others 'Josey Wales / Ten Bears' method is for the birds? I mean, what have you personally done other than talk loudly and with conviction, and post links?". Please, I'm not being facetious or a smart-ass. Well, maybe just a little. But if you can side step that, I honesty do really want to know how the tangible "iron" of your actions legitimizes your words and opinions that my and other's actions are little more than specious and impotent "pie in the sky" platitudes. You have the floor. Please contact me.

     Because until you've crawled out on a limb then started sawing the branch behind you by standing toe to toe and physically trading punches with someone who has openly threatened you with physical injury or worse, ... or you've risked your job and livelihood by refusing to back down from a deeply held principle, or one of a dozen other things where you actually had to hang your ass out on the edge, and do rather than talk, what makes you think you have the gall or right to question someone else's actions because it doesn't sit well with your neat and tidy and bubbled worldview?

The real life Ron Kovic - subject of Oliver Stone's 1989 film
BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY - at an anti-war demonstration in March, 2005 

     Hey, you can think what you will. You're entitled. And you can also say what you will. You're entitled to that too. But fair warning, I and other do-ers will respond and tear your sh*t to pieces with facts, figures and real world experience because that's how it should be. There is far too much primping and people on social media pretending to be what they really aren't; and that's just concerning the unimportant things. We really don't need that kind of pretending and false bravado or self stroking when it comes to more damned serious and important matters. Just sayin', ... just putting it out there (and forgive any so-called "toxic masculinity" undertones), "Don't be foolish enough to bring a knife to a gun fight" when it comes to real world issues, because yeah, believe it or not, even in the world of social media some things can actually be considered as sitting down at the grown up's table.

    Oh, and speaking of "knife to a gunfight" - that line perhaps made more famous by its usage in DePalma's 1987 film version of THE UNTOUCHABLES, there's another one in the same movie which unfortunately often ends up being an incredibly accurate depiction / analogy of everyday life as well: DeNiro's quote as Al Capone when he says how "We learned at a young age that you can get farther in life with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word". Now, while for most it may not literally be the iron of a gun, the truth of that admittedly brutal urban hiaku is in how your words have to be backed up with something practical and tangible, otherwise you're just talking out of your proverbial ass. In this case, and for our purposes, the "iron" isn't a hog leg, but it's rather your actual life and actions which back up your "kind words" - those words and world view which others may tend to interpret as "not strong enough", ... unless you prove otherwise, that is.

     So, yeah, every time I watch that climactic scene in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES I get choked up at the truth of the dialog between Wales and Ten Bears. That's modern literary music somewhere between the poetry of Walt Whitman and the heart wrenching lyricism of James Baldwin. And keep in mind that JOSEY WALES was a western written, filmed and released in the immediate wake of (and deliberately making commentary on) the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Gender Rights Movement and cynical post-Watergate political climate. So, its sensibilities about "bravely bridging gaps" were pertinent as hell. And I personally feel its thematics are equally as pertinent today ... if not more so. As such I always flash back to that climactic "peace summit" every time I encounter another bubble-shrouded social media pundit with more mouth and opinion than actual life experience - that life experience which is gleaned in finding yourself having to dance one-on-one with the Devil.

The "Truth of Ten Bears"

     The Devil's not the best of dance partners. The sonofabitch always wants to lead. But you do learn a lot of hard earned lessons by "dealing with" his diabolical watusi-ing ass. It's only after that where we can come to not just hear but realize and truly understand the (what I like to call) "Truth of Ten Bears" in how ...

     "Treaties on paper mean nothing. Paper cannot hold the iron. The iron can only come from men. There is truth and iron in your words of death, so there is truth and iron in your words of life. 

     It shall be life". 

     Amen, brother!

     And to those on the Left and on the Right who just can't seem to get or download that "Truth of Ten Bears", well, I'm done tryin'. And the only remaining admonishment is to politely but firmly (and don't take this the wrong way) tell you to go f**k yourselves. One day you and your self destructive narrow-mindedness and opinion based on little more than opinion, will die off; and hopefully the next generation will get it just a little bit more right.

     JK livin', y'all.  JK livin'! 


Thursday, February 1, 2018



CEJ: the titular "Straight Guy On His Day Off"

("What's this 'Straight Guy's Musings?") 

     Well, at first it's a witty title meant to grab your attention. But ultimately it's much more. Welcome to the "Man Cave". I guess every writer, musician, illustrator, etc. has their creative "trysting place" where they secretly rendezvous with the muses, or artistic "delivery room" to which they'll retreat "when nature speaks" and those infants of the imagination kick and scream loudly within your belly that they're ready to be born and step into the natural world.

    “MUSINGS OF A STRAIGHT GUY ON HIS DAY OFF” is a title dreamt up years ago for a one man play wherein a fellow on his day off from work kills time while waiting around all morning for the Cable TV Guy to show up - as they‘re always freakin‘ late! He decides to kill said time by breaking down the “fourth wall” between himself and the theater audience, and by (“pseudo Hemingway”-like if you will) shooting the sh*t with them about all manner of things from a more pronounced American male point of view. Things which run the gamut from gender specific to socio-politically controversial, irritating, heartbreaking, uplifting and pretty much everything in between - not unlike daily life itself which more times than not, and without any rhyme, reason, recognizable rhythm, and surely without any fairness, will dig it's spurs into your sides and “Yippie Ki Yay!” free ride your ass down the block when you least expect it.

     During those "when you least expect it" moments we're going to attempt to slow them down a little, dissect them, and, using the dialog between our guy and the audience, also attempt a better understanding of him and that audience - he and they essentially acting as stand-ins for us and the people and various world views we interact with everyday.

Various renditions of THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA:
 (L to R) for stage (2017), film (1958) and television (1990)

     Here's a good analogy, I guess - think of it in some respects as a condensed and modernized version of the three days Hemingway's Santiago does battle with that huge-assed marlin in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. Having no one to chat with during those three days, through Hemingway's prose Santiago allows the audience in on his personal thought processes. And over the course we the readers begin with an external (even cliche'd) view and opinion of him as an older, hairy chested "man's man" who, yeah, has happened upon a bad patch of luck lately, but is determined, as all "men's men" are, to grit it out honorably even if it kills him. But as the elements - including the weather, along with his aging body, recollections of the past and more begin to slowly eat away at Santiago's rough, tumble and (originally thought of as) callous outer layers, we come to discover a genuinely deep and philosophical human being below those callouses.

     In a way Santiago's boat becomes his theater stage, ... his "theatrical Man Cave" of sorts. And this here is the Wal-Mart / Dollar Store knock-off version of that. Oh, and interestingly the final act of our theatrical presentation turns into a two person play when the Cable TV Guy shows up and is revealed to be the Cable TV Woman. And whom, after being filled in on some of the earlier topics of discussion, dives into the proceedings to add her own (at times opposing) take on things.

     Envisioned in a weird way it's kinda / sorta the impressionistic flip-side “guy version” of Eve Ensler’s THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES mashed-up with the Hemingway thing. And yeah, describing it as such paints it as an oddball thematic amalgam to be sure, but I think it works, ... or rather will work. At any rate the intent was always to cull its script from a series of blogs (most of them written casually and near stream-of-consciousness-like in the early A.M.) as well as from responses to those blogs. So consider yourself at ground level with me; the two of us sitting together cross legged on the floor, each with notebooks in our laps, and jotting down subjects, anecdotes and argumentative topics which we think will absolutely fly, ... only later to be scribbled out and replaced with something definitely absolutely a dozen times better. But that's the creative process in general.

    Some of the entries (like the short "Trolling" one which follows below) will be relatively casual, conversational and lightweight social and artistic observations, musings and "Really, who ultimately gives a damn?" opinions, while others will be much more serious and "journalistic" in tone and execution. Over the last few weeks I've been working on two longer entries along those lines - one dealing with bullying, school violence and teen suicide; and the other concerning America's at times harrowing history of immigration policies and practices. As a screenwriter, film maker and (once upon a time) illustrator, some of the entries will of course deal with the creative media arts. As a man some of them will be semi-angry screeds delving into the interpersonal hypocrisy and b.s. of men and women as they (as we) go about the daily energy-sapping grind of "he said / she said" sexual politics and games playing. Another may be a rumination on childhood-to-adulthood. And yet another a nostalgic remembrance of now defunct toys and their buried personal and / or sociological significance. I mean with that one, when a culture goes from "G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip" and JONNY QUEST to Care Bears and My Little Ponies, that's an indication of a society in flux, and with changing views on the roles, assumptions and presumptions of gender in that society. And whether or not one considers that change or flux "good" or "bad" or other will surely speak more to the backstory and worldview of the individual person (and the era in which they grew up) more than anything else. Hey, who knew? Freakin' toys!

     I'd say most personally, however, the entries closest to my heart are the cherished recollections of meetings and conversations with iconic historical and literary figures such as Rosa Parks and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright / actor Jason Miller. As those are the kinds of experiences one can never forget, they definitely help to chart your future life course and world view as much as (if not more than) anything else.

     All of this to say MUSINGS OF A STRAIGHT GUY is essentially a $3-per-movie dump bin of ployglot ideas, experiences and opinions which don't quite fit anywhere else. A pinball machine of the miscellaneous in which to ricochet around under the glass (what appears at first glance to be) unrelated mental hyperboles and hypotheses and posits and possibilities. And maybe even the playground / cage of those metaphorical gorillas who invade a printing shop, toss the individual letter blocks into the air, then when the letters fall to the ground, the apes find that the blocks have somehow aligned themselves into Shakespeare's HAMLET. Okay, maybe that one's a bit much. But you get the idea. In the end we just want to throw a bunch of you-know-what at the proverbial wall to see what actually might stick. And when all's said and done, maybe, hey, just maybe we'll emerge with some semi-intelligent throughline or two which a theater audience can latch onto and take home to chew on a bit. That's not without a little writerly honor, is it? Anyway ...

     As the saying goes, "It ain't brain surgery". Or hey, maybe it actually kind of / sort of is. At any rate ...

     Chat with 'ya soon.



(... and probably a coward too)! HERE'S WHY ...
by CEJ
"Therese Dreaming" (1938) by Balthus: the subject of debate at New York's Met museum

     "Put up or shut up!"
 When's the last time you actually remember hearing someone use that phrase? In an era of being careful to not offend anyone's sensibilities, and where the "Backpedaling Two-step" has become the most popular social media / journalistic version of DANCING WITH THE STARS, it seems to have gone the way of the American buffalo - not quite yet extinct, but perhaps dangling in that "near threatened from existence" category. But just as shouting "I do believe in fairies!" brought Tink back to life, and staring into the mirror and saying the name "Candyman" three times in a row brought him from the land of the undead into our world ("Beetlejuice" too for that matter), I say we verbally pull a big time Lazarus on those magical and powerful words. So, say 'em with me now. But remember, ... you have to believe.

     Put up or shut up, ... Put up or shut up, ... Put up OR SHUT THE RIGHTEOUS F**K UP!
     There will forever be those who tear down and tear apart George Lucas, Michael Bay, and even Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and others. Ultimately no one's immune. As a screenwriter and life long film fan, hey, I get it. And a part of me even says "So be it" as even Her Majesty's own doesn't score a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card on this one. I read a piece a few days ago about how many Millennials are going back, watching the earlier James Bond films, and are (surprise!, surprise!) appalled at those movies' rampant political incorrectness. And many of those Millenials are expressing their displeasure quite vociferously about the cultural icon. On the one hand you just roll your eyes and say, "Oh, brother!". But on the other hand this and other scenarios ... . And hey, it's not just the Millennials, so let's quit beating up on them for a few minutes, huh? But this and other scenarios, such as the recent one where a petition called for the removal of Balthus' painting "Thérèse Dreaming" from New York's Met museum because some felt the image of the young woman in it was "being sexualized", reminded me of a satirical dig legendary author Arthur C. Clarke inserted into his 1990 novel "The Ghost From The Grand Banks".

The far-from-politically-correct GOLDFINGER (1964)

     From the pen of the literary giant and socio-spiritual referee co-responsible for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the primary "A" narrative of GHOST is a whale of a sci fi tale about two rival corporations in the (then) future world of 2012 racing the other to be the first to raise their half of the sunken ocean liner Titanic. But in the backdrop of this "advanced" society - where both political correctness and capitalistic fervor rush hand-in-hand to cash in on damn near any and every thing - classic b&w movies are not only colorized to make them more financially appealing to a new generation of film goers, but they're also digitally altered (with CGI Bogies, Bacalls, Bergmans and others) to be more politically correct. Famous books too! And in retrospect it's funny (that's "funny" disturbing, and not "funny" haha) how Clarke wasn't too far off on predicting that one. At any rate what follows here is what I believe to be much a more sensible (and courageous) alternative to the ever-growing contemporary tide of petitions, demanded alterings, censorship and more when something comes along, or is deemed after being around for decades, as that which may offend another person's or one's own sensibilities. I'll use two examples to illustrate this bit of wisdom: Sidney Poitier and Melissa McCarthy.

BUCK AND THE PREACHER (1972) dir. by Sidney Poitier

     Back during the height of the "blaxploitation" film era of the 1970s many African-American leaders (Jesse Jackson, the NAACP and others) called for a boycott of films like SUPERFLY, HELL UP IN HARLEM, BLACK CAESAR and the like which they felt were perpetuating negative stereotypes about blacks. And hey, they were kinda right. But Poitier and Harry Belafonte felt a better / more complete solution was to "Give people an alternative" which they might enjoy more than what was presently out there. So they teamed on the 1972 western adventure (one with a lot of good-natured humor) BUCK AND THE PREACHER. Scripted by Ernest Kinoy (ROUTE 66, NAKED CITY, VICTORY AT ENTEBBE) the story followed ex Civil War soldier Poitier and con artist preacher Belafonte, who cross paths then end up helping a group of former slaves traverse the frontier to Kansas where they and their newly freed families are promised they'll be able to own and work their own land. Of course there are many determined to keep that from happening. Directed by Poitier it was a hit with both black and white audiences; a hit which led to Poitier's next film with Belafonte (... and Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson and Paula Kelly and Rosalind Cash and Calvin Lockhart and many more), 1974's comedy caper UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT.

     In UPTOWN, Poitier and Cosby play a couple of blue collar working stiffs who decide to lie to their wives one night in order to sneak out to an illegal after hours club to drink and gamble. They're winning big time at the craps tables, and feeling that their life's luck is changing, when the club is then robbed and the patrons stripped of their wallets, jewelry and more. The next day the two luckless friends have to come clean to their significant others upon learning that within Poitier's wallet (taken during the robbery) is a $50,000 winning lottery ticket - a situation which has landed them in hot water with their ladies to say the least! Things go from bad to worse (and hilarious) when the two schmoes - in best Ralph Kramden / Ed Norton fashion - set out to find the ticket, and in the process find themselves stumbled and tumbled into a gangland war between mob bosses Harry Belafonte (doing a great Brando THE GODFATHER send up) and Calvin Lockhart.

UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT (1974) dir. by Sidney Poitier

     While below the surface it's twisty-turvy plotline is an homage to Damon Runyon (of GUYS AND DOLLS and LITTLE MISS MARKER fame), and while even the gangster characters' dialog and names ("Silky Slim", "Geeche Dan", etc.) have a Runyon-esque tone to them, on an even more sly and intelligent substrata level the bad guys in the PG-rated / family friendly UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT function as hilarious spoofs of, and manage to cut the legs out from under, the mob boss and pimp characters seen in earlier films such as the aforementioned SUPERFLY as well as CLEOPATRA JONES, SHAFT'S BIG SCORE, COFFY, FOXY BROWN and the rest. An even bigger crossover hit than BUCK AND THE PREACHER, Poitier's UPTOWN led to him directing two popular follow up comedies starring himself and Cosby as well as later films such as the Gene Wilder / Richard Pryor classic STIR CRAZY.  But more impressively UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT proved to the major studios that there was a huge audience waiting for a lot more than (as Pryor's bogus private eye character says in UPTOWN) those "Super N**ger who beats up on the white boy from the Mafia" movies.

     Now fast forward to Melissa McCarthy.

BRIDESMAIDS (2011) dir. by Paul Feig
     One couldn't help but be impressed as all hell with McCarthy's class, poise, and focused creativity back when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 2011's BRIDESMAIDS. Normally when an actress is nominated, fashion designers fall over themselves like contestants on THE BACHELOR in offering to make the nominated actress a dress to wear to the grand red carpet event as it's huge publicity for said designer's label. But because she was a large woman McCarthy didn't have that gauntlet of designers beating a path to her door. But rather than go into a funk, pen blogs about the industry's impossible standards of beauty, and point fingers during interviews, McCarthy very much said "F**k 'em!", and decided (as she'd herself also studied design back in school) to launch her own clothing line of stylish attire - both formal and casual wear - for larger women like herself.

     She also decided to not wait for others to create respectable roles for her, but (like Poitier) took her destiny into her own hands by founding the motion picture company "On The Day" with husband and frequent director Ben Falcone, which would go on to produce films such as TAMMY, THE BOSS and the upcoming Brian Henson puppet comedy / thriller THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS. Pretty hard after all of that to not totally fall in love with McCarthy as both an artist and as simply the most damned admirable of individuals in general, wouldn't you say? And that's the point.

     Damned easy to from a distance troll and chuck stones at another person and / or their work; and then to later plead / "hide" behind the nuevo "Fifth Amendment" stance of "I'm entitled to my opinion". But much harder however to step out, step up and offer one's own alternative to that which you say is lacking in that which is presently being offered. Hey, as for those guys like Michael Bay who catch a lot of flack for the "Loud crap movies" they make? No, he's no Hitchcock or Cocteau. Nor does he pretend to be. But, like Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg he feels he should always be working. And as such if it's not on a film it'll be on commercials or music videos or Victoria Secret spots (nice work there if you can get it!) or whatever, as it allows him to become acquainted with the newest equipment, techniques and talented young up-and-coming film makers out there. To me that's a work and artistic ethic I can admire.

     The same with Spike Lee. While some may not dig all of his films, he's constantly directing not only features but concerts, plays-to-film, commercials, documentaries, stand up specials (he helmed the now classic THE KINGS OF COMEDY, y'know!), you name it. And once again, mucho respect for the work ethic there. There's a lot to be learned from that even if one isn't necessarily personally inclined to his or Bay's brand of film making per se. We live in world now where it's much easier for anyone, more than it was even ten years ago, to write their own script, short story or comic book or comic strip; or to shoot their own mini-doc or short film. Hell, in many instances you can get better near-professional cinematic results these days with an iPhone pimped with consumer friendly accessories, and an editing program on your laptop, than you could back in the 1990s and early 2000s with straight up professional film equipment. Then from there, instead of spending a year or two submitting to, and being rejected by, various film festivals, look at all of those who post their work to YouTube, Vimeo or any number of other online outlets for it to be seen by the masses. There are even online outlets now which function as both streaming sites for short films and works-in-progress as well as crowdfunding portals to raise money to see those films completed or expanded into features. So today there's no excuse to sit on the sidelines and merely chuck stones.

     I know actors, writers and directors who got fed up with waiting, and with putting up with the sometimes abusive, harassing and "'We'll get back to you'-but-they-never-do" nature of the industry. So they did a Melissa McCarthy "FU!" then went out and did their own thing. And I'd bet next month's rent or mortgage that many of you know musicians and comic book artists, and game designers and fashion designers and photographers and painters and more who did the same, and have since established careers by choosing not to spend their valuable time and energy trolling, protesting and tearing down someone else's work, or trying to have it censored because it may be perceived as offensive. But no, they chose to take the Poitier road of creating an alternative. They chose to channel that energy into doin' their own sh*t, being straight-up "Put up or shut up!" kinds of people. And those are the kinds of people who see and effect real change; and not those who spend hours coming up with alliterated verbal putdowns, or pasting together disparaging and insulting memes.

     How 'bout you there sitting cross-legged on the floor with me? ...

2013's ten minute thriller THE FLYING MAN, which posits the disturbing notion of a violently 
psychotic vigilante with super powers, was written & directed by FX animator Marcus Alqueres on a 
budget of approx. $5,000 (Canadian) dollars. It has since become an independent online hit, and 
garnered the attention of Sony Pictures with an eye towards expanding it into a feature.

     Will you "ride the bench" as we used to say back in Pop Warner football? Will you sit on the sidelines offering mournful and angry 5th Amendment-like "opinion" on how "Things are just not like they once were", how everyone is "nowadays f**king everything creative and good into oblivion with remakes and sequels", or how "AutoTune and ProTools just cover up for people who never learned how to read music or carry a tune"? Or will you count yourself among those who get up off the creative couch and toss their own hats into the ring in an attempt to bring a little heart and soul to that which they genuinely love? 

     In the end it seems (to me at least) that the most likely reasons not to step out (or step out once again!) and do one's "own sh*t" most often boil down to little more than laziness and / or a fear of putting one's own self "out there". Because when one does, that person very much sets himself or herself up as the next possible target at which some other troll, etc. can (and most certainly will) chuck some huge-assed stones. But hey, there 'ya go. No one ever said it was gonna be fair or kind. But in the end "Put up or shut up" always wins the day, and even changes one's own world.

     Just ask Sidney and Melissa.

     Thanks for stopping by the "Man Cave". We'll have to do this again.

     Chat with 'ya soon,



_____________________________________________ FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)     Remember near the end of FIELD OF DREAMS when James...