Thursday, June 30, 2005

Christopher Walken: The King of New York Speaks (Q&A)

A couple of weeks ago I worked the junket for the upcoming feature Wedding Crashers and got a little face time with the actors starring in the flick (Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken). While I've already posted a Q&A with Vaughn below, I thought that the session with Walken unveiled a side that I hadn't seen before. I've used a bit of this for another publication but I thought it'd be cool to check out the real flow of what went down for all of the C.W. fans that I know are out there. When dude walked into the room I half expected him to pull out a wristwatch (like he did in Pulp Fiction) but that didn't quite happen...There's an old colloquialism that goes "avoid meeting your heroes at all costs -- they're never as interesting to meet in the flesh as you'd imagined they'd be." I walked into the roundtable at the Four Seasons bearing the latter in mind because, you never know, yo...See for yourself.

Q: You ever wonder if this movie's going to inspire others to crash weddings after it comes out?

Walken: No, I guess that would be great. (laughs) I think that weddings have been crashed, probably, since the beginning of time -- cavemen crashed parties. You go to meet girls. It makes sense. I've never crashed a wedding -- when I was a kid, of course, I crashed parties. Crashing weddings is difficult, though, because you have to have the clothes, the suit. You have to have information in case somebody catches you -- you have to know some names and things.

Q: Because you carry automatic gravitas with you whenever you're playing a role, how difficult or easy was it to play against somebody like Vince Vaughn who is so characteristically dervish-like and manic in his portrayals onscreen?

Walken: That was great, you know, you take jobs to be with good actors and the director (David Dobkin) was terrific and also for me it was different. I've played a lot of villians and I've played dads and (in Wedding Crashers) I play a good guy, basically -- The Secretary of the Treasury. I've never had a job like that (laughs) to play somebody who's like one of our nation's leaders. They don't ever ask me to do that.

Q: You don't think it made you out to be an overbearing father or anything?

Walken: I don't know -- I never had kids -- but if I had beautiful daughters and the guy came over to the house, I would probably be watching him very carefully.

Q: Have you ever been to any wild or crazy weddings? Any anecdotes?

Walken: I've been to weddings -- the weddings weren't too crazy. What I do remember is that the food was terrible, always. (laughs) The thing about weddings is not to stay too long -- not to stay until everybody gets so wound up.

Q: Is that your rule?

Walken: Yeah: arrive early and leave early. My favorite wedding, remember the wedding in On the Waterfront? It's funny, huh? All those people punching each other. Beer, beer kegs -- kegs of beer, yeah.

Q: What was your role in Catch Me If You Can about? Was it something to remind people that you're very capable of doing other things.

Walken: Yeah, it was a great thing to be cast in it. When you're an actor you do a lot of the same thing -- it's great when somebody gets you to do something a little surprising.

Q: So when you read the Wedding Crashers script and your character turns to his daughter and goes "I just want you to be happy" was that one of those moments onscreen where you're doing something different?

Walken: Yes, absolutely. I don't get those parts in movies too much.

Q: Why do you think your voice fascinates people so much?

Walken: I don't know. I come from a certain part of New York City -- Queens -- and the trip is that that's the way people talk there.

Q: When did your realize that the "Christoher Walken impression" was becoming the Holy Grail of Community Theater?

Walken: I don't remember exactly when it happened but at some point people started doing that. It's nice, to me, it's nice. Sometimes, when people do it, I don't even know it but my wife says that there are certain people who do it better than others.

Q: Are you going to do Saturday Night Live again?

Walken: I don't know, I've done it six times -- maybe that's enough.

Q: I was reading in a bio somewhere that you spent a summer as a junior lion tamer in a circus -- is that true?

Walken: I did. When I was a kid I joined the circus.

Q: So you did the lion thing? That's true?

Walken: It is, I did -- it's not like you think. There was a guy, he had his own circus, his name was Carol Jacobs and he owned it -- it was a small thing he had and all. I joined that one summer and he had this idea that he wanted to have an act where his son would come on dressed just like him but he didn't have any kids. So, he put an ad out and I went and took it. I didn't get paid but it was such an interesting thing. I had an identical outfit as him -- the hat and everything -- and at the end, when he was finished with his lions, they'd all leave and they'd let in this one lion, her name was Sheba and really more like a dog, you know. Very nice and old, not too many teeth. She was very nice -- I mean you could pet this thing and she'd rub up against your leg like a housecat -- and she'd get on her box and I'd do my whip like this and she'd roar. That was it. (laughs)

Q: I didn't believe it when I read it so I had to ask you, yo.

Walken: Yeah, yeah. It wasn't anything like you'd think -- I mean it wasn't dangerous.

Q: You weren't sticking your head in it's mouth or anything, then?

Walken: No, nothing like that.

Q: You ever gotten a role solely predicated on your dancing skills besides that video?

Walken: Yeah, I done things like the movie Pennies from Heaven -- it was a musical.

Q: You've got another musical coming out, right?

Walken: John Turturro's movie: Romance and Cigarettes -- that's right, that's a musical.

Q: What do you think the biggest misconception is about you that you notice when you meet people or do you even notice that stuff?

Walken: I wouldn't know. I wouldn't know. I think, sometimes, when you're an actor people associate you with the parts you play.

Q: You think people are intimidated by you?

Walken: No, I don't think so but I think that when they see me in a movie, they expect me to do something...nasty or crazy or something. I've played a lot of villians and so when I show up and that's why you defy expectations sometimes and you're not that [person]. I think it would be interesting for me to play something really different like, you know, Father Knows Best -- you remember Father Knows Best don't you? I'd have sons and they'd say to me "oh dad, what do you think I should do?" And I'd say, "Well son...just try to do the right thing." (laughs) That'd be a good part. If I played a psychiatrist, maybe. I'd like to play a psychiatrist at some point.

Q: You make so many different types of movies -- which of your choices tend to make your agents nervous?

Walken: I don't make choices, really -- I think I just take what comes. People think actors make a lot of choices -- well maybe they do, I don't know.

Q: You're great at comedy, what makes you laugh as an audience?

Walken: Comedy is a mysterious thing. I don't know. What's funny? Very strange, some people are funny.

Q: Did Vince and Owen make you laugh?

Walken: Oh yeah, they are funny -- also, they're funny together. You know, they're a very good team. I wouldn't be surprised if they made more movies together, they have a Bob Hope/ Bing Crosby thing together.

Q: Would you ever go back to do more theater, perchance?

Walken: Theater? Being in the theater now is different...maybe it's because the tickets are so expensive. I remember one night I worked out and there's a guy sitting out there and he was videotaping the show... I did a play called The Dead when [a cell phone rang in the audience during the performance] and I went "Hold it while this guy takes his phonecall." Yeah! You know what I'm talking about. No matter where you sit now you get that. It really has changed life.

Q: You seem to get a lot of work. Do you just go from film to film, one after the other?

Walken: Yeah, if possible. You know, naturally, sometimes there's nothing going on.

Q: What do you do to kick back? What does Christopher Walken do to kick back?

Walken: You know actors have kick back time built in. There's a lot of kick back time.

Q: So what's in your trailer on a set?

Walken: While making a movie I try to save myself. I don't like to sit around and talk -- I like to be quiet.

Q: When you see yourself onscreen do you ever critique your performances or do you just go and watch the movie? If so, are you hard on yourself?

Walken: You can't be too hard on yourself. You can't be better than you [actually] are. I'm pretty realistic about that. Even when I don't like it much it's interesting because when you see yourself on film you see a lot. Whether you like it or not, you see a lot. One thing is most people don't ever get that opportunity -- I'm not talking about seeing yourself on video -- a lot of the time, the first thing that you see is "you better go on a diet" (laughs) or "can you
possibly talk without moving your eyebrows up and down?"

Q: Talk about the new film, Romance and Cigarettes.

Walken: It's got great actors in it. John Tuturro wrote it and it's a musical movie -- dancing and everything.

Q: What kind of music?

Walken: Well, in my case it's almost like karaoke -- I do a Tom Jones song. It's his voice but I'm lip-synching "Delilah."

Q: You lip-synched in Pennies from Heaven too, right?

Walken: Yeah, that's right. The song I did in Pennies from Heaven was a great song but most people had never heard it before.

Q: Jay Mohr has a story about when he met you and discussing whether you thought it was best to fly or have a tail. Was that a true story?

Walken: Yeah. I remember when I was on Saturday Night Live and said how great it would be if an actor had a tail because a tail is so expressive. You can tell everything, like with a cat. You can tell whether they're scared - when they bush it. If I was an actor and I had to be scared in a movie, all I'd have to do was bush my tail...I think if actors had tails you'd see through everything. (laughs)

Q: You have any favorite or interesting gadgets you're using these days? An iPod or any computer gizmos that you're into?

Walken: No. I don't have a computer. I don't have a cell phone. I don't have a wristwatch.

Q: Is there anything that you would've loved to have had as a kid that you didn't get?

Walken: A calculator because I remember when I applied once for a job in a department store -- it was after I got out of high school -- and they were hiring people at Christmas time. I applied and I failed the test because in those days you had to be able to make out a bill. And fast. I remember that I didn't get the job. But nowadays that couldn't possibly happen. Do they even teach kids anymore how to add and subtract?

Q: But your life would've been totally different now. You might've become a manager at Macy's or something so it's a good thing that you did fail back then.

Walken: Yeah, that's true.

Q: You know, it just dawned on me that both you and Jane (Seymour -- who plays his wife in Wedding Crashers) have played characters in James Bond movies.

Q: Just off the cuff, did anything ever come up about that in conversation while on the set for this movie?

Walken: Yeah, yeah. That's right. That's true -- she was in one and I did one too. I did the one with Grace Jones -- one of my favorite people -- she was so interesting. I miss her.

Wedding Crashers opens nationally in theaters on July 15th -- if you liked Old School or Animal House then this one's right up your alley...I had a couple of great laughs...a funny R-rated comedy is rare these days; go see it if you get the chance....Laters...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Velvet Underground: Keeps Your Head Held High

Had a couple of oat sodas with a couple of friends last week over at the Brass Elephant and we started talking about our favorite bands, writers, the night wore on we started "discussing" the current state of affairs in pop music and decided we'd each compile a list of groups, albums that everyone should know about but don't...I was told that Ryan Seacrest had a column in Blender that publishes his "top ten" list of albums that everyone should have in their collection. I remember recoiling in horror at the news, not becuase I was told that Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, LP was on one of the metro-sexual's list of faves (it's a proper listen if you're thinking of the good old days) but because, somebody, somewhere thought he had a clue. I'm not going to hate (anymore), though...I'll step around the obvious ripoffs like Green Day (who bit everything from the Clash but breaking up) or No Doubt (Selecter, anyone?)...or U2, though I still dig their early shite, who now bite off of themselves from back in the early 80's...At any rate, the discussion made me remember a group who don't get nearly as much dap as they should for contributing to the rock 'n roll palette that we all take for granted now...they were touching on subject matter that has become coin of the relm...who where they? Lou Reed, John Cale, Nico, Maureen "Mo" Tucker, Sterling Morrison, Doug Yule, Willie Alexander: The Velvet Underground. If you don't know what time it is, here's a quick once over, son...

1965 The Velvet Underground make their official performance debut and begin to make inroads onto the Greenwich Village scene. After witnessing the group perform at NYC's Café Bizarre, Andy Warhol hires the Velvet Underground to perform in his latest exhibit, "Cinematique Uptight." The group eventually joins Warhol's multi-media art show The Exploding Plastic Inevitable adding German chanteuse Nico to their lineup in the process. Founding member Angus MacLise leaves the group and is replaced by drummer Maureen "Moe" Tucker.

1967 Signed to the MGM subsidiary Verve Records in the previous year, the VU make their full length record debut with "The Velvet Underground & Nico." Despite mixed reviews critically, the LP reaches #171 on the US album charts. Later in the year, mounting tensions the group and their management (Warhol) encourages Lou Reed to take the reigns which leads to the summary firing of Nico and the severing of ties with Warhol. After hiring Steve Sesnick as their manager, the band embarks on a poorly attended club tour.

1968 Early in the year Verve releases the sophomore effort "White Light, White Heat" which was hastily recorded after their last tour. Despite acclaim form artistic circles, the LP tops out at #199 on the US album 200. Ongoing power struggles between John Cale and Lou Reed intensify leading to Cale's departure from the fold- he's replaced by bassist Doug Yule.

1969 Recording session in Los Angeles yields the new Verve release "The Velvet Underground" which noticeably lacks Cale's input becomes the group's first outing not to chart on the US album listings at all and the band is dropped from the label. Later in the year, the Velvets are signed on at Ahmet Ertegun's Atlantic Records.

1970 The group returns to the New York City scene and are booked at Max's Kansas City for a month during the summer as singer Walter Powers is added to the lineup. Billy Yule (Doug's brother) is worked into the group when drummer Maureen Tucker takes a maternity leave from the stage. In the fall, Lou Reed locks horns with band manager Sesnick and when the dust settles, he leaves the Velvets and goes into seclusion.

1971 Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker leave the Velvets- Morrison's position is filled by Willie Alexander.

1972 Lou Reed makes his self titled solo album debut on RCA records.

1973 The remaining members of the Velvet Underground record the new set "Squeeze" which is only released in Europe due to the group's flagging popularity in the U.S.

1985 Verve Records submits the LP "V.U." which is comprised of unreleased cuts from 1968-69. The new album performs better than any that the group has recorded by climbing to #85 on the US album listings at the peak of a three month run. Later, Verve's reissue of 1969's "The Velvet Underground" has a fortnight's stay on the charts stopping at #197-US on the album 200.

1993 The original members of the VU reunite and perform at several European dates. In the fall of the year Sire Records releases "Live MCMXCIII" which enters the US album charts at #180 for one week. By the year's end, the reunion ends when the group dissolves again.

1996 The Velvet Underground are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their creative contributions to the rock genre.

MO' Velvet Underground Facts:

In 1964 Lou Reed and John Cale met and decided to form a new act with Sterling Morrison (guitar) and Angus MacLise (percussion). The newly formed group began to perform at New York nightclubs in Greenwich Village and are propositioned by Andy Warhol who caught one of their shows at Cafe Bizarre.The Velvet Underground got their name from an adult book that founding member Angus MacLise happened to be reading at the time. MacLise's stay would be a short one, however, he quit the group in '65 because he thought that "getting paid to create art" and working for Andy Warhol made them "sellouts" ( ! ).

In the early 60s before joining forces with John Cale, Lou Reed was a staff songwriter for the Pickwick label. Before they helped form the Velvet Underground, John Cale and Angus MacLise were members of the avant-garde group called The Primitives, who recorded on the Pickwick label.

The Velvet Underground were introduced to Andy Warhol via poet/photographer Gerard Malanga, who was a personal friend of the pop artist. Warhol hired the unrepresented act to perform in his latest media-art showcase, "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable" in 1966 that was one of his collaborations with Malanga as well. It was Warhol that suggested the group add frau Nico (model/ actress/ socialite) as a member- to the group's initial chagrin. Under the aegis of Warhol, who'd assumed the roles of both producer and manager, the act's name morphed into The Velvet Underground featuring Nico. In addition to the above, Malanga helped Warhol churn out paintings and filmed media (they called screen tests) from Warhol's studio, the Factory. The art-music-temperments would not last long but many would later question if the Velvet's music would have seen the light of day were it not for Warhol's interest (a la Jean-Micheal Basquiat).

After leaving the Velvets, guitarist Sterlng Morrison moved on to teach English Literature in Texas. As the 60's drew to a close, Lou Reed and co. began to feel the proverbial "heat" of their self induced marginalization. By 1970 the disenfranchised group cut the LP "Loaded" ( a broad stroked attempt to go "commercial ) which was recorded without Maureen Tucker and subsequently released by the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion Eecords. By then,however, the band's run as a unit had flat-lined for all intents and purposes. Lou Reed left the fold in the fall, following the group's (now) legendary stay at Max's Kansas City in NYC which left Sterling as the only remaining original member. In spite of varied degrees of success in Europe, the set was panned by the usual suspects domestically as well as die hard fans.

A Day Late And A Dollar Short: In spite of the fact that the Velvet Underground have been cited on lists of Rock's most influential ensembles, the group itlself couldn't get arrested in their day. Lou Reed's "cut-to-the-chase" lyrics and the group's avant-garde leanings railed against the grain of psychedelia recorded by their more accessable contemporaries- keeping the group at "arms length" and literally "underground", as it were. In hindsight, the Velvet Underground's music has proven to be an Oopa (Out Of Place Artifact) of sorts and a logical progression for the legions of artistic hopefuls who'd cut their teeth on groups from the sixties. The Velvet influence can be found in tunes by David Bowie (who produced Reed's groundbreaking "Transformer" LP) , the Stooges, Joy Division, X and Elvis Costello. Influential all, these artists put their own spin on rock in the years that followed in the wake of the defunct VU.

As can be witnessed on the compilations that contain live recordings, Reed & co. would continually build on a song's structure up to the point of performing it onstage. "Live At Max's Kansas City", the Velvet's second ultimate Atlantic outing, was recorded during the group's last dates with Lou Reed in NYC just before he left. It was bought and set for release before Morrison, Yule, Tucker and Powers unwittingly began to work on tunes for a sophomore follow up to "Loaded."

Andy Warhol provided the artwork for the iconic cover of the VU's debut LP that has become known as "the banana album" but he was not the only artist of note to provide artwork for the group's music packaging. Polish designer Stanislaw Zagorski designed the cover for the Velvet Underground's "Loaded" LP that was released in 1970. In addition to the work for the Underground, Zagorski created the album jackets for the Modern Jazz Quartet, Rahsaan Roland Kirk (! ) and Ornette Coleman.

Lou Reed's solo debut contained "Ocean", "Ride Into The Sun", "Walk And Talk It" and "I Love You"- which were cuts he'd submitted for the Velvet Underground's consideration on "Loaded."

The Velvet Underground's instrumentation aside, Lou Reed would later grouse that his lyrics were "too out there" for the ears and sensibilities of the mainstream and more or less got the material that proceeded it retroactively black balled. Even though his subject matter dealt seems tame by today's standards, Reed openly addressed topics that were "seamier" than the age-of-aquarius fare of that time. "Venus In Furs" topified sadomasichist themes while "I'm Waiting On The Man" and "Heroin" covered the obvious. Later, "Sister Ray" took a look at transvestism and drug use -- all topics you can now hear on the regular these days.


1967 - The Velvet Underground & Nico - Verve
1967 - White Light/ White Heat - Verve
1969 - The Velvet Underground - Verve
1970 - Loaded - Warner
1972 - Live At Max's Kansas City - Atlantic
1973 - Squeeze - Polydor
1974 - 1969: The Velvet Underground Live - Mercury
1974 - 1969: The Velvet Underground Live, Vol. 1 - Mercury
1974 - 1969: The Velvet Underground Live, Vol. 2 - Mercury
1974 - Live With Lou Reed - Mercury
1976 - Live - Mercury
1976 - MCMXCIII - Warner


1971 - Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground - MGM
1973 - Velvet Underground, Lou Reed - Pride
1973 - Pop History, No. 19 - Kama Sutra
1973 - Lou Reed And The Velvet Underground - Pride
1974 - Archetypes - MGM
1976 - Pop History, No. 12 - Kama Sutra
1978 - Evil Mothers - Skydog
1985 - VU - Verve
1986 - Another View - Verve
1989 - The Best Of The Velvet Underground - Verve
1990 - Collection - Polydor
1993 - What Goes On? - Raven
1995 - Peel Slowly And See - Polydor
1997 - Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition - Rhino
2000 - 20th Century Masters- The Millennium Collection - PolyGram
2001 - An Introduction To The Velvet Underground - PolyGram
2001 - Bootleg Series, Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes - Universal
2001 - Best Of The Velvet Underground - Japanese Import
2001 - Gift Set - PolyGram

In spite of Nico's caterwauling, this band really does make my "Nick Hornby Top 10 List" of bands because, hey, they had a chick (Mo Tucker) on the drum kit decades before L7, the Bangles or the Donnas were making any noise -- she was the Carole King (yeah, she played the traps too) of the rock 'n roll world...and she was good, yo. Reed and Cale weren't no musical slouches either...Laters...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Greatest American: The Rocket's Red Glare

So, who do you think is the Greatest American to ever live?...I found it odd that our post American Top 40 attention deficited society would have allowed for a show like the one on the Discovery Channel (click header for link) to even get aired -- just in time for the Fourth of July, no less...I was at a friend's house a couple of weeks ago and he was watching this Greatest American show hosted by Matt Lauer and while the concept got my attention eyes started to glaze over when I looked at the usual suspects on the list...nothing controversial to be certain but still I asked myself aloud..."is Madonna really a viable candidate in this capacity?" I got no answers from the TV so I thought I'd look elsewhere...

Let's see Franklin contributed to our society by brainstorming a grip of inventions that we still use to this day like the concept of a national postal service, yo. Abraham Lincoln, who really wasn't the forward thinking abolitionist that he's been made out to be in Lippincott books and other sundry grade school texts -- he was an opportunist who managed to slip through the political cracks because of a rivalry between free soilers and pro-slavery factions in Kansas. I recall being taught as a kid that "honest Abe" always intended to free the slaves but that shite ain't the truth; he'd realized that he'd lost political favor in the south altogether anyway but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth...I'm just saying, son. Not the "greatest" American, in my book.

As far as Ronald Reagan's concerned, I'm surprised that he's even still in the running...who are the ass-clowns who think that the man who brought the U.S. crack cocaine ( Iran-Contra ), used the myth of the "welfare queen" as a political football while firing tens of thousands of air traffic controllers in order to cowtow to corporate airlines -- that doddering apple-cheeked figurehead's administration not only plumped up the unemployement lines like no other before him, he paved the way for what we have right now...but that's hindsight 20/20. In my book, he's the man who'd shake the hand of the devil, himself, if it would show him a better visage of hell -- the Grecian formula bald eagle personified. Now the powers that be are trying to re-write history by painting an eternal white hat on this guy...this does not bode well for those of us who don't feel the necessity to burrow into books and seek the truth for themselves...a friend of mine once wrote: "propaganda is."

As a native of the Old Dominion, Virginia, I've always found swallowing that tripe about the cherry tree and father of our country crap a Conastoga wagonload of hooey...dude owned people were his "property" and the only reason he allowed his manacled, sepia-toned charges to be emancipated was because...he didn't...That's not a typo. His wife Martha signed the papers to have their "properties" released after dude was six feet deep in the tombstone commode...long gone...he'd already shuffled off the mortal coil and onto that big plantation in the sky, so to speak...After reading books about slave life on Mt. Vernon, I've found that after Georgie kicked, his widow became gripped in a pall of paranoia thinking that the "field hands" would seek reprisal (like Nat Turner and his posse did a couple of counties over) and throttle her in her sleep. I was quite happy to read about one that got away ...So white fear of black retribution is why the Washingtons freed their slaves...that's just lovely...I'm about to bust out crying into my keyboard...As I mentioned above, I grew up with those "I cannot tell a lie" type stories but had to dig deeper on my own to find out about the black patriots that served under old "yankee doodle" to help the colonies get free from the British crown...even the Marquis de Lafayette had to ask what's up with you, kid? the real story of the American Revolution remains to be learned by many of those you'll see waving flags in a week or so on the fourth; when the rocket's red glare light up the night skies...and the stink of hypocrisy creeps across the nation's landscape like red, white and blue fog...Greatest American? To quote Fred Willard: " I don't theenk so!"

Growing up where I did, I was availed of a lot of the colonial history that most people who reside in other states across the union tend to forget about because they don't have shite like Monticello, Williamsburg, Patrick Henry's church or Harper's Ferry nearby to remind them of our country's sordid past -- and that it wasn't so long ago -- the courderoy rows of Fredricksburg take on a whole new meaning when you can actually see where it is with your own eyes. D.C., Philly, New York and Boston have lots of great historic sites that really help one seperate the hyperbole from the history. I felt the latter on a cellular level when I went on a school trip to Massachussetts which included a stop off at Concord which is also where Walden Pond is -- this is where forward thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau used to repair to in order to "get away from it all" -- during this trip I began to piece together that even from the beginning, the "Greatest Americans" were the average Joes who did extraordinary things...not because the were impelled to do so to further their class standing (at least not all the time) but because they just did what had to be done.

Most of the Greatest Americans, you'll never see on primetime TV shows. The teachers who put up their own scrilla to help a kid get books in a public school, the nurse who voluteers to visit with the old and infirm...folks like that are the angels in our midst that don't get no play betwixt the cathode rays. These are people you never hear about until the shit hits the fan or a twister touches down in your part of the planet...These people are not flaccid figureheads of domestic/ international policy, actors, media moguls, inventors, musicians, computer entrepranuers, doctors, lawyers or super-rich patricians with too much time on their hands which belies the descriptions of 75% of the lot on the Discovery Channel's "Greatest" reminds me of this Stevie Wonder tune he wrote back in the day called "Black Man" -- as a kid I loved that schoolroom ending where the teacher asks the questions and the kids shout out the names in unison...maybe if more classes were like the one on this song, the people in the TV might've gotten a more thought-provoking list to pick from than the one they've given...maybe that was by design though...Laters

Black Man (by Stevie Wonder)

First man to die. For the flag we now hold high, was a black man (Crispus Attucks)

The ground were we standWith the flag held in our handWas first the redman’s

Guide of a ship, on the first columbus trip. Was a brown man Pedro Alonzo Nino)

The railroads for trains, came on tracking that was laidBy the yellow man

We pledge allegiance all our lives to the magic colors red, blue and white
But we all must be given the liberty that we defend; for with justice not for all men,
History will repeat againIt’s time we learned -- this world was made for all men

Heart surgery was first done successfullyBy a black man (Dr. Daniel Hale Williams)

Friendly man who died. But helped the pilgrims to survive was a redman (Squanto)

Farm workers rights were lifted to new heights. By a brown man. (Cesar Chavez)

Incandescent light was invented to give sight by the white man. (Thomas Edison)

We pledge allegiance all our lives to the magic colors red, blue and white
But we all must be given the liberty that we defend; for with justice not for all men,
History will repeat againIt’s time we learned -- this world was made for all men

Here me out...

Now I know the birthday of a nation. Is a time when a country celebrates.
But as your hand touches your heart.
Remember: We all played a part in America to help that banner wave

First clock to be made in America was created
By a black man (Benjamin Banneker)

Scout who used no chart; helped to lead Lewis and Clark
Was a red woman (Sacagawea)

Use of martial arts in our country got it’s start
By a yellow man (Bruce Lee)

And the leader with a pen who signed his name to free all men
Was a white man (Lincoln)

We pledge allegiance all our lives to the magic colors red, blue and white
But we all must be given the liberty that we defend; for with justice not for all men,
History will repeat againIt’s time we learned -- this world was made for all men

This world was made for all men, This world was made for all men.
This world was made for all men -- God saved his world for all men.
All people.
All babies.
All children.
All colors.
All races.
This world’s for you.
And me
This world. My world. Your world.
Everybody’s world.
This world. Their world. Our world.
This world was made for all men

Here me out...

Who was the first man to set foot on the North Pole?
Matthew Henson - a black man

Who was the first american to show the pilgrims at Plymouth the secrets of survival in the new world?
Squanto - a redman

Who was the soldier of Company G who won high honors for his courage and heroism in World War I?
Sing Lee - a yellow man

Who was the leader of united farm workers and helped farm workersMaintain dignity and respect?
Caesar Chavez - a brown man

Who was the founder of blood plasma and the director of the red crossBlood bank?
Dr. Charles Drew - a black man

Who was the first american heroine who aided the Lewis and Clark Expedition?
Sacagawea - a red woman

Who was the famous educator and semanticist who made outstanding contributions to education in america? Hayakawa - a yellow man

Who invented the world’s first stop light and the gas mask?
Garrett Morgan - a black man

Who was the american surgeon who was one of the founders of Neurosurgery?
Harvey William Cushing - a white man

Who was the man who helped design the nation’s capitol, made the first clock to give time in america and wrote the first almanac? Benjamin Banneker - a black man

Who was the legendary hero who helped establish The League of Iroquois?
Hiawatha - a redman

Who was the leader of the first microbiotic center in america? - a yellow man

Who was the founder of the city of Chicago in 1772?
Jean Baptiste - a black man

Who was one of the organizers of the American Indian Movement?
Dennis Banks - a redman

Who was the jewish financier who raised founds to sponsor Cristopher Columbus’ voyage to America?
Lewis D. Santangol - a white man

Who was the woman who led countless slaves to freedom on the Underground rairoad?
Harriet Tubman - a black woman

I wasn't too certain about that financier for the Columbus "expedition" for obvious reasons but hey, man's cookie is another man's cake...Edison and Lincoln where already on the "Greatest" list...Lates...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Screw the Putsch: The CPB's War on Balanced Public Programming

I've vowed to not get into political disourse in my chronicles because with the bizarro universe we seem to be mired in, that would become an exercise in, there aren't enough hours in the day to keep on top of the seemingly endless stream of subterfuge oozing out of D.C... I'd love to keep things light 'n funny on this thing but lately it's gotten harder to bite my tongue: heed the warning...

Putsch -- pronunciation: 'puch; Etymology: German -- a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government.

Brownshirts -- The SA (Sturmabteilung) or Storm Troops, the private army of the German Nazi party, who derived their name from the color of their uniform.

Over the past few days I've been reading in newspapers and web sites that plans are underway to give the old chop-chop to federal funding which would make it all but impossible for children's educational shows, fine arts programming and the handful of news shows that haven't become total jingoistic shills for the corporate-run news-tainment complex that has made it virtually impossible for the average joe to get any hard news in the mainstream media. We all know that Fox is a joke, CNN is a punchline and I won't even get into what the "big three" tent pole news outlets (ABC,CBS & NBC) have decomposed into...

The recently retired Bill Moyers (winner of over 30 Emmy Awards for his journalistic contributions on the long running "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS ) warned about this sort of thing two years ago. Ironically, he's a part of the this whole ideological snafu as balanced news shows like Moyers' raised the conservative eyebrows of Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board of directors who apparently used CPB funds to do a "study" to see if the guests on Moyers' program were "too liberal" for public consumption. -- the CPB is a private nonprofit organization that allocates federal monies (your dough) to smaller local stations and as such, provide about 15% of public broadcasting's revenue which doesn't make them as beholden to sis-boom-bah for corporations. This new turn of events will place the the "Foxes" in charge of guarding the chicken coop; Tomlinson used to be Michael Powell's bag man back at the FCC (remember the Janet Jackson "titty-gate" cock-up?), dude is pushing to strip public funding from information sources like PBS and NPR and privatize them...which is exactly what all other media veins already are...the truth will have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide in TV and radio lands (where a disproportionate number of Americans cull their information on current events) as the masses are spoon-fed nothing but pop culture, re-runs and sanitized, facsimilies of hard reportage doled out in soundbites and pap-like doses of neutral newspeak -- Americans will be forced to bite down on what Mao Tse Tung called "the candy coated bullet." I'll quote an address Moyers gave last week in which he described the role of the media and what the news has become " provide a firewall of thought and punish journalists who make princes and priests of those we is what people want to keep hidden -- everything else is publicity." That's word, son.

The CPB gets all of it's money appropriated from the taxpayers but with the house overrun with Republicans waiting in the wings to give the snip-snip to publicly funded news and radio, all of this comes off as another Machiavellian power grab to re-direct even more idealogical muscle toward the very few (corporate interests) from the many (all of the rest of us)...Tomlinson's actions are questionable at best and what's scary is that this GOP cheerleader's behind the scenes button-hooking might precipitate the death knell of public broadcasting as we've known The very reason that the CPB was cobbled together was to insure that this sort of thing won't occur again -- Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon tried to put the kibosh on public broadcasting back in his day but fortunately for generations of school age children, he got his hands caught in the Watergate cookie jar...I'd wager that we could light up a city the size of Cleveland with the kinetic energy generated by Benjamin Franklin's spinning corpse...

As I write this, I still wait with abated breath to see if the worm is really turning or if everything I've been seeing transpire from the sidelines of public discourse is just an anomaly...if I've blacked out and am dreaming from my pod or something...If the administration in power has taught me anything, it's that this might be an exercise in the obfuscation of something that's even more hair raising...Rod Serling couldn't have come up with some of these porkie pies that we've been expected to swallow while "the Red State Gang" pooh-poohs the collective intelligence of the hoi poloi...Personally, I say, they're always three steps ahead of the public's reaction...I'm still salty about that thing in Florida, son...everytime something like the above happens, we get headlines and news chatter to the tune of 40 million credit card accounts stolen which is already taking a back seat to the conservative's plan to re-appropriate public broadcasting funds -- it just won't go away. The hue and cry from the public is starting to rise as more and more begin to realize what these amoral thugs are doing to our country as they thump on the "good book while wrapped up in Old Glory. I'd like to think people are starting to wake up from their 6-year slumber and recognize the implications of what "the White House Gang" (or Uncle Scam and the United Snakes, as I like to call 'em) are doing to this country. I think the rivers of denial that the GOP puppet masters have been feeding those of us averse to thinking is starting to dry up -- you can stick your head in the sand for only so long before the fascist-zombie dry-hump becomes abrasive...(yeah Sport, I went there)... To my amazement the CPB story has grown legs as even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives seem to have gotten the zap on their heads. Everybody's a sucker for the truth and let's face it: time marches on and we're never going to return to yesteryear, people...

The halcyon days of getting tucked in by an avuncular "and that's the way it is" from Walter Cronkite have gone the way of the sans-a-belt pant-suit and the platform shoe...Bearing all that in mind, I urge all who read this to check out the links given above and below. (Oh yeah, click on the header to see how you can contact your congressman) Look for commentary from people like Molly Ivins or Matea Gold and Jube Shiver of the L.A. Times. get as close to the loop as you can and check out The Washington Post Get off your arse and shoot on down to the library for informative books like Welcome to Doomsday (a book written by Moyers, no less)...connect the dots for yourself like the late Gary Webb did -- I think many are slowly coming to grips with the fact that information gathering is going to be a required survival skill because mainstream media has become complicit in the big lie. Back in Franklin's time, there were literally hundreds of small publications in circulation (like cyberspace is now) -- some were good, some not so good but there was dialogue (like the blogosphere is now) -- the political and ideological slight of hand trickery that Tomlinson and his ilk are trying to pox on the rest of us from the safety of cognitively insulated boardrooms goes against the grain of what the average working American stands for. It's as if they're walking around in a separate reality while gilding the lily on our rights to know what's going on using journalistic brownshirts on big network TV & neo-CON - radio shows to create an echo-chamber of yes-men -- (automatons like the toxic Ann Coulter and that hooker Jeff Gannon are prototypes, I'd imagine)...screw the (informational) putsch! that I've gotten that off my chest......Laters...

Sidenote: I'm not the religious sort at all but whenever my morality gets called into question by slugs who manage to slime their way through the salt bed of my reality and get "churchy" on me/ my value system, I dress 'em down with passages like "They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge...For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. (Proverbs 8:9 and 8:11)...double lates...we now return to our regularly scheduled chronicles of ridicule, already in progress...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Vince Vaughn: Doubles Down on The Wedding Crashers

Last week I was over at the Four Seasons to cover the junket for NewLine Cinema's upcoming comedy The Wedding Crashers (starring Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams and Jane Seymour) and although I'm not one to jump the gun on such things, I must say that the flick was funny, yo. Animal House funny. I've just gotten around to transcribing the interviews and Vince Vaughn's got country with the jokes and insights. Dude speaks on shooting Psycho, cruising for booty with Jon Favreau, working with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on Mr. & Mrs. Smith as well as The Breakup -- an upcoming joint he's set to shoot with Jennifer Aniston. The Wedding Crashers doesn't open until July 15th. Go check it out because it's been a minute since an R-rated comedy has been out...that's funny. Before you start reading, let me sort you out: in the film, Vaughn's character (Jeremy) gets his "carrot waxed" while sitting at the table with the "waxee's" parents -- we started from there...

Q: Okay, so was it a stunt crotch or what?

A: Well Uhhhh (laughs) You know, I don't know because some of the scenes we filmed, we went back to re-shoot because we had a gag that read just a 'little weird'. So no, not all of that is me under the table.

Q: What did you think when you read that scene?

A: It's one of those things that you're like 'this could be funny' or it could be really 'not funny' -- you just have to go for it, you know? There's no half-assing it with a scene like that, you just have to really go for it but you don't know. When you're doing a scene like that you can't look for set (crew) laughs, you just have to stay in the moment -- as stupid as it sounds -- and just try to be as connected to that as you can. (laughs) But you can't have anything enter your mind except this is happening and I'm in this moment -- Dave (Dobkin) did a great job of putting it together. So much of it is (in) the editing, if it was edited differently it could've come off really poorly, I'm sure.

Q: You ever get embarrassed while shooting "compromising scenarios?"

A: I think prior to them you have self consciousness and that's kind of the work that you put into them. It's like, if you play a sport -- which I was never very good at but it's an analogy anyway -- but if you play a sport and you don't know your plays, you're nervous. You don't know where to go, you're hesitant. You're thinking, you're in your head but if you know what you're supposed to do then you're just reacting -- muscle memory. And the same thing is true, I've had a lot of scenes I've looked at on page and went 'Jesus! What am I going to do here?' but you just do so much preparation in your mind that when you get there, you're not thinking of those things. You have to do enough work so that you're just reacting.

Q: There's a scene in Psycho which is not in the Hitchcock version...

A: Yeah, that scene was very important to me -- that was my idea -- and I always felt that when people said to me "that doesn't make any sense', I'd say to me it made sense in that it's usually the sex drive that happens that's not controllable. In that moment of those urges and wants the release happens and you're no longer driven physically but you're peaceful as far as your drive is concerned -- that's when the guilt and regret would come in. How many times have you slept with someone and after you're like 'I shouldn't be sleeping with that person' or whatever. So, to me that made perfect sense that once that release happens, he would then transform and the guilt and regret would come in. But it's not as strong, in my mind, if it's able to stop the urge. The urge is stonger, it overcomes him and then that kicks in -- to me, that always made more sense.

Q: You've played some big, broad moments -- in Dodgeball, certainly. How difficult is it to play those moments so huge and what's the challenge to have a dramatic moment that still works?

A: Yeah, so much of it is tone and informing the audience that the movie could go in either direction. In Dodgeball, it was really different because I'm kind of the lead who's the sane man in an insane world -- I'm sort of like Dorothy in that movie. In this movie, I'm more like the tin man -- I could be a little more crazy, a little more motivated because it's not my burden to carry the movie when you see the movie through my eyes. My favorite kind of comedy was always like the Bad News Bears...48 Hours is a great comedy because comedy that comes out of awkwardness or pain or things that are uncomfortable (makes it) so that it feels good to laugh. Like in Swingers when Favreau makes that phone call, you know what it's like. It's painful but it also makes you laugh. So I think you get into a movie like
this, there's a fine line between tension and laughing at it or feeling akward about it.

Q: Do you see yourself playing the party-animal character into your 60's and 70's?

A: If there's a God, let's hope so. (laughs) I don't know, what I liked about this, my favorite scene -- well, one of my favorite scenes -- is that scene at the Lincoln Memorial. The guys are realizing 'we're getting older...we're not in our mid-twenties, we're in our mid-thirties and it's not feeling the same'. Those kind of moments, I think, are real and I think it's something that works because me and Owen are older and I think it works in that moment -- our screen history helps with that too.

Q: Did you base this character, Jeremy, on anybody in particular? Anyone in your family or something? It kind of looks like a mixture of Trent (Swingers) and Beanie (Old School) -- like joining the two different characters in the middle.

A: No, I kind of thought of him as like the big, loveable friend who loves life, loves to eat kind of like a big kid. I thought of myself as a big, innocent kid. Like 'I really do love weddings, I don't just -- yes, I want to meet the girls and that's exciting but I want to go with my friend and I want to laugh and want to go eat cake and I want to dance. I want to make the wedding fun, I want them to have a good time at their wedding, I'm not trying to ruin their wedding: I want the groom to have a good time. I like to commit, in that moment, that we've been friends forever and I'm happy for you, there's nothing to explain about it. (laughs) Plus that feeling of creating that in his life, I think that (Jeremy's) kind of innocent and happy and like how I deal with Owen when things go bad -- it's like 'I'm mad, I want to go home' -- like the sleepover's over with. Very much like a big child and I think that they're forgiven for some of their shortcomings because there is such an innocence and genuiness to them. And when they're forced to respond to some of their ill behavior they do, ultimately, change and evolve. But yeah, more of like that big loveable
friend who's like a big kid.

Q: These guys were selling all kinds of crazy with their pickup lines in the movie. Did you and your friends ever use
one that actually works?

A: We were much geekier than that. Whenever I'd go out with my friends, we'd get bored sometimes and so we'd give each other lines that you have to say -- to raise the degree of difficulty. You have to say these lines and you can't back off of them. You can't be like 'ahh, my friends gave me these lines and I have to say them' -- you have to own them because that's who you are. For example: 'excuse me if I appear to be squinting. But I was up really late last night painting miniature elves.' what else have I said...oh yeah, 'you know, sometimes when I'm out in public -- and there's a lot of people around -- I get real nervous and tense, I just picture myself swimming with dolph0ns and I start to calm down and relax.' (laughs) You know, really kind of odd things and you'd be surprised by how many people go "What? What does that mean?" But some people are like: "Totally!"

Q: That's past-tense, you don't really try that stuff out now do you?

A: Sometimes, I'm sure I do. If I'm like out and I'd just joke around and say stuff but like when I was youger, no. When I was younger, we would go out -- there's a couple of cases when me and (Jon) Favreau would even, full-on, play like -- we were more into comedy, like geeks -- we'd go out and try to make ourselves laugh.

Q: Any "Swingers Moment" in particular?

A: Here was one that was interesting: Me and Favreau went out this one time -- he and I never really got girls "together', really. One time we both picked up girls together. Separately, we got girls but together it never really worked out for us, it was jokes, jokes, jokes. So this one time, we're playing these (roles) and I'm playing it like I'm really sensitive and I want to be in a relationship. And he played to the extreme that he doesn't care about relationships, it's pathetic and he just wants to have sex. We would talk and I'd be like: "You're such an animal. I can't believe that you'd do that to that girl. And he'd be like: "Well what about you? All you want to do is hold her and comb her hair." And I'd be like: "Because I respect her as an equal..." and they like him more! (laughs) They liked the guy that was more like "whatever" ...We went to these extremes with this one group of girls and so it was funny -- the one thing about improv is that once you say something, you can't deny it or it kills everything.

Q: Did you and Owen get to ad-lib much in this film?

A: Well, the writers wrote a great script and the concept was great but Owen and I did customize a lot of the lines -- juiced it up. A lot of them we had done or would do prior to shooting -- it wasn't like we'd make up lines as we shot. We would sit and write and come up with stuff prior to shooting the scenes.

Q: Any similarities with working with Owen and Luke Wilson on a film?

A: Yeah, they're both bright guys and they both have a nice, sarcastic sense of humor to them.

Q: You think this film might inspire copycat crashers?

A: (feigns seriousness) You know, as an artist I can't be responsible for how people interpret the material...

Q: There's a lot lesss of these rated "R" comedies these days, what did you think of the rating put on Wedding Crashers?

A: I tell you, I grew up loving those rated-R comedies like Animal House and for me it's like: if you're doing an adult
themed comedy called Wedding Crashers, what are you going to do? You got to get into it and it's fun to get into it. There's a lot of pressure NOT to make rated-R movies but if you do make a rated-R movie, then there's a pressure to be shocking just for shock's sake -- I mean you don't want to do that either. I don't want to try do anything to out-gross everybody, that's not my style. I don't want to go and be shocking just to see everybody's response. If it makes sense throughout the course of the film, then it's great. This movie "wants to be R" -- for language and also the dinner table scene and the tying up scene and that kind of stuff -- I think you'd just have a "glass of milk" if you didn't have that stuff in the movie.

Q: Did they ever talk about making this movie PG-13?

A: I'm sure it was...but we were all from the git like "here we go" so I don't know what it was before that but you can't do Wedding Crashers and make it a G movie. I mean, what could you do?

Q: Do you even like weddings?

A: I do like weddings, even moreso now because you develop a respect for it when you look at it from the good side of it, there's something really fun. There is something optimistic, if only for that night, even the most sarcastic people don't really say: "this is never going to last." (laughs) There's something hopeful. I like the optimism of the wedding (ceremony). And the coming together of's a celebration!

Q: Would you prefer a big wedding or a small wedding?

A: Probably a small wedding.

Q: How hard has it been to re-assert yourself into comedy because there's been a succession of darker material like Domestic Disturbance, Psycho, of course and even Clay Pigeons. Was all of this by accident or design?

A: I never plan stuff. When I broke from Swingers I was offered MAINLY comedies but I didn't like any of them. None of them made me laugh, it just wasn't my taste. I liked Return to Paradise, I liked those movies and I wanted to do those movies and then Old School came about and I thought it was funny. And then I realized -- from the studios -- if they didn't think I was good at comedy (movies), if they never thought that I did comedies, then it would be a hard time for me to get a chance to do comedy and now I get offered a lot of comedies but it was never a planned thing. I get bored. I liked playing the character in Dodgeball because he's the straight, lead of the movie and then I liked playing (Jeremy) because he's the guy that gets to push the envelope, comedically. And then I like the role I have in upcoming film with (Jennifer) Anniston because it's a more of a traditional romantic comedy. So I like to change it up and do stuff to stay motivated. To grow.

Q: What's up with this flick with Aniston?

A: It's a comedy called The Break Up. All of the romantic comedy scripts that you get always have a really dumb concept, for some reason. It's like, 'if you marry her, you'll get a million dollars' or 'hey I know, I'll do a report for my magazine on the dating habits of New Yorkers or something insane. Like where's the concept? Relationships are off the reservation anyway. So, I like the movie The Odd Couple so I thought "why not do a movie called The Break Up where it's kind of a buddy film. But this is more of a traditional romantic comedy where you have a couple that bought a condo together, they split the mortgage, it takes both of their jobs to pay for it -- they're not married -- and they break up but they're stuck in this place together but (they're) wanting to get out...I want it to come out around Valentine's Day because every guy hates Valentine's Day -- even if you're in love you can't win on damn Valentine's Day, married you can't win on Valentine's Day -- Valentine's Day is like the thing you want to avoid at all costs. (laughs)...I want to come out this Valentine's Day with a break up!

Q: You think of that as a too high concept to be believable, considering the setting?

A: Not really because it's a couple living together that breaks up. I couldn't see the concept the way of [shooting] something unorganic like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or that kind of thing. I think something like Meet the Parents isn't high concept in that you DO meet someone's parents. That is the natural flow of life. I mean when there's some imposed concept that's like nothing that ever happens in real life that they always seem to go to. Most of these romantic comedies, if you look at them, have a forced concept to them. That's why I think something like the Jennifer Lopez film [Monster In-Law] that came out and Meet the Parents worked is because those are things that really happen in life. Some might think that Meet the Parents is on the other side of Monster In-Law but those films are more truthful to life. I think that, sometimes, the bigger concepts are just, to me -- I don't really understand them, it just doesn't seem real to me.

Q: You've started filming it yet?

A: We start shooting a week from Monday.

Q: Have you met Jennifer already?

A: Yeah, she's great and she's funny. One of the things I liked about The Break Up was, a lot of times in these comedy scripts the girls are stuck laughing at what the guy says whether the guy's funny or not. The guy is like funny as hell in this movie -- my character's like the crazy, zany character but by default I become the straight man when I'm infused with her. She becomes the comic relief and I'm the guy where you go: this guy's normal and she's out there. I like that she got to be the comedic drive and really funny with it so in The Break Up Jen get's to be really funny, she is really funny [in person] and she's also a good actor. Favreau's going to be in the movie, playing my best friend, Vincent D'onofrio plays my older brother, Cole Hauser plays my younger brother, John Michael Higgins -- a very good actor, is in the movie -- plays Jennifer's brother, Justin Long from Dodgeball is in the movie and Jason Bateman.

Q: What's the optimism in The Break Up?

A: Well, the optimism is that in life not everything works out perfectly. But you can learn about yourself and respond and become someone who's in a better place. Why is the burden on, to some degree, everything working out? I think the real burden on it is: what did I learn from this experience and how could I do it differently the next time? I think most people go through a lot of break ups before they meet 'that person' or even are in a place where they are open to be in a relationship. So, sometimes those things even fuels or are looked at negatively versus having a perspective of celebration and thankfulness for that light and how it touched you...The fact that you broke up doesn't mean that the world ends -- sometimes, it means that it just begins. And when you come out on the other side -- both people -- you come to understand this isn't really about whether we end up together, it's more about were you deficient in why you chose this person to date? And so you get to a place where you're more evolved and respond to that. So, I always thought that the focus is wrong. Some people are in relationships that they shouldn't be in but they watch these movies and go "oh, I got to make this relationship work to be happy." I don't agree with that. I think that sometimes the best thing that you can do is get out of a relationship -- that becomes the positive benefit.

Q: Is that how it's a romantic comedy?

A: Yeah, you'll see. (laughs)

Q: Well, what's your best break up?

A: There's no such thing as a 'best break up'. But like I said, you try to learn from them and not repeat the same mistakes, I guess.

Q: What brought you into Mr. and Mrs. Smith, your friendship with Doug Liman?

A: Yeah, I did Swingers and he called me and asked me 'would you do a cameo in this movie?' and I said 'sure'. And then he said would you do a couple more days?' and I was like, 'yeah, sure' and the next thing you know, I'm in the trailer for the film. (laughs) I don't even take billing on the movie because I wanted to be a surprise for everyone. But I really like Doug, I respect him as a film maker. Doug has a way of making movies work -- he's not someone who's always understood in his journey by people but he's four for four in my opinion. He does have an intelligence there that's not conveyable in a traditional way but effective. I felt very confident that the movie would be worthwhile. I liked Brad and Angelina's work and, for me, it was fun to get to go on and play around -- I got to write a lot of the scenes I did in that movie and I had a great time doing it.

Q: What do you think of all the hoopla about the supposed "relationship" that evolved between those two on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith? Did you sit back and laugh or go "thank God it's not me or what?

A: I never really get into it all that much. I don't spend a lot of my time focusing on that stuff -- it's kind of a non-issue to me...

Wedding Crashers opens nation wide on July 15, 2005, go see it, yo...Laters...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Koyaanisqatsi: Your Future Begins The Day After Yesterday

I just peeped a DVD of "The Day After Tomorrow" which came out last year and quickly faded from theaters. I went to see it before it disappeared but I do recall tripping off of how science shite I'd read years before had finally made it onto the big screen. The flick reminded me of articles and books that I'd read years beforehand about ice ages, paleoanthropology...and global warming. As of this writing there are massive blackouts stretching all across the state of Texas which are not unlike what happened to us out here in Cali just a short while back -- which lead to the election of "Der Governator" and all kinds of crazy but that's another post altogether: that's another post...When you look at all of the empirical data we have it would seem like a no-brainer for us to start getting serious about alternative fuel sources/ using mass transit but alas, we haven' least not yet and still the earth gets warmer...

Paleoclimatologists have found that there have been three very distinct weather shifts on our planet's surface by examining ice cores (long pole-like samples extracted from glaciers all over the world) and parsing out the chemical components of the ice layers therein -- each respective year's climate history can be ascertained just like they can by reading the rings in a tree's trunk.The first ice age occurred about 600 million years ago, the second about 275 million years ago and the third began 1.5 million years ago -- the last being relatively recent in geological terms -- it ended only 15,000 years ago. This violent shift in temperature on the earth's crust that precipitates the spread of glaciers all over the world's surface for thousands of years is called an ice age and it ain't no joke, son...

In addition to the ice findings above, oceanographers have discovered that our weather patterns are shaped by the world's ocean currents . The scientist have found that once sea salt (brought up by currents from warmer climes) reaches the Northern Hemisphere it gathers in the colder waters, becomes and then drops to the ocean floor in dense columns of saline, the funneling of all of this watery mass, in turn, creates the motion of what's called the global ocean conveyor. According to these scientists, it takes roughly 2,000 years for water that starts flowing from one point to return to it under normal circumstances which is predicated on a delicate balance of salt water and freshwater getting mixed and redistributed across the planet in other configurations such as rain, snow, sleet, fog, hail, etc. All of this is a self correcting system but we good old homo sapiens and our need for burning fossil fuels, animal husbandry and sewage treatment are dumping way more freshwater into the seas than is needed to retain equilibrium-- one of these things isn't as necessary as the other two -- so it's causing an imbalance in the distribution of sea salt (the pulleys that run the engine of global weather patterns) and all of this is slowly starting to affect us all meteorologically...

See, once this system reaches a critical desalinization point (due to huge chunks of icebergs melting and falling into the ocean as a result of warming trends on the earth's surface) the flow of sea salt stops which halts the conveyor belt's motion and renders the movement of water into a stasis -- and what we know as an ice age ensues. This does not bode well for anybody anywhere. You might be inclined to say, "get real tree hugger," but I'm not that guy -- far from it. I've done my dirt too but I still try to work out ways to do my part (thus this piece and why I've opted not to buy a car after all -- I got a new bike instead, yo). Like George Carlin once asked during a rant about getting serious about recycling: "Leave the earth alone...Haven't we done enough?"

A couple of years ago, Carlin had a bit in his stand-up routine where he compared humans that live on the surface of the earth to ticks on the back of a dog. Just a nuisance...a pest that could be easily vanquished into oblivion by the shake of the tail..."just ask those people frozen in stone at Pompeii, if they feel like a threat to the planet," he joked -- prescient material (his rants get raves) but dude was just expounding on the concept of earth-as-organism that humans from the Olduvai Gorge to Teotihuacán knew for thousands of years hence -- one name that comes to mind right now is the goddess Gaia. Back in the 60's James Lovelock gave the latter a modern twist that he called "The Gaia Hypothesis" which is the concept that the earth itself is a gigantic living, breathing organism; an entity onto itself comprised of the biota (all of the living organisms) and the biosphere (essentially, the crust where everything is born, lives and dies)...

It's obvious that I'm no scientist but I do believe that science is one of the most important learning tools that we humans have cobbled together during our brief stay on this planet. I think there's a reason that we've been rewarded with the facility of abstract thought which allows us to plan ahead ie. hunter gatherers who rigged their daily schedules to match those of the migrating herds or realizing that we have to "spring forward and fall back" during the solstices -- on the Animal Planet playing field we're the evolutionary cocks of the walk, so to speak, but I think we've been patting ourselves on the back a trifle much -- maybe my belief in cognitive entropy isn't so unfounded after all. We've got all of this knowledge of what has happened -- and is definitely going to happen again -- yet nothing's being done to insure that we're better prepared than our loin cloth-wearing ancestors for the next "big chill." It may not happen today or tomorrow or even next month but "Mr. Freeze" is definitely set to make another appearance (I'm not talkin' about Schwarzenegger, either)...the real "Mr. Cold Meiser" is just biding his time, to really catch us with our trousers around our ankles, I'd imagine...

A couple of years ago a friend of mine gave me a tape called Koyaanisqatsi and I was blown away. There's no dialogue at all, just music (by Philip Glass) and time-elapsed film footage of various nature scenes from locales all over the world. I saw shite that I'll probably never see in the flesh in my lifetime (though I'll try) and I remember thinking how modern "civilized" man had began to think of himself as a seperate entity from the planet and how wrong that is. Not to get all "circle of life/ as the wheel affords you" but I still feel that way and highly recommend that flick and The Day After Tomorrow (click header for link) to those remotely interested in the living, breathing planet that we call earth...petroleum/ gasoline is a finite fuel source so there definitely has to be a bottom to the can, rules of supply and demand ring hollow in the face of that fact...I just hope we can get with the sun/ wind/ waters for power supply before the well runs dry...the next time you pick up your car keys to drive five blocks away, ask yourself (like Daffy Duck did the cartoons) "is this trip really necessary?...Laters.

Sidenote: The word "Koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi Indian noun for "life out of balance; crazy life; life in turmoil; life disintegrating; a state of life that calls for another way of living"...I like that last's holds more promise than the one before it...double laters...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Keep Your Friends Close...

I wrote this after a two week stint of partying with old friends from back East who came out to L.A. for a visit...I observed behavior in my pals and myself that I'd learned to overlook and wrote a little bit about it...Initially I was going to pitch the idea to a couple of lad mags but never got around to it...oh, well -- maybe next time. Anyhoozle, I thought it was funny, so I'll post it here and remember: if you can't laugh at yourself, you're hopeless...

My grandmother used to tell me "Mr. Get-with-it" (a nickname that speaks volumes about what kind of kid I was) “You're only as good as the company you keep, so be careful of the people you surround yourself with in life." As a child I never really grasped the concept but now that I'm older and a tad more experienced in the ways of the world, I've come to realize that Granny was handing me pearls of wisdom. While her advice is applicable in many aspects of everyday encounters I've found that it has become an efficient divining tool that helps me better categorize those that I interact with on a regular basis - my friends...

Like myself, one day you might look around at the people in your immediate circle and ask yourself, "who in the hell are these people and why do I even hang around them in the first place?" Don't feel too bad, Sport, that's a good thing because sometimes you got to clean house. Further, it might be high time to discern which of your pallies is a potential threat to your well being and which are just lookin' for love in all the strange places. Don't sweat it, we all get the urge to shake off loose-end-friends from time to time, it's just imperative that you know what and who you're dealing with when you appraise your buddies' rank and file...

After leaving school, young men no longer have unlimited access to locker-rooms, frat-houses or dining hall settings to build foundations of friendships on, so many of us form bonds at the good ole watering hole. Be it happy hour or after hours, if you indulge in the "nectar of the grain gods" then you have undoubtedly been to the same bar more than once, seeking comfort "where everybody knows your name." That's not an altogether bad thing -- menfolk got needs too. Thing is, the people you meet sober over a few cocktails in a bar can soon characteristically morph into a totally different pesona altogther - some quicker than others. Despite my grandmother's advice I've still had to learn my lessons the hard way by mixing in with the wrong crowd, suffering numerous Machiavellian back-stabbings and getting sucked into embarassing pie-in-the-face embroglios while patronizing crowded establishments. This does not have to be your fate...

While the text-book, Oxford Dictionary definitions run in the hundreds for varying degrees of behavior, it seems that alcohol whittles the list down exponentially into a more manageable handful of archetypes. I've encountered one (sometimes more) of the following traits in each and every one of my suds buds -- some I've even seen in myself at times. How does that help you? Immensely, take a gander at the hit list and see if you know any of these men, if you yourself aren't an offender. I defy any man (who has had a drink in the company of other men) who refutes that these people do exist but I'm not looking for a fight, I'm here to help, and help you I will. Retain your objectivity, read on, and you too will be able to discern who's who in your party world...

Firstly, you must learn to beware Dr.Octopus. The good doctor is also known as Mr. "Touchy - Feely" or "Chester Molester." You know him, that guy who can't seem to take his meathooks off of women that he barely knows once he's had a few in him. Normally, Dr. O. is the bestest of buds, he's the go-to guy when the chips are down, he'll bail you out with cover fire during a tight squeeze in chivalric wing man style, but once he's had a few oat sodas or a couple of shots, he turns into "Hands-Gone-Wild" and can no longer be trusted - at least until he's sober again. In the spirit of Megellan, Chuck Yeager and RuPaul, Dr. O. likes to test the boundaries of your comraderie as a stand-up guy on the one hand while chinking away in the coal mines of bad taste and tittie rubs on the other. He'll buy this round for sure but while you're at the bar he's frisking your woman who's forced to fend him off with crash-course moves she had to learn on the fly at her Tae Bo class. Take note, dude always arrives alone and is constantly on the make. Who's Dr.Octopus in your pack of pals? Just ask your girlfriend or one of her friends. I'm told women know that there's always at least one wherever the sexes commingle, always -- just pray it isn't you, good buddy...

How many times have you been out 'n about and actually wanted to pay the tab yourself only to get beat to the punch by your chum with the platinum cards that daddy pays for? (yeah you, you cheap bastard). Initially it's cool but the fun will quickly dissipate when you kick it with Daddy's Warbucks, Jr. or Mr. " I got this one," usually a trusta-farian who fell ass backwards into a pile of money by some other unforseeable means. Since many members of the "L.S.C." (Lucky Sperm Club) tend to sort out life's wrinkles by throwing wads of money at them, they sometimes lack the interpersonal skills needed by those of us who actually have to toil in the fields for our food and lodging. It can be a real schlep hanging with someone who has to purchase friendships with gifts - this implies ulterior motives. The sense of entitlement that some of this lot can lay on you are not unlike the guilt trips that women tend to hide up their sleeves until the time is right to strike. When you're unavailable, Warbucks will call you out with a multi-layered case supported by an unwarranted itemization of past "good-deeds" rendered in "friendship." This is when D.W. turns into his alter ego, Needy Petey, so be privy - that is unless you're prepared to join him for windy walks in WeHo, which is cool if that's how you take your coffee...

"Willie Spilly" is a combination of Dr. O. (without all the grab-assing) and Mr. Needy (sans the big ticket purchases). Willie is the marathon drinker who's perpetually on the mother-of-all-benders and his catch phrase is: "You're not bailing on me now, are you?" He can be fun and he can hold his liquor but he's you're liver's worst nightmare personified. In a spirit contrary to Mayberry's town drunk Otis Campbell, Senor Spilly wants to get faded, like yesterday -- and wants eight or nine of his buddies as accomplices to join him. Stay sharp at all times around this one, for he'll suck you into his world as he regales you with alcohol addled tales of debauchery sprinkled with salty jokes and asides and then BOOM, the next thing you know you're drunk too. Bear in mind that Willy's social schedule defies convention, a holdover from the good ole days back at Mad James U. (or wherever you went to school) and it will all catch up with you both, ultimately. The best thing to do is to pull a Heisman on Will and keep the relationship marginal while maintaining lines of communication from time to time - you don't have to be a total hard ass though, dude just wants to have fun. On that same token, too much of anything can be bad for you, so if you find yourself shaken awake in a hungover fog on the bathroom floor of a Philippine cathouse, don't say you
weren't warned...

Here is another of your buds borne from the suds. As in most cases, he's a straight arrow when he's "undiluted" but once the barley and hops start percolating, hold the phone and make way for Chatty Charles (Cathy's brother). Charles' views and opinions are the right ones and you're just a squirrel, in his intellectual world, trying to get a nut. There is nothing you can bring up that Chuck can't refute, revise or anotate so don't try, just nod acceptingly and back away. "CC" is a veritable well spring of knowledge, for all intents and purposes, but no one likes to be reminded of their cognitive shortcomings on an hourly basis. In short, Charles can become long in the tooth and boring which (amazingly) reveals an upside to having him around. Charles is an excellent wing-man when you have to delve into topical debate, be it at an office party or hosting your own gathering with co-workers at your place - he can help distract attention from your lack of knowledge on such wide ranging topics as the Battle of Bannockburn, Neolithic hunting tools or the migration patterns of Grey whales. Just pull the string and let 'em go, he'll never stop yammering and he's bound to keep at lest a couple of people in attendance from finding the stash in your toilet bowl because a steady stream of conversational escapees will run for the can on the regular to seek reprieve from the Gettysburg Address taking place in your living room...

Lastly on the list of ne'er do wells that you call your running partners is the one least popular on all fronts who always manages to pop up like a turd in a punchbowl - Po' Boy. This mooch never has dough but always wants to party. The polar opposite of Daddy's Warbucks, Po' Boy turns into Joe Pesci when it's time to pay the tab -- he always comes up short. Keep your hand on your wallet in this one's company because he's counting your cash closer than you are. Although he's a likeable schlub for all intents and purposes, he continually depends on your Robin Hood tendacies with missives to "help him out this time," but the problem is that this time was also the last time and the time before that. In fact, you might be hard pressed to pinpoint exactly when this liquored up lamprey ever deigned to finance his part of a bar tab. If you can't bring yourself to give him the trap door, at least introduce him to D.W. and see if they form a sembiotic bond of some kind - like killing two birds with one stone, yo...

For many it can be disconcerting to see how bad their character judgement might be and still others are glad to finally figure out the dealio on their compatriots and make the necessary adjustments to their social schedule. Bear in mind that not all of your buds possess the traits mentioned above. If you're lucky only a couple of these actually apply to your drink-dawgs. On the other hand if you're familiar with all of them then you got some serious 'splainin to do. There are many twists on the road to truth and more than one will steer you through regions you'd rather not visit - valuating your friendships is one of them. I didn't say it was going to be pretty, I just said that I'd show you what I've seen...Laters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Who Needs Enemas?

Everyone's heard outrageous tales of people paying their dues while trying to make their way in the world. Out here in L.A. there's no shortage of survival anecdotes because everyone's on the make in this town -- at any given moment you're bound to run into somebody who'll do whatever it takes to get them one step closer to their desired goal, whatever the cost. Let's face it, we've all got our crosses to bear but that doesn't mean that we should silently take it in the pants, cross our fingers and hope for the best. I've long embraced the fact that the only consistency in life is the inconsistency therein: Danger Will Robinson, Arseholes ahead!... Indeed, at points one has to get stroppy and fight to hold on to a modicum of self respect by kicking life/ duplicitous transgressors in the nuts...or risk getting cornholed without vaseline...YOWCH!...Still, you gotta take some chances too, yo...

"If you don't have anything to write about, try hanging yourself. If you succeed, then your worries are over. If you fail, then you have something to write about," Ernest Hemingway once said when asked if he had any advice for aspiring writers mired in the mental cul de sac called writer's block. I'm more than sure that Martha Gellhorn's bones are break-dancin' whenever someone utters that last one, considering the creative hell she went through after marrying the old man and the sea; the creative pains that she had to endure as a writer married to him must've been soul-deadening but you need more than a silver bullet to kill a strong spirit...

In her day, Martha was a courageous woman of letters (click header for pics, books, linkage, etc). Girlfriend traveled all over the world to cover wars, people and current events in a time when sisters (of any color) weren't allowed to do things for themselves...she had chutzpah, moxie and game which enabled her to cover the Depression and file reportage from the frontlines of the Spanish Civil War (where she met Ernie H.) and much more. The articles she penned and the assignments she took made her quite the trailblazer to be certain (her short stories and essays were hella tight too, yo) but I do recall reading a Gellhorn piece she wrote about always living in the shadow of her ex; always feeling like she had to prove herself over and over...despite the tone of that one piece, Gellhorn kept on writing, even when the chips were down. You can't get very far in this world sans a thick hide, I've learned but sometimes I have to remind myself by reading the shite others have scribed to push on, Martha for example...she was one tough biotch...

Once I had to contact a publicist, to inform her that a piece I'd written about the cast of a production she was working on had been printed and was on the wire. She'd given me her card during the press day and told me to call her so I zapped her on the blower. I couldn't reach her on her mobile so I called her at home -- sometimes she worked out of her office there -- her husband answered the phone. This was 11 in the morning, mind you, but he spoke in a very cloak-and-dagger tone from the start; "who is this? how did you get this number -- try her work phone;" click, dial-tone. People like that really put the "ho" in asshole and LA is filled to overflowing with these types who think everybody's on the make or trying to get a boot in the door -- which I was and am, admittedly but not in that particular instance. I was honestly doing the follow-up I'd committed myself to back at the junket -- I can be called many things but a liar is not one of them. To be sure, I'm not one of those pillow-biters who cold calls people to shop my wares once I get connected to them, that could be professional suicide 'round here -- it's also why scaling the vaunted walls of the ivory towers is so competitive. I think it's nature's way of weeding out all of the hacks without the minerals/ talent to persevere and Martha's not the only example I look to for solace...

Ornette Coleman, the avant garde jazz sax-man/ guru, came out here with an act from Texas who summarily kicked him out of the group once they heard him "get loose" during their first live performances as an outfit on stage -- they'd hired him without auditioning him. Stuck in a town where he knew nobody, dude was forced to take odd jobs (no one would hire him as a musician) and eventually he was a lift operator in a department store -- a job he held for years. If put in the same position, many would've thrown in the towel, tucked tail and scampered back to Texas but not Coleman. Homebiscuit held on to his job working the elevator and practiced on his axe in his car during breaks -- that's dedication, son...I strive to have those kind of grapes... Eventually "the O-ster" made the jazz cognescenti sit up and take notice because although his shite was waaay out, there was a method to his madness. There was structure...his approach could be learned by others...Coleman just played in 3-D which ultimately expanded the genre's landscape and helped establish what would be called "Avante Garde." Charles Mingus and Coltrane were 'bout it-bout it when it came to the new style, hell, Coleman's groundbreaking Free Jazz LP featured a painting by Jackson Pollack -- the painter who worked the Avant Garde angle with acrylics and canvas. You'll never catch posers like Kenny G attempting to play this least not in a crowded room....

I've never suffered fools well and somehow it began to feel like that was all I was doing. I found myself struggling to recall why I started to pursue writing in the first place. It wasn't for glory. It wasn't to chronicle the minutia of the every day lives of the modern action hero or take minutes on the vacuous prattle of that week's hot new starlet/ ingenue/ tomorrow's has-been and it certainly wasn't for the money... I was listening to "The Monk & the Nun," a tune cut by Coleman, Don Cherry (Neneh and Eagle Eye's daddy) and Charlie Haden when the bricks fell on me. I was reminded of why I liked writing in the first place, the discoveries; those moments of crystal-clarity when the synapses and the pinions of the working mind, lock onto a concept that had been foreign just a short while ago; the tapping of the inner self endemic to the process of constructing a piece that would say precisely what you were thinking to the world -- the sharing of ideas...

Working on the entertainment beat, I inevitably cross paths with scribes who have forgotten these things. They've become jaded; the spirit of the enterprise has been smothered in them and it can wilt the creative elan in the best of us. If you combine these types with "the dots" (what I call people who who are connected and try to use that to finagle freelancers out of dough by stringing them along), you can find yourself locked into a snit of Torquemadian proportions to say the least. While its still fun to break through that fourth wall and meet interesting people in the show biz world, I've still had to manuever through lots of disappointments and cock-ups while paying my dues with an endless cast of unsavory types who appeared to be living breathing Hollywood cliches. I've also had my share of "casting couch moments" but I haven't caved yet -- yeah, men go through that shite out here too, yo. All puns aside, I'll bend before I break. In for a penny, in for a pound and over the years I've learned that retaining your self respect is a highly under-valued commodity...If you're unable to live with yourself because of the things you've done while on the quest for a fulfilling existence, then you've missed the boat. That exercise has been rendered moot...

After taking a closer look, I realized that I have nothing but thanks for my encounters with the pschologically stunted lot of "insiders" who try to throw salt in my game because, sure as you're born (as James Brown would say), I'm sure that my time will come. That's not to say there won't be any struggles 'n scrapes -- there's always going to be those -- and sometimes one finds that an inordinate proportion of hurt will come from those he/she trusts. "With friends like these, who needs enemas," some might say but wouldn't life be dull if everyday was a cakewalk? Constructs like love, hate, fidelity and betrayal keeps things interesting. You gotta embrace the yin as well as that yang, kid. Personally, whenever I'm caught in a scrape while trying to carve a pathway through the underbrush in the jungle of life, I get with a little "Ornette ontology" or I do a "hail Martha" and pray for my tenacity to remain uncracked, to make sure my walk corresponds with my talk -- in order to break on through to the other side of those doors of perception when all I want to do is try and run, try to hide...all of that said, everyone loves a winner but without risk, there's no reward...Laters...