Saturday, April 30, 2005

Light Blogging

Blogging will be light this weekend due to 5 year college reunion mixed with final projects being due next week. Went out to Pomona last night and saw lots of old faces. People were more or less the same, it was fun for a little while to clown around, but then it turned mighty tiring. Maybe that was the wine kicking in, who knows?

Anyway, anyone whose interested, this is the alumni weekend schedule. Too much crap - it keeps everyone busy.

Of note, I found out last night that Jim Taylor '84 co-wrote Sideways. That's kinda cool.
Staged Hate Crime

I referenced a fake hate crime in one of my recents posts. Here is my old post about the incident at Claremont.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Must Be Tough

Being, Tom Cruise, that is. Let's face it: the dude can have any chick he wants in the whole world. And that fact reinforces itself because chicks dig being selected from any girl in the world. Shit, I would be...
As If We Really Had Any Reason to Think This Wasn't True

The Saudi chief justice encourages young Saudi's to fight Americans in Iraq. I know this is irresponsible, but man, ole, man, we ought to seriously consider whooping up on the Saudis just because they deserve it.
Sherman's March

I didn't write about it earlier, when I watched it, but this is an amazing film. I showed a clip in documentary class. It's a personal documentary made by one guy, Ross McElwee...he literally holds his 16mm camera and a mic and makes movies. This film was supposed to be about the effect of Sherman's march through the South, employing total warfare against a civilian population and the devastating and lasting effects on the South to this day (1986). McElwee was fascinated by Sherman because he actually had an affection for the South, writing in his journal that he loved the people and the time he spent in Charlotte (i believe).

Right before the documentary starts, however, his girfriend breaks up with him and he becomes obessessed with his relationships with women, past girlfriends and new women he meets along the way. The film becomes about his restless search for women and sex and relationships, and something meaningful. Some funny ass stuff.

I'm doing this paper on blogging and come across a Pomona's professors Blog. I remember this professor because she organized an event where Robert Towne spoke. I found her link on this blog I was reading for research on Roland Barthes. Small world.
Blogosphere Death Matches

If I had an online animation show, it would definately be Celebrity Death Match meets the blogosphere.

The first card - Glenn (I support gay marriage, and am not gay) Reynolds (Did I mention that I'm married and not gay) versus (I'm gay and support all gay rights) Andrew (Did I mention I was gay) Sullivan.

Second Card- Michelle (I'm a hot philipina conservative) Malkin (and think the Japanese internment camps were justified - Amerikkka p'rease rrrespect me) versus Ann Marie (I'm serious journalist posing as a washington skank) Cox, (no really, i like giving head) aka Wonkette. Check out the first blow in this bout.

3rd Card - Kos versus Drugde. I don't even read these guys, but this would be a serious catfight - I imagine lots of hair pulling.
Blogging Research

More blogging research dissing Glen Reynolds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Andrew Sullivan taken to town by Instapundit. This is like Ali versus Frazier.
Fake Hate Mail

What's worse: hate mail or fake hate mail? A hate crime or a fake hate crime?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sidebar Updates

Brian and Jared have been removed since they never update their blogs. You hear that, Kevin!

I've added Robyn, a USC film student who blogs, Alice who has been long neglected at public musings, and we're proud to include Norm Hollyn, head of the editing track at USC.
New Charlie Rose Format

I've seen it a couple times now and I'm ready to conclude that I do not like the new Charlie Rose - let's try to be like 60 minutes format. It's too damn CLOSE. I like good ole Charlie with the simple black backdrop, sitting across the table. Damn you, producers of the show.
Negative Impact of Bush's Unilateralist Foreign Policy

I saw this trend coming even before Bush, when I studied abroad.
Polish Movies

I'd like to check out this guys work. I like a lot of the Polish films I've seen. Add him to the movie parlour list.

After being somewhat relieved of not having to do my documentary on Islam and the West, now I'm getting reenergized to continue to look at the topic. An interesting article and commentary.
Governing Toward the Center

This article helped with the author the National Magazine Award (the oscars for magazine writers).

His position - neither the Dems or the Republicans have a majority of popularity. Each party needs the centrist vote - the Dems got it with Clinton, the Republicans got it during the last election. I thought the article was going to be about an ownership society - the type of society promoted by Bush (kind of), privitizing social security and so forth - the same type of society promoted by Thatcher in Britian.

His article, however, devolves more into a look at political power and how political parties achieve it. I find this topic much less interesting than what an owernship society would really mean. Is this a plausible idea? As in Britian, the right is too busy fretting about gay marriage and pro-life causes to stay focused on their economic agenda. Clinton and Blair basically stole everything that worked from Conservative economic policy and promoted a more lenient and understanding cultural agenda. But ideas about an "ownership" society were promoted during Clinton's reign - job training programs, welfare reform, home ownership rising. His biggest failure was actually a non-ownership society reform, healthcare. I wonder about the merits of this, certainly it works in some cases. To be continued...
Lebanon and My Documentary

According to this article Lebanon matters not only to the Lebanese, but to the world - IF, Lebanon can resolve it's decades long hate-affair with sectarian violence, it will prove the clash of civilizations thesis wrong. This was part of what my documentary was going to be about....

Monday, April 25, 2005

Credit Card Debt

Good for Americans! We're paying off our credit card debt.
Movie Events

Some ideas for movie events to screen student films at USC.

1. It's A'rite to Laugh

A series of funny films - you can laugh with or at the films.

2. So Bad It's Good.

3. So Bad It's not even close to being good, It's Still Really Bad

4. Suicide Films - UPDATE: This actually sounds awful now that I reread it.

5. Rape Movies - UPDATE: This too sounds awful.

6. Movies with Student Sex Scenes - UPDATE: This too sounds awful

7. Racist or Homophobic Movies - UPDATE: This too sounds awful

The suicide and rape movies would only be interesting insofar as that these are events that seem to come up in nearly every production class, mostly because they seem dramatic. It's funny in a way to acknowledge this and goof on this trend.

Sex scenes would be interesting, I take it back, it wouldn't be that awful.

Racist or Homophobic movies - it would be refreshing to see something not politically correct...these movies I suppose could fall into two major categories:

a) Trying to be politically correct, but failing miserably. (I can name a few)
b) Not giving a shit about being politically correct and being accused of racism or homophobia

8. Live Action Films without Actors (also called - I didn't want to deal with casting)

9. Failed Documentary Ideas

10. Gigantic Productions

11. Oner's - One take movies

More to come...comments and suggestions wanted.
Looks Like Something We Could Do

I could make an ad like this. And it's pretty good. And it's on a blog.
Leave Paula Alone!

She's in pain for chrissake, just let her be. She just wants to dance.

Well, I've been caught writing about USC films. I wonder how my post got tracked down...

I'm glad I wrote good things about the particular film, but even if I didn't, I'd almost prefer hearing anonymous, candid thoughts about my films than my friends kissing my ass or being "nice," or not saying anything at all. But maybe that's just me.

Speaking of student films - I'm thinking of organizing a screening sometime next semester of fun student films. Every time I go to a thesis screening I come away depressed that people spent a ton on money on generally mediocre (and usually poor) films. I also feel a weird sort of envy when someone makes a great thesis film, like it will propel them into this universe of being a "filmmaker" afterwards, a universe I would like to join, but know the odds are slim. I hate the make-it-or-break feeling of the thesis and 546 screenings, it's destructive to the enjoyment of watching (and making, I think) movies. It makes it all very stressful. I also hate the long speeches and thank you's by the filmmakers. No one gives a shit. All the speeches are simply a testament to the only folks going to the films are people who worked on the movie.

I want to organize a screening of films that are fun to watch, with no speeches, where people are free to laugh with or at the films, where we see something edgy or wrong, or inappropriate or anything that wouldn't ever get past the 546 committee or the 581 faculty. I want to see loose student films where people haven't poured their savings and begged relatives for money to shoot on 35. I want to watch limber, ballsy movies that succeed because they took a risk or executed a cool idea.

I want a mix of 507s, directing projects, 1 minute movies, group movies from visual expression, documentary pitches, maybe an occassional archive from somewhat forgotten USC filmmakers - John Carpenter, John Milnuis, or even Walter Murch, or Bryan Singer.

The event will be designed to be a fun atmosphere, a party. We'll track down films we've seen in classes that stood out, or films we hear about from other folks in different classes. USC makes hundreds of films per year and in nearly every class I find something impressive...yet, if one were to watch only the thesis project, one comes away with a very limited sense of what type of movies are being made at school.

We have creative, hard working, talented people making experimental, funny, crazy movies - and none of this comes out in thesis screenings. This will happen at the very beginning of next semester - keep your eyes open.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Whole Equation

Very few at film school will read this book, although we all probably should.

Hardly anyone at film school reads.

Another review by the NY Times...I want to read it even more, I've never really found Griffith all that great either, but I feel bound to respect him just because everyone says so.
Whatever, Kristoff

Interracial relations and hollywood...isn't there a Julia Stiles movie with her and a black dude? Did he watch Saved by the Bell? In Pulp Fiction there are several interracial couples. In Jackie Brown, there is interracial love. Interracial love is pursued in the Royal Tenenbaums. These are just off the top of my head, without any research. I sort of agree with this, but at the same time think Kristoff is just working off the movies he happened to watch, versus movies that may actually depict the matter.

If he were REALLY interested in this stuff, he'd examine Romeo Must Die. This is a particularly obvious example of Hollywood's view on interracial relationships between an Asian man (Jet Li) and a black women (Aaliyah). This movie is a take on Romeo and Juliet - but the gangs are Black and Asian...and they can't even muster the balls to show a romantic encounter between a black woman and asian man. It's too unbelievable...I mean think about this - sexual stereotypes of Asian male's being desexualized trumps the ultimate love story, Romeo and Juliet. Seriously think about that.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


I always thought it was because there were 420 chemical in marijuana...I guess that's an urban myth according to this post. It's a couple days late, but I figured I ought to plug it because it mentions my hometown - or close to it, Marin at least as one of the possible originators of the 420 idea. Cool.
Running Low on Steam

My biggest worry about being involved with the entertainment industry is simply running out of steam. This world is a big hustle, you're always positioning yourself for a project, for work, I see it already in film school as a little mini-version of the industry. Right now, I truthfully long to be finished with my academic paper on blogging and editing my ten minute movie and doing some easy-breezy mundane work that pays decent, so I can work a little bit and enjoy my time sitting in the sun, watching movies, and goofing around.

This life we've chosen doesn't allow that - goofing around is a temporary relief, necessary only to re-energize one for the big haul. Watching movies is about paying attention to craft and getting ideas. Any extra money I ever have goes straight into another project or another tool to create another project. I know this is the life I want, it's just I can't keep up the energy all the time...stable, easy jobs can be theraputic at times. Of course, I can't imagine doing it for 40 some odd years.

Why can't I just make a living blogging and make films as a hobby? Or vice versa?
Blog As Genre

Culture cat, a theorist on blogging.
More Blog Research

Sifry's statistics.
Sounds Like a Bomb

I was looking forward to the Interpreter, but this review makes it sound pretty horrible.

I have a prediction - Hollywood will swing right - not Christian right, but Goldwater right in the next 10-15 years.

The generation of Leftist directors, Pollack, Nichols, there must be others...are passe. They are old. During Vietnam and Watergate, they had the moral edge, the courage to make bold movies with Points of View. Now, they make confusing films that aspire to be ambiguous and "grey." The movies that sell - F 9/11, Passion of the Christ are not grey at all - they come from a very specific moral point of view. It's not that people want to see films that are politically one way or the other, I saw both Passion and F 9/11, didn't even like either one very much. BUT, what they did have going for them was a fearlessness by both directors to tell a specific story in their own voice. These other films are attempting to appeal to everyone, and end up appealing to no one. These guys have the skills, but not the backbone.

Hollywood was born of conservative masculine American values, John Ford, John Wayne, Howard Hawks. These are the filmmakers that the world loved. Hollywood turned left only after the McCarthy hearings, feeling betrayed by the government - this was reinforced through Vietnam and Watergate. But the some of the newer, more interesting filmmakers, Trey Parker/Matt Stone, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Vincent Gallo, have a right wing feel to their films. We will see hardcore Leftist movies like the Day After Tomorrow and F 9/11, and these will have an audience, but they are relying on their political voice and not their creative voice to propel the stories...and in the world of Vincent Gallo, "they are chasing after ghosts."

The right wing shift will not be pre-planned by the producers or studios, but will be because of market forces. America is more right wing after 9/11. We re-understand black and white, right and wrong, in a new way. We are not the morally grey or morally relative country that supports giving Yasir Arafat the nobel peace prize. We want sharpness, boldness, fearless creativity. We want films with heart and with balls. These films will not come from the John Kerry Left. They will come from the Goldwater right - there are already examples - Million Dollar Baby, Collateral of last year. Black Hawk Down, South Park, Fight Club of years before...
Amazon Short Films

Check them out. See what the people like - get out of the film school value-set.

Friday, April 22, 2005


What a post. This will get you thinking...
This is Why Blogging is So Badass

The David Brooks article on Roe v. Wade. This is certainly an interesting perspective that roots the current anger and vicious nature of politics in America - dare I say, the entire Red-Blue divide in the single case of Roe v. Wade. I haven't heard this before (and that alone makes me think he might be onto something). Hat tip, Nate.
My New Favorite Celebrity

Is Paula Abdul. Straight up.

I will drink this soup.

Looks like a good month. Lawrence of Arabia on May 5-8 on 70mm. Empire Strikes Back, White Dog (Sam Fuller), Fritz the Cat, and Los Angeles Plays Itself (a movie for LA history buffs), the Elephant Man. The series are: movies of 1980, Ralph Bakashi series , film noir (double feature The Whip Hand, The Hidden Room looks good).

Could be a big month for movies as school winds down.
Eyes Open

Keep your ears and eyes open for this event at USC.
$14 Steadicam

I must build one of these soon.
How Things Actually Work

Drezner has a nice piece from a couple of days ago about neoconservative and libertarian cabal paranoia.

He points out something that should be fairly obvious, but gets easily lost in hyperbole: the Bush admin is NOT run by a cabal of neoconservatives with respect to Foreign Policy. In fact, if anything, the Bush administration is acting like any other administration, with it's own interests and they happen to coincide, at this point in time with Straussian ideas for using American power.

So while Bush's motivation for going into Iraq may be as simple as finishing up his father's dirty work - the consequences and rationale for the war also fit neatly into the Wolfowitzian world view. These partners have different motivations, but agree on the action...and jointly celebrate or mourn the consequences.

This is how the world works, in partnerships with varying motivations and rationale.
EIDC is Evil

I saw the face of evil today - at the EIDC. No joke. We went location scouting, found some beaches we would like to shoot at, we called the contacts, got information regarding shooting. The place we wanted has us go through EIDC to book the beach. We fax and email a permit application to EIDC to get the permit started. I call to follow up - they say, "You have to come in in person, we throw away requests from students that do not come in." I yell at them over the phone. I call Joe to confirm this is the new rule. Apparently, it's always been that way. Bullshit. I've got six permits via fax (you have to pick up the final permit). So I go in this morning. They refuse to issue the permit and refuse to help us book the location. Their reasoning - "You're too far ahead of time. You need to cut back on your dates (1+week), even though they permit for 2 weeks. You will get booted if a production company wants to shoot."

"If you were me, what would you do?" I ask.

The guy could barely answer other than by mumbling his usual - come back end of may, you get booted if a production company wants to shoot (I heard you the first time, dumbshit)...the entire concept of empathy or putting oneself in anothers shoes is totally foreign to this bureaucratic cog.

I don't know if this is what Arendt meant when she spoke of the banality of evil, but I sure think its in the same ballpark.

Down with the EIDC, I say!

Thursday, April 21, 2005


What a frigging idiot this guy is. He criticizes Justice Kennedy for doing research on the internet and on using foreign judicial opinions. It seems to me these are good things - being able to use new tools and being open to looking at different points of view to gain wisdom in making judicial opinions.

DeLay is the perfect example of what we should all fear - a technophobic, xenophobic, self-righteous, moralistic, aggressive, bullying, thug who wants to rule by force and intimidation. This guy, to me, is a much bigger problem than the Bush administration and we ought to join forces to condemn his behaviour.

The Republicans need to ostracize this guy. The democrats should go along with it, but not call for it themselves. Just allow DeLay to keep speaking and making a fool of himself is helping the Dems more than anything we can think of on our own.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fishing Spots

LA Times lists great fishing spots around LA. A resource for Phil's movie.
Google, Teenage Sex, and James Bond

Everytime I hear about a new development by Google, I get worried. I know the company is run by decent folks and they seem to act responsibly, but the technology and information they wield is a little scary to me.

First, there is the ability to search your harddrive, now the ability to store all past searches. This makes me nervous, mostly because of the way my searches can be interpreted...."I was just trying to demonstrate how many porno sites come up on the internet - I swear."

I suppose these email services (gmail included) have all sorts of access to your privacy already...

I can forsee a Bond villian utilizing Google-type power to control everyone and everything as a hipster, Quentin Tarantino directed Bond played by Clive Owen takes down the young black turtlenecked bad guy. Wouldn't it be perfect for the foreign market to see an American bad-guy, they would eat it up!
Celebrity Death Match

I'd like to see Michael Moore versus Henry Kissinger.

Iran with nukes --> end of civilization, according to Kissinger. It seems like a big claim, but I think everyone seems to agree a nuclear Iran is quite undesirable. Good thing with have a hundred thousand troops next door.
Want to Do Damage to Your Career?

If you are a young hollywood starlet, I suggest getting involved with Ben Affleck. I mean, these guys met on Daredevil, right? Doesn't that spell disaster?

Wooohoooo. Finished shooting my directing project last night. What a long-ass day...but I think we got some really good stuff. I'll need to look at it in the lab to really determine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Couple of Cool Things

First, it's an interesting snippit from Instapundit about home grown terrorism, but almost more interestingly, check out the format - the ability to click and "read more" and instead of hyperlinking, it opens up fresh text and then gives the option to close the text down. I like it. Is this a new format offered by blogger for those who pay extra?

CORRECTION: When you click the specific link, as I linked to, you cannot see the new format, the expanded version pops up. If you want to see what I was talking about you'll need to go to and scroll to the specific article.
Awesome Article

Man, what a fascinating story about two cousins in Lebannon.
Should We Care About This?

Opus Dei has a stake in Papal elections...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Jargon - For Sitcom Writers

I usually hate jargon, but reading about this jargon for sitcom writers is sure fun. I wonder what that means?

I haven't watched this show in awhile, I heard it went downhill, and indeed, it has.

Most of this episode dealt with the issue of torture. There is a nuclear bomb loose and a bunch of guys want to torture the only suspect who knows something about it. Some other figures of authority can't decide whether torturing the suspect is justified - so they don't authorize it.

My issue is this: if you truly believe that torturing a suspect will lead to saving millions of lives, why in God's name would you let your boss stop you from getting the information? I mean, couldn't you justify forcibly doing whatever you thought necessary if it meant stopping a nuclear bomb going off? I don't understand why the agents are willing to torture to find information, but unwilling to circumvent procedural rules. It makes no sense. And hence, one of the big problems with allowing or even opening the slippery slope to torture as a legitimate means to find creates a vaccuum of responsibility, because once the initial premise is accepted (that torture will save millions of lives) nearly anything and everything becomes justified.
Blogging Research

Paper on blogging.

More blog stuff.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Robert Towne

Went to an event today at Pomona College, a screening of Chinatown, followed by Robert Towne speaking...he is a Pomona Alum. He gave some interesting tid bits of info about the film, about his career, etc. My favorite part, however, was his story about the one scene he loved that never made it into the film:

When Jake Gittes (Jack N) goes to see Noah Cross (John Huston) for the first time, after he gets out of the car and before they go to lunch (this is how it cuts together in the film), the two characters are walking at the albacore club and horse walks in front of them and takes a dump. Cross reveals to Gates that most people pretend to hate the smell of horse shit, but that he in fact, loves it - and freely admits it. Then some other discussion occurs using horse shit as a metaphor for the world and how one deals with it...
The Contender

Has anyone else seen this show? It's Sly Stallone, Suger Ray Leonard, some other guest folks appear - Paulie from Rocky, Carl Weathers....but it's really just a reality TV boxing show. You spend time with these two young boxers throughout the episode and it culminates in a fight. The fight sequences are awesome, they are edited together like a Rocky movie instead of a normal prize fight.

I've always been bored watching boxing because it's never as entertaining as Rocky. Now we see reality TV combining with a sport to make the whole thing more accessible and fun. Damn good idea, combining sport, reality TV form, and Celebrity stars. Pretty good execution. A reality TV breakthrough, I'd say. Look forward to more...

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Saw a bunch of disappointing 581's tonight. Nothing risky or bold. Just average stories that often didn't make much sense. Does USC encourage mediocrity? I suppose not everyone can make great films, but I figure everyone ought to be stretching themselves creatively moreso than financially, which seems to be the M.O.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Frontline

I will likely live in LA for most of my life - it's the place where people do what I'm interested in - visual communication. And I like it here.

I look forward to being apart of this "scene" which promises to make LA a cultural capital (without trying to get around our vulgarity).

Plus, with blogging, no joke, it's easy to hold intellectual conversations, regardless of geography.
Response Wanted

I wrote in my "Ah, Yes" post below two different viewpoints of American history and the role of American government.

View 1: The American government makes decisions that affect the lives of many people, who lives, who dies, who eats, who doesn't, who gets money and support, who gets blamed and who gets punished and how they get punished and how much support, etc, etc. The government makes these decisions - and some turn out to be right (abolishing slavery) and some turn out to be wrong (Japanese internment).

View 2: The American government pursues a violent, aggressive foreign policy and policies against particular groups of people in an effort to further our own narrow self interest, economic, cultural, and militarily.

Granted, not all actions over the entire history by the US government can be lumped into one of these two viewpoints...but one can look at US history or US modern history and argue that either View 1 or View 2 is more common or a more dominant theme in our actions.

I'm curious for all the Michael Moore Left out there (sarah, kevin, alice, cindy) what View they find more accurate.

An interesting post on trivia.

I'm not so much interested in how well trivial pursuit is selling, but this idea of technical/specific trivia versus general trivia, to me, is an interesting angle through which to view intelligence and knowledge.

I, of course, favor the generalist idea - the concept of a renaissance man versus the concept of a technical specialist. I think the past 15 years or so has privileged the specialist, the technical, the detailed trivia versus the generalist, humanist approach to knowledge and intelligence. Maybe the internet is changing this trend. Fabulous.
Maybe I am Conservative

When my liberal friends and family accuse me of going crazy and becoming Right wing, I laugh at the absurdity and get upset that they think a criticism of liberals translates to a conservative ideology.

BUT, when put this way: "Consider too the old aphorism that: to a liberal the world is a tragedy, to a conservative a comedy."

I am without a doubt, conservative...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ah, Yes

When asked why he glorified violence in his movies, Sam Peckinpah said, "I've made non-violent, family movies and no one goes to see them."

Something similar can be said about blog posts - when I write nice, correct things, no one seems to care....but it's the offensive, provocative one's that get attention. I blog for many reasons, among them, getting attention. Funny, eh.

Finally Sarah has checked out my blog after much pestering and she says she would be more "interested in your criticisms of liberalism and am interested in engaging them - but i'm less interested when you make extreme statements." Sort of rings hollow, especially after posting many criticism of Liberals (not liberalism - that's different) and then generating a response only from the extreme statements. Examples of such posts, here and here.

I'll address some of the issues Sarah brought up.

1. Fair enough regarding the entirety of the film - although the cartoon section does present itself as an abbreviated history of America, which as I noted in the comments was a history that Alice and Cindy found to be "more accurate" than the textbook version. So, stand where you will on that particular example.

2. I'm certainly not suggesting we ought to silence criticism of America. But it ought to concern Michael Moore or a Michael Moore supporter that Osama Bin Laden quoted F 9/11 in one of his public addresses...he mocks Bush for listening to a donkey story instead of reacting to the attack. Does that give anyone else pause other than me - not from a right wing standpoint, just from an overall social-political standpoint?

OBL says America is an aggressive, violent country that is attacking Muslims to further our own economic interests and therefore, Muslims have a duty to fight to the death to protect themselves.

Let's examine his first premise: Is American an aggressive, violent country that is attacking Muslims to further our own interests?

I say no. I think Michael Moore says yes.

If this premise is true - isn't it legitimate for Muslims to fight back, violently? If they are being attacked, aren't they justified in making a counter-attack? I suppose you can argue a pacifist approach, that even if one is attacked, it doesn't mean you have a right to fight back, but most people don't believe that. A basic right is a right to self-defense and the self defense argument is the one OBL makes.

So, I guess my point is that while is it legitimate to question America's actions, it's important to distinguish between what I think is true: (View 1) the American goverment makes hugely important decisions that affect the lives of Americans and non-Americans, either by action or inaction...we weigh the pros and cons of particular actions and inactions and make decisions based on the information we have. Sometimes we are wrong and sometimes we are right, but the consequences result in some people living, some people dying, some people getting money, others not getting money. To look at a given action and say - look guys, I think we were wrong to support the Shah of Iran or to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, or go into Vietnam is fine. But it is also much different than saying:

(View 2) America is a violent, aggressive country that attacks other people and countries to further our own interests whenever we see fit. America attacks Muslims by invading their land and starving their people through sanctions, indescriminately supporting Israel (who also kills Muslims and steals their land). This is OBLs position. And I suspect there are many on the LEFT who agree more with View 2 than View 1. And yes, I think View 2 gives support to those who violently oppose America and think we deserve retribution for our aggressive policies.

3. My only comment on the third section is that Hollywood also uses free extras and unpaid interns for slave labor. Bastards.

Lastly, regarding the dixie chicks and howard stern and bill mahr, seems to me is another issue altogether. If anything, those are issues of censorship and the entertainment market. While some on the right think F 9/11 should not be released because it gives aid to terrorists, etc....that is not what I think. What I think is that it ought to be released and watched and discussed for what it is and whether we buy into his arguments. Same thing with Leni R. What if her films were released in Germany at the time and folks stood up and said "NO! This is fucked up. This glorified version of Hitler is not accurate and is untrue and furthermore, she used gypsy slaves to make the film." That's the world I envision. Blindly supporting Michael Moore MERELY because he stands up to the right wing establishment means you are privileging partisanship over truth and accuracy.

Is it really awful for me to think how cool it would be if my ancestors had suffered at the hands of someone, so I could stand to inherit millions of dollars. I'm sure the answer is Yes.
Dream Come True

I suppose if you're a fireman, this is a dream come true.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


This is the types of story you never read about.
Bowling For Columbine

I forgot what a good movie this was. Much better than F 9/11. Great construction, visuals, humor, emotions. The sad part is that I fear it espouses a leftist viewpoint that in time will be revealed as a viciously anti-American, pro-totalitarian, nihilistic point of view. The most obvious example is the cartoon sequence of American history which shows white people being fearful, violent, horrific perpetrators of evil against everyone - including each other. This sarcastic, parodic view of American history is the preferred by the Michael Moore Left. I fear that it's moral relativity and misguided blame for the world's problems will in time be revealed as grossly incorrect, selective, and worst, giving aid and comfort to terrorists and autocrats, thugs, and dictators, who can point to how evil America (and the west in general) is, and use it as a tool to maintain power. Will Michael Moore be remembered as the next Leni Reifanstahl?
More Technical Problems

I'm having more technical problems with Blogger. This is a test.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Online Dating

I've been hearing good things about Eharmoney. This stuff sounds pretty fun, if you have the right attitude about it. I was talking about it with XXXX tonight and they've been having a good time. They do a personality profile and then match you up with people. You get emails when they find matches - I imagine opening your email to a match being fun.

It costs $35 a month, which seemed steep to me, but then again, I suppose it's worth it if you find the love of your life (or even if you get a hand job, I suppose).
Everything At Once

Why does everything BIG have to happen at once, a doc pitch, a movie to direct, and a massive paper to write? I feel like I could do a good job at all of these things, but balancing all three at once, I'm running the risk of shitting over all of them. Particularly the doc pitch, which I feel like is coming completely apart and I'm totally losing interest in.

Did my blog become a journal all of a sudden?
The Machine

Interesting bit about colleges, the increasing cost of tuition and decreasing level of education. It's pissing people off, and rightfully so. I truly do not see why school costs so much money. I'm at USC right now and it's a freaking factory.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Feeling

I have this feeling that this is going to be good.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

5 Year Reunion

Funny timing on that last post because in two weeks I'll be at a college reunion, seeing a bunch of people that were in that Chapter 1.

I found the document on accident because I thought it would be a funny blog post if I typed in "humping" in google and posted the results. Anyhow, this Chapter 1 popped up on my google internal harddrive search and it got me started reading.

I just came across a weird document on my harddrive, something I must have written a couple of months after I graduated from college. The title of it was Chapter 1. Was I trying to write a book? I don't even remember.

An exerpt:

Chapter 1: xxxxxxxxxxxxx

“On weekends I like to make lists and cross things off.”

Her response triggered “weird” sirens in my head. Certain questions should not be asked for different reasons. Asking a weighty women her weight or asking a guy likely to be a virgin whether he is a virgin embarrasses the addressee. Other questions embarrass the questioner. These questions are usually the type with the undesired answer implied by the questions. The self suspecting loser asking, “Do you think I’m a loser?”

I figured asking my manager about her weekend plans was innocent and unlikely to fall into my category of questionable questions. However, the responsive created a new category, those questions that embarrass the questioner because of the earnestness of the addressees answer. I could not help envisioning my manager dreaming of her free Saturday morning, finding a fresh pad of paper and listing:

1. White Laundry
2. Grocery Shopping
3. Mother’s Day Card
4. Tower Records (Dido single)
5. Clean bathroom

Dreaming of returning home, she triumphantly scratches neat lines through errands 2,3, and 4. In the same motion she adds a number 6 to the list: buy cleaning products, which she lines through, smiling to herself for having made the list of cross-offs longer.

I do not have a problem with lists. In fact, I often make them. However, I would never add making a list to the list of my weekend plans. Nor would I list making a list and crossing off items as something that I liked to do.

The first day I began working at ZIA I met V. I met most of the people that worked at ZIA on my first day. A stocky girl, with pointy boobs, a big smile, and long dirty blonde hair, Vivi seemed nice in the way my 3rd grade teaching assistant seemed nice, ineffectually. At the time, I was stoked. My boss would be a 26 year old ex-sororiety girl that I would be able to make fun of without her realizing it. She would like me because I would make her feel smart so long as I acted interested in the inane excel formatting standards she proudly espoused. It would be like grade school once again, a reversion I didn’t mind for the short-term while I tried to figure out what one does after graduating from a small liberal arts college.

These were just my first impressions of V, not at all based upon anything she had told me, or anything I had heard. In other words, no facts. One fact, however, that I did take away from that first meeting was that she had a boyfriend. And I knew from the way she said it, that it was a boyfriend she intended on marrying. Four months later, she confirmed what I had known after that first meeting, in what she probably thought a clever conversation at Herringtons,

“So, you have this boyfriend and he’s great…like a good steak. One can always rely on a good steak. But what about the other items on the menu? Do you check them out?”

“No, I don’t.”

“But how do you not look at the other items. I mean, it takes effort NOT to look. Don’t you think.”

“Not when you’re in love. I don’t need anything else.”

“So you think you’re going to marry Derek?”

“Yes. I do.”

So there it was. She did have her entire life planned out, her and Derek, making lists of their lives and crossing things off as they went along.


The next section of the Chapter goes into another guy at my work with an "Asian fetish" and then I go into a bizarre dissection of why Asian fetishes don't really exist, a round up of the last three weeks of college, a very detailed explanation about the mechanics of hooking up with one girl without this other girl finding out (which I read now and think - what an asshole), video stores, and a college Nemesis.


My favorite passage:

Fierman was roommates with Evan and I sophomore year. We were all friends. Some folks around Pomona knew Fierman only as Newman, for his close physical resemblance to Wayne Knight. The Newman nickname had become more appropriate come senior year, as Fierman abandoned our group of friends to live with the Lawrey group. The Lawrey group was the group that liked to think they were the big partyers on campus. What they lacked in quality personnel, they made up for in quantity. Fierman was easily seduced by that allure and abandoned our group because he become resigned to the position of the fat guy with weed. Since his unofficial free agent signing, Fierman, (his name uttered in a tone reminicient of Jerry Seinfeld’s clutching snipe, “Newman!”), had made more than a few aggressive assaults towards me. By far the most annoying occurred one evening in the dining hall as I was telling a new release about how the kids at the hostel I volunteered at were sick and that little kids in general had lots of diseases I was succeptible to. I was drawing a funny picture of dirty, germ-ridded children running around threatening my health, when Fierman, in a well-timed interruption mused, “It’s well known that most diseases are age specific.”

I was stunned and taken aback by this blatant act of aggression. As a chemistry major, Fierman was capable as coming across as the science-know-it-all, often using terms such as “chemotaxis” or “isotope,” to intimidate a conversant. At the end of the table Antony started laughing as I had mentioned to him a day before some prior Fierman anti-me behavior. Not as quickly as I would have liked to, I said, “I’m talking about catching a cold, which to my knowledge is not age-specific.” The response did the trick and shut Fierman up, but was not nearly as silencing as a quick, “Fierman, I’m not talking about osteoporosis or gout, you fucking retard,” would have been. In any case, I finished my story quickly as it had lost any momentum that had accrued.
Long Season

It could be a long season for the A's.

We should have an American pope, so America can rule the world!
Prince Charles

Howard Stern was giving Prince Charles props the other day for marrying an ugly chick. Stern thought that Charles was doing women around the world a favor that they ought to appreciate, leaving a young hot women for someone who he truly loved, even though she was ugly. What can I say, he's a better man than me.

What ever happened to Saddam's trail?

At long last, Kevin has finally made a post! It's a good one.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sin City

First, all my film school friends are disappointed with the movie. Now, my favorite blogger dogs it.

I guess I have to see it, but now I'm thinking it'll have to be a part of a double feature to make it worth my while.
Why Does this Make Me Like GW Bush More?

I'm definately having sons.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bring Him Down!

I've never been so interested in seeing a politician brought down than right now with Tom DeLay.

I suppose if I had been around during Watergate, I would have liked to seen Nixon fall, but someone like DeLay worries me more than Nixon. My great uncle actually knew Nixon when they were both lawyers in California. He was a die hard FDR Democrat, hated everything Nixon stood for, but knowing the man, really liked him. Funny, eh?

I was happy when Gingrich, Lott, and Thurmond all either were removed from office or revealed to be a major hypocrite...same with Rush Limbaugh...but none of them I feel deserve to lose their job in a public, embarrassing manner, like I think DeLay deserves to.

UPDATE: Here's another perspective, comparing DeLay to Clinton. I guess the difference for me is that the shady stuff doesn't quite bug me as much as his threatening remarks....

Part of me is jaded and thinks, well, they're all corrupt, so what's the difference. But I also think that one can be a good person and a good politician and still have behaviour that the media latches onto and exploits to make you look bad. Holding up LAX for a haircut is snappy and makes Clinton look like an ass, but I wonder about what really happened. I'm guessing Clinton didn't say, "I want a haircut and I want all LAX flights to wait for me because of it."
Walking on Eggshells

One of my goals with the doc is to get over walking on eggshells talking about Muslims, the Middle East, and America. I agree with Tom Friedman in this respect.
Go Cheney!

Maureen Dowd
hits the nail or the head - when Dick Cheney says you've gone too far, you've gone too far...Cheney and Frist criticise DeLay. Lynch him up, I say.
Documentary Pitch

Practice pitch went horrible's making me feel tired. Should I have gone to law school?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Victory in the Terror War

This via Instapundit and Austin Bay from a senior military official on what constitutes victory in the war on terror.

Again, I think War on Terror is a misnomer, it is more accurately described as a war against Islamic Fascism.

I spoke with an actor friend of mine yesterday who lived through the Iranian revolution. He spoke candidly and well about how the Mullah's or Ayatollah's were tricky bastards and stole the revolution from the people who supported it, all under the guise of more freedom, helping the poor, standing up to the west, and so forth.

The Islamic fascists of today have similar goals and are similarly tricky in hiding them, yet the world has experience and now knows what type of beast we are dealing with. I imagine Muslims should listen to their Persian and Afghan brothers and sisters to see what is in store for them if they acquise to the Fascists.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Keeping It Real

Some words of wisdom from 11D. Was this the old apartment 11D? I'm guessing so...

Her basic premise: keep it real.
Cutter's Way and Blow Out

This past weekend was the final night of the Paranoid Films of the 70s showing at the LACMA. The final two films were actually release in the early 1980s, Cutter's Way, aka Cutter and Bone and Blow Out, by Brian DePalma.

Blow Out was a film I was looking forward to seeing, Quentin Tarantino lists it as one of his top 3 films of all time. It features John Travolta as an sound man for cheesy movies who witnesses a political assassination while recording sounds. The most fun elements of the film are DePalma's fancy camera work and the focus on film sound and filmmaking and construction. But the overall movie was a little disappointing because of the cartoonish acting and plot and motivation of the "bad guy." It was fairly entertaining, though, overall and worth checking out simply for the fact that the early 1980s were an interesting and neglected period for American films...many of actors/writers/directors who made great stuff in the 1970s were still going strong, but the box office climate favored projects like Star Wars.

Cutter and Bone was a very weird movie. Two old buddies living in Santa Barbara, one who went to the ivy league and the other who fought in Vietnam, are played by Jeff Bridges and John Heard (Home Alone - the father). Bridges witnesses a car dump a body early on in the film and then thinks he sees the driver at a Fiesta Day parade, which turns out to be the rich head honcho of Santa Barbara. Heard, playing a cripple, becomes obsessed with proving this guy's guilt and the two men go back and forth the entire film trying to prove that this guy was behind the whole thing.

The style of the movie is odd...the dialog instead of following the tradition of Hawks of saying one thing and meaning another is what I call "over the nose," meaning so on the nose, it's over the top and original. The Heard character calls a tough group of black guys "niggers," in a strange earnest fashion, not being maliciously racist, but because he's attention starved and trying to be entertaining. He later crashes into his neighbors car because it's blocking his drive way and then proffers his wife's dildo to his neighbors wife...

Brigdes is in love with Heard's wife, played nicely by Lisa Eichorn. The setting in Santa Barbara is also neat, with tons of background players being Mexican or Native Americans in the presense of these middle class characters...and then this whole world of super wealth providing another back ground layer. What's interesting too, is how the three layers relate and how the main characters navigate through all three worlds - they eat at a shitty diner, watch a parade filled with beautiful college women AND native American folks, but also dine at a country club and polo club through this wealthy friend of theirs.

Just an odd overall film.

One other interesting tid-bit: the sound track had some subjective sound design. When we were watching the film, the guy in front of me turned and ask we stop crunching the bag of goldfish I was eating. It was finished by the time he ask, and I didn't respond.

Later in the film a loud, cell phone-eque sound came on and the guy shouted, "SHut the fucking cell phone off!"

We were a little stunned and frankly a little scared. Later in the film, the same sound came again and several members of the audience sighed...but it was odd, the timing of the weird sound was somewhat appropriate for the subjective moment of the characters in the film.

After the film was over and the lights went on, Phil leaned to me, weren't those sounds part of the soundtrack? The credits were rolling and the sound came on again.

We started laughing. The guy had yelled about the sound track of the film. The curtain closed, we were lingering, the guy was lingering as well. He looked angry. It looked as if he wanted to confront someone about their cell phone. Then, despite the curtain being closed, the sound occurred again. Huh? Now I was confused.

We left the film, Phil whispering to me - I think this guy is going to kill someone over the cell phone sound.

We get outside into the LACMA building...a weird futuristic, Stanley Kubrick movie, type of place and this guy is still lingering. After seeing these two paranoid films, we come out in a weird head space worried about this movie Taleban guy attacking someone over a perceived cell phone ring that may have been part of the soundtrack.

Fast forward to last night - my friend is at the DGA watching first look and apparently a cell phone goes off and a guy grabs it from the owner and breaks it in two. Pushing and fighting ensue.

What the hell is going on? I don't like cell phones going off in movies, but it hardly seems to me something worth yelling and fighting over. If it upsets people so much, why don't they just stay home and watch movies.

I thought again about the crunching of my goldfish. Does this guy ever go to the Grove? How does he stand people eating popcorn? Or laughing at an unfunny joke? Does he yell, "SHut up! That wasn't funny?"

I wish I could strap him down at a Magic Johnson Theater where people are talking to the characters on screen during the movie - now that would be perfect!

Monday, April 04, 2005


I just workshopped the actors in my short movie during class. My prof made a ton of suggestions and broke down all sorts of problems I had with my movie. It's great, because I feel rejuventated to make a really great film, but sad because I couldn't get there on my own.

How do these first time filmmakers do it? How does one direct? It's so freaking hard to see the problem with your work, yet it is so easy to see the problem with others.

Dammit. Will I ever be able to do this job?
A Hero

A long, but informative article on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the women who worked with Theo Van Gogh. Man, she's pretty hot, also, huh?

She thinks we need a Muslim Monty Python. I agree. A Muslim Woody Allen, Larry David, or Charlie Chaplin is what the world truly needs.

PS- my documentary pitch treatment is posted below.
Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1,300 years…. This centuries-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline. It could become more virulent. The Gulf War left some Arabs feeling proud that Saddam Hussein had attacked Israel and stood up to the West. It also left many feeling humiliated and resentful of the West's military presence in the Persian Gulf, the West's overwhelming military dominance, and their apparent inability to shape their own destiny.

-Samuel Huntington, Clash of Civilizations

But we are all swimming in those waters, Westerners and Muslims and others alike. And since the waters are part of the ocean of history, trying to plow or divide them with barriers is futile. These are tense times, but it is better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions that may give momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis. "The Clash of Civilizations" thesis is a gimmick like "The War of the Worlds," better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time.

-Edward Said, Clash of Ignorance


This documentary started on 9/11. Images of New York on that day haunt me. I still get angry thinking about being attacked, the towers falling, and bodies plunging from buildings. I feel comfort, solidarity, and patriotism when I remember the heroes of Flight 93, New York City Firemen, and Donald Rumsfeld assisting injured people at the Pentagon.

I also remember hearing about celebrations in Palestine, Pakistan, and at mosques in Britain.

When tragedy hits there are generally two competing reactions: guilt and blame. And I have varying degrees of both guilt and blame about 9/11. What did WE do to deserve this? Who is responsible?

In the subsequent weeks, I became obsessed with America’s relationship with the Muslim world. At first, I was surprised and outraged by the attitude towards 9/11 that, “Yes, this was a tragedy, BUT, you must understand…” It was the “BUTS” that killed me. What do you mean: BUT? To me, it was essentially shrugging one shoulders and whispering, “you had it coming.” This was not something I could accept, the smugness towards America, viewing 9/11 like a basketball game when the Cinderella team upset the big number 1 seed. There was something wrong with this picture. As an American, I was offended, hurt, and angry.

What to do about it? At first I read. I read newspapers obsessively. When I realized newspapers did not provide enough information, I went to journals and magazines, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, and the Economist. Then I read books: Thomas Friedman, Michael Scheuer, Richard Clarke, Fareed Zakaria, and Edward Said.

But there was something distant and passive about reading. I felt like I ought to be doing something.

I realized I ought to be talking to Muslims.

I am not Muslim. I am an outsider, an intruder, a curious observer, a poseur. I remind myself of Geraldine Chaplin in Nashville, latching onto the country music scene under the pretense of making a BBC documentary.

I’m not even sure why I want to take this journey or what I expect to find. I know my curiosity stems from 9/11 and I know that some political theorists think the West and Islam will battle for the next 100 years while others insist such rhetoric simply provides a philosophical underpinning for war. I also know political scholarship does not capture the emotional complexities of individuals. Its flaw is lumping large groups with complicated individual and group dynamics into overly simplistic explanatory models, trying to predict future trends. I know visual recording and constructing of a narrative and stories provide emotional access to people, a necessary step in this day and age to humanize and empathize with one another.
Part I

I talk with Ray Haratian, a Persian actor I work with, who asks me why I want to make this film.

“I want to see whether I can integrate into the Muslim community in Los Angeles.”

“Okay, but where is the conflict? What is the mystery?”

“The conflict, for me, is to see whether I can see the world the way they see the world.”

“How will you know if you’ve accomplished that?”

“I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t sound like much of a conflict, nor a documentary.”

“I guess I want to know who is right: Edward Said or Samuel Huntington. Is there a clash of civilizations? Or are we truly interdependent peoples, all swimming in the same water, together?”

“But why you? What makes you qualified?”

“Because I’m willing. Because I want to.”

“But you’re not Muslim.”

“Isn’t that the point? The point is to discover whether I can see the world from their perspective.”

“What will that accomplish? What’s the point of making a documentary about THAT?”

“Maybe if I can integrate and befriend and learn about the Muslims living in Los Angeles, and if they see that I’m interested in recording them as people, as opposed to enemies or objects, that maybe it will prove Huntington wrong.”

“Sounds sort of hippy to me. And you didn’t answer the documentary question.”

“I’m no hippy. I define myself as a liberal libertarian hawk.”

“A liberal libertarian hawk - that doesn’t make any sense. And you still didn’t answer the documentary question.”

“Let’s table the documentary question for a moment. You lived in Iran when the Ayatollahs came to power-what was that like?”

“I’ll tell you about the Ayatollah’s – they stole the revolution. And believe me, when the day comes when they start killing Ayatollahs, I’ll be over there with a machete.”

Yipes! But what did I expect? Ray lived in Iran during the revolution. He talks in detail about the day when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power promising free water, free electricity, and oil revenue distributed to all the people. He promised better schools, less Western decadence, and more Islam. The government is to serve the people, not the people to serve the government. Who could object to that?

The politics of fear quickly took over in Iran. A cultural revolution occurred; the Ayatollah’s punishing artists and intellectuals. Iraq attacked Iran and eight years of bloody war followed. The U.S. supported Saddam Hussein for fear the Islamic Revolution would spread. During the war, Ray suffered nerve damage on his arm, which has not grown since he was 13 years old.

Ray is Americanized, having lived in Los Angeles since he was 14. He came to America alone after the injury, to live with his aunt and uncle. In Iran, his family was religiously strict by our standards, no alcohol, no pre-marital sex, that type of thing. He freely admits not carrying on the traditions of his parents; sex and booze are an integral part of his life.

Ray is too much like me. We have no potential conflict.
Part II

On the other hand, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at University of Southern California has a radical website. The MSA hosted the Taleban Ambassador in March of 2001 and still boasts about it on the website. I begin to attend their meetings and get to know the students. I imagine the best and worst case scenario: a hidden terrorist cell plotting to blow up the Oscars. Great conflict. Horrific moral implications.

I do not find any terrorists. I go to an event, the Heirs of the Prophets, organized by the MSA. It’s boring. Fareed Abdullah, the guest lecturer, lectures on 4 different imams, none of whom are interesting to me. A group of tough, older, looking Muslims from Fareed’s masjid come to the event. One challenges me on my religious views during lunchtime. He is a white guy who used to work in the film industry. His tone is aggressive and bullying, “Do you believe in God?” He asks. I smile, “Come on, man, that’s a heavy question.”

“Do you believe in God?” “I haven’t thought much about this question in years.” “Well, do you believe in a creator?” “Yes,” I say, “I guess I believe there is something that created us.”

I caved to his question, which wasn’t about spirituality, but more about dominating an argument. I feel like a pussy.

Do I believe in God? I never know what to say to that question.

I eat next to an Indian guy, who doesn’t know anyone else at the event. He looks equally out of place. The bearded white guy eats his KFC cole slaw with his hands, sitting in a circle on the ground around Fareed Abdullah, who sits above his group of students/followers on a comfortable chair.

The next week, I meet with Karim, Bilal, and Aman after the MSA weekly meeting. I share my experience – why did that guy ask me about whether I believe in God? And what is so great about the Fareed Abdullah lectures?

Aman responds, “This question about Allah is the most important, so important. More important than anything. Greg, man, I wish you luck, man, it’s so important, so important.”

Bilal says, “Fareed Abdullah is good because he doesn’t interpret the Koran, he tells it like it was – very simple and clear. He reads in Arabic the autobiography of an important imam and tells us what the imam taught and did.”

“But how do you know it’s true?”

“Because he studied.”

Aman pops in again, “Yes, Fareed Abdullah has been searching for the truth his whole life. He found Islam when he was a teenager, I think he was Catholic growing up, and then he went to Pakistan to study. He studied with a sect in Pakistan, but what they were doing wasn’t the truth. So he kept searching.”

“Do you find the lectures boring?”

Bilal smiles. Aman shakes his head, no.

“During the midday prayers, I was in the room with you guys and prayed. I didn’t really know what to do. Was that appropriate?” I ask.

Bilal says, “I don’t know. Maybe that is a question for Fareed.” I sense he doesn’t approve.

“Will you guys play soccer tonight?”

“I will call you if we do,” Aman promises.

He does not call.
Part III

I go to the Wednesday night lecture with Fareed Abdullah. I find it boring again. Afterwards, I email the host of an event at which Fareed will speak, to see whether Fareed with allow an interview with me. Fareed himself does not have a phone number or email contact. I am told my message will be forwarded to him.

In the meantime, it is Islamic Awareness week at USC. The Muslim booth is next to the Mormons and the Pagans. The Muslim booth is all young men, Bilal, Karim, Abdul, and a few other guys whose names I forget. The Pagan booth is all young women – witches, technically. Their booth is popular because of the tarot card readings.

“What do you hope to achieve with Islamic Awareness week?” I ask Karim and Bilal.

They give the general answer – correcting misunderstandings about Muslims in America.

“What are misunderstandings about Muslims?”

“That we are terrorists, that we treat women poorly.”

“Why do you think these stereotypes exist?”

“Because of the way the news media portrays Muslims.”

I meet again with Ray for coffee. I ask him what he thinks common Muslim stereotypes are:

“That we are terrorists.”

“Why do you think those stereotypes exist?”

“Because Muslims do turn to terrorism. But you have to ask – why these people turn to terrorism and what is terrorism…because they are poor and have no hope, no money, they are hungry, and assholes like Bin Laden come around and say – ‘this world does not matter. What matters is paradise, after this world. All this world is pain and suffering because of the Jews and America. If you go blow yourself up, you will be in paradise and your younger brothers will be liberated.’”

“How do we stop this cycle?”

“Doing things like this. Having conversations like this.”

I look around the Barnes and Noble bookstore. It seems like an unlikely place to solve the world’s problems. But maybe Ray is onto something.

I get an email from Bilal. Fareed Abdullah will allow me to interview him. Bilal comes with me.

“Was it appropriate for me to pray with Muslims during the midday prayer at the Heirs of the Prophet?”

He smiles. “If you do,” he says, “you should pray to the side.”

I light up, “That’s what I did.”

He goes on, “But it is not generally a good idea – for you to pray with Muslims. More for you, because you don’t know what to do. You are not really praying.”

Bilal asks Fareed, “Before you were Muslim, did you ever pray?”

Abdullah says, “No. Only after I embraced Islam did I pray.”

I ask Fareed Abdullah about converting to Islam. He grew up a Catholic in the Bahamas. At church, he insisted, the people were more interested in finding a girlfriend than finding spiritual truth. He found Islam on his own. His family thought he was crazy - there were no other Muslims in his town. Since that time, he has devoted his life to studying Islam and learning Arabic, despite having no money.

I thank Fareed Abdullah for speaking to me and exit the masjid. Outside is the bearded white man who bullied me at the Heirs of the Prophet day. I ask him what he is doing now that he is no longer in the film business. He tells me he is a merchant. We go to his van, which he uses to cart his books and audiotapes of lectures that he sells at events. The titles are unfamiliar to me, but deal with Islam and how Islam and Wahhabist Islam is misrepresented in the West.

I ask him whether he ever went to Grateful Dead or Phish shows, because he reminds me of the burrito and tee-shirt merchants. He is not amused.

When I prayed at the Heirs of the Prophet event, I was faking it. I sat quiet, blanking out my mind and followed the motions of the other men in the room. I don’t know how to pray.

Some people finished praying and leave the room. I follow suit and while walking out, an arm blocks me. I walked behind him and out of the room.

The young man came up to me while I put my shoes on, “I’m sorry I blocked you.”

“No, no, I insist, it was my fault.”

“We pray to the East, towards Mecca, and no one is supposed to be in the way between us and Mecca.”

“I apologize, it’s my fault,” I say.
Part IV

Bilal, Karim, Aman, and I discuss whether Islamic Awareness Week was a success. They seem to think so.

“Do you guys ever feel like this stuff makes no difference?” I ask.

“No.” They shake their heads.

“Why not? I do all the time, I feel like this whole documentary project and everything I do, and have ever done, is a complete waste of time. What gives you the sense that it matters?”

The young men talk about The Koran and how the Day of Judgment, when we will all face our maker and be judged by our actions on this earth. All of our actions matter, and if our hearts and intentions are in the right place, we will be rewarded. If our actions are unjust, we will be punished.

I ask Ray about the Day of Judgment. Despite his refusal to abide by some restrictions of Islam, he still believes in the Day of Judgment. He believes his actions in this world will be judged. This is not unique to Islam, he points out, Christians, and other religions believe this same thing.

Fareed Abdullah talks about the Day of Judgment – people will be judged for being sinful.

I ask Ray if he has any interest is attending Fareed Abdullah’s Wednesday night lecture at the masjid. We go together.

“Rough crowd,” he says afterwards.

“Do you think some of those guys found Islam in prison?”

“Who knows?”

I stop attending the Fareed Abdullah Wednesday night lectures. I feel awkward. I get the sense the Muslims at the masjid are annoyed with me, since I have no interest in embracing Islam. They think of me as ignorant. I don’t enjoy listening to the lectures, anyway.

We film our crew party, a dinner at my house. My producer asks me, “Do you think we got what you wanted – did we make a good documentary?”

“Who knows?” We drink and party until late in the evening.

Aman finally invites me to play soccer. We play on the USC intramural field for several hours in the early evening.

“What will you guys do after you graduate from USC?”

Many of the USC students in the MSA will go back to their native countries: Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait. Most came to the United States to study engineering. How do they feel about being a part of the movie? They are ambivalent.

“What will you do after this documentary?” they ask me.

I ponder.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Mutha-F-ing Thug

Tom Delay quote:

Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow.

This can be interpreted as a threat. If Delay did not intend it as such, he must clarify it immediately. If he stands silent, we know what he believes, where he stands, and what he intends for the future. If he stands silent, he is a punk-ass bitch thug and I look forward to seeing him and his ilk crucified by both conservative Republicans and Democrats alike.
Interesting Idea

Instapundit has some juice on strategies Al Queda is employing to defeat America - one basic idea being, it is much easier to demoralize Americans than to defeat us with military force. Quite true.

It's tough to operate when your enemy uses a cornerstone of your free society as a tool to be exploited. But lets be honest, we know most of us watch the media as a form of entertainment and what is the best form of entertainment: War.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Endless Movies

I want to see a slew of movies showing around town today and the next week or so days...

1. Finding Neverland at USC
2. Sin City
3. Cutter's Way LACMA
4. Blow Out LACMA
5. Melinda Melinda
6. Unforgiven/Wild Bunch - New Beverly
7. The Tenent/Don't Look Now - New Beverly
8. Be Cool

I think there are others as well.
Great Taste

A girl I used to have a crush on in high school has made a name for herself.

I can sure pick 'em.
State of Grace

I really want to see this movie.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Sin City

I haven't been this excited for a new movie since Kill Bill I. If that is any precedent, I expect to be highly disappointed.

We shall see. Probably not this weekend, though.

Is expanding the size of their accounts. This is a good thing....I was nearly 35% full. I never delete anything and send out lots of scripts to actors, which just duplicates a lot of space in the sent items box. The account size is steadily rising. I think the idea is that you'll never run out of space. Wonderful.

Someday soon, maybe we'll never run out of time.
Weird Dream

I dreamt I was with a group of film students at one our friends houses with a big driveway of gravel. Parked all along the driveway were a bunch of ganster cars, one limo, and the group of film kids. I needed to parallel park a car in between two ganster cars, with gansters in them. They watched me carefully, while I parked....I did it well and did not bump their car.

We shot a scene while the gansters lingered around. Towards the end, there was some ganster activity, a slew of them came out from the apartment building and got into the limo. One guy had a hood on with holes poked in the eyes and mouth. The other gansters, for the most part, were dressed well, in suits, etc. Except the drivers, they were dressed in jeans and tee-shirts.

We were walking up the stairs after finishing shooting a little scene and one poorly dressed ganster followed us. We got to the top and he stopped us.

I said, "You want the tape, huh."

He said, "The tape and you."

"And me?"

He grabbed my little finger and said, "yeah you."

I started to plan in my head two separate things:

1. Could I fool this guy and then overpower him, and throw him off the stairs? Then lock myself in my friend's house and call the cops?

2. Could I ask to speak to his boss and reason with him - we'll give them the tape, but we promise we didn't see anything. Further, if I went missing, it would be more suspicious anyway...people would come to investigate.

But then I woke up.