Martin Scorsese Notes: Film is Dead

 A trending blog post mentioned a comment by Martin Scorsese. His opinion was that words and images don’t mean anything anymore.


Born at the end of the modern era, it was still the 20th century when I was bit by the film bug.  In the 70’s the world technically crossed over into the postmodern age, but everybody I knew in the first 23 years of my life was still living in the modern past.  Maybe because “The Event” hadn’t happened yet…the thing that would serve as wake-up call to jolt us from our traditions of comfort and force us to recognize the world was changing…9/11.  It was either that or the reality that modernism was all we knew.  Whatever the reason, all that academic discourse I was exposed to in those last two years, concepts like postmodernism, the dialectic, and the promulgation of ideas across all western cultures didn’t really sink in.  I guess, like everyone else, I was focused on the pop obsession of the time; the fear that the end was neigh because those in charge of our new world, a.k.a the computers, would all cough, sputter, cache their last bit of data, and bite the digital dust in a super-synchronized sub-millisecond.  Another problem with not being able to absorb all that thinky mumbo-jumbo was that, unlike the theoretical ideology of the communications sciences (yes…it is a science), the film school (full disclosure: the degree is a bachelor of Science in communications) was fun which makes for a pretty handy distraction from all that real world stuff.  This distinction was made even more potent by my background in the arts.  As a youth, I dabbled in drawing and put in 5 solid years of piano and trombone.  Even with that formal training starting at a very young age plus 4 years of fudging around with a guitar, I just couldn’t find a way to creatively plug in until I stumbled onto film.  Thanks to my resurrected passion for the arts as an undergrad, I became hopelessly optimistic that I would graduate with a brilliant thesis film at the ready, receive acceptance letters to the top three festivals of my choice, get noticed by a slew of agents and studio execs and boom…T minus 10 to dream job (If you went to film school and you say your expectations were any different…”You Lie”).  But no sooner than strapping into the cockpit and finalizing the pre-flight checklist did I realize…Houston, we have a problem.

At 22 years, we knew a lot about what we believed and a fair amount about our artistic voice.  There was no short supply of vision.  When I now read stuff that I wrote in college, I sometimes think, I was smarter then than I am now (other times I think I must have been smoking something illicit).  Whatever I knew, it did not include a prescient dread caused by the impending collapse of the world we were building.  We couldn’t predict how the independent film space was fixing to change, how indie festivals would be co-opted by major studios, and the 25% of total screen time dedicated to true independent (read- “unknown”) artists would be one of the fibers in the carpet being quietly and methodically yanked out from under us.  This was a significant problem because we’re not establishment filmmakers. We don’t have relationships with studios. Many of us don’t live in L.A., nor do we have meaningful relationships with people that do.  When you consider the size of the California film industry and their stranglehold on the traditional distribution mode of the business…the truth is, we’re industry “Outsiders”.  Even with the new changes (predominately, freight distribution giving way to the internet), Los Angeles is still the core of the movie making apple.  The new media distributors now dwarf “the majors” in size measured by operating capital, however the two largest players Netflix and Amazon just setup new facilities in the L.A. area.  Even as late as the early 2000’s, I don’t think anyone saw that coming.  Instead of taking pause to take inventory, we, the new generation of new wavers continued to endeavor in the tradition that we were raised with; feature length stories about people and their conflicts, with relatable themes done in the Greek drama tradition, using ideas that no one had ever heard of.  Since distribution was largely controlled by big money, the indie festival experience/theatrical market was the only tool we had to get us launched.  Losing the festivals and theatre screen space to the “majors” was a huge blow.  Why?  Aside from the obvious financial and PR ones, there’s the art of it all.  In order for “Story” to have its intended impact it needs to be presented to large groups in one space; a stage or an amphitheater, on a silver screen, around a campfire…etc (replicated as many times as possible for greater inclusivity).  This experience, had by all cultures for thousands of years, was a true dialogue that invited the audience to ruminate over relevant topics beginning with one or two perspectives distilled from experience by inspired writers and brought forth via the extraordinary talents of the bard and acting troupe (i.e. the Speakers) before a public audience (the listeners) that rightly exploits the opportunity to react in the presence of the so called experts, forcing their conversational counterparts to adapt and synthesize an acceptable rendition of truth with each new performance.  As a guy with a degree in the science of communications, schooled in the history of the development of western culture, the concepts of market system design, rationality of man, plus my own history as a life-long Baptist (uh…I know what you’re thinking….Not that kind of Baptist), I can fully appreciate the social ramifications caused by the loss of “Voice”; voice of the People represented by public university art school alumni who collectively hail from far and wide across our great land.  So, in that way, Mr. Scorsese, I can relate.

However, that’s the break point at which I can no longer espouse the virtues of the old way.  Now that viewership in the digital age has fragmented to the point that even the majors have been forced to join the ranks of large conglomerates and re-format their entire organizational structure, I sometimes find myself at a loss trying to figure out where traditionally structured dialogue fits into a disassociated society (and, what the heck does that even mean?  How can you have a disassociated society?).    The paradox causes the OS in my head to crash but also gives birth to a revelation that the answer is largely subjective; because in order for the world to continue, it has to be.  Society has to keep moving forward in spite of the fragmentation and disparate conversations going on simultaneously in different venues.  More importantly, the mental blue screen of death forces another re-routing of electrical impulses through the smart switches that comprise the organic, carbon based network in my head (one might say the brain is the original internet…think about that invention Al Gore).  This change of perspective illustrates how I reluctantly came to believe that success in that old tradition is damn near impossible if you’re an outsider.  I won’t launch into tirade or attempt to proselytize my dissatisfaction with the industry by enumerating the litany of problems that pushed me towards a new frame of mind (but the list is long). Instead, I’ll generalize and say that I embrace the change.  Hey… progress!  In hindsight, I can say new attitude is priceless, but like most people raised with tradition, in the beginning, I cursed change.  A) it’s different B) the old way felt more organic and really did force us to think and learn and master the craft C) the new digital equipment was then so expensive that only the likes of George Lucas could afford it.

As I worked as a sound mixer in film, a designer and account manager in the TV system integration business for the first seven or so years of this changeover, I watched the tech slowly improve in quality as well as price.  The next seven I worked in TV systems engineering and from a distance watched a second round of reductions in price and an exponential increase in robustness and quality to the point that it could be legitimately called digital Cinema.  Now, for $10,000, I can have what George Lucas would have paid $200,000 for 15 years ago.  Not only that, but I can now say “So What” if the studios co-opted Sundance and Cinemark.  I have You Tube and Vimeo.  I also have access to Apple, Amazon and Netflix.  And if that’s not good enough for you, there’s even a production company here in Austin that built their own proprietary distribution network which completely redefines the concept of self-distribution.  These guys & gals are successful making lots of media for a loyal fan base with a fast growing slate and faster growing audience.

All this boils down to prosperity.  We dreamed of it, had it ripped out of our hands by an oligopolistic industrial aristocracy, a power which has since been watered down restoring some of the balance lost.  Courtesy of the benevolent market system tenet of atomism the balance is maintained by the social regulatory policy called network neutrality and this is a phenomenal shift which brings new possibilities for prosperity, that is, if the public’s viewing choices are not truncated by regulation or the lack thereof (depending on your definition of the word “regulation”).  In western society, the problem that hampers true progress (like in screenwriting) is usually bad structure.  In screenwriting it results in wasted time as a result of bad decision making, but in the world at large bad structure breaks society by inducing the toxic condition of market power.  This problem is distinguished from the former example because individuals didn’t create it, nor do they have the power to fix it.  I won’t go into a discussion on market system social structure, (that’s the other blog:, but the gist is that when economies of scale create barriers to entry for new business (I use the term business loosely since, we the artists are generally allergic to it.  But, I do use it in spite of this fact because the new path to prosperity for artists is to employ brand building), then atomism is lost and prosperity suffers.  Generally put, this is bad for the middle class.  More specifically, as it relates to the art community, it ruins the lives and careers of those whose inner voice led them to their calling: work in a creative capacity.  Since newborn tech has put the nails in the coffin of these centenarian barriers, I can actually look out and see a way to produce stories that people will watch.  Not only that, but if I’m diligent and smart, I’ll actually make enough money to live.

So, while I agree that the loss of tradition is hard, particularly for insiders equipped to leverage all of the fine resources provided by the juggernaut called California film, the simple reality is that in a natural (unadulterated) market the following is true.  Change: “It Is What It Is”.  Besides, they had a good run enjoying uncontested power spanning one whole century.  But now the tradition will change, the expanded world-wide industry will be heathier as a result, and it will be done in true western form.

P.S. – To Mr. President-elect Trump and family: I hope y’all consider this argument before you alter network neutrality.

P.P.S. – To Martin Scorsese:  Thanks for making so many great movies.  I cant wait to see Silence, another run of Mean Streets, and anything else you’ll crank out in the future.

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Independent Film and Fortuitous Accidents

A couple weeks ago, the sound editing for “The Land” began.  The composer will be starting his work too, so I need to deliver notes and temp music soon.  One of the films that I’m scouring for samples is Martin Scorcese’s “The Departed”.  After the first act, I havent found anything that peaks my interest for this project but did discover something else.  It’s funny how by looking for one thing, sometimes you find something else entirely that’s just as useful.

In the first act we meet several police academy cadets who are all working towards a career with the Massachusetts state police.  One of them is the young cadet Billy Costigan played by Leonardo DeCaprio.  Despite his exceptional work ethic, 1400 SAT scores, and a performance at the gun range that would give Will Smith’s Deadshot a run for his money, the police Captain is dead-set against giving him what he wants; a normal life as an officer in the state police.  The reason is that Costigan has a family with a checkered past that includes organized crime.  Their sketchy history combined with Billy’s record of assault (minor confrontation) makes Costigan the perfect agent to send into the Irish mob because he’s believable as a criminal.  As they slowly cook up a recipe of beratement meant to lock him down as their in-house stoolie, the superiors of the department use a healthy dose of family history and then pepper in knowledge of his wealthy upbringing (proof that he’s no real blue collar cop) to manipulate him into understanding that despite what he thinks he earned, he will never be a member of the state police.  With no real family after his mom dies of cancer, Billy’s only option is to take their offer and become a mole within the Irish mob in order to have a career.  In this, one of my favorite scenes, the captain and staff sergeant Dignam work their good cop/bad cop routine and berate him for being, simultaneously, too good and too bad to be a true member of the Justice system.  The reason I love this scene is because it is a distillation of a theme; “The Injustice of Justice” because it shows a blatant act of manipulation that can only be legitimate in total absence of conscience.  Of course, there (arguably) are justifications for the act because the murderous gangster Costello has to be stopped.  But, that doesn’t absolve the department from destroying the future of a promising young man who only made one slight mistake that, under normal circumstances, society would quickly absolve.   In this scene, we witness the police department’s hypocrisy as they rationalize that “If you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs”.

This got me thinking about the two characters in “The Land”.  When the film comes out I’ll wager that audience will pick only one of the characters as the victim of the justice system (if that), but I think they’re both victims because both of their    attitudes were altered by the system irregardless of their family’s affluence, or lack thereof.  This scene in “The Departed”, also raises the question of another possible theme that is tacitly weaved into “The Land”.   The theme of Moral Turpitude.  If you were forced to publicly punish another by robbing them of their God given rights of freedom you’d likely be tempted to use Moral Turpitude as justification (I mean, really, what would be easier?).  Regarding Billy’s predicament, the captain and staff seargent don’t make this accusation explicit but it is insinuated when highlighting the assault and the criminal history of Billy’s relatives.  In “The Land”, this condition is also suggested by the local sherif.  But the question is this, is he looking out for the public interest or is he working his PR skills under the auspices of justice in order to show the public that he’s tough on crime?  If the later is true, then what is he selling?  And, what’s his reward?

There’s an interesting parallel taught in the study of communications sciences, specifically as it relates to PR and Advertising.  In the history of advertising we see that the media has often been used to “create a need” in order to sell a solution.  This means that the solution pre-dates the problem.  To execute this tactic, a manufacturer of a new product hires an advertiser who creates a convincing message, and inserts it into mass media.  The message is that there is a new solution to a problem the public was not aware existed and now that they are, they must have the solution.  One example is the socially offensive condition of halitosis (bad breath).  This condition was invented by advertisers who were trying to sell mouthwash.  After a successful ad campaign, the manufacturer benefits financially by the fabrication of an idea.  By using this same tactic, a person of high social stature…say law enforcement, has the power to manipulate public perception in the same way in order to sell the public on some idea.  So the sherif in this example could also be fabricating an idea….or maybe, as he would have you believe, he’s just stating facts; objective reality.  I guess without having access to both sides of the story, you’d never know which is the case, but then, that’s where narratives come in real handy.  By showing the other perspective that the public would not normally see, a true objective evaluation of the statements made by the public service figure can be derived.  Even if we give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that under most circumstances that leaders in our society are being objective, it’s still interesting when you come to the realization that other realities are possible.  Especially since, prior experience only gave us the one conventional option: Sherif = Hero = Truth (clothed completely in white) and Fugitive = Villain = Deception (clothed completely in black with a curly mustache).

The Hero\Villain dichotomy is an antiquated narrative device (designed to captivate audiences) that has been burned into our psyche by hundreds of years of storytelling and in recent decades has become passé (But that’s another post for another week).  The main purpose for this blog is to rediscover my own treatment of the themes identified above and invite y’all to join in.  When the film is finished it will make more sense but hopefully this post serves as a good invitation and your interest has been piqued enough to create a desire to see this Texas based, home grown story about two estranged friends whose futures will be altered forever by the many dimensions of the Piney Woods of East Texas and its most guarded secrets.

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Honor Among Villains


As the Austin Film Festival draws to a close, I sit in a coffee shop on Congress Avenue awaiting a web series screening (which is a new thing in the TV business.  This new format could be the next reveloution for independent filmmakers that rivals the movements of the 60’s, 70’s and 90’s).  As I wait for the 25-minute-till, go stand in line alarm, I reflect on last night’s documentary called “Finding Oscar”.  Oscar was one of two Guatamaulan boys who escaped genocide when a tyrannical government waged war on purported enemies of the state.  The execution of a plan to eliminate all opposition was initited by a dictator propped up by the US government under the auspices of waging war against rebel insurgents.

Brutal murders were carried out by an elite military group.  Membership in this special forces unit by young men was highly coveted.  Their orders were to exterminate entire villages, bury the evidence and burn everything.  Women were ordered separated from the men.  They were raped, men were interrogated but not for any specific purpose.  When it came time to finish the job, the townspeople were all marched to the village water well outside of town.  Adults were put out of their misery before being hurled to the bottom.  Children on the other hand were thrown in alive.  Many years after the human rights crisis, in order to uncover the truth, a prosecutor finds two of the former “special forces” soldiers.  Some of the story is told from their perspective.  The interesting thing is that there was no proof brought to bear on the case but they cooperated anyways.  It’s hard to believe these cold-blooded killers, admittedly guilty of heinous acts, could have lied and gotten away with it but instead they fessed up and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.  Through the narrative, we learn that many of the murderers joined the unit because they believed it was a legitimate part of a legitimate government authority.  One recounts that on the day of the massacre, all of the men in the unit were ordered to go get people from the group of captives and take them to the well, which they all did.  Then they were ordered to throw them in, which they also did.  The man recounting these events said that it was done this way under orders from the commanding officers who answered to the dictator who wanted each man to have blood on his hands so that no one would ever talk.

The two young boys culled from the group of victims due to their unique eyes and skin, are found many years later as adults in foreign countries.  One of them, Oscar (who was 5 when it happened), was reunited with his biological father whom he did not remember.  Using information provided by the two Guatemalan special forces alumni, many of the guilty remnant were identified, located and held to account in Guatemalan criminal court.  Oscar testified in some of the trials and is now under government protection living with his family.  After the US declared an end to the war, the killing stopped.

The story only covers events specific to the genocide that occurred in this one town.  But it represents an accurate case study of the terror exacted by this same regime in hundreds of other towns.  These two military men featured in the documentary were part of a conspiracy that tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of people.  When asked why he came forward, one of them stated that he wanted to clear his conscience.  Some people in the western world believe in “Moral Turpitude” as a reason for why people do bad things which means that the defendant has no conscience.  I personally can’t find any support for this belief in our western social institutions that concern themselves with upholding the virtue of truth in the search for evidence of the nature of reality; neither in the academic circles that teach history of our principles that circumscribe the behavior of proper western society, nor in the crowd of religious scholars that delineate Christian theology (if it can be truly said that any realistic interpretation of scripture really does accomplish this lofty goal).

I’m not anti-war personally, but in the west where we like to punish people based on a positivistic assessment that the convicted suffers from “Moral Turpitude”, I wonder if president Reagan, anyone in his cabinet, members of the US Congress during the crisis, or the average American felt any culpability or guilt from our role in creating this perfect storm of terror.  If not, does that mean we suffer from moral turpitude?

As I try to figure out how to proceed in writing a story about the financial crisis and its effect on the most vulnerable members in American society, I think of this more extreme tale of genocide and wonder if there’s anything to be learned.  I’m stuck trying to figure out who my antagonist(s) is (are).  Are they villains?  Were the Guatemalan special forces soldiers villains?  Was it the Guatemalan dictator who is the villain or the US president or congress, or us regular people because we let it happen by not paying attention?  And what is the one thing that distinguishes villain from antagonist.  If one can comit murder and yet have a conscience, can the line really be drawn by “Moral Turpitude”?  Does it even exist.

What do you think?


Link to Image:

(Photo copyright cranky messiah – Creative Commons License)


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The Bard And The Troll – Part II

….Continued from: The Bard And The Troll: Part I

Part I explained the background of the situation that gave rise to this subject; namely, the introduction of my internet troller who worked for me on my first dramatic short (See Below).

I hadn’t heard from him in years, since he refused to do his ADR audio work that was needed to finish the film, demanded that I give him a finished copy of the film and then when I couldn’t (for obvious reasons) blocked my communications. He recently popped up on social media and slammed me with made up statements about my actions and my integrity. I have to address it but, I reiterate that I won’t resort to recriminations. But instead I want to lay out the situation for those unfamiliar. A director/producer has to make decisions based on what’s best for the project in spite of the fact that unexpected difficulties will arise. This is a challenge for anyone in the indie film space, but particularly for a 23 year old undergrad student in a right to work environment where the contracts are more de facto, contingent on changing conditions and dependent upon teamwork and cooperation of all participants. The begrudged states that he is upset about benefits to the cast and crew. While the most important benefit is the experience gained, there is the question of footage for the actors reel. For a producer, it’s important to always consider the marketing and PR demands of the project. Here’s the problem. Once you get public interest in your project, you have a very limited window in which to exploit that interest before the world moves on to the next buzz feed. Blowing that opportunity would be irresponsible for those in control of the film’s elements. And, on top of that, you never release footage that is not finished (which was the case with this film at the time). While changing technology (the death of film and the un-affordability of the digital intermediate workflow) and technical problems with the sound were causes for putting the production on hold, another was the lack of cooperation from talent. Earlier, I alluded to the responsibility of all involved to chip in to make the indie film happen. It’s so necessary, that its the dominant expectation among independent film directors and producers that the actors will engage themselves wherever necessary to help pull off the show, particularly with unknown actors, which was the case here. The person that holds contempt for me and my so called failure as a filmmaker is the one who refused to do his ADR work, which was needed to finish the film. In independent film, sound problems are ubiquitous and they often don’t reveal their nature until the post-production phase. This is because sound is technically complex and we often do not have a dedicated sound mixer to handle the meticulous job of capturing good sound elements that the sound editor will need to create a professional sound track. It’s also important to note that if you have problems with picture, the audience will often fail to notice, but with sound the opposite is true. The audience always notices and bad sound leaves the impression that the film crew did not know what they were doing. As you can imagine, this will also negatively affect any shot at getting programmed into high profile film festivals. Talk about a missed opportunity! Even though its common sense with reasonable people, past experience has shown me that, for future reference, I should go ahead and make the statement explicit: On future films, I expect that the actors will make an effort to be available for any unexpected/additional sound or picture recordings that crop up and these are expectations shared by filmmakers everywhere. They are also expected to support the film up to its release. Based on one of the comments made by the critic, I’ll also make explicit another expectation that should be common sense: In general, actors on short films do not get paid. This is always the case on student films and that goes for the crew as well (I had upwards of 15 crew members on some days and non of them have called me in anger about the film not being finished). My critic knew of this expectation at the time but has since decided to insult my integrity with the insinuation that there was some kind of expectation of monetary compensation. There was not and the subject never came up.
With regards to the Directing work: Dealing with the technical problems that caused the shelving of the project would fall under the purview of the producer. As a director, I succeeded in getting a locked picture within 10 months of wrapping production and this was cut on a flatbed editor, not digital NLE. Honestly, just getting to that stage was a phenomenal development because of the many problems encountered in production. The script was 80% exteriors and it rained on us each of the four weekends of our schedule. I admit to a few deficiencies wearing the producer’s hat, however this was my first time out of the gate and I had no funding. This film was floated on my personal credit cards and on the bank roll of family members who helped feed the cast and crew as we went over budget on time and money. I also provided a room for all out-of-town actors and crew but this person did not want to stay on location, an arrangement that deviated from expectations shared with everyone in the pre-production phase (another lesson learned about contracts). This film was also made possible because of the hard work I did in the two preceding years since it relied upon my reputation for the support needed from classmates and others in the film community. This is a huge, scary commitment when a young person is starting out in any entrepreneurial field. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to navigate the harsh waters of independent film and hold steady the rudder of craft is mistaken. Any critics out there, I challenge to try it themselves. And while putting yourself at risk, keep in mind that the key word here is “craft”, not “content”. Anyone can do “content”in an afternoon. Craft however takes decades to master. There were so many problems with this production, I could do an entire blog series on it but I’ll save those stories for the festival circuit. In short, I attempted to go BIG with this one by shooting in CinemaScope. To do that, I had to build a rig since the format does not technically exist in 16mm. For most people, its common sense, but again…I’ll be explicit for the benefit of clarity. This was a risky proposition for several reasons: 1) I was 23 and 2) not an engineer and 3) had a budget of about $300.00 a timeframe of around two months to re-engineer an optical widescreen format not used in Hollywood in three decades and test it before going out on my first shoot that would wait for no engineering mis-haps. In spite of the exhausting doubt, the final decision to move forward with my plan happened on a whim…a “no guts, no glory” play which is the kind of attitude needed for anyone on an entrepreneurial journey to press on, and succeed by creating something unique that the market and audience both crave.

Lastly, since trolling exploits the weaknesses in the conventional mind-set from the dying modern era, I want to touch on the subject of conventional wisdom vs. alternative (trolling is accomplished by resorting to a sort of fundamentalism that distills reality down to a positivistic argument void of any truth, a tactic meant to deceive that is as old as humanity, evidenced by it’s documentation in a multitude of western history books and scriptural narratives both). When I was 23, I was as conventional as anyone in the way that I planned projects. After all, Its the formal training environment of higher education that demands this conventional mind-set. Since I was in school at the time, my script was necessarily accompanied by a storyboard, filming location arrangements, and the optional optical anamorphic rig and lighting/electrical plan. In spite of all the planning, the only thing that did not blow up in my face was the one thing that, conventionally speaking, was an unjustifiable risk…the unplanned gut move; the CinemaScope.
Convention 0 – Alternative 1. Who would have thought? Not me! So….lesson learned. Since this was news to me, my advice is more to myself than anyone else. When conflict arises, take a break from finger pointing, walk a mile in the “other’s” shoes and take a risk by producing a well crafted story with your own money and reputation on the line. And if you’re feeling extra competitive, don’t harass. Instead, do more work. This job is a numbers game. If it takes 20 films to get one good one then reason dictates that one should participate in 20 rather than trying to force one to be a magic carpet ride to a dream job. And do this work with integrity which means a good attitude, an affinity for cooperation and good will towards my creative team…you know…with a “conscience”. Western society and American industry was built on it.

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The Bard And The Troll: Part I

I’ve been away from the keyboard for too long, but I felt the need to regroup and recharge by taking advantage of the rare opportunity for vacation.

Just a few days ago, I said goodbye to family at the end of a short visit up North.   As I was on my way out they wished me luck with my future endeavors and asked me to update them as I hit milestones along the way.  It wasn’t until I was tucked into my window seat at the Milwaukee airport that I realized that I had already hit one about a week earlier.  I’d had my first internet troll.  It shocked me pretty hard because it was so unexpected.  I had heard of this happening to others but I didn’t realize how disturbing the comments could be until I felt the sting myself.  This particular troll was a former acquaintance that I had cast in a movie several years ago.  The project had gotten most of the way through post-production when we hit several snags that prevented finishing (a common problem with undergraduate thesis projects).   This made the person very angry because (I speculate) he had a lot riding on the project’s outcome (everyone else was much more reasonable and understanding of the situation).  When he didn’t receive footage for his reel, he became irate and demanded that I give him a finished copy of the film, which was impossible because it could not be finished due to sundry difficulties outside of my control, one of which was the lack of cooperation from the very person demanding the film be delivered.  After going round and round arguing and trying to explain the process and the reasons why I couldn’t accommodate, he blocked my email and refused to return my phone calls, even when I spent my own personal funds to travel to L.A. to handle dialogue work rather than insist that the actors come to Texas.  This, of course, means that he did not respond to schedule ADR work at the studio that we had reserved during my time in LA.

Then, just a few weeks ago I was feeling energized by the fact that much needed technology had come within reach and I started ramping back up on the sound work.  That same week, the angry individual popped up on my social media accounts lashing out with absurd insults and lies.  To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement.  When someone spreads lies about you, it elicits a visceral emotion because of the fear that others will believe the lies.  Having studied media in college I had the good fortune and opportunity to look at case studies where media was used for that exact purpose of deception and the negative effects were far reaching.   This conjured unpleasant thoughts about what might happen to my reputation but I’ve been through work related conflict before.  It’s not professional to retaliate, but it is important to respond in self defense in case anyone in internet land saw the comments.  Also, because I think the discussion is a healthy one and could be used in the future to help normalize expectations in order to prevent a reoccurrence.  Even as an undergrad student at age 23 when people were difficult during a production, to my recollection, I dealt with these situations in a professional manner with much forbearance. (Possibly to much in this case).   I say too much because it is my responsibility as director to bring the production to completion in an efficient manner (taking into account, of course, acts of God and other working conditions outside of my control) but sometimes, the people that we find ourselves working with have unreasonable expectations (If one studies the history of the market system, we see that this is a pattern with people throughout history in western society).  At best, this kind of conflict is emotionally unhealthy and it kills project efficiency.  Worse yet, it could significantly hamper completion of the film or harm a person’s career.  Since it would be unrealistic to sue in the absence of properly executed written contracts (student film) / lack of funding, and because its impossible to terminate the relationship due to completed photography with the disaffected, the only choice that remains is to negotiate with them or find a work around.  Its a reality that relationships sometimes break down.  If I had a choice, this is a lesson I’d rather learn when there’s less at stake, but optimism ushers in a better perspective and a revelation that the hard road always has a way of imprinting itself on the brain forever.  Which means that the difficulties give rise not to a Sisyphean task but rather a “holzweg”; a “wood path” you get lost on during a detour through an unfamiliar forest.  A path that forces you to learn that forest so well that one day you’ll navigate it like a pro.  So…not only is the experience “not” a failure, but to the intrepid explorer ’tis the road to success.  A rite of passage even.

…..To Be Continued

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Heavy Half


My first car was a truck (being from Texas, I’m sure that’s no shocker).  Actually, it wasnt my truck exactly but close enough.  A 1979 GMC Heavy Half, long bed, two tone, honest to God pick-em up truck with a 350ci powerhouse, redish-orange paint, a 12″ cream colored strip running down the sides from front to back, cream colored cab and a “Heavy Half” decal on the side of the bed written in a hippie dippie font that could only come from the Woodstock era.  It got its name because it was a “heavy” version of the standard half-ton pick up.  The heavy part was the 3/4 ton rear end that GM added in order to avoid EPA regulations.  It was practically indestructible.  At that time, American sports cars had already switched to unibody construction which is a bunch of stamped parts welded together (much less sturdy than the steel frame construction the pickups used).  I inherited mine from my dad on weekends.  My buddy Clint had bought practically the same truck for $2,000.00 except that his was a ’78 and instead of red-orange, he had baby blue.  The body style was real blocky as these were marketed as work trucks when they rolled off the assembly line.  Due to the style, they were known in our circle as Tonka Trucks.  Also, because they were rugged as hell.

The first time I wrecked in the Heavy Half, I was coming from the bank.  I was probably 16, sophomore year.  Driving along,  I looked up from the deposit slip that I held in one hand, I realized (too late) that I was approaching a curve in the road.  I let loose a mild expletive, dropped the slip, quickly grabbed the wheel with both hands and pulled hard left, but in the 70’s, the steering was so loose that to make any significant correction, you had to turn hand over hand all the way around.  In my current situation there was no time.  All I could do is brace myself as I sped toward epic disaster!  I felt a horendous jolt from the impact, the tire blew out and the hub cap went flying off down the road at a steady 35mph.  The truck rode along the curb until it came to a stop.  I was certain there would be major damage.  No way out of this one, so I called my dad and told him what happened.  He was pretty angry as he arranged to have the truck towed to a mechanic and scheduled the call to the insurance agent.  Turns out, we only had to replace the tires.  The frame, axles, and even the front wheel that took a sizable chunk of concrete out of the curb was, unbelievably, unharmed.

The second incident was a little later that same year.  Marcus, an acquaintance of mine, had rebuilt an old Jeep (also super rugged). It was jacked up with big tires and had a cattle guard with a winch on the front. The Jeep had broken down and he asked if I could tow him home. I was a very friendly and hospitable person in my youth and was happy to help. So, I met him at the scene of the breakdown where he had a chain on the cattle guard, ready to go. We hooked the other end around the rear axle of the Heavy Half, had a quick meeting about how to avoid any fender benders, then fired up the Tonka Truck, me at the wheel and Marcus in the Jeep working the brakes.  Towing cars this way is actually legal.  But, neither of us had ever done it before and so the logistics of stopping and going were something we had to figure out.  It seemed like simple common sense but proved to be more complicated.  We got most of the way down Broadway Avenue, traveling slowly and safely in the right hand lane with hazard lights on.  Having gone through several red lights with no incident, things were going pretty well. Then, as we’re cruzing along, someone pulls out in front of me and I tap the brakes to signal I’m slowing down.  This time Marcus wasnt isn’t paying attention and as I came to a near stop, the chain goes slack and the ten or fifteen feet between us turned into inches in no time.  The giant cattle guard slams into the heavy half bumper at a good thirty to fourty miles an hour. The truck jolts forward with such force that, as the chain tightens it jerks us back together and we slam into each other again, and again, and again like two cue balls connected with a giant rubber band.  This happened several times until the chain finally broke.  I coasted down the road trying to process what happened while Marcus coasts into the nearest business drive.  I circled around and went back to get him.  I get out and exclaimed, “What the hell man?  Didn’t you see me hit the brakes!”. We were both Ok and he kind of chuckled at the situation and said, “no dude, I didnt see it”.  In hindsight, it was kind of absurd.  Because of the first incident earlier that year, I already knew I was driving a veritable battering ram on wheels.  But even so, I was certain that this day, my rear bumper would be bent all to hell.  Come to find out there wasnt even a dent.  The cattle guard was equally unaffected.

The third and last time something like this happened was the following summer.  The crew had just started hanging out at the cabin in the ghost town down by the river.  The first trip had happend a few months earlier and I had not been invited.  It was kind of my fault though because I was sulking and acting anti-social (in one of my depressed moods that creeped up on occasion).  But a month later, I was out of the funk and back to being my regular extroverted, proactive, social self.  When I heard about the first trip, I was dejected since I missed it but ultimately, the snub just made me more gung ho to make the future ones.  The cabin was on land owned by Mike and Matt’s family.  It was right in between the river and a small pond that was fed by the river, so you could go swimming and fishing if you wanted.  The entrance was fairly secret. It was kind of like the Shangri La hang out in that it was right there off the main road, but if you didnt know it was there, you would never suspect that back in the woods was one of the all time legendary teenage party hangouts of East Texas.  It was also similar because there were obstacles to getting back to the cabin. The road was narrow; so narrow that only one car could pass.  Once you traveled far enough down the dirt road hidden in plain sight to arrive at the gate, you had to find passage accross a revine via a narrow bridge with no guard rails.  Then, navigate a small winding path, that could hardly be called a road, through the woods, back about fifty yards or more.  If another car was coming from the other direction, somebody had to backup and let the other pass.  It was the only way to get through.  This particular weekend, it was around noon and only three of us were there. Me, Ray and Mike had rode out there together in the Heavy Half after stopping by the grandparents house (which was on the way to the river) to pick up supplies. More of the crew would be there later in the evening but somebody had to go early to prep. There was something we had forgotten and decided to head to a convenience store in a small town nearby. This was the first time I had been to the cabin, so I wasn’t familiar with the treacherous manner of egress.  I was driving the pickup while Ray rode shotgun and Mike chilled in the truck bed.  Even though this was an old truck, I had to have my tunes.  A few months earlier I had spent my own money at the local car audio place to have a modern CD player installed in the dash with speaker boxes behind the seat (the installers had to take a hack saw to the dash to make the tuner fit). As we drove through the gate, closing in on the bridge that crosses the revine, we were rocking to GNR, Pearl Jam, or Stone Temple Pilots (cant remember which).  Before the bridge, the path followed a fairly steep, yet short incline.  It was steep enough that I couldnt see the bridge behind the truck hood.  Being unfamiliar with the area, all I had to go off of was instructions shouted by Mike from the truck bed through an window.  Over the sounds coming from the stereo he yelled out to take a right.  Apparently he meant after the bridge that was completely obscured from view.  I didn’t realize where we were, so just following instructions, swung the wheel right.  Mike yelled out, “NO, NOT HERE!” as the entire truck tipped forward like it was going over a cliff adjacent to a slippery mountain pass.  That same expletive from the first incident found its way out of my mouth (and Ray’s) again but this time with more emphasis. As we went over the edge, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Mike bailing out just in time. His butt cleared the tailgate just as the bed went vertical. We slid down the concrete embankment and slammed into the bottom coming to rest on the front bumper in a Heavy Half hand-stand. Ray and I were just hanging there by our seatbelts in shock. We looked at each other and Ray started laughing in his characteristic subdued hyenaesque way.  I met his ridicule with something along the lines of “F you dude”.

The tow truck showed up later that night and with another chain attached to the rear axle, the driver yelled down at me to put it in neutral.  I was a little slow on the draw and still had it in park when the he floored it and yanked us out backwards in one swift full throttle pump of the gas.  The truck?…Yup, you guessed it. No damage…except to my pride.  I had no money so Mike’s dad paid the bill and at the next party, I paid him back with five cases of Keystone Light.  Despite the fact that I was 17 and the legal age to buy alcohol in our neck of the woods was 21 (unless you went to the boats over in Louisiana), it was easy to do because of a tradition called “going to the line”.  But that’s another story for another day.

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Pretty Hair


When I was still living in my native East Texas, on the verge of striking out to seek my fortune at age 20, I was working at the lobster joint as a server, having a good time with others my own age, just living and putting in about nine to 12 hours at the local junior college.  My stint in food service started with my first job at age seventeen when I came on board at the local country club.  After a couple years working as a bus boy and snack bar attendant, I needed a jump in pay level.  Since the country club had no openings for servers, I decided to find greener pastures.  The server work at that age is fun because most co-workers are also in the eighteen to twenty-four range.  There were plenty of interesting people to hang out with, both on the job and after hours.  For someone who had no idea what to do with his life, it was a pretty good transition into the real world.  It was a little like more high school but with new people and new experiences in higher education which included my first drama class.  They had drama at my high school but I was never exposed to it.  Given my natural attraction to film history and production later on, it would have been an awesome activity to be involved in because understanding acting helps tremendously with both writing and directing.  I think this was the first time I read plays other than shakespeare and the more contemporary American author plays seemed much more relatable and real.  Studying it and practicing acting in a small group was a lot of fun however, the anxiety from being on a stage was probably the reason that I never really took it further than just a few classes (that is until I tried it many years later).  I think I was afraid of, “what if I screw up and somebody sees me”.  I didn’t perform well in front of large groups and at that age its our tendency to trust our anxieties, thinking that its a wise inner voice helping us to avoid danger, when in reality its more often just worthless fear.  Without a mentor that understands and can recognize the fear, then it takes years of experience to thresh out a new perspective and come to a place where you “get it”.  The only family member I’d had that ever knew anything about show business died five years before I was born…C’est la vie.

When I was a little bit older and had spent a few years out in the real world, I realized a couple things; First: Mom was right when she said “You can do anything you set your mind to”.  And #2: When different people from different communities make the same observation over the course of an extended period of time, its wise to pay attention.  Once we see that we have some kind of affinity for a thing, then its possible to think on how it could work to our advantage.  This second point relates to the first because, while the former is true, its also a reality that if you want to fill a role that others in society wouldn’t pick you for, then it takes an extraordinary amount of work because youre swimming up stream.  So attention to what it is about us that “works” in the eyes of others, helps to get the  boat moving with the current.  This revelation was spurred by four memories that had one thing in common and it got me thinking.

The summer before high school, I got a compliment.  I was getting my hair cut by the woman who had been our family barber since my first time in the chair.  In those days, my Mom was not too shy to rebel against red neck attitudes by continuing instructions that Linda cut my hair long in spite of the occasional townie comment “look at that little boy, he looks like a girl…Ha ha ha”.  Years later, she told me a couple stories about that and got upset just from the telling.  She finished up the talk with, “That used to make me so mad!”.  This was the first memory where another conferred the compliment by virtue of the childhood hairstyle.  The second came from Linda herself my fourteenth summer.  These are all predictable and you might wonder how this is any kind of a trend.  I would agree that both of these women were more than a little biased.  The summer before I left for Austin, it happened again and then a fourth time after graduation from college.  This last time, I was talking to a movie producer with several theatrical movies to his credit.  He said, “you have a look” and suggested that I might look into getting an agent.  The memory of the producer’s comment could also be a fluke because the advice IS kind of general for a producer.  The third memory however, was a little strange and completely unpredictable.

Flashing back to the Lobster joint my twentieth summer,  there was a new guy, Jason who was a 6′ 4″ ex-marine who was always bragging about how he could kill a man with a blade at least as large as a toothpick.  He and his girlfriend were also planning to move to Austin and had heard that I’d been accepted to the University there.  Jason came up to me after work on my last night and said, “So, you’re headed off to Austin huh?”  I said, “Yup”.  He said, “So what’s your major…business?”.  Being the proud creative that I was, I grimaced at this insinuation and said, “Hell no.  What on earth made you think I would major in business?”  He replied,  “Oh I don’t know.  Cuz you have pretty hair”.

That’s it…I’m sold.  Bring on the overnight success.

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Summer Before High School – First Solo Sneak Out – Part 2


After telling the story of the first time my friends and I wrapped Leslie Blanchard’s house, I’m tempted to jump forward to the hazing but that doesn’t happen until four years later; well…actually it’s does but not as Seniors.  When you’re on the receiving end, being hazed is just as eventful but less planned, best avoided, and experienced at an age when, having been relegated to the backseat of teenage society, we were not privy to all the details regarding the tradition.  Freshman year, it was also a little less controversial than it would become once Principal Milham came on board a couple years later.

The Leslie Blanchard mission happened during the school year in the 8th grade.  That group of guys was made up of people I knew from church and elementary school.  I had different groups of friends throughout my youth and this one was kind of on its way out as a cohesive group.  As families prepared for high-school, there were social shifts.  Nobody was completely out of the picture but some folks changed schools (public vs. private), some moved to outlying small communities, and others just found it more convenient to hang out with new people who were involved in similar activities.  I’ve already introduced the new group starting in the summer before the ninth grade; the group from the suburb with one intersection and a Dairy Queen.  To recap, we’d been hanging out with since the 8th grade when I was approached by Clint during the lunch break in the gymnasium.  It was common for kids to go to the gym next to the cafeteria after finishing lunch for a daily basketball challenge.  There was a rack of balls set out for us and the goal was to hit a shot from half court or farther.  The best method was to hold the ball like a catapult and launch it overhand towards the goal.  Since there were ten or more balls out at once, and thirty or so kids vying for the rebound, it was a madhouse.  This is where I got into my first fight.  There was a kid named Derick Babcock.  He didn’t seem very intimidating at the time, but in hindsight he and his brother Zach had major entitlement issues.  This wasn’t uncommon with a certain class of people.  This class was somewhat manipulative and didn’t treat others with respect.  I learned my first lesson about the entitled class that year.  One day, during the post lunch half court challenge melee, I went up for a rebound and it just happened that Derick also went up for the same ball.  I was two or three inches taller and I got the rebound.  The game was fairly agressive and we hit pretty hard before I got the better grip.  Derick didn’t like that too much.  He didn’t like me anyways, and had made that clear during pickup games of basketball when he would often tell me to shut up and call me a nerd.  It didn’t bother me too much because guys like that had serious social problems and I didn’t really consider them part of respectable society.  The opinions of bullies are certainly not objective and most people in a balanced society realize that they’re usually full of crap so in general, their attitudes never bothered me too much.

That day Derick was apparently not content with verbal insults and decided to kick my ass.  I had not said a word to him after getting the rebound (fair and square), but after I took my shot at the goal, he was waiting.  He came up to me and grabbed me, trying to get me in a headlock.  We wrestled around for ten or twenty seconds, jockeying for position.  I had never been taught how to fight (senior year, during my second and last fight, I discovered I wasn’t very good at it) but that day I had the upper hand due to my size.  Derick and Zach weren’t very big but for some reason they weren’t afraid to attack others in violent outbursts.  I was able to get my arm around his neck first so his arm was mostly around my shoulder.  We both squeezed as hard as we could, he in hostility and me in self defense.  After thirty seconds or so, he’d had enough and squeeked out the words “let go”.  I said, “You let go”…. His face was pretty red and it was clear that in this war of attrition, he’d better make the first move.  After a few more seconds of resistance, he loosened his grip.  I immediately followed suit and we unlocked from one another.  He said nothing more but just walked away in defeat.  There was no fan fare.  He went his way and I went mine.  It freaked me out at first but in hindsight, I got off easy because a few years later his brother attacked my unarmed friend Joey at a party with a baseball bat.

But again, I’m skipping ahead to Red Raider territory.  Back to Hubbard turf… my new social group was far from being members of the entitled class.  We were all pretty much lower to lower-middle income class.  The first time I snuck out without permission was with one of these guys.  Our families all hailed from long lines of technicians, teachers, mechanics…etc.  Most of us had Moms who were homemakers or had a small part time side job.  My mom was a full time homemaker, as was Ray’s, Joey’s and Josh’s.  Clint’s and the twin’s moms worked.  Clint and Ray both had divorced parents who had remarried.  Neither of them got along well with their step-parent.  These are the two guys that I hung out with the most in the first couple years of high school.  It’s hard to remember for sure but, I think the first time we snuck out, we stuck with the familiar activities and wrapped houses.  The goal was the same as before, but this time there was no soccer mom to cart us around on our escapades.  Also, the two guys I was with this time were more creative and much better equipped.  We turned our attention to the house of the Canton twins; two sisters that were in our grade.

While we probably got a little overzealous with wrapping, we didn’t have any bad intentions.  The sneaking out would continue all the way up through graduation, and not just for us.  Much of the teenaged population did so on a regular basis in order to break curfew.  It makes perfect sense that (most) parents will do what they can to stop it because of possible consequences.  It also makes perfect sense that teenagers would defy their parents because 9.9 times out of ten, nothing bad happens and also because we all want to be cool (if you’re cool, then it means that you’re well liked, and, more importantly, not disliked, and therefore not picked on by people with entitlement issues like the Babcock brothers who, despite their hateful actions, somehow had lots of friends of their own).  Its one of those things that just happens in modern times, but when caught, there’s hell to pay, because in the parent’s rule book, the “no harm no foul clause” doesn’t exist.

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Summer Before High School – First Solo Sneak Out – part 1

Challenge: A Series of Anecdotes


I don’t remember exactly when I snuck out of the house for the first time, but I do remember that it was definitely not high school.  The occasion is a little fuzzy but I think I was spending the night over at a friends house with a few other guys and it was a night after some school event; maybe a Hubbard Huskies football game or a school dance or something like that.  The school dances were kind of cheesy, even at the young age of 14.  I think it may be because dances as social events are so traditional.  The tradition is old enough that the distance between it and contemporary culture is so great that the formality of it is a anachronism, which is a quality that teenagers hate with a passion.   On the rare occasion that we did decide to attend, my friends and I wouldn’t stick around too long.

The mission that night was to wrap Leslie Blanchard’s house.  Leslie didn’t live anywhere near our host, and being 14 it was necessary to get a ride everywhere we went.  It was only two years prior that the horizons of our adolescent world had expanded beyond the boundaries of a neighborhood, navigable by bicycle.  So, you may wonder, if the target was not within walking distance, how would it be possible for a band of unruly teenaged boys to get to the store, purchase the quilted cotton ammo and then proceed to the home of the unsuspecting huskyette?  Without the broader context of the teenage tradition of doing things you’re technically not supposed to do, this small transportation detail might lead the overzealous helicopter parent to believe the plan was derailed before the first role of toilet paper could get within range; but not so.  We made it to Leslie’s house courtesy of, non other than,….a mom… who also funded the endeavor.  We were stealthily dropped a couple houses down from the yard that would soon have about 6800 feet of super white two ply draped from the tops of it’s shade trees.  Then the soccer practice/getaway driver took off and went around the block.

With traditions, there’s usually some kind of ceremonial act that kicks off the festivities, even if it’s as simple as the word “go”.  In the East Texas culture, it’s common to have a leader of sorts…like a master of ceremonies who is possibly the most popular kid or maybe the most assertive [probably not too different than other corners of the vast cultural kingdom of Americana].  At the risk of getting technical, I’ll note that the act of wrapping a house is a comunal experience…as is the act of sneaking out to go do it.  Therefore you don’t want to slip up and break any unwritten rules, screwing up the tradition.  We were kids, so usually stuck with the K.I.S.S methodology (Keep It Simple Stupid).  There’s no goofy speech like what you might find in 1980’s movie plots that focus on youth experiences, but this traditional rite of passage, like other traditions had a ritualistic nature to it that was just understood.  Like many rituals, this one had to be initiated by the leader, whose activities start with the break from the huddle one house over, a swift charge up to the yard of interest, bookended with the hail Mary toss; an act that signals the “fire at will” command.  At this point all hands are on deck and with each throw we all attempt to outdo the last.  This is important because if you get the roll higher and put the right amount of “English” on it, you can get more than half a roll deposited onto the tree which means, overall, fewer throws and a faster execution.  The goal was to get in and get out…undetected.  If a team member executed a bad throw that hit the tree on the way up and bounced off, or, erred in the other direction missing the tree all together, there was hell to pay in the form of adrenaline laced insults.  The worst form of failure was a weak toss or the wobbly toss.  These were shamefully unacceptable.  The team was on point that night and we finished up quickly as the Chevy Suburban pulled around the corner.  Somebody whispered loudly..”Let’s Go!”, and we ran back to the street and piled in, expecting our “evacuation specialist” to peel out and put distance between us and the scene of the crime as quickly as possible.  But, since our thirty-something driver had not seen as many heist and Stalone flicks as us, she turned around as if it were Thursday night soccer practice and, with a spirited sincereness, inquired as to how it went.  After our host urged a speedier exit with a hearty “Mom! Let’s goooooo!”, we safely pulled away from the curb and progressed at a moderate speed back to the HQ for what would be the last “unofficial” sleepover of our youth.

There were other rituals in my East Texas town that were so popular they were pretty much sanctioned by everyone [except the police]; but that story will have to wait.  In hindsight, I can’t help but wonder if Leslie and her parents were tipped off about the impending caper.  I haven’t spoken to her in over a decade, but even though she was a good natured person, I sometimes wonder if she holds any contempt from the multiple hits on her house that year combined with the incident from three years earlier where I upstaged her in our fifth grade piano recital when, as the last note of my highly inspirational piece decayed into the dead silence of the Andy Woods Elementary School cafeteria…a rustling began…quickly followed up with cheers…bringing down the house with applause.  Their response to Leslie’s performance right before I took the stage had been luke-warm at best.  She played Beethovan…I played Eye of the Tiger.

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Disclaimer: This story covers a serious and dramatic subject so, please excuse the language.

Over the last six or seven years, I’ve been doing a restoration on my mustang.  I’ve known for a while that it was about time to bite the bullet and complete the mechanical part of the project by overhauling the last part of the drivetrain because it won’t shift half the time.  I called my mechanic who said to by on Friday, they’d drop the Tremec five speed and take it to the tranny shop for a rebuild.  Tuesday rolled around and I had still not heard from the transmission guy about a quote.  I placed another call and turns out the mechanic had not pulled it from the car until that morning [yesterday] and wouldn’t be able to deliver it until today.  I’m usually patient with this sort of thing but it does get under my skin because it’s the only car I have, so I plan my schedule around the service schedule.  I was hoping to get it back by Friday so I could take a short trip to Houston, visit family and check out a new limited release movie about one of my favorite themes – regular people living in an irrational world characterized by a dirth of justice and a shortage of Super Heros.  But, because my plans got ruined i’ve been a little surly of late.

A few days ago, as I was thinking “Carlos must surely be dropping off my Tremec to Manny this very hour…I can’t wait to get it back with the new upgrades”, my daydreaming was cut short by a text from a friend who I’ve known for a long time.  I knew they were not doing well, but I didn’t know how not well they were.  I knew that they were in a strange town and had been out of work for a long period of time.  I also heard that, without any family they had to check into a program for the poor and homeless to get help.  The text asked if I would be willing to take some personal items because they were on the street and did not want to lose their stuff.  After several days of conversing back and forth, they requested a meal bought via phone since they had lost a lot of weight and felt ill, which I did.  Then the next day, needing a shower and medicine for a swollen leg they asked if I would loan them money against a retirement account that I would help them to cash in, which I also agreed to do.  The last two days, I’ve spent considerable time trying to figure out how to get forms to and from somebody who has no access to a roof or shower much less a printer or mailbox.  I’ve also spent considerable time trying to figure out how to transfer funds to somebody who has no bank account and doesn’t want to waste money on bank fees much less exorbitant wire transfer fees when they’re desperate to get a hotel room so they can rest.  As a professional engineer-in-charge with a degree in TV and Film production, I can testify that when two different people are both trying to control a complex troubleshooting process from different angles, it never works.  The money transfer process became extremely frustrating to me because, from my perspective, this person was acting highly irrational (The subject of rational/irrational man is one of my favorite academicky type subjects to discuss because of my background studying the market system in college).  This morning, after I had spent nearly four hours online, on the phone and in chat sessions trying to find the cheapest, fastest way to wire money (time I had originally budgeted for reading and writing so that I don’t fall behind on my work), I got extrememly curt with my friend because they had left the bank while I was trying to wire money online and I couldn’t figure out something with the bank’s process and had to start over three times.  Their response was that they were going to the ER because their leg was swelling again, but instead, they would walk back to the bank.  I texted back “No.  Just go to the ER, I’ll figure it out”.  No one was responding at the bank or the Western Union businesses.  In fact, they block you out with automated phone systems.  I stewed for a few minutes and then made an executive decision.

After taking a few more minutes collecting myself, I took the bus downtown to my bank because, it turns out, the cheapest fastest way to send money is a bank wire, except that you have to be there in person which means, you need a car but my car was in the shop [not getting worked on].  Also, you need to get there by 2PM for a same day transfer but I had spent the first half of the day wrestling with several other plans that should have worked but didn’t.  I had to feed and walk my dog because he normally goes out around  nine AM but had not been out all morning and I don’t have a yard.  I left the house at 2PM on foot which meant I’d get to the bank at 3, an hour too late and my friend would just have to tough it out another night on the street with no medicine and an f*&%’d up leg.   And, I’d just have to deal with falling behind on writing and risk losing the little audience that I do have or falling behind on reading and missing my deadline with the festival.  As I neared the bus stop, the bus blew by me.  Its a park and ride which means that the bus has to go slowly around a loop before parking among one of the many terminals.  I was just close enough to make it…If I ran.  So I took off towards the terminal like I’ve done many times before and veered off into the grass just before the parking lot.  As I got to the driveway, my foot hit the ground where there was a hole in the dirt that I couldn’t see.  It wasn’t very deep but somehow my foot turned the wrong direction and all my weight came down on it twisting the hell out of a formerly perfectly healthy ankle.  All my decades playing sports, I don’t think I ever twisted an ankle but, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.  The bus was coming around the bend.   Meanwhile, I’m hopping around cussing up a storm because of the severe pain.  But I sucked it up because I had a bus to catch.  I jog-limped to the bus and made it just as the driver was closing the doors.

I got off the bus and limped to the bank by 3 Pm to find out that the transfer would actually make it into my friends brand new bank account today.  After taking care of that business, I dropped off my new passport in my safe deposit box (the first passport I’ve ever had.  I want to travel some, but have no idea when I’ll find time or where I’ll get the money…but if it’s in my destiny, then I’m all saddled up).  I then limped over to the ATM to withdraw cash and realized that I had forgotten my PIN number (how is that possible?  I use it almost every day).  After a few tries, I got my money and headed across the street to Starbucks where I was hoping that if I spent some money, they’d hook me up with an ice pack (which they did…thanks Starbucks guy!) because I’ve got work to do and I have to play through the pain.  So I’m now sitting here at Starbucks on Congress, right near the capital, consolidating my thoughts into a (hopefully) cohesive narrative.  My ankle has swollen up to the point that I had to remove my shoe and as I type out my final thoughts, I’m continually distracted by the fact that it hurts like a mother fucker.  After all that’s happened today, you’d think that I’d be pretty angry, but after two hours with a throbbing leg, the story “twist”, has worked on me like an Ego ice pack.  And given the timliness, its hard to think it a coincidence.

Truth be told, dealing with troubled people is somewhat of a hardship because they do act irrationally, but if you read the history of the western social system and the developments that occurred from the beginning of the industrial revolution up till now (the primitive era of the Information Age), the experts will confirm that we’re all irrational in most situations.  And, it could be worse…I could be homeless.

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