The above photo is from my spec music video password: BRMC

Thursday, March 31, 2011

America Now and Here: May 6th

My previous film, Into the Unknown is in this traveling museum that will travel around the country for two years.  The project is led by the painter, Eric Fischl (NY Times photo above).  Kickoff is in Kansas City, then Detroit and Chicago next.  Read the NY Times article:

Aperture Magazine also did an article last fall:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My last noticeable earthquake was a "tremor" in Los Angeles years ago.  It was around 6:30 AM and I was sleeping, when the whole apartment building began to shake violently.  As a California native, I instinctually leaped out of bed and onto my feet.  I stood, focusing my vision onto the doorframe eight feet in front of me (apparently you're not supposed to seek shelter in door frames but I didn't know that at the time).  

I groggily stared at the doorway thinking... "Fuck... I just want to go back to sleep" 

My "thought" process continued, "It's sooooo far!!!  If I go back to bed, it'll probably stop shaking" (Mind you the doorframe was eight feet away).

Great logic.  I got back into bed and the shaking stopped.  About an hour later I woke up and realized I was an complete idiot (or badass... you pick).  Now that I live a couple blocks from the beach, that same mentality is probably not so good.  Recently, a friend proclaimed to me, "We could die from a tsunami!".  Yes, that is possible.  I've discovered signs in my neighborhood that say "Tsunami Zone", in addition to spotting a couple rusted sirens on telephone poles.  The sirens look like they're about 30 years old and probably don't work, but all I have to do is walk outside my apartment and go up the hill across the street to be safe.  Not much effort required for self-preservation... but a difficult hurdle given my previous aforementioned actions.

I've been close to a few disasters.  I lived through the 6.9, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Oakland firestorm.  I was in the World Trade Center for the first time in my life in September 2001, about a week before it came down.  And, in fact, the last time I was in New York, I was in Times Square around the time "that guy" tried to explode his car bomb.  Now... I could actively worry about these potential disasters, and cater to paranoia and the people who fuel it... aka the people who actually watch television news.  In fact, I could also live in a bunker, inland, away from people, and never travel, let alone go to a major city.  I could wear a helmet and goggles, a bullet proof vest, and stay away from plastics.  Ditch the phone, wear hemp rags, and maybe even do one of those "cleansing" diets.  Real safe, clean living.  I could live forever... until the day I accidently lock myself in the bunker while cleaning the floor... and run out of oxygen.

On the other hand, my alternative choice is to live by the ocean and be free to go anywhere and do anything...  As without that handy Delorean time machine I can only hope for the best and not dwell on the potential for the worst.  In other words, as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption says, either "Get busy living or get busy dying".  Each of us has a choice.

Yes, I live in a tsunami zone.  Yes, I live in California.  And yes, please remember to call me during the next earthquake to wake me up. :-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

McDonald's vs Church

My father was raised Catholic.  I was not.  And as a Catholic, my father probably felt guilty about that.  Thus, when I was in elementary school, every few weeks my father would try to take me to church.  Naturally as a little kid, I didn't want to wake up early on Sunday morning; I would rather sleep in, watch cartoons and play with my Legos.  Consequently, my father bribed me into going by promising McDonald's breakfast afterwards.  And if you knew me as a kid, that was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Church is weird from the point of view of an outsider, especially for a weird child like myself.  Although the concept of it can be great, it revealed discrepancies that bothered me, even as a kid.  I was only aware of these oddities because I was a distanced observer, an outsider, sitting among the zombie-like masses who creepily murmured "Amen" on cue.  For example, growing up in a city, your parents and teachers tell you, "Don't talk to strangers".  Yet at church, you were supposed to willingly shake the hand of your glazed-eyed neighbor in the pew (aka stranger) and say "Peace be with you"...?  Or the fact that parents censor violence (in media) from children because violence is bad, yet every Sunday there were images in the stained glass windows championing a man being tortured, not to mention the life size replica of the man tacked up on a cross looking down upon you...  Hmm, as a kid that was confusing.  And the praying... oh boy.  I had nothing to pray about.  I wasn't aware that "God" had given me everything.  No one had notified me of this fact.  I assumed my parents had given me everything, from the clothes on my back to the Legos waiting for me at home.  I didn't feel thankful to the guy on the wall and thus felt like an outsider every time kneeling happened.

What was comical about my experience, however, was the fact during Communion, when people ate the "body of Christ" via bread/cracker, we ducked out.  My father would say, "We don't need to stay for this".  Like Keyser Soze, we boldly walked out of the church unnoticed, turned the corner, and swiftly got into the white Volvo.  Thankfully no one chased us.  Minutes later, we were at McDonalds.  Only years later did I realize the ridiculousness of this act.  In one sense, we left church to eat the body of Christ in Ronald McDonald.  And he was yummy.

Now, you might say, "Well, he certainly missed the point".  True...  And probably due to my alien-like encounter with Mass (among other reasons) I do not believe in religion.  But, on the other hand, does it matter?  Even as a kid I was thankful for being alive and earning my McMuffin.  And I can say with absolute scientific certainty that "God" gave me McMuffins:  He was the reason we ended up at McDonald's on Sunday morning.  And I can give thanks to Him for that.

Because President Bartlet Told Me So

So, when I worked as a set PA on the West Wing (7th season), we were filming a scene in which the President storms into the Situation Room to be briefed on possible invasion plans regarding a former Soviet republic.  The President chews out the general, Fitzwallace about  "what jackets" the troops would be wearing during the winter invasion.  At the end of the scene, the President storms out again in a fury.  Since it was a moving dolly shot within the room, it was my job to cue the President when to walk in through the closed doors (cue originating from the 1st AD by the monitors).

As we waited, Martin Sheen looked me over and said, "How old are you John?".  I replied, "23".

"My God"... Martin laughed and looked up towards the heavens.  "23.  My God...  23.  You must be the youngest person here!" (I actually wasn't).  The secret service agents behind him chuckled.  Martin then fiddled with his cane.  "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!".  He and his "agents" shared another laugh.

I got the notification over the radio, "Rolling".  I relayed to Martin "Rolling".  He composed himself, dusting his suit sleeves and flexing his cane.  He then got into character, staring ahead of him.


The President then turned to me, squinting his eyes and half pointing his cane.  "Take care of yourself, you never know how long you'll live".  President Bartlet finished the line with his trademark roll of the head and nod.  I nodded back. 

 "ACTION!".  The President stared at me for his cue.  Over the radio: "Martin".  I then waved the President in, and the scene played out.

So, as someone that has technically served at the "pleasure of the President", all I can say is please take care of yourself, you never know how long you'll live.  This is coming from the fictional President of the United States, a very sweet person, and the father of Charlie Sheen.  That should mean something.

A Letter From a Corgi to the World

Hi everyone,

My name is Dexter, I'm the fifth and furriest member of the Dion household.  I'm named after the serial killer by the same name that graces the Showtime network each week (no joke).  Although my primary concerns in life are what Lloyd Banks describes as "Bitches and Ball", I do have other pursuits such as fine dining, chasing smaller animals, and the occasional heated argument on the social economic effects of the plantation system on 18th century southern coastal states.  However, what I would like to talk about today, is the lack of respect I get as a contributing member of society.

I'm more than just a pinup for people to look at.  I have a brain, a personality and dreams.  I'm not just a slab a meat for people to stare at, holla at, and touch.  People take photos of me (sometimes in risque poses) and put them up on their walls or on their computer desktops.  It's disgusting.  I want people to like me for who I am.  I am a smart dog.  If you see me in the park, don't just waltz over with some degrading line like "Hey, what's up Cutey!", or "Chase tail here a lot?".  No, be confident, come talk to me like a normal person, and maybe we can be friends.  And no, don't touch me.  You don't see me running my paw up your back, do you?  Respect my space. 

I am a complicated dog, and if you can't handle that, then don't be my friend.  I like my alone time under the bed.  But I also like long walks on the beach, steak dinners, and fine linens to sleep on (although I'm not supposed to get on the "bed").  If you're looking just to get a "friend", then look elsewhere, I'm not looking for a "friendship" right now.  But if you're down to hang out and play ball, I'm open to that.  I am, in fact, a connoisseur of smells, I know all the good gossip from the park, and I know the best way to attack a running vacuum.  I also have aspirations of ruling the kennel one day.

Thank you for taking your time to read this.  I hope one day people will respect dogs everywhere and treat them as unique and equal individuals and not as objects of petting.  WOOF.


The family "Pet"

A Kid Rolls Down A Hill

So, I was sitting near the beach on top of a small grassy hill that overlooks the ocean...  

Midway up the hill was a horizontal concrete pathway that divided the grassy incline in half.  A small child and father were strolling up the walkway, enjoying an afternoon in Santa Monica.  The dad was chatting away on his cell phone, blasting away with such words as "Deal" and "Negotiations", not paying much attention to his energetic son who was dashing up and down the hill.

Suddenly, the child decided he was going to roll down the grassy hill like a log (we as adults, often forget of the many uses of grassy hills).  The little boy sprinted to the top of the hill, tucked in his arms, and then rolled down... as he came down the hill he slowed and stopped on the grass, still in his log position, and stared at the pathway ahead of him. 

The child was frozen, now knowing what to do.  His Freudian "ego" was in a traffic jam.  Basic sense (and thrill) would dictate that the child should indeed continue rolling, three feet across the concrete pathway, and then down the second grassy incline to an orgy of more rolling.  BUT... should he roll over the concrete?  It's dirty?  People could run by, trip over him, and file a lawsuit?!?  What would his dad say?  "Son, this isn't negotiable, NO deal on log rolling across concrete.".  Society was telling him, "Don't you fucking roll across that pathway, what would the rest of the world think of you, animal child?"  Now, the Berlin Wall of pathways was looming in front of him.

Finally, with mankind and the future of the planet at stake, the child, made his decision:  He rolled across the concrete path while his dad's back was turned... and down the rest of the hill.   VICTORY.  Nobody was hurt.  The guy on the other end of the phone call never knew.  We jumped to the next scene and never knew about the crap in between.  The End.

All I can say is, I'm glad people don't always base their decisions entirely on what others think.  This kid has potential.  As people grow up, they become clouded with expectations, rather than just enjoying the ride over the hill so to speak (and all the bumps in between).  The Knight in "The Last Crusade" would have said to the child, "You have chosen... wisely...".  Winning.

"Grandparenting: Min Tamaki's Experience" by George Yoshida

Published in a newsletter in 1987

"It was an instant love affair!  I miss John very much if he's not around for a few days."  Min Tamaki is talking lovingly (I can sense the love in his voice) about his six year old grandson who has been in his and wife Iyo's care for the past five years.

After the initial honeymoon period in retirement which took place 10 years ago life for Min had settled down to a predictable routine bordering on boredom.  Then, grandson John came along and life changed significantly for the Tamakis.  A precious extension of their biological heritage was thrust upon them to feed, to keep clean and to love.  Under the circumstances it was practical solution to the problems of working parents.  Many of us know that parenting at any age is a continuous, stressful job -- just plain hard work.  The Tamakis are experiencing it for the second time around in their grandchild.

The focus in this writing, however, is on being grandparents -- the benefits of a healthy grandparent-grandchild relationship.  What then are the potentials in this human experience?  From the standpoint of the grandchild, the receiver of "unconditional love" as Min describes it, John is being provided valuable nurturance in developing into a well-centered person.  Min says, "I'm not a trained psychologist, but I feel deep inside of me that John will be less likely to have severe emotional problems in the future."  Early in life during his formative years the child has a trustworthy friend who is the source of abundant positive strokes.  While parents are constantly "teaching" ("Eat your vegetables" "Watch the traffic" "Tie your shoe laces") and so creating anxiety and stress in their children, grandpa Min can "just be there" in a relaxed state to comfort and to nurture.  How fortunate for a child to have someone who is "just there".

As Min thumbs through family albums with John, ample time is taken to transfer (consciously or unconsciously) his values and his life story-- the old-fashioned house, the funny clothes, the awkward-looking automobiles, young grandpa in his U.S. Army uniform.  Grandparents bridge the past with the present and help the child to understand that he is an integral part of a family continuum.

Sharing experiences and photographs of grandfather as a youth teaches the grandchild invaluable lesson in aging as a process that all human beings must encounter.  Grandparents are role models for the young.  In reference to Min's inability to keep up physically with his grandson, John perceives, "How come you can't do it?  Because you are old and I am new!"  Lessons in the realities of getting old are being absorbed continuously; and eventually, the ultimate lesson-- the act of dying-- is learned as a natural completion of the life cycle.

 What benefits might grandparents derive from this relationship?  Min says, "I may sound arrogant, but I think I'm a better parent to John than his parents  I'm more patient, have more wisdom; I can spend more time with John."  This confidence in himself adds immeasurably to Min's self-esteem.  The older Nisei male in retirement needs much support in respect to esteem for without his work identity, he may become just a nobody.  There is great power in the knowledge that one can teach, influence and effect changes.  Grandparenting is an opportunity to do something worthwhile.  There is an added sense of excitement in planning and anticipating future activities with the child.  There is also the bonus of permission for the adult to revive childlike qualities such as wonder, spontaneous joy and playfulness.  To be childlike is to be a healthy human being, a road to longevity and quality of life, the secret to staying young at any age.

John will be six years old this year.  Up to now Grandpa Min has been an omnipotent "god", but there are signs that John will be leaving soon for a bigger world of his peers and other "gods".  Yet, the closeness between John and Ji-Ji will be forever bonded by the past 5 years of intimate contacts.  The relationship provided Min with an opportunity to be productive and to feel needed.  With the responsibility of grandparenting came meaning-- a renewal of the life force.

I hope we'll be as fortunate

Werner Herzog Reads Curious George

Forgot how hilarious this is... :-)

America Now and Here

My last film, Into the Unknown is in this roadshow.  Will be traveling around the country for a couple years.  Check it out!