Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bollywood Steps: Background Information

I invite anyone interested in my documentary, "Bollywood Steps," to check out the website of the "Bollywood Step Dance Troupe," the professional dance troupe created by Yogen Bhagat, the choreographer/dancer featured in my film. The website features an in-depth look at Yogen's achievements, and defines the basic elements of the Bollywood dance style. Yogen's the foremost Bollywood-trained choreographer living in the United States. In addition to his professional dance troupe, he also maintains a thriving Bollywood Dance school.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my documentary, "Bollywood Steps" is the story of the relationship between Yogen Bhagat and a group of American-born Indian boys in his dance workshop. Growing up in Southern California, the boys are learning, with Yogen's help, to connect with their heritage through popular Indian culture. You can see the trailer at my website. The hour-long film goes out to festivals in January.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Update!

I'm currently racing to have a version of the documentary ready to enter in a series of film festivals with deadlines in January - so I don't have much time left. I'm currently tweaking the final cut - making minor and semi-major adjustments as I gauge the reaction of viewers less familiar with the project.

Music is still an issue - I've licensed some music from a couple of online sites, but one of those sites has since gone out of business, so I'm not certain if that has an impact on my ability to use the footage. These sites generally offer music and stock footage that is posted on their site by outside artists. If I can't answer those questions, or find suitable alternatives, I still might commission a custom soundtrack. In the short term, however, I'll use the music tracks as they exist for the festival entries; my concerns are rights to broadcast and distribution.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another Call to Join the "Bollywood Steps" Facebook Group

If you haven't already, this is another request (if you're on Facebook) (this is a feed from my blog at, I'd like to invite you to join the group I created for my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." The success of an independent documentary like this depends a great deal on a "grassroots" campaign of sorts, and this group is a way of keeping all interested parties informed on an ongoing basis with all the various aspects of the production.

This coming year is going to be very eventful for this film, and I'm hoping to use a variety of new distribution avenues (in addition to the traditional forms). I'l be posting specifics here as time goes on.

Facebook users can find the group at:


Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Last night, I met with Yogen and his wife, Rashmi Bhagat (some of my friends know her as Rasha Goel) for a factual review of the current cut of my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." For those of you who aren't familiar with this project, "Bollywood Steps" is my hour-long film about the relationship between a transplanted Bollywood dancer/choreographer (Yogen) and the American-born Indian boys in his Los Angeles-area Bollywood dance class. See more, including a trailer, on my website,

Yogen and Rashmi reviewed the documentary for accuracy, as the film not only traces his relationship with the boys, but how a choreographer who worked with the biggest names in Bollywood came to teach children in Los Angeles, and start his career anew in America.

Their "thumbs up" brings me to an important stage in the completion of the documentary. Expect more news shortly. I'll be scheduling a "premiere" screening within the next 2-3 months.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


The boys from my documentary, Bollywood Steps, now (finally) nearing completion!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I'm endlessly entertained by the continuing stream of news related to the Natal Milo concept. The latest information relates to the news that Peter Molyneux, of Lionhead Studios, which is developing the project, is shopping for an Artificial Intelligence specialist to help work on the illusion that is the "Milo" character - in other words, to improve on his abilities to react and respond like a real human being.

Inevitably, I would think, as this technology develops and is incorporated into this new entertainment genre, the AI researcher could become as indispensable as the scriptwriter.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Bollywood Steps: In Color!

I took precautions when I shot the "Holi" holiday celebration for my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." That's Neil, getting ready to add some color to my life!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Join the "Bollywood Steps" Facebook Group

If you're on Facebook (this is a feed from my blog at, I'd like to invite you to join the group I created for my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." The success of an independent documentary like this depends a great deal on a "grassroots" campaign of sorts, and this group is a way of keeping all interested parties informed on an ongoing basis with all the various aspects of the production.

Facebook users can find the group at:


Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Milo" and the Future of Entertainment

A while back, I wrote in this blog about my enthusiasm for a new development in gaming technology called "Natal" (it's an add-on for XBOX), and in particular a game employing that technology involving a virtual boy named, "Milo" (or girl, you can choose your preference. In a recent commentary in the UK newpaper, The Guardian, "Milo" developer Peter Molyneux wrote more about this incredible technology, and revealed more details about the game. If you haven't seen Milo in action, take a look here at my original blog entry, then read Molyneux's additional comments below:

So what we've done is create a boy called Milo with hundreds of little muscles behind that face. We've created this boy, or a girl, you can choose a boy or a girl. This boy starts off when you first meet him, he's moved from the city to the countryside, he hasn't got any friends, he is starting school in two days' time and he sits there and looks out at you and he says "I need a friend, and you are going to be my imaginary friend." And everything that you do with Milo inspires and changes him, and you see the glory of him improving.

Milo will recognise shapes, but what is really happening here? The process of scanning [shapes shown to the screen] is really lovely, you just reach your arm up. You can also scan in 3D objects, for example if you are eating an apple you can give it to Milo and he will carry on eating it.

The online portion of our inspiration is that we are continuing to collect and improve his object recognition skills. This technology is something that is being worked on by Microsoft Research. With all the Milos that will be released we will be centralising their recognition of everything in the world.

I don't own a gaming system - but for this, I'll sign on! This is, I think, an entirely new genre of entertainment, separate and distinct from gaming as it now exists, and passive motion picture and television entertainment. It won't replace any of these forms, but it will allow us to be entertained in a way that really seemed firmly in the world of science fiction until very recently.

As a writer, I'm also fascinated by the challenge such a technology would offer. A novel, short story, or television writer create specific characters that interact in limited and pre-determined environments. Even a character in a game interacts only a superficial level. For those creating a character like "Milo," his reactions and interactions must not only seem realistic, but believable to an extent never possible. Since you will be conversing directly with the character in a natural, human manner, the character must respond likewise. In "Milo's" case, a shy child might not make easy eye contact at first, but will change attitude with familiarity.

I encourage everyone to read the entire article in The Guardian. I've said it before. As far as entertainment goes, this will change everything

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Behind the Scenes

My production aide, Dave Guerrero, took this behind-the-scenes photo during production of "Bollywood Steps." This is why I like to use small, light cameras!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Quote

"You respect your family. You respect your parents.
You respect your dance."

Bollywood choreographer/dancer Yogen Bhagat, on lessons taught to his students, in my documentary, "Bollywood Steps"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" Focus: Yogen Bhagat

My documentary, "Bollywood Steps," is about the relationship between Yogen Bhagat, a Bollywood-trained choreographer and dance, now living in Los Angeles, with some of his students, a group of American -born Indian boys who are learning to connect with their heritage through Bollywood dance.

I wanted to offer a link to Yogen's site,, which details his career and his professional dance troupe. Yogen, a trained engineer, came to live in America several years ago after marrying producer/reporter Rasha Goel, a friend of mine. Starting his career all over again here in the USA, Yogen and Rasha have build both a dance studio and a professional dance troupe. His skills have been on display in a number of live venues including the Hollywood Bowl, and on a variety of television programs including Jay Leno, Ellen, and Melrose Place, to name just a few. Take a look at his site, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Bollywood Steps" On!

It looks like I'm finally going to get some quality time over the next few days as I move toward completion of my documentary, "Bollywood Steps." Balancing a project like this, which is self-produced, with my day-to-day responsibilities and other commitments is a challenge. As I've written before, I am at a stage which requires that I repeatedly review this hour-long program. I need to reach a point where the picture is "locked" (the visual portion of the documentary won't change), so that I can focus on audio, including music. To be honest, this is a part of the process that's particularly excruciating - I really don't like sitting in one place for hours on end! But I'll do it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Things That Remind Me of People and Places

  1. Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink --> Jones Beach, New York (tasted great under the hot sun!)
  2. Black and White by Three Dog Night --> My childhood friend, Larry Gold (I have no idea why!)
  3. Cigars --> My dad
  4. Pipes --> My Uncle Lenny
  5. Jazz --> My Uncle Bernie
  6. Donkeys --> Rolling Hills Day Camp in New York, where I rode one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Extraordinary Man

I've had a very interesting correspondence over the last few days with people who worked in my father's department at 20th Century Fox in the years before he retired in 1987. My sisters and I have always thought of him as a very decent, caring man, but to hear the remembrances of these individuals was very special. For those interested, I just wanted to share a bit of their memories.

Maureen Pater wrote:

Your Dad had a true appreciation for all his employees. No matter the position or job duties we had, we always felt comforted by Sid Samuels. He would always say "hello" and "how is your day going"? There was never just a quick wave from your Dad. This man was a truly caring individual. We all were family in that department as well as a team. Rich, just a great experience for me that I will always treasure and sorely missed.
Gemma Ribeiro wrote:

Sid Samuels, a wonderful person to have worked for. I was blessed to have had him as a boss...Your father had the love for life...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A "Bollywood Steps" Moment

Still moving ever closer to completion - this is the phase of post-production that is the most intricate and time-consuming- making final structural decisions and continuing to polish the entire program...which means reviewing the same hour over and over again...

Starbucks and the New York Times, 10/8/09, Valencia, Ca

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Telecommuting, Part Two

As if to underscore the advantages of working from my home office, I spend an hour and a half in my car on a commute that should have taken less than half an hour. With all of the growth in Los Angeles over the past decades and especially the last few years, leadership (both local and state) have proceeded with barely a nod to infrastructure improvement. Some of the most congested parts of the city are totally ignored, as far as transportation solutions.

  • The San Diego freeway, which runs from West Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, is considered one of the most congested routes in any American city. One would think that a train running along that route would be heavily used. It's never discussed.
  • Of course, the train needs to connect with the rest of the Metrorail system - but that system has also virtually ignored the west San Fernando Valley. A route comes out from downtown to the mid-valley, but to get to the West Valley, the city has constructed a busway along the old train route - a much less efficient (and slower) solution. On the other end of the route, in west Los Angeles, there isn't any existing route with which to connect (though there is talk about building a "railway to the sea" someday...
  • To be fair, the Los Angeles area has many more rail solutions that just fifteen years ago - but entire sections of the city are being ignored. With many members of the Los Angeles City Council having sold out huge sections of the area to over-development, the area is becoming virtually unlivable.
That's why I'm no longer a Los Angeles City resident. Unfortunately, I still need to work there.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Remember the Telecommuting Hype?

I've been working at home more lately - one of my primary production clients has scaled back operations (the City of Los Angeles!). As always, my work with Freshi Films is a mixture of field, office and what used to be called telecommuting. The remainder of my work is strictly in my home office. At the moment, that means completing my "Bollywood Steps" documentary, and expanding my networking base.

I have a love-hate relationship with working at home. I find it incredibly productive - I can get much more accomplished without the distraction of an office environment, particularly in the case of editing, but I also can become stir crazy! Social interaction is part of the fun of what I do for a living, and when home-based, I have to make specific efforts to balance my home office time with activities that maintain business relationships (and friendships) on a personal level.

After the 1994 earthquake, I visited the home office of a JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) executive who ran a department that was involved in the development of remote desktop technology - the webcam, audio and sharing technologies that today are commonplace. In those days, such technology was very rare, and this executive was one of the pioneers.

(JPL, for those of you that are unfamiliar, is the quasi-governmental arm of Cal Tech responsible for some of the most innovative developments in space exploration. They are responsible for virtually all of America's unmanned space probes, including the Mars landers and rovers, and the deep space vehicles that have been throughout our solar system and beyond.)

The JPL executive had been home in Lancaster, a distant suburb about 40 miles from his Pasadena office. When the earthquake struck, freeways collapsed and travel between the two cities was impossible for several weeks. However, because he had a video-audio connection with his office, he could continue some of his supervisory functions remotely. His employees could remain in touch with him by simply sitting at his desk and communicating with him, face to face. He found the arrangement effective - but only to a point. In light of the dramatic events, he missed the personal touch during a time when his team was going through so much trauma. He couldn't lend 100% of his support.

We don't hear the word "telecommuting" as much anymore - perhaps because we now understand that it's not an end to itself, and doesn't hold a specific definition. Many of us that are self-employed, myself included, work in ways that combine so many different methods that our base shifts constantly. We conduct work in an office, at home, in a coffee shop, and with a smartphone. Keeping the balance between all of these options, I think, is the key not only to being productive, but happy with the challenge inherent in earning a living.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Source of All Bad Things

We have become a nation of hand-wringers. Everyone's worried and fretting about economy, and threatened by whatever each individual perceives as the cause of All Bad Things. Of course, the determination of just what/who is the cause of All Bad Things varies wildly and ranges from individual to race to political party - and so many other possible sources.

The potential list of That Which Is The Source of All Bad Things is as long as imagination is limitless: Obama, Bush, FDR, Nixon, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Chinese, Japanese, Democrats, Republicans, Neo-Nazis, the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateral Commission, The Rockefellers, Bill Gates, the Military-Industrial Complex, Big Business, the NRA, the anti-gun lobby, obesity, bad American schools that cannot compete in the real world, ignorance, curious children, evolution (and Charles Darwin), the Bible, the Koran, the New York Times, Fox News, Huckleberry Finn, The Diary of Anne Frank, Hollywood, the Bible Belt, suggestive clothing, bad language, lack of discipline, too much control, too little control, the Internet, Global Warming, God and the Devil.

Or None of the Above, which would leave the fretful masses with only one choice: "Go Live Your Life!"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

YouTube and the Conspiracy Sub-Culture

Today, I engaged in one my favorite YouTube-related hobbies: entering the word "Conspiracy" in the search feature.

It's never let me down providing some great entertainment! Here are top five results:

  1. Top 5 Science Conspiracies, Theories and Hoaxes - This actually comes from a legitimate source - Discovery Networks. This Discovery News segment from Halloween, 2008 lists come outrageous theories - my favorite of which is "The Growing Earth Theory," which speculates that the theory of continental drift is all wrong. Earth's continents seperated as a result of the expansion of the Earth (as a balloon expands). Just where that extra mass comes from, nobody seems to explain! For extra fun, read the comments below the video. The very top comment at the moment (bad grammar included): "there are no aliens at roswell, thats what the Gov wants us think, thats where they test there aircraft and film fake moon landings."
  2. Re: JFK Conspiracy? PROOF finally revealed! (with SOUND) - Ahhhh, the New World Order theories - something we can always depend upon for wild conspiracies and nefarious plots. No proof - no evidence: just wild speculation and the reinterpretation of footage we've seen ten thousand times before. Notice the analysis of quotes of Jackie Kennedy and Governor Connally (and others), finding dark "truth" in their words.
  3. Penn & Teller - 9/11 Conspiracy Theories - This magic/comedy duo looks at the epidemic of conspiracy theories in the USA - One has to wonder why we don't hear more people pointing out what Penn & Teller discuss here. This is the one sane entry in these links. Of course, if you read the comments, this doesn't convince the hardcore conspiracy...well....nuts.
  4. Free Energy - Pentagon Conspiracy to Cover up - Got a great new idea for cheap and safe energy? There's a deep, dark conspiracy to keep it from the world! I know, because of the creep re-enactments, and layering of inconsequential video. It's GOTTA be true. Don't BOTHER me with evidence!
  5. Trailer for "The New World Order" This is a trailer for a new "documentary" about the coming of the "New World Order," the dark suspicion that we are about to live under an evil dictatorship. This bit of propoganda, uses standard imagery, scary music, and ominous narration to suggest a wild theory. Central here is a compilation of speeches and newscasts using the phrase "New World Order." Apparently, according to this video, we have reached a time when such political phrases don't change in meaning and import from individual to individual, depending upon their world view and philosophy. I hardly think that Glenn Beck, George Bush I and Bill Clinton meant the same thing when they used the phrase, "New World Order."
Enjoy! And don't be TOO scared!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Altered Perception In YouTube Comments

(I'm feeding by blog onto Facebook now - enjoy! If you're reading from there, stop by the Blog and look around, when you get a chance!)

Some YouTube videos can be very entertaining, but some of the comments posted to those videos can be disturbing. For many people, they're an opportunity to express hate, intolerance, and outright paranoia. For the rest of us, it's a display of pure ignorance and gullibility. For example:

When legendary newsman Walter Cronkite died, a comment expresses disgust, because he was a member of a mysterious ruling elite.

Any Obama video, of course, is peppered with comments calling him a Nazi, a communist, a Leninist, even a reptilian member of the "Illuminati," the popular catchphrase for those who believe in a vast enslaving conspiracy (either earth-based or otherworldly) of elites. And I hardly need to mention the racist comments, which are invariably attached to anyone of color.

NASA videos are routinely attacked by those who believe that "IT'S ALL FAKE!"

Some kids and teens comment on their peer's videos with vicious, violent threats and name-calling.

YouTube and the Internet, because of perceived anonymity, can be a refuge for the darker corners of human nature. For some, especially kids, it's an opportunity to be extreme and in-your-face without any consequence - I think some percentage of these online "wackos" are quite the opposite.

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of altered perception on display in the comments area (we'll talk about the actual videos another time), begs the question, "Is this where we're going as a society?"

Coffee at Tarzana Starbucks After Dentist

About 11:30 am.

With my mouth numb, I had to wait an hour to drink this, so I took a picture.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Current Reading List

You might call this my attention deficit reading list - I'm reading all of these in rotation, depending upon my mood.:

  • The Real Oliver Twist by John Waller - This has been in my list the longest - it's the story of Robert Blincoe, who very well might have been the inspiration behind the fictional "Oliver Twist." Blincoe is a man who survived the workhouses of late 18th century / early 19th century England and cooperated in a biography of his life.
  • We'll Always Have Paris by Ray Bradbury - The latest book of short stories by the legendary writer. I picked this up after I had the chance to meet him a few months ago.
  • Just After Sunset by Stephen King - A book of short stories by Stephen King. This has been out for a year or so, but I just heard about it. I've always enjoyed his short stories (though I'm not too much into his later work).
  • Free by Chris Anderson - The author suggests that in today's niche marketplace, companies can often profit more from giving things away than from charging for them. An interesting premise that's been in the news...
  • True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy - As the only Kennedy brother to service to write his own story, this is an interesting look into the dynamic, flawed "first family" of American politics.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Incredible Reach of Google Books

Using Google Books, I recently found a very interesting bit of my father's work history. Google Books allows for the searching of millions of words in perhaps millions of books. In this case, I searched my father's name, "Sidney G. Samuels," and came across a 1950 decision of the National Labor Relations Board involving 20th Century-Fox and their Foreign Versions Department, which my father would come to run six years later. He was already several years into what would become a 45 year career with the company. This item apparently related to the efforts to unionize that department, and the status of the employees, including my father.

If not for the efforts of the Google Books program, this episode would have remained virtually unknown to the family. It really doesn't make much of a difference or reveal anything extraordinary, but it's an interesting peek at my father's early career. If you're interested, go here, choose volume 89, and scroll down to Twentieth Century-Fox (Page 109) and read the PDF.

This Week's Sunday Coffee

Afternoon, about 4pm.
Contemplating a major story breakthrough with my "Bollywood Steps" documentary.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Back To Work On "Bollywood Steps"

Mystery People

Previously in this blog, I've mentioned two individuals that I've come across in my life with whom I've lost track. If my life's a play, they're really minor players, but in this ultra-connected world, I'm still curious what happened to him.

Simon Gamble was a British pen-pal I had in the early 80's. We wrote for close to five years. He stopped writing just as soon as I told him I would be touring Europe, and spending time in London.

Ben Levitan was a friend for all of about ten days when I was ten years old, and my family was on vacation in Miami, Florida. I actually have never mentioned his last name in the blog, but have decided to go ahead and use it - to see what happens. It was an eventful family vacation, the last we took before moving to California, and I suppose I remember Ben because of some old super-8 film in which he writes his name in the sand, and the fact that we wrote to each other for a couple of years afterwards.

I started thinking about these individuals again because Simon Gamble, someone who shared the same name as a pen-pal I had in the early 80's, came across my blog entry. He left a comment just recently on the Simon Gamble blog entry.

That's why I added Ben's full name. I suspect that eventually, one or both of these characters will search himself and discover this minor episode in their own lives. Mysteries will be solved. The world will go on. I've have another story.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Latest Clip from "Bollywood Steps!"

Here's a clip from my upcoming hour-long documentary, "Bollywood Steps"," the story of American-born Indian boys learning to connect with their heritage through Bollywood-style dance - and through a special bond with their teacher, Bollywood-trained dancer/choreographer Yogen Bhagat.
In this clip, Yogen is teaching the boys something new - and Adi's having a little trouble!

This documentary is currently in post-production, with completion slated for early fall, 2009.

See the current trailer at

(All contents copyright 2009 Rich Samuels)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

EyePet Vs. Milo

I came across this interesting article on the website - Author Stephen Totilo speculates on an upcoming 'rivalry' between "Milo" and the "Eyepet," similar to that between Sonic the Hedgehog Vs. Mario Brothers games, which really represented the competition between the Sega Genesis and Nintendo game systems.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Gaming Evolution

Here's yet another development in game technology that is just about popping my eyes out:

In reality, I (and most people) would get tired of this fairly quickly (less than an hour, on the outside!), but like "Milo," what it promises for the future is incredibly exciting. Virtual worlds are becoming more interactive and reactive.

Take what already exists with Nintendo Wii, add in the interactivity promised by products like Microsoft XBox 360's Natal "Milo," and the oddly engaging interactivity like Playstation's "Eye-pet," and the result, potentially, is a uniquely engaging new form of entertainment.

"Worlds of Warcraft," a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) is a enormous 3D world bringing millions of players together in a richly-drawn fantasy environment. MMORPG games like "WoW" are already responsible for billions of dollars in revenue each year. Make these games even more interactive, as this new technology promises, and the result is a new form of entertainment that will prove more engaging than any that has come before - and a business that could generate more revenue - and more opportunities - than any form of entertainment in history.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Creative Process

I just finished teaching a group of young filmmakers at Freshi Film Camp / Hollywood - Freshi's annual filmmaking experience for young filmmakers. It's a small camp, in which we divided the group into two teams by age. I had the teens, ranging from 14-17 years old.

One of the reasons I liked filmmaking as a teen was related to the opportunity to be a leader - and to lead a team. I really wasn't involved in team sports, so I created my own teams through my filmmaking projects (or attempts at filmmaking projects - it really was about getting together and being creative).

At the film camp, I worked with five teens - two were on a cultural exchange from Palestine; one was a passionate young filmmaker on his 4th camp with us (over two years!); his friend, an aspiring director; and still another came in from across the country. They all had visions and expectations of what they wanted to accomplish - but for some, it was the first opportunity to work with a team of like-minded people. From my personal experience, creative collaboration can be volatile and frustrating. The filmmakers experienced some of those moments - but in the end they succeeded and completed their film. Somehow, all the drama makes the achievement that much more satisfying.

Watching the kids reminded me of the love-hate relationship I have with the creative process. I hate the drama along the way - but I love the result of the "creative tension" that accompanies so many great projects.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moon Landing

Monday will be the 40th anniversary of the Moon Landing - July 20th.

It never fails to amaze me that there are a number of people who believe that the moon landing never happened. One blog I recently ran across expressed doubt that such a feat could have been accomplished at the time, considering that computer technology was so primitive. The author spoke about so-called photographic anomalies, and brushes aside NASA's explanations. He concludes by recalling an incident a couple of years ago in which a "tv reporter" (in reality, an overly aggressive conspiracy theorist) harassed Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin, insisting that he swear on a bible that he landed on the moon. Buzz hit the guy. If you've ever seen the video, you wouldn't blame him. But in this blog, it seems as if the innocent reporter was accosted by the lying astronaut.

Naturally, there's a long line of comments following his blog entry, adding many other dimensions to the so-called conspiracy: a Zionist conspiracy, a Satanic conspiracy, a front for secret "black" projects.

The reality? We succeeded. We really did land on the moon. Just ask the tens of thousands of people across the country who worked on the project and made it happen. Human beings can accomplish amazing things against incredible odds.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Documentary Thought

While editing "Bollywood Steps," it occured to me a little while ago that editing a documentary is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in which the image in changing, and the pieces are constantly changing shape.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

More Advancements in Interactive Technology

Natal and the Milo Project weren't the only technological wonders on display at E3. Here's a new technology from Sony that will soon enhance it's Playstation Console:

In this case, the magic isn't so much creating the illusion of personal interactivity, but in enhancing the immersive technology that makes advanced gaming so addictive. In Sony's approach, we won't lose a controller entirely. Here, the complicated controller is reduced to a sensor that will work intuitively based upon moving the sensor through the air. A battle in the massive multiplayer game "Worlds of Warcraft" could no longer be a question of moving a few fingers on a keyboard or controller, but reflect real-world, full body actions mimiced by an onscreen alterego.

Of course, that would seem to make gaming a much more physical experience. Now THERE'S a solution to childhood obesity!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Another Viewpoint on Milo

I wanted to add this article from Gamer.Blorge to the resources in the previous post. This claims that most of what appears in the "Milo" video is "smoke and mirrors."

As I've previously mentioned, the voice recognition is not as advanced as it seems to be - it is very much an illusion - but based on sophisticated input, as I mentioned in the last post.

Also, there's commentary that the "behind closed doors" demo as E3 was very controlled and perhaps manipulated. I'm sure it was. That's why is was behind closed doors. To that criticism, I would respond, "Still not bad for just a few months of development."

At the very least, this is a concept that is firing imaginations around the world. "Milo" or not, I suspect that we'll see applications of this sort of technology exploding across the entertainment industry very shortly.

This is, above all, a vision of the future - and one that isn't really that far off.

More on Milo

I found this interview on the website with the head of Lionhead, Peter Molyneux, about the development of the "Milo" project. Molyneux provided more details than the E3 presentation.

The Milo game actually involves two characters: Milo (or Miley, the girl) and Kate, his dog. In effect, this will in some ways share certain elements with the Sims games in that Milo's happiness and evolution will depend upon the help and opportunities you provide. Unlike The Sims, your interaction will be seemingly "one-on-one" with Milo - you'll talk to him, and he'll respond.

Molyneux makes no claims about Milo's sophistication. In the interview, he says,

"Milo can recognise the emotions on your face and the emotions in your voice. He can recognise certain words you say. You can have conversations with him, you can read stories to him. We're trying to bring all these things together. Some of them are tricks - I'll be absolutely honest with you - to make you believe Milo's real."

At Molyneux's suggestion, the reporter tells Milo a random joke. Milo giggles. But did he "understand?"

"Now, he didn't really understand every word you said, but from the tone of your voice he guessed you were telling a joke."

While Milo is incredibly sophisticated, it's ability to "understand" is really a matter of reading audio and visual clues from the player, rather than understanding in great detail the meaning of the communication - much the same way that a good fortune teller can anticipate a proper response from facial expressions and body language.

If you're interested in the "Milo Project," this is interview is a good place to explore the concept. You can also visit the website for Lionhead Studios, developer of Milo. There's not much there about Milo, but they have set up this public forum.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

MILO: The Next Big Thing?

I just saw a video of a upcoming product from Microsoft.  Now, normally a product announcement from Microsoft invites scorn and doubt, but I can't help being fascinated with this one.  It's an addition to the XBOX 360 game console, and works with the new "NATAL" system, which allows the system to be used without game controllers.  According to the demos, the system will simply recognize your body as it moves and behave accordingly. It also has a voice recognition  feature that is advanced enough to respond quickly and accurately.  Does it work?  time will tell - but even if this is five years down the road (they claim it's about a year to eighteen months out....but that's Microsoft), it's extraordinary.  So far, it seems like an exciting improvement on the Nintendo Wii.  If that's all it was, I wouldn't bother writing here about it (notice how long it's been since my last entry).

THIS is the reason I'm excited:

If this can work as shown - this will not only change the nature of gaming, but of entertainment as well.  This might seem a bit creepy as first (one of the common descriptions of Milo, by the way), but what he (it!) represents is mind-exapnding.

Interacting with sophisticated artificial intelligence like this opens up so many new avenues, the list is nearly endless.  

Imagine an immersive version of the "Sims" games, in which you interact directly with Sims - not in the nonsense language of the game, but in plain English! 

Imagine kids questioning Julius Caeser as he stands in the Forum in Rome, or George Washington, or, for that matter, Martin Luther King.  History will (almost) come alive as a classroom - or an individual student - develops a personal relationship with historical figures.

Instead of simply watching a horror movie, imagine interacting with the characters in the production.  Say hello to Hannibal Lector!

I look forward to seeing the progress of this technology. As the saying goes, "it could change everything."

Other related links:

Project NATAL:

Live Demo at E3:

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Great Flood

My first "disaster" was a flash flood that hit our New Hyde Park neighborhood during a torrential rainfall when I was about ten years old.  By flood standards, it wasn't much - the water level probably did reach more than a foot or so.  Most houses didn't flood.  In fact, only our house, which happened to be the lowest house in an otherwise flat street, suffered a river of sorts that seeped through the front door and the garage door and cascaded down into our basement.  My parents wouldn't let me go out into the water like some of my friends - so I guess the flood came in to me.

I remember watching the basement in amazement, unaware, like any kid,  of the concept of water damage.  I also felt oddly privileged to know that we were the only house with real flooding.   I knew it would give me a measure of celebrity with my friends.  I could see it immediately:  "You had a flood outside your house?  I had a flood INSIDE my house!"  They would gather around in amazement.   Nobody - NOBODY - could say they had a basement waterfall.  

Hey, I take fame where I can get it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How I Could Have Been Damaged

When I was growing up, before a good part of the protective bubble that envelops nearly every American kid, there were a number of ways I could have been damaged (and was, in some cases!)

I had a toy called the SST - it consisted of a little vehicle that was revved up by pulling a plastic rip cord through a central wheel, and then letting it go down the street.  If you didn't position your hand holding the vehicle just right, you could get a nasty friction burn between your thumb and forefinger.

My Stingray, the bike of choice then, had to be redesigned in the following years after my model.  It featured a gear shift on the center bar.  Apparently it was in just the wrong position if a boy should slip forward and end up straddling the gear shift.  Happily, that never happened to me!

Most kids at the time played with gunpowder - in the form of cap guns - and the rolls of ammunition, which consisted of  bits of gunpowder encased in  little paper bubbles  The roll would be fed through a cap gun, which would set each off with a loud bang and a puff of smoke.  Of course, after a while, we just took the rolls of ammunition, set them down on the curb, and just set them off  by pounding rocks on them.  All we wanted was the boom.  It's a good thing it didn't occur to us to perform a little surgery and collect all the little drops of gunpowder into something more potent.

Of course, it wasn't always the toy that was dangerous.  At one time, I attempted to take apart an old radio - while it was plugged into the wall (actually, it was plugged into the side of the house outside, where I could go about my mischief undisturbed).   As a result, I remember precisely where I was when I learned, with a jolt, about the dangers of electrocution.  Some years later in junior, not surprisingly,  I earned my single worst shop class grade in the Electrical class.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Personality Recognition

One of the more fascinating aspects of re-connecting with my childhood friends on Facebook is realizing, over time, that I still can sense the kid I knew so many years ago.  Through chat and other Facebook correspondence with a number of old friends, some of which I have only fleeting memories.  Yet, there are certain characteristics that touch a distant chord or recognition. 

One friend's absurdist sense of humor seems very familiar.  Though I would be hard pressed to actually remember specific examples from our childhood, it's one of his identifying characteristics.  Another friend shared some traumatic experiences he had after I moved away.  Though I had absolutely no connection to him during those times, through his story I recognized his compassionate personality.  Of course, at eleven years old, I didn't understand those traits, but as an adult, I remember the common sensibilities that brought us together.

Finally, there's one kid of which I remember very little beyond his name and one or two specific memories, perhaps dating back as far as first grade.    But in corresponding with him, I remembered the basics - a nice kid with a particularly friendly personality.  

Though I can see the common threads of my own personality through my lifetime, It still seems surprising to recognize this friends at such a fundamental level.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Worlds Unknown

As part of my work with Freshi Films, we went to the Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey - a trade show that caters to the summer camp industry.  Summer camps are a huge business back east, out here in Los Angeles, is largely unknown, aside from some scattered specialty camps and camps for the less fortunate.  

The conference included an exhibit hall filled with all matter of services for summer camps, from insurance to inflatable slides, to food service, to t-shirts, to sports, to medical services and supplies, and even portable docks for your lakeside camp.  Companies have developed and succeeded for decades aimed at one primary, and very regional industry. 

I couldn't help but think of how many trade shows are held around the country and the world that service businesses and industries that are largely unknown, unless you have a direct interest.  We hear about some in the news occasionally - electronics, toys, books, guns - but so many remain unreported outside of industry publications.  How many conferences are held each year that the "outside" world ignores, but hold a critical role in a particular industry?  

At the conference, I met the owner of the day camp that I attended as a little boy - and that his father had founded fifty years before.  From my western perspective, it seems almost inconceivable that a summer camp could be a viable business, but, like so much else, our culture is entirely removed from the summer camp tradition.  Or, perhaps, we're just one big never-ending summer camp!

The Sky is Falling

The Bubble is Bursting.
The chickens are coming home to roost.
What goes up must come down.

When another door closes, another opens.

Crisis = Opportunity (this is usually attributed to the Chinese, but I found this interesting analysis from "The Straight Dope" - it seems that this may be an incorrect Western interpretation.  It's still a good attitude though, especially now...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


To adults, kids lives sometimes seem simplistic, but our own memories prove otherwise.  The very fact that I'm able to interact with childhood friends with whom I haven't had any meaningful contact since we were eleven years old indicates a level of sophistication we sometimes forget. 

Our lives are narrower in scope at that age, but still dominated by playground politics and social maneuvering.  We can spot weaknesses and strengths, and experience a whole range of passions.

I still think of a certain childhood friend as a comrade - one of my first friends outside of my immediate neighborhood - the first friendship based wholly on shared interests and an attitude about the world around us. When I saw him again over thirty years later, we not only shared memories, but I found that I recognized his personality.  I knew his degree of sensitivity, and the sense of humor that likely formed our early friendship.

As I reconnect with other early childhood friends on Facebook - and I've now reconnected with most of them - I recall that kid that I once was - and now realize that I'm fundamentally still that same kid.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Documentary Spirit!

I'm currently editing my documentary, "Bollywood Steps," and I'm in the midst one of the most interesting stages in a production, next to actually shooting the film.  Editing a large project like this isn't easy - I had 30-35 hours of video to go through before I began the process.  Even then, I'm not entirely sure how it all will fit together.  I have an idea, of course - but I don't see the "magic" until I start piecing together all the parts of this multi-layed audio-visual puzzle.  Only then can I start to see in intimate detail the patterns that make an entertaining and watchable film - the personalities of the subjects, the unexpected stories that emerge when I start piecing together hours of interviews with all the subjects of the film, and the visual "poetry" that's really critical in a film that features so much dance. I'm starting to see the spirit of the documentary - the energy that, hopefully, reflects what I saw and felt during the 8-9 months I was in production.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The World Vs. Me

I can't really determine what my earliest memories are of my hometown in New Hyde Park.  We lived in the same house from the time I was about a year old to my eleventh year, when we moved away.  Since we didn't move during that initial period in my life, I didn't experience the extraordinary events that form those detailed early memories (for example, the 1964-65 World's Fair, for which I hold my earliest memories). 

Instead, like any small child in a stable world, my universe slowly revealed itself to me, from my home, to my backyard, to my neighbors and beyond.  I rode my bike further and further from my home, until my friends and I took increasingly "daring" expeditions beyond our immediate world and across major boulevards. Those adventures were at once both scary and exciting, but because I was taking those expeditions with a squadron of friends, I don't think we ever questioned our missions: to the toy store, the homes of friends near our school (to which I usually took a school bus), or just up into the neighborhood to unfamiliar territory.  We were still young enough, and our world innocent enough, that we didn't yet know to question ourselves or our friends on moral grounds.  We just did what we thought was alright to do, and usually, it worked out okay.

Of course, as the world unfolded, my knowledge of how to physically survive in that world sometimes lagged.  I remember taking my gravity-powered go-kart to the top of a local street and speeding downward at full speed, dashing through intersections without a care - until a car just missed me as I zipped by.  That's a pretty heady experience - seeing your nine-year-old life flash before your eyes as a car screeches on its brakes and I kept going, moving too fast to stop with my makeshift brake, which was just a piece of wood rubbing against one of my baby-carriage tires.

I didn't quite tell the manufacturer (my dad) what happened, but we did make some modifications to the braking system before my next go-karting experiment.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Disturbing Movies #1

Here are four lesser-known, darker-themed movies about youth that I recommend - in no particular order. 

1) "Kes" (1969) is about a boy growing up in a working class mining community in Yorkshire, England.  If you've seen the movie "Billy Elliot,"this is a rougher, bleaker and more authentic portrait of a society in transition ("Billy Elliot" was heavily influenced by this film).  The British Film Institute considers "Kes" one of the ten greatest British films of all time.  Due, perhaps, to heavy regional accents, this film is virtually unknown in the USA - you will need to order this one overseas, and have the ability to play DVD's from other regions.  Or, I can lend you my copy.  If you know me. Directed by Ken Loach.

2) "Over the Edge" (1979) is, once again, about a society in transition.  This time, it's smack in the middle of modern USA suburbia, where a planned community didn't plan for the teens in its midst, resulting, ultimately, in chaos.  It's about teens as a social footnote, and it's also a interesting portrait of 1970's teenage angst.  There's also a great contemporary soundtrack of the time, and a pretty effective cast of alienated kids, including Matt Dillon in his first role. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan.

3) "Pixote" (1981) is about the life of a street kid in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  It's probably the most intense film of its kind - and even today, is a difficult film to take, if you're squeamish about such things.   There are millions of desperate kids living hopeless lives on streets around the world.  Unlike some other films on the same subject, this doesn't soft pedal the huge odds these kids face.  Directed by Hector Babanco.

4)  "Lord of the Flies" (1963) is a faithful adaption of the classic book by William Golding (as opposed to the bizarre 1990 American version) about a group of English schoolboys who descent in savagery while stranded on an island without adult supervision.  Though this film sometimes seems stiffly acted (the kids were cast mostly from British expatriates in America), it's  a fascinating bit of independent filmmaking by Peter Brook.  I had to watch this film numerous times in junior high and high school. so it's become ingrained...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Work at Home

One of the nice things about what I do for a living is that I sometimes work from home.  During a week when I found myself having to travel in the midst of rush hour, this is a welcome relief.  Of course, if all I did was work at home, I'd never get through my audio books.   I might have to revert more to the old-school books.  The paper kind - not the imitation "Kindle" kind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


On the way from downtown Los Angeles to Valencia today, I sat in traffic for and hour and a half.  In the early morning, my traffic-free commute in the opposite direction was about 35 minutes.  Even with all sorts of portable entertainment (thanks to my Iphone and it's Ipod feature) and my car's XM satellite system, which offers a wide range of stations ranging from music to audio feeds from CNN and CNN Headline News, the experience is still insanely frustrating.  

I could have taken the train, but I had a mid-day meeting that required the use of my car.  I'm very fortunate in Valencia that I live only a mile or two from our inter-city Metrolink system.  It brings me right into Union Station downtown, from which I take a shuttle to Little Tokyo, where I work occasionally.   Having decent, convenient mass transit is rare in LA.  The City of Los Angeles' Metrorail system, which extends to various corners of the city, is nevertheless missing from the most heavily traveled corridors of the city.   Even the limitations of travel within downtown Los Angles made the train option unworkable for me in this case.

I'm going to look on Itunes and see if I can find a good thriller.  Hard to find a good, but very effective in these situations.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Over 150 million users are on Facebook - that's equal to half the population of the United States (though users are all over the world).  Once again, the world has become much smaller - and much more intimate.  I'm rapidly resuming contact with individuals from most phases of my life, from childhood onward.

The concept of community has been evolving rapidly since dawn of the internet - just a few short years ago, "experts" were mourning the end of traditional communities.  Our personal communities can now extend worldwide, and may have some of the same qualities of the traditional neighborhood.  Of course, this world can never, by nature, replace human contact.  You can't go out and socialize with friends thousands of miles away.  You can talk - even face to face - with good friends. 

It's worth keeping this all in perspective.  If we're to look at all forms of communications over the past 150 years, this is something that is still very much in its infancy.  We've likely seen just a hint of the fundamental changes in store for our society in the decades ahead.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

East Coast / West Coast Cultures

Anyone who has spend time on both the east and west coasts of the United States acknowledges that there is a tangible "cultural" difference between the two worlds. On both coasts, I grew up in similar areas, but they couldn't be more distinct.  When I came out to California, I recognized that the school system didn't value education in quite the same way as the system - or rather, the school - I'd experienced in New York.  My public school in New York, with all of its enrichment programs, could only be duplicated in a private school in Los Angeles.  And I knew it - even at eleven years old.  We're also somewhat of a transitory society in Los Angeles.   I see little of the ongoing (though infrequent) connections individuals back east seem to have had.  We don't seem to follow prescribed paths (though that is probably more related to family history), unlike virtually all of my early friends in the east.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad - or whether that would have changed my own career path, but I think choices tended to be more practical - lawyers, doctors, accountants, and teachers.  Those sorts of choices were probably encouraged in my crowd in California, but not as strongly as elsewhere.  Of those that I'm aware of, many of my Los Angeles school friends became entrepreneurs of one type or another, or artists of various kinds.  I don't see a similar pattern, or sense of practicality as easterners tend to have (at least where I came from).  After all, the choices that I and my latter friends made about our futures really made career development a much longer process. 

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The World In Reverse

It occurred to me, in correspondence today with one of my childhood friends, that to speculate on how how my life and other lives would have been different if I had remained in my old New York neighborhood is akin to imagining a sort of reverse variation on "It's a Wonderful Life," in which the world is altered in unexpected ways by the presence of a specific individual.  That wouldn't necessarily mean a positive influence, either.  As I observed in a recent response to a comment on an earlier blog, it's akin to mixing two benign chemicals resulting in a toxic substance.  If we each influence other lives, which in turn influence other lives in an ever-expanding field, then both the friends I never made in California, combined with the friendships I would have maintained in the east would have, in turn, generated or denied other friendships, with a variety of positive and negative results.  

Like the JFK assassination  "what if's," it's a hopeless exercise - there can be only speculation.  It's a reminder, however, of how complicated and connected our lives are, even as children - how and who we interact with, why we make decisions, and the direction we decide to take in our lives.  

Friday, February 06, 2009

Early Memories

My youngest nephew turned four in September.  That's the age, at least in my experience, that he's start storing memories that he'll remember for the rest of his life. Generally, memories at that age relate to extraordinary experiences - in my case, attending the World's Fair in New York. I was exposed to strange, unique environments, in the form of exotic architecture and rides (Disneyland's "Small World" attraction began life at the New York World's Fair - the experience was hypnotic, and stayed with me as I experienced the same ride in California eight years later.  There was a ferris wheel in the shape of a huge tire - I remembered that, too.  I had a recording of the narration for a ride about early man put on by Traveler's Insurance, so I remembered that, as well.  

It will be interesting to see what memories stick with my nephew years down the line - what's extraordinary to a four year old might not even earn a second glance with a grown-up!

Selective Memory

Having left New York after 5th grade, when I was eleven years old, I eventually began to forget about many of my school friends.  I remembered my best friends - but without any photos or other reminders, I've forgotten most of the others I knew in school.  Without any extraordinary experiences to share, other faces have faded.  Apparently, some still remember me - but I had an extraordinary story among the other eleven year olds - I was not only moving away, but moving to the impossibly distant world of "Hollywood."  

On Facebook, I saw the Wickshire School 6th grade portrait - the picture in which I would have appeared if we hadn't moved.   Other than the core group of friends I mentioned a couple of blog entries back, I don't recall anyone else.  It was fascinating - my friends were just beginning to grow up - I was long gone, establishing my own life some 3,000 miles away.  One friend visited the summer we moved away, another when we were 18.  Letters became scarce, and eventually life went on and I lost all contact.  I had my new friends and adventures, they had their new friends and adventures.  In more recent years, and recent weeks, I've heard where some of those lives have led.  

All of my earliest friends in New York became professionals - doctors, lawyers, teachers, and accountants - I've gone into a creative field.  I've fairly sure I would have taken the same route regardless of whether or not I moved away- my family influence was fairly strong - but I have to wonder if my life decisions - or for that matter, my friend's decisions, would have been impacted by an altered history in which I had remained.   I'm not suggesting that I would have had any special influence, but I wonder about the positive and negative influences I would have had on them, and they would have had on me....

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Current Mind Fillers

I just realized how much information I'm processing at the moment:

1 - I'm working on my "Bollywood Steps" documentary, which involves thirty hours of footage that I have to sculpt into an entertaining hour-long story. 
2 - I'm putting together an episode of "Live in LA," a City of Los Angeles-sponsored program promoting live entertainment in the City of Los Angeles - more sculpting, but less footage.
3 - I'm juggling at least half a dozen projects at Freshi Films, where I work at Director of Production.
4 - I'm listening to an audiobook called "The Snowball," about the life of billionaire Warren Buffet. 
5 - On occasion, I'm inching through a book called, "The Real Oliver Twist," a scholarly history of a man whose life may have been the inspiration for Dickens' "Oliver Twist"
6 - When I'm tired of Warren Buffeet's story, I switch to recordings of Jean Shepherd's old radio show. Those are only 45 minutes long, so I generally don't have to carry the storyline through to my next listening opportunity.
7 - I also listen to CNN and Headline News in my car, so I'm also generally considering the state of our country's economy.
8 - I'm preparing to shoot projects for the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Somehow, I still find time to write this blog, update my Facebook, write my Freshi Blog, and generally relax when I need to...

Which, I think, is a demonstration of my belief that, like the theory about how we use our brain, we also use only ten percent of our available time.

And yes, I generally get eight hours of sleep.

Returning Again

I'm decided to resume my blogging again - it's been a hectic few months, but I've lately been inspired by experiences on Facebook to resume my writing here.  

As many (well 2) of you know, I like to write about my childhood adventures on my Blog, particularly those related to my New York years.  Recently, I joined a Facebook group dedicated to Wickshire Elementary School, which I attended until finishing 5th grade, when we moved to California.  I spent sixth grade at another elementary school in Los Angeles, but I never developed the connection I had back east.

The Facebook book, "I Went to Wickshire," captures a bit of the camaraderie that school generated, and it's been fun hearing about people and adventures I'd forgotten about.  On Facebook and in other ways, I've now re-connected with just about all of my earliest friends - Larry, Chris, Jamie, Robert, and even Charlie, the only "Charlie" I ever knew other than my sister's bird.  There's a number of other people in that group that I also knew, but they're a bit harder to recall.

There's one kid of which I have one memory - and of whom many seem to share the same memory.  He liked to freak everyone out by flipping his eyelid inside out.  I've remembered that vividly all these years, and it seems many others did too.  I don't rememeber his face, but I remember his eyelid!

Friday, January 16, 2009

86 Square Miles

If the land mass of the United States was divided between all of the citizens of the U.S., each of us would be responsible for 86 square miles (by comparison, Washington D.C. is 68.3 square miles). That's a lot of real estate!  I'll be planning my kingdom.  

What would you do with 86 square miles?