Friday, November 30, 2007

Viral Email Hatred - the Muslim "Christmas" Stamp Crap

EID StampAn otherwise regular person I know, someone with no obvious racial hatred of bigotry, forwarded an email calling for a "boycott" of a Muslim "Christmas" stamp. The mail itself, one of many we've all gotten, didn't really surprise me. The person who sent it did.

Here's my reply:

First of all, this is not a "Christmas" stamp, and it's not new. You can read the history of this "controversy" here.

Interesting that even "president" Bush promotes this stamp on the White House web site.

Now, if I were to go back in history, say, to the Panama invasion where American forces killed 3000 innocent civilians, and then I said that was a "Christian firebombing" of an entire city block, that wouldn't really be fair to the Christian religion, now would it? Or, what if we said that the 1,000,000 Iraqi Civilians killed in Iraq were the result of a "Christian" invasion? That wouldn't be fair.

I try to remember that when I see religious nuts like Muslim Bombers or the Reverend Fred Phelps (who shows up at soldiers' funerals saying they died because we condone homosexuality), that they do not represent their whole religion. That's why this email is obviously from a bigot, recirculated now from a probable Giuliani supporter who knows the Republicans are going to lose unless they scare everyone with the big bad Muslim bogey man.

About a year ago, the Muslim woman who lives around here was trying to get someone to give her car a jump. No one would help her. When I stopped, she was crying. Her kids were in the back seat crying. I felt so bad for her. She couldn't stop thanking me. She never bombed anyone. She was just grocery shopping.

Turns out that in this Mormon neighborhood, I--a devout agnostic--did the most "Christian" thing.

Furthermore, this email goes on to suggest that I'm not patriotic because I won't boycott this stamp. I'm so sick of these right wing nut cases saying that because I don't buy into their particular line of racist crap that I'm not patriotic. Please tell me who wrote this, or just send this mail back to them. I'd like to let them know that there are plenty of patriotic Americans who think it is people like them who are ruining this country. I'd like them to call me unpatriotic to my face.

Please keep sending me these things so I can point out how crazy and bigoted they are.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Canyon Country California Fire Pictures

Canyon Country CA fire picturesMy wife Robin took these pictures during the recent fire in our neighborhood. We've had fires around here before, but never could we see flames from our back yard. Many homes up on the hill near us were lost.

The smoke in the air, and the way the sun interacted with it, created an eerie look that Robin captured in these photographs, which we've posted over at our photo blog.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Local One Union Brothers on Strike

A stagehand friend of mine sent me this story about a typical Broadway stagehand, who's on strike. It reminded me a of great period in my career as a stagehand, and got me thinking about this crazy career.

Back in the summer of 2000, I went to New York to learn how to operate the automation for the LA version of The Lion King, which was built by Hudson Scenic. The New York version of the show was still running at the New Amsterdam Theatre, home to many great shows including the Ziegfeld Follies. We spent our days at Hudson's shop in Yonkers, and at night we went to the show where we watched and learned backstage. I'll never forget the tour Drew Sicardi, the head carpenter, gave us of the theater above the theater, known as the Roof Garden Theater, where a racier version of the Follies, the Midnight Frolics, played, starring Fanny Brice. It was just a concrete shell of a theatre, but I was amazed at the sense of history and the grooves in the floor where blocks of ice were put to cool the big theater downstairs.

I've been a stagehand for 20 years, but being backstage on Broadway welled up a sense of history and awe. Mostly I was amazed at how small the theaters are. Working in LA, space is usually never a problem (I say usually because I spent the last few years working in the Mark Taper Forum, where space is always a problem). But in New York, especially on a show the size of The Lion King, I was amazed at how they got so much in such a small space. As if working backstage on a Broadway show isn't hard enough. Depending on the show, people scurry all over the place trying to do things at precisely the right moment. Traffic patterns, technical problems, actor variations, and many other variables make each show an adventure. The stress is enormous. So is the sense of accomplishment.

I got to know a lot of those IATSE Local One guys. Many of them came out to LA and helped install our Lion King at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. These are some of the hardest working guys in the world, and they have a very specialized set of skills. People don't really understand what stagecraft is all about. The hours are awful. The work--a combination of the worst aspects of movers, riggers, mechanics, electricians, technicians, and construction workers--is extremely hard. Perhaps the worst part is that usually the only time anyone notices a stagehand is when they screw up.

For this production--the strike--hopefully people are noticing the stagehands for a better reason. And when you hear from some anti-labor people how much the "typical" stagehand in New York makes, remember what they do and that they live and work in New York. It's all relative.

Hang in there guys. You've earned the respect you deserve.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

William Gibson on the Present

Check out this William Gibson interview in Rolling Stone.
You made your name as a science-fiction writer, but in your last two novels you've moved squarely into the present. Have you lost interest in the future?

It has to do with the nature of the present. If one had gone to talk to a publisher in 1977 with a scenario for a science-fiction novel that was in effect the scenario for the year 2007, nobody would buy anything like it. It's too complex, with too many huge sci-fi tropes: global warming; the lethal, sexually transmitted immune-system disease; the United States, attacked by crazy terrorists, invading the wrong country. Any one of these would have been more than adequate for a science-fiction novel. But if you suggested doing them all and presenting that as an imaginary future, they'd not only show you the door, they'd probably call security.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Academy Award Winner's Art

Tambi Larsen drawing Hawaiian fish - click for big version
Tambi Larsen won an Oscar in 1956, for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White. The movie was The Rose Tattoo, starring Burt Lancaster.

Tambi Larsen was also an accomplished artist who hung out in this Hawaii beach house in Kauai, creating Hawaiian art like this drawing (right). I'm working on the Hale Kilo I'a web site, and I've convinced Larsen's daughter, who owns and operates the Kauai vacation rental house, to continue posting Larsen's art on the site. Two of the drawings, including the one shown here, are available in big versions that make great computer backgrounds or desktop wallpaper.

Go check it out! The pictures of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai are also worth checking out, especially for all you snow-bound folks who want to think warm thoughts. And the good news is: for a private north-shore Kauai beach house, you'll find the Hale Kilo I'a quite affordable.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Get your Daily Show Fix

This hilarious bit from Daily Show writer Jason Ross will help all you Daily Show fans who are suffering withdrawals. We even had to take the season pass off our Tivo, because we've seen all these reruns. Thanks, Jason, for explaining this strike to my kids in such a creative way. Now I feel like I should send money.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dare to Colbert

Dare to Colbert! Stephen Colbert T-Shirts available in organic cotton and made in the USAWe're big fans of Stephen Colbert. We think that watching his show, The Colbert Report, actually makes people smarter. So, we're all for encouraging people to watch. Even the repeats...

Of course, if you're one of the 25% if Americans who think Colbert was picking on the most powerful man on earth during the now famous correspondent's dinner, you probably want him arrested and waterboarded, like you do anyone else you disagree with. So, you Bush lovers probably won't care for one of these Dare to Colbert T-shirts (available in organic cotton and made in the USA). For you Bush lovers, we're working on a pesticide-ridden, made-with-slave-labor-in-some-freedom-hating-country t-shirt depicting Adam and Eve riding to church on dinosaurs, er, Jesus horses (if we don't create those shirts soon, you'll know it's because we couldn't work out a way to get royalties to Tina Fey).

These are great gifts for all the Colbert fans out there who are suffering withdrawals during this writer's strike. Help make the world a smarter place. Help spread the news. Dare to Colbert!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tool for Manipulating Reality

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.--Philip K. Dick
The word manipulators, as most of you stuck watching reruns of Colbert know, are on strike. At issue are a few pennies of the billions in profit the producers make by manipulating reality. If the writers got everything they asked for, some producer's daughter somewhere might have to settle for factory rims on her new Mercedes when she heads off to her Ivy League college next fall.

So, the dominoes are starting to fall. Here in LA, the backstage people in my union, IATSE Local 33, are already losing their jobs. We've been told that because of the "no-strike" conditions in our contracts, we cannot honor the writers' lines. We must go to work. Funny, that, since without the word manipulators, there is no reality to manipulate, no work to be done. Soaps, sit-coms, Leno... All shut down.

Those of us who do have work to go to have been told not to write anything if we're asked. You know, because that happens all the time. There have been times, while I'm sitting on top of an A Ladder focusing a light that those damn producers just won't quit bugging me to rewrite that last scene. So, that's how we stagehands are showing solidarity for our writer friends. We're refusing to write.

A grip I knew died recently. He had a sign in his truck that said:

Good, fast, cheap: pick two.

Like so many other businesses in this world, the reality manipulation people are going with fast and cheap these days. Just don't see too many orders for good anymore.