Sunday, August 31, 2008

Creatively Blocked

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Editors Note:
In the past we have been tolerant of Mr. Johnson's moods, letting him vent his frustrations and anger over recent events. We hoped it would help exorcise these negative emotions so he could move on to the next phase of his life or career or both. However, this does not seem to be happening. He seems to be thinking in continually smaller and tighter concentric circles in an apparent attempt to flush himself down a self imposed emotional toilet.

The blog written by Mr. Johnson and delivered for publication on "The World is a Stage" today was unacceptable and rejected by the editor. It is a depressing diatribe about missing muses and creative juices on life support. It wasn't funny, it wasn't amusing and did not meet the standard requirements of this blog.

When the writer is able to over come this "state" and or "condition" and write better entries we will continue to publish them in the future. For now, however, he is on suspended probation and we encourage him to stop playing with dolls and seek help.

Thank you,
J. Arthur Tildad
Editor at Large

Friday, August 29, 2008

A quick look inside the writer's mind when he is stuck for a blog. I think this is probably the creative process for most artists.

(No writers were hurt during the filming of this episode.)

As you were,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Edward Albee said, "I write to know what I am talking about." Some days I can write all day and never know what I am talking about or even thinking about for that matter. Today is one of them.

I've tried to write several drafts, I got nothing.

The muse that compels me to draw has been missing for several months now. I don't know when she is due back. The ink is dry and the pens need to be cleaned. I am never sure if the muse will ever return. Now it feels like the writing muse is packed and ready to leave as well.

As it is,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This is a picture of a McElroy ventriloquist figure. Sculpted and animated by two American brothers named McElroy. They are considered by some to be the Rolls Royce of ventriloquist puppets. McElroy's are renowned for their complex movements. Everything from independently moving eyes, winking eyes, crossing eyes, upper lip smile, wiggling ears, wig that stands up, ears that flap and in some cases a tongue that sticks out and spits. You can see by the lines around his nose and a line coming up from his upper lip this one has at least upper lip and nose wiggle functions. The control stick can look like a typewriter keyboard with all the movement controls. They have over sized heads and are about 42 inches tall. They all look very similar to this little guy. The Vent Haven Museum has several of them on display.

And we wonder why some children have a fear of ventriloquist puppets? This even gives me nightmares. It should be the ad for one of those Twilight Zone's where the puppet kills.

I know I have chosen a very weird profession. I've worked a life time to try and smooth it into an art form, but when I realize this is the image most people think of... I wonder why I bother.
As you were,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Here is an entry that I found in an old journal not to long ago. Unfortunately I remember this plane ride like it was yesterday.

As I am writing in my journal the guy sitting next to me on the plane says, "You must be a writer." I mumbled some phrase that was intended to say.... "The reason I am writing in my journal is to avoid talking to inquisitive seat mates." He didn't get it. He is a writer. Told me he is working on the "History of WWII." I said, "Very comprehensive subject... I wouldn't know where to start on a project like that." (read... leave me alone I am trying to write my own history, thank you.) He said, "Well this is how I started." And with those six words, I am sentenced to airplane hell.

He has a lap top computer with the entire text of his book, letters from soldiers, declassified reports of battles, navigational charts and SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE scanned black and white photographs from WWII. From Detroit to Los Angeles I am captive audience to a guy with a lap top vacation slide show.
"And here is a shot of the island of Koregeidor and the USS Nicholas engaged in the first battle of the start of the south sea push." "Here is that same ship from the from the stern.... click... from the ship next to the ship looking a shot of the Executive Officer during oh and a very rare photo of the Nicholas taken from the Japanese ship in the battle just as they were struck by a Japanese sailors being rescued from the water......"

The food came. It didn't matter he was able to continue the show and balance his tray at the same time. One of the bitter sweet joys of the larger fist class seat.
At about slide Six hundred and twelve... a dialogue box appeared on the computer screen that said "Low battery power... shut down immediately or plug in charger." If he had gone for the charger... I would have gone for my fork and poked out my own eyes. Thank goodness for limited battery life... it saved mine.

As you were,

Monday, August 25, 2008

There is a film documentary out now called "Man on Wire".  It is playing in art house theaters and will probably remain under the radar.  Several of my friends called to say that it should be a must see on my list. I went to see it.  I recommend it to anyone.  

It is the story of Philippe Petit. His name is not a household word, but when I tell you he is the guy who walked a wire between the World Trade Center Towers in 1974 you will say, "Oh that guy."  He is now in his late 50's and accomplished this when he was 23 years old. Nothing he has done since will ever compare to that 45 minutes of fame. 

The film interviews him and all the accomplices who contributed to the stunt. They tell their story with a 34 year perspective. It is fascinating.  A man, or back then a boy, driven to perform an act that could easily result in his death.  It was a challenge he relished thinking that if it was to his death, it would be a spectacular death.  He started planning the feat when he was 17 years old, long before the towers were even built, when he saw an archetectual concept of the proposed construction in a French magazine.  

It is the story of obsession, art, compulsion and intrigue.  It was after all an illegal stunt and they had to prepare the rigging of a wire stable enough to walk across towers 200 feet apart and 110 stories high.  They planned it like a bank robbery.  
The "how" never gets in the way of  "why" because you see the passion and drive of the boy even in the much older man today. It did not come without a cost but, I did not see that he was concerned about paying the price.  Why did he do it? Like Edmund Hillary said, "Because it is there." 

As you were,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It seems to me that great writers, with great stories to tell, often come to tragic ends. From Hemmingway to Spaulding Gray there seems to be a higher percentage of suicides and abusive death among writers, and other artists, than most other professions. "Writers who committed suicide" even has its own entry in Wikipedia, and that is just a list of the famous or infamous. There is no way to know how many took their own lives more slowly with drug abuse, alcoholism or some other self induced life style. Truman Capote comes to mind as the poster boy for those who abused themselves to death.

I've got this theory that I am working on. Writers are always in search of a story to tell. Like Hemmingway and Gray they sometimes call upon their own lives as the backdrop for these stories. At some point they identify with their story instead of who they really are. They unconsciously push the edge of their lives to experience the next grand story so they can write about it. When that unconsciousness takes over it is only a matter of time before they are destined to write the final act of their own lives in death. Sort of the "control freaks" ultimate control, be in charge of their own demise.

It begs the question, "Is the artist the art?" Most artists see themselves as just the tool for art to become expressed. They are driven by a muse they do not understand but need to obey. They are the lucky ones. They don't know why it comes to them, and rather than try to create they simply express.

But there are artists who become their art. They think their art comes out of some personal experience they have endured that gets expressed as either a laugh, a cry or on canvas. When the art does not flow they try and make themselves miserable so they can have something to express. Amy Weinhouse is right now going through a public experience trying to find that line. There is no doubt that her music and her life are too closely related to separate. Is her music only an expression of her abuse or does the abuse hinder the real expression of her gift? It is probably not a question that humans can answer.

When fame enters the picture it becomes very dysfunctional. If an artist is successful at expressing their unhappiness that unhealthy emotion becomes a part of their pallet. In essence they have achieved their goal, their true feelings have been expressed and we as the audience are drawn to it. It is somewhere in us trying to be expressed and we empathize. The artist may have exorcised that dysfunction in their art and are actually rid of the toxin. But the fame machine demands more of that which the public is drawn to. To keep their career at the same level of attraction the artist must experience more pain so as to express more of the same. If they are now happy, they unconsciously make themselves unhappy. It has been said that "Happy people don't make history."

Comedy is not exempt from this spiral. Freud once tried to find a single joke that was not based in anger or hostility. He could not find it, and in truth comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin. So most comedian's routines come out of the expression of that hostility. We laugh at it because we are drawn unconsciously to the same hostility. Find a universal hostility and you can spin it into a great comedy routine. Why do comedians express their success in terms like, "I killed them" or "I was the bomb" or "I blew the roof off". An audience sometimes expresses their own comedy experience in the same violent terms, " I laughed till it hurt" or "laughed till I cried".

Spaulding Gray made me laugh very hard. His comedy was absolutely biographical. As I look back on his monologues, most of the time I was actually laughing at his misfortunes. I wanted to laugh more, so on some level I wanted him to experience more misfortunes for my amusement. He talked about his mother's suicide in may of his monologues. I remember thinking that this was a man who dealt with suicide from the point of view of those who are left behind to clean up the mess. Being so familiar with the affect it had on him, I never thought he was a candidate for killing himself.

I guess my theory is just an observation after all. But in the attempt to live a life as an artist it is a cautionary tale. Fame is never worth the barter, but most are willing to trade anything for that 15 minutes. For those who say to themselves, "I would do anything to be a famous _____"
(fill in the blank) start looking past the drooling fans. Those fans are perhaps unconsciously demanding your very life in trade for that adulation.

As you were,

Friday, August 22, 2008

In the last couple of days I have received several versions my "favorite" form of communication. The email chain letter. You know the ones. Regardless of the message, its function is to circulate around the Ethernet to everyone on your email list. The only difference between this and a computer virus is the willing participation in its circulation by the participants. The message always promises some result if you send it to friends and a curse if you do not. The language differs but it generally says something like this:

"Send this email to 5 people and you will have a good day, 10 people and you will have a fantastic day, send it to 25 people and they will ask to become the CEO of Google."

Then it continues with first hand endorsements and the twinge of a threat. "I know a guy who sent this letter to 1000 people. Two weeks later he won 8 gold medals at the Olympics, it was Michael Phelps. " Then there's the threat, "My sister knows a guy who thought he didn't have time to send this message around after receiving it, so he didn't. Last week he was hit by the Budwiser wagon and trampled to death by Clydesdales. "

One chain letter promised me that if I sent it around to at least 10 people, my phone would ring. I have to tell you, my phone rings almost every day. Sometimes many times in a single day, and it doesn't seem to be waiting on me to contact 10 friends with a letter I didn't write.

I am logical enough to know that sending emails does not create gold medals, but I am depressive and superstitious enough to believe that their is a Budwiser wagon out there with my name on it. So usually these chain letter emails only cause me to be anxious. I can't win either way. If I do send it to my friends, I am afraid it will put them in the same superstitious dilemma, if I don't... here come the Clydesdales singing "this Bud's for you".

Today I got what is probably the most interesting chain letter I have ever received. It is a chain- letter prayer for prosperity. An appeal to God himself to send his financial abundance to us the struggling. I don't know anyone right now who doesn't fell the need for a divine financial boost, and I am a true believer in prayer, so I took a second look at this one.

If you believe that grammar matters to the Omniscient, this prayer is well constructed and nicely written. It was typed in a huge red font, so God doesn't need his reading glasses, and it was devoid of any references to specific religions so as to be piously and politically correct. I am sure this prayer can make it from Heaven's mail room, past the first angelic assistant to the Big Guy himself (or herself... just covering my bases).

So now my anxiety extends to religious guilt. Who wants to offend God in these times of financial hardship? I mean after you're hit by a Budwiser wagon who wants to be standing at the Pearly Gates with an unsent email on your conscience? I looked for some loophole, some clause that would let me get the benefits of the financial rewards without the actual work and annoyance of sending the prayer on to others. That's when I noticed, at the bottom of the email that has been forwarded hundreds of times, "click on" links to advertisements. There were nine of them. Nine different sponsors for God's blessings. Everything from TMZ to AOL. (God obviously has a preference for three letter acronyms) I suspect the major recipients of these Celestial ble$$ings are the sponsors who get their ads sent around to all your friends for free.

So rather than perpetuate a viral ad campaign in the name of the Almighty, I decided to take my chances and not circulate the email. But know this. Even without a specific prayer, I wish you all the prosperity, wealth, happiness and success that God has for you. I don't think God is waiting around to receive some well written petition before he grants his goodness to you or any of us. Just as He is not waiting around for us to remind Him to make the sun come up or the vegetables grow. It is generally not the best idea to tell your boss how to do his job especially when he has been doing that job successfully for a little over an eternity. The bottom line is: if this really is the magic prayer for all our financial woes, and God is waiting to receive this prayer before sending the mortgage check for this month, shouldn't we be emailing it to God rather than to each other?

As you were,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A very short film from Productions.
No releases were granted for the use of personal likenesses used in this film. No credit is given to photographers. No license paid to musicians. Actors, editors and production assistants were not compensated. The writer takes no responsibility for the content nor editorial statements contained here in. Neither nor its affiliates are responsible for its creation. It is presented for amusement only. No remedy will be offered if it fails to be amusing, nor apologies given to anyone. And..... No animals were hurt in the filming of this episode.

And by the way. Happy Birthday to my Brother, today August 21st. He does not celebrate birthdays but for those of us who know him and love him, we are glad he was born. Happy DAY super sib.

As you were,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I am certainly glad we got that "Dingus controversy" straightened up.  It is one of the baffling things about Dyslexia.  I must have looked at that graphic a hundred times before I published it.  I would still not notice the mistake if it wasn't pointed it out to me. My mind just sees what it wants to see in spite of empirical evidence to the contrary.  It is really embarrassing when the mistake is plastered bigger than life on a graphic.  Unfortunately it is not the first time I have done that and more unfortunately not the last.  

Most of the time I can hide my dyslexia. Most people don't know that I have a disability. I mean I don't walk with a cane or have a patch over my eye. I don't speak with an impediment. I can carry on a decent intelligent conversation.  A dyslexic doesn't look different from anyone else. Most of the time I am able to catch my mistakes before they are plastered for all to see, and since everyone makes typos or misspells words a lot of the time it goes unnoticed anyway. Then there are Digus mistakes.  When those things happen my insecurity jumps to center stage and to cope with my embarrassment I start my dyslexic confessions.  Perhaps this is one now.

I think the reason so may dyslexic people are artistic is because of the nature of the disability itself.  It takes may forms but basically it is a dysfunction of the "coding" process.  All written language is just a code.  We all agree that these little symbols on a page mean something. The letters are codes of a sounds.  When we link these sounds together they form a word which is another symbolic code for an idea or object.  Our minds can usually make the symbolic connection even when all the letters aren't (there is a case in point) all there.  

For a dyslexic a word isn't a set of sounds representative of an idea, it is a picture.  It is a graphic, a picture that means something.   If someone were to misspell the name McDonalds on the fast food sign, but keep the logo font and color the same, I don't think I would notice the mistake.  It is not a word it is just a picture to me. It represents McDonalds. Like most of us would not notice the Mona Lisa with a small wart on her chin unless we were studying very closely.  So words become pictures of ideas for me.  I skip right pass the step where you we sound out the letters in the word picture makes.  

In school, the solution to my reading problems and spelling problems was always the same.  I would come upon a word that I did not know.  A teacher would say, "Sound out the word, Jay".  Sound it out? I don't hear it in my head, how is that going to help me. I will just hear a cacophony of sounds and never relate it to a word or much less an idea. Besides, Anglo Saxons have decided to use silent letters, and alternate pronunciations in the English language as a rule rather than an occasional exception.  Just tell me the word, Teacher, so I can associate it with what it represents in my mind.

So it is much easier for a dyslexic to draw or paint because a painting is a symbol that doesn't need the proper sound.  A picture just has to covey an idea with no predetermined, acceptable arrangement of letter sounds.  We dyslexics are closer to the creative process because we go directly from symbol to idea rather than having to translate it into sounds or other common denominators. We also excel in anything that is not required to be written.  We are good speakers, great mechanics, excellent athletes, painters, musicians, and great writers when we have someone else check the spelling. Of course no matter how hard we try to compete in this non written world, the rest of the world is locked into proper spelling. Once in a while this word symbol mind game gets in the way. For me it has always meant big mistakes in public places.

In high school I was president of the radio club.  One of the duties of the Radio club was to broadcast daily announcements over the school PA system.  It was an announcers job.  The other clubs or the principal wrote copy for us to read regarding things that the entire school needed to know.  By the time I was a senior I was the voice of RHS in the afternoon. 

I rehearsed and reread every announcement before hand just to make sure I knew all the words. Then there was the day that an important announcement for the National Honor Society was handed to me just as I went "on the air".  It was the last day for the NHS to get a count of its members.  I was trying to tell them to come to the office and sign a list.  However, what I read was,
"Will all current members of the National Honor Society please come to room #214 after class and sign the ROOSTER."  Roster and rooster are very similar pictures, but very different ideas.  But it was too late, the entire school of 2000 erupted in one large guffaw which quickly rumbled down the halls.  For weeks there after supportive friends would make rooster noises at me in the hall.  

As you were,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I feel really disabled.  The NBI which appeared on Sunday, with the Maltese Falcon, bears a misspelling of the word "Dingus".  It says "contemplating the Digus". I am not sure what the Digus is myself and I am sure that Dashiell Hammet never did either.  Please support the National Dyslexia Foundation. I will go back to my spelling dictionary and in the mean time....

For those who just can't get enough of Women's Gymnastics.... here is what you might have missed last night.  I offer it for as my blog comment for today.

As you were,

Monday, August 18, 2008

I decided to take Sunday's off from writing this Blog and not publish. Most real jobs would let you have one day off a week. So for the last two Sunday's I have posted "No Blog Indicators", NBI's instead of the daily Blog on this space.

Most of the TWIAS readers understand the NBI graphic place holder concept. But there have been comments. I know this might be confounding to retired teachers in Arkansas. I admit starting with the graphic of The Maltese Falcon NBI was perhaps too literary. I already made a Raymond Chandler reference last week with limited results. But the blogs have not gotten weird. When you see this sign, you will know I took the day off.
Look for original logo graphic NBI ® coming here soon.

NBI©is the official day off logo of TWIAS™. No other uses are granted or implied
All rights to take a day off will remain reserved
©2008- Hunt, Funt Lunt and Cunningham, LLC.
As you were,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In Los Angeles you are what you drive, it is an old story but still true. I suppose that makes me someone who has a ding in his butt and needs an oil change. Nonetheless, one of the major considerations when planning an evening out in LA is parking, especially on a weekend night.

Hollywood has gone through a major revamp at the corner of Hollywood and Highland Blvd. It is sort of the new Hollywood and Vine. It has been turned into an entertainment complex that includes the El Capitan theatre, Manns Chinese theatre, with all the concrete footprints, restaurants, multilevel shops and the Kodak theatre where they hold the Oscars ceremony every year. 

The complex has underground parking that would seem to be easy. The escalators come right up into the heart of the activity. The problem is getting out of the parking lot. With shows in three theatres ending about the same time there are thousands of cars exiting all at once. The jam is bumper to bumper twisting up various parking levels at the speed of flowing tar. It is boring and stressful and when it takes 55 minutes to exit three levels, the gas wasted by engines idling is a carbon footprint that makes BigFoot look dainty.

So last Saturday night we have tickets to see Eddie Izzard. I like to support anyone who gave me a Tony on live television. Like he needs our support. We bought the tickets six months ago and the best available seating was the last row of the upper balcony. Watching Eddie Izzard at that distance is like using Google Earth without the zoom. Anyway, the parking issue was a factor. That is when we remembered that the Metro Subway makes a stop right at Highland and Hollywood.

The LA subway has only been open a few years. I vowed I would never ride it. When they built it they dug through the Hollywood hills only to find out they were digging through two active earthquake fault lines. The Hollywood freeway sank 12 inches and they hit ground water that dried up a creek that feeds Lake Hollywood.  But, hey, the 6 billion was worth it.  There are 5 stops.

So, to do our part against global warming and $5.00 a gallon gasoline Sandi and I decided to drive to the Universal City stop, park and take the subway (of Death!) to the see Eddie. (I call him Eddie because he once gave me a Tony award on live television, did I mention that?)

Well, the stations are as clean as the London tube stations.  There were only a few people riding the trains.  However, I am sure that these trains come from the factory with pre-scratched grafitti on the windows. I don't know how else it would get there is such a short time.  How can vandals get organized that quickly. "Hey, there is a new train car they put in service yesterday... want to go over and scratch 'viva' on the glass?" Don't they have drug deals and gang wars to attend?  

The next stop from Universal City is Hollywood and Highland, but you have to go through the active faults and tread water.  It only takes 10 minutes.   We immediately run into friends who are taking the train to the Hollywood bowl.  Because the Hollywood bowl has something called piggy back parking, that is cars parked one behind the other, you can be stuck in your car for hours waiting for the people in front to leave.

When you exit the Hollywood station it is like suddenly being transported to New York. The street is filled with people.  There are about 30 Amish in a clutch singing hymns and handing out literature.  They are dressed in their outfits: Black hats, black suits with no tie and facial hair for the men; long black dresses with long sleeves, long hair pulled up in a bun and no makeup for the women. They look like they are right out of central casting.  The fact that they are standing next to Jack Sparrow and Darth Vader look a likes only heightens suspicions that this Amish thing is just a tourist attraction. Almost drowning out "Jesus Love Me" is a group of break dancers spinning on their heads to explicitly lyrical rap songs.  A street artist is doing charactures , and there is a guy selling tee shirts that say... "Obama, yo Mama".  We assumed he was from the DNC. 

We make our way into the Kodak Theatre which is really lovely and very Oscar friendly.  Pictures of the awards adorn the walls, trophies on display in the lobby.  There are little replica Oscars for sale, and you can have your picture taken against a back drop that puts  you right in the middle of the "red carpet".  On every pillar of the lobby are iron cast dates with the name of the movie that won best Picture that year, dating back to the first Oscar.  There are blank pillars with dates through 2039 waiting for the name of future movies.  They obviously insisted on a very long lease.

Eddie is great.  Much smaller than we thought based upon where we are sitting.  Eddie did not mention the Tony's at all during his show. Bitch. They are selling DVD's of his performance in the lobby for those who would like to actually see the show up close.  I'm not sure why but the audience, at least our section, was per capita the fattest, largest group of people I have ever seen. Really, it was odd.  Like there was an orchestra, balcony and whale beaching section to the theatre. 

We were out of the theatre, on the train and back at Universal in 20 minutes.  Most of the audience had not even located their cars by then. Except for the anxious moments of considering our fate if the big one hits while we are in the tunnel, it was a pleasant time.

There are three more stops on the train that I have yet to experience.  Perhaps soon I will get the courage to attempt the adventure.  I doubt that LA will ever change from "you are what you drive" to "you are what you ride".  However, based on the average weight of the people sitting around us at Eddie's show.... a train car could work as an image.

As you were,

Friday, August 15, 2008

I was writing today's blog when this comment was posted to "The World's A Stage" in response to yesterday's blog. 
Question from TYLER
Does this blog take requests? 
How about your first time on stage....or your most embarrassing moment during a performance? Now we are getting somewhere! :) 
My first time on stage was like the first time I made love... I was very frightened, inexperienced and alone. (Tyler you deserve more than an old joke, so here goes.)  

Other than my experience with "Il Tiempo del Postino"  (which I wrote about extensively at the time... check out this blog 7/10/07 through 7/15/07),  I have a weird top ten list. Perhaps my most frightening time on stage is what I now call "The Clown Incident".

I knew going in it was going to be a tough show.  My agent booked me on a Sunday night corporate show in Cancun, Mexico, and a Monday night show (the next night) in Maui.  I remember saying at the time, "Can I do that?" He said, "Sure, the time change works in your favor, you're flying west." The Maui show was for a drug company that was paying us lots of money.

The fact that I would spend 12 hours on a plane to fly a quarter of the globe and perform the same night seemed very doable to the agent.  And yes it is a logistical possibility.  Tyler, if you are still reading, don't believe everything your agent tells you no matter how much money is involved.

Well, flights were not cancelled which would have screwed the pooch, but they were late.  I was a little late getting to Honolulu, but the last flight to Maui was late by several hours.  I finally arrived at the hotel thirty minutes before I was supposed to be on stage, and I was exhausted. 

 I could have corrected most of the bad staging before hand, had I been there earlier. I didn't get to see the show room or have a sound check before the performance. I only had enough time to change clothes, fast, get to the ballroom, toss my music cues at the sound man and go on stage.  

It was not a set up I am comfortable performing in.  I was on an 8x10 three foot high riser in the middle of a large dance floor with audience all around.  The nearest table was probably 20 feet from my little stage. It was marooned on a lonely island in a dark banquet sea.  

The only light for my show was coming from two very large spot lights at the back of the room,  which was lit only by candles on the tables.   If you have never been on stage you can't know how blinding it is. Although the audience can see the performer just fine, in a darkened room with only two spotlights, there is nothing the performer can see but an occasional shadow, if that.  I like to watch the crowd and work them. This was a case of flying on instruments, and doing the show from experience only. 

At some point in the act I became aware of a silhouette darting around the dance floor. It was someone walking between me and the audience in the black "no mans land".  At first I thought it was a waiter or service person.  That's when the shadow walked past the stage a few feet behind the me. The spot light caught him and I could actually see who it was.  I saw a slim man in a loud checkered print suit wearing a red "bozo the clown wig" on his head.  I think he also wore a red clown nose, I wasn't sure.

As any performer would do in a situation when someone is trying to upstage them, I made a few "heckler stopper" jokes that seemed to put me back in control. But not for long.  The clown kept walking around the room.  I would hear him talking to people at the tables, it was extremely distracting.  Finally I said something, or Bob did,  that let him know he was disturbing the performance.

In a flash he was facing me directly in front of the stage.  His bozo wig blocked the light in my eyes and I could see him very clearly.  He was dressed as a bad clown.  Very childish makeup and except for the wig, he had obviously thrown together some old, out of style clothes as a costume .  I am trying to save the show using every heckler line I know, when I see him reach into his pocket.  He pulls out a gun, and quickly aims it at my head. As I instinctively turned away, I am hit in the face by a blast of water.  I am still alive today because it was only a water gun.  

The rule of comedy is "never let them see you sweat".  Here I am at this moment standing in front of an audience dripping wet. Everything stops. 

I put Bob in his case, and someone tosses me a napkin to wipe my face.  The audience is stunned, but no more than me.  My heart is racing and I have lost all focus trying to figure out what has just happened.  To be honest, I'm not sure what came next. I am not sure if he was grabbed and taken away or his just left, but I was suddenly there in the light alone, scared and confused. I made some lame comment to try and get my composure back. I got Bob and attempted to continue with the rest of my show.  It was a thankless, useless task but I have always had that "show must go on" work ethic.

I walked off stage and gathered my stuff.  The producer for the show happened to be the first one I saw.  I was way to exhausted to control my emotions. My fear turned to explosive anger and I let him have it in several voices.  He was as humiliated and embarrassed as I was.

I went to my hotel room to calm down.  A few minutes later the CEO of the drug company was knocking on my door.  He was practically on his knees with apologies.  He had already torn the "clown" a new ass hole and band him from the rest of the evenings festivities.  

Calmer now I tried to explain the fear I felt seeing a gun pointed at my head in the middle of my show, not to mention the humiliation of having water thrown in my face.   The CEO said the guy was really sorry,  and had been ordered to come to me and apologize.  I said I did not want to meet the guy, see the guy or be in the same room with this guy, ever. 

 I kept asking him "Why?" Why would you pay me all this money to perform and then let some employee jerk walk around and try and upstage? Why was he not in his seat watching the show? Why was he dressed as a clown at a business dinner to begin with? The CEO had no real explanations. He said the guy was one of their top salesmen, a huge earner for the company. Finally I asked the real question, "Why did he shoot me?"  He had only one final explanation. For him this explained it all.  The head of the company looked me in the eye and very seriously said, "He's French."

Because of  "The Clown Incident" there is a specific section in my contract rider dealing with the production of my show. It includes lawyer language that says I will perform ONLY under these conditions:  No dance floor, no clowns, no weapons and definitely no FRENCH.

Thanks for asking, Tyler. I hadn't thought about it in many years.

As you were,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I am in San Francisco doing a corporate show for the night. It is easier to make the six hour drive than a one hour flight. By the time you dress and pack for the TSA, drive to the airport, park and wait for a plane that is almost always late to and from San Francisco I can be across the Bay Bridge from interstate 5. The drive is quite boring and makes for easy soulful self examination.

I am staying at a hotel that is not my venue. The actual venue is The Four Seasons. It is very expensive, and on this gig I did not negotiate a hotel room. I am playing catch up on all the work I truned down for London. Got any kids bithday parties that need a ventriloquist?

So I am at a Hotel a few blocks away called the Chancelor. I was calling it the Chandler until I checked in. This hotel was the favorite of Raymond Chandler who stayed here and wrote here often. They have refurbushed his actual room and rent it out at twice the going rate. I guess it is for people who wish to contact the imaginary spirit of Phillip Marlowe. I wasn't looking for spirits I just needed a room for for the night so I could get a "Big Sleep" (literary pun intended for Chandler fans).

I was doing a little introspection of my life on the drive in. This trip reminds me of my college days when I would drive from Dallas to Houston for shows. That is a little shorter drive, 4 hours rather than 6. I never got to negotiate a room on those deals, and they paid less than a tenth of what I get now. In fact I was on such a strick budget I would not even get a room. I would time the drive so I got there just in time for the show and drive back afterwards. Eight hours on the road for a 40 minute show. I remember making some very sleepy drives back to Dallas.

I would get back about two AM so I could get up and make it to class. Often I changed clothes at the apartment of one of my Houston friends but couldn't spend the night. I still had to get back to class the next day. It was hard not to get involved in the parties that were a constantly going on at those apartments in those days. Especially since a girl I really liked at the time lived next door.

I do remember once, after my show I came back by the apartment to change into driving clothes. My buds were watching The Wizard of Oz on television. This is the day before DVD's when you couldn't pick your own time to watch a favorite movie. It had just started and I love that film. I got involved and I stayed until Dorothy made it back to Kansas, before driving back. Very irresponsible given that my class the next morning was Statistics. But I ultimately made a B in the class and it is a great memory now.

So in an hour or so I will head over to the Four Seasons for a sound check. Wait around for my turn on stage, do my best and stay the night rather than make a mad dash home. Some things change, but most remain the same. At least I have grown up enough to know that driving back tonight is not worth the money I would save.
As you were,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

the correct font for YOUR ON LINE writing is very important.
As you were,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I was having a bad computer day not long ago. It fact I might have been having a bad everything day. As I was transferring some computer files in the middle of the afternoon, and the electricity made a static grinding noise. Everything running on electricity dimmed and then went off. My Son's computer went off in his room and he came into my office to see what was wrong.

He said maybe I had overloaded a circut and we should turn the breaker back on. I knew it wasn't a breaker because the entire house went dark. He said, "You want me to go turn it back on?" I meant to say,
"Don't bother, I'm sure the black out is all over the neighborhood." But in my 'mood' I said, "Don't Bother.... It's all over." My son thought I was so depressed I had thrown in the towel and meant... It's all over, the world is doomed.
The way I felt at that moment he was not too far off.
As you were,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Quantum Conundrum: It is called Cantor's dust or Cantor's set theory. In 1883 German mathematician Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Cantor discovered the theory which now bears his name. It was actually discovered 8 years before in 1875 by Irish mathematician and Oxford scholar Henry John Stephen Smith. I don't know why it's not called Henry's Dust, but it's not.  

There might be something to the fact that 57 year old Henry John Stephen Smith died in February of 1883 the same year his set theory became a  38 year old German mathematician's dust theory.  This could be the real story but there isn't time to research it now, I have to get back to FaceBook and make some new friends. 

I always hated math, but if teachers told me about Georg Cantor and his Dust, I might have paid more attention. Here is the way Georg explains his conundrum or perhaps how he explains Smith's conundrum:

 {C * (n-1)} /3 * (U) *( 2/3 + {C times (n-1)} /3)*infinity

And there you have it. 
 That is the equation, here is the theory which is much more accessible.  

Assume you have a yard stick, and you divide it into three one foot segments. You remove the middle section and you have two, one foot segments. You can divide those two sections into three equal segments, take out the middles and have four equal length segments. You repeat that action with the four segments, you get eight, then sixteen, etc.  In fact you can repeat this action into infinity.  Eventually you will have yourself an infinite number of very small segments that can be divided an infinite number of times again. So what do you call the little particles you get after you have gotten tired of dividing for infinity? Well, this set of infinitum is called "Cantor's Dust." It's all over your living room furniture at this very moment and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

So here is the conundrum, you eventually have an infinite number of these segments although you keep discarding a third of them along the way.  But this infinity only equals 36 inches.  So... thirty six inches is an eternity. And you thought size didn't matter.    

How can the infinite be contained in the finite? Or how can a finite contain the infinite?  

Make of this what you will.  I chose to think of it like this:  

If the  television remote control is even three feet away from my hand it is infinitely too far away for me to get it so,   "Would you get that remote for me, Darlin' ?" 

As you were,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

NOTE: The original Cray computer NASA used to plot and control man's trip to the moon had a capacity of 80 Megabits. It was about the size of your average bedroom and took three full time techs just to keep it running. To put that into perspective the small size Nano iPod has an 8 Gigabytes capacity. One gigabyte is one thousand Megabits. You can do the math. I just call that "a shit load" bigger.

I have recently been archiving some of my computer files. Or let me say re-archiving them. They have been stored on Zip Disks. At one point in time that was state of the art for home data storage. One hundred megabytes on a disk which is not much bigger than a floppy disk. I remember transferring some of those files from twenty megabyte Zip disks that were the size of an 8 x 10 sheet of paper and a quarter inch thick. They required a special drive to hold them. You could put two of these massive disks in the machine at once and have access to Forty additional megabytes of data. That was amazing.

The day I could get the contents of five of these massive disks onto one- one hundred megabyte Zip disk an eighth the size was even more amazing. I suddenly had much more shelf space.

So I am now putting that same information onto a 350 Gigabyte firewire drive about the size of a paper back book. Much more shelf space. The computer world is not getting bigger and better, it is getting smaller and faster.

I found that most of the stuff I am storing is art work and word files. I have saved a lot of stories, and memories. I have been blogging for a long time with no place to publish. For some reason I felt the need to save these writings. Well, now I have this blog so I have decided to publish some of the old stuff here. It may be the cyber equivalent of showing your own baby pictures, but a lot of the stuff I wrote back then was okay.

Some of it may be a little long to publish in one blog entry. There's one story that is about 14 pages long. So... I am planning to serialize the ones that are more than a couple of pages. Haven't quite figured out where the chapters will be or how to annotate them. That will come.

I figure it is better to publish the stories than have them collect Cantor's dust. I'm afraid that having them continually compressed into ever smaller and smaller space will eventually make them disappear, and if that happens, why did I waste all that shelf space.
As you were,

Friday, August 08, 2008

In honor of the new X Files movie that is finally being released after a very long franchise hiatus. Here is a trailer you might enjoy.
The Hex Files
As you were,

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Accident or Art? Most of the pictures I've been posting have been taken with my new camera. Sandra gave it to me for my birthday before we left for London. We hung around New York for a couple of days before we made our way over the pond. It seems like several life times ago, but it hasn't quite been that long.

I was trying to figure out this new camera over lunch at the Universe Diner somewhere around 8th and 46th Street in Manhattan. I hit the button by mistake while I was setting the camera on the table. I thought I was turning it off. The ceiling is painted with this space-scape and the flash stopped the fan mid motion. I wasn't sure what had happened until later as I was reviewing the pictures I had taken. This picture was the result. It is probably the best picture I took that day.

I wasn't aware enough to actually take this picture on purpose. Perhaps I channeled some photography muse before I ordered my ham sandwich. Whatever happened I like the picture. Maybe I like it more because it was an accident. A gift from the muse to me.

Just goes to show you that there are interesting things all around us at almost every moment of our lives. To be an artist is perhaps just the attention and awareness to look around and see them.

I suppose the lesson here is for me to look around to see what wonderful pictures are hidden in the most mundane of moments. Perhaps it is possible to see life as art and not accident.
As you were,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Okay so when did writing become a spectator sport? It may only be a Los Angeles trend, but I suspect with the proliferation of Starbucks nationwide it is happening more and more around the country. The image of a lonely writer in a smoke filled back room slaving away on an IBM selectric typewiter, writing that screen play may be only valid in Film Noir documentaries now days. We know the IBM selectric has left the building, perhaps the lonely craft of writing has as well. I chalk it up to the "reality mentality". Life is only real when it is being filmed or televised. We have conversations on FaceBook and watch other humans act out their lives on Reality shows rather than experience either for ourselves.

I know different writers have different methods. Some write in the early morning, some in the late night. Some have to have complete silence, some have to have the television on. Most set up a regular time to write on a regular schedule. But until now I didn't know a writer needed an audience. To most the writers I know it is a job. They like their job, but set up definite hours for working and rest to fill up so they can write some more.

Last Saturday I was up and out earlier than normal. I went to my Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to get a cup of Joe. When I walked in there were three patrons furiously working on laptops. They looked like they were from central casting auditioning to play the part of William Goldman or Stephen King.

One lady particularly stood out. She sat at the bar by the cash register. This makes her impossible to over look as you order. In her late mid to late 50's, she wore no makeup and came off as sort of plain and bookish, rather than glamorous, mothering or provocative. (Not that any of those looks are good or bad in and of themselves) The point is she was going for that particular literary look.

She was dressed like this was a costume party, not just a Saturday morning throw on. Her newsboy cap was backwards on her head. She wore white shirt with a loose neck tie, the knot hanging on her breast; Sporting black toreador pants with black suede mary -jane shoes and white socks. There was a yellow pencil stuck behind her ear. A large three ring binder covered in sticky notes was spread out on the counter next to her. This "desk" was taking up three places to insure no one else could sit at this spot in the store. She was not smoking but could have been. I think she was eating M&M's from a small bowl. She chewed very fast and the quick continuous hand motions from the bowl to her mouth mimicked the motions of a chain smoker.

At first she looked to be completely engrossed in her work. She mouthed the words as she read and sometimes even whispered them softly, giggling to herself like she was acting out the parts and listening in the same sentence. I then noticed something wrong with the scene. She worked at the text only when she knew someone was watching her. She would work for awhile and then with great skill and subtlety, check out the room to see who was watching. She caught me a couple of times. When she had an audience she would feverishly chain smoke her M&M's and mouth her words working at a pace that would exhaust a mere human. Her approach to writing seemed to be that of a plate spinner. There were not enough hours in the day or coffee in the cup to finish this work, as she write, marked and mumbling at a Meth addict's pace. When no one was looking she starred into the shelf full of packaged coffee beans. It sometimes took a new patron to come in and order coffee to break that stare and get her to focus again feverishly on the text.

Now she may be one of the best writers in Los Angeles. Her work may have won Emmys and Pulitzers but it sure looked like a Saturday morning kids show to me. Shouldn't a writer's work speak for itself. Is the process of writing now so important that we must have people watching us do it. Perhaps there is no project to speak for itself. Perhaps this is just street theatre and the process of being watched is the reward. It seemed all too odd to me.

I came home to my desk top computer to rant in silence and unnoticed. Call me a traditionalist.
As you were,

Monday, August 04, 2008

A lot of my friends and my wife have birthdays around this same time of the summer. It works out that way almost every year. A disproportionate number of us were born during the sign of Cancer the Crab. We usually try to celebrate together at least once.

This year we went to a funky Mexican Restaurant in Burbank called Viva. The food is okay, But there is a well kept secret in the back room that drew us there. Every Wednesday the Glen Roberts Big Band rehearses. They take over the back room and play charts. There is no cover charge, first come first seated. It is really great music and great to hear this style of music rather than Mariachi with your Margaritas.

The band is made of up of mostly retired musicians and old horn players. One guy, maybe 87 years old, wears an oxygen tank while he plays the trombone. They stop at 9:00pm on the button to accommodate the last bus that goes to the retirement home. It is great music and heart warming to see these guys still dedicated to their music. They are taking August off and so this was there last "rehearsal". They will be back in September, "assuming we are all still alive -" Remarked one of the horn players.

A lady in her 80's named Adel struck up a conversation with us. (The "youngsters" in the crowd) She identified herself as a the band"groupie". She said, "The band doesn't go anywhere any more, but if they did I would follow them." She left the restaurant with a 79 year old sax player and I am sure she arrive there alone.

Any way here is a quick video of their playing. There is no way to really appreciate it unless you are there to see it live. Although Sandi's hair covers the shot I tried to get of most of our friends at the table, the video ends on the smiling face of my BFF Lynn. I have known Lynn longer than my wife. I think we are celebrating 43 years of friendship this year. How blessed I am to have such friends.

What a great night. What a great time, and what a thrill to be thought of as the youngsters.

As you were,

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My son Brandon sent this video to me. It comes out of a conversation we were having via Skype about writing and writers a few days ago. Sometimes I think I get better advice from our kids than the advice I ever gave them.

This video is ten minutes long. I know that is near the attention span limits of the of the average blog reader, but if you start to watch it and "get it" you will find yourself rushing to YouTube for the twenty or so other videos of Henry Miller's monologues. If you don't relate, there is a stop button, use it and get on with your life.
This video explains to me why a writer writes. Miller's observational brain has so much stored inside it virtually spills out from over flow. He must write or explode from stored information.

I am glad he is too old to have wasting his writing ability "texting" in chat rooms. On FaceBook this entire event would be reduced to "Henry looked around his bathroom today, 7:22, July 24, 2008."

Here is yet another reason to celebrate old. Watch it or not. It may not mean to you what it means to Brandon and me. Brandon is 25 and I am not, so I know it is not a generational thing. I offer it as my blog contribution this day with great jealousy, envy and awe of this man's talent and mind.

Hope you had a great weekend!
As you were,

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Very exciting. Today a large envelope arrived bearing the stamp of the Royal Post. It is indeed my name plate from the dressing room door of the Arts Theatre (Formerly of Death!) Like me it has made the journey home more displaced than worn. It is wonderful to be united with the plastic symbol of my noted career. It was wrapped in lime green tissue paper, which I know was the perfect Julia touch.  Thank you Miss Julia, for taking the time to reunite me with my stuff.  

However there was another mystery included in the package. Julia sent a card with these letters strewn about the envelope. She made no reference to the letters,  and they mocked me as they looked up  from the table, saying "solve me if you can puppet man."  

Knowing Julia these were certainly not random letters which happened to be with the card. In fact they seemed to be separate from the card altogether.  For a dyslexic brain like mine this is a night mare.  Trying to visualize letters in a certain order to create words is just not my thing.  I gave it a good try.  And came up with a few ideas, nothing seemed to be the idea intended, or was it?  Among the attempts:

Den a lot thy own.
A town den thy lo.
The tony and owl
A Dent on thy owl 
Deathly not now.

After "deathly" I became scared and gave up. I asked Sandi if she could make anything out of these letters.  Miss, "I never miss the crossword puzzle in the Times," looked at the letters and without hesitation spelled out the following.  I am very sure that was the intent. 

Don't know how I could have missed that.  Thank you Julia.
As you were,

Friday, August 01, 2008

In keeping with New guide lines for writing this blog, hereafter referred to as NRGB, New rule number 6. "No more references to FaceBook will be made in jest."   I shall observe this rule and continue to limit my comments concerning FaceBook.

So let's talk about MySpace. I am not a member of MySpace. I have plenty of space at my house, I don't need to identify it as MY Space because it really exists and it is mine. You can drive by my space the next time you are cruising Encino looking for Fred Willard's house. He lives across the street. (Sorry, name dropping is a well crafted sport in LA. I like to try to stay in shape).

But back to MySpace. My youngest son, like his dad, believes that there exists a "global elite" intent on ruling the world by dumbing down the population. They may some day even trick or scare us into electing a President who can't pronounce the word "Nuclear" and has the IQ of a Texas Jackalope.  But that could never happen, this is America not Ruwanda. Why worry about that?

But ...Back to MySpace. My son will not use or even acknowledge MySpace except to pronounce it the subversive tool to ultimately gain control of an unsuspecting world. He points out that Rupert Murdock (poster boy for the controling elite) owns MySpace. He paid in the neighborhood of 147 million dollars for it from a couple of high school hacker nerds who were just using it to try and meet some girls on line. Who knew that Rupert was so interested in "social interaction" .

So here is my issue.  No arm banded goose stepping troupe will ever have to march in and take away our rights here in America. With the proper presentation, we will just give our civil liberties voluntarily, we are that generous a Nation.  I am sure FaceBook has a similar clause in their Terms of Agreement but here is the actual language Murdock's lawyers came up with for Myspace.  (It is legal speak but remember if you are using MySpace you signed off on this contract. Of course if you didn't read back then, you probably won't read it now.)

6. Proprietary Rights in Content on MySpace.
6.1 MySpace does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain any such rights that you may have in your Content, -( JJ note: This sounds really great.. MySpace is graciously granting me the rights to ownership of my own stuff. What massive generosity but read on... anything following the phrase "subject to" means in legal speak that the previous statements are Bull shit) subject to the limited license herein. By displaying or publishing (”posting”) any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace a limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on or through the MySpace Services, including without limitation distributing part or all of the MySpace Website in any media formats and through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the MySpace Website. (JJ note: I'm sorry did they say limited license? What would an unlimited license sound like?)

Just to to clarify "they"  have a right to "distribute such Content in all media formats and through any media channels".  Who are they and what media are they talking about? According to Wikipedia here is the media the Murdock's News Corp owns: (It is in small print,  just like a contract disclaimer so I could get the massive list down to blog size)
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox Español
Twentieth Century Fox International
Twentieth Century Fox Television
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Studios Australia
Fox Studios Baja
Fox Studios Los Angeles
Fox Television Studios

20th Century Fox Television
Fox Broadcasting Company
Fox Sports Australia
Fox Television Stations
Premiere (19,9%)
Star Group Limited
Sky Latin America
SKY Network Television New Zealand
Sky Italia
Fox International Channels Italy
Latvijas Neatkarīgā Televīzija
TV5 Rīga

Fox Business Network
Fox Movie Channel
Fox News Channel
Fox Soccer Channel
Fox Sports Channel
Fox Sports Enterprises
Fox Sports en Español
Fox Sports Net
FX Networks
Fox Reality
National Geographic Channel
SPEED Channel
Turner South
LAPTV (Latin America - co-owned with Paramount Pictures/Viacom, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MGM Holdings and Universal Studios/NBC Universal)
Telecine (Brazil - co-owned with Globosat Canais, Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Universal Studios and DreamWorks/Viacom);

Fox Interactive Media
Rotten Tomatoes

Tired of reading?  Well we haven' t even gotten to the Printed media yet...
At this point a certain segment of readers will lose interest and return to MySpace.
Magazines and Inserts
donna hay
News America Marketing
The Weekly Standard

News International
United Kingdom
The Sun
News of the World
The Times
Sunday Times
News Corporation Ltd.
The Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney)
The Australian (national)
The Advertiser and Sunday Mail (Adelaide)
The Sunday Times (Perth)
Herald Sun (Melbourne)
Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne)
mX (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane)
The Courier-Mail (Brisbane)
Geelong Advertiser
Gold Coast Bulletin
The Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian (Hobart)
Northern Territory News (Darwin)
The Sunday Territorian (Darwin)
New Zealand
Sunday Star-Times
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea Post-Courier
The Fiji Times
United States
New York Post
The Wall Street Journal

So.... You know that compromising photo you took of yourself and posted on line. The one you only wanted your pals to see so they would know you're a jackass when you are stoned? It's only a Murdock decision away from airing on Fox Television tonight as the lead story, or perhaps front page of the tasteful New York Post.  Pay you for your intellectual property or use to the rights of your likeness? No, Check the agreeement. Recourse if it is slanderous or liebaleous?... that is not in the Terms of Agreement either. It seems the media listed above has the  "limited license" to do with that photo anything it wishes in any form it decides.

You always have the right to cancel your page on MySpace.  The content that you posted previously... it's still their property.

Remember the eight girls from Lake Land, Florida who lured their friend to a house so they could beat the s--- out of her and film it for MySpace? They gave them a catchy name in the headlines to follow, The Lake Land 8?  Remember who broke that story almost before they broke the girl's nose?   Fox News.  The other media picked it up quickly, but Murdock scooped them because technically that story was produced "in house".  

And lastly. Why would 8 teenage girls want to beat the crap out of a schoolmate and video it for distribution? Well, it seems the victim wrote something the others didn't like on MYSPACE.

I rest my case your honor.
As you were,