Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ends of the Years

I'm just been contemplating how many news years-eves I can recall - or which I could best recall.  

I can't specifically remember any new years eves as a kid, though I know I stayed up with the family and watched (in black-and-white) the ball drop in Times Square.

I do remember where I was on New Years Eve, 1999 - I was freezing down in San Pedro, by the Korean Bell, a gift from South Korea to the City of Los Angeles., that sits on the coast.  I was helping out as a cameraman on a live broadcast to South Korea.  It was freezing, I had a cold - it was miserable!  But we had a little excitement when our power generators went out ten minutes before midnight, not only leaving all of the crew in the dark, but all of the guests as well (a crowd of dignitaries were to ring in the new year en masse using the large bell. It turns out the production crew was providing all of the light for the event as well.  Just in time, all the power was restored and the show went on as scheduled.

I've been to numerous New Years Eve parties over the years, but the truth is that most are the same sort of thing - I'm not one for drunken all-out parties, and many of the others I've gone to are otherwise uneventful - hardly worth risking the drunk drivers out on the roads!

As for Times Square, I can't help but marvel at those people who brave a cold December day in New York City to stand around Times Square for most of the day waiting for the big moment - which is over in perhaps ten or fifteen minutes (though I have to admit there is some excitement in just "being there."

The other thought that almost always occurs to me is the transitory nature of new years eve - the fact that it happens in waves throughout the day, from one side of the world to the other - while you're celebrating, people in Australia have already moved on with their lives.  Being in California, we're just about at the end of the process - like so many other live programs, we see Times Square on a three-hour delay.  Since we don't have any great televised New Year celebration, we're stuck with leftovers...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Around the World with Freshi

Aboard the Cruise ship Golden Princess on December 18, 2007..

End of the Year - Time for a New Blog.

Actually, a lot has happened since the last posting - most recently being my journey aboard the Princess Cruise Ship Golden Princess.  I can't go into detail on why I was there - but it was for business!  I swear!  No, really!
Like my trip to India in '06, I hadn't ever considered taking a cruise, but I loved the experience.  I was also very impressed with how well the entire operation ran - 2600 passengers experienced nothing but a stress-free, high-quality environment.  The only time I saw stressed out people was in the final couple of hours before passengers returned to the real world.  It's inevitable, I suppose.  The Princess Cruise tag line is "escape completely,"  but it's not a permanent escape.
But it sure was fun....

Monday, October 29, 2007

Great in '08!!

I didn't have an imaginary friend as a kid - but I did have an imaginary Presidential Candidate. Jim Great was running for President on a platform that solely emphasized his Greatness. How could you not vote for a Great President?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


When I was about eight or nine years old, I went through a period when I thought I wanted to be an architect. Actually, looking back on it, I suppose I was more interested in being an urban planner.

My single greatest achievement? I spent hours and hours creating a cross section of a vast underground city, consisting of sheet upon sheet of taped-together notebook paper. I don't remember too many details, but I remember the feeling of achievement as the plans extended further and further underground. It looked pretty cool as a cross-section. I tried to make a city that was livable, fun and futuristic.

Sunlight and claustrophobia didn't enter my thoughts. Not to mention fresh air- or the very thought of living your life hundreds of feet below the surface...

I wonder what a city would look like if it were designed by kids. Somehow, I think it would be a very scary place...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Ever Happened to Ben? (Part Three)

The Ben Era

No sooner had I established my friendship with The Shuffleboard Kid that I became acquainted with Ben. I don't know just where and how we met, but we managed to find each other - two kids of the same age seeking an ally in our two week stay in an alien land (i.e. Miami).

Naturally, finding a friend of the same age under these circumstances is like hitting the jackpot. It didn't matter what we actually had in common - we were perfectly in tune in our fight against boredom. While Shuffleboard Kid was happy to find a friend, Ben and I were happy to find comrades.

There were just a few opportunities to establish a friendship, and even fewer responsibilities to maintain it. We could play at the beach of course - naturally, the primary form of entertainment at a beach-front hotel. The beach provided the backdrop for my only record of Ben - a movie of him goofing off for the camera and writing his name in the sand. If Shuffleboard Kid had come down to the beach, I suspect he would still have a name today.

Ben stood by me during the Bingo Incident. Our hotel had a bingo night, and Ben and I decided to join in. After all, there were prizes involved! Mostly, they were pens and pencils and paper wieghts, but that didn't matter. Winning the Prize was important - not the prize itself. We sat down, hoping to win some prizes.

That evening, I was to experience one of my most successful winning streaks, before or since. The Bingo Gods seemed to smile upon me as I won game after game after game. The Game Official (probably some cabana boy), checked each bingo card closer than the last - but my wins were real. Ben and I were giddy with excitement, while old ladies grumbled around the room. I won more prizes than I could handle, and began to hand some over to Ben, whose Bingo cards were sadly devoid of winning numbers. It seemed as if I couldn't be stopped. If I was in Vegas, I would have brought down the house. This wasn't Vegas, however.

The grumbles grew louder, and we grew happier, and the Bingo Gods grew more generous. Then, without warning, I was told to leave. I had won too much. I had to give other people a chance, they told me. WON TOO MUCH? I WAS TOO LUCKY? We were outraged! In this case, that meant it was my turn to grumble, and Ben's turn to grumble right along with me. I am convinced that I will one day have the chance to continue my interrupted streak of good luck, but as yet my efforts to summon the Bingo Gods have failed during my trips to Las Vegas.

Shuffleboard Kid, with an earlier bedtime, wasn't around for the Bingo Incident. As friendships unfold in the much-slower non-vacation world, we drifted apart. Sure, I would see him around the hotel over the next few days, but didn't spend that much time together - not like in the old days earlier in the week.

The unique character of a holiday vacation was always that everyone was there on the same general schedule. Most schools took off the last two weeks of the year, and so most families planned their vacations accordingly. When it was time to go home, we all parted. Nobody was left behind. We ALL moved away.

Ben, and Shuffleboard Kid and I became fast friends, and they were the first of many friends I would leave behind the following summer when my family moved across the country to California. Ben and I vowed to stay in touch - we had been through the Boredom War together - and survived With Something To Do. I guess you could say we're veterans. We might not have been fighting for freedom or our lives, but for the most important value in our lives at that single moment in time: Keeping Ourselves Entertained.

So....what ever happened to Ben? Until recently, I thought that we had attempted to write one another, but I didn't pursue the relationship when I realized how poor his writing skills were. My nephew, however, found a passage in a diary I was required to keep in my sixth grade class (in California) declaring, in bold letters, I GOT A LETTER FROM BEN! Unfortunately, that's all I wrote. Until I find that missing letter, the nature of our post-Miami friendship will have to remain a mystery.

With my nephew's help, I recently thought I found Ben on MySpace. He didn't respond to my odd little inquiry, so I can't be sure that particular east coast businessman is actually him. Of course, if it was him, we really wouldn't have all that much to talk about, anyway. Two Weeks. As an adult, that's practically an instant.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Ever Happened to Ben? (Part Two)

The Shuffleboard Kid

The suggestion that one year in a dog's life is equivalent to seven in a human's is probably appropriate to kids and adults, as well. Summer can be an eternity to a kid - and two weeks nearly so. While an adult is almost immediately counting down the days when his vacation will end, the kid is generally thinking of the time at hand. Two weeks is an impossibly long time to contemplate.

Survival mode for a kid on vacation almost always means the challenge to Not Be Bored - particularly when the adults are off relaxing by the pool or entertaining themselves with a cup of coffee. Many kids out to dinner with their parents have formed brief alliances with mortal enemies caught in the same situation. They might remain enemies in school, but here in adultland, they only had each other, and put aside their differences rather than Be Bored.

At ten, age really matters. Generally, you hang out with kids your age or older - almost NEVER younger kids, lest you be considered One Of Them. On this vacation those concerns didn't apply.

I was checking out the shuffleboard courts (do they even exist anymore?) when I came across a boy I only remember at The Shuffleboard Kid. He was about seven or eight - an impossibly large age gap at home - and was playing with his mom. I was invited to play, which I suppose was her convenient excuse to beat a hasty retreat, for soon just the Kid and I were playing shuffleboard - and so forming a fast friendship based solely on Nothing Better To Do.

About the only thing I remember with certainty about The Shuffleboard Kid was that he was a bit sensitive - particularly, it seems, about animals. In fact, if he's an animal activist today, I might have witnessed the beginning of his lifelong quest. The Kid and I attended the hotel's sixteen milimeter screening of the original "Doctor Dolittle," which featured Rex Harrison as an 18th century vegetarian vetenarian who also, by the way, talked to the animals. At first, the screening almost didn't happen. Hotel staff couldn't figure out how to adjust the wide-angle lens on the projector to allow the film to project in its corrrect widescreen mode. I'm proud to say that my dad, the film executive, saved the evening by showing them how it was done, and thus making the screening possible.

After the film, Shuffleboard Kid was in tears. Why couldn't we treat animals like people? It just wasn't right! He seemed deeply hurt by the lack of what today I might call Equal Access For Animals. I thought it was really a major over-reaction, but I stood by my friend, tried to reason with him a bit, but generally just shrugged and hoped he would get it out of his system. It reminded me that he was, after all, Just A Little Kid.

For the first couple of days, The Shuffleboard Kid was my Best and Only Vacation Friend. His standing was about to be challenged.

Ben was on the scene.

Part Three: The Ben Era

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Ever Happened to Ben? (Part One)

When I was ten, my family took a trip to Miami, Florida for the winder holiday - a two week vacation at a (then) typical Miami Beach hotel - multistory, some scheduled activities, and the beach right behind the hotel property. This was before today's "revitalized" Miami Beach, with (I'm told) glitzy hotels, night life, and lots of Cuban atmosphere. There might have been a lot going on, but for a ten year old kid, what counted in Miami Beach was the place where I spent most of my time - the hotel. I think a kid in Vegas might feel the same thing - plenty of lights and activity - but what does it mean to him?

Looking back on it, this vacation was actually one of the more activity-filled trips we took. We visited plenty of local attractions, including Parrot Jungle (where about four heavy parrots balanced on my scrawny arms for a photo), Lion Country Safari, where (I think) I saw the dolphins who performed in the TV show, Flipper (before computer graphics spared such animals a good deal of online work). We didn't get to visit the just opened Disney World (my dad didn't want to fight the traffic), but we did visit Kennedy Space Center - though it was late in the day and only the gift shop was open- I sitll have the Apollo 15 cap we purchased there.

At the hotel, however, there was a entirely new set of adventures. This was in the days before video arcades, wireless internet, or widescreen televisions. The list of activities, in my ten year old's perception, included the ocean, the pool, the shuffleboard court, the nightly bingo games, and a movie night (where they rolled out a sixteen milimeter projector). An adult - or older kid, like my teenage sister - would look at the situation as dire, but at ten, I accepted reality and went about seeing how I could fit into my new, semi-independent limitied-to-two-weeks world.

Part Two: The Shuffleboard Kid

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back By Popular Demand!

Okay, maybe it depends how you define popular - let's say popular in the world of people who read my blog. I'm going to resume my blogorific experience....

It's been an eventful few months - from my work with FreshiFilms, LLC (where I serve as Director of Production), to my move to Valencia (about 2o miles north of my previous home), and numerous projects of all sizes and types - it's been a hectic time. I'll touch on some of these activities over the next few weeks.

I've a got a few newly-discovered childhood stories to share - and others to enhance. My move uncovered some forgotten artifacts from my kid years, which I'll review here in my own personal anthropological expedition (say that three times, fast), as well as exploring some ongoing mysteries.

The first of those mysteries: Whatever Happened to Ben?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Useless Luck

Today, on 7/7/07, I made a purchase that added up to $7.77.

So, where's my luck?

If I'm to believe all the superstitions about three 7's, then this should indicate that good luck is coming my way...

Or perhaps my luck was that the salad and water I purchased for $7.77 was contaminated. With all the contaminated food floating around, I'll take what I can get!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

FreshiFilmWorx, the worldwide filmmaking consortium I work with, is about to initiate it's annual film camp. Here's a look at last year's camp, straight from the website for young filmmakers....

Visit FreshiFlix

Visit FreshiFlix

Thursday, June 28, 2007

World of Warcraft

After experimenting with World of Warcraft for a couple of months, I ultimately cancelled the account. It was interesting to explore the "massive multiplayer" environment, but even with an enormous 3D world to explore, and numerous ways to interact with other players (and computer generated characters), that world becomes a repetitive excercise in endless quests and battles against enemies. For kids with time to spare, I can see how engaging it might be, but without that time, it's just an endless time-sucking monster.

My friend Andrew Tarr (with whom I created "What Ever Happened to Andy Tark"), writes a blog about Second Life, which is another take on the massive multiplayer world. I might try that shortly - Second Life is an attempt to expand these alternative online worlds to reach a wider audience. It's not so much a game as it is a world largely generated by users - including retail vendors hoping to be on the ground floor of a new marketing bonanza.

Ultimately, I think that all of these worlds will increase in popularity in a massive way when individuals can virtually enter highly defined environments, and "wander" in a fully immersive world, walking and talking with users around the world. There was a time when such a concept was pure science fiction (as in the film "Total Recall," but technology is moving ahead so rapidly, I suspect such an world can't be that far ahead.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time Flies!

I didn't realize it's been so long since I posted an entry here - life has been hectic lately.

Here's few random, unrelated bits:

1 - I'm restarting my filmmaking workshop at Pacific Lodge Boys' Home, which I had to sideline early last year when my father was sick. We have a new camera, and a Final Cut editing system - I'm looking forward to seeing where the program goes this time around. Volunteering at PL has been one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had.

2 - I bought a 3 inch-long remote control helicopter at Fry's Electronics - and it actually works! Seeing it on display, with it's cheap-import-toy style packaging, I more then expected it NOT to meet expectations. It works! Here is someone's demonstration on YouTube of the little guy....Well worth the $24.99.

3 - I have absolutely no news to report about Paris Hilton, but I thought I would mention her here to see how many searches turn up my site.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I was reminded today about the association certain sensations have with a particular person, time or place. The smell of a cigar will always remind me of my father, the smell of a pipe (exceeding rare today) reminds me of one particular uncle. Yoohoo, a chocolate drink popular mostly in the eastern United States, recalls childhood days spent at Jones Beach on Long Island, New York. Chlorine reminds me of the New Hyde Park public pool. The Good Humor chocolate bar that's called the chocolate eclair reminds me of when I could buy it off of the Good Humor ice cream truck that passed through our neighborhood every summer day. Likewise, freshly cut grass reminds me of my old neighborhood.

I also remember certain food landmarks, for lack of a better word, the represented my childhood culinary preferences (hmmm, sounds important, doesn't it?). My McDonald's order was always a double cheeseburger, chocolate shake and french fries (health food? What's that?). At the International House of Pancakes (now known simply as IHOP), I would almost always order silver dollar pancakes. Many times, my dinner would include a particular desert - a sweet, heated item called a "honey bun." My grandmother would make a great dessert consisting of a stack of graham crackers covered in chocolate pudding.

I know someone who eats the same food at the same restaurant every day. I suppose he has his reasons, but I like to revisit my fondest food memories occasionly.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Special Meanings of the Commonplace

I'm currently in Rocklin, a community north of Sacramento that began as a way station for prospectors making their way to San Francisco (no gold was ever found here). It then became a major source of granite for foundations, graveside memorials, etc. (hence the name, Rocklin).

When you take history down to the level of the individual, even the most mundane sites become intriguing. Quite a while ago in this blog, I attempted to map out my travels in my old home town - literally my "stomping ground," as the saying goes. Commonplace landmarks take on special meaning: the lamp-post where we waited for the school bus, the intersection where an informal bike race began between the neighborhood kids, or the curbside where I set up my lemonade stand. Overlay with that the memories of the generations and residents that followed, and each of those locations take on multiple meanings, each special to the individuals involved, but unknown to anyone else.

In any old western town, buildings and landmarks with histories that go back well over one hundred years likely have special meanings to many, many generations of residents, most long gone.

Schools in particular hold simulaneous memories from countless generations. A particular tree, a particular locker,a corner of the lunch area, or the PE field. To passerby, any school is bland and generic - to those who attended, the special meanings of the commonplace are everywhere: the place where you and your friends met during lunch; the place where you had that fight, the fence you used to climb; or the classroom you hated. To those who preceded you, and those who followed, the meanings are different, but just as vivid: where you met at lunch may have been a place they knew to avoid; where you had that fight might have been the site of a school prank; the fence you used to climb might have been totally unknown to another generation as a means of escape; and the classroom you hated might have once been the classroom where someone else's life changed forever.

Live in a house or apartment where others have lived before, and you're living in the faint echoes of their own lives.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

YouTube Pays

Coincidentally with my recent entry, YouTube has announced that it will reward the top several dozen most viewed Youtubers with financial rewards (the specifics weren't revealed). As I suggested, it is rapidly becoming profitable (for a few lucky, quirky people) to just live their lives - or at least create an illusion of reality that's entertaining enough to draw a large following.

At some point - and perhaps it's already here - major media will attempt to take part in this new form of entertainment. While many media outlets already broadcast excerpts from their programs on YouTube, and some other content meant to supplement media on other platforms, I expect that they will attempt (or are attempting) to create their own YouTube characters.

The trick, though, is not creating a feeling in the audience of being fooled and deceived. If, for example, a character is created that proves to lead ultimately into an upcoming television sitcom, will viewers tune in to the show, or resent the manipulation? Would a Daxflame (see earlier blog) sitcom fly?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Flavors of LA

I had the opportunity recently to shoot an episode of "Flavors of LA," in which Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti introduces the viewing audience to communities across Los Angeles through visits to a variety of restaurants in selected council districts.

Los Angeles is such a international city - but I wonder how few people really have the opportunity to experience the international selection of restaurants - from Cuban to Lebanese to Indian to Salvadoran - almost any fare around the world is represented here. For example, we were treated to a fantastic meal at Maroush, a Lebanese restaurant. For the purposes of the show, the restaurant prepared many of their signature dishes, providing us with a real introduction to Lebanese fare. I believe, at times, we miss the chance to explore establisments and foods like these strictly out of unfamiliarity - the same reason, I suppose, many Americans avoid international travel.

Fear of the unknown, whether we're talking about international food or culture, leads both to ignorance and arrogance.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


One of the most discussed channels on YouTube is by an individual called Daxflame. While there's an ongoing debate as to whether this individual is "real" or an actor, Daxflame is ostensibly a fifteen year old, excitable, socially inept high school student. His apparent view of the world has been described by his viewers as somewhat autistic, while others claim he appears to have Asperger Syndrome, which exhibits some of the same symptoms. Still others, on the basis of the angst-ridden world he relates in each video, are convinced that no acutal person can be living his soap opera., and that he must be a talented actor. All agree, based on the comments left, that his videos are funny, entertaining, and lots of fun. With well over one million total views and over 18,000 subscribers, he's one of the Stars of YouTube.

Real of not, Dax hints at the development of an entirely new form of entertainment in which the viewers, through their messages and videos, interact with the central "character," creating an ever-widening world. Search for DaxFlame on Google, and you'll find that he's the subject of debate and discussion in groups all over the world. Search on YouTube, and you'll find videos about Dax. Some are direct responses to Dax's own videos, while others are extensive investigations into Dax's true origin. Still others are Dax inspired - imitiating or emulating his videos.

Characters on YouTube, real or not, have a much more intimate connection with their audience. Their 3 or 5 or 10 minute videos seem personal and unedited. The most popular people on Youtube aren't slick, well rehearsed or even particularly articulate. They feel real. Their connection is more personal.

This isn't "reality television," as conventional programming has defined it. Audience-based programming, perhaps?

McDonalds Aint Not Doin Nothin Good

In the event that you missed his comment to my recent blog about illiteracy on McDonalds receipts, my friend Stephen, with whom I visited the McDonalds in question has an interesting update.

Stephen brought the receipt in question to the attention of the manager of the McDonalds. The manager looked at the receipt, crumbled it up, and threw it away.

Stephen's father reports that he came across the same badly written blurb at another McDonalds, which suggests that the cash registers receive programming from a central location - corporate headquarters, perhaps? It's frightening to think that someone with such a poor grasp of the language wields such responsibility. I hope McDonalds is more careful when placing individuals in positions related to food safety.

Stephen also sent an email to McDonalds corporate headquarters. A form letter apologized for his poor experience, and referred his complaint back to the local McDonalds - the same establishment with the paper-crumbling manager.

Since receipts are the single greatest source of literary contact that McDonalds has with the public, I suppose they reflect McDonalds' respect for its customers.

Or Lack Thereof.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


The newest rage on the World Wide Web these days is going LIVE. It's now possible for anyone with a high-speed connection and a decent webcam to broadcast life for all the world to see. At the moment, the center of all this activity seems to be, which features hundreds of people from all over the world broadcasting live. Usually, the result is a rambling, stream-of-consciousness rant - sort of a video blog unrestrained. Live netcasting on this scale is still fairly new, however, so the look of this organic network is still developing.

On, a San Francisco-area tech/geek in his early 20's is netcasting 24/7, through a wireless webcam mounted on his hat. He claims he'll keep it up for the foreseeable future, but his audience is beginning to cause trouble - calling in fake emergencies to the police and fire departments, and causing so much havoc in his apartment complex that he could be evicted. It seems that going live sometimes means leaving yourself at the mercy of the entire world. In the meantime, check in and see Justin have breakfast, work, go to parties, use the bathroom (discreetly), and live a life as random and usually bland as anyone else.

Most people, both male and female, are far more limited in their netcasts. A good number of them are netcasting as the logical extension of their YouTube presence. Take, for example, Brandon3773 (his name on both YouTube and Stickam) Brandon is a thirteen year old from Texas who specializes in random commentary on the world around him (lots and lots of random commentary - 417 videos at last count), and holds court some nights on Stickam, responding to other live netcasters and text chatters on any sort of subject that comes to mind, and keeping the pervs and other freaks out of his world. Topics on a recent night included updates on his new website, behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the making of his YouTube videos, and a response to a question about why a kid from Lubbock, Texas doesn't have more of a Texan accent. He's just a typical thirteen year old kid. He's not edgy or extreme. I wouldn't even call him hilarious. He's just being a regular 21st Century kid - building a brand of his own.

After all, success is not only about a good resume, but also about selling a good product - yourself. With sites like YouTube and Stickam, it's possible to make yourself famous on the net. Just what you can do with that fame remains to be seen. Justin already has several sponsors. Brandon has 512 subscribers, and over 51,000 views. If those numbers continue to grow, he could be just the ticket for corporate sponsorship. Just by being a regular kid. Cool.

Childhood. Sponsored by Coke?

Driving By

In Los Angeles, nothing remains the same for too long. Most of the local landmarks from my childhood are long gone.

The Topanga Theater, my childhood theater of choice in the West San Fernando Valley, closed perhaps ten years ago. It had once been a single theatre, had already split into two by the time I began attending films there, and later was further split into four tiny theaters, which made the venue useless. It was to be torn down and replaced with a huge, modern multiplex, but neighborhood opposition forced Pacific Theaters to move that concept a mile or so north, replacing a drive-in movie theater that had also gone from one to two to four screens. Today, after a couple of years as a furniture store, it stands empty. I will always remember it as the place where I saw the original "Poseidon Adventure" about 15 times (using my dad's pass, which required only that I paid tax), and the scene of countless movie previews.

Several miniature golf courses in the area were long ago destroyed as land grew in value, as was a branch of the Malibu Grand Prix kart racing track and arcade, a very popular destination for kids at one time. It's now an auto dealership.

The massive Westfield Topanga mall was once known as Topanga Plaza, and featured an ice-skating rink, which was later converted into a food court. When the mall was overhauled in the last couple of years, the food court itself was deconstructed, and the space where it existed, which until then retained the shape of the old rink, was completely removed as the mall more then doubled in size. That very spot is now just another wing of the mall.

True, there are some parks in the area that have vastly improved since those days, and forms of entertainment have changed dramatically - there's not a lack of things to do - and a mall is still a mall, just bigger and more "upscale," but the business of recreation, aside from movie theaters, has shifted to the personal rather then the social. We didn't have video game systems, movie rental houses (or cable TV), or the internet.

Not only did land become more expensive in Los Angeles, but kids drifted away to more convenient recreational activities as time moved on.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Super Rabbit and Friends

I've had a long history of creating cartoon characters. Early on, I posted some of my more recent cartoons, but this little hobby actually began in kindergarten, when I created a character I dubbed, "Super Rabbit." I really don't remember what he looked like, but I vividly remember my teacher's laugh when i asked her how to spell it....

A few years later, when I was about ten or so, i created my own cartoon Presidential candidate, Jim Great. He came complete with campaign materials - posters and the like.

At eleven or twelve, I created a series of comic books about my newest super hero - Super Spider. It wasn't long before I introduced his sidekick, Wonder Worm.

I would endure a comic drought of perhaps eight or nine years, until I created a new series of characters and comics, beginning with James Castigon, an innocent teenager browsing through the discount record bin at his local record store when he discovers an album featuring HIM - singing a series of songs about his entire life. From that comic came a whole new series of characters, from Freddy Fetus to Melvin Egghead, and featuring the likes of Sem and Craven, "Pops" Castigon (James' father), and five evil characters: Flem, Marty, Pace, Stickle and Crude. The cartoons were circulated amongst my group of friends, and Freddy Fetus acheived cult status within that group - he became, for lack of a better word, the symbol of our generation.

Or was that Super Rabbit?

Kid Rumor Mill

As a kid, there were several rumors i unquestionably believed:

1) I was told there was this one kid who blew off his face with fireworks and now lived secluded in the bedroom above his garage. I know he lived there because my friend pointed it out. I was also accussed of being a friend of the kid-without-a-face - but my real friends helped quash THAT rumor.

2) At day camp, there was an abandoned, fenced-off shed way back at the far edges of the property. Rumor had it that an evil guy lived there - and he had captured a kid who had come too close. Of course, I turned down the dare to hop the fence and inspect the shed.

3) My friend across the street swore that if you cut the skin between your fingers you would die. Needless to say, I was very careful.

4) Without a doubt, my older cousins had the entire Major Matt Mason action figure (an astronaut figure that was my favorite toy for a time) set, including all the cool accessories, the other action figures in the series, and the space station playset. Not only did they have all this, but they were hiding it right this second behind the locked door to my aunt and uncle's bedroom and they were NOT going to let me see it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Ever Happened to Andy Tark?

The World Permiere!

This is a film that Andrew Tarr and I created, based (loosely) on his quirkly childhood adventures, and featuring a great cast of actors working in a "controlled improvisation." I'll explain more in future blogs.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fast Food Will Rot Your Mind.

I think this Glendale McDonalds needs a new person programming the cash register - perhaps someone with a greater knowledge of the English language (read the ad at the top). I wasn't aware you could pack that many errors into one phrase.
I'm also puzzled as to what a burger with a three-to-one pound ratio would look like (The "Argus Burgers" are actually 1/3 pound).
I guess company standards at McDonalds don't include certain communication skills.

Freshi This, Freshi That

In addition to "How to Make Movies," the Freshi brand extends in several directions: a website (, a quarterly magazine ("Rated FreshiFriendly"), and an after school filmmaking program ( that is in the process of spreading worldwide. Freshi has created a series of packages designed to allow schools and other educational interests to bring filmmaking to kids and teens everywhere. It's been selling like crazy- the packages are shipping across the country and beyond.

Just look at Youtube - kids are deeply into filmmaking - and they're starving for information on how to do it right. For me, everything's come full circle from the days when I was a young (11 year-old) filmmaker. I would have given everything to have a video camera (with sound!!!) like so many kids have today...

Monday, April 09, 2007

How to Make Movies

One of my current projects "FreshiReel: How to Make Movies," a television program for kids and teens about the basics of filmmaking.. We've just shot the pilot, which I directed and edited (I produced and wrote with Suzanne Shoemaker of Freshifilms, LLC) I consider the program a television version of "Super-8 Filmmaker" magazine, which was popular when I was a kid - though even that wasn't aimed directly at kids. There are more young filmmakers out there today then ever before - and they can do more then ever before. The "Fresh-i" brand serves that constituency though an afterschool program that is franchised worldwide, a website ( - currently in beta mode), and efforts like this television show. I'm involved with Freshi in several ways, which I'll be exploring in near future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Childhood Property

When I was a kid, there were certain items that had special value to me:

First on the list was my blue New York Mets jacket - this was the jacket that I looked forward to wearing every spring and fall (in New York, I had my "spring jackets" and the much heavier "winter jackets," sort of the personal equivelant of installing screen doors in the spring, another traditon for cooler climates.

When I was very young, one of my greatest desires was to get what I called a "Lost in Space" shirt - really, a shirt with a v-neck like the characters in the tv series wore. I thought it was unbelieveably futuristic.

That also brings to mind an incident at an event - maybe a circus - where my father and I passed by a vendor selling a wide variety of novelty hats. I mentioned to my father my desire to have what I called an "F-Troop" hat (F-Troop being television series taking place in civil war/frontier days). To my horror, by father actually returned to the vendor and asked if he had any "F-Troop hats - to which I died of humiliation.

I've mentioned in earlier blogs some of the toys that have had special value: my air bazooka, my suction-cup dart pistol (this resembled, to me, a dart gun used in the James Bond movie, "Diamonds are Forever," and, of course, my greatest pride and joy, my Stingray bike.

I tend to think, despite technology, most kids today will later relate to much the same type of items - clothing they were practically known by, and toys that could take hours, days and months of wear and tear. Video game systems, cell phones, ipods and other technology are cool - but tranistory, and ultimately will likely inspire no more fondness then I might have for an old televsion set or radio.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


As I wrote a couple of entries back, I ordered the soundtrack to the film, "Kes," a beautiful film with a beautiful score created by John Cameron, and performed by his quartet. The score is simple and uncluttered - and of an uncluttered, classic style rarely heard in today's films. In a film about childhood, the theme is centered on the flute, an instrument that seems to embody the innocence of childhood, and has been used for similar purpose in other scores - but never as appropriately as in this film. Perhaps, if that had been a well-budgeted studio film, the score would have been orchestral - and to less effect. That's what I find exciting about independent films - creating beautiful work despite - and as a benefit of - having few resources.

You can find more information - and some other notes on the score, at:

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Long Lost

My nephew and I had a bit of fun the other day searching out my old friends and such on the internet. As he was growing up, he heard a number of stories of my adventures with my childhood friends, and saw a number of old home movies. Somehow, we started off on a quest to see how many of those old friends had a Myspace page.

So far, I've been to reconnect with an old college-era friend that just recently established a page (in fact, there was practically nothing there yet). We also found what may be a Myspace page belonging to someone who I was friends with for all of 2 weeks in December, 1971. We were on a family vacation to Miami Beach, and I started hanging out with another kid my age. He (and another, younger kid) spent a great deal of time during those two weeks - I even have home movies showing him writing his name in the sand. He was with me when the hotel management kicked me out of the nightly bingo game after I won probably a dozen consecutive games. Once the vacation was over, we parted company, exchanged a total of one letter (from him to me), and never had contact again.

Out of pure curiousity we searched out his name on Myspace - and came out with several hits - including one from the same general place and age. Time will tell if this is the same guy.

Hit or miss, it looks as if we are rapidly entering an age where we never quite can leave our past behind.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Great Cinema

I've written here previously about "Kes," a 1969 film by director Ken Loach. Though it's widely considered by the English to be one of their finest films, it's virtually unknown here. For Americans, the heavily-accented working-class English is difficult to understand - in fact, it took me several viewings to understand what was going on. To summarize, "Kes" is the story of a fourteen year old boy living under difficult family and social circumstances in a contemporary (1960's era) mining town. He finds peace in training a Kestral (bird), but even that isn't immune from the harshness that surrounds him.

"Kes" is a beautiful work of cinema, produced at a small budget with a largely non-professional cast. As effective as the script and cinematography, there's a beautiful score, composed by John Cameron, and performed by his quartet. I'm not a musician by any means, but this is a masterpiece of simplicity. I've just ordered the soundtrack, which has only been available since 2002.

Unfortunately, unless you know me and can borrow a copy, Kes is generally unavailable in the United States. You can read about on IMDB here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Literary Dynasty In The Making

We're a very literary family. My late father, in his younger days, was both a prolific reader, and a writer - mostly of short stories and letters. My mother is a prolific reader. We grew up in a house full of books, and my sisters and I became skilled writers, which has worked to our advantage through the years. Much of my career is built on my writing skills in one way or the other. One of my sisters has always been a prolific letter-writer, was involved in PR for a while, and has published numerous newsletters over the years. My niece is probably the most prolific writer, having written several novel-length works - and her first job out of college is at as a copy editor at a monthly magazine (not everyone gets a job in their chosen field right away!). I have no doubt she'll eventually sell her first novel. Now my nephew is finding some initial success. He's been working at screenwriting for several years (he's almost 20), and posted his latest feature-length comedy on a screenwriter's site, where writers evaluate and exchange comments on their current work. My nephew's script is currently one of the most read comedy scripts on the site. Also, a community group in a small town in Mississippi, with my nephew's permission, is actually producing a movie based on his script with local kids.

Dat ain't bad 4 book learnin'.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My Reel

Here's a quick sample of my work - this is designed as the teaser video introducing my DVD sample reel.

My Father's Retirement

Here's my father's speech as he retired as Vice President from 20th Century Fox in March, 1987, after a nearly 45 year career. That's my mother to his right.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Taylor the Killer!

For the first time anywhere! Rare Lost Footage from my unfinished masterpiece, "Taylor the Killer," written, directed and starring....well....ME. Oh yeah, and my sister on camera.(by the way...this was a silent movie - all audio is new)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Sneak Preview!

I've transfered some of my earliest filmmaking footage to video - I'll be posting some clips over the next few days. In the meantime, here are a few fun shots - my first movie camera, directing "Killer From Space," and starring in my first movie, "Taylor the Killer." (okay, so I thought "killer" sounded dramatic!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hookman...and Friends

In the search for a subject for my first movie, I looked around my bedroom for inspiration, and came upon a plastic representation of a a pirate's hooked hand (as in Captain Hook). Knowing little about such things as a plot, I immediately jumped into production and shot a series of scenes involving the menacing hook "peeking" menacingly around corners and behind objects. It was a hook in search of a movie - but it soon had to give way to my next attempt: "Taylor the Killer," starring ME. It's an epic I just discovered in my film archives - and features my first cinematographer in the guise of my sister! This time, I actually advanced a bit and shot some scenes! Stay tuned for the long-delayed world premiere....right here!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Once Upon a Time...

I started making films when I was eleven years old, just after my family had moved to California. A couple of years previous to our move, my father had been given a gift of a FujiFilm Single-8mm camera. This was the short-lived Japanese answer to the super-8 movie format that was popular then. The camera was simple to use: a "point and shoot" camera without any extras. At 18 frames per second, the 50 foot roll of (silent) film ran for three minutes. FujiFilm had also given my father a box of film, developing included, so we were all set.

I used the camera a bit in New York before we moved, shooting some footage of my friends and my neighborhood, but hadn't yet begun to create movies with real stories. It wasn't until we arrived in Tarzana, California that I could begin my filmmaking advenure. Arriving at the beginning of July - I had a lot of time to burn - and a lot of opportunity to begin bonding with my first movie camera - and figure out just what moviemaking was all about...

Next: "Hookman"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Missing the Boat

I just caught up with last year's "Poseidon," a remake of the 1972 classic disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure." Now, the original wasn't the greatest motion picture of all time, by any measure, but it was a fun trip. The characters, though cardboardish and stereotypical in some ways, were at least distinct and fun to watch. This recent version takes itself way too seriously. The characters aren't fun at all - they're faceless clones of any number of more recent disaster / adventure films (ironically tracing their lineage back to the original Poseidon).

A year ago, I said the same thing here about The Bad News Bears - another case of a remake being a pale imitation of the original.

But the effects were cool.

Monday, January 29, 2007

One More Note on "The Secret"

One of the dramatized stories in "The Secret" tells of a boy who desperately wants a particular bike. Not just a bike - a specific brand. He cuts photographs out of magazines, watches jealously as other kids ride by on the same bike he wants. With the power of positive thinking, and apparently some meditation (he's seen looking at the cut-out advertisement in a park-like setting), the universe realigns. One day the bike he's so greedily been pursuing appears magically at his front door, delivered by a grandfatherly-looking man.

Greedy little boys will be rewarded if they just keep a postive attitude?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Secret

I recently had the chance to view "The Secret," the DVD that's becoming a marketing phenomenon. It purports to reveal an ancient secret that has, until now, been shared with a select few - the wealthy and successful elite around the world. The video includes instruction and commentary from authors, "visonaries," professional philosophers and metaphysics experts...all presented with an air of mystery and intrigue, including brief re-enactments of ancient heroes rescuing "the secret" from oblivion (though we never actually are told what any of these historical re-enactments represent).

"The Secret," as it turns out, really much of a secret. It simply presents, in an entertaining format, some basic human truths that have been understood for eons - but for which most people lack the focus to follow effectively: "Do Unto Others as you would have them Do Unto You," "What comes around goes around," and so on. The program discusses having the right attitude (i.e. if you are negative, negative things will happen to you).

I've found that most popular self-help books are just creative reworkings of these same basic principles. Each book, or video in this case, packages the same message for varying audiences.

It all comes down to setting goals, focusing on your goals, and maintaining a positive attitude.

It's not a secret. It's a challenge.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Taj Mahal

I was trying to explain to someone today the experience of standing before the Taj Mahal during my visit to India this past summer. The Taj Mahal is such an icon of world history and simulataneously a symbol of a country, a belief, of architecture, of peace...of an almost endless array of interpretions that it almost seems unreal.

Standing there in the vast courtyard, facing the actual structures that comprise the Taj Mahal, after a exhaustive trip throuugh crowded roads, Indian countryside, and a throng of venders descending upon our little American group, it wasn't difficult to feel grateful for the experience. As I walked up to the complex, I placed a hand on the cold marble base upon with the Taj Mahal was built. As beautiful as it looks in the traditional photographs of which we're all familiar, the true beauty lies in the intricate detail - carvings and inlaid designs that are invisible from a distance, but are nevertheless the elements that in in total are the Taj Mahal.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Me Syndrome

Quite a while back, I wrote here about a series of ads promoting the treatment of something called "Restless Leg Syndrome," or RLS - which also happens to be my initials. Recently, I happened to come across a couple of brochures on the disease, with tips and advice that make me feel just a bit uneasy. Here are a few examples:

"People with RLS describe their symptoms differently. For some it's a creepy-crawly, tugging, pulling, twitching, or itching sensation..."

....not the first time I've heard that.

"Primary RLS is characterized by unpleasant feelings in your legs."

Fine, I'll keep my hands to myself.

"Nearly half of RLS sufferers have a family history of the condtion."

If I make you so miserable, just tell me to leave!

"Only your doctor can diagnose RLS."

I prefer to use my own doctor, thank you.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Search Results Update

Yesterday, I looked at the stats for this page to see what search terms most commonly brought people here.

Currently, the lead search term is "Johnny Gosch," the missing child case from the early 80's that turned up in the news late last summer when photos turned up, purportedly of the boy tied and gagged shortly after the abduction. After several weeks, the photos were vaguely discredited (i.e. no solid evidence) and the story disappeared from the newspapers. I suspect it's turning up again after the Shawn Hornbeck case brought that unsettled case to mind.

Another search term that still turns up on a regular basis is "Wickshire School," the long-closed elementary school I attended in New York. Somebody out there keeps searching for information on that school, and returns to my page. As yet, I haven't seen any comments from fellow classmates...

There's also quite a few searches for "rich boy" or "rich boy's real name," which I am guessing relates to some pop-culture reference I'm not familiar with. Anyone know what it means? [Edit: he's a rap/hip hop artist]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Shawn Hornbeck

Whenever I hear about cases like the Shawn Hornbeck case (that's the boy who was kidnapped four years ago and just recently was returned to his family along with a recently abducted 13 year old), I can't help but wonder about other missing kids like him who are still out there, somewhere, surviving as the world moves on around them, unaware of their situation.

It's almost as if we should have another flag next to those "MIA" flags created to keep alive the memory of soldiers missing in action. Maybe, for missing kids, Shawn Hornbeck is that flag.

Friday, January 19, 2007

MMPG, Part 2

I continue to play the "massive multi-player game" World of Warcraft , which now has over eight million players, wandering through vast worlds of fantastic creatures, heroic quests, magical powers and epic battles. In short, these games are the gaming equivelant of the epic movie - an incredible visual experience in which one is involved and impacts the action, as opposed to simply watching immobile and apart from the action. In "WoW," we're not watching characters interact on screen with other characters - we're the characters, interacting with other people's characters. As the technology continues to advance, and possible character interactions become more complex, the similarities to the cinimatic world will expand.

Gaming is already a huge industry, bringing in more revenue than motion pictures. Games like this are just early examples of the future of entertainment - fully immersive, fantastic environments - experiences unlike anything that currently exists. This won't replace filmed entertainment - no more than televsion or motion pictures destroyed reading - this will eventually become another vast form of entertainment.

If you think people live their lives precariously through their favorite televsion show, just wait until they can live in that program, as well.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Massive Multi-Player Gaming - Part One

About a month ago, I decided to experiment a bit with massive multi-player gaming. For quite a while, I've been fascinated with this online phenomenan, which enables people around the world to interact in rich virtual worlds. Some games, like Worlds of Warcraft, consist of millions of gamers, and have spawned entire independent industries created to serve them. These industries will buy and sell the virtual items used in these games (i.e. online 'currency,' weaponry, armor) for real-world money. For example, an online player will pay $20 to recieve, within the game 500 gold coins...which he can use to advance more quickly within the game. The companies who offer these items sometimes have legions of low paid offshore (for example, Chinese) workers who spend their work hours trolling the games and accumulating items for sale to the highest bidder. Some call it cheating; others call it entreprenuership. Either way, it's people spending real money on something that doesn't actually exist for the benefit of dominating a non-exist world with imaginary characters that in turn represent real people you may never meet. This begins to sound like contemplating the origins of the universe...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My Space Personalities

One of the annoying aspects if MySpace is the tendency for a large number of people to create alternative personalities that have no relationship whatsoever to their real-life personalities. Language and attitude are transformed into something wholly artificial - and obviously's an extension of kids immitating gangsta style - with LA origins in weapons, gangs and drug abuse - suburban kids imitating ignorance and a heightened form of arrogance - pretending to flip off the very lifestyle from which they will continue to benefit.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Return of my Blog

Here we go again...

Under intense pressure from my reading public (translation: under a suggestion from my nephew), I have decided to resume writing my blog.

Stay tuned....