Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
(For those of you who don't always recognize actor names (you know who you are), Wil Wheaton is probably best known as the lead in Stand by Me as well as for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.)
Monday, November 5, 2007
Meanwhile, I'm proud to announce that I'm currently working on an exciting new horror project with artist/creator Garrett Eisenheim.
The project, as yet untitled, is a supernatural story about a psychotic killer collecting the eyes of his victims in the town of Shrovetide, a surreal city built over the ruins of a carnival. Detective Lloyd Hammond discovers that the killer's victims have all been through the town's mysterious and recently re-opened funhouse. But friends and family have noted that the victims seemed "different" after their funhouse visit. Can Hammond discover the link between the funhouse and the killer before the killer claims his next victim? And why doesn't Hammond feel any different... after all, he's been through the funhouse several times. Is something evil lurking in its shadows?
Of course, there is! But you'll have to wait for the book to come out to learn more. I also promise, the story has many twists and turns and not everything is as it seems.
Two of the pages are previewed here. One is fully colored by the talented Adam Street. The other, still in its B&W form, shows off Garrett's raw talents.
We don't have a release date on this project, but I'm hoping to have it out sometime around Spring, 2008. Unlike Afterlife, this will be a traditional comic book that will eventually be compiled into a graphic novel. At least, that's our current goal.
Stay tuned for more images or visit www.myspace.com/stormcrowhayes.
Coming soon will be some sneak preview images from volume 2 of Afterlife (due out in April, 2008).
But there is another, less attractive part of the Bush persona: the mean-minded frat boy. At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Senator John McCain was about to speak for the re-election of Bush 41 when young George came up to him and said, according to Draper, “You’ve gotta hammer Clinton on the draft dodging.” That from a man who had weaved his way out of serving in Vietnam. McCain replied, “Sorry, that’s not my thing.”
On Jan. 31, 2001, soon after taking office, Bush held a cabinet meeting. When he entered the room, one chair was empty: the secretary of state’s. “Lock the door,” Bush said. A few minutes later Colin Powell could be heard trying the doorknob. The room “erupted with laughter.” Then Bush ordered the door unlocked. He “had made his point,” Draper says; Powell was “not the big dog any longer.” That the president of the United States would want to show how important he was by humiliating Colin Powell speaks volumes.The link to the full article is here.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
It happens every year. In fact, it often occurs twice a year; spring and fall. However, the spring fires are never as drastic as they are in autumn. By then the hillsides have had all summer to dry out. I can only recall it raining twice, maybe three times in the last six months. The rest of the time the sun beats down on the landscape, turning it to tinder.
Of course, the national media coverage during the first day would have you believe that only Malibu was burning. Isn't it great to know that our media is obsessed with all things celebrity?
About a year ago I read Mike Davis' Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. You have to love a book that has a chapter titled, "The Case for Letting Malibu Burn." Part of the author's point is that fires are a naturally occurring event in the ecosystem, pushed west by the winds. It is unavoidable. Yet each year, more and more homes are being built in the hills. Did I say homes? I meant mansions. Take a look at the homes being threatened high aloft in those hills. I guarantee not one of them is worth less than a million.
Inevitably, there are comparisons to Katrina. I heard a newscaster today say that FEMA had learned its lesson after Katrina and that events were much more orderly. However, the real difference is that the homes being threatened (with few exceptions) are those of the wealthy (or at least upper middle class). These are the people who vote and make campaign contributions. Of course every resource was used.
Although the flames bear a certain amount of predictability, no one knew what day they would arrive, unlike Katrina. Two years later and many victims of Katrina are still displaced, still trying to collect their lives. So don't feel too bad about the family that lost their multi-million dollar home, I'm sure they'll be just fine.
(My sympathies to the middle class in more suburban areas who will be more adversely affected by this disaster.)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The point here is that while they may be right in their critique of my lack of subject headings, my question is this -- when did we acquire the internet police?! E-mails are the most informal mode of communication that I can think of, and nothing has contributed more to the decline of the English language. Don't believe me? then u shld thnk 2. LOL :)
(I can't tell you how painful that last sentence was to write.)
I'm constantly witnessing the decline and fall of the written language as we regress into some form of hieroglyphic codes and abbreviations just to save five seconds of typing. At least when I compose my e-mails, they usually consist of capital letters, punctuation, and complete sentences. All I'm saying is, forgive my lack of subject lines.
Of course, I am a dying breed. No doubt, as technology advances, writing will soon be done away with altogether as we simply send mini-voice mails, soon to be followed by mini-videos instead of e-mails. I'm guessing that process should begin sometime around 3 p.m. next Tuesday. Two weeks later, people might accidentally click on this blog and wonder what all those little "buggy-like" things are on the page. Don't try to explain they're letters and words. Simply point your cell phone and hit the INTERPRET button. It will "translate" the page in the "voice-tone" of your choice. Hopefully, it'll be Homer Simpson.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I found the footage on youtube which you can watch by clicking the link below:
As I watched the impact, I kept waiting for the car to finally stop... but it doesn't! Not until it hits the crash test dummy, which I think is the only thing that finally does slow down the vehicle!
Just think, if it wasn't for Ralph Nader, American cars wouldn't be much different. Maybe they wouldn't crumple like this, but instead you'd be impaled by your steering column. What fun!
I am not a fan of myspace. I came to the site kicking and screaming. However, it has been occasionally beneficial. Case in point, that's how the Geeks of Doom (geeksofdoom.com) found me! They were kind enough to review Afterlife. Below is the review, minus the first two paragraph summary. For the full review, you can always go here.
Creators Stormcrow Hayes and Rob Steen have reached into the deepest and darkest recesses of the minds of the human collective and brought to the surface the awful and horrible truth about what is waiting for us after we breathe our last breath on Earth. What they have to offer us is a mind-numbing nihilistic view point, that given credence by the wrong people, could spell the ruin for everything that has been created since the dawn of man.
What is even more disturbing perhaps, is that even as Hayes and Steen set out to destroy every single religious viewpoint and every single justification to lead a moral and righteous life, they have in their own twisted way given birth to yet another faith-based religion that matter-of-factly offers all the answers. Yes, there is a soul, yes there is an afterlife, and no, nothing you’ve ever done — good or bad — and nothing you’ve ever accomplished matters. And if there is a Creator, it certainly doesn’t care and has left a long, long time ago.
Afterlife is being published by Tokyopop, known as one of the premiere importers and translators of Japanese manga for the English speaking world, while maintaining the original digest-sized format of the Japanese originals. Even though Hayes and Steen are both American, their creation fits in remarkably well with the attitude of their Japanese counterparts. Rob Steen’s black and white artwork in particular falls in line with the manga style, and is filled with deep blacks spreading to infinite, speeds lines during the actions sequences, and bizarre panel layouts that make each page an eye-popping adventure in themselves.
Clocking it an 180 pages, in Afterlife, Hayes and Steen offer quite a lot to take in, and by the final page your entire outlook on life could very well be changed forever. A careful reader will be able to decipher just what has been brought to the page, for this is no mere comic book, but both a warning and lesson that must be learned before it is too late and one finds that the only thing waiting in death is emptiness and nothingness forever, and ever, and ever, and ever…
Monday, October 1, 2007
However, I was pleasantly surprised by the cast which included Penelope Ann Miller ("The Relic," "Carlito's Way," "The Freshman"), Henry Thomas ("E.T.") and Dean Stockwell ("Quantum Leap," Battlestar Galactica" and so much more).
Needless to say, I'm ambivalent about watching this film. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about it yet. Despite the movie wrapping production over a year ago, it still hasn't appeared on DVD.
I recently discovered the film has been released in Europe. Below is the cover art:
I'll admit our title (the infamous Nick Angelo was my co-writer) was far from original, but we would have gladly come up with something more interesting than their shortened, bland version of just "The Deal." "The Deal" sounds like a documentary on business practices with your host, Donald Trump.
At any rate, I discovered on a site that seems akin to Netflix (here is the official link: (http://www.lovefilm.com/product/88263-The-Deal.html), two viewer comments. Here they are:
Didn't know any of the cast so was pleasantly surprised. the opening 5-10mins has you wondering what it's all about but in a good way. Good film well worth watching as little bit different.
Obviously made for syndicate USA and Spain - bad acting and even poorer script/story line non existent. Give it a miss.
Of course, I haven't seen it yet, but I'm more inclined to believe the latter. After all, I was there for the rewrites - eight drafts, each one slightly worse than the one before.
If you haven't guessed, I do not endorse this film. However, I am proud to have a produced film under my belt. Sound hypocritical? Welcome to Hollywood.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
What makes this different from any zombie movie I've ever seen is that whereas most zombie flicks only follow one group of (usually) randomly collected people struggling to survive against the undead onslaught, this book takes a global perspective. The first chapter opens with an outbreak in a remote Chinese village and we follow the story as the "disease" quickly spreads.
While refugees are the fastest cause of the initial spread, the author uses some other interesting scenarios. For example, it's true that China illegally exports organs and the author makes use of this fact when an American businessman visits Brazil to receive a heart transplant. He's given an infected heart and is soon devouring one of his doctors (the other survived to tell the tale). In fact, the entire book is a survivor's story since the war has been over for a decade. (I'm not giving anything away, this is in the prologue when the author reveals his desire to write about the war. Of course, even though the war is over, there are still white zones -- hot spots that,while contained, are completely infected.)
Brooks is also clever in looking at the geopolitical picture. Israel, realizing the impending danger while most countries are still in denial, takes immediate action to build a national fortress, one that results in civil war. Meanwhile, two other nations (I won't say who, but it's not who you would expect) end up in a brief nuclear exchange because of the flood of refugees along the border. South Africa is forced to use a Machiavellian plan that was originally created in the 80s by the Apartheid government in case of a "black uprising." Even the U.S. armed forces are forced to adapt to new weapons and tactics after losing many battles including an infamous one just across the Brooklyn Bridge (they learn machine guns and high explosive rounds aren't very effective against an enemy that can only die by having its brain destroyed).
The bottom line is that this is more than just a book about zombies. It's well written, smart, and while it gives a global perspective, it does so through a series of very personal narratives.
What brings me to this current diatribe? The film Babel. How was this nominated for Best Picture (or anything else for that matter)? After muddling through this train wreck (which, thanks to the subtitles, allowed me to watch most of the film at 2x speed sparing me wasting a full 2 hours and 20 minutes of my life), I felt compelled to read what other reviewers thought of this film. Some gush, but there was one line on rottentomatoes.com that had me laugh out loud.
If misery is your pornography, Babel is your holy grail.
Dave Calhoun TIME OUT
And runner up was this little gem:
If Babel were a football game, I'd flag it 15 yards for piling on.
David Ansen NEWSWEEK
Bottom line, spare yourself sitting through this film and instead partake in a more productive activity for two hours -- like cutting yourself or sniffing paint. You'll probably feel better about yourself and the time will pass more quickly.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Afterlife has no shortage of press and I may start posting articles, reviews and columns in here. Below is simply the latest (just out today!) and although I'm only including the section that discusses Afterlife, there is a link to the original article at the end. Enjoy!
Another cool graphic novel is "Afterlife" by Stormcrow Hayes and Rob Steen. Hayes is also a striving screenwriter from L.A. It deals with Mercutio, a man who dies shortly before he’s to marry, and searches for his bride among the billions of dead souls in the afterlife.
"Afterlife" is a manga comic published by Tokyopop. Hayes and Steen first got together in 2001 because they wanted to break into comics, and they wound up freelancing at Tokyopop, Steen doing layouts, Hayes doing adaptations. Soon they decided to pitch an original idea to the company. “We wanted to come up with a project that very much fit both Tokyopop and a manga audience,” says Hayes. “The original idea was very bare bones. I simply had the idea of cops in the ghost world. It was supposed to be an overcrowded city of the dead. The idea definitely evolved dramatically, especially once Rob started drawing the world itself.”
Soon the idea became big enough that Hayes wanted to “tackle the bigger questions, such as the meaning of life! I think this book has something for everyone: action, adventure, a love story, and philosophical musings about our existence." The first volume is available on Tokyopop.com as well as other outlets.“Also I’m sure your local comic shop can order it as well,” says Hayes. “Let’s face it, if you’re going to order it, you should support your local comic shop over some corporate conglomerate, right kids?”
Read the original article here.
He was right.
Season one begins slowly. Buffy was a mid-season replacement and clearly didn't have the budget (nor was CGI as abundant as it is today) to pull off some of its ambitious ideas. The season's lead villain (or "big bad") also wasn't that appealing. However, the monsters never were the point of the series which is why it's easy to overlook the lackluster special effects in favor of the characters and dialogue.
However, season two is where the show takes off -- and never slows down. This season (probably my favorite of the seven) has it all: comedy, tragedy, horror, romance, and probably a host of other genres and styles I can't think of. By the time I watched the season finale, I couldn't believe there were five more seasons awaiting me. After all, it seemed as if they had done it all. I wondered, where could they go from here? Fortunately, the show manages to entertain and enthrall throughout its entire seven year run (despite the addition of Dawn).
This year marked the tenth anniversary of Buffy's premiere. I may have come late to the party, but better late than never.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Normally, I'm not a fan of blogs (hence, why I remain reluctant about my own endeavor into this mostly tedious medium). However, there is only one blog that I actually really enjoy reading. Not only is it hilarious (or at least entertaining), but the folks involved actually manage to update it regularly.
I'm referring to Force Quit.
Force Quit is the child of Joe and Caitlin, two extremely talented writers. The blog can be about anything from randomly overheard conversations at an advertising promotional party to political commentary to movie reviews or an extremely abusive "advice" column from Commander Joey.
Either one of these two writers could command their own blog, but by combining their talents, they guarantee a regular stream of interesting anecdotes and prose. However, be warned, there is an extreme discrepancy in the attitude and demeanor of each writer. In one of her own posts, Caitlin describes the difference in their world views between an optimist (Caitlin) and a pessimist (Joe).
Pessimism, however, doesn't even begin to describe the Joey. His unique world view is easily offensive (to most), venomous and dark. That's why I love it. But for every abusive post by Joe, you'll find it counterbalanced by Caitlin's more humane, though equally funny, approach. At the very least check it out and judge for yourself!
Just in case the hyperlink doesn't work for any reason, here is the url:
So what will I write about? Well, I have some column ideas that I never quite finished but would still like to find an outlet for. I'm sure I'll include those at some point. Otherwise, I'll simply use this space to mention any other random thoughts and ideas I have which is how I imagine most author blogs are used. This will include recommending books (often), movies (rarely -- why do most movies suck these days?), and whatever else comes to mind.
I'll also be using this space to highlight my career (or lack thereof), including signings, convention appearances, etc. I'll jump right in by mentioning my recent interview on Geek World Radio (www.geekworldradio.com). I was recently a guest of hosts AnnaMay and Dave who were very delightful and entertaining. We mostly discussed my graphic novel, AFTERLIFE, but we also briefly delved into my past, the creative process, and how Afterlife was conceived. Click here -- or else the link below will take you directly to the podcast of the show:
Otherwise, I invite you to check back regularly for random ramblings news and updates.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
If Mr. Jayasekara resolves his differences, I'll certainly let you know. Otherwise, I would say it's still worth checking back here from time to time.
See ya soon!
Friday, May 25, 2007
Pong was the very first video game. It consisted of nothing more than two paddles and a blip. Get the blip past your opponent's paddle and you scored a point. Simple.
After Pong came Space Invaders, equally simple but more challenging as you fought back an unstoppable army of aliens. It truly launched the video game phenomenon. Asteroids, Pac Man, and Donkey Kong quickly followed.
I remember them all.
I grew up during the video game revolution, dropping quarters into the machine like a junkie; sometimes begging my mom for a dollar so I could play four more games, or even being so bold (and so hooked) that when my friends and I ran out of change, we'd hightail it to the fountain in the center of the mall and dip our arms elbow deep into the water searching for nickels, dimes and the occasional quarter, but never stooping so low as to gather pennies. We were never that desperate.
After taking a two-decade long hiatus from video games, in 2003, my friend Larfus Markus turned on his Xbox and introduced me to Halo. I couldn't believe what I was seeing: The two dimensional simplicity of jumping over monkey-thrown barrels or eating dots in a maze was replaced by something cinematic.
Somewhere along the way, game designers discovered the monolith and the industry evolved out of the primordial ooze of blips and beeps into an advanced civilization capable of intergalactic space flight. Not even the fruit fly evolves so quickly!
Today, games are no longer limited to the arcade or the living room. Thanks to the internet you can form an international team of spies to take out a terrorist cell, lead your favorite sports team to the National Championship, start a dance dance revolution, test your marksmanship against a sharpshooter in Taipei or defend yourself from the relentless roundhouse kicks being mercilessly delivered from a 12-year-old in Topeka. No wonder video games are overshadowing movies' financial success. Who wants to watch James Bond when you can be James Bond!
However, every major new technological development creates a wake of controversy and consequences.
In August 2005, the BBC reported that a 28-year-old South Korean man died of exhaustion after playing Starcraft for 50 hours. Games can be incredibly addicting, but I never imagined someone playing a video game until they dropped dead!
Could the future of video games include halfway houses and clinics for the chronically addicted?
Although it seems unlikely, researchers point out another troubling trend in gaming: desensitization to violence. A recent Iowa State Study by Nicholas Carnagey and Craig Anderson revealed that playing violent games for even as little as 20 minutes significantly reduced the subjects' reactions to real life violence.
Their conclusion: according to Anderson, "the modern entertainment media landscape could accurately be described as an effective systematic violence desensitization tool.”
One institution that welcomes desensitization to violence is the military. Already certain branches use video games to hone reflexes and train soldiers in tactics. Desensitization to violence is merely an additional perk. Killing is much easier when electronic warfare transforms the battlefield into just another game.
Computer simulators that were once used to train pilots are now being used to actually fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs. While pilots no longer have to risk their lives flying over dangerous war zones, the atrocities of war become oversimplified; the taking of a human life is as easy as eliminating a blip on a screen.
Despite any negatives, the future of video games is quite bright. Poised to overtake the film industry in terms of gross revenue, games are now attracting the talents of major actors, directors and producers.
The evolution of gaming has been staggering. We've witnessed an ape throwing a bone into the sky as it transforms into a spaceship. Games have come a long way, baby! And the ride has only just begun.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
However, if I'm to be brutally honest, then I must confess, American society really is materialistic. After all, part of our obsession with celebrities stems from the fact that they are rich and own lots of cool toys (cars, airplanes, mansions) that we would all like to play with. The only question is--how do we score those toys?
Many people believe that someday, somehow, even if it's just by winning the lottery (odds of being hit by lightning are far greater) they will get the chance to be rich and famous.
This thought feeds us, drives us, keeps us going through the night while we work third shift bussing tables for drunken teenagers at Denny's. But were we always this way?
It used to be that if you wanted to be famous and rich (fame comes first since it's the new 21st century drug), you would work hard developing some kind of talent: preferably something musical, comedic, or artistic. However, if you merely wanted to be rich, you would work hard to become a doctor, lawyer, real estate speculator or work on Wall Street.
Those approaches have vanished.
Today, everyone wants his or her fifteen minutes of fame NOW! They can't wait to learn a trade or skill, they can't take the time to hone their craft, it's now, now, NOW!
There are two unfortunate causes for this. The first is talentless whores born into immense wealth such as Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Kim Kardashian. Wow, I'm embarrassed I even know who these people are.
The other reason for this new affliction is reality television. Anyone can be on a reality show. John and Suzie Q. Public can make fools of themselves just as much as the most outrageous celebrities: all they need is a lack of dignity.
Most reality shows are simply game shows with a twist. This means that regular game shows have had to amp up their "reality" edge. Contestants on Deal or No Deal and the other prime time game shows must now be "personalities," in other words, kooky, crazed, overly emotional, easily excitable, occasionally unstable gamblers who are willing to risk everything for a chance to win increasingly large amounts of prize money. And unlike game shows of the past where you would keep some of your earnings, modern game shows are an all or nothing proposition. Casting calm, even-tempered people makes for boring television since no one wants to see someone who will be content with $50,000, when there's still a million dollars at stake.
Although not the first, Survivor launched the reality craze. The very first season of the show revealed people at their best and worst. Of course, the liars and backstabbers thrived and won.
Fear Factor offered average Americans a chance to perform dangerous stunts and also eat some of the most nauseating objects found on the planet, everything from animal testicles to live, squishy bugs.
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette forced a single person to attempt to find their perfect mate amongst a group of conniving, ego-driven contestants. The real reality: most of them were actors or models trying to further their career with TV airtime.
The short-lived Temptation Island may be one of the foulest ideas to emerge from any network. The concept here was to take couples in trouble and offer them incredibly beautiful and handsome alternatives with whom they could cheat.
Finally, there is the juggernaut that is American Idol. It's been said before that American Idol is nothing more than a karaoke contest, and I quite agree, with one major difference. When a karaoke contest is over, the contestants return home to their dreary lives. When American Idol is over, the world has to suffer through the glut of soulless, manufactured music that continues to spew not only from the winners, but from the runners-up as well.
All of these shows promote the idea that television can change your life. In a few rare cases, it does. But most of the contestants, when their 15 minutes of fame is up, are forced to return to their normal lives. Reality shows have become so popular, there's no room to parley them into long-term careers.
Unfortunately, we can't be happy living in syndication. No one is ever happy with their current circumstances. The real tragedy of Americans is that because we are so materialistic, we always want more. Consequently, we are all in some way trying to be in the sequel to our own lives.
If we stepped back long enough we would realize that it's not a question of ratings. After all, we are taught over and over again that it's not quantity that matters -- it's quality.
Once upon a time, the sitcom was king. A few decades before that, the Western and the variety show dominated the airwaves. In time, reality shows will most likely fade in popularity, though I doubt they'll ever disappear. The genie's been let out of the bottle and there's no turning back. Until then, I guess we just have to live with "reality."
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
In addition to my own columns, my friend Andrew Davis has contributed a column as well. Let me know if you would like me to post his column as well as my own on here. You can reach me at: email@example.com. Under SUBJECT heading, please write COLUMN or SMOG so I know what it's regarding (From Out of the Smog is the title of my column).
I hope you enjoy my random scribblings.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
In short, I hate it.
I can't be any more blunt than that. But like some kind of co-dependent who can't leave their abusive partner despite the pain and misery they endure, I remain. Perhaps I'm a masochist, but more likely I'm just too lazy to pack up and leave. Besides, I wouldn't know where to go if I did. However, this column isn't about my co-dependence, it's about a common element all Angelinos share. Namely, I think everyone here is in some way or another scarred.
The scarring can come about in many different ways. For most, it's emotional, below the surface, and unless you really get to know that person it won't be revealed until you've spent months or years together, forging a seemingly strong bond of friendship which once thought to be unbreakable, comes quickly undone once the crazy is revealed.
For others, it's the physical scars. Those that people inflict upon themselves and are usually as plain as the altered noses on their faces.
Of course, I'm talking about plastic surgery.
Take, for example, the woman I recently saw whose lips extended so grotesquely beyond her face I had to wonder why she would purposefully make herself so monstrous. The answer came to me one day while I was hiking.
Runyon Canyon is a popular place to hike since it's conveniently located at the foot of the Hollywood Hills near the center of Los Angeles. One afternoon, as I was jogging down the trail, I couldn't help but notice a lovely woman jogging towards me. She definitely had a beautiful figure. However, I became transfixed as the closer she came to me, the more I could see she was more than just shapely, she was also very fake. This seemingly beautiful figure had, before my eyes, transformed into a hideous creature. Everything about her seemed monstrous: her fake breasts, her Mick Jagger-like lips, her face pulled so far back it resembled a snare drum. Suddenly she contorted into something resembling Batman's nemesis, the Joker.
As we passed each other, I couldn't help but think, "What a monster!" Then it occurred to me -- she really was a monster! From that point on, I referred to anyone with too much plastic surgery as suffering from the Frankenstein Syndrome.
Just as Dr. Frankenstein wanted to bring dead tissue back to life, people in Los Angeles hope to surgically instill youth into their aging bodies. They do this by adding a little bit here (breasts, lips, calves, buttocks) and taking away a little bit there (face lifts, tummy tucks, and liposuction). If only one of these things were done, and done discreetly, the alteration could be accomplished without being too obvious. However, this is Hollywood. Everything is done to excess.
Everywhere I look, I see massive billboards adorned with oversized celebrity faces. I can't help but marvel that these people who I know are older than me because I have seen them in movies or on TV since I was a kid or a teenager, still manage to look no older than they did twenty years ago thanks to the magic of air brushing and CGI. No one in this town can age gracefully anymore. This is primarily because of the scars they're carrying. Not just the ones on the outside due to too much plastic surgery, but the ones on the inside -- that compel them to stay young forever.
Of course, we would all like to remain young and beautiful, but we must also face reality -- aging is inevitable. And whether we decide to age gracefully or not is up to us. I only hope that I never succumb to this disease known more commonly as vanity.
Monday, February 26, 2007
*Scorsese finally basks in Oscar triumph
*Iraqi vice president escapes bomb blast
*Snow knocks out power, cancels flights
*Court: Serbia failed to prevent genocide
*Bush to warn Pakistan on combating militants
Let's see, we have genocide, an assassination attempt, people trapped in snow without power, and, oh yes, Scorsese finally wins an Oscar.
I have nothing against Scorsese, but I have everything against this horrible celebrity-obsessed culture that we're not only living in, but are exporting throughout the world.
All night long, the only changing headline was the constant Oscar update. And, of course, it always received top billing.
Are the Oscars entertaining? Rarely. Occasionally there may be an interesting or emotional moment or two, but are those moments worth slogging through three to four hours of bland television for? No. If the Oscars were a television series, it would have been canceled by now. The only thing that keeps it going -- its celebrity. Where else can you find Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Beyonce, Will Ferrell, and Helen Mirren in the same room at the same time?
I'll admit I've never been a big fan of the Academy Awards. I don't think I ever watched the whole epic fiasco until I moved to L.A. At least going to Oscar parties reduced the pain of the typically four-hour marathon. There you can usually find other equally bored people to talk to. But I can no longer feign any interest in that either. Quite frankly, I would rather be boiling my own legs and then eating them in a stew than sit through another Oscar broadcast.
I should probably be thankful that the Oscars managed to finally knock Anna Nicole Smith from the news. I don't know how much more courtroom controversy I could have taken. Or the unending saga of Britney Spears going in and out of rehab, shaving her hair, and acting like white trash. I'm sorry, she isn't acting like white trash; she is white trash. My mistake.
Ultimately, I know I'm complaining. But it bothers me that these news stories are so incredibly pervasive that I can't, despite all my best efforts, avoid them!
I think I'm also stymied because, and you may not have noticed this lately, the United States is at war -- on two fronts no less -- and you'd hardly notice because of our celebrity-obsessed headlines.
I realize we have always had entertainment during times of war, but it constantly amazes me how deeply the news of Iraq and Afghanistan is buried in the media. How many people are even aware that "coalition forces" (a completely politicized term to begin with) are shrinking?
Last week Britain announced the reduction of their forces by one third. Denmark is removing its 460 troops by August. Even Lithuania is considering removing its 53 troops. Really? Lithuania can't even commit the equivalent of a Boy Scout Troop?
The coalition is quickly becoming a coalition of one!
So who will be left? Americans. And what are we doing? We're watching the Oscars.
Of course, without war, we wouldn't have anything to make movies about. Right now, most of liberal Hollywood is against the war, but in five years they'll be making movies glorifying it. And they will win Oscars.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Then a better solution occurred to me: we should export our high school dropouts to Iran!
For years, Muslim terrorists have been infiltrating this country, now it's time we turn the tables on them. The State Department can supply passports to our teen dropouts so we can flood Iran with America's disgruntled youth.
As for the dropouts, we simply tell them we're sending them to the beach for spring break (after all, it is a country with a lot of sand). What rebellious teen wouldn't want to get as far away as possible from their parents and family? Best of all, he or she will be going with many of their dropout friends. It'll seem like summer camp to them.
Once they arrive and find out that there isn't a drop of alcohol within a thousand miles, they'll start going crazy: vandalizing public buildings, shoplifting, trespassing, stealing cars for joy rides, and maybe even rioting. In other words, all actions they would normally take in the United States; but under this new plan they'd be putting a strain on the Iranian infrastructure instead of taxing the American system.
Suddenly, money designated by Iran to arm their military, build their nuclear power plants, and fund jihadists would have to be diverted to the new social problems of cleaning up tagged buildings, counseling pregnant teens, controlling public lewdness (which in Iran is any woman showing more than her eyes!), and adding more patrols to maintain order and keep delinquents off the streets at night.
Last year, the U.S. government leaked that they threatened Iran with nuclear weapons. They did this because they know the U.S. cannot possibly sustain a military invasion at this point; U.S. troops are already stretched too thin. Besides, by invading and dropping bombs we only reinforce the world's hatred of Americans. But if anything should happen to the visiting American "tourists" would only make the Iranian government look bad.
The war on terror has often been described as a war of cultures. So why not infiltrate our own culture war by sending over our youth armed with iPods and Sidekicks?
Instead of becoming a burden on our society our dropouts will instead be viewed as patriots and pioneers, young warriors on the frontline of culture building and democratizing the Middle East. Instead of being dregs, they'll be heroes!
Best of all, it won't have to end with Iran. With such a high dropout rate, the U.S. will have plenty of failed teens ready to infiltrate Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates; and don't think we didn't see you hiding in the corner, Qatar!
It's not as if there isn't precedent. After all, didn't England export its criminals to Australia? And look how well that turned out! Now it's a popular tourist spot. Perhaps a hundred years from now, instead of fearing kidnappings and beheadings, people will actually enjoy visiting the Middle East.
My only fear is the possibility of a backlash. While American youth is often rebellious, they are also easily swayed. Who's to say that five years down the road we won't be faced with a new problem of converted Muslim expatriates returning to demand prayer in school, an end to abortion, and generally blurring the line between the separation of church and state? Then again, would that really be so different than what the current administration is doing?
Monday, February 19, 2007
Sparky, as I like to call him, was born in the wrong era. A comedy writer and performer, he would have thrived during the days of Vaudeville. Somehow he landed in L.A. with a job in radio, where he continued working for years until two conglomerates finally managed to squeeze all the life out of the medium. He continues to write, currently for an animated children's show, but he has to supplement his income with a full time job. Quick witted, humorous, and yes, old fashioned, I'm certain his talents would have earned him a solid career in an earlier era, where he would have fit right in with the Algonquin Round Table.
Cletus Price was so confident that he would be a monstrously successful actor that he never really tried. Born into a semi-wealthy family, he never had to work for a living. Used to having things handed to him, he moved to Los Angeles and sought out his yes-men (and women) who were willing to smile and nod at anything he said, usually while enjoying a meal that he would buy.
Cletus would often write affirmations in large script and post them throughout his apartment. One sign simply read: 6,000,000, the amount of money he presumably wanted to sell his movie for. After years of not being cast in a blockbuster movie (mostly because he never auditioned for anything), Price finally financed his own film in which he wrote, starred, directed and even co-edited. The film never sold. Because yes-men surrounded him, no one ever told him that he couldn't act. Or write. Or direct. Or edit.
I met Sadie in a pool hall off of Fairfax in Hollywood. Beautiful, artistic, and talented, she had just moved to L.A. from Seattle. She spent the next few years as a struggling actress and writer until finally, an opportunity called her back to her hometown in Iowa. Unfortunately, the rift between her and her boyfriend tore viciously open as they debated moving to the Midwest. It was more than their relationship could take.
Some people find their success only after they leave this town and that is Sadie's story. After running her own business, a bohemian coffee house, she gave it up and headed east, this time to Manhattan. There, she took root and blossomed. Currently, she has her own yoga studio, has been featured in dozens of magazines and articles, and recently signed her first book deal to write The Road Trip Guide to Your Soul. Success for her is only beginning, but already it's been great.
If you come to this town with a time limit, you're not going to succeed. That was the Quitter's first mistake. He moved here with his girlfriend who hated this town (who could blame her) and gave him three years to succeed while she supported him. Three years later, they moved to Northern California so she could take a better job. However, when you deprive a man of his dream, he'll never be happy or satisfied and within a year they broke up. Broke and despondent, he couldn't afford to return to the city of angels, so he moved in with his brother and continued writing.
As the months passed, the Quitter took stock of his life: he was single, in his thirties, with little success and a leech for a writing partner. Shortly before he disappeared, we had many conversations in which he expressed his growing doubts. I sensed his anxiety, but I, along with the other writers he talked to, didn't share his fear.
The Quitter's exile from Hollywoodland was self-imposed; one day he just became unreachable. It is my own theory that he severed his old ties so as not to be reminded of the sting of failure. However, in doing so, he stung his friends with his sudden absence. It's one thing to abandon your dreams; it's another to abandon your friends. The first is tragic, the second unforgivable.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
I moved here three years after the Rodney King verdict incited riots and flames and martial law. I moved here 16 months after the Northridge earthquake. I moved here less than a year after O.J. tried to run for the border.
I'd like to say that I arrived after the fires, but those occur yearly. Los Angeles burns and hardly anyone pays attention.
I was here when I nearly sold my first screenplay. Again and again and again.
I was here when, in a scene reminiscent of the film Heat, two armed gunmen shot up North Hollywood. I watched live coverage as masked, armored bank robbers fired fully automatic AKs at police, civilians and news choppers.
I was here when I decided to leave. Supposedly, the first year in Los Angeles is the most difficult, but for me it was the second year. I was never more at peace than when I decided to leave town. I knew I would eventually return, but I had to get out before it broke me. I thought I would travel, maybe take six months or a year away from the madness. I read Kerouac's On the Road in anticipation of my upcoming road trip.
I was here when I decided to stay. The proverbial carrot was once again dangled before me. A writing assignment came my way just when I needed it.
I was here when (insert celebrity name) got away with (insert heinous crime).
I was here for El Nino. The hills that were once on fire now became mudslides and sinkholes.
I was here when Hal Gefsky, a retired agent, invited me to a monthly lunch at the Fairfax Farmer's Market so I could hear a group of fascinating octogenarians congregate to share fascinating behind-the-scenes stories of Hollywood.
I was here when I tried to film a documentary about them.
I was here when I failed to finish the film.
I was here when Ovidio Assonitis, a crazed film producer, flew me halfway around the world so I could visit Sri Lanka and meet Bandula Jayasekera, the man who offered me this column.
I was here when I met artist Rob Steen and we began collaborating on projects.
I was here five years later when Rob and I finally sold our first graphic novel, Afterlife.
I was here a few weeks ago when a car chase ended down my street with a stolen vehicle overturned and smashed, debris littering the intersection. No one was seriously injured.
I was here several years ago when a different car chase ended in a man's suicide three blocks away. Los Angeles loves car chases.
I was here when the Democratic Convention came to town and police sprayed protestors with rubber bullets.
I was here when I learned about a group of crazy cyclists called the Midnight Ridazz who take over the streets of Los Angeles for no other reason than to have fun.
I was here when I decided to jump out of a plane from 13,000 feet in the air.
I was here when I fell in love. Twice.
I was here when I started to hate writing.
I was here when I remembered why I loved writing in the first place.
I was here when I realized I wouldn't ever stop.
I was here when I finally sold my first script. Co-written with Nick Angelo, it's on DVD somewhere, but so far the producers haven't bothered to give us a copy. Why should they? We only wrote the bloody thing.
I don't know how much longer I will remain here, though I certainly don't want to live the remainder of my life in Los Angeles. That would be tragic. But for now, I've made my peace. For now…
I am here.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
My mom and I were living in Hillbrook Apartments at the time. Most of my early childhood memories centered around this sprawling community of buildings. The playground, the central meeting point for all the kids in the area, was just outside my building. It seemed as if everyone I knew resided in these apartments. Not just my friends, but my mom's friends as well.
Since divorcing, my mom had put her personal life on hold and wasn't looking for a relationship. When friends of hers invited her out for drinks, she knew they were trying to set her up with Chuck. When she heard he was in the U.S. Marines, she couldn't have been less interested. She decided not to go.
Later in the evening, my mom's friends called to ask if she wanted anything to eat; they were stopping for fast food on the way back to the apartment. Again, she declined. An hour later, Chuck called to personally invite her over since they had picked up something for her anyway. She reluctantly agreed and walked down the hall to their apartment.
After an evening of entertaining stories and jokes, Chuck walked my mom back home. Outside of the doorway he said, "I think you're the one." Having been out of the dating game for so long my mom wondered, "The one what?"
Despite my mom's reluctance, Chuck's natural charm won her over. A whirlwind romance ensued in which he often drove the long distance from where he was stationed in Quantico, Virginia to Cleveland, Ohio for weekend visits.
During this time, he took me to baseball games, taught me how to ride a bike, and showed me how to fish. He would turn a simple drive down the street into an adventure by either popping in an eight-track tape so we could rock out with air guitars and drums; or by pretending the car was a helicopter and we were cruising through the air on a vital mission for the President (whom he had actually met while on duty with Marine One, the Presidential helicopter).
It didn't take Chuck long to propose to my mom, but because he knew he had to serve a year overseas, they decided not to marry until he returned. He couldn't wait. Halfway through his tour, he flew halfway around the world and married my mom.
For her, it was the fairy-tale romance she had always dreamed of. She finally found the joy that had eluded her in her first marriage, a wedding of convenience due to a youthful indiscretion (namely the inception of your humble author).
After a short honeymoon in Niagara Falls, Chuck returned to the Philippines to complete his tour. It was a dark, rainy autumn afternoon when we drove him to the airport. Three weeks later, he was dead, killed in a helicopter crash during a combat training exercise.
When the Marines arrived at our apartment door, I knew something was wrong. The news sent my mom into hysterics. For some reason, I didn't cry. As a child, I'm not sure I understood the permanence of death. I walked down the hall and told our friends.
I don't remember much about Chuck anymore. What I do remember mostly comes from the stories my mom has told me. Yet, I have a few vivid memories of him, including the Sunday afternoon we first met. I had laid out every comic book I owned in the apartment hallway so I could sort through them. They stretched from the bathroom door to the kitchen. He listened attentively as I told him about the stories within their pages. He listened in a way that most adults didn't. That was just one of his qualities I've attempted to emulate in my life.
It's been nearly thirty years since Chuck entered our lives. He left almost as quickly as he arrived. Each year, my mom still makes a pilgrimage to his grave. Even though she has since found love with a man whom she's been with for over 25 years, Chuck left an indelible mark on our souls.
For me, it's strange to think that I've spent more years on this planet than he was ever allowed. I outlived him and continue to do so with each passing moment of my life. In some ways, his short life is a reminder of carpe diem; seize the day.
Of course, it's impossible (not to mention impractical) to try and live every day as if it's your last. But there are times when you just need to live, embrace the moment, and tell the people in your life how much you love them. I don't do it often enough. This column is for you.
Stormcrow Hayes reflects in Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A. For more information visit www.stormcrowhayes.com.
I met Nzingha in 1995 shortly after I moved to the smoggy city. It's fortunate that I met her when I did because shortly thereafter she moved to Amsterdam where she lived for the next 18 months. Because she is a nomad, she is constantly moving throughout the world. Fortunately, Los Angeles is one of many places that she calls home, and so she frequently returns (though it seems she's never here for very long).
When I first met Nzingha, she was a film editor. It is a title she has long since abandoned. Currently, she is a writer, and one of the finest writers I know.
As we stood in line, waiting to be seated for Mankoff, the woman next to us joined in our conversation. I mentioned Nzingha's writing talents and she asked Nzingha if she'd been published. Sadly, and through a massive miscalculation in the publishing world, she has not. (I'm referring to her fiction as she has been published in other capacities.)
The following day, however, I called Nzingha and demanded, "Why haven't you been published?" She responded with a long answer that I promptly ignored (after all the question was only posed so I could answer) and said, "Do you know why I think you haven't been published? Because you're not trying hard enough!"
I was being facetious.
I think one of the hallmarks of a great short story, or any story for that matter, is re-readability. I have read almost all of her stories over and over again, including my favorite, "Katie and Pell," which has to be one of the most dysfunctional love stories ever written. Sometimes that story simply calls to me in the middle of the night and if I don't have time to read the whole thing (her short stories are actually quite long for the form), then I can often take solace in reading excerpts. Any excerpt will do -- they're all good. Because Nzingha knows how to write -- and she does it well.
I think one of the reasons she is such a fine writer can be deemed from this anecdote:
While waiting in line, I noticed Nzingha had checked out a book before the lecture. The book fell into the generic category of chick lit (in other words, literature for women; slightly elevated fare from a Harlequin romance, but nevertheless, fluff).
I was befuddled. "Why are you reading this?" I asked.
"I have an omnivorous mind," she replied.
It's true. I don't know anyone with such a diverse field of knowledge rolling around her brain. This woman voraciously devours books at a breakneck pace. She reads through the night while most people sleep (she doesn't seem to require much sleep herself) and she reads everything: fiction, science fiction, horror, the classics, poetry, biographies, non-fiction, in essence, whatever she can get her hands on that interests her. And she finds everything interesting, from cloning to kung fu.
Lest you think she's some kind of bookish introvert who rarely leaves her room, she is also a rock climber, hiker, cook, editor (film and words), former actress, drag racer (she's addicted to speed; her mantra is "Faster!"), journalist, world traveler (she's lived in New York, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and along the beaches of Mexico), avid football player (soccer to the Americans reading this), tour guide (she knows the best place to get a Thai iced tea, when a new art gallery is opening, or when someone interesting such as Mankoff is speaking), and she throws the best dinner parties I've ever attended.
Perhaps you're wondering why I'm bragging so much about Nzingha Clarke, a writer you've never heard of? I assure you, it's strictly ego. Not hers, mine. Because once she becomes a famous and award-winning author I want to be able to point back to this column and shout, "I TOLD YOU SO!"
(Remember, folks, you heard it here first.)
Of course, my own ego has nothing to do with this one simple fact -- she's that good. When she is published, be sure to read her. Then be prepared to fall captive to her words. They come from a very omnivorous mind -- and it never stops feeding.
Stormcrow Hayes watches kung fu movies with Nzingha when she lands in Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A. For more information visit www.stormcrowhayes.com. Coming soon, you can read about Nzingha at www.omnivorousmind.blogspot.com.
An absolutely beautiful, downer of a book, Afterline is one of the two OEL releases on our list. It tries to answer these questions: "What happens if the afterlife contains no heaven, hell, nirvana, or any sort of rewarding concept at all? What if, when you died, you simply entered a domain populated by every single being that ever died….ever?" You can imagine how crowded it would be, and some of the visuals of different theologians, world leaders and saints all gathered around trying to figure out what happened are disturbingly humorous.
The real meat of this book lies in the monologues Stormcrow Hayes gives some of his protagonists, particularly one soul who pretty much feels like he's been had. You won't come away from this book feeling great…but you will come away with some new ideas to think about, and that's never a bad thing.
Also, Afterlife won the YALSA award for its reluctant readers program. I think that means we'll be stocked in libraries all across the country!