Friday, December 30, 2011

Recent Visitors

A couple of days ago, we had some visitors in our yard in Northeast Georgia.

Nine late afternoon visitors

Nine baby wild boars showed up to forage for a bit then snuggle into a "pig pile" against the side of our house to sleep.

Baby boar butts
I snuck outside to get some video of them by the house. Here's the edited footage. Note: I'm talking to the neighbor's dog, who came over to see why I was standing out front of my house.

Sorry but I turned my camera sideways to get a better shot.

Sometime that night they left for the woods only to return early the next day.

Foraging for breakfast
They spent quite a while, noses down, walking about the backyard looking for food.

They were exceptionally cute but also a bit of a nuisance. They messed up the flower area where they slept the first night. Plus we were hesitant to let our dogs out without looking around outside for them.

Unfortunately, this last day we saw them the neighbor's dog caught (the one I was talking to in the first video) and killed one of them. They took off for the woods in back of our property and we haven't seen them since.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, John

9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980
There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. 

* * *

It matters not who you love, where you love, 
why you love, when you love or how you love, 
it matters only that you love.

* * *

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.

Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.

* * *

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, 
and I told them they didn’t understand life.

* * *

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

* * *

I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.

* * *

God is a concept by which we measure our pain.

* * *

I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. 
It's just that the translations have gone wrong.

* * *

Part of me suspects that I'm a loser, 
and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty.

* * *

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Sounds of laughter shades of love are
Ringing through my open ears inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a
Million suns, and calls me on and on
Across the universe

* * *

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

Monday, September 26, 2011

For Halloween This Year...

Everyone seems quite happy with this year's festive Halloween theme:
Vlad, the Impaler! 
(even though the costumes are rough on the rectum.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Husbands - Totes For Reals!

The newest Web series to hit the Internets is the hilariously fun story of two men who mistakenly get married while celebrating marriage equality. Written and executive produced by Jane Espenson (Buffy, Torchwood: Miracle Day, Once Upon a Time), the series stars Cheeks, Sean Hemeon and Alessanadra Torresani and directed by Jeff Greenstein.

Try out the first episode, "Waking Up in Vegas":

Episodes to post every Tuesday and Thursday! Totes for reals!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

As A D&D Character...

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Fighter/Wizard (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Fighters can be many things, from soldiers to criminal enforcers. Some see adventure as a way to get rich, while others use their skills to protect the innocent. Fighters have the best all-around fighting capabilities of the PC classes, and they are trained to use all standard weapons and armor. A fighter's rigorous martial training grants him many bonus feats as he progresses, and high-level fighters have access to special melee maneuvers and exotic weapons not available to any other character.

Secondary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's a Wonderful Strife

This is a brilliant short film by Fry & Laurie, spoofing Rupert Murdoch with Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life."

I post it here as a warning to those who have read about Murdoch's recent "reticent" admissions about his papers.

(found via Roger Ebert's Sun Times blog)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heaven, Hell and Working Together

I hate spam. And as spam, I mean any unwanted email - from ads for Viagra to jokes with "FW: FW: FW:..." in the subject line.* I tend to click "DELETE" first thing before looking through my legitimate mail. 

But last week, I happened to open this one from my parents:
A Holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said,  "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."
The Lord led the holy man to two doors.
He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.
In the middle of the room was a large round table.
In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew,  which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly.
They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful.
But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one.
There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water.
The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here all the people were well-nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The holy man said, "I don't understand."
"It is simple," said the Lord. "It requires but one skill.
"You see, they have learned to feed each other. The greedy think only of themselves." 
It's a simple tale about working together for the common good of man framed in a religious context of a wise man speaking to God. And it makes me think of Republicans - the party most associated with Christian values - and their stance on entitlement and social programs which assist the poor and elderly.

They want to stand behind the "teachings" of the Bible when it comes to restricting other people (like in the case of marriage equality) but can't seem to remember the lessons Jesus taught about helping to take care of their fellow man (when it comes to issues like healthcare.)  

Whenever I think of this, I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing" where President Bartlet confronts a Conservative talk show host:

What do you think, America?

Isn't it about time to stop hand-picking philosophies to follow that only benefit ourselves and start doing the right thing for everyone?
* A recent report from Symantec stated 90 percent of email is spam and causes a good portion of Internet bandwidth usage (i.e. slowdown.)

Oh, To Be A Kid Again...

I've already been through a decade or two of kid envy - looking at the toy and game choices of younger generations as they have evolved through the years.

My generation was on the cusp of children's electronic technology. My father bought an early VCR for $800. We had a Pong game (the one you plugged into your television) then an Atari 2600 then a Commodore 64 where the best my father's generation could have hoped for as an electronic game was "Operation."

Now, powerful personal computers, the mobile laptop and home entertainment systems like Playstation and Xbox (all possibly linked to all-connective Internet) are commonplace. And as I've grown up and older with them, I haven't been as jealous of these innovations.

Until I saw this:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore iPad App Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Is it a book? Is it a video game? Whatever it is, it looks to be an adventure. The only thing I could possibly equate it with is the mystery books of my childhood - where you would get to choose what happened next and the choice would tell you which page to turn, continuing your reading.

Author William Joyce, writer of some of Pixar's early works, has created a book not just to be read, but explored. Options. Games. Animation.

I am officially jealous.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book with Past Ellison Scripts Available Soon

This is truly exciting news. As an ardent admirer of Harlan's work, these works will be something to both cherish and study.

(Reprinted with permission from J. Michael Straczynski from his Facebook fan page)

I don’t have to tell you who Harlan Ellison is, or that he wrote some of the most seminal episodes of science fiction television in the history of the form. His scripts for The Outer Limits, Star Trek, Twilight Zone and others have won countless awards and are considered landmarks of the genre.

A while back, I got wind of a top-secret project being developed by Publishing 180, the company that publishes the Babylon 5 script books, involving Harlan’s scripts for these series. (Important note: I do not own any part of P180 nor do I receive any financial remuneration of any kind from this project. My involvement here is strictly as a fan and admirer.) I now hold in my hand a preliminary copy of that book, and I wanted to give everyone a heads-up because folks, this is a doozy.

The book, entitled BRAIN MOVIES, contains Harlan’s scripts for “Soldier,” and “Demon With a Glass Hand” from THE OUTER LIMITS, “Paladin of the Lost Hour” and “Crazy as a Soup Sandwich” from the TWILIGHT ZONE, “Memo from Purgatory” from ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, “The Face of Helen Bournouw” and Harlan’s near-legendary manifesto on how to write good science fiction, written exclusively for incoming writers on BABYLON 5. (The scripts for Paladin and Demon received the prestigious Writers Guild Award.)

In many cases, the book contains both the script and the treatment for the script, something almost never seen outside the studio. Most amazing of all, the book contains not just the shooting script for Harlan’s HITCHCOCK episode, it contains an earlier draft filled with his handwritten annotations and changes.

When an episode is broadcast, you don’t get to see the writer’s mind at work, don’t have the opportunity to experience the moment he decided to make a line of dialogue or a scene go thisway instead of thatway, how a turn of phrase was altered in just the right way at the last moment, you see only the end product. By including the draft with the handwritten annotations, you can see the creative process being enacted right before your eyes. The opportunity to see inside the writer’s mind is unspeakably rare.

Best of all, these are not re-typeset versions of the script, they are painstakingly scanned reproductions of the ORIGINAL SCRIPTS, exactly as they were written.

And for the budding science fiction writers out there, what better than having Harlan Ellison break down in his manifesto how to write effectively in the genre, how to avoid various kinds of traps and make your writing better?

The value of this book to up-and-coming writers, academics, collectors, fans, and just plain folks who love science fiction television is inestimable. This isn’t just a book of scripts, it’s an important piece of history.

When I heard that Harlan was going to include the B5 manifesto (entitled “A Terrifying List of Things Not to Do When Writing For Babylon 5”), I offered to write an introduction to the volume, entitled “Touching Magic.” That introduction is now also in the book.
Last, and maybe coolest of all, because of the presence of B5 material, they are doing a limited number of books that are DUAL AUTOGRAPHED by both myself and Harlan. With only one prior exception, this is the ONLY time that Harlan and I have autographed something together, and never before for a published book. Once those signed editions are gone...they’re gone.

Because Publishing 180 is a boutique publisher, they do not generally release information on its upcoming titles until right before publication. But this volume is so important, so extraordinary, that I asked if I could give the B5 fans out there, and the fans of Harlan Ellison who are also in that group, a heads-up on this event. This way we reduce the risk of missing the chance to get one of the double-signed editions.

The book will go on sale in a couple of weeks – I think it’s somewhere around the 20th and those already on the B5 mailing list will get the announcement automatically – but I’ll be sure to post the info here the second it goes online. If you want to be sure not to miss it, a signup page will be up soon at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Whatever Wednesday (One Day Late)

I've seen some comical stuff on line as of late. Here's a few of them.

My college thesis compared and contrasted these two speeches:

I wish I still found things this hysterical:

A healthy breakfast starts with Cheerios:

"My thanks to Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band...":

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen: Sarah Jane of 'Who' passes

Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) with Tom Baker (The Doctor)
I have been down today after finding out about the death of Elisabeth Sladen, 63, who played Sarah Jane Smith, companion on "Doctor Who" during the Pertwee and Tom Baker years.

Her perky journalist character was a favorite because she was one of the first companions I knew because I picked up the series on PBS dung the Baker years. She also had one of the longest runs of any Who companion.

This happens to me occasionally. When someone who has been a seminal part of my younger life (as she was with the Who series) passes, I get a little depressed. (Another time I felt this way was with the death of legendary wrestling commentator Gordon Solie, as my brother and I watched Championship Wrestling from Florida religiously on the weekends.)

As cheesy as early "Doctor Who" was in special effects, the series lasted because of its intriguing characters and plots. And while there were hated or forgettable companions like the boy mathematician Adric, characters like Sladen's Sarah Jane enhanced the weekly adventures of the Doctor.

Sladen with David Tennant
Who fans were lucky enough to see Elisabeth on two spin-offs, the short-lived "K9 and Friends" and the continuing "Sarah Jane Adventures" (of which there is another season filmed and ready for broadcast.) She also appeared on Who specials and as guest spots on the Tennant and Smith series.

I'll always remember her younger years: bright-eyed, adventurous, longing for the approval of a man from space even though she had become his equal in many ways.

Elisabeth Sladen passed away from cancer April 18, 2011. She is survived by her husband, actor Brian Miller, and her daughter Sadie.

Sarah Jane, you will be missed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Monday - April 18, 2011

Here's Josh Joplin, a talented modern folk singer, who I found after he appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. He has a diverse writing style and thoughtful lyrics. 

I wanted to highlight him here because he's appearing at Eddie's Attic, 515 McDonough Street, Decatur GA, April 30 for two shows, at 7pm and 9:30pm. He's an excellent performer and writer and worth checking out. Below is a session he did in Australia. The song is "I Am Not The Only Cowboy" from his album "The Future That Was."

Just a warning: You may see RUSH on here frequently. They are one of my favorite bands of all time. Not only do they have incredibly entertaining concerts but their songwriting is deep and meaningful. This song, "Mission," is one of my favorites. 

This was a funny mash-up. I was really surprised how much Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" and the Bee Gee's "Staying Alive" work together. It's scary really.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Funny Friday

Each week, I'll pick out some of the more humorous things I've seen or noted for Funny Friday!

On April 16, 122 years ago, Charlie Chaplin was born in London. 
This is one of my favorite moments from his films - "Dancing the Oceana Roll":

This is one of the funniest comedians alive, Ricky Gervais, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Topics covered include the Golden Glodes, atheism and his new special about comedy:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Ricky Gervais Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Ricky Gervais Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Andy Sandford, one of the Beards of Comedy based in Atlanta, 
with a hilarious 15 minute set at the Relapse Theater:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Tweets in Review

Looking back at my favorite tweets from the past week (both my own and others.)

Part of Tweet The Joke's caption contest:

Wrote this on a blah day:

Morgan Murphy with a funny yet true point about Twitter:

I try to #FF up to five people I have started following during the week.
I also try to give a solid, entertaining reason why.

And, if you've been reading the blog recently,
you can tell I've been especially frustrated with Conservatives.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Roger Ebert On Finding His Voice... Again

Roger Ebert gave this exceptionally moving and humorous TED talk about finding his voice through technology and the Internet after his cancer surgeries. It's worth 19 minutes of your life to learn what it's like to live with a disability like his. (He also scores points with me for using a Harlan Ellison reference.)

(via @ThatChrisGore, Chris Gore)

Tim Minchin's Storm

I've seen Tim Minchin only a couple times on TV appearances (like on Jonathan Ross' show on BBC America.) And I've always liked his work but this makes me truly want to delve into it more. We've all met this person, unless you are this person. And we all wish we could respond in this dexterous way.

So, from the brilliant mind of British comedian Tim Minchin, the animated movie "Storm":

(Found via @terryjr91, blog: Second From The Back)

Whatever Wednesday: Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)

Recent events (well, what am I saying, it's been this way for a long time!) have reminded me of Al Franken's 2003 "Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)" in which he points out problem with truth that some conservatives and their media counterparts have.

The latest political turn-of-the-factual-cheek comes from Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) in his statement that claimed that performing abortions is "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." In truth, that number is 3 percent. His office later issued a statement that "was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."

Of course, the news comedy shows jumped on this like "tigers of truth" (a phrase soon-to-be stolen by Charlie Sheen.)

Here are Jon Stewart's take on Kyl's statement and Senior Political Strategist Wyatt Cenac explanation of conservative "techniques."

Not to be outdone, here is Stephen Colbert's hilarious take on the stupidity.

Colbert also took to Twitter to continue the point.

Keep'em honest, guys!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite TV Shows of All Time

In my continuing effort (two days long now!) to post more often, Tuesdays are now Tuesday Top Tens. This week: a countdown of my favorite TV shows of all time.

Something I've noticed about my list: it's a little sci-fi/fantasy heavy. But hey, it's me we are talking about here so what do you expect?

10. Babylon 5
Ever plan so far ahead you knew exactly where you were going? Ever do that for five years in advance? With an epic storyline about dark and light, saving the universe and finding your purpose in life?

If you answered "yes" to all those questions, then you are J. Michael Straczynski and you created "Babylon 5," writing 92 of the 110 episodes, including all 22 of the third season. Dealing with a station on the outer-reaches of space, its commander tries to create peace among alien races when an even older and more dangerous threat emerges. As the races take sides in the coming war, it becomes evident that more than the fate of the Babylon station was in jeopardy.

It's brilliant storytelling from a masterful writer. It's tackles tough issues straight on and offers a hopeful view of where mankind is going. It's a story on a massive and personal level.

9. Lost
What can I say about "Lost" that hasn't been said (or bitched about?)

Personally, I felt the ending worked and expected the mystical close to the show. I mean, the pilot episode had a healer named Shepard with a side wound and an old man named Locke with a scar across his eye - plus a speech to an innocent boy about light and dark using the pieces of a backgammon board. Where else was a show with that much opening symbolism supposed to go?

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse took this ball and ran with it. A twisting plot, solid characters and dialogue, deft direction in a beautiful setting and a heart-wrenching soundtrack made "Lost" something hard to forget.

8. Fawlty Towers
Take one of the most hilarious comic actors of all time (John Cleese), give him a cantankerous character with a nagging but smarter wife and a bumbling hotel staff of character actors and you are left with one of the funniest series of all time. One of two British series on my list, "Fawlty Towers" focuses on Basil Fawlty who can't seem to catch a break in life, mainly because he keeps getting in his own way.

7. The X-Files
Ah, Mulder and Scully. "I want to believe." With a mix of engaging mythological stories and stand-alone episodes, "The X-Files" tackles the supernatural in a way that hadn't been seen since "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" (an influence admitted by creator Chris Carter.)

She was the scientist for which everything had an answer; he was the believer who was looking for the truth. They made a balanced team each week while exploring the unknown with bone-chilling or unnerving scares.

6. thirtysomething
This may not seem like my typical fare but "thirtysomething" was influential on me as a younger writer. It was a show about typical suburban family life with all the concerns like work, mortgages, kids and relationships. The plot flowed seamlessly and was intermixed with creative story structures. The characters didn't feel like characters. They were more like people whose lives we looked in on each week. Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick are geniuses in my book and made the mundane into dramatic and compelling.

5. The Prisoner
The second British show on the list, "The Prisoner" is mind-blowing television with a message. A secret agent resigns, is immediately abducted and is taken to an unknown island where everyone is happy and known by a number. "The Prisoner" (as played by series creator Patrick McGoohan) is dogged by the island's leader, No. 2, about why he left his post. The 17 strange stories build to a crescendo where The Prisoner finds out who is the true leader of the island.

4. Firefly
I made a conscious effort to not pick duplicate shows from the same creator. That's what made this choice difficult in the category of Joss Whedon series. "Buffy," "Angel," "Dollhouse" were all viable options but I think as a whole "Firefly" is the one. The mix of character and plot and dialogue create what I think is Whedon's best work and most complete world. Follow that up with an unprecedented movie based on a quickly-cancelled show and it's something I have to stop and watch whenever I catch it on in reruns.

3. M*A*S*H
A show doesn't last 11 years without being something special. It also doesn't last without great writing, memorable characters and innovative direction. A comedy about a war and the people involved, it really doesn't get better than "M*A*S*H."

2. Sports Night
Again, how to make a choice from a brilliant creator's work? Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night" stands out for me because of many things but mainly for the writing. The cast was phenomenal, the direction was exciting and the plots were emotionally moving. You get wrapped up in the characters of this fictional sports show and, even though it's listed as a comedy, you learn about life with the poignant dramatic moments. The only thing not perfect about this show is that Sorkin decided to stop the show to start "The West Wing," leaving an unresolved cliffhanger.

1. Twin Peaks
I don't think that any series has influenced me more than "Twin Peaks." It is a dizzying mix of everything television should be. From writing to originality to score to direction, "Twin Peaks" turned the form on its head and showed what was truly possible. David Lynch and Mark Frost create an all-encompassing world with rich personas and wild mythology. You had to watch to see what was next because it was so unpredictable and engrossing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Music Monday Begins!

Often, I'm not sure what to write for my blog so I'm trying to add more content by having themed days during the week. I'm starting with the new institution of Music Mondays - featuring one current, one classic and one conceptual or crazy release.

To start off, an incredible album I picked up recently after seeing this group on the Grammys: 'The Cave' from Mumford & Sons' "Sigh No More."

Josh Charles - actor from "Dead Poets Society," "Sports Night" and "The Good Wife" - tweeted this link yesterday. It reminded me how much I enjoy the blues when I get a chance to hear them: Legendary blues artist Skip James singing 'Crow Jane' from 1967. (via @BaltimoreJosh)

I've followed Genki Sudo since his time as a MMA fighter because of his unique combat style, creativity in the ring and positive message as a human being. (When he won a fight, he would hold up a flag with the words "We Are All One.") After his retirement, I was looking up some of his older fights on YouTube when I found a music video with a group called World Order. The group brought the same positive message that Sudo had as a fighter. Here's his latest video for the song 'Machine Civilization' (with subtitles.)

Sudo also placed this message with the video. While the translation may be slightly broken English, the message remains:
Many disasters are ongoing in Japan; earthquakes, Tsunami, and nuclear accidents. These unprecedented things may be able to change however from now. That's why I expressed through World Order to convey some message to you on my own way. I see these accidents will become a turning point of civilization. I think the time of revolution is coming, where people in the world coexist with this planet against the system of modern society, economy and politics.
Any accident is neutral. Although we are straying around this deep darkness, I believe we can get through anything when each of us can let go of our fear and face things positively.
The world won't change on its own. We do change one by one. That makes the world change. The darkness just before the dawn is deepest. So, we do rise up together to greet the brilliant morning truly coming for the human beings.

Genki Sudo
Hope you enjoyed this first edition of Music Mondays. If you have any suggestions for entries, let me know in the comments section.

Until next time, remember: We Are All One!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Dangers of Sexting

A compelling New York Times articles on how "sexting" affects the lives of teens involved.

David Schwimmer (Ross from the TV show 'Friends,' @davidschwimmer) pointed his readers to it in reference to his latest directorial stint on the movie, "Trust," starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Letter to an Artist

(This is a piece I wrote after reading a blog post by Felicia Day titled "Surprising Encounters." I had heard about Mike DeStefano the day before and had been looking for a way to write about how his tale had affected me. After reading Ms. Day's post, I knew what I wanted to say.)

Art is surprising. It reaches, touches people in different ways. And what some people bring to it personally - whether it's a disease or past experience or dream - determine what people take from it.

On Sunday, a stand-up comedian, Mike DeStefano, passed away. (You might remember him from the last season of Last Comic Standing.) Only 44, he had had a hard life being HIV positive and a recovering heroin addict. He had turned things around, first as a addiction counselor and then as a stand-up. Mike had a gruff, almost confrontational personality, and it showed onstage and off. Because of that, he wasn't my favorite comedian although I respected his talents.

Yesterday, when news of his death spread on Twitter, people gave remembrances of him. One of them was surprising. It was a storytelling festival in Austin where Mike told a moving tale of the grandest thing he ever did. The video follows:

This is why I will always remember Mike DeStefano. The story is incredible and perfectly told. Not that there aren't moments that he doesn't break and stumble and reach for words. It's that he does and that's what that story deserved. I'm not saying that it was performance. Just the opposite. It was heartfelt, real, honest.

The best of art is all of that - it is created with passion and emotion and honesty.

That's what makes your work so wonderful, Felicia. You bring a passion and honesty to it that shines through. You show us who you are - whether it's an artist who creates a series that expresses what it's like to be a gamer, making people feel less alone; or a life-traveler who pushes her own visions into reality, inspiring others to start their own artistic pursuits; or a celebrity using your popularity online to support a worthy cause - and that is all it takes to be wonderful.

You echo because you are who you are and you share that with the world.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Letter on Tax Incentives for the Entertainment Industry

(This is a letter I wrote to my state representatives about the incentives the state offers production companies to produce films and movies here. While it's not the type of letter others can just cut and paste, it is an example of how you can personalize a letter to get the attention of your representatives.)

Dear Sir,
I am writing in support of the continuance of the Georgia Entertainment Industry Incentive Act and the removal of the "sunset clause" from its provisions.

I moved to Georgia 18 months ago after losing my job as a store manager with Blockbuster Video. I have pursued other employment since arriving here but, with the current economic conditions, it has been difficult. During that time, the only work I have been able to attain has been as an extra in productions that have come to Georgia. So far, I've worked on a movie, a pilot and a regular TV series plus I'm currently waiting to hear about a job tomorrow. This is all since November, when I found out about the opportunities that are offered in Georgia through the entertainment field.

While the money that I've earned isn't enough to truly live on, the jobs I received have helped bolster my spirits and self-worth as I continue to search for steady employment.

While this story is personal, I'd like to point out the benefits the state-at-large gets with these productions:

* This will be the first year that I will pay Georgia state taxes. That is revenue that goes to the coffers of the state that would not be there if productions weren't drawn here with tax incentives.

* On set at the productions I've worked, I have seen a variety of local talents and businesses given opportunities to show their craft and provided needed services. Carpenters, caterers, production assistants, public relation experts - all working toward a common goal and creating revenue for the state.

I'd also ask that you repeal the "sunset clause" on this bill. In the time it's been implemented, it has more than proved itself useful as a tool to stimulate the state's economy and assist its citizens with work. The Georgia Entertainment Industry Incentive Act deserves to stay on the books.

I appreciate your time considering my thoughts on this important subject to our state. I look forward to seeing what action the state legislature takes on this measure during the budget proceedings.

Don Smith

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My First Time

This is the story of my first time.

It's 1994 and I'm 26.

I'd never done it before because I was scared. Scared of rejection, scared of doing it wrong, scared of making a fool of myself.

I know 26-years-old seems late in life to do it for the first time but I'd always been shy. It came to me one day, if I could put myself out there - maybe, just maybe - there was a chance I could break out of the box I kept myself in and grow as a person.

So I sought out a workshop, with people who hadn't done it before either, or who had just started doing it, and the first thing Ed - the guy running the workshop - said was:

"The only way to learn how to do this is by doing it."

I was petrified.

How was this workshop going to help me? I'm a logical person; I need to learn the process. There's no workbook showing the process? No formula? No trial tests to practice on?

So once a week I went to this workshop and got tips like "You have to listen to yourself" and "When you do it, own it" and "Don't do it like other people; have your own style." I tried things out - some worked, some didn't - and I supported other workshop attendees with criticism and encouragement as they did for me.

On week six, Ed came to me before the workshop and said, "You're doing it tonight."

And that was the night I told my first joke on stage.

Unfortunately, it wasn't THAT easy.

At the beginning of the workshop, if you had never been on stage before, you had to do your act for the rest of the wannabe comics. Ed called me up and I couldn't get through the first joke. He said start again and, stumbling and stammering and shaking, I couldn't do it. I had done bits in front of the others before. But this time, with the thought of my impending real stage time before me, it wouldn't flow out.

Ed told me to go outside the club, work on my act and he would call me back in before the end of the workshop to try one more time.

Outside, it was muggy and gray. I took off my coat (I worked at a credit union during the day and would come straight from my job) and wandered around the open parking spots near the door of the club, trying to remember the order of my bits and recite them.

About 10 minutes in, three kids - maybe 12-years-old - wheeled into the parking lot riding bicycles.

Driving in circles, the biggest of the three - a portly punk with bushy hair and freckles - asked, "Hey man, whatcha doing?"

I tried ignoring him.

"Come on, whatcha doing?"

I turned away, pretending to study my set list. He made another circle.

"Hey, are you a comedian? Tell us a joke!"

I was being heckled even before I got on stage. Heckled by 12-year-old brats, no less!

I finally gave in. I told him the truth - that I'd never done this before, that I had no idea what I was doing, that I couldn't get through my set for the workshop. I guess there was squeaky desperation to my voice - actually I know there was - and the kid made another circle as I explained that I just wanted to be left alone so I could try to get my set down.

He stopped in front of me, skidding as if he thought about running me over, and said, "I'm sure you'll do okay. Good luck." Then he pointed to his buddies and said, "Let's go."

For the next 40 minutes, I worked on my bits and thought about what the kid had said. I gained some confidence and started to maintain a sense on stability in my brain where I could actually remember my set list.

Behind me, the door to the club swung open and Paul - a veteran by the group's standards - called me in to do my set for the workshop. And as I walked through the door, a wave of panic washed over me and I forgot everything.

My "trial run" in front of my peers did not go any better this time but Ed looked at me and said, "I don't care. You're going up anyway."

I sat at the back of the room with the other wannabes but I felt alone. No one spoke to me and I tried to memorize my three minute set, which was written in small script on half a 3x5 card. I could retain nothing.

The line-up was set. "Open Mic Thursday" at Comedy Works always ran the same way. Someone experienced would open with six minutes; a mid-level workshop wannabe would follow with four minutes; the two or three first-timers were sandwiched in the middle with three minutes each, followed by two of the stronger comics with eight and ten minutes respectively before the feature.

I was to be fourth of the six that night. I was following Aric - the only person in the workshop that was worse than me. He was Armenian, hardly spoke English and had bits like "How about that President Clinton guy? He's funny, right?" All premise, no punchlines.

So, not only was I going to stand in front of a roomful of strangers with nothing to say because I couldn't remember anything, but the guy before me was going to suck all the life out of the crowd.

The club was almost full, which was strange for a Thursday. I don't remember much after the moment Ed, who was also the emcee, took the stage to start the show. I have a flash memory of watching Aric bomb with his opening joke but I couldn't bear to watch - or listen - so I just tuned him out.

The next thing I remember was my name. Not even Ed saying it was my first time on stage or I was from Tampa or the hack intro I had asked him use. ("He calls himself The Wonder Comic because he wonders things about the world.") The only thing I heard was "Don Smith."

I glided to the stage like I'd been smoking pot for a week straight. I don't remember my feet moving at all. Ed shook my hand and exited the stage. I turned, standing before the microphone, cautious of touching it like the apes in "2001: A Space Odyssey." And then my first joke came to me.

It didn't go over as well as I'd have liked, a few chuckles, and I couldn't remember my next bit. I glanced at my palm, where I had the half of index card cupped, and went on to joke number two. Better reaction. I glanced again and did joke three and got an even better response.

Joke four was my next-to-last and my most formed - it had a longer premise and several tags. It was also heady and referential. Applause break and heavy laughter. I had a chance to breath. If I were thinking clearly, I'd have realized I should have stopped right there. Invigorated, I tried to close hard and fell a little flat. Thanking the audience, I left the stage. (My first faux pas of many as a comedian as I left it before Ed got back up there.)

The others in the workshop congratulated me and I nodded my thanks, still completely dazed from the experience. Ed came back after intro'ing the next comic and told me, after thinking I was just going to eat it up there, he was completely surprised by the applause break.

So I sat there, trying to focus and remember what just happened. I ordered a beer and watched the rest of the show. The club let us watch the whole show for free Thursdays and Sundays if we abided by the two drink minimum. It gave us a chance to watch professionals and possibly talk to them after the show to get tips or, for the more advanced wannabes, references to other clubs.

Still a little stunned, I stood as the lights came up at the end of the night and wandered through the crowd to find the waitress, as she hadn't brought me my tab. A middle-aged woman smiled as I passed her and muttered "Funny stuff." As I got deeper in the crowd, a guy - kind of touristy-looking in khaki shorts and a loud red shirt - stopped me. He said he really enjoyed my set and the only thing I should work on was not glancing at my hand repeatedly.

He left me with a handshake. I paid my tab and, in my exuberant state, insanely overtipped the waitress. At the back of the club, the morose-looking headliner (whose name I wish I could remember) sat looking into a glass of ice. I thought to myself, if I'm going to do this, I might as well start meeting professionals who do it regularly.

I walked to his table and he looked up. I introduced myself and this was the rest of our conversation:

"That was your first time on stage?" he asked.

"Yeah, first time."

"You did really well," he said after swigging the last liquid from his glass.

"Thanks. Any tips you can give me?"

He looked at me as he rose to leave. "Yeah... don't get used to it."

And he walked off.

I stood there stunned for a moment then wandered out of the club to my car.

I pondered what he said for two weeks, until the next time I went up again. Then I understood what he meant.

It was another "Open Mic Thursday." The same three minutes. The same set.

But this night there were 15 people in the crowd. I'm not sure you could even call them people. They were more like zombies.

Everyone - experienced or not - died up there that night. My three minute set ended up being only two minutes long as I was speaking quickly from nerves and no laughs. I made up a joke - there on the spot - to fill the time. I might as well have arranged flowers. It would have got more laughs.

I watched the feature struggle and the headliner fight for every laugh. And I also understood why the morose-looking headliner had said what he did.

Each and every time, it's never the same. There are nights when you have them when they walk through the door. There are nights you couldn't catch them with a fishing net. Many variables are out of your control. But as you get better, you learn the techniques and tricks and it gets easier, though never without risk.

But everyone has to do one thing - get through that first night, realize it's only one of many to come and go from there.