Monday, July 31, 2006

Old Friends

This past weekend, I had the chance to see a friend I hadn't seen since we were kids in New York. He and his family were visiting from Minnesota. We spent a day and half together, exploring the traditional L.A. tourist destinations (which most of us locals hardly ever get to see).

The experience, like my reunion last year with two of our mutual friends in New York, underscored my belief that thte nature of certain childhood friendships is fundamentally different than teen or adult friendships. Those first independent "pre-teen" friendships aren't so much based on future dreams or work. Friendships at that age may not even be based as strongly on common interests. I believe that strong connections at that age are forged by a common perception of the world - as elementary as that might be. Those first friends are really our first comrades.

We still felt like comrades over three decades later.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Apple 2

Apparently, my Apple commentary hit a nerve with several readers. I'll provide an update when my system returns from the independent (non-Apple owned) Apple service center.

One reader commented on those who believe that one needs to be using a Mac in creative work. Apple, in fact, likes to suggest as much. Computers facilitate creativity - they don't cause it. A bad editor using Final Cut Pro on the most advanced Mac on the market is still a bad editor. Likewise, a great editor will do great work with the most primitive editing system. It may not be as easy as using a more advanced system, but the individual's talent and instinct will still shine through.

Macs (when they work) are, no doubt, exemplory in facilitating creative work, but they don't ensure success. Once my system works again (hopefull), I'll swear by it. Final Cut is a great, accesssible program that helps make my creative process. It's not, however, the only route to success. After all, almost all of the awards I've won for my work had nothing to do with Apple Computers....

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fruit Myths (or: Apples don't keep the doctors away)

Most of you have seen the Apple Computer commericals promoting the virtues of Apple Computers over PC's. Many of you have also heard the somewhat boastful claims of Mac owners of just how their systems are much more dependable.

As someone who bought a top-of-the-line Apple Powermac G5 Quad-Core (4 processor) Computer in mid-March, I can say Apple claims, and those commercials, are false. I've had numerous computers over the years - I have never had the problems I've had with this computer - nor have I had the difficulties with any customer service organization as I have had with Apple. Since April, my Mac has been randomly shutting down.

Twice, I've brought the system to an Apple store. The first time, they wouldn't accept the machine because it wouldn't randomly shut down as they watched. The second time, a month later (and after hours on the internet researching the problem myself), they saw the system shut down, and accepted the system for repair. Despite legions of people on numerous online forums describing the common fix as replacing a faulty power supply or "logic board," the Woodland Hills Apple Store replaced my video card, and pronounced the problem fixed after keeping the system for a week. The problem returned a week later. A call to "Applecare," Apple's customer service unit, proved just as frustrating. The agent to whom I was speaking wanted me to perform a series of tests of the phone with him, involving my opening my computer, removing components, etc. I'm not a "techie," and I certainly don't have the time to spend poking at my computer, especially after the time I've wasted researching the problem and dragging my expensive G5 to the Apple Store (twice) - AND the expense I've incurred not being able to use this system for its intended business purposes. I'm about to try a recommended non-Apple warranty service center some thirty miles away...hopefully, that will do the trick. Apparently, depending upon Apple is not a wise choice.

Incidentally, I posted a similar message on the G5 discussion board on the Apple website. Apple deleted it. I guess they didn't appreicate my refering to my system as a doorstop.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kreepy Kid

After yesterday's blog, I did a bit of research. I discovered that the photographer of "Young Boy 1938," Erna Lendvai-Dircksen, was quite popular in Nazi Germany for her portraits of the German people. So, it's quite possible that the boy, if not creepy at the time, became creepy in the Hitler Youth - proving my point. Sort of.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


It's about 110 degrees here in Woodland Hills - a good opportunity for me to get back to my blog, which hasn't yet returned to the regular entries of a few months back.
Perhaps I need my favorite "Kreeepy Kid:"

This picture, entitled "Young Boy, 1938" and taken by photographer
Erna Lendvai Dircksen, has become somewhat my blog mascot. It's also generated quite a few comments relating to my dubbing this depression-era boy "creepy." I suppose the definition might depend on where your imagination leads you....also, "Serious Kid" isn't half as fun.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Road Trip Observations

My nephew and I just returned from a mini-roadtrip to Clear Lake, California - a small, somewhat depressed resort destination we've been visiting on and off since 1998. Of the several towns surrounding the lake, Lakeport appears to be the oldest, and most prosperous, of the bunch. We were staying in Clearlake, which had more than its share of abandoned businessses and assorted storefronts. The motel (a Best Western) seemed okay - if unusually empty for the heart of the tourist season.

Normally we camp up the mountains above the lake during our visits, at a particularly remote campsite, returning to town for supplies, or if the heat is unusually oppressive. This time, we spent all of our time down on the lake. We had planned to go kayaking, but discovered our favoirtie kayak vendor was nowhere to be seen. We did, however, visit some of our "traditional" haunts: "Renee's," a local restaurant, assorted retail stores (including a K-Mart and the local variation on a 99 Cent store). We also went to Radio Shack, where I bought two radio control vehicles on close-out for $10 a piece. One vehicle lasted just about 10 minutes. There were fun for the time it lasted, though. And we started to gather a crowd of interested onlookers. Radio control tends to fascinate people. For Ten Minutes. We made our brief, ever so slight impact on Clear Lake, and hit the road.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


At the moment, I'm up in Sacramento, and just read the headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle. The lead headline refers to Barry Bonds' trainer being jailed in relation to the steroid scandal - on a day when the major issues in the world include North Korea test-firing seven missles, Ken Lay, who exploited millions of Californians through the Enron scheme, dying before having to face years in prison at the age of sicty-four, and the continued carnage in Iraq. In comparison, the steriod case doesn't even seem worthy of being on page. I suppose the Chronicle, like every newspaper, is in the business of selling newspapers. Iraq and National Security just don't cut it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Film Camp, Part 2

One of the reasons I enjoyed last week's experience was the opportunity to work with these bright, artistic kids. Schools in general don't provide a great deal of opportunity for creative kids to express themselves, so when they're exposed to programs like this, it's sometimes a life changing experience. I can't say whether that's the case here, but my fellow mentors and I had the chance to see amazing examples of young talents in action: A born leader, a talented editor, young but nevertheless veteran filmmakers, gifted actors - and the results of all of these kids teaming together in artistic collaboration. That's one of the reasons I've taken to teaching - it's incredibly exciting and satisfying to have the chance to meet - and possibly have an impact - on talented kids - whether they're fresh out of juvenile hall and struggling to put their lives back together, or from privleged backgrounds and just trying to figure out their place in the world.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What IFFF? Kids Film Camp

Several months ago, I began working with Roads End Entertainment (they also put on the International Family Film Festival - IFFF) in a pilot program teaching filmmaking to kids at elementary and middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The pilot program was a great success, and we followed up that initial semester with a week-long Film Camp at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. We just finished yesterday.

I had the opportunity to work with kids that were more advanced in their passion for filmmaking - a group of six very creative young filmmakers from 13 to 17 that brought to the task at hand (making a 3-5 minute film on the theme of "tolerance") unique skills and experience that resulted in a great film.

Having made films since I was eleven years old, I had a great deal of fun watching the process, as these kids - who began the week as strangers - learn to work with each other to develop, shoot and edit their film. As a boy, I enjoyed the opportunity to create a team, and lead my friends through the experience. The Film Camp gave these teens the chance to appreaciate and benefit from each other. For some kids, it was a rare opportunity to work with other like-minded people. Often, creative kids are surrounded by people who don't understand them - at the Film Camp, both mentors (all of us are filmmakers) and kids understand.

I have to admit, I had at least as much fun as the kids. And it probably meant as much to me, as well. As Oscar Hammerstein wrote in The King and I, "If you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught."

More later.