Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good enough to jump right out of skin

My oldest son (17) found this today while we were in the back yard doing a little cleaning.
I'm at a loss to say much about it as it speaks for itself. Just the outer shells are left, presumably they shed their old skin during the act. Maybe someone can explain how this is even possible, or convenient.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Moon - Get up, go find it and put another ass in the seat

"Moon". When I first heard of it (from a twitter post) I thought it was the Twilight sequel "New Moon", but no, thankfully Moon is really quite different and has been playing now for a few weeks. Until then I had not heard of it nor seen any press, ad's, reviews or the like. Saw it this afternoon.

My wife is not a big sci-fi fan, she mostly puts up with it because I am. But she agreed to venture out this afternoon in the 100 plus degree afternoon to see Moon anyway. I think she feared the worst, some alien exploding out of someone's chest...again. Thankfully it wasn't like that. She liked it , really liked it, and so did I.

Moon being an Indie film just isn't getting the kind of ad and big time Hollywood promotion that it should get. Too bad because it's good. Directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, written by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker. Moon takes place in the near future on the far side of the moon. You can see the trailer here.


Moon took 33 days to shoot on a modest budget and was shown at Cannes and the Sundance festival were it received great reviews. It has a limited release at this time and therefore is hard to find, heck, I live in the 5th largest metro area in the US and only 3...wait now down to 2 screens were showing it, and then only at a few limited times. Thank god for Dan Harkins and his chain of theaters. Dan is in the business for more than popcorn sales, he loves great movies and in this area his chain is the only place were 3.5 million people can go see it. Happy to say that the theater was nearly full.

I am not going say what Moon is about, because you should just go see it, even if it requires packing up the truck and driving to the big city for the afternoon.
Go see it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Real Drama - Fender's Hall of Fame

I have a point to make about fiction writing, and I'll get to that point toward the end of this blog. But before I do I need to setup the event that leads me to my point.

It is a special day today at Fender Musical Instruments. Today is Fender's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The event is held at the Tempe Center for Arts , a 600 seat performance theatre. This is the third year for this event

This year Mike Yamano and James Jamerson were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I want to focus on the induction ceremony for James Jamerson to Fender's Hall of Fame.

If you don't know who James is then you will certainly know his Motown work. James was a bassist and a remarkable one at that. He is reported to have played on something like 95% of the Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968. A few examples are, "My Girl" by The Temptations, "For Once in my Life" by Stevie Wonder, "What's Going On" , "I heard it through the Grape Vine" by Marvin Gay, and earlier by Gladys Knight and the Pips. He also had a post Motown career playing on a number of hits in the seventies, eventually his bass playing was heard on more than 30 number 1 pop hit records.

The induction ceremony for James Jamerson was a moving and thought provoking presentation. It included a video featuring the likes of Grammy award winning bassist Marcus Miller (Luther Vandross / Miles Davis / David Sanborn), vocalist / bassist Geddy Lee (Rush), and others. They spoke from the heart about how James Jamerson influenced their work, and how James labored in obscurity through his life.

In those days little credit was given to studio musicians and for more than a decade James worked every day in anonymity. Eventually, in 1971 his name was printed on the sleeve of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On. Years later, after he passed away more and more people became aware of the contributions to the music community he made.

Bob Babbitt was at the induction ceremonies today, Bob himself has played on over 200 top 40 records including Inner City Blues and Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye, Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight, Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and much more.

Bob took the stage to talk about Mr. Jamerson's playing and the way James influenced generations of new bass players. During his talk, Bob would pause, perhaps being overcome by emotion. The house with hundreds in attendance would go completely silent.

At the beginning of this blog post I said it was a thought provoking event. The thoughts provoked don't have much to do with Fender or the inductees or the Hall of Fame event. But they do have a lot to do with the quality of storytelling and dramatic writing/acting that we are exposed to everyday.

We all have occasion to see a well done movie or television or theatre from time to time. But for me, after today it all just looks concocted and flat. Because today we were treated to the real thing. Real drama, real people , real events, real emotion. I'm not talking about "drama queen" drama. You know,, the daily BS that some people like to roll around in. I'm talking about the real thing.

It was Bob Babbitts talk regarding James Jamerson. As far as I know Bob's not an actor, nor does he play one on TV. He's just a regular guy who is speaking from the heart about a colleague. Bob's talk today makes the best movie drama you have ever seen look pale and dull and lifeless. Like comparing a real woman to a blow-up doll. It makes the best modern drams of today look like the worst dramas of the 30's and 40's.

When Bob first took the stage he mentioned he had thought about writing down what he was going to say. But when it came time to talk he just spoke from the heart.
Words came out that no writer would or could write. They flowed in a way that no actor could fake. The words were well measured and slowly metered out in a way no director concerned with moving the story forward would allow. The professionalism of the writers, actors, and directors would just get in the way. You might say, "Bullshit, I have seen emotionally moving scenes in movies". Yeah, we all have. But it is a matter of degree.

This was a huge reality check for a budding fiction writer (me). When Bob would get to the parts of his talk that were especially emotional or difficult he would pause, the tension in the room was real, hundreds of people wanting him to go on, hoping we would pull it together, no one knowing what to. As an audience member, I wondered, should we start some applause to give him some strength? I looked toward the band on the stage, were they thinking "should we start playing to break the silence? " Was the MC thinking "should I help?" The pause continues, the steady drone of the almost silent microphone buzz, moments passing, more moments. Bob is at the mic he backs away and takes a breath, steps forward again, then more silence, the quiet of the massive room.

Forget about cutting the tension with a knife, you'd need power tools.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's confirmed, I'm brilliant!

Somebody thinks I'm brilliant! Well actually several other people and I share the brilliance. So it's more like I am one sixth brilliant.

Oh, and it's the UK government that thinks I'm brilliant, not really sure what multiplication factor that adds. Just received conformation of Grant of Patent for something I was part of, one sixth part of, a few years ago.

I think this must be the fifth or sixth patent with my name on it. So if you add up all of the little bits and pieces that were contributed by me, I am right around (1.34 * Brilliant).

It's confirmed, technically I am brilliant, now I just wish someone would find my writing brilliant, or even one sixth brilliant.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flood your yard, Steven Spielberg, Wallace and Ladmo and The Doctor.

In the yard weeding and managing the flood irrigation this late afternoon. That's a challenge in 110 plus degree heat. If you don't know what flood irrigation is, Flood irrigation is an efficient way to keep a large yard green in 110 degree heat. It is exactly what it sounds like. You open an eight inch irrigation valve and flood your yard. Seriously, a foot or more deep in some spots. In the summer heat the water is gone in a day or two and your repeat every two weeks. Here's a couple of pictures.
My back yard being flooded

While waiting at the valve to shut off the water, I captured the sunset.

Anyway back to the story. The combination of the rising irrigation water level and the heat reminded me of the summers I spent in Phoenix as a youngster.

With school out there wasn't much to do all day. During summer recess, the schools would flood irrigate the playgrounds and sports fields every two weeks or so. A kid could take a plank of wood over to the elementary school and boogie board, sort of. Otherwise, if your family didn't have a swimming pool, you were trapped inside by the extreme heat of day. That meant you watched a lot of TV, way too much TV and if you were a kid, that meant only one thing, Wallace and Ladmo.

Who or what the heck are Wallace and Ladmo?

The Wallace and Ladmo show was one of the longest running programs in television history. It ran non-stop for 35 years. Ten's of thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of kids grew up watching these guys. Literally multiple generations.

Counted in the ranks of kids who grew up on Wallace and Ladmo are Steven Spielberg and Alice Cooper, in fact Alice Cooper played on Wallace and Ladmo show in his earlier band, Alice Cooper and the Earwigs. See photos.

Years later Cooper was in the Wallace and Ladmo audience were he received the coveted "Ladmo Bag".

Steven Spielberg called Wallace and Ladmo "Very hip" and "the Saturday Night Live before there was a Saturday Night Live"

Here is a clip is from about 10 years ago and was part of the Ladmo tribute show that was done when Ladamir pasted away. It includes Spielberg's comments.

The show ran from 1954 until 1989. I am way to young too have seen when it started, but I remember its heyday. In those days Phoenix was still a small town, and still the wild west. It was a time when you could strap on a handgun and go for a walk downtown. It was a time when you could have a kids show that was watched by kids as well as the grown-ups down at the corner bar.

Bill Thompson and Ladimir Kwiatkowski played the parts of Wallace and Ladmo and the things that they did I have not seen replicated since. The most important thing they did is treat the kids with respect, they did not talk down to their audience. As kids we knew it and appreciated it. The comedy sketches and skits seemed like they were designed for kids but usually would go horribly off of the rails at some point sometimes leading squarely into adult land. If the kids didn't get the joke the cast and crew did and you would often hear off camera laughter from the camera men.

Wallace and Ladmo had a host of other characters, Captain Super, Gerald the brat, Marshall Good, Boffo the Clown, Aunt Maud and others. Most of these characters were played by Pat McMahon.

The characters were always more than just the superficial name and costume. Marshall Good was an old time Hollywood actor who found himself in bad times and always looking for a way to scam a buck. Boffo the clown was downright mean and probably not safe around your mother. Sweet Aunt Maud would read children stories that often went very very wrong.

Below are YouTube video clips of an Aunt Maud Christmas story, Santa gets plowed under at an office party, gets into a fight and ends up in a drunk tank. Another Aunt Maud story is of a child's mother who wins a trip to Las Vegas from her neighbor Vito down the street, but never returns. Just precious

In both of these clips Aunt Maude is joined by Ladmo. Ladmo is doing his best to make this kid friendly by acting like a kid himself, but he knows whats coming and we all knew from the look on his face where this was going.

This all may sound horrible but you absolutely must understand that as a five year old I knew I was "in" on the joke, Wallace and Ladmo were my friends and we were just having some fun.

My family moved to southern California in the late sixties and although it was great place to live with good weather and great lifestyle, California kid shows were just a big huge pile of steaming dog shit by comparison. The kids shows in LA were sanitized and approved for viewing by responsible adults, and complete crap.

That's was OK because skateboarding was a new thing in SoCal, so were mini-bikes, spent my time mini-bike riding on the foothills outside of LA. But still there were days that I missed just sitting in front of Wallace and Ladmo.

One day, as I was switching through the channels of crap on daytime TV I happened across the local public station, weird music came out of the TV, a shaky gray image of a wooden box about the size of a phone booth and a grumpy old man who called himself The Doctor was on.

Doctor Who

Finally, another kids show that knew how to respect its audience and it too is one of the longest running shows in television history.