Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Great Uncle's Date

This afternoon, Brenda and I went my uncle’s assisted living residence to give him a quick hello.  When we arrived, we saw a young man locking up a black BMW and then seemingly setting up uncle’s Mercedes.  I thought that maybe it was one of the assisted living workers either cleaning or maybe starting my uncle’s car since he no longer drives, but still likes to have his vehicle kept and maintained there. 

We went directly up to the my uncle's floor and found him standing next to the alternate elevators just down the hall from the one we had used, waiting with his walker.  We surprised him and said, “Hi uncle!” He was delighted to see us, and he said he wanted to talk with me to catch up sometime this coming week.  However, he couldn’t visit tonight because he had a date waiting for him downstairs in the parking lot.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Highly Improbable Moments

Which moments?  Every moment of your life.  And here’s what I mean.

Think about that time when you last ran into your buddy that you haven’t seen for a while at the hardware store, or you turned around to see your high school gal pal at a market that you hadn’t planned on going to that day.  Or, think about, sadly, the last accident you saw on a street somewhere.  And, think about when someone…anyone, wins the lottery.  Jackpot!

Those are all occurrences that are obvious to us and are unlikely to happen in each of our days.  They do happen, but just not that often.  But I submit to you that every moment of our lives is very unlikely.  Take the most banal event:  With the side of your arm, you accidentally brush an ink pen off of the counter at the auto mechanic where you’re getting your oil filter changed.  The pen lands in “that” specific floor tile.  You pick it up, and then put it back on the counter and you don’t think any more of it.  Why should you?  But I do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Staged Event

A friend of mine who lives in San Francisco told me of something that happened to him recently that I found interesting to hear and think about. 

His name is Craig, and he works in graphic arts in the city there and puts together visual pitches for advertiser clients.  He was apparently shown a pamphlet of a musical play at an equity waiver theater not far from his work.  Since his wife and wife’s sister had planned to spend the evening together seeing the sites of the city and shopping, Craig decided to attend the show.  He likes to explore what’s up in the city. 

As Craig approached the theater, he saw that there was a small line of people getting their tickets, and after a few moments, he made it to the front of the line.  A ticket salesperson asked Craig if he was on the list of guests, and he said, “No.”  She responded, “Oh, so many people who are coming tonight were invited by crew members.”  He smiled cordially and got out his credit card, which she swiped through one of those phone credit devices. 

He then headed into the theater, seeing first a blockage at the entrance of people who were trying to figure out how they could squeeze in because the theater was mostly full.  Craig felt fortunate to be solo, slipped past the bottleneck, and headed up the bleacher graded seats to the back section.  He saw two empty seats, one of which ended up being saved.  So he asked a white haired man next to the seemingly only remaining seat left if it was taken. “Nope!” He said in a welcoming voice, “Looks like you got the last one!” 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dalton Trumbo's House

Me With Dominic Holding One of Dalton Trumbo's Oscars

During the time that I was very young, after I was adopted at age five to about eleven years old, I became friends with a kid named, Dominic, who was one year older than I.  He was the son of a psychotherapist that my mother, a child development specialist, worked with.  My mother, Marcia, became good friends with Nikola, or Niki.  And Niki was the eldest daughter of Dalton and Cleo Trumbo.

So, as a child, when Niki needed to go do something such as attend some meetings or clients and I happened to be at Dominic’s house, she would turn us over to Dominic’s grandparents, Dalton and Cleo.  I remember running in and around the house, as Dom and I were wont to do wherever we were, and Dalton would be puttering around in his old age, usually sort of off on his own.  I perceived even at the time that he was constantly either reading or looking for something, maybe reference books, around the house and keeping himself busy with his own projects. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Rabid Rabbi

I was watching some YouTube videos about the illegal immigration of Africans and Middle Easterners into Europe, and specifically, the past legal immigration of some of these groups into Sweden, and I noticed some of the user comments posting comments about Jewish power in Swedish media and government.  Some stated that Jews = parasites, that they owned the media companies, and that they have been on the side of multiculturalism, and have welcomed immigrants and Muslims as a sort of self-preservation insurance.  Their idea was that Jews, by promoting multiculturalism, are ultimately protecting themselves from ever being singled out as a target in the future; such as they had been during the German Holocaust.  I have to admit that I don’t know enough about European and Scandinavian affairs to leave much comment on such an accusation, but I will say that it seems unlikely to me that Jews would have such control of Sweden as to sway it’s people and politicians to do something they don’t want to do.  I suspect that if Sweden has let into their country a lot of legal or illegal immigrants in the form of refugees, then it has been their choice and their policy, given their socialistic political bent as a sovereign nation.  And to put it bluntly, there are just Jew haters in the world, just as there are people who hate anyone of any other ethnic or racial group.  The world is full of interesting and uninformed types.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Rorschach Stars

Apparently, the stars are my emotional Rorschach test, or my Tabula rasa.  And though I just became aware of it tonight, I have somehow always been aware of it in myself.

This is Labor Day Weekend and my girlfriend had something she needed to do with her family that I wasn’t really up for.  She’s in an area where there is no cell phone service, so I’m on my own for these few days.  Furthermore, the apartments that I live in are emptied out for the holiday weekend.  There were a few people floating in the pool during the day today, Sunday, but as of about 9:15pm, the place was silent as the middle of the woods. 

It was the same here last night as well, Saturday evening.  At about 11:30pm, I went and laid down on one of the several lounge chairs that are perched on a third story upper deck of our complex.  I first brought my cat up with me, thinking that he would enjoy the fresh air and serenity as well.  However, upon depositing him next to me, he was immediately perplexed as to what this place was and let out several guttural cries that were qualitatively different enough from normal meows that I thought better of leaving him out with me.  It was likely that the few one or two people in the complex would think there was a problem of mating or otherwise outside. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Partition

I had a recent copy of The New Yorker lying around and I flipped through a few of the articles; one about a new country singer not exactly doing the Nashville thing, and another about how the solar panels system works in respect to hooking into utility companies.  They were okay stories; whatever.

But there was one article that was very interesting to me, whose information I was simply unaware of.  It is called, "The Great Divide," and it referred to The Partition, and how in 1947, with the British government intervening in India's way of life (which I realize is a little subjective), that India, which was somewhat of a homogenized society of Hindu and Muslims, suddenly became much more aware of their religious differences, and began to massacre each other, until eventually, they physically divided (mostly) with Hindu people staying in India and Muslims forming Pakistan.  Apparently it was very complicated because the two peoples shared the same languages and artistic endeavors; something that to this day has been nearly impossible to unravel.  But during the Partition, they were literally killing and raping each other by the thousands. And to be clear, both sides were responsible for these atrocities. 

The article described the ongoing pains that the two countries have always had with each other since the Partition and also how, eventually it has come about, that Pakistan has ended up harboring so many people of unsavory character, fostered the beginnings of the Taliban, and has used what have been essentially terrorists to fight their own battles (I guess you could see the terrorists as mercenaries in that way) and finally, how these terrorist fighters are now out of Pakistan's control.

It was just interesting because I had never heard of this huge rift at all in my North American naiveté. 

This topic reminded me of the only Pakistani person that I ever knew of a long period of time. There was a young woman of about twenty-four years of age that worked on "Pocahontas" as a production assistant who was from Pakistan.  She was very pretty, always ultra-sweet (to me at least), had a cute Pakistani accent, and she dressed in an American way, though, with slight hints of her culture, especially with regard to color schemes.  She reminded me a little of the character, Jasmine, from "Aladdin."  She had a special beauty and radiance about her. 

She went on to work with me on "Fantasia 2000," and then literally one week, she came to the production meeting and told us all that this would be her last couple of weeks with us; that her parents were marrying her off to some man who was prearranged for her by them and another family.  I remember acutely her telling us this with the most matter of fact delivery, which seemed based on complete acceptance and compliance. 

The two weeks went by, and after working with her constantly for four years, we never saw or heard from her again. It was the strangest thing for us, the American bred people of complete autonomously chosen life directions.  The lesson for all of us was that when push came to shove, as Americanized as she seemed, she abided by her traditional Pakistani customs and she seemed to easily accept the matrimonial fate that was handed to her by her elders.  It was just a little jarring for the rest of us making an animated movie.  I hope she is well. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Constant Moon

Yesterday afternoon, after my girlfriend got to her mother’s house to help her for a few days, I got a call from her asking what could be wrong with her television or her remote.  Her mother is somewhat house-ridden because she has C.O.P.D, and the television is her primary means of entertainment.  So, having long ago anticipated that something like this might happen, given how my own similar HD cable set up does that wackiest things now and then, I had on my phone photos I had taken of both of her remote control devices for the television and the cable, and I used them to start to trouble shoot with her. 

It doesn’t take an elderly person to hit a couple wrong buttons in sequence to find themselves neck deep in a menagerie of error line input messages and a black screen.  I’ve done it myself too many times.  So speaking with my girlfriend, I walked her through a few of the options of what might be wrong and how to correct the possible problem(s).  In the past, this has worked, but as the evening went on, I couldn’t seem to untangle whatever the problem was over the phone. 

So I told my girlfriend to call their cable company’s tech support, which happened to still be open.  This was about 9:00pm in the evening.  I thought that there was possibly some system problem that the cable company might know about, and which I didn’t.  But after about forty-five minutes, I texted my girlfriend and asked her if she had solved the problem.  She called back.  “Nope!”  The lady on the tech line had tried to have her use the television remote (as opposed to the cable remote) and had told her to make sure the line in was on HDMI 1.  But nothing had happened.  She also reported back to me that the first time that someone from the cable company could go out there would be Monday. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mark Kausler - Animator

This is probably not my story to tell, but it affected me so deeply on the day that it happened that I want to share it. 

During my production management time at the Walt Disney Company, a veteran animator named Mark Kausler showed up as usual to work one morning on the production we were working on, which was a segment of “Fantasia 2000,” called, “Pomp and Circumstance.”  This was the story of Noah’s Arc, starring, Donald Duck (I love Donald Duck!).

Mark was a slender, maybe fifty-five year old man at the time, who was lean, had sandy-gray hair, and fair skin with mature facial lines.  He spoke with a plain, almost country way about him, and the first time I laid eyes on him, both his speech and his look made me think of an 1849 California gold prospector.  I liked him right away.  He was fun and humorous in social settings, but eventually he always wanted to get to the business of animating. 

Mark slipped into the Royce Building (our production building) with his seemingly consistently wind-swept hair, wearing his heavy dark blue windbreaker, and choaking the neck of his brown paper bagged lunch the way one might tote a rope that one is dragging behind.  Mark quietly settled into his cubicle with his animation light board to start his work for the day. 

A little later, I was doing my morning rounds, checking to make sure that each of my animators and clean up artists had a nice stack of scenes to work on, and as I neared Mark’s cubicle, I heard him moaning as if in pain.  As I walked into his space, I found him very upset, crying and wiping his glasses, while he was concurrently still animating on his drawing board. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why I Type Loudly

You know what's a strange sign of the generation that I came from?  How loudly I type.  I often go to libraries to work on various self-assigned writing projects, and what I find is that invariably at some point as I'm typing, I will get a look from a person or two.  It only had to happen a few times for me to realize what was going on. 

These people were all young people, in their twenties or thirties.  And I'm fifty.  The first Mac SE that I ever touched was in the U.S.C. library during about my junior year there.  And the first Mac that was ever mine to use with regularity was when I worked at Disney Feature Animation, where I was assigned my own Mac SE.  That was the one that looked like an upright shoe box and had a black and white screen about the size of most stock car navigation screens.  And the first Mac that I ever bought was the second generation color screen Mac with money that I had invested in Pixar Animation and had made enough upside to purchase it. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recognition Versus Recall

Not having done an ounce of research on this topic, I really shouldn’t be writing about it.  But I will anyway simply because it interest me; yet not enough to do any research on it.  Go figure!

Most people come to realize at some point that their recognition is and always has been better than their recall.  Okay, I will exclude Marilu Henner and her ilk (who are perfect examples of why you chop off the extremes when doing statistics) from this “given.”  But think about it.  If someone asked you to name off the books in your book cabinet in the other room, or the old CD’s that you have in that old box under your bed, if actually tested, you might get fifteen percent of them right?  Maybe twenty?  Yet, if someone took all of your books out of your cabinet, or all of your CD’s out of that box, and mixed them up with a bunch of others, you would undoubtedly be able to recognize those, which were yours, and those that you had never seen before.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pearblossom Highway – Was He The Zodiac Killer?

After watching a program on a cable channel about a notorious killer back in April of 2012, a frightening and long dormant memory was sparked within me.  My memory was from back in 1981 and I had possessed my California Driver License for about a year at that point.  My cousin, K.C., who was seven years my senior, was in town visiting when two friends from high school, Tim and Kim, and I decided we wanted to go skiing at Mt. Waterman in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles.  K.C. decided he want to go too, so one sunny, winter Saturday morning, we all piled into my mom’s yellow Volvo station wagon, and I started driving us to the ski area. 

My parents’ house was in Studio City, so I decided that instead of taking Interstate 10 east to Interstate 15 (the 210 freeway did not go farther than the 57 freeway at that time), I decided to take us around the back of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Mt. Waterman sits in the very northeastern corner of this range, just to the west of Interstate 15.  The route I chose required us to drive west on Highway 101, north on the 405, north on the 5, north on the 14, and finally, east on Highway 138, which is also called, Pearblossom Highway.  After negotiating all of these freeways, which was relatively easy on a Saturday morning, we turned east onto Pearblossom Highway and headed straight east for Mt. Waterman. 

This section of the 138, which begins way back west at Gorman’s Interstate 5 and Highway 138 interchange, and which ends at Interstate 15 north of the Cajon Pass, is a rolling highway.  It’s relatively straight, but it has these fun ups and downs which follow the topographical intersecting contour of where the Mojave Desert and the northern San Gabriel’s join.  Back then, it was a two lane road with no divider.  There were a lot of accidents back then with vehicles trying to pass with less than sufficient viewing corridor.  The evidence was in the signs that dotted the rolly up and down portions of the highway reading, “Do Not Pass On Hills.”  But I had driven the road on several occasions prior in my exploration of areas outside of Los Angeles. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Flying Over Fremont

It was with great pleasure and excitement that I flew over Fremont Street in Las Vegas.  I flew over it, not in an airplane, but via SlotZilla’s Zip Line. 

We were a group of nine friends visiting sin city last weekend and were walking around Vegas’ old downtown Fremont Street.  It’s really gentrified now.  I’ve been there with this same group of people several times in the last few years.  But each visit, it seems that they’ve improved the whole of Fremont Street and given a new life to an old part of the city.  There is now a huge permanent metal arched canopy that encloses the entirety of the walk from one end to the other.  There are also three large stages along the pedestrian enclosed avenue that have great music.  During our evening visits, we watched a band perform a bunch of great country hits, and we also watched another band do rock and roll hits that were impeccably played.  Imagine how hard it is for a band to cover, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in a way that rivals the original recording.  This band did it. 

One afternoon, we were walking on one of the side streets that feeds into Fremont, peeking into Hogs and Heifers, which a dive bar that has hot girls dancing on the counters and a continual line up of Harley bikes parked outside.  As we were walking away from the bar, one of our clan, Stephen, said, “You all want to zip line now?”  I was the first to respond, “Shit yeah.  Let’s go!”   “What?” “You want to zip line?”  my voice asked in my head.  “You know it’s high off the ground, right Fred?”  But I just ignored the voices and kept leading the group to the ticket office. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Umbrella Laws

Something that I’ve been running up against for the past thirty one years, beginning at a time when I started hunting down my own personal information, is the fact that laws that are made are often created in a way that tried to fit all circumstances under one umbrella.

I was an adopted child, and through no small feat was I able to find a sibling completely on my own without any help from the County of Los Angeles or the State of California.  I have also been able to find other documents and notes about my own adoption, no thanks to any county or state governmental agencies.

But what has been frustrating for me is that since I have a special situation (as I’m sure there are many people with varying degrees of situations that deviated from the norm), the laws of the county and of the state do not fit well or nearly at all with circumstances of my adoption. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good Stock

Roy Conli, Don Hall, and Chris Williams

Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Peter Del Vecho

I'm happy to write that four people who I have worked with in the past at the Walt Disney Company have won Academy Awards in the past two years.  This year, it was Chris Williams and Roy Conli for, "Big Hero 6," and last year it was Chris Buck, Peter Del Vecho for, "Frozen." 

These guys are genuinely great, hard working people who would buy you lunch in an instant if you were out of cash, or gas, or whatever, and are great fun to be around.  It's always a good feeling to know that those who are being recognized are really good souls in their day to day lives.  I couldn't be happier for all of them.

Also pictured are Don Hall and Jennifer Lee who I haven't worked with, but are obviously masters at what they do...congratulations to them as well!. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rain Song

"It is the springtime of my loving. The second season I am to know."

It has been raining a bit here this weekend in Los Angeles, and the wet weather sometimes makes me think of a live performance version of a tune by Led Zeppelin, "Rain Song." 

"It isn't hard to feel me glowing.  I watched the fire that grew so low."

When the asphalt gets wet and blacker, and thick water droplets hang from plants that seem to have a deeper green than normal…

"These are the seasons of emotion.  And like the wind, they rise and fall."

And throughout the song, they appeal to our senses to help us understand that life and relationships are not one even ride; that everyone experiences their storms of sorts.

“And this is the mystery of the quotient. Upon us all, just a little rain must fall…just a little rain.  All, I know."

I can hear sway of Jimmy Page’s guitar as the cold, humid breeze moves the shrubs and trees to and fro.  Then, Page's arpeggios resolve into one final blast of sound from the band as Robert Plant lands on his final emphatic note, "Awwwwwwwwwwwww!"

John Paul Jones' Hammond organ settles into home, and John Bonham hits every kettle drum like a timpanic symphony.

Beautiful emotions. Beautiful song.