Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Leaf

Life is short.  At the end of it, we will look back and regret every single moment we spent wasted in dealing with our own mediocrity, rather than pushing toward our own brilliance.

To blame others is easy - to say it is THEIR mediocrity that holds us back, THEIR inability to see what is so apparent, THEIR fears and limitations - but isn't it really our own responsibility for granting them that kind of power over us?  Isn't it up to us, to push toward the future we want?  To surround ourselves with the kinds of people who will build the world we want to inhabit?

Through my work on Joe the Bloodhound, I recently met a remarkable woman named Rachel Jackson, who runs a group called Patriot Outreach/PPP Recovery Program.  Her program serves all Service related warriors, law enforcement, DOD Military Contractors and their families, and she's just begun working with Joe.  She wants to help train returning military personnel in the art of working with dogs and other animals to locate the missing.

Think about that for a second.  She's helping the returning soldiers, many of whom have PTSD or other challenges in adjusting to civilian life.  She's helping family members with missing loved ones.  And what's more, she's helping animals -- she's using dogs and other animals like horses in the searches, many of whom would basically be wasted otherwise, some of the horses, I kid you not, winding up in a glue factory.

So, while you're bemoaning your fate, ask yourself:

Is that a better way to spend your time than kicking the sidewalk because of the challenges inherent in 21st Century Life?

Rachel's recently started an online petition to help JOE THE BLOODHOUND go to series -

2400 people go missing in this country EVERY DAY - and as Rachel says, if the show becomes a series, Joe can help find some of them, ease their families pain, and shed valuable light on this hidden epidemic.

So please take a moment to sign her petition:

Or, by all means, keep kicking the sidewalk.

I for one just came back from the shoe repair store, where the man was nice enough to charge me only $8 for repairing a boot whose front was helplessly scuffed up.  My hope for 2012 is to keep the shoe repair to a minimum.

Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


There are two things I want to say about Joe Nick, who appears in JOE THE BLOODHOUND, our company's newest project, which airs Wednesday, December 7, on the Bio Channel, at 10 PM EST:

1.  He does good.  By which I mean: the work he does is an absolute good in the world.  He looks for missing people, and who could possibly find anything wrong with that?

The horror of losing someone -- a child wandering off at the mall, a grandfather who forgets to take his meds and heads to the bus station, a teenager who never shows up to meet her friends at the movies -- that's where Joe's job starts, and he does it incredibly well.  He's had over 250 cases, and in only one instance -- an instance that haunts him every day of his life -- has he been unable to find the missing person.  He does good, and he does it great.

2.  He's a TV star.  This one may be a little less subjective, but it's absolutely true.  They say a great actor can entertain you by reading the phone book.  Well, I'd pay to watch Joe search for a jar of mustard.  He's that good.

So, the official info:

For over 25 years Joe was a top K-9 cop with the New Jersey State police, using dogs to help find missing people and fugitives.  Now that he's retired, he's still doing it.

Joe's simple, direct, yet incredible passion for finding missing people will keep viewers coming back for more.

JOE THE BLOODHOUND airs Wednesday, December 7 at 10 PM EST on the Bio Channel. 

Hope you can watch.


A woman named Rachel Jackson, who runs PPP/Bring Them Home Now, an organization devoted to helping veterans, has started an online petition to help convince the networks to make JOE THE BLOODHOUND a regular series.  Please take a moment to sign:  Thanks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I give you, yet again...

May 14, 1972.

A day with an almost magical sound to it.

The second Sunday in a glorious May in a year in which our father would later be in Vietnam, the center of the world for killing and death and war, and something that seemed to be ripping everything in what it meant to be an American all to hell.

Willie Mays is coming to town.  The best ballplayer around.  Charlie Brown's favorite player, to say nothing of ours - the great center fielder for the San Francisco Giants.  And we had tickets for Mother's Day.  A game between us - the Mets - and the San Francisco Giants.  We would get to see Willie Mays!

But then, suddenly, Mays has been traded to the Mets.  And the tickets are for HIS FIRST GAME BACK IN TOWN - to play for the Mets.

Memory tells me that the boxscore the next day indicated that either 34 or 37,000 fans come out to Shea that afternoon.


Staub the grand slam in the first inning.  Mays having drawn a lead-off walk, clapping his hands down the bases, the first to greet Staub when he reached the plate.  (Lead-off?  The man was 41 years old!  And he'd always been, basically, a # 3 hitter.  What was this?) 

4-0 in the first.  Cheering, pandemonium, bedlam.  We were in the Mezzanine at old Shea and saw the ball all the way down the line away from us, just near that old 338 sign in right field.

Somehow - it all ellides - the Giants tie the score.  And it's drizzling, and people are taking out weird thin pieces of orange plastic to put on themselves, crappy horrible ponchos - like thin slices of poncho -

And it's the fifth inning, and Mays is up again.  (Oh my God.  He must have come up one other time.  What in the world did he do then?) 

He lines a pitch to deep left, and it just barely clears the wall, and we are cheering and jumping up and down like crazy.

The rain, I guess, ended things somewhere in there -- though whether the game limped along till the 8th inning like Dad once said (it didn't)*, or the rains came down after 5 and the umps waved the tarp on, and then a long waiting game was played, and the energy seeped out of the stadium, and then finally the game was called - it kinda doesn't really matter, because the game was over, 5 to 4, Mays had hit a home run on Mother's Day to win the game and it all made Mom very happy.

Or wouldn't it be pretty to think so?

* I was wrong.  The rains may have come, but the game was completed.  Perhaps the Davis children were told that the game had ended and whisked out of the ballpark after the fifth inning..?

Monday, November 29, 2010

All Things Must Pass

It was 70 years ago today.... All his troubles seemed so far away.... Isn't it a pity? *

Amid the incredible outpouring of Lennoniana, boomer tears, and general hagiography that is being unleashed on the culture these past few months, as we all celebrate and solemnize both what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, and, more creepily, the 30th anniversary of his shooting, I thought I would point out what is, to me, the very essence of John Lennon -- what makes him so interesting a figure, culturally and personally, not to mention psychologically.

It is, in my mind, an edit as powerful as David Lean's cut from Peter O'Toole blowing out the match ("the trick is in not minding it hurts") to the sunrise over the desert in Lawrence of Arabia.  And one of the things that's interesting about the cut is that, unlike finicky Paul, John never seemed to take that much of an interest in things like song sequences or album concepts.  But the juxtaposition here is stunning - and what does it mean?

It's on Imagine, Lennon's second solo album - and the album named after one of the great inspirational and anthemic songs in Lennon's (or anyone's) canon, the transcendently loving hymn to universal brotherhood.  The seventh song I hapen to like even more than "Imagine" -- "Oh My Love," as simple and as sweet and honest a love song as you're gonna hear from anyone, any time.  The voice is gentle, and again, the spirit is open - open to the world - 'my eyes are wide open' - and profoundly accepting of the world.  'My eyes can see.'

Cut To...?

The cruelest, most vicious personal attack song you can, well, imagine: "How Do You Sleep?"  I don't care what he told Dick Cavett, that is NOT a song about himself.  Or, to the extent that it is, it is also, quite obviously and painfully, an eviscerating attack on Paul.

How can the same man not only have written these two songs, so wildly different in nature, but decided to place them back to back on the album he recorded and released just as he was hitting his stride as a solo artist? And why have we, who have canonized the man practically out of all recognition, forgotten this edit?  It's as if John were telling the world, "Oho!  Oh, no!  Ono!  Don't make too much of the Imagine-all-the-people-living-for-today stuff.  Don't forget I'm a right bastard."  It's as if Obama had ended his campaign speeches by saying, "Yes - We - Can!" and then added, "You fucking assholes."  It's the kind of thing that if it were done today, if someone put together an anthology of great John songs and ordered them that way, we would all have a serious 21st Century cow about it.

Yet he did it himself.  He lulled us into this loving mood, then kicked us in the balls.

Thanks, John.  Thanks a lot.

As must be clear, I am a bit of a Beatle nerd - I came by it very naturally and somewhat late in the game - it wasn't till my twenties that I started inhaling the stuff - and I've noticed something about John, and that song in particular.

You kinda have to be in a certain mood.

A year or so ago, at the crest of some Beatle wave, I made a playlist called "After Beatles" (Volume 1, if you want to be specific about it), which consisted of songs written by the Ex-Beatles after the breakup.  It's a nice little 'what if' kind of thing, and has proved for some reason to be the perfect music to wash dishes to.  And though I wasn't really conscious of it as I made the playlist, it tells a bit of a story and a pretty interesting one.  It starts with Ringo's "I'm the Greatest," written by John, of course, a  hilarious and fun song, with lovely comments on the whole Beatles thing - "I was in the greatest show on Earth/for what it was worth," then segues into John's "Imagine" before hitting two songs which seem to comment directly on the fate of our beloved group: Paul's 'Man We Was Lonely' and George's "Isn't it a Pity?"  At that point, Paul comes back with his joyous if somewhat silly recent song, "Dance Tonight," an infectious litte ditty that grates on you the first time you hear it, even as you know you'll never get it out of your head.

And then, as if to reassert his dominance, John roars back with his big 'fuck you' to Paul.  (Of course, I am not a crazy man - I am aware of the fact that it was I, not John, who, consciously or not, decided to have John roar back -- but the effect is of John himself storming back, almost as violently as he did on Imagine.)  And guess what?

I skip it about 99% of the time.

Paul famously sang that John 'took [his] lucky break and broke it in two,' and the poor guy (richest man in show business, but poor Paul all the same) has taken a lot of heat for forcing the break-up, for not being nicer to Yoko, for being light and shallow, for being too easy on himself, for settling for entertaining when artistic and soulful were so close to his grasp -- but every once in a while, you kind of have to think: Jesus, Paul was lucky to get away from the guy.  Let him spread his - you guessed it - Wings, and see how he could do on his own.  And Paul did just fine.

In the end, of course, they were like brothers - in competition, always, but loving and bound together to the very end.  What the two of them had - the four of them, really - none of us can ever really know.  We can all just be grateful that they had it as long as they did.  And whoever your favorite Beatle is, whatever you think of John's assholicness, or Paul's annoyingnes, or George's Georgeness, or Ringo's just plain Starkeyishness, or even if you've accepted that it was the four of them - greater than the sum of their parts - that made the music that shook the world - you do have to know a very simple truth:

We wouldn't have had it, not any of it, if not for John.

Rest in Peace.

* to anticipate an obvious comment: as with the title, these are all adaptations or lyrics from songs written by the other Beatles

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Hall Of Underrated Geniuses

A while back (if I was a different kind of blogger, I'd underline that phrase, and you could click on it and go find where), I talked about how bloggers all search (at least in the back of their minds) for that idea they can just go to, again and again -- Stuff White People Like, Julia Child's Recipies cooked by someone in a Nora Ephron movie, etc., etc. -- and I definitely feel like I know what mine would be: Things, or People, We all Admit are Great, but Which are in Fact Actually Underrated.  Or, more simply: Hall of Underrated Geniuses.  Or HUG, for short.  (Think is taken?  Shoulda gotten here in 1994...)

And actually, 1994 was a high point for my latest inductee.  Pulp Fiction. 

Now, at the time, I was not a fan of him who we call QT.  Not at all.  When I saw Reservoir Dogs, I was probably basically just so consumed with jealousy that I remember, at the end, when the two guys blew each other away (is that what happened?), I remembert a tremendous wave of righteous and totally characteristic (for late 20s me, anyway) feeling of moral superiority rise up in me.  As the screen went black and I sat, alone (ah! the late 20s!) in a movie theater, feeling the full effect of the totally disgusting scene I had just witnessed, I thought, "Aha!  The guy has no heart!  He hasn't lived!  Stupid video geek!" -- and I basically dismissed him.

But Pulp Fiction -- Pulp Fiction came a couple years later, and I had mellowed, maybe, or gotten happier anyway -- and by the time I saw it I was married, or about to be, to someone who recognized Reservoir Dogs for what it was - a truly original and brilliantly structured screenplay, storytelling prowess that just doesn't fall out of a tree -- and so I went to Pulp Fiction much more willing to hear what it had to say.

And I loved it.  From the moment that HUGE credit came down, I was totally hooked.  (Had problems, as always, with Tim Roth's American accent, but nothing's perfect.)  

Now, at the time, it was quite clear to me that Pulp Fiction was a REALLY GREAT movie, and I thought we all knew that.  Sure, it wasn't going to win best Picture, and a lot of people, especially in older generations (like the man I was working for at the time), thought it was immature and immoral and insulting (?), but for the most part, it made such a splash that I was quite sure we would all come in a few years to simply know: this was a GREAT movie.

And yet -- "Fargo"?  "Shawshank Redemption"?  Puh-lease! 

So, to cut to the chase -- the guy made Jackie Brown, which was quiet but fine and about a million times better than anything the Coen Brothers could touch - Kill Bill 1 and 2, both of which had things in it that haunt me to this day -- that 'silly thing' with Rodriguez which I didn't see but which probably isn't nearly as silly as they all say... and then Inglorious Basterds, which I just finished watching ten minutes ago and which is probably the most purely entertaining and gripping movie I have seen in years.  And brilliant on so many levels. 

Give it up for the guy.  He's the best we have, and he's running on all cylinders right now. 

And as it happens, it's still his birthday on the West Coast.

And what better present could he receive than this certificate:

OFFICIAL INDUCTEE, Hall Of Underrated Geniuses: Quentin Tarantino


Monday, December 28, 2009

Everything is not interesting

To the Buddhist, I guess, everything is interesting.  And to a filmmaker, I think maybe that's true too.  You can look at footage of a handyman and his watering can, and before long you're William Carlos Williams in your mind, making poetry out of the tiny.  The watering can is the endless source of life, the water is God's blood, and the man -- hell, the man is me, the man is you.

But let's get real: as terrific as that attitude can be, in school especially, it can lead to a heck of a lot of problems.  And sometimes I wish I'd been born with a little less of that "wonderful, childlike capacity" to find entertainment and fascination in the smallest, most mundane of human interactions.

Because guess what?  When we're making things for an actual paying audience, we better put on that 'easily bored' hat, or two things happen:

1) We don't get our projects off the ground, because they bore the people with the ability to fund them;


2) We take forever to make our things.

I was stuck for most of the day doing a dangerous dance with #2 -- at work on a potentially solid commercial project about which I really can't say much other than it's an observational documentary series with an amazing setting and some terrific characters. 

It's the kind of project where if I had thirty-five minutes of material to work with, I would make a two minute reel in a day and be thrilled with the end result.  Instead, I have about twelve hours of material with which to work.  The challenge is to watch it with ruthless eyes.

But it's hard.  Because everything seems interesting.

Except it isn't.

Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

They're All Greek to Me

This blog has been silent for a while, flummoxed in some ways by its having outlived its original intent: ie, to make sure Barack Obama got elected President.

The Greek word for Idiot, John F. Kennedy was fond of reminding us, is someone not interested in politics. But I have to admit that after the sturm und Durang of last year's election, my lifelong distaste for politics got the better of me, and I decided, really, to stop paying attention to the goings-on in our National political discourse for awhile. I became, in a word, an idiot.

I was dimly aware of the back and forth on issues like the pirates, gay marriage, the economy, the health care crisis, and even this absurd education speech scandal. But I didn't take any of it too seriously -- it would all work out, I assumed - Obama and his band of best and brightest would find a way to make it all work --

But then, this morning on facebook, I found myself innocently commenting on someone's reposting of a rather vile Hitler=Obama video on YouTube. The friend who'd posted it had written "Where do you think this hatred ends? I am afraid to guess." And in response, instinctively, I wrote:

Let's just say it: if Obama leaves office alive, it'll be a miracle, almost as miraculous as this country electing him in the first place.

And then I looked at what I'd written. And I thought, what am I trying to do, just cover my ass if someone does take a shot at the guy? Be able to say, "see, I warned you all"?

Not good enough.

It's time to get my head out of the goddamn sand again. I don't want to, God knows, but frankly if the unthinkable does happen, it will have been my fault (at least partially) if I've just been hiding out and letting other people fight all the battles. And yes, I'm busy with actual life and work and being a Dad and all that, but I am also, I hate to say it, a member of society. And I don't like the way this one is headed, not at all.

See you Wednesday night.