Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hey, Siri? Ya listenin'?

Sidewalk at the Entrance of the North Hollywood
Police station...
I got a new iPad pro for Christmas. One of the new features on the current IOS is instant contact with Siri. After setting up a couple of voice pattern tests I "enabled" this function.  This morning I was able to simple say out loud in the direction of the iPad. "Hey Siri what time is it."  With no further need for my assistance like punching a button or booting the iPad up Siri said, "The time is 7:06 am, Jay." Now I admit, as amazing as that is, I could have gotten the same information easier by just looking at one of the three clocks I can see from my bed. However, since Siri is connected to the WWW I could just as easily have gotten the answers to much more complicated questions.  I found out that this hands free function is also available on my iPhone although I have never set it up and turned it on.  Supposedly, this function only works when the iPhone or iPad is connected to a charger, but the whole thing makes me wonder if George Orwells' 1984 has arrived and I should be addressing "Big Brother" not Siri. 
I am not a scientist but logically if Siri can respond to my voice any time it is plugged in and charging, that must mean it is always "listening" to the sounds around it in some capacity.  How else would it know to respond to my voice without any other prompt? Logically then, with the right wifi address or even serial number of my device anyone also connected to the World Wide Web could "listen in" just like Siri.  Theoretically my new iPad and my iPhone are the worlds most sophisticated bugging devices and I rarely leave my house without one or both of them.  Should I be worried that potentially I am allowing ease dropping of my own conversations on and off the phone? Heck no, this is America. It is illegal to do that without enough probable cause to get a Judge to issue a warrant.  Or not...

Over the Holiday's we watched the documentary "Citizenfour". It is a scary movie about Edward Snowden's whistle blowing leak and outing the NSA spying program.  Although I certainly remember the stir he caused, I never really understood what he was trying to expose until now.
This idea of "Metadata"- collecting every phone record, email, text, cell tower proximity, Google searches, sight visits and GPS coordinates of every American as well as perceived threats online is a complete invasion of my privacy. But to do that "Big Brother" would have to have to tag me with an electronic device that had the capacity gather all this Metadata and send it to Big Brother. What would some bug like that cost and how could a government get everyone in the United States to carry one. Well,  It is called a smart phone. Oh and by the way.... I paid for this bugging device myself and carry it with me voluntarily. 
We will never be conquered by a squad of jack boot brown shirts who march into our community and take away our rights.  We will gladly give up our rights to those we think are less evil than the people THEY claim are out to suppress us. We will become so scared of "the greater threat" that we will invite Satan himself into our homes if we think he can protect us. We are being ruled by the fear of "what if".  Remember this path of logical fear... What if Iraq gives their weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? We were afraid of that "what if" so much that we invaded a Iraq without provocation.  Oh and by the way... the weapons of mass destruction we were so afraid of... didn't exist.  Now we are being told to be afraid of the people who took over Iraq after we destroyed their government. When we get a handle on them we will find another "what if" to fear.  Maybe we should be more concerned about being spied on by the very people we thought were protecting us from that possibility.  
If you think smashing your cell phone, burying your iPad and dropping off the grid will keep you from being spied on, don't do it.  It's too late. Even if you don't have a smart phone on your person, the guy or gal next to you does and their GPS is on.  Oh,  and the security camera on that retail store you just passed, got a great shot of you.  
"Hey Siri...who is there with you listening to me ?"  I didn't get an answer because the iPad is not plugged in....RIGHT.   
As you were,

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Age of Art

I'm a Mac Head. I was drawn, literally and figuratively, to the first Macintosh Computer primarily because of a program called MacPaint. It was a simple black and white program that let you draw on the screen using the mouse.  You could print out a black and white sketch a third the size of a standard 8x10 page.  Wow.. I thought.  Goodbye forever to ink spills on my drawing table even though the MacPaint pixels were so large it looked like something made with Legos. But, drawing on the computer was a new and exciting experience and I have never stopped. 
MacPaint gave way to more complicated art programs, full color, full page and eventually the ultimate drawing program for me... PhotoShop. But because digital drawing tablets were so expensive and clumsy I was relegated to doing my work with the mouse.  My friend Kirk Thatcher compared using a mouse to sketching with a bar of soap. It is a learned skill causing you to adjust to the needs of the computer rather than the other way around.  I was finally able to train myself to look at the screen and not my hand while attempting to paint on a computer with a mouse.  
The minute Apple announced something called the iPad, I got excited. It looked like a drawing tablet to me and I was sure that one day they would construct and app that would allow me to draw directly on the "page/screen".  The minute that happened, I said to myself, I would have one of those iPad toys.  
After the third generation of iPad, the speed and the apps were there so I decided to make the leap and purchase an iPad, primarily to draw on.  However, I quickly found that drawing with your finger is no more satisfying than drawing with a mouse.  I went to the Apple Store to get a stylus but couldn't find one among the accessories.  The "genius" told me they had them in the back, they sold them but did not encourage their use. It seems Steve Jobs believed things on the iPad should mostly be done with the bare hands.  
For me a stylus was the next step in learning to draw in the electronic age.  It is better than sketching with your finger or a bar of soap, but the rounded point of a stylus is as big as your finger tip. Using a a stylus to draw is like trying to paint with an un sharpened Crayola.  Once again as amazing as this technology was, I still had to adjust to the artistic demands of the technology, rather than have the tech hide seamlessly in the background.  I also discovered that the amount of time I spend drawing on an iPad wears out the average stylus in about three weeks.  Over the last few years I have spent a sizable sum of money on styluses for my iPad.  
So, Apple this year comes out with the iPad Pro.  Bigger faster and sexier than former models.  But the most important feature of the Pro is the Apple Pencil. It did not take long to make it happen after Jobs was no longer there to object. After playing with a demo model Pencil at the Apple Store, I was hooked.  
Apple was able to create the "stylus" that I have always wanted for the iPad.  It is smoother, faster and more responsive than any "digital tablet" I have ever tried.  The pencil tip is the perfect shape and size. Some how the perfectly balanced "electronic pencil" uses it's own touch and a bluetooth signal to make the experience of drawing on the iPad even better than pen and paper. 
Sandi gave me the iPad Pro for Christmas and although I was told I had to wait about 4 weeks for the pencil, she was able to find one for me to open Christmas day.  It is as exciting to draw with as I ever imagined.
So you might think that my art work has taken a dramatic turn for the better, especially since I have been iPad Pro drawing non-stop since Christmas morning.  I thought it was just a matter of having the right tool for the job.  Between, soap bar drawing, guessing where the line is under the tip of a flattened crayon and feeling like a "finger painting" child, I had forgotten how to draw with a pencil.  Since this is the closest thing to the actual feeling of drawing with a pencil, I am relearning how to use such a primitive tool.  Things like the pressure and angle of the Apple Pencil effect the opacity, size and strength of the line being drawn.  Until now that was only important when you were actually using a #2 Ticonderoga.  
It's getting there. Relearning how to be subtle with the stroke of a pencil is a good thing never to loose. But for now the learning curve is steep and the memory banks are a little dusty.  I can tell you now that I will never go back to drawing with a bar of soap, it's a new world.       
As you were,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What is Ted Cruz?

I like to think of myself as a pretty good judge of comedy. And since I have had some experience with the legal definition of parody and satire, I think I can tell that difference as well. That is why when I look at the "parody/satire humorous political ad" that Ted Cruz ran on SNL, it is neither.

It is supposed to be a spoof on infomercials selling Dr Suess like Children's books.  They are all Christmas themed political missives with titles like "The Grench that Stole Emails", and "Frosty the House Majority Leader". And perhaps the worst of all is a book cover showing a cartoon Ted Cruz placing a star on the top of a Christmas tree entitled "The Senator who Saved Christmas".  The Cruz family attempt at Suess poetry falls even harder. At the end the announcer says, "if you don't like this book then you probably don't like Christmas anyway."  Implied in the statement is, "if you are not with us you are against us and you are going to hell.  As we say in show business,  "What is a bad idea without poor execution."  
It seems as if Ted Cruz believes it is a good thing to remind Americans that it was he who filibustered congress with the reading of Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor, shutting down the government and knocking our national credit rating off the top tier. (Side note: we still have not regained that top credit rating). If Ted is looking for Dr. Suess philosophy as it applies to human nature he should read a Dr.  Suess book called, "Star Belly Sneeches."  
Just in case here is a tag to an animated version of the Star belly Sneeches. It mocks the idea that some consider themselves superior for the most insignificant difference.

Giving Cruz and his daughters the benefit of the doubt, knowing they do not make their living delivering comedy, I still think his ad is stupid and definitely not funny.  I would post it here so you could see for yourself, but I do not want to taint my blog with Cruz Koolade.  You can find it on line if you are so inclined. It is an embarrassment to everyone but Cruz who states at the end with his "Grampa Munster" mug that He "approved this message." 
If you Google "Ted Cruz idiot" you will find a lot of quotes the Senator has stated over the last couple years.  But one article stands out. It is an by Sophia McClennen written on April 5, 2015 for a publication called the AlertNet. She points out that Ted Cruz is not an idiot, he is delusional which is much worse.  
Ted Cruz wants America to become a theocracy.  He wants our Constitution and government to be based on the Laws of the Christian Bible.  At the same time he wants to destroy all countries that believe in Sharia law and keep Muslims out of the American mix.  Sophia McClennen is right, that is not simply idiotic it is delusional. 
ISIS is a political theocracy with the laws of radical Islam as the law of their government. The only difference between what Ted Cruz wants and what ISIS wants is the difference between the Koran and the Bible. Neither book, in my opinion, has any more relevance in government than one by Dr. Suess.  
On Monday the Washington Post published a political cartoon in Dr. Suess style depicting Ted as a Santa Claus Organ grinder and his kids as the monkeys collecting money.  Cruz lashed out at the Washington Post screaming liberal media slander and they took the cartoon down. I'm glad the Post decided to do that.  I believe that Ted Cruz's family should not be a target, especially his kids, BUT he started the pandering.  Had he not used his kids in an ill conceived political ad, then the Washington Post would have nothing to PARODY.   Yes, Mr. Cruz this cartoon was Parody on your attempt at parody. If you assume the right to make the comments you do, then anyone has the right to make comments about your comments.  
This is the game you chose, you can't call for a rules change the minute the opposition scores a goal even if that seems to be your MO.  So, live with it, or shut up, or best yet get out of the race. 
I can not wait for this political season to end. I am sick of the stupidity, arrogance, entitlement and exclusiveness of this bunch of contenders.
As you were,

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


Hypnotized for Death - Art by Jay Johnson
Radicalization. Is that a new word or is it just now coming into popular usage?  It seems to be a term that is exclusively associated with Islamic jihad or fatwa these days. Christians don't use the word radicalization, they call it "being saved".  It is the moment you accept Jesus as a personal Savior and  become one of the flock.  It means you will stop living by the ways of the world and live the way that Christian Clergy tell you is right. Because Christians are not radicals. They are doing God's work. They don't kill and  bomb innocent people.  Really? Perhaps actions speak louder than words.
Christian religious leader and head of Virginia's Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s learned Christian opinion is: every student should carry a firearm on campus to kill Muslims if they try to attack. Donald Trump proposes that those professing Islamic Faith not be allowed to enter the USA. Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee state that if elected to office of the President, they will defer to the laws of the Christian Church over the laws of the Constitution.  In fact here is a link to and article by Alex Henderson a writer for AlterNet, on the top ten attacks of innocent people by "saved" Christians. It is interesting to note that this is not an article written after the recent rash of violence. This article was written in  2013. 
Robert Dear killed people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs just weeks ago.  No one questioned when he was "saved".  In fact his religion never entered the picture. He was just a lone gun wing-nut who was insanely blinded by a lie. 
As for the San Bernardino shooters, we are trying to identify the moment they were "radicalized".  Was it the wife who radicalized the husband or the other way around. Did they become "radicals" here in this country or did they travel to the Middle East. They are not wing-nut killers they are "radicalized terrorists".  Except for the adjectives we use, what is the difference. I don't think the people who were killed in these attacks care how you describe their murder, they are dead either way.  
I think it was a teacher named Jesus who said, "Take the log out of your own eye so you can see better to remove the speck from your neighbor's eye." The only side God takes is the one of justice, equality, love, Independence and celestial inclusion. The principle of omnipotent good does not qualify the rule of Thou shall not kill. Does it say, "Thou shall not kill, Christians, or Muslims, or Jews, or friends, or enemies or infidels? No is simply says don't kill, one could argue that even means animals. 
So before we open internment camps for the "radicalized" let's realize that most of the terror we are experiencing is not from the blindness of Islam but the intolerance of Christians.
As you were,

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Il Duce and El Douche

He was just a joke with some crazy ideas until he was elected. Cautionary tale?

noun: fascism; noun: Fascism; plural noun: Fascisms
  1. an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government 
  2. and social organization.
  3. synonyms:authoritarianism, totalitarianism, 

Monday, December 07, 2015

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus

Santa Snow Globe - by Jay K. Johnson
I walked into the same store last night, and saw the same vending machine set apart from the the Christmas decorations. 
I remembered the occasion like it just happened. I also remembered writing a blog about it.  I found the blog from 2008.  Here it is again for anyone who missed it.  The point of this story is: You find happiness and joy by looking for it, the same is true of fear and danger. We need to learn how to look only for the happy. Happy Holidays, is not just a greeting of the season,  it is the mission statement of life.  Here is the story: 

I saw him last night at Ralph's Grocery store. This Santa Claus wasn't one of those imposter's in a rented red suit, he was the real thing. Other than a cute little 10 year old girl, I don't think anyone else realized he was there.

Just inside the doorway of this store is one of those vending machines sometimes called a "grapler". You know, the carny game where you put in a quarter and try to guide a hook over to a plush toy. If it holds on hard enough the hook will move over and will drop the toy into a bin. It rarely happens. The game is just short of gambling.

As I walked in a little girl had just placed her bet by putting a quarter in the slot. I've never see anyone attempting to grab a toy at that machine before so I stopped to watch. Indeed she had maneuvered the hook just above a cute panda bear toy and it dropped on top of the Bear's head. It's designed to give you false hope like that, the hook is usually not strong enough to hang onto and the toy and it usually slides right off again. This time it didn't. It held. I watched the toy swing with the momentum and hold on until it was dropped into the bin.

The little girl was ecstatic. I said, "I have never seen anyone win that game before... good for you." She said, "Thank you," and excitedly ran to her Mom. It was like she had won the New York lottery. I saw it in her eyes. Christmas came early. Santa made an unscheduled stop to pick up some carrots for the reindeer and worked a little magic just for her.

Oh, I didn't get a good look at Santa, only his reflection in her eyes, but I knew she saw him standing there. I couldn't get the grin off my face for the rest of the evening.

I don't know the little girl's name but to me, she is Virginia.
As you were,

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Merry Mass Christmas Shooting

Does this sound right?  
A 28-year-old county health inspector attends a potluck Christmas luncheon at the IR center in San Bernardino, CA. Small talk about work turns into a darker conversation. This civil social interaction turns ugly. The health inspector takes some remark made in passing personally and storms out of the luncheon.
On the drive home in his black SUV the health inspector and Father of a six-month-old child begins to boil with rage. By the time he reaches his house, a few minutes drive away he is livid.  His wife greets him at the door surprised to see him home so soon.
"That was a quick luncheon, Dear."
"They're infidels all of them. Honey is my black ski mask and cammo outfit back from the cleaners?"
"Yes. Just picked the cleaning up yesterday."
"How about your mask and outfit?"
"Oh honey, you know I always have my mass shooting outfit ready to go."
"Perfect. Now what else do we need? Grab a couple of our AK 47s, we'll need some pipe bombs from the garage and don't forget our matching Glock 9mm's. They go so well with the cammo outfit. Oh, did you replace the ammo supplies?"
"Sure did, Honey. We have 1600 rounds for the AK's and about 900 rounds for the 9mm. Should I wear my suicide vest?"
"No, definitely not. It makes your ass look bigger. Let me see your Jihadi face." The inspector inspects the radical face his wife is trying to make.
"That's not scary at all, Honey. Just don't take off the ski mask, okay? How quick can you be ready for a fatwa?"
"Only a few minutes. What about the baby?"
"Rats. I forgot all about the kid. Can we get a babysitter this quick?"
"That's impossible, the baby sitter is in school."
"The baby will just have to fend for herself. Get in the car. We need to get back to that party before they get to Sally's desert. Last year no one hung around very long after that cake was gone." 
"Okay Honey, let's rumble."
The couple dressed in their finest urban combat attire return to the party and open fire with their matching automatic weapons.  In a short moment of chaos and rage 14 people are dead and 21 wounded. Seven hours later the Inspector and his wife are spotted driving the black SUV and after a 1000 round shoot out with police, they are dead. 
For almost ten hours of non-stop television the same five-minute story is told. The police play the events very close to the vest.  As if we were playing Zombie Apocalypse instead of watching the news, the scenes of well-trained SWATT teams from all over the area demonstrate their well practiced maneuvers. The action is punctuated with participation from the County Sheriff's office, Police from several surrounding cities and their own SWATT teams, the FBI, ATF and Homeland security. The FBI won't rule out terrorism. The ATF won't rule out illegal guns, the police won't rule out employee rage and Homeland Security won't rule out anything. Finally the identity of the shooters is released and the inspector, born in the United States, has an Islamic name. The Muslim community goes into Community outreach mode, condemning the shootings. 
Just another mass shooting made in America. We have grown accustomed to the "disgruntle" employee who chooses to register a complaint with his boss using a long gun. However, for the mentally unstable employee to have access to a cache of bombs, fire arms, assault weapons, combat wardrobe and a wife willing to aid in an armed assault, makes this event unique.  The fact that they both have Muslim sounding names.... well, that just high jacks the discussion from gun control to "immigration control".  Look for Mr. Trump to double down on his notion of registering all Muslims and spying on Mosques the next chance he gets.  
I ask again, does this sound right? No!  When 31 people are either severely wounded or killed just because they attended a potluck Holiday luncheon, that is not nor will it ever be, right. 
America, the alarm has gone off loud and clear but we have punched snooze on this gun issue for decades.  It is time to get up and at least try to keep this sort of thing from ever happening again. 
As you were,


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

He-Man Power Sword : A Christmas Story

I don't like to do math, especially when it comes to calculating the age of my children. So let's just say it was back when my oldest son was young.  He was old enough to question the existence of Santa but smart enough to continue to milk the benefits of Santa's benevolence for at least another season.
If you don't have kids you don't know the terror of searching for that impossible Santa Claus gift. It is every parents nightmare. There's always that "gift" which is marketed to kids as the must have Christmas present. It was usually some electronic toy that was perpetually out of stock and back ordered.  Parents would camp out at Toys 'R  Us over night to be there when the delivery truck arrived.  Buying weapons on the black market is quicker and easier.
It was such a Christmas for Sandi and me.  My son was into action figures, which was the fade of his time, and He-Man was his super hero of choice that year.  He-Man's franchise weapon was the He-Man Power Sword. That year, a toy of He-Man's sword was offered for sale around November.  Made of strong plastic it was a scale replica of the magic sword and electronically created the same sound effects when it was wielded.  It's the only thing my son wants from Santa Claus that year.  Unfortunately, most every other boy his age wanted exactly the same thing.  It's a capitalist's wet dream to have your demand overwhelm your supply.
We were new to this parent thing so we waited too long to begin the Santa search for the He-Man Power Sword. It was sold out at every place we shopped for it.  No one knew where to find one. I had the number to Toy's R Us on speed dial nearing Christmas week. "Call back at 3:00, there is a shipment coming in and there might be a few swords in that load."
Stopping short of camping out on the steps of the store, at 3:01 -  I called again. "Yeah, we got a few. We sold out.  But we have a shipment coming in tomorrow morning.  I think we will get some more in by Christmas -DAY".
We were scrambling to figure out an alternative present to the sword.  The rest of our Christmas shopping was done.  There were plenty of toy swords for sale, but not He-Man's.
Passing through one of the department stores we saw an Angel Christmas Tree. I think an Angel Tree is best way to honor the season.  Cards, like ornaments hang on the tree.  On the card is a Christmas wish from someone in need. The card is a gift wish with instructions on where to deliver the present, which in this case was a shelter not far away.  I looked around at the wishes. The requests were for simple things.  The one that struck us was a wish for a plush toy and baby products like shampoo and diapers.  That is the one we took.  There was a franchise drug store near and we felt we could get everything for the wish from there.  We took the card and set off on our mission.
It had been sometime since I shopped for diapers and this store was unfamiliar.  I asked a clerk with a Santa hat on, where the diapers were.  He said, "Right over here" and walked me to the aisle.
"Thank You".
"You're welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
"Not unless you have a He-Man Power Sword." I was asking everybody.
The clerk smiled and went about his business.
As we were standing at the check out counter that same Santa clerk came up to Sandi and me. He said, "I thought I saw one of these in the back. It's the only one we have left."
He was holding the He-Man Power Sword.
Add your own personal moral to the story.  And if you happen to see an Angel Tree, grab a card.
As you were,

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Lessor Evil?

The Lessor of Something....
Don't get me wrong.  I am not advocating a case for any presidential candidate.  The fact is, it's still much too early to even think of this as a Presidential race.*  So far no one is acting very Presidential, especially on the Republican side.
I can't remember the last time I actually voted for a person rather than against someone else.  It would be great to vote FOR someone in a national election. However, with the likely contestants already posturing I don't see that happening next year. But just as an exercise in bloggery let us discuss the lessor of evils.  Although there is a lot in common with all the Republican candidates, let's look at the current big three, Trump, Carson and Cruz. 

But first, "Trump weighs 240 pounds. Ben Carson weighs 174 pounds, while Ted Cruz weighs 180.  The new Freedom Tower in New York is 1776 feet high. So if Trump, Carson, and Cruz jumped off the Tower at the same moment, who would hit the ground first?"  The answer is: "Who cares, it's a start."

I have never agreed with Donald Trump on anything he has ever said even if it was only, "You're Fired" on the Apprentice. But if Trump, Carson and Cruz were the only choices my "idiot default" would go to Donald Trump.  Here's why: 
Trump is a megalomaniac.  It's his arrogance that drives him with a narcissistic passion rarely seen in humans outside of genetic mistakes like Kenya West.  Trump's answers to most questions of substance are, "I will get it done. I will be great at that. I am the best at this."  If we just loved the Donald as much as the Donald loves the Donald, why would we even bother to ask what his position is on international matters.  When the chips are down Trump will do what Trump wants to do because in his mind there can be no more perfect way than the Trump Way. 
As destructive as this way of Presidential governing would be, at least it would be consistent with the person we elected. If you elect a clown expect the circus to be close by. Trumps greatest quality may be his ego, because his egotism keeps him from being evangelical, like the other two.
Carson and Cruz are not clinical egomaniacs, they are Christians. They wear their Christianity like it was a backstage pass on a lanyard. They profess humility and selflessness in the guise of their Faith.  But in the practice of their religion they are "passive aggressive megalomaniacs". This is just as destructive as the Trump variety of ego, but much less obvious.   As a point of order, not all Christians are like Cruz and Carson, just like all Muslims are not like Osama Ben Laiden. But since the candidates are allowed to talk in generalities about religion, so can I.  
Christians believe they are born into sin and they will be thrown away at the end of their life unless they admit they are powerless to do anything about it.  The only way they can avoid the burning fire of hell's trash heap is to accept the death penalty Jesus was given as their own settlement of cosmic debt.  It's like a parent saying to the teacher, "If my kid misbehaves spank the kid sitting next to him. He will accept that punishment as his own and will be a better student."
Most evangelicals I know can tell you the date and time of day they were "saved".  Could be a baptism, or a confession, a public revival meeting or any date this transference of spiritual punishment is acknowledged. From that moment on they are a new person, worthy of the riches of heaven and not relegated to hell's landfill.
By the same logic, that born again person is holier than the one who has yet to transfer his cosmic debt to a proxy.  We, the "saved" are on this side of eternity and you, the others are not.  This is passive aggressive egotism and mythological entitlement. In this perverted idea of Deity, the "saved" are given Divine authority to convert or eliminate those who are not "one of us."
If you can not see a parallel between this idea of leadership and that of the ISIS Caliphate then you are living in the myst of religious blindness. You have decided that one religious extreme is better than another.  We are supposed to be living in a country that acknowledges no religion as lessor than nor greater than any other.  And we understand that a government of the people and by the people can not endorse any religion.  Why would we ever elect a person who states that if they become President they will allow their own personal idea of Religious law govern, even if it conflicts with the Constitution.
Ted Cruz says he wishes "More people would defy the law like Kim Davis".  Ben Carson says he "could never vote for a Muslim to be President."   Donald Trump says, "My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault."  As for me,  I go with idiot over zealot most every time.

* Once again,  I am not advocating a case for any presidential candidate.  The fact is, it's still much too early to even think of this as a Presidential race.
As you were,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Unfriending Saturday

Let's call this Unfriending Saturday. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday when there is a lull in the shopping frenzy. It was pointed out to me that the Black Friday shopping greed comes the day after we are thankful for all that we already have. Perhaps Unfriending Saturday will help balance out some of our hypocritical Karma.
The problem with my newly created "day" is that it involves the word Unfriending. For a person of my generation it has such a negative connotation.  Facebook has turned this useful noun into an awkward verb. In FB vernacular "friending" someone simply means you have turned on their Facebook channel. You get to see what they are saying, and they get to see what you are saying. It's not like a conversation, nor a social interaction, it's more like communicating by really fast carrier pigeons.  
Sometimes the "friend" you "accept" on Facebook is someone you already know from real life, sometimes it is not. There may come a time when the friends channel you have subscribed to becomes clogged with racist, homophobic, holier than thou, mean spirited "shares", "memes" and "posts". It can happen even with people you think you know well.   In the outside world if you encountered a person spewing such bull shit, you would avoid them,  the last thing you would do is call them a friend. 
But on Facebook the racist, evangelical, NRA loving, homophone is publicly listed as your "friend".  Eventually you become tired of being in the loop of their social media hate and wish to distance yourself from such ideas. It requires that you physically "unfriend" them. 
In real life I place such significant value in my friendships that even in Cyberspace I find it hard to let one go. It is because of this word "friend" which Facebook has co-opted and redefined as a link to a personal media page.  I wish FB had chosen some other metaphor to base their connections on or at least some other name.  Call them Cleethans. "How many Cleethans are in your group?" Rather than "how many friends do you have." The reason is, if you have more than a couple of hundred "friends" on Facebook a vast majority are Cleethans.  It is a statistical certainty.
Today I noticed a "friend" published a link to Sean Hannity interviewing Phil Roberts. Sean Hannity who is a fear baiting Fox Hound and Phil Roberts the gray bearded redneck duck dynasty reactionary. I could not watch much of it mainly because it involved Sean Hannity and Phil Roberts. I only watched enough to know that Phil Roberts had his "preachers" hat on and Hannity was wearing his " Jesus University cheer leading" uniform. Any real friend knows I would not find any agreement, enjoyment nor satisfaction in a link like this. Comments from this "friend's" other "friends" indicated they did enjoy it and agreed with Mr. Duck's rambling stupidity.  That's when I realized, I had mistakenly tuned into the wrong social media station. This information was not intended for me, I just needed to change what I was looking at.  In my day it was just a matter of changing a channel on the RCA television. But with Facebook, I actually had to go to that channel and click "unfriend this person". And it still makes me feel bad that some how I knowingly said no to friendship. Even though this was an acquaintance of someone I knew in High School who requested a friendship because she knew my work. I am not sure we have ever really met. In real life this wouldn't even make the threshold of a solid introduction, much less anything similar to a friendship.
So, take this Saturday to be proactive. Why choose things you don't agree with and let them clutter up your "news feed".  It is Unfriending Saturday, enjoy your day.
As you were,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Relevance of Trumbo

I am sitting in a bath tub with a bottle of Scotch, a ruled pad of paper and a cigarette holder in the ash tray, cutting and gluing sections of a typed script together. The black Underwood typewriter is noisy and slow.  I am trying to capture the muse Dalton Trumbo entertained during his life journey.  If you have not seen the movie "Trumbo" disregard the setting. The process is not the message.

I went to see the movie "Trumbo" last night.  It is set in the repressive times of the Hollywood blacklist and political turmoil of the 1950's.  It is highly reflective of the current political climate and should be a cautionary tale for us all.

Spoiler alert:
The movie has made me start thinking about what the country is going through right now. "Trumbo" is the true story of a very talented and prolific writer. But you don't go see it for the biography. The protagonist is not the message. I am guessing the real Dalton Trumbo was not so lovable. Bryan Cranston can make any retro bate into a screen hero. It's about the story and what that period of history means today.
Writing about how this movie makes me feel seems to be a fait accompli.  I'm not sure how much of your movie experience I will deplete by writing this blog.  Perhaps the best advice I can give is: see the movie then come back to this opinion. We can start from here on equal footing.

The movie is about how a perverted idea of Patriotism attempts to control a nation. It is about how the government generates fear to exercise control.  You are either "one of us" or you are "against us" and the template to determine which one YOU are is very narrow and shallow. The movie points out how the government uses intimidation, extortion, black mailing, career destroying and public shaming in the name of Americanism.  There is even incarceration if you show Contempt of Congress.  Although this was the time of the red scare in the 50's nothing has changed but the enemy, the techniques of fear are the same today.

In "Trumbo" the government goes after the movie industry. In reality the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee went after every industry during that time.  Broadway had it's own black list of actors, writers and designers who could not work.  Careers were ruined and in some cases lives were lost because of what the government was doing.  It was finally a movie that ended the Hollywood blacklist.  So, it's very appropriate a movie tells that story. It is the cautionary tale of corrupted governmental over reach.
More importantly the story points out the reason that movies and all art should exist, unbound. Art is the mirror held up to our faces.  In the third person of an image we see warts and blemishes we may not even realize are there.  More importantly, art is the battery that keeps our national heart beating, but it must be recharged from time to time.
Those who think the arts are not a fundamental aspect of Liberty and Freedom do not understand either word. Those who wish to suppress the artist from expressing his art are tyrants, dictators and fascists. Cutting the arts from our schools so a tax break can be given to a capitalist is not the way a country of Freedom and Liberty survives.
Over sixty years ago we feared the Communists were trying to destroy our country by indoctrinating our people with propaganda. There were sympathizers everywhere who must be identified, watched and marginalized. The Freedom and Liberty of some needed to be suppressed so that Freedom and Liberty could thrive. Replace the word Communist with the enemy of your choice and make the sentence present tense.
The bath water is getting cold.  I don't like Scotch, don't smoke... cigarettes and if I was restricted to writing on a manual typewriter I would take up knitting.  Everyone has their own muse and mine has no answer but this.
Learn from the past or be doomed to repeat it.
As you were,

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Be Afraid... there is a monster under your bed...

© Jay Johnson - Jaysons Imagination, Inc. 
The power of Fear is not in the actions of violence, it is in the anticipation of some violence.  Fear is an assumed condition of the future. Fear is the erroneous idea that we are not able to handle a situation which might come to pass in our lives. It is a quantum conundrum . The future is an infinite set of possible outcomes to any current action, and our imagination can attach fear to any of those imagined realities. 
Fear does not exist in the present. That is because it becomes something else in the present. It can become pain, it can become suppression, it can become violence, but it is no longer fear.  I don't know the statistic but it must be a large percentage of our fears which never become anything but stressful anticipation.  I can remember people who were afraid to fly in a plane New Years Eve in anticipation of what they feared Y2K would bring about. None of the things they told us to fear came to pass. Roosevelt said it best when he said, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."  It is a complicated truism. 
I have lived in Southern California for 40 years.  From before the time I arrived there was a communal fear of "the big one", a massive earthquake that would kill thousands and destroy a lot of property. Scientist's can't predict it, but claim with scientific certainty that eventually it will happen.  I own property here,  my family is here.  It would certainly be easy to live in fear of that day when the San Andreas slips and the crust of the earth will shake us off like water from dog fur.  
If I lived in that anticipation, that fear, of a quake that is a cosmic certainty, my life would not be worth living.  I would sleep in a tent pitched in the yard far away from any utility pole, electric wires, or trees. I would never drive a car through an under pass nor over an elevated freeway and I would avoid buildings of any kind.  Why would I make my life so complicated? Because I would be living in fear. There is no way to know when the "big one" is coming so I would need to be always fearful 24/7. 
Since living in a tent is not an option for me there is nothing to do but avoid the "what if" game of fear.  If the big one hits I know that I will be able to deal with the situation the quake causes.  We prepare as best we can and live with the assurance that the present moment brings with it the solution to moving forward. 
We lived through the Northridge quake in 1994 and it was not considered a "great quake" (it is actually the term they use for a quake of magnitude 8 or greater. ) It did a lot of damage to our property, and disrupted our lives for a while. But we dealt with the problems caused by a 6.7 quake at 4:30 am one step at a time.  We got through it like we get through everything, doing whats needed to be done at the moment. I am perhaps a little less fearful because of that experience, since none of the worst fears I could imagine about an earthquake came to pass. 
So the world fears ISIS now. ISIS says it is going to strike the US. They want to turn the Whitehouse black with smoke.  Why they want to do that is a tough explanation wrapped up in belief that a vengeful Deity wants it that way.  It is not based on the idea that they are trying to gain the favor of the Deity, they are motivated by the fear of what the Deity might do to them if they don't blindly obey.  
The amount of coverage and exposition ISIS has received in the last few weeks is way out of proportion to their power. ISIS is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity. We do not judge all Christians with the bench mark of the KKK, why do we fear all Muslims because of the actions of a gang of young thugs? The only reason we would do that is because we have fear. 
If we live with fear and do not try to overcome it, we will make bad decisions based upon that fear. Political candidates have suggested we need to issue an ID to all Muslims, round them up, put them in a camp where they can be watched closely or keep them from coming here at all. That is the same fear that allowed Jews to be rounded up in Germany, and the Japanese in America.  Two countries of people accepted this notion because they were told constantly to be afraid of an ethnic group. 
The USA was led into the Iraqi war with the fear that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  They did not. Thirteen years later we are still being told to fear some of the people in Iraq. 
Although we call them mass shootings here in America, most of our mass domestic killings have been done at the hands of young white American males.  Should we fear another attack like that so much that we put every young American male on a watch list? 
Statistically speaking everyone in America has a greater chance of dying in a car accident, or being struck by lighting than being killed by a terrorist. The crowded freeways of LA would suggest that drivers here are not fearful of that fact.  
There is no way to make sense of the killings in Europe and Africa over the last week. We all feel the loss of people who were not participating in a conflict, but were killed simply for going about their lives.  But let us mourn, let us raise our consciousness to embrace love not hate but certainly let us not live in fear.  We know what happened, we know what France is trying to do about it... there is no more to the story. Right now there is only the trumpet of fear 24/7. It is not news, it is the call to believe in that which has not happened.  
As you were,

Monday, November 16, 2015

Writing During A Crisis...

Being a recovering depressive or how ever Dr. Joyce would say it,  I tend to over dose on television news.  In time of great anger and sorrow like in the last week, all the news is depressing. Like a diabetic looking at a candy store I know I should not go there, but I do. There is still something in me that wants to watch.  I am usually sucked into that vortex with my own special kind of judgement.  Justifying my depression as externally caused rather than of my own doing. But not this time.
This time the muse of literary enlightenment distracted me from being glued to Paris. I was trying to figure out another reality.  A paper reality of a world that exists only in my mind.  I create problems for people who inhabit my story and give them solutions to get them out of harms way. It is a matter of trying to intellectually solving problems I have control over.

I was emailed a script by someone I didn't know years ago. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to make notes, or punch it up, see it as a vehicle for myself, or just read it  I liked the story, but thought I could tell it better.  I wrote back and said, "Let me take a pass at this."
I never heard back.  To me taking a pass at someone's script means a re-write. I suppose "taking a pass on something" also means "not interested".  I'll never know.

  • An old lady that was very fond of her pet cats suddenly lost both of them within days of each other.To help her come to terms with her grief she decides to visit a taxidermist.The taxidermist checks them out and says, "Would you like them mounted?"The old lady replies, "No thank you just holding hands will do!"

Monday, November 09, 2015

Start Spreading the News.....

It wasn't as if I was trying to sneak into New York City. I came to do a show with my friend Jamie deRoy and I was planning to be here for only 48 hours. I knew  I wouldn't have time to see friends and relatives. So I decided not to, as they say, alert the media and come incognito.
As we crossed mid town from the airport some of the streets were blocked off with construction, and it was a slog to get through Times Square.  It's always exciting in the theatre district, especially if you are in a car and not the one driving. For me it was like coming back to a second home. As I am lamenting the fact that I didn't have more time to stay, I look up and there on the Magnetron Video Screen at 7th and 47th, bigger than life, is my picture.  Yes,  forty feet above Broadway as if to say "Welcome back, Jay" is my publicity picture. It was part of a video ad for the show I am coming to do with Jamie.  The ad didn't cycle back around before the car moved on so I didn't get a snap shot of it, but I was not delusional there it was, my five seconds of Times Square fame.  At the same time I thought to myself, well there goes any attempt to come to New York incognito.  
The apartment where I stayed in the Theatre district came with a framed poster of my show, a Tony and an Ovation Award on the shelf, both with my name on them. The doorman, Angel, even said "welcome back" as I entered.   It's the apartment of my friends and the director/creators of my show, Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel. 
My iPad and iPhone immediately connected to the wifi as if I had never been away. Walking out for lunch I ran into an acquaintance on the street, like you do in New York.  I'm still not sure what his name is but New Yorkers can have a ten minute conversation with any one for five minutes. What are you doing in town? How long will you be staying? Where are you staying? Did you see any shows? Isn't the weather nice? (Or Isn't this weather shitty)?  The weather was at that time perfect and I once again felt like the King of New York. 
I get to the show and I am sharing a dressing room with, Larry Gatlin, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Robert Cuccioli.  I as I walked in I said, "Oh I think this dressing room is one Leading Man over the limit."  The ladies dressing room was way over the limit in Divas, Michelle Lee, Joy Behar, Luba Mason and Daisy Jopling.  This was not only The Jamie deRoy and Friends show, it was also Jamie's birthday and a benefit show for the Actors Fund. The musical director was Ron Abel who is accompanist and conductor to the stars. As we say in Texas, "I was in high Cotten".
We were performing in the Gene Lynch Theater at John Jay College of Law.  With my dyslexia I kept seeing Jay John Law College posted everywhere. In my wired mind It was like I owned the building. 
Things could not be more ripe for having a narcissistic over load. In my mind I am standing on a balcony in a flowing white dress with arms outstretched singing to the masses below, "Don't Cry For Me New York City you know I never left you".
It is such a memorable moment I want to keep a program of the evening to never forget. I grab one of the programs from an usher, turn the pages to instantly see the stellar cast of which I am a part. Here is what it said:

So much for the fleeting fame of the great white way.
 It is a grey and rainy morning as  I sneak back to LA. "Broadway giveth and Broadway taketh away, long live the denizens  of show biz. "
As you were,