Why must actors start a band?

Is it me or is there something a little silly about this?  Is it just the fact that they both are wearing crisp, white shirts?  Sadly, it has become the natural evolution for actors who find sucess on the big screen to start a band.  Why?  They should be stopped from doing this. 

It was cool when Bill & Ted did that funny air guitar thing in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but that doesn’t mean they can play the guitar in real life, right? 

There’s a weird disconnect with actors between what’s real and what isn’t.  Maybe we all share that disconnect.  The line between truth and reality, fantasy and fiction has never been so difficult to determine.   Reality shows on television.  They aren’t real.  They’re scripted, cast and manipulated in an editing room.  Our lives don’t have goofy music accompanying embarrassing moments.  Well, mine does.  

Memoirs, blogs.  Where is truth?  The chasm has widened between truth and what we consider reality.  Young kids play video games that are so real, they have trouble making the distinction between fantasy and reality.  And there’s a physicist who theorizes that the universe is just a three-dimensional projection of information stored in 2 dimensions at the boundary of space.  Like a holograph.  That theory makes this picture bearable…

Yes, that’s Steven Seagal.  He looks a little like fat Elvis in Vegas.  Maybe he isn’t really playing the guitar but employing it as a unique, six string martial arts weapon.  This photograph confirms that theory…

It also indicates that this particular solo is causing the former martial arts star considerable intestinal distress. 

I find the following picture puzzling because Bruce Willis wears the hat and sunglasses that actors often wear to disguise themselves while at the same time he exploits his fame to subject an audience to his singing…

It’s kind of like he’s saying… Don’t look at me.  Look at me.  Don’t look at me.

As for the following clip featuring Juliette Lewis… well, I find it very disturbing.

I guess it’s just an extension of her disturbing performance in an early Melissa Etheridge video. 

Yeah, talk about blurring the line between reality and fantasy.  And then there’s the completely delusional…

Trashing hotel rooms does not necessarily make one a rock star.  I don’t know if I resent him for this performance or admire the balls it takes for a man who is obvioiusly tone deaf to stand up and sing in front of a large crowd of people.  I hope he doesn’t convince himself that he’s really a gladiator and fight real lions because I think he’s a talented actor. 

Try this one.  I don’t even know what to say.  This is Jada Pinkett Smith on Letterman…

It has to stop.  They should be arrested and spanked.  It’s all very confusing. 

There’s only one actor who should be singing or dancing…

Maybe we all live in a hazy world between what is real and what is fantastic.  And maybe that’s okay.  Technology has allowed the graphic expression of our collective unconscious.  We’ve never really seen it displayed so explicitly.  It’s exciting and terrifying.  We are after all, the authors of our own memories, architects of our own reality.    Just ask Steven Seagal.  And maybe it’s all just a three-dimensional projection.

So, as Eddie Murphy once belted out – in a strange mix of serious pop star and comic impersonation – My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time, party all the time…

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Design The Border Fence on Reel America with A.M. Quinn

Thank you, Spencer

I have not written a blog all month. I’m sorry. I have been working like a dog, lately. That expression doesn’t really work, does it? Working like a dog. I’ve had several dogs in my lifetime and loved them all dearly, especially the last one, but they didn’t work much. In fact, they were quite lazy. My last dog stared at me for several years. In between eating, playing and doing number twos, she spent most of her day just staring at me. I like to think it was love. But perhaps it was just an attempt to impress upon me her need to eat, play or do number two.

So, I digress. Forgive me.

Well, I really just want to comment on a comment. On March 6th, Spencer wrote,

I wanted to say thank you…I am a Soldier deployed in Iraq, and came across a free copy of your movie The Almost Guys. It was great! You certainly brightened the day in a place where it matters. Thank you very much. By the way, your website is hilarious.

Damn, did that make me feel good! About as good as I’ve felt in quite a while. In fact, it made me feel as good as when my old dog, Monkey, used to stare at me lovingly, for hours at a time.

Over the holidays, the producers, Andrea Michaud and Karen Blessington, donated around 5,000 DVDs of “The Almost Guys” to soldiers in Iraq and to some trauma centers, here in the US. The movies were included in care packages through a wonderful program called Operation Gratitude. Just before I traveled home to visit my family, I took part in a celebration of the shipment of care package number 200,000.

I have to be honest, I’m always a little nervous around the military. I feel like, at any moment, someone will yell at me and make me drop and give them 50 push-ups. I’m just the kind of guy who attracts discipline like that. In fact, on my way into the ceremony, I held an umbrella up and an old Army officer yelled, “Jesus, it’s not even raining hard. What are you a pansy?” I hadn’t even entered the building yet and someone was yelling at me. I didn’t know if I should put the umbrella down and give him 50, or not. He laughed and said, “Just kidding.” I gave him a manly laugh in return and tried to look confident and at ease.

I met the mayor. Here’s a picture of myself, Andrea Michaud and the mayor… Antonio Villaraigosa:

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His teeth are very impressive. He seems like a nice guy. I voted for him and I told him this, but he really didn’t thank me very much. I suppose a lot of people voted for him and I’m not really that special. That’s Ed Asner’s head in the background. He seemed a little cranky, so I didn’t speak to him. I thought I’d do a Ted Knight impression from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” but I suppose he’s a little tired of that. Or worse, wouldn’t remember.

So aside from a few useless actors and seemingly sincere politicians with great teeth, there were soldiers there… some older officers and some kids. And I mean, kids. They look so young. It’s an odd feeling, knowing you don’t agree with the war but feel so grateful and incredibly concerned for the kids risking their lives in unfriendly places. In fact, without sounding sappy, it’s pretty emotional to see them.

I was talking to a retired Air Force officer. He’s a Republican and an intelligent, nice guy. I’m a Democrat and maybe not as intelligent or nice. We were talking about the war in Iraq and we both skirted around the issue a bit, afraid to offend one another. (I was thinking, again, that I may be told to drop and give him 50.) However, I found it hopeful and encouraging that we both could agree that regardless of whether we support this administration’s decision to go to war, we must support those kids wearing the uniform, carefully consider every step we take in the future and care for the wounded and their families. It was nice to agree on something with the other side. I felt like Bono might run in and hug us at any moment.

So, anyway. Back to Spencer. I’m happy that you enjoyed the film. I’m overjoyed that it “brightened your day.” I can not adequately express how much your thanks have brightened mine. Take Care.


Brief and Blunt – Grammys

In an effort to keep updating this blog with some regularity, I will try to make a few brief posts every week. I have trouble being brief. My writing style is typically circular – I don’t possess the talent to say exactly what I mean so I circle around and around like a plane waiting to land. So, I’ll just land a little quicker.

The Grammy Awards are tomorrow. James Blunt was rehearsing yesterday at the Staples Center here in LA. He’ s nominated for five awards, including Best Song for “Beautiful,” in which he repeats the lyrics “You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.” for four minutes in an annoying falsetto that would assure an ass-kicking in any public school in the US.

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His last name is Blunt. And he is.

“You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.”

Yesterday, Blunt rehearsed in front of empty seats with pictures of musicians who will occupy those seats during the show. Apparently, Grammy organizers tried to use pictures of the stars in which they look bored or annoyed in an effort to make the rehearsal more closely resemble the actual performance. Blunt apparently has pre-show jitters and said, “I hope I don’t throw up half-way through the song.” I hope I don’t, either.

On a more positive note, The Police reunion is scheduled as the show opener. Sting, who’s real name is Gordon Sumner (so, you can’t blame him for calling himself Sting) has acted in several films where he sucked his cheeks and pursed his lips, was a champion sprinter in high school, claims to have tantric sex longer than anyone in the world and was almost knighted. He was offered the lower rank of Real Important Guy or Commander of the British Empire or something equally silly sounding. He also loves to pose for ridiculous pictures that subtly reveal what a burden it is to carry the enormous weight of Sting’s talent.

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Along with his countryman, James Blunt, Sting is also not known for his subtlety.

“I’m beautiful. I’m beautiful. I’m beautiful.”, he seems to be thinking.

Sting will graciously allow his band-mates to share his stage but… “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” That’s corny. Not subtle either. I sincerely apologize.

Enough with the Englishmen. It will be nice to hear Stewart Copeland with The Police, again.

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Oh, and that other guy who plays guitar.

Did you know that George Carlin is nominated for a Comedy album Grammy along with the hi-brow satire of the Blue Collar Comedy troupe and the wildly original Weird Al Yankovic? That is one tough category. If Carlin doesn’t win, despite the fact that he stopped actually being funny years ago, he should… well, he should just continue with his unfunny political rants.

I don’t think Shakira is nominated. And I do think that is a crime. I don’t know if she produced any new music this year, but she should be nominated every year because she’s so spectacular to look at.

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And talented.

My money is on the Arctic Monkeys in the Alternative category.

And India Arie in R&B.

And I’m anxious, as I’m sure everyone is, to see if Eddie Blazonczyk will prevail in the ever-popular Polka category.

And John Lithgow is nominated for a Children’s Musical Album. I don’t know about you, but that guy terrifies me. Can you imagine the years of nightmares and expensive therapy that purchase will produce?

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And then there’s Shakira. I think she’s worth considering, once again.

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I know it’s a little cheesy to put another picture of her on here. As James Blunt would so artfully write, and squeal…

“You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.”

I was supposed to be brief. I apologize. I’ll work on it. Enjoy the show.

Another Year of Golden Globes… and Jack Nicholson keeps smiling

There’s Jack, flashing a big, toothy grin. He sits in the front row of award shows. Sporting events. I met him once at a Lakers playoff game I attended with a movie star friend of mine. Nice to have one of those at playoff time when you can’t get tickets. Jack had that same smile on his face. It’s the kind of smile that makes you want to say, “What the fuck is so funny?”

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Is he the modern day Mona Lisa? Was Mona Lisa just a smart-ass who couldn’t believe that anyone would be so interested as to paint her face?

Has it become a Parkinson’s stare? Is Jack’s face frozen in a perpetual grin of derision? Is he mocking every award ceremony he attends? The parade of boring “stars” that weep and kiss ass and pretend to really give a shit about the people responsible for their success. Or rather, the media conglomerates that are responsible for their success.

There’s a great moment in the documentary about the 1970’s era of maverick filmmaking A Decade Under the Influence, when Nicholson says to Bruce Dern that they aren’t good-looking enough to be stars, but that they’re “interesting.”

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The filmmakers and actors of that era had a wonderful, rebellious, fuck you attitude that just so happened to be in sync with the social climate of the 70’s and allowed them to break into the business and take over. The result was arguably the most expressive, interesting work to ever come out of the studio system. The proverbial inmates had taken over the asylum.

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I think Nicholson was surprised as anyone that he became a star. I’m not going to chronicle the guy’s career. As movie-goers we’re pretty familiar with his work and we’re even savvy enough to distinguish between his phoned-in self-parodies for a paycheck and the textured performances for the work that he really gives a shit about.

I guess I envy the smile. I wish I could pull it off, but it’s tough being a rebel in this town of franchise and theme-ride films. Federal law in the 1990’s allowed a few conglomerates to own the studios as well as the outlets for distribution and publicity. A handful of people control the majority of entertainment distributed to the entire planet. It was tough to maintain a Jack Nicholson smile when I climbed the wall of Paramount Studios for a meeting. (See blog entry, Climbing the Gates of Paramount, Archives, November 2006)

So, thank God Jack sits up front and smiles. It makes me feel good. One of the blue-collar guys made it into the country club. It makes the awards shows bearable.

Everyone in Hollywood has a favorite Jack Nicholson story, but I like to think of this one when I see that famous grin:

On a Los Angeles public golf course, I was paired with a guy who worked as a caddie at a very expensive country club. He told me that Jack Nicholson showed up one day, played a round of golf and hung out in the posh club. He wasn’t a member. He liked the course and kept coming back. The members loved it, but the guy who owned the course was furious. After a week of Nicholson hanging around, the owner asked the club’s manager to speak with Mr. Nicholson and escort him off the property. The manager was afraid of him and passed the job to the head pro. The head pro passed it off to the lowly caddie. So, here’s this 19 year-old kid working as a caddie forced to tell Mr. Nicholson that he can no longer play at the club. “Uh, Mr. Nicholson, I hate to have to tell you this…” as he loaded the actor’s clubs into the car, “…but Mr. So-and-so (the owner) said you can’t play this course anymore if you aren’t a member.” Nicholson stopped, tilted his head back and swung his eyes toward the caddie, “And Mr. So-and-so asked you to tell me this?” “Yeah, sorry.” “That’s okay,” said Nicholson as he walked to the car and retrieved his checkbook. “How much is the membership?” he asked. It was six figures to join. Jack wrote the amount on the check, signed it, handed to the caddie with a tip and said, “Here. Hand this to Mr. So-and-so and tell him… quit fuckin’ with the members.”

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Bad Girls on Oxygen – Modern Humans Flee Neanderthals

Over the holidays, my father and I sipped eggnog and watched an episode of Bad Girl Club on the Oxygen Network. This is not tradition, I assure you. I doubt it will become a holiday favorite and replace It’s a Wonderful Life. It probably lacks the timeless quality of the perennial favorite, Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. But we were innocently flipping channels and stumbled upon a drunken catfight between bad girls in their underwear on a network that was originally supported by Oprah Winfrey as a women empowering women TV network. Pass the eggnog. This is the clip we watched. Charged with violence and the lurid promise of g-string underwear, this is reality TV gold:

Bad Girl Club is a reality show created by the producers of MTV’s The Real World. The premise is simple. Surprised? The producer team of Bunim-Murray, the grandparents of a wave of reality shows that has put entire TV production crews, writing staffs and actors on the unemployment line, has once again dipped into the shallow well of their collective unconscious and blessed the world with another 22 episodes of real life docu-drama. Bunim-Murray productions has scoured the country and cast a collection of self-proclaimed bad girls. The girls live in a stylish mansion together and… well, let’s be honest… they get really drunk, naked and beat the shit out of each other.

I suppose that I’m a little bitter. I just got word from FOX network that a TV pilot I wrote is “too esoteric.” Maybe I should wear this rejection as a badge of honor. Do we really want all this manipulated reality on television. I want to believe that we don’t. In 2005, there were 10% fewer writing jobs available to storytellers in Hollywood. Last year, 15% fewer.

This morning, in the LA Times, I read that anthropologists have discovered that modern humans migrated out of Africa, all the way to Russia, 45,000 years ago. Scientists were very surprised that modern humans migrated away from Africa to one of the coldest, driest places in Europe. It would be like your retired parents leaving a condo in Miami Beach to settle in Duluth, Minnesota.

The theory supported by scientists is that modern humans settled in places where there was less competition and basically, they wanted to get the hell away from Neanderthals. Wouldn’t you?

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They were probably primitive, crude, drank too much, drew bad charcoal jokes at social gatherings and beat the shit out of each other in the nude. Sounds a lot like Bad Girls Club.

Modern Humans ushered in the Stone Age and left the Neanderthals behind. But maybe they weren’t so bad. Those guys probably really knew how to party. And what if they evolved on their own and surpassed us Modern Humans? You’ve seen those Geico ads where one of the guys orders the roast duck with mango salsa. Do you think that guy watches COPS?

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I love this quote by Jon Murray, co-creator of Bad Girls Club , featured on the Oxygen Network website: “These girls have the courage to create their own game plan and not be hemmed in by how society wants them to act. Of course it sometimes holds them back from having successful relationships and careers, but from the outside it looks like they’re having a good time. Secretly, I think we all wish we could be a little more like them.” There’s no need for comment, here, but the man certainly has a gift for slinging bullshit, doesn’t he?

There’s been a lot of debate within the scientific community whether there was interbreeding between Neanderthals and Modern Humans and how and when Neanderthals became extinct. “The scientific community” is a very serious group who probably never hold conventions in Vegas and puke in strip clubs.

Scientists have recently discovered a 45,00 year-old ivory sculpture from a mammoth tusk that may represent the oldest figurative art. The Stone Age was a very exciting time for Modern Humans, the cultured elite. Those tight-assed Modern Humans turned their back on Neanderthals Gone Wild for more “esoteric,” refined artistic expression.

We are still evolving. So, there is hope for quality entertainment on TV and in theaters. There is hope for more “esoteric” programming. On behalf of actors and writers, we would welcome a chance to work more. We can even play Neanderthals.

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Happy New Year! Wash your hands.

Happy New Year and all that. I apologize for the delay in updates. I’ve neglected the blog and devoted myself to fishing, swimming, introspection and Guinness beer for the past few weeks. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and didn’t allow shopping and travel to forge a bleak view of human nature.

I must say a few things about air travel. First, I hate taking my shoes off in security lines. For some strange reason I’d rather remove my pants and walk bottomless through security then shuffle around with other strangers in socks. There is something very humiliating about having to remove your shoes. Socks should not be seen. They should be the first articles of clothing to be removed. For instance, when presented with the possibility of sexual congress, immediately get your socks off. (Socks, not rocks) You never want to be caught wearing only socks. It’s terribly uncool unless you’ve been married for twenty years or possess unnaturally ugly toes.

Another odd thing about air travel is how sloppy everyone looks. Airline gates now resemble the cigarette strewn bus depots of depressed cities. When I was a kid, my mother made us dress for air travel as if we were going to church or some kind of state dinner with dignitaries. Air travel was an event and I felt important participating in it. I imagined my family and I were being filmed boarding the plane like astronauts or rock stars. I would turn and wave. Headlines in my mind read, “The Flemings Tour New England.” The nightly news would report: “The Flemings boarded Eastern Airlines today for a flight to the Northeast. They looked dapper as always in polyester and clip-on ties.”

Air travel is depressing, now. People in dirty shorts and T-shirts board with grease-sodden paper bags. The plane’s cabin smells like an Italian deli with a subtle hint of junior high locker room wafting like an occasional gentle breeze.
Not to discriminate against the overweight and obese travelers, but if there is a member of this group on my plane, he inevitably takes the seat next to mine. And half of mine as well. On my recent flight from LA, I sat next to a man who, if he wasn’t a Sumo wrestler, should immediately consider a career change. He slept the whole way. On top of me. I elbowed him approximately 380 times. The man smelled faintly of day-old diaper and when he pushed his mammoth body out of the seat to use the bathroom, the cushion released a remarkably potent smell from nearly 3 hours of seeding it with silent farts.

It was a long flight.  Idea for a movie pitch?  Fat Men on a Plane?

Do you remember when pilots were square-jawed war heroes? Now, they just seem like nerds. During a layover in Dallas, I ate next to a pilot at Subway. The guy was so clumsy, I surreptitiously tried to smell his breath for booze. At one point, he knocked a large drink all over the table, floor and the front of his pants. I offered him napkins. He was surly and embarrassed. I was quite a distance from my own gate, so I thought to myself, “I’d hate to be the poor sons of bitches who have this guy as a pilot.”

I’m sure you suspect how this ends. I walked another mile to my gate. Just before we board, our pilot rushes toward the gate. Yes, it was him. To other passengers, he appeared as if he pissed himself but only I knew that it was just root beer. (I saw him get a refill.)

Another pilot experience on my return trip from Florida was even more disturbing. I cut my fingers cleaning a glass salad bowl the night before I left. (That’s another story – and the reason why I’m grimacing right now, typing.) I was in the bathroom at the Palm Beach International Airport gingerly washing my hands without getting the bandages wet. While I struggled through it, I was serenaded by the strenuous efforts of a guy performing what we often refer to as “number two” in the stall behind me. He finished and walked right out without washing his hands. And he was a pilot!

I exited the bathroom behind the pilot, yelled over to my fiance, “No hand wash!” and pointed at the guy. The pilot frowned at me and rushed away. This is a very juvenile thing to do, I admit. My fiance was both amused and embarrassed as she is with most of my 13 year-old antics. But she was also appalled that the pilot left the bathroom without washing. In the spirit of things, she named the pilot “Captain Doo-doo Hands.” We followed Capt. Doo-doo Hands at a safe distance and watched him buy a banana (perhaps this is the source of his strained efforts) and pay for it with his tainted hands. We laughed and continued on to our gate. Just before we boarded the plane… yeah, you guessed it. Capt. Doo-doo Hands was our pilot. He still carried his banana. When we walked by the cockpit to take our seats, I wanted to poke my head inside and say to the copilots, “Do you smell doo doo?” If anyone had a black light, that instrument panel would light up like… well, like an instrument panel, I guess. But brighter.

From what I understand, piloting a commercial jet is all automatic and instrument flying, now. The mystique of the pilot has been tainted along with the hands of our able captain. And perhaps his own neglect of his hands’ hygiene reveals a sad neglect of those steady instruments he once relied on to steer and land an aircraft with a skill and competence once revered.

Oh, well. More nostalgia. In our jaded, hi-tech world, even hurtling through the air at 500 mph, 30,000 feet in the air has become mundane and ordinary. I vowed to myself to make these posts shorter to accommodate our short, online attention span. So, I’ll stop here. Happy New Year. I hope 2007 is not ordinary.