Sunday, February 24, 2013


These guys have families, just like the rest of us.

Here's the truth: I've never served in the military. I've never engaged in more than a battle of paintball. In fact, I wasn't even very good at paintball. Yet I can appreciate the service others give on behalf of this place called America. My grandfather served in World War II and was severely wounded in combat. Same for my  uncle. My brother in law is currently doing his second tour in Afghanistan. While I may not have a clue what it's like to fight, I'm well aware of the sacrifice veterans and their families make.

Which is why I'm so aggravated at the moment. Chris Kyle was a Navy Seal who served this country and served it well. While he killed a lot of people, he did so on the battlefield, against an enemy that had nefarious designs on the Western World. In short, there was a huge difference between Chris Kyle and, say, the Newtown murderer.

Yet many disagree. After Kyle was shot by an unhinged veteran at a shooting range, Twitter was filled with comments from those claiming he had it coming. What's ironic is that most of those same people presented themselves as being thoughtful, nuanced, and, yes, compassionate. I guess they felt that their self-righteousness took away any need for critical thinking skills.

And so, while Whitney Houston got flags throughout the country to be lowered to half-mast, Chris Kyle got condemned by the very people he was defending. What's scary to me isn't this incredibly backwards way of thinking, however. It's that society as a whole is okay with it.

Years ago, I listened in shock as the writer of one of the Batman films described General Patton to a screenwriting class I was taking as "our Nazi." As the grandson of someone who served under the man, I was offended. Yet I eventually let the comment slide, since the writer just seemed to me like a typical Hollywood screwball. Nowadays, however, I've little doubt that more Americans think like him than don't.

And that's scary.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

They're Afraid...They're Very Afraid

So this is what evil looks like.

Terrorism is everywhere. Racism is everywhere. Homophobia is everywhere. Chauvinism is everywhere. Second hand smoke is everywhere. Offensive humor is everywhere. Corporate greed is everywhere. Guns are everywhere. Bullies are everywhere.Trans fats are everywhere. Big Gulps are everywhere (except New York City). Happy Meals are everywhere. Plastic grocery bags are everywhere. People who use plastic grocery bags are everywhere. Natural disasters are everywhere. Incurable diseases are everywhere.

Danger is everywhere...and you are not safe.

Got it?

Of course you do. Yet you go on with your life, discerning which threats are truly serious and which are over-blown or agenda-driven.

Thing is, our children aren't making those distinctions. They're being taught not to. Simply put, our kids are being overwhelmed by alarm bells. The inner fight which is necessary for a happy and successful life is being taken right out of them at the earliest age possible.

Our classrooms have turned awareness into obsession. Our politicians have turned healthy fear into paranoia.  And our Entertainment Industrial Complex (which, in this day and age, is far more nefarious than a complex of the military variety) sees to it that no child is left behind to think on his or her own.

After all, so the logic goes, in a world as dangerous as ours, there really is no room for original thought. We must all stick together, do what those who wish to protect us order, and hope for the best. To deviate from the group in any way is to wander into the forest of nightmares. And no one wants to do that.


I may not agree with Nick Gillespie on all matters, but he's written a pretty good article  about the state of our nation's young people for Gillespie argues that American youth has a tradition of being rebellious. And he's right. Just look at the 60s. Or the 20s. Hey, even we Generation Xers took the time to whine back in the 90s.

Yet today, Gillespie argues, our young people are not only content with, but are actually dependent on, the system. They don't want to rebel from their parents. They don't want to gripe about their government. They don't want to view the world in any way other than the way they've been told to. And they're going to suffer the consequences for it.

I, however, don't blame the kids. Nor do I think that rebellion is the oh-so-cool thing that all young hipsters should embrace. I simply believe that it's natural for young people to want to spread their wings beyond the realm of indie rock bands. And today's young people don't seem to have that organic intuition. It's been surgically removed from them by the powers that be.

And that's dangerous. Not just for the kids, either. For all of us. After all, the future is theirs...and some day no one will be there to tell them how to run it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

The world's greatest cat is perplexed by some of the tweets she's been reading.

Former Los Angeles policeman Chris Dorner killed four innocent people. Yet many individuals think he's a hero. Don't believe me? Try Googling his name. Or, better yet, go on Twitter. You're likely to find more supporters than you will those who are horrified by his actions.

Oh, his fans will say they don't like the crimes he committed. It's just that they understand Dorner was battling against an unjust system. Is your B.S. detector going off yet? It should be.

This phenomena of people turning bad seeds into folk heroes is, unfortunately, nothing new. It usually happens during uncertain times. Jesse James and his murderous gang, for instance, existed during the chaos of post Civil War America. They subtracted people from a lot of families, yet, like Dorner, they had their fans.

Why? Because times were bad and people were angry. Just like now.

Dorner wrote a manifesto where he claimed his life was harmed by racism. His supporters view this as a kind of justification. Give me a break. Thinking racism somehow justifies Dorner's actions is like thinking the Treaty of Versailles justified Hitler's invasion of Poland.  

If there's anything that separates Dorner's story from that of a common thug it's the fact that he seemed to be a throwback to Depression-era criminals like "Baby Face" Nelson and Bonnie and Clyde -  psychopaths who weren't afraid to take a few law enforcement officials with them on their way to the morgue.

I'll save my applause for someone more deserving.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Deciphering What People Want

Yes, everyone has an opinion.

Let me start right off by saying I'm a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. Not only do I think the man is a great director, I believe he's one of the five greatest writers living today. Still, QT - as he's known by fanboys - brought something up during a recent  interview which got me thinking.

While discussing his latest film, Django Unchained, Tarantino got to talking about the classic miniseries Roots. Pointing to the end of the saga, where a black man spares a brutal white oppressor a whipping, Tarantino argued that the mercy shown onscreen disappointed millions of viewers. 

The question is, was Tarantino right?

In my own script, Hastings, a situation arises about two-thirds of the way into the story which is similar to the one at the end of Roots. Having routed the hideous Viking forces which have invaded their homeland, an angry crowd of Englishmen attempts to burn a Viking prisoner alive. This ruthless execution is halted, however, by the English king, who simply claims that "we aren't like them."

Tarantino might find such a scene disappointing, but would he be correct in doing so? While it could be argued that Hastings was rejected by a major management company, while Django Unchained has gone on to earn accolades (as well as a huge amount of money), success settles few arguments -  and personal tastes settle even fewer. 

I ultimately would opine there's no way of finding out how most people feel about scenes where mercy is shown to the unmerciful. Every fan sees things differently, after all. I would also argue that a lot depends on delivery. If the repulsive white man in Roots was whipped to within an inch of his life in the style of, say, a Saturday Night Live skit, well, audiences might not have been too happy. If, on the other hand, the same character were whipped Tarantino style...

One piece of advice, however, to those wishing to put acts of mercy into their creative works: be aware of the fact that such scenes have been done a thousand times before. Try not to insert it into the finale of your piece. If you must, then make sure you do it in a way no one has ever done before.

Who knows? Perhaps even Tarantino will become a fan. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shooting Low

Cody, the world's greatest cat, was bored to death with the Total Recall remake.
Okay, I report it when I have good news, so I have to come clean when bad news rears its ugly head. My script, Hastings, has been passed over by management powerhouse Kaplan/Perrone. It's depressing news, of course, but I'm handling it okay. Sometimes you have to ask yourself if it's your writing, and not "the industry" that's the problem.

I don't have any answers yet, but something strange has been going on lately: I'm finding myself interested in films that many would consider middling fare. For instance, the Tyler Perry thriller Alex Cross is one I'm eager to rent if and when it's on In Demand. Jack Reacher, the under-performing Tom Cruise flick, is another. Truth be told, the last movie I rented that wasn't a documentary was the remake of Total Recall with Colin Farrell that was both a critical and commercial disaster last summer.

Of course, there's nothing strange with wanting to indulge in mid-level genre stuff like the above mentioned titles. I've always loved thrillers, after all. Yet I also used to love high-end stuff, too. Back in the day, I'd engross myself in the works of Scorcese, Antonioni, Welles, and Malick. What's more, Fellini, Altman, Kubrick, and Lean were directors whose styles and themes I could discuss at length.

A sea change is clearly occurring. While Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead remains on my all time favorite list, I'm being drawn a few rungs down the ladder now - at least in general. And I can't tell whether or not that's a bad thing. I guess the big question is whether this is just a phase I'm going through or whether this will all effect my own creativity.

I guess time will tell.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Did A Great Game Ring In A New Era?

Since copyright laws are confusing, I 've simply decided to post a pic of myself at Newport last March.

      Another Super Bowl has come and gone. This was a good one, no doubt about it. The fact that a power outage almost won the game for the 49s was enough to make it memorable. Apparently the television ratings for last night's matchup broke records, too. I'm happy to know that. Football really is America's game now. It unites us. Piers Morgan may think we're silly, but everyone knows it's condescending Europeans who are silly, so there you have it.  
      As for the commercials, they, as a whole, were memorable, too. What made them so was the fact that some of them were actually nice. Sure, GoDaddy spent a mint to air an ad which pretty much gave the finger to parents, but, unfortunately, there's millions of generally sad and disappointed individuals out there who find such inappropriate crap cathartic. The fact that Madison Avenue now caters to these unfotunates means the rest of us are going to have to suck it up, at least for the time being.

      Besides, it was the good stuff that stole the show last night. Budweiser ran an amazing Clydesdale ad (even by Clydesdale ad standards) which pulled at the heart strings and pulled at them well (not an easy thing to do, by the way). Ram Trucks also placed a terrific piece praising farmers. I saw some of the offended class complaining about this particular ad on Twitter because it primarily featured white males. Let's face it, though, members of the offended class would probably be happier just ignoring the big game next year and hanging out with Piers.
      Then there was Jeep's masterful ad, which was narrated by Oprah and featured the plight of veterans and their families. I'm sure the offended class was somehow put off by this commercial, too. We'll never know for sure, though, since no one speaks out against anything Oprah touches (in this case, I'm actually happy about that). If you haven't seen it, check it out online, along with the Budweiser and Ram ads. They're all well worth your time.
      Of course, sincere and powerful commercials have never really gone away. In recent times, however, they've certainly fallen behind crasser and less intelligent fare. In the end, however, Super Bowl 2013 may have brought nice back into the American consciousness.
      Not a moment too soon, either.