Monday, December 31, 2007

Psyck!

As I draw closer to the end of the year 2007, I have no choice but to reflect... after all, I am sick in bed with what may be pneumonia, maybe not (what I know is I've had this since December 19, which is obviously too long)...

I am alone in my apartment until New Year's Day. My roommate is with her boyfriend until then, then threatens to come back and spend some quality time with me. Sigh... I have to explain this, as I may have referred to her intimately in the past. She is my ex-girlfriend of four years, the longest relationship I've had among the few that I've actually had. That's not to say I feel sorry for myself, because I have no reason to be ashamed, especially considering whom I've been with; all beautiful and desirable, but ultimately none could I offer all of what they needed. That's not hard to admit at all, actually. I am what I am, and I mean it.

That's not to say I don't get bored, or lonely. I do love someone, but she's neither here, nor am I there. I was in love with someone else for quite a while, or so I thought I was. I once gave her a knife for her birthday, with a note:
I give you this knife as I give you my life, do as you will, to protect or to kill. I am at your mercy. Melodramatic, yes. And for naught, or maybe for better. As it is, I am far better off now than I was then. Except for being sick, of course...

You see, I gave my life away to others who did not know what to do with it. It was not their responsibility, nor do I think they really wanted it. I took it back and things changed. I embarked on a fast track with my stalled film career (with a failed pit-stop at the end of summer), finding and continuing to find work as a production assistant. I also began saving money at a decent clip. And though my dreams of attaining a grad degree crashed and burned earlier this year because of denied financial aid, I have carried on my dream of one day owning my own business, and carrying my childhood endeavors further towards reality with this,
Serious Consideration!

I do owe some of this rejuvenation to my friends, including the ones we read here; especially
Macedonia for naming the blog (there's a story behind the name, of course), Call Me Ishmael for being an outstanding trouper and contributor, and Aqua Boogie for the love and support she's given me spiritually (including sending me a copy of The Secret on DVD!) And as usual, my family has been my rock, no matter how spread out we are.

Speaking of family, my sister and I spoke recently and I asked her some questions about acquiring a passport. I had a concern; my birth certificate has a different name than my Social Security Card. Not only that, but my father's name on my birth certificate is not real. It's actually a combination of my father and stepfather's names, with my stepfather being the prominent one! I had always been confused about that, but decided not to ask questions. Knowing my parents' history together, I'm certain Mom had her reasons. "Mom was kinda ticked off at him," my sister said, "in fact, she was always kinda ticked off at him. Even when you were born." I wouldn't have been born if he didn't try to change himself, in fact. Nevertheless, he and I have different names because he didn't change. Still, that could easily be explained to the passport people; I simply changed my name when I was a child and it says so on my Social Security card. Life can change that way, too, if you grab the pen and start writing your own story.

So here I am, doing what? Writing my story. Oh, there will be time for songs, sad songs about love and life, sad movies and such. I'm a sucker for both. I have no issue with crying my eyes out because of some tune or a scene in a movie. Because when I see stuff in real life, I don't cry.

Not anymore.

Real life has taken something important away from me, I guess, and I'm a lot tougher than I want to be. So I watch movies, read books, listen to music to touch base with that room where my emotions have been locked away, the key lost somewhere in the recesses of my psyche.

Am I crazy?

Would I really be crazy if I knew I was?

All I know is that it's the last day of the year, a year spinning with changes in my life, and I am alone and sick in bed. Trying, trying very hard to tell myself that I'm tough, and I'm loved. Trying hard not to think about how easily it could all end so quickly and arbitrarily. Like my friend Jim Dean. Like Mom and Terry. Like my father. Like getting shot at for "no reason". Like watching someone play the piano with grace, knowing you can only play that well in your dreams. Like talking to someone miles away, too far to touch, but somehow she touches you. Like a song that reaches your heart and twists it around like a tomato on a stalk, about to be broken off.

Do you really want to know what a broken heart feels like? I have one. Though, it's not really broken, it's kind-of deformed. I have an extra bundle of nerves in my heart, which cause sort of a short-cut for the electrical impulses. WPW Syndrome they call it, and a catheterization nearly rendered it and my life moot. Between the two, I'd rather have the first, honestly. I feel fine.

I feel something. especially when I listen. And watch. I watched my friends win a competition I helped them prepare for in high school. It was during that preparation that I had one of a series of grand mal seizures; this one knocking me cold and leaving great scars on my face. I bandaged myself up and went back to school the next day, but apparently I frightened everyone by coming back so soon and, of course, with big bandages on my face. I didn't come in the next day. But I came back to help my friends, to keep them together and keep their spirits up. And when the day came, they tore the house down.

I remember watching the screaming crowds and my friends being crowned the champions. My work was done. I wandered outside in front of the school. It was snowing hard, but I found a bench in a greenspace of the parking lot and sat.

What's next?

What is there for me to do?

And will I live to be able to do it?

The last person I would expect to come out after me came out the front door. She saw me slouched on the bench collecting snow. She was my first high school crush, a cousin of one of my friends who had just won in glorious fashion. She was the first girl to break my heart. She asked me why I was out here when everyone was inside celebrating. What could I possibly say that made sense? That I'm out here, feeling sorry for myself because I had given my all, even to the extent that I would given my life, to someone else and felt nothing was left? That I felt empty even as I helped facilitate one of the biggest successes in the school to date? I felt used up, and worse than that, I felt useless.

I don't remember exactly what she said. I do remember that she began to rage at me, but instead the rage became pleading. I saw tears streaming down her face as she spoke. She was saying something to me, but all I really know was that tears were flowing when I didn't have any reason to think they should. No one cries for me, I thought. And so none shall...

I returned to the auditorium, but there was literally no room. Suddenly I was pulled into the boy's bathroom. My friends stood before me with a pile of cash they had just won. "We want you to have your share," one of them said. "You are not gonna argue with us, and that's that," said the other, and they split up the money, giving me an equal share of the winnings.

That was the last competition of that type the school ever had, and nearly twenty years later, they are still the last champions. And I still remember. Many broken hearts later, I still remember.

And as I lay here sick, I remember way too many things. Except going to sleep. Time to look for brotha Ice-T and wish him a good morning as I try to lay me down to sleep. Time indeed goes by, and tomorrow's another year.


Friday, December 21, 2007

when narcissism becomes the new god...

this is actually a brand new episode of my "sideshow," as i like to call it. the podcast is entitled endless shouting matches with yourself. this is episode no. 14, which deals with living in an increasingly narcissistic society. the inspiration for this show comes from one of Will's earlier blog entries.

nothing too deep...just a theory that's been swimming around in my head. this show also features music from the band Bloc Party. plus there's an opening rant from a cd compilation i got while i was back in college. it's an untitled track and i always thought it was one of the weirdest things i had heard at the time. there's one line that always sticks with me: "if everybody could get what they wanted and wanted what they needed, there wouldn't be any point to anything anymore." that's pretty much says it all right there, doesn't it?

again, nothing too deep...just thinking out loud and having the nerve to share it with the rest of cyberspace. happy holidays, folks...

click here to download the mp3 file.
click here to preview the show notes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Anyone Finish Reading The Report Yet?

(To read those tiny captions, click on the pics!)
Yes, that report, the highly-anticipated, never-to-be-duplicated, for some, ill-fated report on the rampant use of steroids, human growth hormones and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). for some 20 months, Sen. George Mitchell has been conducting an investigation on the sale and use of PEDs throughout Major League Baseball, culminating in an extensive, intensive report released to us little folk last Friday. The response has been quite interesting, as you knew it would, from players like F.P. Santangelo and Fernando Viña (yep, I did it, you got me) to Brian Roberts and Andy Pettitte (well, I did it once or twice, but I'm really sorry!) to Roger Clemens (I didn't do it!!), not to mention Barry Bonds (you doubt me? Right... SO TRY ME!!!)

Personally, I like Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro
(it wuzzn't me!), though at the time they weren't responding to the report...

Seeing Andy on the list was disappointing, but not surprising. There were rumors that he and Clemens had been doing PEDs quite some time before the report came out, and Andy's silence right afterwards indicated something was up. That he came forward and admitted to using them for two days in 2002 while rehabbing is quite a stand-up thing to do under the circumstances, but I have to wonder if he's being disingenuous by saying that it was only a couple of days and reminding people of how fundamentally Christian he is. In my view, that has nothing to do with it except that you knew better than to do it in the first place. Christians are like everyone else (human), just as prone to mistakes, errors of judgment and downright evil at times under circumstances... that's neither to condone or attack being Christian or human, but to make a point about the expectations we place on others and our willingness to forgive or condemn people based on those expectations. It's interesting to say the least that because Andy's such a nice guy and has always espoused positive values and faith, not to mention his contributions and value as a player, he will likely get a pass from the fans; we're willing to believe that he's telling nothing but the truth. However, Roger Clemens is burning in effigy, and there are already
yeah-right's about Brian Roberts who says he only did it once. Why is that?
Also among my initial reactions was the fleeting idea that because of the higher percentage of former and current Yankee players on the list, this could be another I Hate NY production. That was a fleeting thought, honestly. For one thing, Mitchell has constantly complained about the lack of cooperation he got from MLB, the teams and the Players Association. For another, the people that did cooperate were mostly New York-centric. Brian McNamee is a former assistant strength coach for the Yankees, and Kirk Radomski was a clubhouse attendant for the NY Mets for 11 years (seriously, are these the only pictures anyone has of them? Geez...) They were primarily oriented locally and did business with New Yorkers (so-to-speak). The same can be said about Victor Conte (BALCO, Bay Area blahblahblah), mentioned prominently in the report. Most dealers or traffickers do their business in one spot, and the preponderance of evidence coming from these two geographic locations has more to do with who's being caught than who's looking for what in a particular area. Signature Pharmacy, indicated in a wide PEDs distribution scandal, has evidence of purchases and shipments to players on several different teams around the country, but the dominant view is of the Bay Area and of New York, because that's where the most evidence has come from so far. And that's only because they caught a few guys and forced them to tell. If Radomski were working for a team in Chicago, Kansas City, or say, Boston and got caught, do you actually believe that it would be any different?

That also goes hand-in-hand with another point I discovered while reading about the fallout from the report. Scouting reports and internal memos made public indicated that certain players were known to have taken, or were under strong suspicion of taking PEDs.
Paul Lo Duca was apparently known to have taken PEDs while with the Dodgers, indicated by a scouting report on him while they were considering trading him to Florida. Same with Eric Gagne, Boston knew what they were getting.
Houston had to at least been suspicious about Miguel Tejada, but apparently Astros owner Drayton McLane was living under a rock at the time. What does this mean? The poor, poor baseball owners and their front office folk not only had no clue that Player X doing or rumored to be doing some form of PEDs, but also felt that the info they did have was trifling at best? Give me a freakin' break...What it comes down to is collusion at it's most profitable. Collusion between MLB executives, team owners and their front offices, and players with their union, to maximize profits all around. Chicks dig the long ball... and so do teams willing to shell out millions for a player who can suddenly hit homers like they were Tiger Woods with a golf club. (I will say if Barry Bonds did
that with his bat and a ball, he'd be a lot more popular... maybe A-Rod can learn). The point is, people are willing to pay out the nose to witness public displays of power and offense (thus the popularity of football, boxing and WWE, even if much of that is staged) and all of those involved were willing to look the other way when it came to potential "cheaters". The hypocrisy of the reaction to this report, eloquently expressed by Drayton "Huh?" McLane, is that now that it's out there for everyone to see, it's got to be talked about, examined and acted upon to eliminate such activity from occurring again. Understand this: it's only a scandal when you get caught. Otherwise, it's business as usual. And business, like players' bodies, is booming.

An unfortunate result in this is that Jose Canseco has been given even more credibility, which he uses to bash A-Rod as a potential user among other things he coyly alludes to. Being the body of disingenuousness and all, what does Canseco really get from yelling and screaming about all these other players doing PEds while his own aftercareer is in limbo at best? Is someone picking up the tab for him? That would be quite an investment given what we know from the report, but what really does he stand to gain? His books or appearances are not likely going to change the public's perception of him (whatever, just go away) and if he's angling for a job somewhere, he'd be better off auditioning for Dancing With The Stars or better yet, The Celebrity Apprentice (knowing what I know, he'd fit right in without a problem, and who wouldn't want to see The Donald and Canseco go at it in the Boardroom?)

Okay, I'm running out of steam. I will be reading the report over the next two or three yearsum
weeks! and then I will be convening a panel of like sports fans to discuss the report and it's effect on baseball and the upcoming season. It's not a panel of experts, but of fans who like their respective teams and can sustain a lively, interesting discussion. I will either be able to have audio or post a transcript for your amusement in the coming weeks. Speaking of amusements, I found before/after pics of some of our favorite suspects and convicts on a site called Wise Camel. Take a look for yourselves. Meanwhile, feel free to add your two cents, and remember to respect each other in the process. See ya! >;)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If You Think Your Lonely Now...




...wait until tonight, girl... I can't believe this is not at ITunes Store. And trust me, I know quite a few people who need to here it >;)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Avatar Episodes Online


YEAH! I've found a site that contains all of the episodes of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender, including the current season and the latest episodes. Okay, some of you obviously don't know what I'm talking about, but this cartoon series is in a hybrid style of anime, and has intelligent story writing and excellent telling. I highly recommend this among others, which I will get around to talking about, but in the meantime let me share some thoughts:

I have a thing for pretty cartoon females. For one thing, they leave a lot to the imagination, but they are as pretty as you want them to be (if you can draw). For another, they being cartoons and you being real, it's pretty hard to make a fool of yourself with them. Of course, the flip side is you can never impress them or have a relationship either, but as long as that's understood, the best you can do is admire or imagine them as real or you as a cartoon, and what could be. It's healthy as long as you keep it in perspective, and I believe I stand a chance in the real world.

That said, Katara is my favorite female character on this show. She's young, so my admiration for her is perhaps a light infatuation, but never fantasizing (for the record, I'm an adult and I'm no longer attracted to pretty teenagers simply because of the prevailing level of maturity and temperament, or lack thereof); in fact it her personality that makes her attractive so-to-speak... well, in the third season she lets her hair down and now she reminds me of Aqua Boogie if she were a cartoon, seriously. But she's still a kid, (so get your minds out the gutter!) Read her profile and I would dare say that most males would find those qualities ideal in a mature life partner. To me, she's a more realistic caricature to be infatuated with, as opposed to Blondie, Miss Buxley or Jessica Rabbit (as well as several other characters on this show).

My favorite male character hands down is Uncle Iroh. He is a former general, hero and the rightful heir to the throne of the Fire Nation (but the mechanizations of his younger brother Ozai forced him to the sidelines). Iroh is easily the most powerful firebender of the Fire Nation, but his strong wisdom and humble outlook make him the most admirable character of the show. His humility also masks a cunning and forceful spirit that will obviously lead the Fire Nation back to respectability and harmony with the world when Aang does save all.


But the three characters I relate the most to are Sokka, Toph and Prince Zuko. Sokka because he is the only one of the four in their group (as well as main character) without bending powers and therefore has to rely on his cleverness and physical strength (I felt so bad watching a recent episode where he stood by and watched the others handle an immediate danger and could not help because of his lack of powers), yet his leadership and personality keep the group not only moving forward on their missions, but sane and uplifted in general. His importance was best displayed in an episode where he apprentices with a sword master, and later plots an assault and rallies the troops during an attack on the Fire Nation during a solar eclipse, when the firebenders' powers are at their weakest.
I relate to Toph because not only is she the youngest of the group (chronologically, Aang is 112 years old; having spent 100 years hibernating in an iceberg, making him technically the oldest), but she's blind. I'm not blind, but her blindness forces her to rely on her other super-heightened senses, resulting in her being arguably the strongest earthbender in existence. Her objection to being coddled, an aspect of her personality that is tough, demanding and highly self-reliant, reminds me of my pending adulthood of yore as I am by far the youngest of all siblings known and unknown in my family. Heck, even my nieces treat me like I'm fragile at times. I feel you, Toph.


Then there's Zuko. You don't know conflicted until you know Prince Zuko, the son of Fire Lord Ozai, but devotee to his Uncle Iroh, who took him under his wing as a surrogate son after his own son died. It is Iroh who shepherds Zuko through his cruel banishment and is his guardian during Zuko' quest for the Aavatar and restoration of his honor. Zuko is angry, but has a conscience that gets the best of him from time to time. easily the most sympathetic of the characters because although he's characterized as a villain, he's neither a villain nor hero; if anything he encapsulates the inner struggle between right and wrong, especially when you consider who he is descended from (and believe me, it's a shock when you find out.)

Enough. I leave you to your own devises. Watch the episodes and make your own judgment.

Update:

I checked the link and it was the wrong one, so I fixed it. Sorry if you went there and got confused! >;)

Linus sings The Police

I was tooling around YouTube, looking at Commercials from the 70's and I got the notion to try to find some classic Peanuts animated segments. I was particularly impressed with what someone did with this. Merry Christmas! (I'm very giving, so there will be more to come...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Boom Truck















(Warning: Stream of Consciousness, Read With Caution)

So my friend Omar was called into the production I'm currently working on (they asked him to do some returns/pick-ups on the regular crew's off-day) with the "slop truck" (a truck used to hold and carry extra equipment from various departments). So he goes to the lot to pick up the truck and immediately gets into an argument with the parking lot attendant, who apparently required his driver's license because he's six-foot-eight and could pick up a drive-thru and eat it (for reference, I only eat express lanes, so I'm not that big)...

I dunno, why do some people feel like they have to prove something when they're unintentionally intimidated? Anyway, after eatingImean, picking up the truck, he followed his itinerary, which had him darting up and down Manhattan in a truck filled with what was that clunking sound? Omar floors it, thinking that the sudden momentum would catch any intruder hiding in the back off-guard and the inertia would hold them captive to the back of the inside of the truck. But there's slop inside, so why not teach them a real lesson? Suddenly, he slams on the brakes...

(see figure above)

I don't remember if he pulled over or if he went to his first stop and opened the door to find a large helium tank rolling around the cargo floor. Was this not tied down properly? (Apparently) Omar carried the tank into the cab of his truck and drove around on his errands, wondering no doubt, "Is helium really non-flammable?"

He later told me how he fought with the parking attendant once again because the parking attendant continued to be a jerk, and he was asked to do more errands, after which he decided that he was hungry and went downtown to nosh. Along the way, our line producer calls him, so Omar tells him about the helium tank. "I put it in the back, under the shelves so it wouldn't roll around," says Omar. "Did you secure it?" asks line producer. "No, but whoever comes in to drive it in the morning, tell them where it is and they can tie it down." Fine. So Omar continues on his quest when his phone rings again. "Yeah, could you just go back and secure that tank?"

For those who've been following the last few posts, I'm working on another indie film, and I have to say this has been a rather unpleasant experience. I dunno if the people producing this film are incompetent or crooks (or both), but I have only had one experience worse than this, on the set of Order of Redemption. But, as Aqua Boogie said when I told her about it, "focus on your dream house, you're dream car, etc.; remember, this too shall pass."

Meanwhile, Omar and I continue to discuss the prevailing information concerning pressurized helium (see figure above)...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Usual Drive-By Shooting

That's the thought that went through my head as I walked onto my block and was suddenly sprayed with pellets from a group of jerks driving around in a silver sedan with a pellet gun. I had just finished work (I'm currently PAing on an indie film) late as usual, and had taken the subway home as usual, and had walked down the empty streets as usual, turning onto my block as usual when I felt something stinging me on my bicep and bouncing off my back, along with the muffled "pffft" of a pellet gun repeatedly shooting at me. I decided to duck after it occurred to me that they might shoot at my head if I didn't. They drove down the block slowly as I tried and failed to read the license plate (it was nearly midnight, after all).

I was rather annoyed to say the least, and would have just ignored the whole incident as kids being jerks and no real harm done, except that in the Bronx even seemingly random attacks can add up to something deeper, such as practice for something perhaps unusual. I'm not scared of getting shot, as I've had guns pointed at me on several occasions and if it happens, it happens. I would probably react to getting shot in the arm or leg the same way as I did here; what the fuck? Oh, shit... oww, that was really-really annoying...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ikiru


"Life is brief, fall in love, maidens...Before the crimson bloom fades from your lips...Before the tides of passion cools within you...For those of you who know no tomorrow...Life is brief, fall in love, maidens...Before our raven tresses begin to fade...Before the flames in your hearts flicker and die...For those to whom today will never return..."

Wow. I just watched a relatively little-known film by master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa called Ikiru (To Live); bleak, quiet and absolutely beautiful. The DVD which I rented from Netflix has the sound of a beating heart looping on the menu page, which in retrospect says everything. I don't know about you, but I am all into movies that break your heart without trying to. This is definitely one of them; starring Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura, best known as the leader of the Seven Samurai (I knew I recognized him from the start...) Here he plays Kanji Watanabe, a veteran bureaucrat of city hall in a nameless city of post-war Japan who discovers he has less than a year to live. He then embarks on a journey to make sense of his life, ultimately deciding to make up for lost time by dedicating himself to what would otherwise be a lost cause.

Kurosawa does not overdo any moment; focusing on the stark emotions of Watanabe as he wanders aimlessly through the city, dealing with his family at home or coming to grips with his legacy at work. I won't tell you too much because obviously I want you to watch it, but I will say that while the first half of the film follows our hero through his grieving process, the second half is a devastating retrospect that had me in tears. What he does with his time is not only a study in the vanity of men and determination in those who want to make a difference, but a lesson in what it truly is to be a hero... and though mankind has a long way to go to redefine itself, that it is never too late to make a difference. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Screech!! HappyTurkeyDayGottaGoBye, ZOOM!!

Yeah, that's how my days have been lately. I went from The Apprentice Season 7 to an industrial for a pharmaceuticals company to an NPR doc show seen on Showtime to another indie feature starring Hugh Dancy and Frankie Faison (that's what I'm working on now). I've worked on another picture earlier this summer with Mr. Faison called Order of Redemption which stars Tom Berenger, Armand Assante and Buster Rhymes, and on the flip side of the camera I was an extra in an earlier film he did with Chris Rock, Down To Earth. In all cases, I've worked really long hours and traded sleep for experience and a chance for more work like this... umm, you should know at this point that I'd lost my mind a long time ago, so don't go there) In all this, I missed out on the wrap party for the revival of The Electric Company >:' as well as plenty of needed sleep.

On Thursday, I dip into LI for a quick respite with family and then go right back to work on Friday (bummer). I drive this huge G/E truck that you need training to drive (so they can trust you with it is all I can figure out why); I was told I was the only PA in this production to pass the test, to which I quipped, "Why, was I the only one to take it?" Having been on the job five days, I suspect this actually is the case. I love working in film, but damn, I gotta move up; on both sides of the camera I need to get better parts.

At any rate, I can't complain about not working. Might I add a little note about the simultaneous strikes occurring in the film world and on Broadway. I support the writers wholeheartedly; it's complete BS to say that there is no precedent for basing future revenue sharing with the DVD and downloads industry. Studios and producers made out like bandits when the same argument was made about home video rentals while the writers get virtually nil. They are determined not to be marginalized by people, and I learned this in grad school from industry insiders, who would pay writers and actors absolutely nothing if they could legally get away with it. Look on CraigsList sometime and see in the crew and talent sections how many shows are looking for people to work for "food, credit and a copy." The stagehand strike is a little different; though I don't know exactly what the beef is on both sides, I tend to favor the stagehands because I know what they have to do (having done it myself in an obviously smaller capacity) and the nature of Broadway productions is even more ruthless than with film. Trust me, I don't feel that bad for the producers here, either, though they do have it harder than film producers. This is more related to work conditions and obligations than for pay. Actually, it's also an issue about access to more pay that is being blocked for the sake of saving money on productions, while requiring more labor from the stagehands regardless of labor rules and common sense, from what I've gathered. In any case, I hope the writers and stagehands get what they want.

Okay, I've got to get back to life, au revoir >;)

Friday, November 16, 2007

free music fridays...

i thought about starting this up last week. there are way too many good podcasts and music sites out there with a lot that's free for the taking. so as often as possible, i'd like to make this a friday ritual and offer up something for the good people who make an effort to read this blog.

if you need a little something to wind down your work week, check the bending corners podcast, specializing in jazz-n-groove with a new mix each month. last month, they put together a real nice selection of female singers, songwriters, musicians, and producers. the choices range from Ella Fitzgerald to Betty Davis to Siousxie Sioux to Riz Maslen. even threw in some remixes of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone as well. from straight-ahead jazz to funk to some electronic works, the corners are good and bent when it's all said and done.

click here to check out the playlist and hear the show...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Happy Birthday To People I Love

November is a prodigious month, apparently. There are three birthdays to celebrate, for three people who are near and dear to me for different reasons. Let me count the ways...

Aqua Boogie

First is our teammate (whom hasn't yet posted but I promise she is spectacular) whom I love and I am in love with. Yes, I said it. Aqua Boogie, also known by another name which I will let her reveal at her discretion, has been a close friend of mine since we attended Howard University together, and for reasons I can only figure involve fate, have shared many similar life experiences concurrently. Her storyline reads almost the same way as Mom & Pop Story, and her endeavors are remarkably similar to what I've done and currently do. I had a vivid dream about her several years ago in which we were both standing backstage in a theater participating in a particular show... when I noticed her, I began to babble profusely about how much I loved and cared for her. Suddenly she shushed me with a finger to my lip and grabbing one of my hands. She looked me straight in the eye and whispered, "Words are an overkill..." at which point I woke up. I've been captivated ever since. AB lives in New Orleans (and was displaced by Katrina, which I hope she'll write about at some point) and works as a graphic artist and PA for live events and festivals. Maybe somehow I can manage to get her up here to work on some film and TV gigs (if anyone's curious about her work, I'm all for referring), but in the meantime she stays busy doing her thing there and I'm up here doing my thing... so we're good friends. You never know what life will bring except another day if you're there to receive it, but for the time being, I Dream of Boogie >;)

Macedonia

Next up is my best friend, teammate and spiritual twin brother, Macedonia. The two of us go back to Wappingers Falls, where in a spot of quick-thinking he saved me from being run over by a pair of weightful bike-riding twins (mutual friends as it turned out, I suppose I'll have to tell that story in another post.) Macedonia and I collaborated on audio cassette collages in a band called Cut-Up City and attended high school together as Big/Little Brother in the Big Brother/Big Sister mentoring program. Somehow we managed to think alike on many occasions; once I decided to wear a trenchcoat and fedora to school... I rode the bus to school that morning and when we got to his stop, he hopped on the bus, wearing the same trenchcoat and fedora (right down to the color). We looked at each other and said, "Wanna wear 'em all day? Okay." Needless to say, on many occasions we bugged many people out with similar feats of coincidence; particularly a girl that, as fate/coincidence would have it, we were both in love with. That is a long and interesting story in itself, but not one I need to tell here. All I have to say right now is Happy Birthday, lil' brotha...

Joseph Jr.

And naturally I gotta say Happy Birthday to my hero, my big brother Joe. Joseph has been an inspiration to me as an adult, I idolize him as a man and a father figure (he's twelve years older than me.) Joseph's own life story could inspire many books and movies of their own, to which we hope to one day be movie-making partners (hey, the Coens, the Wachowskis, the Weinsteins, you know it'll happen). Joe is currently training to be a top personal trainer among other things (when he was in the Air Force, he set a base weightlifting record and subsequently competed in bodybuilding contests) and is a member of a federal tactical force unit. But before you jump to any conclusions, let me tell you that he is absolutely no one's fool. For everything I am, Joseph is (that x 10). Don't mess with him, just wish him a Happy Birthday...

I love these people. They inform and inspire me yesterday, today and tomorrow, and perhaps in some token way I do the same for them. There's not enough I can say about them, so I'll just say "Thank you, and have a Happy Birthday" >;)

Wowzers, Sat. Nov. 3

It's strange how we were just talking about this today... the team I've been driving around for the show I'm currently working on had been bantering about the Olympic Marathon Trials at Central Park and the impending New York City Marathon, taking place tomorrow. There's myself, Tommy, the still photographer and R.A., his assistant, and as we were driving along the two of them were discussing the marathon... R.A. had been invited to run, but Tommy was convincing him not to do it. "Dude, the human body was not made to run 26 miles on asphalt in the cold." I agree on principle, and R.A. agreed, perhaps also out of age and recent activity. He called his friend and told him he wasn't joining, and that was that.

Later, I got home and as I'm checking my email, I see a headline in Yahoo News stating that one of the top U.S. runners competing for a spot in the Beijing Olympics in the trials taking place today collapsed and died about a fifth of the way into the race. I called R.A. immediately and told him what happened...

Wowzers is all we could say.

Monday, October 29, 2007

deep-sea diving: "let's go..."

sorry, i just have to see if this embedding thing works. if so...OH, IT'S ON. it is SO on...




this is some of my flavor right now: SHAPE OF BROAD MINDS, the brainchild of one Jneiro Jarel - MC/DJ/Producer. definitely bringing a freaky flow to hip-hop right now - him and several of his aliases. you. Must. LISTEN...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Off To My Next Gig!

Well folks, I've been particularly busy lately, having just finished PAing on a pilot episode of the new "Electric Company", which updates the cast of the old show from the seventies with new faces, new skits, new lessons and new songs, but still has good ol' Paul the Gorilla >;) I was primarily in charge of the unit truck; loading and unloading equipment used by the production office and the production team on the sets. We filmed in both Washington Heights and the Lower East Side (Alphabet City, ironically) , so some of you might recognize the settings. I'm pretty sure it will get picked up, in which case I've practically assured myself a steady job. This is sort of a dream come true actually; I grew up on Sesame Street and The Electric Company, so to work for Sesame Workshop (née Children's Television Workshop) is one of those things that will get you a real pat on the back. It was certainly fun, though there were some stressing incidents that had me thinking about what it is about people in general that I find particularly distasteful:

I was patrolling the set, guiding people around a path that was set up to keep people from blundering through the picture while camera was rolling. This one guy; a tall, bald-headed eurotrash creep tried to avoid my guidance, so I stepped in front. "Sir," I advised, "you want to step this way so you don't walk into the jib..."

"What, are you gonna BEAT ME???" he leaned into my my face menacingly.

Two things went really quickly through my mind. First, I thought, "Is this absolutely necessary?" Second, as I sized him up; he was taller and leaner so he could be a bit faster, unless I get the jump on him by attacking instead of reacting to his intimidation,,, I began to think almost certainly, "I'm gonna have to kill this guy for no reason." Before I reacted on option number two, the Key PA, a big guy himself, spoke up and effectively pissed the eurotrash guy off so that he stalked around and went off. Everything was cool after that, but the more I thought about it, the more rage I felt about the whole incident. Why did this mutt feel entitled to do something that was just plain wrong and stupid in the first place? Was he beat en as a child and trying to overcompensate as an adult? Was he just an asshole and brought up to be that way? Did he feel threatened and reacted in a threatening manner? But all that I heard in my head for the rest of the day was Mr. garrison from South Park exclaiming, "THE BITCH MUST DIE!!!"

Naturally I was disturbed by this seething rage that would not extinguish itself, so I called my best friend Macedonia and related the incident to him. We discussed a previous incident where a similar instance of foolishness in a barbershop in Flatbush brought out my "ganksta" and I nearly went buck-wild on an entire crew of heads in a small space. Rage can be a dangerous, deadly thing no only to the people who I was enraged with, but to myself, as I would be vulnerable to any danger coming my way, like a razor or a bullet (which could have been very likely in that instance), but as luck would have it, my roommate and I escaped from the place unscathed. This did not unleash my inner "ganksta", but it angered and confused me nonetheless and I needed to talk it out. Macedonia said he was surprised I didn't swing by the house like that time. "I didn't let it get to that point this time", I responded.

His theory made a whole lot of sense. We live in a society where common sense is abhorred to the point that it doesn't exist except as a quaint notion. We are subjected to images, ideas and stimuli that suggest the notion that people are entitled to anything they want, regardless of consequences. When you have nothing to offer a valued consideration of the need for something, you do without cause and effectively force your will on others for no reason except that you are an automaton. Considering what passes for values in our our generally elected leadership; which by the way is a reflection of the values of those whom either voted or elected them, I say we're pretty much in free-fall as a society among the world of the living, and it would only take another swing of the sword from someone else to completely destroy what is shaping up to be an impossible dream: a land of opportunity, governed by the people, for the people and allowing for the right for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...

But again, I digress. Macedonia put things in a perspective that was easy for both of us to relate to. In the end, we agreed to discuss this even further on our own venues; me here and him in an upcoming pod-cast. He'll likely fill you in on the details when they are complete.

Feeling better, I moved on from that issue and tackled several less-stressful situations (stolen motorcycle jacket, for which the owner went on the radio calling the fire-watchers "f...ing morons" (even though he had um, left the truck unlocked from which it was stolen, duh), saw that the AD's car was busted into that same day and his mp3 player was stolen (this guy had hired me for the show because we worked together previously, so I felt really crappy about that, but he wasn't concerned since it didn't happen on my watch) and the chef for the caterer quit, so we were relegated to cereal and bagels for breakfast and underfed for lunch) and I was exposed to some of the nastiest pizza in Manhattan (Two Boots on Ave. A and East 3rd; go for the video store and the wide selections, stay away from the pizza) and endured some tiresome residents who had no notion of "other people" outside of their realm of existence as they balked at or tripped over film equipment that others instinctively walked around. There's that sense of entitlement again... but at least I didn't have to plot their immediate and untimely deaths, no matter how richly deserved...

Which segues nicely into my next gig: I'm a Utility PA for "The Apprentice", season 7. This basically menas I'll be driving all over Manhattan from five in the evening until five in the morning. Actually, I won't be driving for more than three hours of that time I imagine, unless I do like I usually do and become reliable. In any case, I'll be bringing a lot of books to read; the one I'm reading now is by Michael Eric Dyson about Martin Luther King Jr., for which I will do a review here in the near future.

In the meantime, stay tuned as I'm trying to get bring in more accomplished or accomplishing teammates to keep things rolling here. I haven't had much time to write lately as you see, and I'll be going into drawing mode shortly after I'm done with my current gig. It will be nice to incorporate my current sense of humor into these characters, which I'm sure has taken a giant leap upward in refinement and focus. I hope I can say the same for my artistic skills >;)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ozzark & Company - War Games

Starring: Square & Tone. ©1995 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published in The Dutchess Chronicle.

Note: This was one of my favorites, in which I also had guest artwork by Gerard Weiss. Can you guess the inspiration here?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ken Burns, We Do Exist... Why Have You Forsaken Us?

This reporter has been saying this for years. Ken Burns noted documentary filmmaker sometimes one has to wonder: WHAT IS IT THAT LATIN-AMERICANS ARE NOT INCLUDED!

From the Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, documentaries where the hell are we! The Latin-Americans! Why did this person have a bad experience with them or is it he’s to lazy to do research!

Let’s take the Baseball documentary. Juan Gonzalez of the NY Daily News said it best. “In that documentary five minutes talking about Latin-Americans! During the chapter on the Negro Leagues no mention of the game being played in Latin America.

No mention of the fact that many Negro League players got their baseball careers started in the countries of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. Hey Ken!!! Have you ever heard of Martin Dihigo! Pete Rose made a name for himself becoming an all-star in five different positions. Dihigo was a genius in every position.
He was called “The Immortal” he is the only baseball player to elected to four baseball hall of fames. In the USA, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico, Satchel Paige Negro League Hall of Fame player stated in Hall of Fame speech “I’m not the best Dihigo was!

Why was that not included?!

To add the first year of Jackie Robinson 1947, no mention of the New York Cubans. Who won the Negro League Championship that year! No mention of baseball in Latin-America and the fact that several Negro League players got their careers started in Latin-America. Moving forward to the era of the 1960’s he mentions that two pitchers in the National League dominated that decade. He mentions Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, yet no mention of Juan Marichal...

WHY!!!!!!!!!

Are you blind/deaf! At the same time no mention of other Latino ballplayers who made a name for themselves in that decade. Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Luis Aparacio. All these four are in the Baseball Hall of Fame!

The Jazz documentary; no mention of the contributions by Latin-Americans. No mention of individuals Machito, Mario Bauza, Tito Puente. Hey Burns! Are you aware that the majority of those Afro-Americans Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordan, Dizzy, all got their careers of the ground with the help of these Latin-Americans. No mention of that in the documentary. No mention of Latin-Jazz, Salsa, Merengue, nothing!

Did you do proper research? Did you ask of any of today’s Latin Jazz performers, and Latin Music performers? Was it because you couldn’t speak their language? Or was it that they were just as good as these Africans?

Now this World War II documentary many Latin-American media activists want to know after all the yelling, screaming, will you include Latinos? My grandfather(mother’s side) served this country in that war, if he were alive today he’d be so happy! If not then PBS should not show it! Let’s see if the screaming, yelling paid off!

Are you listening/reading BURNS???!!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Ket's Out The Bag

Recently, I had read that Bronx Banter's one and only Alex Belth would make an appearance with several of his sports-writing colleagues at Columbia University. Since I missed a chance to meet him earlier in the year, I made it a mission to actually meet the man behind one of the best sports blogs in cyberspace...

My persona at Bronx Banter is a lot more outgoing than I think of myself in person. Of course, I have no reason to kid anyone about who I am or what kind of person I am... I like to think I really am warm, funny, personable and outgoing, but what I think I'm inconsistent with is je ne se quoi... my big brother is the very definition of such, but then I both idolize and fear him (another story)... anyway, some insight about Alex for my fellow Banterers...

When I walked into the Barnes & Noble where the chat was being held (fifteen minutes before it ended, thanks stupid 2 train and special shout-out to the M116 bus), having successfully navigated my way through Alfred Lerner Hall at Columbia University, I discovered a relatively intimate group of speakers and observers tucked away in the back. As I strode toward the assembly, I locked eyes with one of the guys behind the table: his eyes grew wide with what I thought was fear and disbelief. I had a strong notion, but I slid in as quietly as I could among the observers; one of whom moved a chair into place for me. I listened intently while the speakers chatted away, at times stealing a glance at the fellow who had stared at me. This time as our eyes met again, he grinned and nodded knowingly. No doubt about it, he was the man.

The assembly was quite casual; Allen Barra was sitting in the audience with the rest of us (he slid a chair out for me) and Steve Goldman, Jay Jaffe, and Alex presided at the table, while Kevin Baker stood in the forefront stage-left and expounded on anecdotes from their book. I got a lot out of fifteen minutes, honestly. After a while, the chat came to a close and the audience rushed forward to grab a book and have it signed by this illustrious group of baseball writers... I snuck up to the front row of the seats and reclined in a plastic folding chair, just chilling (it's what I do best >;)

When the herd had thinned out a bit, the guy who had eyed me hopped around the table and approached.

"Will?"

"What up, B," I replied, giving him a big hug.

For Banter folk, it's like this: it was just like seeing a long-lost friend. There was genuine joy in his eyes and voice. "Do you have the score on the Yankee game now?" he asked excitedly. Damn, I knew I forgot something. "That's ah'ight," he said, whipping out his cell, "I'll call home and get it." I watched him dial and Emily must have picked up on the first ring, because he was almost immediately jabbering. He closed the phone with a thank you and he'd be home soon. "We're up 9-1." he grinned. I thought to myself, boy it's so great you two have each other. It doesn't happen often enough in my opinion.

Alex introduced me to some of his comrades; Barra backed off humorously when "Bronx Banter" was mentioned, while I shook his and everyone else's hands. Barra confided in me that he enjoys what Banter is and the level of knowledge and range of personalities, not to mention the sense of community. I stood as the group again stirred up conversation about baseball facts, and surprisingly to me, Alex was just as dazzled as I was taking it in. His banter with Jaffe was particularly fascinating, as they reminded me of brothers tossing a ball back and forth between them. Not surprising when you consider that they practically grew up together, if I recall correctly from what Alex said.

I followed like a shy puppy as the congregation filed out, making plans for a restaurant get-together shortly, but as soon as we all got outside, Alex said he had to go home. I instinctively followed him toward the subway entrance and we continued to chat. We talked about baseball, about Banter and about writing. We talked about ambitions, about passions, about dreams and about desires. We talked about perceptions, media, he shared insights on media and where he saw himself. Alex opened up in a way that made me genuinely appreciate what Banter is for not only what he writes, but what it has been able to create and sustain. As such, I promised that I would keep much of our discussion between the two of us, which I will continue to do (and hope that you didn't expect otherwise >;)

But I will say this: Alex Belth is a genuine human being. He has ambitions and he has concerns, he has passions and he has fears, but something unique to people I consider my closest friends, he does not fear revealing himself to people he knows will understand. How do I know this? Because I've never described myself in person other than casual remarks about my appearance here or at Banter, yet he instantly recognized me the moment I walked in. I asked him if I had scared the sh-- out of him because of that look he had, but he insisted, "I just knew it was you; I said to myself 'it's really him, this is the man'..." The few times that's happened, these people became lifelong friends, and I had a good feeling about Mr. Belth. We spoke (well, he mostly talked and I mostly listened, but that seems to suit our personalities just fine) until we realized that it was really time to get home. Sometimes when you talk with certain people, time stops to listen in. It must have been late and I surely hope his wife wasn't worried, but we parted with much dap and a promise to stay in touch. "It's so great to finally meet the man," he smiled. "The cat's out the bag now," I grinned back, and we departed.

It was a thrill, and I called Ish to discuss the meeting. I carried on about how human he was and how inspiring it was to talk about where we were with our writing and where we each wanted to be. There was a lot to take away from this, but Ish agreed wholeheartedly when I said that it was important for us to continue what we are doing here. As I said to Alex, when you follow your bliss, you'll be surprised at what develops. Bronx Banter is a large and growing community of minds, spirits and personalities from many corners of the mind, yet is a community; better yet a family that informs and plays on our lives in one way or another every day in a way that has certainly proposed a new dynamic that is both acceptable and endearing.

What's most important is that you enjoy what you're doing, you have a passion for it. The fame and fortune may or may not follow, but you'll discover things and meet people who will love the same things you do and carry you further towards the things you dream of. That's just how it works, and thanks to Alex and everyone at Banter, I realize I'm further along than I would have thought. Good look, fam' >;)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Ham & Coors

Starring: Mikey & Aquil. © 2000 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 2000 in the Hunter Envoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Gotta Be Da Shoes

Starring: Rhalo, Zane, Ozzark, Square, Tone, Mikey. ©1993 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published in The Hilltop 1993.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Yep, He's My Cousin"

I don't remember exactly how old I was when this happened, but I remember we were sitting around the living room, watching TV... we were watching a special on either The Jacksons or Michael himself; ah yes, it was a Michael Jackson documentary. Somebody was talking about his showman influences in terms of his flamboyant combination of singing and dancing, and they showed James Brown in a clip of a live performance of "I Break Out (In A Cold Sweat)"... it was easy to see how much of an effect James had on young Michael's style. The other one they mentioned was somebody that up until that time I'd never heard of; he reminded me of a combination of James Brown and Sam Cooke...

"He's your blood relative, you know," Mom said admiringly. What? "He's Bill's cousin. That makes him your second cousin. Look at his nose," she said, acknowledging my skepticism. Sure enough, he had the same familiar flare of the nostrils. Wow, I'm related to someone famous! And somebody even more famous admired him! Too bad I never heard of him. But the funny thing is, after you find out something like that, you keep running into it or something related to it. It was not long after that, in fact, that I did run into something related.

"Dad," I asked as he drove me to my baseball game that afternoon, "Are you related to Jackie Wilson?" "Yep," he replied nonchalantly, "he's my cousin." Well, two mutually exclusive answers and photographic evidence, and I was convinced.

Not that it was a big deal to him, nor did Mom ever mention it until he popped up in a documentary about someone else, so I let that information settle into the back of my mind, along with my musical interest and penchant for entertaining in one form or another. I always did think a little bit about it when I developed an interest in filmmaking, or performing on stage in a play, or building some instrumental grooves with my Casio bookshelf stereo system. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Mom was able to afford those sax lessons I signed up for in second grade. Sometimes I dream that I can play the piano, and I wake up humming the tune that I was playing in my dream. I used to write down the really interesting dreams and turn them into stories or scripts (or cartoons)... I still do, but it's harder than you think to create in a basement studio.

Nevertheless, I always have and will continue to make my own creative way in the universe. If anything, knowing now what Cousin Jackie, Mr Entertainment himself, had gone through in his own life (and tragic ending), there's a lot to be concerned about, but a lot to be proud of as well. And, perhaps, a lot more to learn... >;)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Drop Fishing

Starring: Ozzark & Square. ©2001 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published in the Hunter Envoy.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Crying Game

Starring: Tone, Zane, Rhalo, Square, Mikey, Tradge, Aquil, Ozzark & Sillone. Copyright by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 2000 in the Hunter Envoy.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Rhyme Cypher

Starring: Ozzark, Fats,Tone,Mikey,Rhalo & Zane. Copyright 2001 by W.Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published in the Hunter Envoy, 2001.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Big Production

Starring: Ozzark & Sillone. Copyright 1999-2007 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 1999 in the Hunter Envoy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Beggar Friends

Starring: Damon (D-Squared), Homeless Guy. Copyright 2000-2007 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 2000 in Hunter Envoy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ozzark & Company - Brain Muffins


Starring Ozzark, Sillone & Fats. Copyright 2000 by W. Jackson, All Rights Reserved. Published 2000 in the Hunter Envoy Newspaper.

Ozzark & Company - The Overview!


Finally! Some of you have read the rumor that I'm a cartoonist, and I'd like to finally prove that rumor true. Until now, I'd had a hard time trying to upload some of my work onto this site because it was on a separate computer. Now, I've managed to upgrade my internet access with that computer, which contains all of my treasured artworks (well, not all of them; another story to come.)

So, I'd like to introduce my life-work if you will, Ozzark & Company. I created this strip on March 3, 1982 as a present to my mother. Actually, I had drew a cartoon picture of un mariachi in front of an upright piano in crayon on loose-leaf paper; there's not a lot most little kids can afford in terms of artist materials. I gave her the picture on her birthday (March 2) and she liked it a lot, so I decided to make more. I copied the character and gave him different outfits, settling on a suit with a medicus symbol scribbled all along the sides and on his derby. Now I needed a name.

I wanted this character to have a distinctive name, since he was supposed to be a distinctive character. I was very much into making street maps at the time, using atlases and globes to find names for naming the streets I created out of my imagination. I took my globe and spun it, stopping it with my finger. My finger pointed to the Ozark Mountain range. Cool, I decided, and added an extra z for flair. Ozzark was born.

I must tell you that I was a Peanuts disciple from birth; I learned to read by reading Peanuts books that actually belonged to my older sister, Dorothy. I watched animated Peanuts specials religiously, and devoured any books or compilations I could get my hands on. Naturally, my first foray in cartooning had resemblances to Peanuts characters. Ozzark looked very similar to the long, thin version of Snoopy in a suit and hat (and shoestring thin, long and droopy mustache.) I knew enough to try to find ways to make his appearance more distinctive and less derivative, and I also knew that my cartoon needed to be copyrighted(!) I copied styles from my favorite Peanuts books in creating my own book, with paneled strips and a straight story-line throughout. I changed his clothing and gave him a long-sleeve shirt and pants, covered with an indistinct swirl from top-to-bottom, along with a boxy beret that resembled a graduation cap. I bound my book with masking tape and called it Ozzark On The Road. I then sent it to a local publisher I found in the yellow pages, asking them to consider publishing it. I never heard back from the publisher, which only served for me to try harder.

I wrote and drew several books in this manner, filling them with references to other cartoons and one-liners I overheard from family members. Said family members were quite impressed with my ingenuity and proceeded to acquire more art supplies for my newly developing avocation. I even began to write stories and plays based on my cartoon, whose cast had ballooned to thirteen; each with a variation on Ozzark's name. All of the guys' names began with O, and all of the girls' names began with A. Collectively, the group became known as Ozzark & Company, to signify the central character and his supporting cast. I added at least twenty more characters later on, keeping with my naming scheme and continuing to draw comics that ultimately made sense to only myself. Of those, including the thirteen original characters (I was also a history buff), I only draw or refer to seven: Ozzark, Ouncey Ozzark (his little brother, who's name I shortened to Ouncey), Ozzy (his best friend growing up), Sis (his younger sister), Asela (Ouncey's friend), Ozzone (his cousin from the West) and Ozvaldo (his Latino cousin). And of those, only Ozzark and Ouncey have continued to appear as regulars.

I carried my creations from elementary school all the way through high school, where I made my first significant alterations to the strip. I dropped the naming scheme (thankfully) in favor of nicknames, introducing Candy; Ozzark's first love interest, Fats; a random and oblivious oddball who became an unwelcome friend and foil for Ozzark, and Zero; a nitwit who became Ouncey's unlikely best friend and foil. It was also during this time that I became friends with other cartoonists, among them a fellow named Chris Truett who like me had developed a cartoon from his earlier childhood, called Team Truett; a racing enthusiast and leader of an eclectic assortment of cartoon characters of other styles, and Tom Tait, whose character Tom Tater was a direct satire of Mr. Potatohead long before Toy Story did the same and a Checker Cab enthusiast. These two best friends, among others, formed a group calling itself the Cartoon Posse, when 'posse' was a popular Hip-Hop colloquialism. We would draw vignettes with each other's characters and pass them among each other between classes, often playing out the drama among members of our strange group; which included a living Superman insignia in a cape, and a midget draped in kingly robes and a crown, who always brandished a sword at least twice his size. Strange as it seems, I learned not only different styles of drawing, but how to develop stories and character arcs from these little jams and cartoon battles. My first distribution of Ozzark and Company occurred when I was invited to draw my strip for the school newspaper, and from there I drew almost regularly on a monthly basis. As a pièce de résistance, I painted a mural of Ozzark based on a picture I drew and made into a t-shirt of him leaning on a lamppost in park in front of the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie, NY.

The biggest changes to date came when I left for college and started drawing for the college's newspaper. New people and a new environment brought about new influences, and thus new characters. Among those was one who made the leap from high school with Ozzark, Ouncey and (not surprisingly) Fats: Sillone, Ozzark's new and long-lasting love interest. With her, the focus of the strip developed and matured even further. The introduction new characters, collectively known as the CIX Posse (6th Floor Posse of Meridian Hill Hall), brought depth and a renowned sense of identity to the cartoons I drew from then on. Whereas Ozzark & Company was a collection of character types loosely based on composites (except Ozzark, whose early influence was my brother Joseph, Ouncey who was my alter ego, and Fats who is definitely based on someone I know), it was with them that I began to focus the strip as Afrocentric, with characters based on particular people I knew, who also represented a cross-section of Black culture. The settings, dialogue and characters were influenced mostly by the renaissance of the Hip-Hop culture.
Artistically, developed significantly by incorporating techniques from many of my favorite artists of the time; most significantly Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County), Sergio Aragones (Mad Magainze, Groo the Wanderer), Antonio Prohías (Spy vs. Spy) and Samm Schwartz (Archie). A direct influence and colleague was the school newspaper's head artist, Rodney Reynolds (drawing by the name Da Bama), who taught me technical aspects of drawing comic strips that propelled my strip to a professional standard.

Another significant development involved Ouncey; up until that time, Ouncey was Ozzark's smart-alecky genius little brother who played pranks on the rest of the cast. But a personal incident changed that. As I was on my way to my friends' house (most of the posse had moved together from the dorms to the surrounding off-campus housing available for rent, I was attacked by a group of young thugs, who stole a record on the cover of which I had drawn a concept that involved my cartoon characters that were based on them. I escaped with my health intact, but my sense of security and pride for my ethnicity in complete shambles. The attack opened me to a darker level of observation that had only existed in my imagination. I took revenge for the attack in a series of cartoons that starred Ouncey, evolving him from a playful smart aleck to a brooding vigilante who destroyed everything in his path. This loss of innocence deeply effected both of us; I never forgot the incident and developed a more objective view of Black culture that at the time deflated my Afrocentric sensibilities. In a way, it also reflected the changing focus of Hip-Hop from Afrocentric to a devolving urban and cultural decay. A change of scenery on my part reinvigorated my creativity and waning sense of self, and I was back to drawing Ozzark & Company, injecting my own various aspects into each character as inspiration.

Today, the cast of Ozzark & Company includes Ozzark and his family (including his parents and siblings), his long-time girlfriend and his buddies from the CIX Posse. And Fats; for some reason, Fats has endured as a popular character, so I made him part of the family as Sillone's cousin. And Ozzark, for his part, has learned to tolerate him as an affable foil and unlikely friend. Each has incorporated my own personal observations within the context of their own established personalities. Or so I like to think...

Over the next several days, I'd like to present some selected strips from past doings, and in time I hope to also present brand new strips, as my studio has recently experienced some upgrades. Ultimately, I intend to bring Ozzark & Company to wide distribution via newspaper syndication and motion pictures, but for now, enjoy the strips, feel free to comment and thanks in advance for the support.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Work Boring You To Tears? Me, Too...


I can truthfully say that I work in the entertainment industry, though I am not as of yet an bona fide entertainer. I do draw comics and I do work FT as a production assistant on independent films, but I don't get enough acting gigs or work as a director to claim entertainer status. Much of my time is taken up by trying to earn/save money by temping at various organizations, mostly as an executive assistant (which is by no means as important as it sounds.) Uusally I am entering data into an archaic or obsolete archive database, or sorting files, occasionally faxing, blah-blah-blah...

And that is the problem. Office jobs like these are blah-blah-blah. As a PA (production assistant), I'm more-often-than-not driving throughout the city, picking up or delivering film equipment or staff to and from location or the production headquarters. Sometimes, I drive a production unit on tech scouts. I've built a very good reputation as a hard worker and sharp driver, not to mention resourceful; which is always important as a PA.

The drawbacks to PAing is that the work can be infrequent; depending on who is involved, you might spend weeks between productions before you get called on. Then you have to worry about not only not only how much you get paid (I no longer work for free, unless it's a short-term favor for a friend), but when. I worked on a production that was so loosely organized, when the film wrapped (completed all principal photography), the crew waited for nearly two months before they received their final paychecks. Apparently there was some litigation involved; in particular regarding an incident in which one of the PAs absconded with a passenger van:

After I had finished some extra errands for the production office, I returned my unit truck to the lot we had rented the trucks from. The passenger van that was also used by our production was right next to my truck. The next day, I received a call, asking if I knew where that particular van was. I wouldn't know, I was driving a truck all day, and it was still there when I came back with the truck. I had walked back to the nearest subway station to get home. I asked the person who called me to let me know when the van turned up, knowing that if the van wasn't found, I would not only not get paid, but I would also be regarded as a suspect, unfair as it all was.

Naturally, the van didn't show up and no one received their last checks. It was a bad time for this to happen, as I was counting on that check to help pay the rent. Desperately, I reached out to my temp agency for work, and fortunately I landed in a temp job the next day. I was working as a data-entry specialist for a non-profit education company for an indeterminate amount of time for decent money; enough to pay the bills at least.

This assignment turned out to be different in two ways: It didn't involve what the agency told me; I was doing more than data entry. I was also trafficking and proofreading documents that ended up being used in sales-pitches to various school districts. On top of that, in two weeks I was training someone else to do the same thing. This guy, as it turned out, was a stand-up comedian, also temping while doing gigs in his off-time. We talked about the entertainment industry, exchanged numbers and became friends. He gave me a number to his agent, who turned out to be the same agent I was dealing with in regards to getting involved in voiceovers. Funny!

The other thing about this assignment was the overtime. Wow. My supervisor asked me early on if I would be willing to work overtime, and for how long. I gave him the smart answer: "I'll work as long as you need me." He was rather pleased by that, I should say, because I ended up regualrly working at least twenty hours of overtime per week. Which, by the way, made my check look very interesting.

I suppose I can say I made the work interesting. I imagined myself being a project manager, procuring, investigating, redesigning and approving documents, while supervising others. There was a third temp involved for two weeks, but his slow work pace and disinterest in the project ended with his being told that the project was over, which was a humane way of saying, "you're fired." I had hoped he would turn it around before this happend, as the boss asked for my input on this, but I soon saw that it wouldn't happen and reluctantly agreed. I did manage to argue successfuly for him to finish out the week, something I had not been allowed to do in a previous assignment and left me in dire straits. I promised never to allow that to happen to me or anyone else.

I eventually received a call from a producer I had worked for to come work on a new film production. I was eager to join, but I needed to finish the project I was currently working on. Fortunately, it worked out; we completed the bigger portion of the project that my supervisor had hired us for, and I was able to go on to my new gig without a hitch.

As it turned out, I had to wait another week, as the director had accidently busted his arm demonstrating a stunt he had wanted to film.

Months have gone by, and so have several other gigs I worked on, and here I am temping again. Had I waited, I would have ended up on another film gig, but I decided I needed a break from even that. The last gig I completed had been somewhat of a struggle, but since the people involved were very nice, I stuck with it and did some favors for them afterwards. But the dog days were approaching, so I decided to answer the temp agency's call for a long-term assignment at the same place I temped with them before, for even more-decent money.

As soon as that assignment started, I received three calls for film gigs. Funny, when you're starting out, you're starving, but when you get a few of them under your belt, they all come at once. And, in regard to this current asignment, I wonder why I didn't really take them. Is it that the work is boring, or have I become bored with the work?

However, in light of the funky weather and other recent events (my landlord is fending of foreclosure on his house, which includes my apartment), I have to consider myself lucky to have steady work. And, according to my newest supervisor, there might be some overtime involved in the very-near future... whaddya think of that? >;)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Jim Dean

"It does not matter if you are rich or poor, it's the people you know or whom you are acquainted with that makes your life what it is, for better or for worse. This is very apparent when you lose someone." - Uncle Woodrow

Jim Dean
was a friend of mine, and I say that knowing that I never met him in person and that the only contact we've ever had was through Banter. There was something about his abrasiveness, his bellicosity and sarcasm that added interesting colors to his research and commenting. If there was anyone who created a picture of himself and everything he said through his words, he was certainly one.

I liked teasing him. He often would blast away at us with fiery, if sometimes off-the-mark blather about this player's statistics, that player's effort, the bumbling of the Yankees front office or, seeming to feel particularly jaunting, he would debate one or many of us. Well, debate is not strong enough... battle.

JD battled long and hard on a point he believed in, whether it was right or wrong. Sometimes it seemed like he battled just for the principle of it. But among other things, it was his passion for the Yankees and his quick response with sabermetric research that won the admiration of even his detractors. I am not nearly as good with numbers as he was, but if anything he was among the few that inspired a notion for me to learn.

I don't know in what regard he held me; perhaps he saw me as a trifle, or maybe he respected my sense of humor. I do know that we once engaged in a surprisingly straightforward "conversation" that led me us to understand more about each other, and perhaps more respect for each other. We didn't agree a lot of times, but we did (eventually) respect each other.

My point is, it's odd that one can develop a friendship with someone in an internet community, but as I've always said, Bronx Banter is like family. And JD was like a brother. A bad brother, sometimes, but family nonetheless.

Rest In Peace, Jim Dean.