Sunday, June 26, 2005

Nobody Walks in L.A.

Just back from my trip to Hollywood.  Many interesting sights were seen.  I saw two houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright--the Barnsdall house and the Ennis-Brown house.  Of the two, Ennis Brown is by far the more famous, having been the site of numerous film locations, including The House on Haunted Hill and Disney's The Rocketeer.  I am sad to report that Ennis Brown was catastrophically damaged by the Northridge earthquake (photos 1-2).  Steps are being taken to shore up the hillside and protect the house from further damage, but restoration has not yet begun on the southern facade.  The Barnsdall house, by contrast, was beautifully preserved (3-12).  The kind curator who happened to be there, waiting for someone else, unexpectedly and amazingly invited me inside and I was able to take several pictures of the interior.  She was quite proud of the restoration, and her personal contribution was restoring the carpet with Frank Lloyd Wright's original design.

In addition, with my friend Jeff Goode, the creator of Disney's animated series American Dragon, we got as close as one can possibly get by road to the Hollywood Sign.  We also visited a park in Hollywood that overlooks the reservoir, and is another famous filming location.  (14-17).

Picture #18 is of Universal City at dusk.  I took in Batman Begins at the Universal City Cinema.  I could have seen an IMAX showing, but I worried that I would get sick.

I found a couple of interesting locations which were uncannily similar to settings from my novel.  One, the cafe with the yellow awning is identical to the Paradise Cafe, on Melrose Avenue, where Mark sees Andy Lord (23).  Second, the house Wolf's Lair is a dead-ringer for my concept of Raptor's Roost, Samson Day's gothic mansion in the Hollywood Hills, where Mark and Mondre attend the tragic Halloween party (24-25).  Other photos include the famous Observatory (13)--which is used in hundreds of films, (the observatory was off limits due to construction), the courtyard of the Kodak Theater, where they now have the Academy Awards--constructed like the Babylon set from D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, (19-20) and the famous Capital Records tower, which is destroyed in Earthquake as well as The Day After Tomorrow.  (21)  I finished off with a visit to the famous Santa Monica Pier, and looked at the happy people enjoying the beach (22, 26).  It was a great trip and I saw a lot in 2.5 days.  However, there were too many people, and I had a low-grade headache the entire time I was there.  I'm glad to be back under gray Pacific Northwest sky.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dotson Convicted

Carlton Dotson, ex-Baylor University basketball player, was today sentenced to 35 years in prison for shooting his teammate and roommate Patrick Dennehy to death.  In a courtroom surprise, Dotson changed his plea to guilty without any sentencing deal with the prosecution, clearly a self-destructive act, which I presume was motivated by the guilt that surfaced once Dotson's psychosis was brought under control by anti-psychotic medication and he came to understand the full weight of his behavior.  It is clear that Dotson was in a delusional state when he killed his team-mate, and while 35 years seems like a very long sentence, it may in fact, be a lighter sentence than 25 years to life.  With a set upper limit, parole is much more easily had, and Dotson is clearly remorseful over his conduct, unintentional though it was.  I sympathize with his mental illness.  It is unfortunate that he now has to pay the social price of an untreated and unrecognized serious illness, for which he is no more responsible than if he had cancer. 

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jackson Acquitted

Having not been on that jury and heard all the evidence they heard, only highlights of the testimony, I suspect that the jury, in the absence of physical evidence, and weighing the credibility of the witnesses for both sides, were confused by the accuser's inconsistent statements; inconsistencies which raised reasonable doubts.  Furthermore, they were convinced by Macauley Culkin's strong support.  In fact, I strongly suspect that Culkin and Debbie Rowe are directly responsible for today's verdict.

Monday Blah

Monday.  Blah.  I don't wanna work.  Don't wanna.  But here I am.  Next week, vacation.  Trip to LA.  Gotta lose weight.  Have had a few adjustments on my spine by a chiropractor.  It gives me a great deal of energy.  Went to a graduation party yesterday.  Got some sun. 

Michael Jackson has dropped from sight.  Wonder if he's still in the country.  If he wants to flee jurisdiction now is the time.  Watched the entire first season of Deadwood.  Great television drama.  Absolutely great.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Letter Posted at Advocate.Com

I had a letter posted today at Advocate.Com.  Check it out!

Class Doth End

Class has now officially ended.  I am so, so happy.  I have met my goal of having a completed draft by the time I went to Los Angeles (next week!) and I am ready to start sending out proposals.  I want to share what my teacher wrote to me as a final word on my progress as a novelist.  She is a remarkable teacher, and if you live in the Seattle area and you are interested in perfecting your skills on the novel, you cannot do better than to take her program.  If you are interested, check out the Publishing Institute at Bellevue Community College.

Michael, I am so pleased that you have finished your draft and that you are pleased with it yourself. I have talked with you about your plans and know you are going to get the full reads done and then move on from there. I like the changes you have made. I like the focus of the book now. I have always enjoyed the characters. Your writing is detailed, sensual and emotional. Now that you understand how to ground and how to elicit a response from the reader, I think you are unstoppable. I worry that you are your own worst enemy though and I hope, with all my heart, that you will believe in your work the way I do. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, it means it is all viable and perfectible. Remember that your instincts are never wrong, only the words are wrong. And there are an infinite number of words to chose from, don’t take problems with words and equate them with something wrong with the work. That is never the case. Things do need tweaking and changing and sometimes, as you know, deleting. But your ideas, your vision, your images are always important, relevant and worthwhile. Know that you have support as you begin the next phase on this project. I will help you in any way that I can. I think all of us in the class and who know your writing are anticipating what will happen to this project next.  (--Pamela R. Goodfellow)

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Jesse Helms Rot In Hell

Helms writes, "it had been my feeling that AIDS was a disease largely spread by reckless and voluntary sexual and drug-abusing behavior and that it would probably be confined to those in high-risk populations. I was wrong."

That's from Helm's forthcoming Memoir entitled Where I Stand.  I guess that voluntary behavior such as drunk driving, smoking and eating too much butter ought to be ignored by the federal government, too.  As long as it's not someone like you, let them die, and decrease the surplus population.

Also note that Helms isn't saying that he was wrong about his belief that as long as AIDS was restricted to groups such as drug users and gays, it was okay to ignore them and let them die--he only admits to being wrong in his belief that AIDS would not spread beyond those groups.

Elsewhere in the memoir he states that desegregation was forced upon certain states "too early" and that civil rights protests antagonized race relations in America.  So I guess keeping mum and taking it leads to change?  If the entire world hadn't condemned South Africa Apartheid would still be the law of that land.  Die Jesse Helms.  America doesn't need you or the loathsome obscenity you call a value system any more.  There's a spot reserved for you in Hell right between Doctor Mengele and Pope Benedict XVI.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Mysterious Skin

I saw Mysterious Skin Saturday at the Seattle International Film Festival.  If you haven't heard about this film yet, you will.  It is the most emotionally true films about childhood sexual abuse that I have ever seen.  It blows Happiness out of the water (though that was told more from the abuser's point of view, rather than the victim's).  The film follows the lives of two boys, Neil and Brian, who are abused by the same man at the same time (their little league coach).  They share essentially the same experience but as they mature, they develop different ways of coping with the trauma.  Neil becomes sexually obsessive and irresponsible.  Brian withdraws into himself and represses his experience with visions of alien abduction.  Joseph Gordon-Leavitt gives a rock solid performance as Neil, which is the flashier of the two roles.  Brady Corbet plays Brian, the "worst player on the team," with tremendous sensitivity and nuance.  It is a masterpiece of cinema, a film which will ignite the world to this issue.  More than any other film I've seen, it tackles the subject head on, and dramatizes the years of emotional turmoil that follow the rape of a child.  Yet, the film is never preachy or polemical.  It doesn't wrap things up in a tidy way at the end.  The aim here is character.  There is no vengeance, as at the end of Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.) and that makes it more truthful, more real.  It will unsettle you for days.  If Aristotle was right, and we attend tragedy for the purpose of purging the strong emotions, this film is as effective as it gets.

Friday, June 3, 2005

On the Record with Furor Scribendi

Have you ever been a juror?  I have.  The case involved three counts of first degree rape of a child.  In Washington State, the law makes no distinction between types of illegal sexual contact between adults and minors and refers to all of it as rape.  Most interesting about my experience was the way in which the jury, having heard all of the evidence, have sat in the same room with each other, could be evenly divided, 6 to 6, during the first poll in deliberations.  More astoundingly, though, we managed to reach a verdict.  It was a compromise verdict.  We found the defendant guilty of one count of the three counts against him.  In retrospect there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Actually, there was proof beyond a shadow of a doubt.  By implication of his guilt on that count, he was guilty of the remaining two counts.  But implication is not good enough. 

I can say with complete assurance that the entire case hinged on the testimony of the victim who was seven years old at the time.  That's a lot to rest on the shoulders of one so young.  There was no evidence other than testimony, no physical evidence at all.  The court required us to weigh the testimony in the balance and determine the truth of the matter.  That is a higher burden than you might at first imagine.  Sending someone to prison without some sort of corroborative proof is daunting. 

In the end, our jury compromised.  We found the defendant guilty on one charge, not guilty on two. 

Likewise, I feel, the jury in the Michael Jackson case will weigh the testimony of his accusers against the impeachment of that testimony by the defense, and they will be unable to convict.  From what I've heard described in the media, the defense sufficiently impeached the testimony of the primary accusers to the point that renders them insufficiently credible to support a conviction on the most serious charges.  I predict that the Jackson jury will compromise, and find him guilty of some lesser charge, such as supplying a minor with alcohol.  That is, if they are able to reach a verdict at all.  More probable than not, the jury will hang.  If not, then they will return with a compromise verdict.

I do not believe that Jackson will spend a single day in jail, nor will he ever be in handcuffs again.  At least, not for a charge of this nature.

By the way, and apropros of nothing--Michael Jackson was married to Lisa Marie Presley who is a celebrity Scientologist.  Greta van Susteren, the Fox News legal maven, is also a celebrity Scientologist, and perhaps that's why Fox News takes a very even-handed approach to this trial. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Oh, It Just Makes Me Bilious!

Jim West that is.  He was on the Today Show today, and made the comment that gay people can be conservative, that he was representing his constituency and not advocating for himself when he voted against every gay friendly bill that crossed his path in the Washington state legislature.  What gaseous, bloated, cancerous hypocrisy!  It makes me freaking insane.  First, would those same constituents he claims to have served have ever VOTED FOR Jim West had he been forthcoming about his sexual orientation?  NO!!!  Second, if your goal is to conceal your homosexuality by bashing other gay men and women, which is what all gay bashers really are, then perhaps you ARE advocating for yourself when you vote against gay rights--because in that way, you get to repress your profoundly sick self-disgust and loathing by projecting it on someone else.  Neither his constiuents to whom he lied, nor the gay community he continously bashed for decades, should support him now.