Available as an eBook February 28th!

eVENTsPLASH2.png

He didn’t think he could win his fight against cancer.  He did.

But the victory only returned him to a world of boredom, obligation, and betrayal; a suburban drone at another point in a connect-the-dots life having left behind his passions and dreams.  His oldest, dearest friend dead and his wife a distant echo of the woman he married, Winston Casey looks for some way to escape and make his second chance a meaningful one.

Unknown to Winston, his old friend set in motion a great adventure – not just a game, but a quest with real world consequences and real people in need of rescue from a dark power secluded in a dark realm of excess and greed — The Realm Aeternus.

Charged with this quest, Winston travels to Las Vegas and a role-playing resort for gamers in a MMORPG who have grown rich in the real world from their ventures and who enjoy pleasures that seem outside the jurisdiction of reality.  Aided by an enslaved barbarian queen, a troubled woman from his past, and a bad-ass detective, Winston embraces his charge – to avenge his friend’s death and complete his quest to expose and destroy the global conspiracy of billionaire entertainer Alan Horus.

With Russian gangsters, exotic locations, virtual worlds of peril and a real world of danger, The Resurrection Pact is the first installment of a trilogy pitting the gamer geek James Bond against the Stavro Blofeld of the gaming industry.

http://www.jaysmithaudio.com

Preview: The Resurrection Pact

final-cover-2front

Chapter One

The resort concierge was a tiny, bald Frenchman in his sixties, but he towered over me in the hallway. The air of dignity and propriety he carried with him just made me feel worse. From my position, prone on the floor of the hotel hallway, I felt like a stain on his lush, forest green carpet. My own blood caked my chin and dress shirt as someone else’s vomit congealed down my back and across my lap. Cherry lipstick left a streak across my cheeks and my swollen bottom lip. As this wasn’t sufficient humiliation, I was drenched head to foot and smelled like chlorine, baked chicken, sparkling wine with a hint of cat food.

I was at the ugly end of a weird day.

But at that moment the details of that day were still hazy.

I appreciated the complete absence of judgment in his expression as the man with the Louis Renault mustache spoke.

“Mr. Casey, is it?” The man in the tailored suit planted his fists into his hips and waited for me to acknowledge him. When the palm trees behind him came into focus, I offered a little wave.

“Yes,” I replied, assuming he knew what he was talking about.

It was coming back to me as the hallway settled down to choose one compass bearing. I remembered the name of the island: Ebetha. Someone had called it the “New Orleans of the Caribbean.”

“I’m Jean-Paul Gautreaux: head resort concierge. You telephoned me earlier.”

Concierge. Resort. Telephone. Check. “Yes, hi.”

“Do you require medical attention?”

“No. Give me a moment to find my breath and I’ll collect the bits of my dignity I spilled all over your nice floor.” Continue reading

The Reaper Year.

“Like a wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we were, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.”

– Harlan Ellison.

2016 was that year when our childhood really started to die.  Those of us in the “Generation X” range, in particular.  Their names were instantly recognizable and often tied to strong and important memories from our youth.

As the year wore on and more celebrities died, a meme was born which led to the creation of the Year-as-Serial-Killer.  2016 came alive and was stalking our idols.  I read posts about older celebrities where people demanded 2016 leave him or her alone.  I found it poor taste.  I found what I considered an unfunny bit of gallows humor to be old and tired by March.

At some point, like a lot of people, I pointed out that it isn’t a massacre or a celebrity plaque but the passage of time.  These were not young celebrities.  Late sixties…seventies…into the nineties we acted like it was unfair or unreasonable that people would die so young.  It was sad but – hey!  Let’s pay sympathy and respect for their loved ones and not turn their deaths into the latest iteration of an internet fad, okay?

Well, someone I respect as an artist and thinker went off saying people like me “get no points” for pointing out the reality and (somehow) denying people the right to grieve in their own way.  After all, we lost these people from our lives and we FEEL things, damn it.

That made me angry.   I saw his point.  No one should be made to feel bad about their method of grieving.  On the other hand, I was being made to feel bad about my method of grieving.  My point, buried in the “reality” that people eventually die, was that we don’t celebrate people enough in life.

In my anger I wrote a long reply that I never sent.  I mean, for fuck sake, people.  My social media was never ripe with discussions about Patty Duke’s filmography or her on-screen chemistry with William Schallert.  Sure, we all loved the Willy Wonka memes featuring Gene Wilder’s face, but until 2016 he was otherwise absent from my discussions until her died or when someone wanted to point out how vacant he was during his last public interview.

Yes, the rest of the dish was as horrible as that sample is.  I am glad I didn’t send it.  No one would have benefited from my anger.  Once I wrote it, however, I understood why I needed to.

In the early weeks of 2016 I lost my mother.  She made it to her 90th birthday and passed quietly in a nursing home surrounded by her family.  Unfortunately, I was not there.

When I think of most of the notables who died in 2016, I can load an MP3 or watch one of their movies or TV shows.  I can google their art and there it is to remind me of my life now and back when I first experienced it.  All those memories are intact there.  They are non-transferable, however. My children will never understand that relationship.  No one inside my mind will feel that connection in the same way.

But that experience is just a click away for me.

When my mother died, it was at the end of a long battle with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  She had lived to be about my age now before I was born.  My father had lived half a century before I was conceived.  I have the memories of surviving relatives and siblings born in the late forties-early 50s to share their memories about them.

I cannot just fucking google those memories.  I cannot download those faded experiences.  If not for the foresight of my brother to record their memories to VHS in the 90s, I would have nothing of them but paper and photos.  I am lost in their deaths because they only left tokens behind representing all the moments of our lives, all the things that made me who I am (better or worse) and all those small details.  And all those years before I was born – lifetimes lost before I became that impudent child who didn’t feel the strict, conservative views of their obsolete age were worth committing to memory.

You want to talk grief? 

I love Carrie Fisher and I am sad that she died. It does hurt because of this phantom connection I have with a human being I never met.  There’s an ache rooted in my own mortality.  But she wasn’t someone I’d call late at night in my darkest moments.  She wasn’t someone whose absence from my life would prevent me from feeling like a whole human being.  She was never someone who kept me awake at night worrying about where she was or if she was using drugs again.  I didn’t call off work to fish her out of jail.  She never mentioned me at an award ceremony or even answered the fan letter I sent in 1978.

Carrie Fisher didn’t tell me I could do anything I set my mind to.  Prince and I never drove 99 miles per hour tailgating an asshole for ten miles just because he pissed us off.  Alan Rickman did not stand in his seat at the end of my performance of Young Patrick in “Mame” (1979) when I thought I’d blown it and was terrible.  Gene Wilder didn’t run off the bullies and offer me a hand off the asphalt and a tissue for my bloody nose.  Leonard Cohen didn’t sing me to sleep when I had chicken pox and felt so bad I couldn’t move without pain.  Florence Henderson wasn’t my mom who sang “I love you/a bushel and a peck/a bushel and a peck/and a hug around the neck” to my infant son the same way she did me when I was little.

But I still get chills thinking about the time I accidentally triggered an answering machine message from my father a few days after he died.  I remember the unreasonable anger I felt at the men from the funeral home who tossed my father’s bagged corpse onto a cart like a sack of lumber or garbage.  I still remember the smile on my mother’s face the last time I ever saw her and a lucid moment when she looked so proud of me and pleased to see me; that look of pure love from someone I will never see again.  I remember the permission to cry upon seeing my siblings, people who I’ve known to be more in control and restrained than most people in my life, breaking down.

And I remember sobbing and screaming over a young man far, far too young to die who seemed to be very close to leaving us forever…days wondering if a good and decent kid wasn’t going to come back from smashing a car into a tree at high speed.

So.  I’ll grieve how I want, thanks.  There is nothing strange about 2016.  “2017” has already claimed a few high profile people.  We’re getting old and our archive of media is vast.  At LEAST we are left with that body of work.  When your closest friends and family are gone, will you add them to the meme?  Or will you genuinely grieve?  More importantly, how has the lesson of 2016 changed how you treasure those who the big bad year left behind?

A Rare Political Apology

Tags

,

January 19th, 2017 –
On the eve of inaugurating our 45th President of the United States I want to offer my sincere apologies to those visionary patriots who made this revolutionary event in American history possible. I admit I doubted that the American people could rise and take back their government by turning conventional wisdom on its head.
So, when Gary Johnson puts his hand on the Bible and swears his oath tomorrow, please know that I will support your – OUR – President with a renewed humility and faith in the American people.
I was wrong. When you threw your support behind Johnson early in the election cycle and began the hard journey of getting Libertarians on the ballot in all fifty states, I thought you had an insurmountable, perhaps even impossible challenge. While totally unknown in a field of dozens of primary candidates, you stood up and cheered for Johnson and broke through the noise, shifting the millions of dollars that might have gone to long-forgotten Republicans and Democrats to a man who needed those funds desperately to compete on the national stage. You demanded his participation in the national discussion. You put him on planes across the country, started rallies of hope and fellowship in purple states hungry for a new choice of leader. You supported the Libertarians in your state and local elections and urged them to support Johnson and make the world take him seriously.
You inspired the great thinkers and statesmen of our country to prepare Johnson for the tough questions, developed policies that just made sense. When his poll numbers spiked over ten percent months before the Big Two conventions, I had a feeling I might have been wrong thinking you were throwing your votes away. I still had my doubts, though. Ross Perot started strong in a period of great political discord, but one slip could prove disastrous.
But you had what a lot of us said you didn’t: A Plan.
Still, you endured the sleepless nights and the long dangerous walks through strange neighborhoods bringing the Gospel of Gary door to door, fostering good will through community activism, and promoting self-reliance and support within neighborhoods in need of strong, Libertarian values. Your made the Gary Johnson brand one of inclusion and fun, turned an empty canvas into America’s dad passing football in the yard with America’s future, smiling and giving straight talk to a world that has problems, but not without great solutions.
For months upon months you spearheaded the greatest political assault in American history. 
Johnson outshone so many also-rans, pushing them out of the spotlight and their primary debates. Their support shifted to Johnson by the tens of thousands. Here was a guy that even made friends among bitter political Facebook rivals. I should have known then that the tide was turning.
When you put your boy in the debates against Trump and Clinton there was finally a third choice for the undecideds who were sick and tired of bad options. The message resonated with almost the same feeling of excitement that Sanders had early on. When the polls jumped into the high twenties after his third strong debate performance (where he stunned even the former Secretary of State on his foreign policy knowledge), I finally began to see what you saw all those months ago: real Presidential material.
If you had started later (like after the conventions) or thrown in with the anti-Trump surge or just didn’t want history to judge you for electing Donald Trump, he may not be standing in front of the Capitol tomorrow. It might be Clinton II or – worse – the oozing gangrenous twat rocket of a reality show host.
But YOU, the visionary patriots, didn’t care about the odds or the ended relationships or the scorn you received for your choice – you DID THE WORK and MADE IT HAPPEN. You are the change we needed to see in the world.
And the rest of us owe you our thanks, if not for a great president (that remains to be seen) but doing something that hasn’t been done in this country since the death of the Whigs.
And I, personally, owe you an apology for saying you were throwing away your vote, for endorsing an ignorant and unprepared candidate with no political support, or just pretending you didn’t want a WOMAN as President. Tomorrow will be Gary Johnson’s first day as the FIRST Libertarian President of the United States and the FIRST step toward overturning our corrupt and broken government. Well done. Well-friggin-done.
Author’s Note: I wrote this in the event the world turned upside down and the people who personally attacked me were right. Guess I can delete this from my hard drive along with their friendships, now, huh?

2016 began killing a long time ago…

There are stories that circulate about a legendary SNL 40th anniversary party.  The best one is told by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show where he lays out a fever dream of celebrity and comedic walk-ons and performances only the elite would ever experience. Listening to that recap on YouTube reminded me of the photos I saw and stories I read growing up of the more infamous of parties surrounding the rock-and-roll era of comedy in the 1970s, when epic or infamous parties didn’t wait for anniversaries or fits of nostalgia.

In the history of comedy, the period between 1975 and 1980 (with some wiggle room before and after) is important for shifting comedy from its prime time, “laughing at love” cultural anesthetic to a more subversive, satirical, and dark humor that matched the mood of the Nixon-Vietnam era.  It wasn’t new.  Second City in Chicago, National Lampoon in New York, and the Footlights at Cambridge produced a generation of darker comic talents.  The movement was already growing and gaining strength.  Once Monty Python reached America and Saturday Night Live went on the air, American culture shifted from denying the darkest parts of itself to embracing and challenging them.

That force possessed a gravitational pull. It had power.  It was sexy and dangerous and dark in a way that excited a generation of people who watched the Aquarian movement die under Nixon’s boot and Nixon himself exposed as a corrupt thug; that generation living in the aftermath of the lost war against “Old and Evil” found new partisans, new champions.

Comedians.

Like the cavalry to the last great generation of “classic” rock music, they infused a disconnected and angry generation with a cause and a message.  Perhaps the movement wasn’t as notable or critical as the boomer’s summer of love with its darker overtones and bleaker message, but it gave the generation its identity.

Comedy and Rock music became equal partners in subversion and counter-culture.  In a time when the music of the sixties was transformed into harmless Muzak for elevator riders and department store shoppers, the culture of comedy – inspired by pioneers like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin and Richard Pryor – was organizing and aligning with the youthful outrage of punk rock and the hardened survivors and statesmen of sixties idealism.  Their meetings and their interactions – like the killer parties of Hollywood’s golden age – were epic.  Part bar crawl, part company picnic, part family reunion, they were settings for unique collaborations that will never happen again.

Putting together the images and the stories, I’ve often imagined the scene at some private club owned by a friend-of-a-friend; the place they’d go where cameras didn’t follow and the stopover point before Aykroyd would drag Belushi to the blues club they would later buy together.  The after-dinner afterparties where superstars could just be themselves and rock legends could unwind.

028a69cb57ba42e8900123ae2059b41d

I imagine Keith Richards with a lit joint hanging from his lips, sitting on a stool beside David Bowie on piano and Debbie Harry humming along.  Whatever they’re composing together will never be heard again.  Because it has the same time sig and structure as another song he knows, Aykroyd (in his moustache and Ray-Bans) steps in to sing Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” and somehow it works, especially when Aykroyd switches to harmonica.  It is the centerpiece to two floors of a party closing in on two in the morning.

robin-williams-valerie-williams-and-andy-warhol-at-studio-54-1979-new-york-daily-news

Shelly Duvall wants to sing with them, but she chooses to sit in a corner with a napping Buck Henry while sipping wine and watching the room soften into blurry, gentle lines.  She wonders where her date got to, not knowing he dropped acid with Doug Kenney an hour earlier and just left the building pursued by ghostly Nazghul on horseback.

eric-idle-mick-jagger-and-john-belushi

Harry Nilsson WAS going to sing and play with the jam, but Aykroyd and Keith Moon had pushed him to the back of the club and to have a “talk” about “restraint” after he groped one of the hostesses.  Nilsson will spend the rest of the evening drinking whiskey with a stranger he’ll eventually take out back into the alley.

john-mceuen-steve-martin-and-jerry-garcia-golden-gate-bluegrass-festival-1974

Keith Moon is busy harassing the kitchen staff while waiting by the service entrance for a man delivering party supplies in a brown paper bag.  He’ll eventually have to beat that man with a chair for attempting to short him on the delivery and the unconscious body left in the alley will permanently ruin Nilsson’s moment later on that night.

a9782c6dd8f8804c6ea00f1f6d7bb797

Graham Chapman, intent on impressing the handsome bartender with the heavy gin hand, offers Liza Minnelli “all of Eric [Idle]’s cocaine” to swap clothes.  Slender Liza is rocking a sequined, satin gown that would never fit Graham, but he insists it would look lovely with his complexion and recent haircut. She laughs, but is intrigued by the offer of cocaine and so continues flirting.   Graham will eventually rise from behind the bar wearing Liza’s dress like a hospital gown and lip stick.  He and the bartender will disappear for into a stockroom.  Liza will return wearing Graham’s Russian trapper hat, flannel shirt and belt as a dress and looking far more stylish than newly arrived David Geffen thought possible.

article-2324902-19cae3ba000005dc-968_634x475

For his part, Eric Idle is relatively subdued, comparing banjo fingering techniques back near the kitchen with Steve Martin.  It will develop into “Dueling Banjos” soon after Bowie stops for a drink, attracting Belushi and Peter Boyle into improvising what would eventually become “Dueling Brandos.”

Terry Jones corners George Harrison and Paul Shaffer to pitch a great idea for a movie the Pythons are working on about the life of Jesus.  George jokingly asks if there might be a part for Ringo in it.

382_shellyduval-gildaradner-1977

Gilda Radner sits on the upstairs bar asking questions in the voice of Judy Miller while Bill Murray teaches her to make random drinks with random ingredients.  He gives them names like “Soggy Dance Belt,” “Rusty Trumpet,” and “Raging Boner” adding “don’t swallow more than four Raging Boners in one session unless you are a trained professional in adult entertainment.” Several of Belushi’s throwaway groupies delight to the disgusting (but free) concoctions.

Tom Davis, on his fifth mystery beverage of the evening, asks Richard Pryor if he wants to share a cab to Studio 54.  Pryor explains that ain’t his scene and asks where they hid all the good drugs.  Davis answers that they are all in the basement “under a pile of dead mobsters” to which Pryor replies by walking away quietly.

Al Franken (in a Disco Sucks t-shirt and canvas running shorts) is still arguing with Anne Beats about the script changes to his sketch after dress. It’s no longer about who authorized it but “the principle of the thing” as Beats wants to punch Franken in the face and go to sleep.  Or get laid.  Whatever doesn’t involve Franken droning on.

John Cleese made an appearance earlier, Terry Gilliam tells a group of Brooklyn girls totally uninterested in him.  He says John spent fifteen minutes pretending to be offended by everything and everyone and interrupting Patti Hansen making out with Lou Reed on a sofa to give kissing tips before leaving with Connie Booth for “more civilized environs.”  Most realize this is a parody of Andy Warhol and his entourage who did the exact same thing, un-ironically, the weekend before.

Jane Curtain, checking her watch every few minutes, drags out a conversation about feminism with Candace Bergen from their circle of chairs near the front of the club.  She’s waiting on a ride that’s late and is tired of the party.  Candace mentions Lorne told her that McCartney might be stopping by but Curtain laughs, pointing to Harrison as she says “not so long as he’s here.”

Jagger and Lorne Michaels discuss the politics of television with George Carlin, digressing briefly to talk about the upcoming Eagles release party at L’Ermitage and if they were all booked through their agency and if they’d upgraded the food service since the lousy Fleetwood Mac party.  Carlin admits never getting an invitation and tells Jagger he’ll probably be too busy getting a rim job from Alice B Toklas that weekend to make it anyway.  Lorne mentions staying with Paul Simon at his chateaux in Long Beach and wanting to book Warren Zevon or Jackson Browne for the following season of SNL.

Belushi and Stephen Tyler compare cocaine lines in the upstairs men’s room, explaining to a completely dumbfounded Carrie Fisher and Amy Irving (in matching painter hats and beatnik attire) how to tell the quality of the cut by the texture of the powder.  Robin Williams, already through his third line, prepares to charge out of the bathroom pretending to be a wild orangutan in heat. Doug Kenney is hiding from the reptile Nazis inside a nearby stall.  His attempts to reach Michael O’Donohue uptown by telepathy have so-far failed.

Later in the night Belushi will want to cook Albanian dishes in the kitchen and only talked down by Aykroyd and Shaeffer setting up a set of Joe Cocker songs by the piano.  Bowie will “literally” disappear in a puff of smoke, or at least that how the story will be told.  Michael Palin will show up, ask about Cleese, and leave immediately as though he’d been summoned to an audience.  John and Yoko arrive as a vase of white flowers displayed on the downstairs bar congratulating the NRFPT Players on another show and regretting they have to be up for a flight to London in the morning.  Williams will lead a flock of groupies into a town car as Peter Pan, escorting the car to the end of the block by skipping and dancing alongside them and then convince a couple of NYPD officers to drive him back to his hotel.  Buck Henry will quietly call the staff’s attention to the hooker passed out in the upstairs men’s room in a stall next to Doug Kenney.

The night will end after Murray tells a slightly racist and heavily intoxicated story of tiger lost in Harlem and when the owner of the club presents Lorne with a bill for the night’s damages which he tucks into his coat and considers how to describe on the show’s expense report.  Belushi and Aykroyd mount their cycles.  Limos queue up at the back of the club.  Cabs line up at the front.  It’s three in the morning and the song is over.  Nobody bothered to press RECORD.

These things never happened as I described.  They could have and certainly similar things did.  They won’t happen again.  Those relationships which fueled their comedy, their writing, and their music, was the result of being those people in that place at a special time in history.  What’s happened since?

A lot of them are dead.

They weren’t killed by a year.  They were picked off over time by drugs, alcohol, heart failure, suicide, cancer, Parkinson’s, or violence.  The years changed them and the world changed as a result of their work pulling away from them toward the gravitational pull of new and different ideas, through the end of a Cold War and into a War on Terror.  When they go, they leave behind a unique body of work that cannot be replicated – nor should it.

But they left their mark.  And I mourn the end of that era rather than hate the years that took them.  I choose to mourn by remembering what might and could have been, celebrating those still creating, inspired by those lives that touched theirs.

Watch: Don’t Look Back at Anger

Giving Power to the Lie.

Let’s talk about this video.

Now that the video has gone viral, the Internet has another convenient villain to mock and despise and racists have a new champion to admire. Six million views, according to some news outlets (not sure if that was the original Facebook post by witness Renee Buckner or subsequent YouTube posts) generates a lot of opinion.  Some people are actually defending the woman while a vast majority of viewers found her to be obnoxious, racist, and ignorant.  The mall, the store, and the local government have taken swift action tweeting their horror and disgust in the form of carefully worded statements.  Despite not knowing the identities of anyone involved, the mall has banned the racist and Penney’s is willing to refund the victims’ purchase.

But she’s not the real villain of the video.

This is a woman who speaks for many Americans. She knows nothing but several pre-fabricated talking points that are really just the delivery vehicles for her hatred.  She feels empowered to assault these women in the only way she knows how.  Her personal ignorance and fear are evident.  She is a weak American; a member of the dregs lurking in a Republic built to withstand the opinion of one woman exercising her right to be a racist dumbass.

The villains are all those people in line who said NOTHING as insults and accusations continued to pour from this sad woman’s mouth. The silence of the mob as two innocent women were verbally assaulted is more offensive to me than one weak-minded fool holding court in a Kentucky department store.

In this Republic, we live (and sometimes die) by the open exchange of ideas. It is the duty of citizens to bring light to the darkness and knowledge to the ignorant, facts to the fantasy – in such a nation silence is acquiescence and acquiescence is all that a lie needs to flourish.

No one stood up to her. Not the cashier.  Not the person recording it.  Not the white woman in red shown rolling her eyes and smiling like it was just one of those things.  Everyone in earshot on and off camera remained silent and, by extension, is complicit in allowing racism to go unanswered.  And JC Penney, which stated “We absolutely do not tolerate this behavior in our stores” clearly has no policy to this effect because the cashier took no action to stop it and tried his best to keep his head down to do his job.  While I leave it to each of us to decide what we might have done in that situation, I can promise you that I would not have been silent.

Transcript from the Press Conference held by “unnameable” spokesbeast for Shub Niggurath, aka “Bert”

575541_610168865660803_404434485_n1

The following is a transcript of a speech and Q&A held by The Esteemed and Incredibly Violent , Chief Communicator of the Elder Shub-Niggurath on 12/17/16 @1200 EST.

The speaker initially appeared above the Capitol dome in Harrisburg as a formless mass of burning and crisping flesh floating down from the sky to a collection of reporters and witnesses gathered in front of the fountain which is now flowing with the blood of the unchosen (aka “Trumps Puddle of Losers”). Upon consuming a number of birds, squirrels, and a feral cat, the shape changed and assumed the form of late Emmy Award-winning game show host Bert Convy.

The following is a transcript of its statement after the screaming ended.

“Hello, everybody. Thanks for coming out on such a cold day. I am… well, it would take about forty five minutes to articulate my name in your tongue and beaming it directly into your heads would cause your brains to swell and burst like microwaved marshmallows. So let’s just call me….BERT? Did I read the room okay? Is this form suitably non-threatening for all humans? When I was exiled to Earth a long while ago and didn’t have powers I spent my days in a sanitarium where we all would watch Tatletales in the lounge. Long story, but… I liked this guy’s style, I really did and…

“…sorry, what? ‘Who am I supposed to be?’ Sir, I am so sorry, but you are about to shit your brains out of your nose. I cannot live in a world where…seriously? You guys don’t know Bert..? I see a bunch of you on your phones. You’re googling Bert Convy, aren’t you? (unintelligible) Well, it’s Bert with an ‘E’ and Convy without one. Okay? By Hastur’s Mattress, people! The fuck is wrong with you? Dude won an Emmy for fucksake. Next time I’ll show up as a fucking Kardashian or some pregnant teenager with her own MTV show.

“Anyway, folks. I have been selected as My Master’s spokesbeast to you. I’m sure you have a lot of questions and concerns about what’s happening. I understand. I guess I should begin by explaining that your President-elect was kind enough to ask us here to help assimilate all of you to the new order of things. My Master is pleased to be your new prefect and protector in this realm and looks forward to deciding which of you lives and which will feed the mindless young of Hap-Zur-Wombit, It Who Dwells Under the Ruin of Centralia.

“We don’t know how we’re going to choose but my guess is your voting record will have some weight in the matter. (laughs) No, seriously, yes. And before you start filling the online news comments section with demands to nuke My Master, let me just say that Eisenhower tried that long ago and it just enhanced My Master’s tan. So, chill and go with this, folks. You made the bed, so get ready to lie under the crunchy sheets.

“Look, I love humans. I’m like that little girl who goes to the farm for the first time and is all like ‘Oh, aren’t the pigs and the sheep so CUTE?’ and Uncle Farmer’s like ‘Yeah, Becky, but they’re going to have to die so we can pay the mortgage’ and she’s like “NO! Cute animals shouldn’t be eated, Uncle Farmer’ and he’s all ‘Shut up you stupid bitch and eat your bacon!’

“Yeah, that’s me. The little girl, I mean. I love humans. I think you’re cool and cute, and adorable in a stupid way. But make no mistake: You are all very, very tasty. Let me tell ya, I’ll feed you a milk bottle and braid your hair and walk you around the pen…maybe give you a pet name and tell you how great you are…but when My Master says it’s time the make the bacon? Oh, I’ll cure and crisp you and then plate you like a Bob Evans breakfast platter.

“Meanwhile, if you have questions I’m your guy. I can do you favors, grant your wishes, raise the dead, kill your enemies, make people love you… I’m a fuckin’ genie over here. So, let’s make the most of the time you have left. If you voted for Hillary, I don’t hate you. It was a good call if you didn’t want this to happen. Of course you’d be dealing with the Ancient Nameless Gods instead of the Old Ones, but…six of one half-rack of babies the other.

“So, just talk amongst yourselves for a while. The flying monkey-bat is handing out press kits with some additional media info. I’ll be back a little later…because you all look too terrified to speak or scream. Yeah. Livestock. Tasty, tasty livestock. Mmm.”

Westworld: Looking Back In Whut?

westworld-ed-harris-and-evan-rachel-wood

Hi.  I’m William. Can I cut into your skull?  I think you might have a map inside there.

Season One has ended.  In many ways it was an engaging story with many interesting characters.  In others, it was a fucking hot mess.  It has been nearly a week since I watched the finale and I’ve read many opinions on it and the entire series.  I’ve read deconstructions of the story and of the production.  I wanted to LOVE this show.

But I can’t.  There’s enough that I’ll probably still be interested when it comes back on in 2018.  Maybe.  I don’t know if I’ll have the drive to actually watch Season One through again to reacquaint myself with the many tiny details that I’d need to make sense of the next phase, but who knows?  Maybe the concept will brighten in my mind over time.

Continue reading

We change without changing

Here is how we go from progressive to conservative in our values without changing a single idea.

Our influences and mentors die.
It’s that simple and yet that complicated. 

As those we love and revere die, our natural tendency is to archive what they believed in. We want to hold those ideas in stasis without realizing that their ideas were always in motion, evolving toward some greater understanding of the world. 

Our parents and siblings, closest friends, teachers, writers, and philosophers – all try to make sense of the world so we can stop wondering and worrying about it and LIVE. Once they are gone, the world continues and we have to think for ourselves again. More than that, we become the mentors, parents, teachers, and philosophers for the next generation.

And the world produces new ideas with progressives standing on the shoulders of those influences projecting the next step toward equality, peace, and freedom. They are younger, more educated, perhaps even more energetic and idealistic – just like we were at one time.

But their ideas are “radical” and go further than what we believed and what our influences would have supported (in our minds). We want to hold back the shift in culture that implies even demands that our ideas are obsolete in the new world.

At that moment we choose to embrace new ideas or hold on to what was a good idea for the time.

Eventually, one day, most of us will look at the world and find it unrecognizable from the one in which we grew up. If we felt our way was better, more comfortable – this new order will seem destructive and irresponsible. It makes us conservative. If we see how it makes life better for others, we retain those progressive ideals.

It is not an act of betrayal to embrace new ideas. The best mentors do and would expect you to see the world as it is rather than as it was.

Using “Art” as a defense for the assault and abuse of women.

205078_v1

It’s terrible to be objectified and violated, huh?

With Poland’s refusal to extradite Roman Polanski for his decades-old rape charge/conviction, this topic just feels that much more…icky.  It’s raw and disgusting because of how the two situations try to explain away monstrous behavior by claiming the perpetrator was an artist of renown.  In Polanski’s case, his art outweighed his obligation to stand accountable for his crimes.  In this other – involving director Bernardo Bertolucci and actor Marlon Brando – it is that the abuse of an actress was justified by the quality of the art it produced.  Be warned.

I have never seen Last Tango in Paris. It’s just one of those films that escaped my interest over the years.  I’ve heard the Brando “Get da buttuh” jokes over the years and associated them with the movie.  Usually the line goes along with a “locker room” joke about anal rape or being pushed into performing an unpopular task at work.  It was always part of the noise of pop culture references throughout my life.

I cannot comment on the film.  However, I ran across an article in Variety where the director of the film, Bernardo Bertolucci, felt the need to defend himself against the firestorm of press resulting from his admission that one of his actors was unaware and did not consent to elements of a scene depicting a violent assault.

I will also limit my comments to the director’s own defense.

The story goes that Bertolucci and Brando were having breakfast together before shooting a very important – and graphic – scene of violence between Brando and the late actress Maria Schneider.

The creepy explanation comes from Bertolucci himself, from a Variety article:

“We were having, with Marlon [Brando], breakfast on the floor of the flat where I was shooting,” he said. “There was a baguette, there was butter and we looked at each other and, without saying anything, we knew what we wanted.”

They knew what they wanted.  A creative epiphany!

Of course, if they had brought Schneider into the discussion and said, “Hey, we want to use a stick of butter on your butt in this scene to make it more graphic” this would be a different story.  The actress could have said, “hells, no” or “Sure, let’s make this work.”  However, to explain himself, Bertolucci wrapped himself in the pixie dust of “ART”:

“I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage,” he said. “I wanted Maria to feel, not to act, the rage and humiliation. Then she hated me for her whole life.” (Emphasis mine)

In other words, in order to get the best images for the film, the director (and actor) chose a course of action that denied consent to another actor.  Further, it intentionally caused rage and humiliation in a sexual act constructed on the concept of control.

Yes, Bernie.  That’s rape. You and Brando conspired to rape someone for art.  At BEST, what you did could be argued down to sexual assault or battery.

Here’s the mindset that sits at odds with me.  Yes, actors are supposed to enter uncomfortable, sometimes horrifying parts of themselves to find their performance.  Sometimes a director and other actors will collaborate to find the right motivation and feelings to make a scene work.  That’s part of the process.  Sometimes, like in the opening sequence of Jaws circumstances just happen which result in the perfect moment captured on film (when the actress is pulled underwater, she was pulled so hard it injured her.  Spielberg went on to use the genuine expression of pain and fear in the final cut.)

But to engineer a violation of an actor’s body and her trust for the purpose of creating art – that’s unacceptable.  In a scene of violence, trust is essential.  Acting is the channeling of something real into a false situation.  As a result, Schneider never spoke to Brando or Bertolucci again.  In interviews before her death she admitted to feeling violated and even “kind of raped” by the situation.

None of this really ignited any blowback against the director or Brando until recently when the director defended his decision while wrapping himself in the sorrow of their collective sacrifice for art.

But there was blowback.  A little late because the tabloids didn’t really care when Schneider made her statement on the subject or when she died or even a few years ago when Berttolucci made his sad admission to a film magazine. FINALLY, instead of the “Oh, they went to insane lengths for authenticity by assaulting the actress. How sad” response from most people, people suddenly switched gears to ask “You fuckers did WHAT, now?”

In Variety online, Bertolucci recently responded to criticism of the late Marlon Brando and himself thusly (again reported in variety.com)…

“Several years ago at the Cinemathèque Francaise someone asked me for details on the famous ‘butter scene’.

“I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter,” he noted. “We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies.

“Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!”

Bertolucci added that “Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter.

“And that, as I learned many years later, offended Maria. Not the violence that she is subjected to in the scene, which was written in the screenplay,” Bertolucci added.

Yeah, no, Bernie.  The point:  You have missed her.

You and Brando “knew what we wanted” which was to surprise the actress by deviating from the plan expressly to evoke REAL rage and humiliation.”  You betrayed her trust and that essential bond of safety that all actors should have between one another (and all PEOPLE should really have between one another).  You denied a 19-year-old woman the right of consent or control over her own body.  She knew the scene and agreed to participate, but when you denied her the right to control the scene as an actress, she became a human being being controlled.  When she lost control of her own body and what was done to it, you were an accomplice to Brando’s sexual assault.  Worse, you immortalized it in film.

That’s what people are upset about, Bernie.

Sure, you felt “sad” about this because Schneider hated you for it.  Your reflection on the film has always been one of sadness and regret for a lost friendship, not one where you acknowledge her feelings or your culpability about the incident.  As though this kind of violation is a legitimate means to accomplish the creation of a film.

Fuck you, Bernie.  Fuck you, Brando.  Fuck you, Polanski.   They hold themselves as priests and their priesthood of entertainment shuffles them away to new places when bad things happen.   But they aren’t.  They work a job just like us.  They are accountable just like us.

Art can come at a sacrifice, sure.  But it is the artists RIGHT to choose what sacrifices they make, no one else’s.