Friday, July 18, 2014

Just my opinion, but

If you're picking sides in a war

If you think one groups' children are any more precious than anothers

If you only share pictures of one sides casualties (and do so repeatedly)

If you judge a situation on the history of three weeks instead of (at least) three generations

If you excuse the violence and murders of only one party

If you are keeping score based on a body count

If you think that just one side "started it"

If you accuse one side of media manipulation through the shared posts of the others propaganda machine

If you think soldiers in civilian garb are any more innocent or holy than soldiers in uniform

If you think official recognition makes anyone more guilt-free or holy than another

If you blame the people of one side while excusing the generals of the other

If you place the rights of one group to exist in peace above those of another

If you only recognize the extremism of one side's all-or-nothing stance

If you think mothers only weep in one language 

If you think you can choose a side in a battle 

and still claim that you stand for peace

You are likely a hypocrite, a fool, a liar, or worse.

Friday, July 11, 2014

BWG2: Diane Keaton’s Hotel Room (& Belinda Carlisle’s breast)

My last posting here, Brush With Greatness #1: Carole King, got a pretty good reaction, so I'll continue the series now with a story requested by one the participants in it: my brother Steve.

This story is from about 1988, also from my time working at Limelight Film & Video in Hollywood. We were shooting a couple of videos for former GoGo, Belinda Carlisle, Heaven is a Place on Earth, and the follow-up, I Get Weak, each of which was to be directed by the fabulous and talented Diane Keaton.

My job as a staff production assistant sometimes put me on-set, carrying cables, moving equipment, painting signs, buying sushi, or other such tasks, and between times were spent driving up and down LA's Westside running scripts, tapes, and money all over town.

Ms. Keaton arrived the evening before we were to shoot I Get Weak, and was staying at the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica. I was to drop off some last minute papers and notes along with a cassette of the song at her hotel for her to review before the shoot.

I pulled up to the Shangri-La, went to the front desk, explained I had a package for Ms. Keaton, and figured that I'd leave it there, and my day was done.

The desk clerk told me, "Hold on a second. Don't go anywhere." He probably thought I was rather suspicious and he wasn't going to take any chances on my making an escape. He called up to her room, "There's a guy here with a package for you?" Then to me, "Are you from Limelight?" I nodded. He told her, "Yes," then handed the phone to me.

"Do you just want to leave it up front? Or, no, hold on, do you mind bringing it up to my room?"

I didn't mind. I got the room number, went up to the room, knocked on the door, and was invited in. Just me and one of my favorite actresses, alone in her room. I handed her the envelope, she opened it, checked out the contents, talking to herself, "Very good. Excellent."

Finally, after what seemed like an hour in her company, but was probably about 10 seconds, she thanked me and gestured to the door letting me know our encounter was complete. I don't remember if I managed to utter even one word in her presence.

The next day - the day of the shoot - I was off, and hanging out with my brother, Steve. After telling him about the encounter of the night before, I asked if he'd like to stop by the set and watch them shoot for a few minutes. He didn't take much convincing.

There was Belinda, with Diane screaming at her to "Act! Dammit!" doing take after take, and still not getting it the way Ms. Keaton wanted. Belinda tried harder, and harder. So hard, in fact, that her actions led to a wardrobe malfunction and one of her breasts sliding out of her top.

Steve still thanks me for that. Belinda's breast was good, but being alone with Diane Keaton in her hotel room was better.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Brush With Greatness #1: Carole King

One thing I've pretty much resisted doing is talking about meeting celebrities. Until now, I guess.

Having been a music and film obsessed teenager and young adult in Los Angeles, then working first in major record stores in Hollywood and Studio City, then working for a music video production company, I've crossed paths with many famous people.

It was just part of what I was doing at the time, and not really that big a deal, and so I don't usually talk about it. But, for whatever reason, or maybe just for the hell of it, I think I'll start sharing some of those stories here for those who care about such things.

During my time as a production assistant at Limelight Film & Video in Hollywood (roughly 1988-89) I worked with dozens of popular artists. But one of my favorite moments of that time came from somebody I only met on the phone.

We had just completed the Bridge of Sighs video for Louise Goffin, when one of the Limelight office staff came to me, very irritated, and said, "Louise Goffin's mother is on the phone. She wants a copy of the video," (exasperated over-dramatic sigh), "Do you mind talking to her?"

Understanding that Louise was the daughter of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, one of the most successful songwriting teams of the 1950-60s, and appreciating that Carole King's Tapestry held the record for most weeks on the Billboard chart for an album by a female artist (a record eventually broken by Whitney Houston), I didn't mind. I picked up the phone.

KG: "Ummm... Hello?"

CK: "Hi, this is Carole. I'm Louise Goffin's mom. How does the video look?"

KG: "Well... it looks very good, actually. Suits the mood of the song, and Louise looks great..."

We talked like that for about 5-10 minutes, and I shared how I'd enjoyed Louise's work since her Kid Blue debut, but that this new album showed a new maturity, yadda, yadda, yadda. Since she wanted to talk about Louise, and had not introduced herself as "Carole King," I refrained from comparing Louise's songs to Carole's.

Eventually we got around to her asking if it were possible for us to send her a VHS copy of Bridge of Sighs. Yes, we could. "Where should I send it?"

CK: "To Carole King, c/o..." (address in NYC, where she was then working on a play).

That five or ten minutes has stuck with me more than many of the other encounters with celebrities I met in person, and been a favorite moment of mine, because she wasn't being Carole King, most successful female composer of the 20th century (nearly 120 songs on the Billboard charts), popular recording artist, and sometime actress.

She was just being little Carol Klein, Jewish momma, who only wanted to talk about how proud she was of her baby. I had a glimpse of the real Carole King, and she did not disappoint.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What if They Crowdfunded a War and Nobody Gave?

Way back when I was a child, there was a popular poster that said, "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." (Posters were a crude pre-Facebook era meme communications device.)

Well, it seems that the great day is finally here!

Well, at least, if you live in Ukraine. And if you update "bake sale" to "crowdfunding campaign." (And ignore that bit about funding schools.)

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has turned to social media and crowdfunding to get their troops combat ready. Ukrainian activists claim the campaign has raised nearly $2 million so far. (Right now, only 6,000 Ukrainian troops are considered combat ready, according to the BBC.)

And would it be a crowdfunding campaign without a video up on YouTube? That would be a big, "Nyet!" And here it is:

By the way, did you take a close look at the thumbnail icon before you played that video? Just in case you missed it, here's it is again:

Yeah, that's right. In Ukraine, people still use Blackberries.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Post Title Goes Here

I am not perfect. Obviously. Often these dispatches are typed quickly, read over once, and the publish button is clicked without too much afterthought. I don't have anybody else proofread these things either. So, yes, I often find embarrassing typos here after I've posted, and others often find such typos and take great pride in pointing them out to me.

Not to justify my sloppiness (or laziness), but I also often find obvious mistakes in the various blogs, magazines, and books of others. These things happen. Oh well. But sometimes you come across an error that just makes you scratch your head and wonder WTF?...

... Last month we visited the Mission at San Juan Bautista (Vertigo location, for all you Hitchcock fans). There are many historical displays throughout the museum/mission. In this one room, there's a bit about the native plants and crops that the original Californians used for foods and medicines.

The posters above the display say "Indigenous Food Plants." Arranged around that are examples with pictures and plant names and the words "basic information about this plant, uses, habitat." Yes, each one has "basic information." Not actual information, just the words "basic information." Oops, did somebody forget to put in the basic information that was supposed to go here? I'm pretty sure "spanish common name" is a placeholder as well...

But that's not the biggest error. Under the heading of "Indigenous Food Plants" are a couple of paragraphs of text. Not in English. No, not Spanish. Is that Latin? Let's see... "Lorem ipsum..."

For those unfamiliar with the words "Lorem Ipsum," it is standard placeholder text used by graphic designers when they are creating the art for a printed piece and the actual, final copy has not been written (or delivered) yet.

On this poster, the block of Lorem Ipsum is repeated; first in standard typeface, then in italics (probably where the Spanish translation is supposed to go).

And it's not just one such poster: there are two of these. And, judging by how faded the paper is, they've been hanging there for several years.

I shared these images with my designer friend, Bill, last month. Yesterday he sent me the link to a blog post called What happens when placeholder text doesn't get replaced. If you are amused my mission example above, you'll love the examples on that link.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mac and Me

If you've been anywhere near any tech media the last week or so, you are quite aware that it is the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh computer. You may or may not know that I'm a "Mac guy." Pretty much all my websites, blogs, videos, songs, etc., that I've posted over the last couple of decades have been created on Macs.

My earliest computer experiences were actually on a Commodore 64 that belonged to my friend (and for a time, roommate) Dave. It was fun, easy to use, and we even managed to do some very basic programming without having to learn much (I remember creating a rudimentary Madlibs-type game). But it wasn't a machine that anybody would use for any serious work.

My first desktop computer experience in a work setting was probably about 1987, when I was working at an ad agency in Hollywood. We had a couple of Compaq Deskpros in the office (looking pretty much like these photos), and if memory serves, the software I mostly used was WordStar (writing) and Lotus123 (spreadsheet).

There was no graphical user interface, only text line commands, and a tiny, fuzzy screen that sucked the ability to see the color green right out of your eyes. But it was still considered pretty cool, and you could easily update documents and print them out so you could put them on the fax machine and magically share them with people outside the office.

Then I changed jobs and went to a music video production company down the street, and we had one of those funny looking all-in-one box thingies I'd heard people talking about, called "Macintosh" (it was about 1988, and it may have been the Mac SE, but I can't be sure).

The monitor was still pretty small, and black and white - but so much easier on the eyes than that horrid green glow of the Deskpro. And when you typed a document, it looked pretty much the same as it would when you printed it. It was still pretty basic, but light years ahead of what I'd just been using.

Then I returned to school (1989), and I needed to bring better technology with me than just a basic typewriter. But a Mac was still too costly for me, so I bought a Smith Corona "Personal Word Processor" (pretty much like this photo).

It had a screen that displayed about 12 lines of text, and a slot for a disk that could store about 25 pages of text. No images or fancy formatting (the print wheel was still just a basic typewriter), but I could write my papers, correct them, print them, and get through UC Santa Cruz for my BA in Politics.

When I went on to grad school at CSU Sacramento in 1991 (Master of Public Policy & Administration), the Smith Corona was just not cutting it anymore. It was time (finally) for my own real computer. The Macintosh LC III filled that bill with an 80 Mb hard drive, which - at the time - seemed like I would never be able to fill.

That machine got me through grad school, and also opened up entire new worlds. It was on the LC III that I first connected to the internet, first through Delphi, then AmericaOnline, then finally a local ISP called Quiknet. It was through Quiknet (1994) that I had my own webspace and started to learn html.

After the LC III I owned one other desktop Mac, a Power Mac (I think the 7300?), then I switched to laptops, first an iBook, then a MacBook, and now a MacBook Pro, for a total of five Macintosh machines over 22 or 23 years.

The upgrades were never because of hardware failures, but mostly to have access to faster/better software that wasn't supported on the older platforms. I've never had a loss of data that wasn't my own darn fault, and the only repairs I've ever needed were handled quickly, easily, and free at my local Apple stores.

I've also owned two PCs in that time.

First I got a Dell laptop as a premium gift with credit card points. Even as a "free" computer, it was over-priced. The Dell never worked well (or at all, really), was frustrating as hell, and did nothing to break my Mac loyalty.

Later, I purchased an HP Mini, to have something smaller and lighter than the MacBook when traveling (and something I wouldn't be too upset over losing). This was actually much better than the Dell, and I got some good use out of it. Until the day certain letters on the keyboard stopped working. Including letters that I needed for my password to log-in. End of HP story.

And, of course, I've used a variety of PCs in various office settings over the years, and never found one that I enjoyed using nearly as much as any of my Macs.

My other Apple devices over the years:
* First generation iPod Shuffle
* iPod Touch (1st or 2nd generation)
* iPhone 3GS
* iPhone 4S

No iPad yet, but if (or when) I decide to get another lightweight machine for travel (to replace the HP Mini), it will probably be an iPad.

I try not to be too much of an ass about my affinity for Apple products, but I've been accused of "being rude to PC fans." To me, Macs just work better. They're more intuitive (to the way my brain works), they don't crash/freeze/die with nearly the same frequency (in my experience). Yes, they cost more initially, but I have found them to be worth the price differential in the long run.

If you disagree, that's swell, enjoy your PC. But, for me, I salute the Mac on its 30th anniversary, and I look forward to the next 30.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Let Them Ride Ferries!

As the legend goes, at a time when France was in the midst of a famine, Queen Marie Antoinette continued to spend lavishly on her extravagant lifestyle. When somebody pointed out that she was doing this while the peasants had no bread, she deadpanned, "No bread? Let them eat cake!" ("Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!")

While Old Marie A likely never really said those words, the phrase has come to represent pompous, pampered, out-of-touch aristocracy, who have no concern for the poor, not so much out of evil, but out of willful ignorance. An aristocracy that is so isolated from the problems of the average person that they imagine what they'd do if they ran out of plain bread; simply switch to brioche.

Let's jump forward a couple hundred years and change the location to the San Francisco Bay Area. Specifically, Highway 101 between San Francisco and Mountain View, where a little kingdom called "Google" has its headquarters.

For years now, Google, along with other tech giants like Apple, etc., have provided their employees (or "Googlers," yes, really) with luxury coach buses that pick them up from various locations and bring them to work without having to deal with traffic, etc.

Quite a nice perk, and one that could be said to be an environmentally sound policy of getting private cars off the road (without making their employees use, iiiiccck!, public transportation). I'm fine with that. Personally, I prefer to be cut off by one or two massive gray buses than have to deal with fifty separate Tesla's darting in and out of traffic.

The problem that many of us have had is not with the buses themselves, but what they have come to represent.

That the Valley of Heart's Delight has been re-christened Silicon Valley brought many advantages and great wealth to this region. But it has not been all-inclusive, and those left-behind have fallen further below the economic divide. We have a greater division of wealth here than in most other regions, and are divided into the privileged tech few, and the invisible poor who serve them.

And it's the invisibility of the poor that the buses represent.

The tech crew moves from their home enclaves to private buses where their commute is protected from sharing a seat with "ordinary" people. The buses deposit them at massive campuses where their meals are provided in wonderfully equipped and staffed cafes. Then they are brought home again in the private buses.

Meanwhile, poverty in Silicon Valley is very real, and very hidden.

It's not all Google's fault! Really. I like Google. I use gmail. I use YouTube. This blog is hosted by Google's Blogspot But over-all, the major tech companies have been unable to successfully address whether or not they have any responsibility as corporate citizens to do anything about the poverty their employees get to ignore.

In the last few weeks, however, the media has finally taken notice of this. Not because the media finally cares about the homeless sleeping along the banks of the Guadalupe River in San Jose. No. Because middle-class, non-tech yuppies in San Francisco got tired of rising rents and decided to protest.

The SF group noticed that the tech buses were picking up their passengers at public bus stops, where if anybody else were to stop, they'd get a ticket. This became the focus of the protests. Long-story-short, the city reached a deal with the companies to pay for their use of public bus stops.

This "solution" is supposed to result in a truce. It doesn't do anything about gentrification in San Francisco, or homelessness all along the Peninsula, or income disparity, or anything else really, but it brings in some civic revenue, so everybody's happy. Right? ... Right?

And now, Google has done one better. Completely missing the original point of the recent SF protests, or the years of resentment building around their Mountain View Googleplex, Google has announced they will provide free ferry service to their employees, saying in a statement to the press, "We certainly don't want to cause any inconvenience to SF residents and we're trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work."

For years advocates for the poor have talked about the buses being a symbol for the isolation and divide between the tech community and the rest of the Valley around them. So now, they are further removing and isolating their "Googlers" by letting them commute on the Bay, where they don't even have to notice an older model Chevrolet breaking down by the side of the road.

In Silicon Valley, Google was told that the peasants have no bread. And Google's answer was to move the brioche onto a ferry.

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