Archive for the daily musings Category

something in the water (UPDATE)

Posted in daily musings, rants on January 27, 2010 by wfon

Well score one for common sense! The Menifee Union School District decided to return Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to the 4th and 5th grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School (LA TIMES STORY HERE) after the principal there, responding to a complaint from a parent, removed the tome because an entry defined the term ‘oral sex.’ Had this not turned out the way it did this morning, the students in Menifee were surely to have been looking up ‘sodomy’ since that would have been what had just happened to them! It’s a Dictionary, people! – and fortunately the Menifee School District saw through the manufactured moral panic. If only more people would stand up to the bigots, racists, homophobes and knuckledraggers who always manage to get just enough air time to temper our forward progress as an upright and educated majority. The only caveat in this expedition to Absurdia is that parents will decide if they want their children to have access to the Merriam Webster Dictionary or, if viewed as too ‘mature’ for little Suzie and Tanner, will instead have to look up words in the ‘My Pet Goat’ version. Meanwhile, little Tanner just took little Suzie around the back of the portable to play ‘Mary and Joseph.’

You may ask why I’m so quick to jump on these sorts of stories with such vitriol and condemnation. It stems from my own childhood and experiences with religious zealots of all stripes: they would come up to you in the mall with government conspiracies (corporate branding, literally, and black op helicopters keeping you under control and away from God’s kingdom), or the Christian concert I attended where the singer of a rock band told us we needed to be saved OR ELSE!!!! Then there was the time when the Quakers came round to the Catholic school I was going to (don’t ask me who let them in!) to talk to us about ‘backwards masking’ on rock and roll records. Remember that, anyone? Thank God for CD’s – that was the end of that particular madness. Nonetheless, that night they pointed the crooked finger of judgement at virtually every band I liked: Queen (gay!), KISS (Kids in Satan’s Service), Styx (the river to hell), Ozzy (satanist with a taste for bats, birds and of course the song “Suicide Solution”), The Eagles (‘Hotel California’ and in particular the  line ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969’ which supposedly was a nod to Anton LeVay and the Church of Satan)… the list goes on and on… they didn’t actually spin any records backwards, instead played tape recordings of records being spun backwards – which is about as uncorruptible as a Republican with the hots for boys and/or Argentinians. So, with all that, along with my lifelong indifference to anything church-related, which is I think just a product of having always been a thinker, I find myself in the position of having something to rail against and when stories like this Dictionary banning, or the removal of “Speak” or Tony Alamo, Benny Hinn, the Mormons, Prop. 8… there’s a lot of, pardon the use of such incendiary language, bullshit out there that needs to be exposed and erradicated.

Is it an easy target? Sure. Bill Maher was criticized likewise for his film “Religulous” for going after the soft targets, the ones everyone would agree were kooky. I’m an equal opportunity attacker – the Catholic church (the Big One, the Only One, the one that if it didn’t exist we would never have heard about any of this) has a policy of child abuse dating back to its inception. That needs, like the holocaust (which the church also quietly supported), to never be forgotten. There’s not enough money in the world to buy off that much trouble, try as they might. TV evangelists, evil people like Pat Robertson… big targets, and not particularly soft since they enjoy such support.

At the end of the day, though, I live in a city of 9,000,000 people… there are at least 9,000,000 stories here… when I hear absurd tales of book bannings, church-sponsored protests against the staging of works like “Rent” (the cleaned-up for high school version), gay bashing (literally and figuratively), I know where to look: Encino? No. El Monte? No. Santa Monica? No. Beverly Hills?  No. West Hollywood? As if. Burbank? Surprisingly, no. Where then? Simi, Moorpark, Santa Clarita, Meniffe, Temecula, the High Desert, Orange County, San Diego county… all conservative… all predominantly Christian-identified (American-Christian, mind you… those are the folks who’ve been around about 150 years and who have replaced Jesus’ message of love and compassion with one of ‘take what you can, leave nothing behind’, morally questionable behavior and open hatred.)… mostly white… a world all to itself that, as long as it can rub shoulders with the modern one, can be a danger to it. There is no room here for the Dark Ages, any more than there is room in the world for radical Islam’s desire to turn back the clock and live in caves.

This stuff gets under my skin because I feel a duty to stand forever vigilant and protect our great, modern world, the one we’re building everyday: a world Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of. It’s here but it’s a young child and it needs our protection from the zealots and increasingly irrelevant minority that would have us return to a time in history that is only that – HISTORY. Don’t know the word? Look it up… but ask your parent’s permission first.


something in the water?

Posted in daily musings on January 26, 2010 by wfon

Back in September, I wrote a post about a complaint brought to the Temecula Valley School District by a parent who had a problem with a book available in school libraries entitled “Speak”. The school board, who collectively had not read the book, were going to decide if this cautionary tale of teen alchohol abuse, date rape and peer pressure was too much for the young minds who might turn its pages. ”None of us had read it,” said board member Kristi Rutz-Robbins, who expressed concerns about the book at an August meeting, saying she would not be comfortable with her daughter reading it. Let’s back up: no one had read the book yet they felt justified in deciding whether or not someone else could? Well, I’ve never eaten escargot but I’m sure it’s horrible, so no one should have to endure it! So there! No snails for you!

I’m reminding you of this because today in the LA Times another winning story comes to us from the province of Christian fear and prejudice on the borderland between Riverside and San Diego counties. In the community of Menifee (yes, I know you’ve never heard of it) another outraged parent came forward with a concern about a book. A Young Adult novel with gay themes, you ask? A historical narrative with a Pagan-inspired storyline? The Koran? The Torah? Nah… the evil, bound manuscript was none other than Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary! And its crime? A definition in the book, that of ‘oral sex’ (defined therein as ‘oral stimulation of the genitals’). It defines a word or concept! That’s what dictionaries do. Hello! Now, okay, this Dictionary was found in the 4th and 5th grade reference books, which is arguably not academically collegiate (although in a community like Menifee 4th grade is probably as close as most students will get to college).

Prompted by the parent’s complaint, the principal of Oak Meadows Elementary School removed the books and housed them ‘off location.’ Later when students tried to find the definition of the word ‘cluster-fuck’ they were forced to research it online where they spent the rest of the day looking at internet porn. The Menifee school board weighed in assuring everyone the Dictionary hadn’t been banned, but it was being decided whether or not the words in it were ‘age appropriate.’ Folks, kids (and boys in particular) are going to be kids. My mother, a retired 6th grade teacher, found out very early on that using words such as ‘climax’ in their proper context (i.e. the climax of the story) often elicited knowing giggles from the precious nine and ten-year old infants in the class room. Kids are going to look up the dirty words or phrases because that’s what they do and if the Dictionary is taken away, they’ll find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

I found this interesting tid-bit on the Sigmund, Carl and Alfred blog from a former middle school employee:

“My last few years in the middle school were spent largely chasing kids out of the bathroom of the opposite sex. Blowjobs were all the rage. It was all they could talk about. They even drew pictures and diagrams, of kids ‘doing it,’ or ‘how to do it’ for the uninitiated.Unpopular girls became suddenly popular. Early-developing boys were chased down the halls and solicited. It was sick. A time or two someone was actually caught in the act, but our principal had a hard time believing such things could happen at that age, and we had a really difficult time convincing her that yes, it was happening two or three dozen times a day. Nothing was ever done, because ‘the teacher must have just misinterpreted the situation and assumed the worst.’

Yes, it happened like that over and over. The parents were our worst problem, because they simply refused to believe their innocent child could possibly do that, and they became furious at the implication.
And the middle school kids were giving, and getting, blowjobs all day.”

So, let’s recap: kids look up oral sex in the Dictionary, parent gets upset, principal removes the Dictionary and in the meantime little Suzie is polishing little Tanner’s knob in the boys’ bathroom. Wow, seems like the Dictionary is the least of our worries.

I mean really, where does this conservative madness end? Obviously if a clinical reference book can cause this much trouble, how on earth can the bible still be available, in fact, usually in these circles, held aloft as The Word? What about the violence, death, destruction, sex, bestiality and incest so lovingly catalogued in those pages. I’m somewhere between blushing and offended just thinking about it. Pillar of salt, indeed!

The kids can’t read the Dictionary but they’ve been educated in loading and firing guns since they could walk. They’ve been taught to hate and judge others who aren’t like them since birth. They’ve been sedated by the Opiate of the Masses (do your own research on Oscar Wilde if you don’t know this one) since conception. They’ve been taught that to kill is fine, just not to murder. Ultimately, they’ve been allowed to re-define everything so as to pinpoint it within the perimeter of their own, narrow scope of life and the world as provided by their parents and religious leaders. Re-define it.

I guess if there are no definitive sources like a Dictionary around to set the record straight, the world begins to look entirely like Wikipedia… open to interpretation. There’s already too much of that going around, friends. Stop the madness.

Happy New Year!

Posted in daily musings, rants on January 2, 2010 by wfon

Ordinarily this time of year finds me in a frosty locale, bundled up against the elements, sipping the strongest whiskey possible just to keep warm, but also completely immersed in art and culture, in (as Markus likes to say) the Capitals of Europe. And travel, we have had our share, man (thank you Johnny Cash). These adventures started in 2000 in Aruba and have continued on to Paris, Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Munich, Berlin, St. Thomas, Venice, Madrid, Barcelona and Vienna. This year, however, warmer climes were calling. So, here I sit back in Kona, my second home for all intents and purposes, in a warm tradewind breeze looking out on the bluest ocean I have ever seen. Shorts and flip-flops are mandatory. So are the Mai Tais (see image above from the Kona Inn). Last evening, we rang in the New Year jetting between the Inn and Don the Beachcomber while kids from all over the island lined up along Alii Drive and set off their fireworks.

I’m not one for too much reflection and a person could write volumes about 2009 and then entire libraries about the first decade of the new millennium, good, bad and ugly… Truth is, it hardly feels like ten years since the trip to Aruba. I know, however, that if I sit and reflect it will certainly be a decade… and a hell of one. More importantly, though, seems to me the fact that in 2009 alone, we managed to encapsulate the entire decade in one twelve month period. All the misery and pain, triumph and joy, loss and reward that lies scattered across the ten years in between have reference points in 2009: personally, professionally, globally and historically. So, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and close with a little reflection on my part for the year that was:

2009 was a year – when America made it’s greatest leap toward equality for all with the inauguration of Barack Obama (the rest will come) – it was a year of personal and professional success entirely tempered by personal and professional failure – it was a year of new love for some and the jettisoning of dead weight for others – it was a year when pretenders showed their true colors and disappeared up their own asses 🙂 It was a year when some people decided to go back into hiding. It was a year of reunion and new endeavours: It was the year that sprouted the Plant-Based Dietitian and pushed World Full of Nothing out of the nest. It was a year of burden and stress with nowhere near enough exaltation. It was the end of many long suffering and tiresome relationships and traditions and, ultimately it was a year that made me think of a Bob Marley lyric:

“From the darkness there must come out the light…”

I hope this coming year brings the light. There is no way we could all have come through the abyss of the last eight years without really feeling the pain but this too will pass… and the result will be emancipation. Thus spoke the Great Broccolini…

Let’s get busy living, ya’ll!

Kona, Hawaii, January 1, 2010

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art?

Posted in daily musings on October 30, 2009 by wfon


When I sat down to write worldfullofnothing, I didn’t intend to write a screenplay about teen suicide. It was a component and certainly the inciting incident in the story but the overall piece was more about negative influences in peer groups, the media and absentee parents all leading our heroine to face the world alone whereupon she begins to reach out in a vaguely anonymous fashion using video blogs to parse out personal information in tid-bits along the way. The true initial inspiration was a little internet phenomenom called LonelyGirl15 – at first believed to be a real girl, telling real stories about herself and the strange religious cult her family belonged to. For a few months, “Bre” became a web sensation and the YouTube generation came of age. Upward of 300,000 hits a day were pinging LonelyGirl15 until a few enterprising hackers decided to find out the truth about Bre and it all came tumbling down: Bre was a Kiwi actress named Jessica Rose and LonelyGirl15 was a viral webisodic television experiment. Strangely, even after the truth was revealed, many of Bre’s fans still wanted to believe she was real and the ‘show’ lasted another year. At least we got Jessica Rose out of it, she’s pretty radiant. That, my friends, was the start of worldfullofnothing, the notion that a movement could come to life due to an internet-perpetrated event and my opening scene in the script became a teenager’s last will and testament before sticking a 9mm pistol in her mouth and blowing herself to infamy, kicking off a horrific craze of copy-cat teens killing themselves on camera, leaving the videos behind for others to upload to the world. Dark, yes, but not what my entire premise was about. The film goes on from there to introduce Rachael, a fifteen-year-old who feels plenty of peer pressure but is not really a follower… she’s not quite sure what she is, in fact, and her adventure leads her to certain conclusions. Along the way, she becomes the prey of an online predator and the object of an FBI profiler’s ‘savior’ agenda (the agent herself a woman not entirely formed).

I bring all this up because in the three years worldfullofnothing has been around, there have been at least three high profile teen suicide epidemics, one in Palm Desert, California, one in Wales and now an ongoing problem in Palo Alto, a leafy green suburb of California’s Silicon Valley. In all cases, just like the fiction I wrote, authorities are at a loss to find the cause for these copycat deaths. Currently in Palo Alto, four teenagers aged 13-17 have walked in front of racing trains at the same railroad crossing since last spring (a particularly eerie worldfullofnothing connection since one of the film’s suicides happens in the same manner). Also familiar to people who’ve seen worldfullofnothing will be the rhetoric and terror coming from police, school administrators and the media in this northern California city as all attempts are being made to counsel the teenagers there, propping up their self-esteem, pointing fingers at possible reasons (academic pressures, depression) yet unable to stop a trend that may or may not be happening. This is the problem with a scenario like this, answers and reasons can be looked for all day long, but the only people who truly know the ‘why’ are the ones who aren’t around any longer to talk to.

I found a comment in today’s LA TIMES article about the problem in Palo Alto to be right in line with worldfullofnothing’s approach to the suicide dilemma (the third leading cause of death among teenagers apparently). “Teens are suggestible and impulsive,” said Dr. Mel Blaustein, who has studied suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge, and if the first death “was romanticized and seemed like something special, that can start a cluster.” Exactly as the film suggests. I’m not writing this to toot my own horn and tell you all that I’m obviously some sort of genius for being so right-on with my characterizations and assesment of teen lives (but if you want to think it, please do), instead I’m looking into the whole art-imitates-life-imitates-art thing. There were teen suicides before worldfullofnothing, there have been since and unfortunately there will be more to come… I wonder, however, if when teenagers who might find themselves on the threshold of ‘the end’ get a chance to see worldfullofnothing, if they might hear a voice in the darkness, that of Rachael and her coming to terms with life in a world that seems to be void most of the time. I wonder if they might find a kindred soul in this character the way so many found interest in Bre during LonelyGirl15’s high-point. I wonder if a film can get through in ways that authorities can’t, a film that reflects a viewer’s own sense of hopelessness but shows them there is light at the end of the tunnel, not just the headlamp of an oncoming train. If any of that was possible, then perhaps life could imitate art for a better outcome this time around.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Posted in daily musings, rants, things you should know on October 18, 2009 by wfon


This entry should probably go on the ‘movies’ page, but there are few important things to discuss with regards to this film, information that needs to be proliferated. I know that if you’re still reading this blog after seeing the title and the image herein, then you’re on the side of liking Michael Moore’s work and probably not in the other dug-out wishing he would get crushed under Rush Limbaugh’s even larger ass. The thing is, Michael Moore is an everyman, or at least that’s the role he plays in his ‘documentaries’ which are always incredibly well-researched and edited and just as often created. It’s a trick employed in most documentaries (see; ‘re-enactment’) but Moore takes it further, by putting himself into the mix and acting as his audience’s surrogate. Truth be told, his films work better for me in the sequences he’s not in or isn’t physically pushing the action forward.  Capitalism: A Love Story is a very strong indictment of America’s turn away from democracy, as outlined by the founding fathers, and toward a wealth-based plutocracy: a nation where the richest 1% control everything. Interestingly enough, Moore makes the case for the remaining 95%’s culpability in their own victimization at the hands of those who would exploit every opportunity to increase their wealth upon the backs of the unsuspecting masses, who have been lulled into thinking that they have a chance at ‘the American Dream’ as propogated post-World War Two and spoon-fed time and again during the Reagan and Bush years. Folks, the same people who tell you you’re entitled to great wealth are the same folks who are behind the political rhetoric that wants to take your entitlements away. And you continue to go shopping, line up outside the Best Buy Thanksgiving night, sign on the dotted line without reading the fine print and then put your hands out when the bottom falls through. There are some among us who think the left leaning efforts of Roosevelt was the beginning of the end, but the truth is found in a much more recent history starting in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. Where FDR put programs in place to get people to work after the Depression and before the war, the Reagan era worked to undermine the American workforce, get people on never-ending lines of credit and eventually marginalize them to the point where their only options are food stamps and welfare. Why? you ask… it’s a good question. Why would someone do this? The only answer is ‘corruption’… the corruption of greed has blinded this 1% to the fact that when things get bad enough, not all the standing armies and private security contractors will be able to stop the coming revolution. It’s a movement of grassroots protests now, but for how much longer? And when the arms are brought up, who will be fighting who and why? Even God won’t be able to help quell the angry hoards… ’cause, of course, He’s just a figurehead these days for a religion that is all about power and money. Chances are God checked out of this one a long time ago.

This film also introduces us to something that has been bouncing around in my head since I saw it last night with Markus at the WGA. Companies (WalMart, McDonnel/Douglas, Hershey, Nestle, Bank of America and CitiGroup among them) have a practice of taking out “Dead Peasant” life insurance policies on their own employees. When an employee dies, the company collects on the policy. The employee is unaware that he means more to the company dead than alive, and his family never shares in the payout. Two examples of this are made in the film. Companies use their “Dead Peasant” projections to bolster their bottom line. In other words, they count on a certain number of employee deaths to bring in a certain amount of capital. This is an absolute disgrace!

Or is it? Walking away from the film I was struck by the thought… I work too hard. I slave over people’s movies, providing sound editorial, hiring vendors and renting huge mix stages. I spend tons of money on my own film projects hoping that the investment will make a return. Americans and American companies used to work hard, too, until during the Reagan years a program was started to reduce the amount of jobs and increase profits, which eventually led companies to move the work to other, cheaper countries and rid Americans of the jobs they’d been doing for forty years. Those who have continued to strike it rich in the last two decades have done so by doing nothing. They push paper around. They bet on risk, other people’s misfortunes, natural disasters (please read Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”) and when their own bets come up snake eyes… they put their hands out. You go from privatized profit to socialized loss.

It’s a love story alright… a co-dependent, dysfunctional mess… I had one of those for five years, won’t be doing that again. If only people could see the situation from the persepective of a mirror in their faces, then they might be able to avoid the trap that this system has laid for them time and again.  Until then… it’s the sucker who keeps going back to the abusive spouse. We’ll read about you in the paper when it goes too far.


Posted in daily musings, places on October 14, 2009 by wfon


Nothing trumps experience. All the reading, TV watching, wikipedia-searching and fireside tales cannot teach what can be learned by having your boots on the ground. Can I get a witness? Yes, I can. I’m always amazed by the statistic that some seventy-five percent of Americans never leave the country and quite a few of those folks never leave their immediate geographic locale. Yet, just as many seem to be well-versed in all matters of the world at large and are very vocal about it. This is not to say there aren’t important things to learn from books and teachers and schools, of course there are, but until you’ve actually breathed the air, tasted the food, exchanged the currency, navigated a train system or slept in a bed in a foreign land can you really understand… and one of the most important things you will understand quickly is; we’re all the same, one people under the sun and moon, dealing with the same problems, excited about the same mundane Reality shows, sharing the same fears, shaking our heads at man’s folly and his ability to act in such selfish and cruel ways but also in such compassionate and empathetic ways. The only distance between us is the physical one. Traveling also teaches you to observe and consider your actions and beliefs, to temper your reactionary nature. People who never leave America and have their worldview handed to them by political pundits and TV pitchmen might be fascinated to know that in Italy if you break a bone or catch a disease, you will be treated, fixed up and nursed back to health without incurring a single cost (same goes for most of the western European countries) and why? Because for some people in the world, the general wellbeing of a nation’s people is seen as a moral obligation to the state. It might also be of interest to know that pharmaceutical companies aren’t allowed to advertise on television in Europe. They aren’t given the opportunity to convince an entire population that they now suffer from a disease the ad agency created. Trains run on time. Airlines give food and drink. Bathrooms are clean and plentiful, even if it costs a Euro to use them. New construction projects are focused on their environmental impact, using materials and designs to consume less energy. No, this is not a rant on ‘how everything is better over there’. It doesn’t take long to find out that there are plenty of people suffering financial burdens, that there are immigrant problems in outlying neighborhoods. The unemployment rate in Spain (after the election six or so years ago of a Socialist governenment in retaliation for the previous administration’s support of Bush-era policies and the terrorist attack on Madrid) is higher than ever recorded. The shining example of Irish economics (much ballyhooed by conservatives over here) is currently flatter than a pancake. Even U2 can’t finish their big building in Dublin. (Geez who ever thought that bringing in cheap Eastern European labor to increase profits and marginalize the Irish middle class would have a negative effect?) So, no, not everything is better over there… just the things that count. There is a demand for balance between quality of life and capitalistic endeavours, something we could certainly learn more about over here.

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of travel, airports, lengthy plane rides. We went to Chicago for the film festival in Naperville and came away with a gold statue, new friends and another place to add to the list of favorites (and that one’s here in the US!). Twelve hours after returning from Chi-town, we turned around and flew to Munich to experience the Oktoberfest. And did we! Tens of thousands of people, daily, filling the fourteen beer halls, downing liter upon liter of beer, noshing on endless pretzels, sausages and roasted half-chickens. Quite a few probably don’t remember the experience… I don’t think the adage is true that if you remember Oktoberfest you weren’t there. From Munich we took the ICE train up to Berlin and stayed in what twenty-years ago was the East. The years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and now have obviously been a bounty of growth and prosperity, even in light of the world’s financial difficulties. The building is endless. Our neighborhood at the Spittlemarkt train stop appears poised to be the next upwardly mobile urban haven. If I had cash, I would be investing right now.

Following the path of the Berlin Wall gives more perspective than any lesson I learned about it in high school, even with Mr. Williams’ slide presentations of pictures from his trip through Checkpoint Charlie into the East. It goes without saying that as you walk along you wonder ‘how could it have happened?’ And I think the answer is that it happened because in the haze of propaganda and mis-information, while people were struggling with their daily lives, the rug was pulled out from under them and one morning their entire world changed. This is a lesson that every single American should keep in mind, always. There are some here who have the wisdom to see the forest for the trees before them and there are others who are lost in the darkness of the wood. They might very well wake up one morning to find themselves on the wrong side of the wall and they will only have themselves to blame. To quote my beloved Miley Cyrus: “Wake up America”

Pictures from all these adventures are to your right at the Flickr link. Enjoy.

“Just a good ol’ boy…”

Posted in daily musings, things you should know on September 16, 2009 by wfon


“I done made up this sine to pertest the Osama ‘ministratin’ lieing ’bout helth care, illegal aliens (like them ones in that movie ’bout the big shrimp) and there commie, faschist, soshulism degenda!”

Had to borrow this picture from Getty Images but it ran in the LA Times this morning. Folks, if you’re gonna make a sign and get your picture taken and you want to be taken seriously for your opinion, please use spell check! As we’ve all heard, a picture speaks a thousand words and this picture tells me that if you’re on the side of the ‘tea partiers,’ all ‘tens of thousand’ of them, then you ‘beleive/support’ Joe Wilson. Speaking of Joe Wilson, did you know he’s a big time Confederate? According to Tim Rutten’s column this morning (I know, I know, major Lefty) Joe Wilson, as a South Carolina state legislator was one of the ‘die-hards who opposed removing the Confederate battle flag from atop the South Carolina state house.’ I’ve also heard unsubstantiated rumors (that means unproven to you on the Right) that Wilson has an orange ’69 Dodge Charger with the Confederate flag on the roof and a big ol’ 01 on the door.

For me, I’ll stay over here with the Advanced Placement kids.


Joe Wilson's ride