Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Book of Brian.

These are the things I would include in my book in the Bible.

1)    Miracles. They keep things interesting and exciting. And what’s more miraculous than a strapping character who can throw awesome knives or hear everything? Even if it’s really, really quiet.

2)    Rules. These are the parts that religious people pay very close attention to. It’ll assure that my book is referenced all the time. Suggested Rules: Hold the door for ladies; Keep it real; Brush before you shower (so if you want orange juice with breakfast, by the time you drink it, it won’t taste bad.)

3)    Predictions.

4)    Jesus. I haven’t read the whole bible. I’m only about a quarter of the way through it. But they don’t talk about Jesus nearly enough.

5)    No Chewing with Your Mouth Open. Technically, this is a rule and should probably be under item 2, but I wanted to outline it specifically. It’s an abomination of God.

6)    Riddles. Maybe at the bottom of every page? I don’t know. I have to work out the details.

7)    A Cliff-Hanger. Like when Murphy Brown got pregnant. We didn’t know if she was going to keep it and at the same time Eldon had finally finished painting the house.[1]

8)    Cameos by Other Prophets. Why can’t other prophets have missions that bring them into my book, too?! Crossover storylines are special edition material.

9)    A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Chapter. So the reader can feel connected to the text. Christianity is a living, breathing thing and we forget that.

10) A Lot of Begetting. Romance keeps women interested.

11) Pop-ups. And not just trees and a house. Pop-up plagues.

12) Plagues. New ones. Like a Pet Army or athlete’s foot.

13) Something About Jerusalem Belonging to Catholics. The Jews and Muslims are cutting up that sweet pie and before it’s all done I want a slice.

14) Brian. Duh.

[1] She did keep it and Eldon stayed on to paint the new nursery.

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Unfortunately, today, the amazing athlete and owner of the “Say ‘Ow!’” label died. Junior Seau was a stud and now he’s gone.

But that wasn’t the story on the news. The story was his mother. And her genuine emotional response, caught on countless cameras and replayed by countless affiliates. It was exploited by countless anchors and viewed by countless people. Like you and like me, home from work, eating pizza, without an attachment in the world to her or her son. Nobodies. Distant satellites, at best, for a second caught in orbit by the gravity of this woman’s situation.

How dare we?

This is on us. This is our fault. It’s the result of our celebrity obsession and reality fixation, though this isn’t a game show. This isn’t the red carpet. And, above all, this isn’t fair, not to a woman who, like all of us, just yesterday would have gripped her wishing penny and said “Lord, just don’t let me outlive my child.”

And now she has. We used to send those people cards. Before Access Hollywood came on at every dinner table, we’d wear a suit and stop by in-person to deliver flowers. Now we grab a camera. We tear open their chest and broadcast their weeping heart on primetime news like it’s an episode of Entertainment Tonight. Like it’s something to tweet about. Which I did.

Our problem is deep and we’ve lost our boundaries. Our sick celebrity infatuation has left us entitled. We love to know who’s sleeping with whom, and who’s drinking what, where. But with stars and athletes that’s part of the deal. It’s in their contract. When you cash a multi-million dollar check for a 3-month stint on set pretending to love Emily Blunt you’re not selling your art. You’re selling your soul. It’s deep in the fine-print, but everyone in this town knows it’s there. Everyone. This woman is a free-agent. She signed nothing.

Here in LA, you do interviews. Take pictures. Get your face on Us Weekly and be seen at Coffee Bean. Because every time you do you get paid more. You’re building a relationship with your audience and your audience is America. You need them to know about your personal life because if they don’t know then they don’t care. And if they don’t care they don’t see your movie. And if they don’t see your movie then you don’t get paid. So, ipso facto, every (obscene) check you cash is an agreement to open your life up to Americans. After all, we’re best friends.

And so I don’t feel bad when I see a celebrity complaining about their privacy. Because it’s never Emma Thompson making those complaints. It’s the people who pose for pictures outside Chateau Marmont and sell their wedding album to People. And I’ve never seen Ms.Seau’s wedding album.

In America, we’ve come to expect it. We don’t make that connection between payment sent and service received. Every time we buy a movie ticket or click on Perez Hilton we’re buying a little piece of that person’s life until, after 300 million clicks there is none of that individual left. Just a property for us to exploit and enjoy. They’re split, thousands of times over, into stock, and we’re the holders. Entertainers exist for our entertainment. Period.

Seems harmless enough. Just an honest free-market exchange.

And the free-market is the beauty of this country, right?  It’s what seperates us from the rest of this world. It’s what makes us better. Because it’s a choice. Nobody gets top billing on a movie without making that decision of how and when to sell themselves. And you’ve got to respect that. I guess.

But more importantly, you’ve got to respect the people who never made that choice. You have to respect the people who never sold their person. Ms. Seau isn’t a celebrity. She never had a Nike contract. She’s just a grieving woman. And she owns it. That grief is hers. We can’t take that. It’s not our right. Who are we?

We are voyeur thieves, kid-napping a woman in her darkest hour and it’s disgusting.

It’s worse than disgusting. It’s sad. In the sincerest form of that word. It’s devoid of promise and potential. A genuinely tragic moment. One that makes me exhale my life and stand a hollow shadow with no form. I am only shame.

Leave her the fuck alone. Please.

It hurts.

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The gift of foresight.

Do psychics read your future or do they just read you?

Sure, it’s an age-old question and one to which every logical response is “you” but I don’t want to believe that. I don’t know that I can. And what I want to believe is desperately what I want to believe.  (Regardless of the beliefs that are actually mine.) No more can my head command my heart.

Tiffany, the psychic on 6th and Spring (310.936.4671), started with, “do you want to ask me any questions?”

I didn’t. I just wanted to listen.

She started talking and touching on some points. She said writing will be a big part of my life. A big part of my future. “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“That makes sense,” she says.  Yes, it does. She didn’t say I should be one, only that I was. And that I was pretty all over the place with it. I wrote some of this and some of that. And that it was very unfocused. My head was gone all day and all over.

Yeah, that makes sense too.

Then she said I’ve got a health issue. Hm. “But…” she corrected herself, it’s under control. It’s serious. Though “wait” she said, it’s been in me 2 years and that I should make sure it’s checked out. I felt like I should get excited and tell her that I was diagnosed terminal two years ago. (Which I was.) Give her a high-five and let her know that it is checked out. It’s under control. But I didn’t.

I just waited and wondered. I stared at her. I probably scowled a little.

When she told me I’ll be making a move soon, I kept it to myself that that’s why I was downtown. That I had, one hour before, unloaded my bed and wanted to walk around my new neighborhood. I didn’t smile at her. I didn’t stop my brow from furling.

I just judged her. Like an asshole.

Until she asked me what happened. What happened? She stared through my mask and asked again what happened to me. “What do you mean?” She answered that I was on track. I was pretty straight and together. I was headed the right direction. Then 5 years ago: something happened.

I wasn’t judging her anymore.

“Or someone.”

And I cried a little bit.

So are you a psychic if all you can do is tell people what they already know? What I remember about Greek mythology was that the final chaos still trapped in Pandora’s box was the gift of foresight. Maybe that’s not true, but it’s what I remember. And it’s what I want to believe.

Now I don’t know if this is the part where she sensed I needed a carrot on that long swinging stick, but she mentioned I’d recently met a soulmate. Now soulmates are a hard thing to get behind. I stopped believing in them. (But I probably want to.) She said that soulmate doesn’t trust me. And that there’s a lot of distance between us. She stressed “a lot” but I don’t like italics and I’ve used them twice already, so know that she made sure I knew she was understating the truth. And so that’s what I’m doing with you now. She stressed “a lot.”

That space… what if it doesn’t change? What if her emphasis was just the soft crack of my home run pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt? And, here I am, knowing what I do believe, but utterly unsure of what I want to. Because what if there are no coincidences? I’m terrified. What if everything she said is true?

I took her business card.

But I had to ask her for it.

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Pens and Needles.

Record Store Day

In our lifetimes music has been played by computers, lasers and thin black tape. Information stored; Information relayed. But for many of us, our first dance started with the drop a needle. And though audio technology has long since passed the record player by, there’s still a magic in the crackle of vinyl. A story.

Is it the up and down curve of a warped disc spinning that mesmerizes us? Maybe the Doppler-like scratch that starts every play while the needle finds the groove.

Now we’re a technology company here at my company so we don’t only geek out about the audio. We could point out how over compression in modern mixing is limiting the dynamic range of a song’s composition. If you don’t believe us, download a remastered version of Van Morrison’s ‘Sweet Thing.’ Notice how you hear every note, beginning to end, and you never touch the volume. It’s a great mix for the car or the kitchen. It rises above the background noise. But, humor us. Slide an Astral Weeks 33 out of the sleeve and spin it.

Turn it up.

Hear the moments when the rhythm guitar whispers. Notice the recording room echo when the vocals swell at the chorus, and then drop to a distant holler as he turns his head from the mic.

Modern remixes condense that. There’s not a note missed, but it’s hard not to feel like maybe we’re missing something else.

We deal with science everyday here. So we could tell you how digital copies of music are flawless. They last longer. It’s just ones and zeros; information that can’t be affected by wear and tear.

There’s no skips. No scratches. Nothing to remind us of the time we bumped the record player. There’s no jumps to startle us during that first kiss. No imperfections to remind us of that perfect moment.

So, yes, digital music is wonderful. It’s audio science at work. But records are something else.

Whatever they are, we know that perfecting audio reproduction to its cleanest, studio-quality state can’t mean removing its soul.

And vinyl has soul.

Or course, internet music stores serve us well. For convenience and selection, they’re certainly unrivaled. But we miss, just a little, the search. The time when music wasn’t just an acoustic experience. It was tactile. It was olfactory. There’s a delicacy trained to fingers that softly roll records from their cardboard slip. An intimacy in undressing. There’s a scent inside the plastic. It’s molded with more than just the dips and dots of the analog signal; It’s molded with the heartbeat of the rhythm.

The exploration of sound was immersive. When you walked into a record store you were met with rows, of boxes, of envelopes, of tracks. You unwrapped music. It was Christmas morning. It was the joy of discovery. Music was revelation.

Now we filter “similar artists.” We slide our cursor across a 30 second sound bite and make a snap decision on its value.

“Eh… I like my tempo more upbeat.”

But what about tempos we haven’t heard?

Let’s try and remember what it meant to let the sound surprise us. To the music lovers like us, we invite you to celebrate Record Store Day on April 21st. Slide your fingers through the files of bands you’ve never heard of. Walk to the player with a stack of mysteries and give them a listen. For more than 30 seconds. Hear how the phonograph sings.

No matter how old you are.

Here’s a story. It’s about child of the 1980’s. It was the era of tape decks and boomboxes. His first record player was built by Playskool and the only thing it knew was the dialogue from E.T. on 45. Until the boy, 5 or so, found his parents box of records. He pulled out a big one, black and green with purple writing.

And for the first time, he heard Van Morrison.

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Finding your voice.

What Levon Helm has taught us.

We work in amplification. Here at my company, we make things heard. After all, doesn’t everybody have something to say? It can be a lifelong struggle, figuring out what it is you need to share. And it’s always a lifelong journey.

Today the world lost Levon Helms. A man who’s own musical journey started in 1954 when he saw Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Helm was 14 and opening the show was a young singer, not too much older, named Elvis Presley. Curiously, he performed without a drummer.

Helms would see more concerts, start his own bands and before he was through high school, be behind the drum-set himself for Conway Twitty. He gained experience, skill and direction. Within a couple years he was on American Bandstand and touring with The Hawks. The musicians he and his partner Ronnie Hawkins recruited would be the beginning of history. With Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson, Helm began experimenting in new forms of the Rock & Roll he’d seen as a child. They were mixing electric guitars with the gritty country he’d been raised on Arkansas. They were expanding instrumentals and letting the notes speak where his rugged singing did not. They were emulated and studied by the emerging artists of the time and when the father of the folk movement decided he wanted to change his sound he brought them on tour with him. In 1965 Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar and began playing with “Levon and the Hawks.”

The music that Helm was creating became the voice of a movement. He, Dylan and the rest of the band took the mid-60s to lock themselves in a house and practice their new sound. It’s no coincidence that it was in Woodstock, New York. The residents of the quiet farming community had no idea the noise their town would soon make. They referred to the musicians in the big pink house as, simply, “The Band.”

The name stuck.

Grammy’s were won, The Last Waltz came and went but the music never stopped. Helm brought his work to the big screen, lending the graveled honestly of his voice to films like The Coal Miner’s Daughter, this time as an actor.

His life became a timeline of definitive work: a living totem pole of the second half of the 20th Century.

In 1998 cancer tried to take Helm’s throat. The man that Rolling Stone listed as one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” was silenced to a whisper. But he picked up his instruments. He began recording. And he raised his voice.

He taught us atmy company that when you have something to say it can take only your passion to amplify it.

We are so very sad to think he’s gone.

But we are happy to know that a 14 year-old boy, moved by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, became the artist that moved Bob Dylan. And truthfully, Levon Helm’s voice moved music.

Still, with its immortal sincerity, his voice continues to urge us all to find our own.

Take a load off.

I had to write another obituary today. It wasn’t as easy.

But it was interesting. Someone I was less familiar with. It’s ironic that I learned so much about Levon Helm’s life in his death. My boss was very sincerely moved by his passing and so it became my responsibility to honor that. I love that responsibility. I take it seriously.

And so here’s what I wrote. Before it get’s edited and cut up, or thrown out all together… after reading about this impressive man for a few hours today, above is what I was driven to produce.

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America’s oldest teenager.

I just had to write another obituary. I won’t say they’re fun. They’re not. There’s truth in everything you write, right? That’s why you do it. And the truth of someone dying is awful. But it is easy.

And maybe satisfying?

It’s not hard to honor someone with a few short words. In Dick Clark’s case, he’d done it already. For decades he signed off with “For now, Dick Clark… so long.” And by tweeting, blogging, posting his own six words, every mourning music lover remembers the sad 60 minute mark of their favorite episode of American Bandstand. For me, it’s James Taylor performing Fire & Rain. Won’t you look down on me, Jesus.

It’s also direct. I know how to write an obituary. I know what needs to be said. I know what I’m feeling and I know what I want you to feel. Even at this moment, the truthful end of a man I’ve never met has left a slight swell right behind the wall of my eyes. And I guess that’s what words were designed for. Verbalizing clear thoughts.

It’s a lot harder when you don’t know what you’re thinking. When someone dies, I hear people speak things like “I’m at a loss for words,” but are you? Maybe there’s just not that much to say. Maybe 140 characters is all you need. It’s an awful thing and you’re very sad. Say that and you’ve said it all. 

But on a day-to-day basis I have much more to say. Why else would I have started a blog that no one reads? To be acknowledged? In the hopes that one day someone will pull six words they read on a viral posting board and mark my own truthful end? 

I don’t know. The cyclical structure of essays says that I started with that thought, and so I have to bring it back. You can’t introduce something without it eventually effecting the crux of the story. The end is in the beginning. Chekov’s gun.

But the last line of The Seagull is “Konstantin has shot himself.”

I’m told the Russian text is slightly more ambiguous. “Konstantin has fired a gun at himself.” Which in the play he’s already done without much success. There’s no clear implication that Konstantin has died. 

Either way, I’m not going to shoot myself. I’m just trying to use a keyboard to let out all that junk inside my head without the use of a bullet. 

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Natural attraction.

Ah nature. This boy bird woos girl birds by pretending to be other birds. And when that doesn’t work he pretends to be other things all together. Like a camera. And a chainsaw.

That’s sad. That bird should be comfortable being his own bird, right? He should have a call all his own, that girl birds would hear and know as his specific call. They would be attracted to that boy bird for being the strong, confident boy bird that he is and not because he can sound like other birds, that they might also be attracted to.

But they wouldn’t be. The girl birds all want to be with whatever bird can pretend to be the most interesting thing. They want to be with whatever bird can trick them into thinking they’re a cooler bigger bird (or an angrier, more dangerous chainsaw.) They don’t want to be the sincere bird. Even if that sincere bird has a strong attractive call.

But under their feathers they’re all the same bird. They all taste like chicken.

All that sound means is that that bird has put more time into ignoring what it is that makes him special and instead become amazing at mimicking what makes every other bird special. And all those other birds were doing was mimicking the call that their parent birds taught them was the most attractive call. So no birds are special.

Because female birds don’t want a special bird. They want to be tricked.

Maybe every bird does.

It’s natural.

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Raw deal.

Freecell game 11982 is unwinnable. And now my world is upside down.

I, like many clear-thinking, normal, obsessive-compulsive people, trust that the inconsequential actions I take on a cyclical daily basis directly effect the consequential ones. It’s easier that way. And so when I’m confronted with a game of solitaire that I can’t solve, I panic. Because how many problems in my real life will now go unsolved? How many redraws and undos will I click on the effectual issues that I can’t overcome?

If I could just win, it’ll be fine. There will be order. Aces aligned. Queen of hearts, king of hearts, done.

And Microsoft promised me. They told me that every deal of Freecell is winnable. And there’s 52 factorial deals of Freecell, right?

Wrong. There’s 32,000 (way less than 52 x 51 x 50 … x 1). See Microsoft has already taken out the losing hands. Billionaire Bill Gates, because he can, has destroyed the walls of fruitless effort before we get there. To trick us? To plug us into our own Matrix of augmented reality where the all the cards literally fall our way? Or is it more sinister? Is it to pit our pride against our potential, so as we fail (and we’ll all fail) we’re left with the clawing belief that we could have done better.

The only deals I’m ever given are the few hand-selected winners, after all. They’ve stacked the deck.

But I can’t stack the deck. I can’t only have my car break down when I can afford it. Or decide which of my talents are marketable. Or, what I’m actually worried about, only fall for people who fall for me. Microsoft can’t break that wall down for me.

Except they can’t really break any walls down, because game 11,982 is unwinnable. Even with a computer stacked deck, the dealer wins.

I used to just brush my teeth when I got stressed out. 

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