'It’s life, Jim…' Category

Note from Saint Basil Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles

May 26th, 2016 May 26th, 2016
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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Vasco seems smaller today. It’s not just his absence. It’s a physical thing. I’m surprised how much smaller Vasco seems as he lies dead at the viewing at St Basil Catholic Church. Like all the life has been taken and it diminishes him physically.

The sun is shining yet it’s a hazy sun. It doesn’t shine as brightly today. The LA people wear smart black clothes and sunglasses. I think they don’t need the glasses to shield against the sun today. I think, at least maybe one or two, wish to hide their eyes and keep their feelings inside.

And of course, there’s a guy selling rosaries. $5. Can you help out with any change? I’d light a candle but you have to buy them from the Rectory and the Rectory is closed. Hazy sunlight is enough today.

I don’t really know anyone here. I just remember Vasco, meeting him just a few weeks ago and finding this person with all this incredible energy and zeal. And so I sit and listen to the people talk. And they talk about Vasco. And their memories of him, how they knew him.

A pigeon flies straight at me, startling me. It lands near my feet. I watch it strut, noticing the colors on its neck. Pigeons are beloved by some for their homing ability.

The people talk softly around me. In the church, people cross themselves with holy water. There’s lots of sniffing. Crying, softly. The organ begins to play and people file in quietly. A homeless woman stirs on a pew at the back of the church then goes back to sleep.

Beautiful colored light hits the plain concrete wall, streaming through a modern stained glass window. Orange purple green yellow, a touch of cyan, a mote of red. Now on the statues of St Joseph. Now diagonal bands on the wall. Some of the colors match the iridescent pigeon.

The priest exits and blesses the coffin, closed now. A final baptism. The coffin is draped in white and brought in, the processional. The rest of the mourners fill the church. There’s a hymn. The slashes of light are red and yellow. Joseph is the colors of the homing bird.

Beautiful singing, someone holds up their phone to record it. Just one among a hundred. Maybe two hundred. Actually they’re not recording. It’s a different face. A mourner who can’t make it. They’re streaming. Just the song. The homily. Parts.

Guy takes pictures because, I suppose, the lens is his fallback. I write because the written word is mine. Behind me, a woman sobs, completely. How can Vasco Nunes, this man so vibrant so alive be gone?

Siri shares directions to another place from an unsilenced cellphone in the pews ahead. People fluster and smile nervously. At the Eucharist, a second homeless woman comes in, makes her way near the front and prays for her wine fix. I don’t think she knows anyone. I’ve seen maybe two other African American people, the other homeless, the other well dressed. Communion lady wears a grey hoodie and carries a giant bag.

The priest invites us to share a sign of peace with those nearby. I shake two hands, peace be with you. There is peace. Communion begins. I quietly exit.

Afterward, I sit in Carl’s Jr inhaling a burger without really tasting or chewing before I go to meet writers. I’m glad I got to see Guy and Lisa and Jonathan. I’m glad I got to see Vasco one more time, although it was sad not to feel his presence. I reflect I’m probably too cynical. I hope the poor woman got a good draught of port. I hope everyone did. It’s a Catholic Church and this is a wake. It’s also communion.

Being present is being connected and at some point, it dawns on me, Vasco hasn’t shrunk. He’s grown, diffused. His spirit is all around me, kept alive through all these memories, these people, these friends. Vasco didn’t go. He’s still here, thanks to his spirit, and those who met him continue to feel his presence.

Don’t fear life, my friend. Life is fleeting. Life is good. And our spirits know how to get home after.

Two Observations

October 4th, 2008 October 4th, 2008
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Observation One:
American bacon (done well) is really smokey. Smokey goodness. British bacon (done well) is salty. Salty bacony goodness. One is not necessarily better than the other. They’re both good.

Observation Two:
A country that “buys” Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as plausible may be at risk of “buying” the insult of a McCain-Palin fiscal and social disaster on that same weak plausibility.

These observations are not related. The Coen Brothers, however, are.

Quality Moving Wallpaper

April 22nd, 2007 April 22nd, 2007
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Last year, I wandered into the film festival office and they were watching Wedding Crashers. Apparently this is something they did every day, during the off-season–before the entries came in. I remembered Wedding Crashers. It had a funny premise and a ton of smart-ass one-liners. So, last week, I got it out from the A2 library and tonight, put it on.

Wedding Crashers. It really is a superbly written movie. Totally excellent dialog, tight editing and the performances from Vaughan and Wilson are truly outstanding. The cinematography is beautiful too, but if you really just want something on in the background while you’re working, then I highly recommend this film. And if you want to really watch it, I highly recommend that too.

Now we’re watching Blackadder. The second season. “Two beans plus two beans… What does that make?” “A very small casserole.” Honestly, when you’ve watched all these things dozens of times, it doesn’t hurt to watch them again. I’m rendering more squirrel pictures and the first images of spring, meanwhile.

Great Birthdays

March 7th, 2007 March 7th, 2007
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Great birthdays have strawberry cake. Strawberry cake with butter icing. Beloved Laura asked me what I wanted and that was it, so she made it for me. I’m just smiling thinking of that. My wife made me cake. Strawberry cake. With butter icing. This makes me happy. Even having the wrong age; I like being the wrong age. That makes me happy too!

Great birthdays also have presents. My family got me the latest season of 24 on DVD and “Hunters of Dune” in hardback. This might mean I’m low maintenance but it also makes me happy. It’s not the stuff so much; it’s the being given the stuff and, more, that it’s stuff I wanted.

So, thank you, dear Laura. I had a lovely birthday and it was good right through to that last piece of strawberry birthday cake which Sam and I shared last night (with a glass of milk)!

One Ann Arbor Morning…

March 6th, 2007 March 6th, 2007
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This morning, I needed–as in “I need to breef froo my mouf”–to go and buy a Mega Millions ticket. Me and 300 million other mouf breevers. Still, the odds are much better if you have a ticket than if you don’t have a ticket. And the jackpot is $355m.

Mmmmm… millions…

Of course, if I won all that money, I’d have a ginormous tax bill. However, I think I could afford to pay wads of tax if I had wads of money. I could also drive preposterous cars, fund a feature film, buy ridiculous amounts of electronic gizmos and gadgets and I’d also like to patronize the arts. In fact, I think I’ll start that last right now by saying that L.S. Lowry’s works weren’t bad for an eight year old with really bad astigmatism.

So, I picked up a load of beer bottles and went over the road to the party store (off-licence in Britain). I drove there, naturally, because I live in America and want to fit in. I parked between the Hostess Twinkies delivery van and someone’s rusty muscle car which was sprawled across two spaces. Getting ten cents back on each bottle gave me enough money to buy five picks on the Mega Millions (which gives you a clue how many beer bottles there were, but there are actually still more in the kitchen).

Next, I drove to Stadium Hardware (which really is the best hardware store ever, bar none) and asked for wall plugs. The nice man showed me over to where they have a selection of light switches. Apparently the things I wanted aren’t called wall plugs here. After a brief game of charades, where he looked at me blankly while I mimed what I wanted to do, we eventually figured out that I wanted “wall anchors”. Three anchors for $1.20, bargain.

Next stop, the Post Office. For some reason, Ann Arbor has nice people working in the hardware store and a selection of complete tools outside its Post Office. Today (and every day apparently), the douchebagginess consists of parking in the fire lane up by the post office doors, despite the many empty spaces not three yards away. I would like to see all these people ticketed and towed away. My tolerance level went down accordingly.

Inside, I attempted to use the automatic machine to avoid the queue, or line as vernacular has it. The line, of course, was immortalized in that Johnny Cash classic, “I walk the line”. He was clearly singing about how he wanted to go postal on all the people who park their pick-ups and minivans in the fire lane.

Attempting to use the machine that dispenses stamps based on the weight of your envelope turned out to be a futile exercise in blood pressure raising. Sending a DVD to New York first class is a mere 87 cents. However, the minimum transaction limit for the machine is a dollar. I also wanted to send a letter to Britain (84 cents), but I couldn’t add that to the transaction because it’s a second transaction and each one has to be more than a dollar. The machine kindly offered to generate an extra 39cent stamp for me to up the ante. I folded and joined the line inside to save a few cents (but not sense).

Finally, I dropped off a cheque (spelled “check”) to my lawyer (because I are in America and therefore must have one, or two, or maybe even three). This was for services rendered in setting up a new film company for me last year. I am currently director of two companies, which is nice and capitalist of me. I have no shame. I actually like this whole “let’s do business and make some money” attitude. It’s the minivans in the fire lane which drive me crazy. If I win the lottery, I think I’ll consider buying a towing company and wreaking my wrewengie on douchebags parking where they shouldn’t, particularly outside schools, childcare facilities and post offices.

That gives me an idea for a new reality TV series which I shall call, “You’ve been towed!” or maybe “Towed an A-hole!” which is somewhat punnier. And clearly the A refers to Ann Arbor, although maybe it would be A2, which is odd really because there’s a saying that “Opinions are like A-holes; everyone has one” except in Ann Arbor, that goes double.

Now I have to go a make holes in the wall and install these new W-anchors in preparation for some screwing. The puns, the patterns; the simple joy of a morning in A2.

===

Addendum: I just drove up to town (1pm) for a meeting at the Michigan and every single parking structure is FULL! There are cars lining up to get into the Maynard Street structure. I drove down as far as Ashley and Ann but even that’s FULL. Where are the muppets who run this city thinking people are going to park when Google takes away 200 public parking spaces? And, no, this isn’t a one-off. It’s now every weekday lunchtime in A2; no parking. Nice. And the police were out in force; several patrol cars with officers writing tickets. Still, there’s plenty of parking outside the Post Office up on Stadium and no one seems to be getting towed…

A Different Country

January 1st, 2007 January 1st, 2007
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The past is a different country. They do things differently there.

I was thinking about this yesterday after I’d phoned a couple of friends in the UK. I grow nostalgic for things like going down to the pub on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve with Mike or Pete. I have happy memories of making movies with lots of people. There were good times running a TV station, starting with nothing but hope and charm (more of one than the other). And there was much fun to be had on various skiing holidays with Lucy.

However, those times have gone. Paul Jarrett commented when I graduated from Manchester, you can’t be a student forever. Can you imagine? No clubbing every night of the week? No Hacienda? No nights drinking beer with your mates. Not studying fascinating new subjects and developing new ideas in that setting. You can do them, of course, but not in those places. You can go back. You can go forwards. You can have different times. You can have more fun. But you can’t live in the past.

Deb’s mum was telling me that the neighbours around them now seem to find some reason to let off fireworks every weekend. That’s a recent phenomena. Fireworks used to be for November 5th. It reminds me of other things. London has changed since my grandma used to take us to Kilburn or over to Golders Green to watch a film. Most of the cinemas have gone and Britain has embraced a club culture that was barely on the horizon when my parents first took us to Spain in the seventies.

A place is temporal as much as it’s physical. There’s a tag-line for a Calvin Klein advert on TV at the moment. It goes, “Make a wish. Or make it happen.” That’s the now. Make it happen.

***

Last year at around this time, I made three resolutions. Avoid GM food, work on Pilot Fish–possibly buying a high definition camcorder along the way, and cook. Well, I think the cupboard is fairly Kellogg’s free, so we’ll call that a win. Cook? I cooked maybe three times (not counting beans on toast, which would make it five). Hey, that’s three more times than in 2005, so I think I’ll call that a win too. (Although I should point out that Laura cooked the rest of the time, so I’m not sure she’d call it a win).

Pilot Fish? Awesome. I spent four weekends learning more about the production and distribution side of independent filmmaking at the IFP Production Workshops in Chicago, which were great. Also meant I got to see Chicago more. Great city.

Norm Roth (writer) and I registered a company, PF Productions LLC, and went out to the American Film Market in Santa Monica towards the end of the year. Definitely worth the effort. We made loads of contacts once we figured out the process of going into hotel rooms that had been converted into offices, asking if anyone from development and acquisitions was available, and then pitching them. An incredible learning experience. Norm is now working on a re-write and we’re planning on moving forwards more in the new year.

***

The high definition camera didn’t appear in the form I expected. I made several really interesting contacts in 2006. One of these was Thad Johnson from Streetlamp Studios. Thad was sponsoring an audience award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival and is this guy with an incredible entrepreneurial spirit. I helped him finish some trailers for the festival and he helped me record a big dance event at the Michigan Theater. The short story is, Thad has cameras, is learning to use steadicam, now has a studio and, most important of all, has offered to help with the production of Pilot Fish. The short story is, we love Thad.

Another interesting contact was through Derek Blair, a guy I met while visiting Grace & Wild studios in Farmington Hills. Derek went freelance at the end of 2005 and I helped him out with some editing. Over the summer, Derek got me to volunteer for an event called PhotoshopSoup2Nuts at Washtenaw Community College. This resulted in meeting Ruth Knoll, the event organizer and wife of Thomas Knoll, the creator of Photoshop. It also resulted in me borrowing her HDV camera for a weekend, which impressed me so much that I bought one. So, in the end, I did end up with a camera. Hoorah!

Third in the list of amazing contacts has to be the whole Thought Collide production crew. This is a Detroit-based outfit who are making a sci fi series called In Zer0. I wanted to meet them for a while because I thought it would be cool to show a sci fi serial at Cinema Slam. In the end, I wound up on their crew because I thought it would be even cooler to work on a sci fi show. So, from episode 7, I’ve been helping with lighting and they asked me to direct episode 10. Screening at Royal Oak’s Main Art Theater in February.

***

There’s a whole bunch of other cool developments and fun things I could mention here. Visiting the UK thanks to Pete and Kerrie early in 2006 was excellent, as was Lucy’s visit in Detroit for the SuperBowl. Various trips to LA and seeing the surprising festival success of The Adventure Golf Guy (which now has a feature length script thanks to John). Developing some Hollywood buzz for Pilot Fish, In Zer0 and Jason Attar’s One Night In Powder series are all excellent things. I met some great people thanks to volunteering to be a screener for the Ann Arbor Film Festival both in 2005 and 2006. I finished a lot of projects and still have projects to finish.

And that’s about where I’m at. Make a wish, or make it happen. Richard Bach wrote in Illusions “You’re never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.” Apparently, David Lynch has been using TM to come up with ways to realize his dreams. I just keep pushing.

Christmas 2006

December 26th, 2006 December 26th, 2006
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There was no snow in south east Michigan this Christmas. We had an artificial tree, we hung up stockings and we put sparkly lights around the room. We dragged the boys to the church service on Christmas Eve, with a fair bit of protesting. Jack drew a picture of himself trapped on a desert island as a form of protest against being away from a TV/video game for more than an hour. That was all still magical, though, because they sing carols, they ring bells and they had a really cool part where everyone got a candle and they dimmed the lights. Still no snow, but nice.

Laura pulled out all the stops to make a huge Christmas Dinner for all of us on Christmas Day and we got lots of cool presents from Skinny Santa (who is the guy who comes to our house on our tight budget). We even had a friend over for Christmas Day and it was a good family, friendly occasion.

But the best thing about Christmas, the very best thing, which made it really Christmassy, was home made mince pies. My Laura made pastry, rolled it out and made very British-style mince pies. They were excellent. Laura’s never made mince pies before. She’s put some pictures up on Flickr, so you can check them out. She is excellent. Just thinking about those mince pies makes me smile.

I hope you all had a magical Christmas. Thanks to my Laura, Christmas was special.

P’naus! Mapyew?

September 15th, 2006 September 15th, 2006
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It’s all about the rhythm and cadence, dear reader. And today we explore the rococo intracacies of modern English as spoke in an American accent by a native Cantonese speaker. What does the phrase “P’naus! Mapyew?” really mean? Answers on a postcard. Or you can comment, I guess.

In other displays of wrongdoing this week, I have cut up no less than two cars by overtaking from a turn lane. Of course, I had an excuse: they were clearly being driven by stupid people who wanted to block the road by not moving at a green light. This act of bad karma hasn’t gone unpunished, however, since I also had to pay a parking ticket. Did the parking ticket make me bad? Or was it the badness that got me the parking ticket? I’d like to explore that by refering you to the opening lines of High Fidelity.

“What came first? The music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns and watching violent videos, we’re scared that some sort of culture of violence is taking them over… But nobody worries about kids listening to thousands — literally thousands — of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Okay, I don’t want to explore it. I just love that line and wanted to hear it again, even if I only hear John Cusack saying it in my head.

Today, in no homage whatsoever to John Cusack, I was out filming in Grosse Point. In the grounds of the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford. It was luscious. All of Grosse Point is luscious. Lusciously expensive, that is. Edsel had a beautiful swimming pool which fed into the lake via a series of ponds fed by trickling waterfalls. Also a private lagoon for bringing in private boats. That’s nice. The mosquitos certainly think so. They breed in the ponds and the lagoon. They bit me. They drank my blood. A metaphor for the corporatocracy. Luscious.

Spring!

April 16th, 2006 April 16th, 2006
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I hate Spring. Aside from the fact it’s my birthday, that is. It’s the time of year when all the little plants and bunnies burst into life. Suddenly, there’s a whole new crop of grass to mow. Suddenly, there’s another fur-lined hole in the lawn. And suddenly, I have hayfever, which feels exactly like having a cold when you’ve had a bunch of days of rain followed by three days of warm sunshine and there’s pollen galore in the air. My throat hurts, my nose is snotty and I feel knocked out. Yack.

Still, it’s not all bad. This week I get to make another video for the Michigan Theater. Last week, The Adventure Golf Guy made its debut on imdb. And last week, I also picked up my new leather waistcoat (or vest as they call them in the local vernacular).

Yes, another leather waistcoat, like the one I used to wear all the time I was in charge of local programming for West Herts Television and Parallel Pictures. Except this “vest” is more in the western style. All leather, it came from Muleskinner Boots in Chelsea. It’s got “dual concealed carry pockets” with ballistic lining and a heavy duty elastic holster. For when you just gotta pack some heat. I have no idea what I’ll use those for, but yee-haw!

We’re not in Blighty any more, Toto.

Park Duck

February 5th, 2006 February 5th, 2006
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Well, hellllooooo! Christmas, extremely busy; England, visiting everyone, Pete’s party, lots of driving, go-karting, amusing; A2, extremely busy, making time for that week in England; Lucy visiting, extremely busy. Hey, can I just say “extremely busy”? Superbowl weekend now. Snowing. Mac rejected the latest upgrades and much restoring from back ups yesterday. So, what’s new? Park Duck from Jason Attar, that’s what. Click here. Then check out the link which says, “More from this user”.