He Dreams of Being an Actor

This time last year, my short film Gone Elvis premiered at the FilmColumbia Film Festival along with two other shorts.  One of these was called Dreaming American, written and directed by Lee Percy and starring an Albanian actor named Praq Rado.  Dreaming American is a glimpse into Rado’s real-life, immigrant story, one of escape from his deadly homeland and dedication to work and live in the United States.  Praq is a talented and interesting young man. We met in person at the festival, and he contacted me on Facebook afterwards, paid kind compliments to my film, and would check in from time to time.

I just learned through his Facebook page that Praq currently sits in a U.S. federal detention center awaiting a deportation hearing.  It turns out he’s been in the United States illegally for several years.  I don’t know what, if anything, his lawyers will be able to offer; and I wish that I could produce some argument for his cause beyond a personal desire to see him allowed to remain here. He is certainly an individual who can only add depth to our ever-changing culture. I hope for the best for Praq’s safety and well being and hope that we can find a way to keep his dreams American.

Regardless of immigration law itself, anti-immigrant political rhetoric in America usually reminds me of this old, insulting joke:

Q. “How do you keep the jews out of your country club?”

A. “Let one in and he’ll keep the rest out.”

UPDATE:  Praq is currently out of detention and remains in the Untied States, thanks to the assistance of Lee Percy, as I understand.


Coming Soon!

Coming to theaters this Fall, moviegoers get to choose between two radically different, yet equally psychotic views of the United States. Culturally and artistically speaking, all I can say is that catering to the lowest common denominator has never cost quite so much.

Red Dawn

For the completely illiterate, there’s the remake of Red Dawn, a film even dumber in 2012 than it was in 1984.

The premise:  A foreign army invades the United States, and it falls to a handful of heavily armed and extraordinarily attractive American teenagers to protect the homeland.

The stupid:  The invaders are the North Koreans, a nation that lacks adequate food, fuel, ammunition, money, allies, or military experience to launch an effective assault on a small troop of nearsighted Cub Scouts.

The amazingly stupid:  When filmed, the invaders were actually the Chinese, but someone in marketing figured out that insulting millions of potential movie viewers was a faux pas. So the entire film was digitally altered to change flags, insignia, etc. to North Korean.  I really wish I knew which Asian shop did the digital fixing.

The prediction:  Not only will this film stoke a lot of jingoistic chest-thumping and be quoted by chicken-hawk conservatives, it will also send hundreds of unqualified slouches to military recruiters who have to explain why they can’t be in Special Forces without an education.

Atlas Shrugged II

For the semi-literate, there’s Part II of the never-before-produced-and-for-good-reason adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.

The premise:  Communist-ish ideas invade the United States, and it is up to a handful of very talented and extraordinarily attractive middle-aged Americans to protect what belongs to them.

The stupid: This sexless commercial for libertarianism isn’t even a true-to-spirit adaptation of the tedious comic book on which it is based.

The really stupid:  The film’s producers want to run its trailers ahead of a new Clint Eastwood movie in order to court every single one of 327 people who thought his performance at the RNC wasn’t a cringing embarrassment.

The prediction:  General audiences will be at least as wowed by Atlas Shrugged Part II as they were by Atlas Shrugged Part I.

Discussion continued . . .

To those who have visited this site to read, discuss, or even complain about posts relating to digital age issues, I have moved that conversation to a new site called The Illusion of More.  Please visit www.illusionofmore.com and bring your observations and ideas with you. The site is designed to include many voices in both written and audio form, and I hope yours will be among them.

In coming weeks, I shall return this site to its original purpose and certainly hope to simultaneously figure out what that is.

Thank you!


Moving Target

Moving Target

Greetings!   I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog with an interest in (or bone to pick with) my writings on digital-age issues, piracy, et al.  I never quite intended to make this particular blog a forum solely dedicated to my interest in these matters so much as place for things related to film and unabashed self-promotion of my creative work.

So, in roughly a month’s time, I’ll be launching a new blog site designed to expand the discussion and debate about living and working with the Web as cultural and economic phenomenon.  In addition to my own op-eds that the folks at TechDirt seem to enjoy so much, I’ll also be offering written and audio podcast interviews with interesting, qualified, and entertaining people on all sorts of subjects.  Stay tuned for news and a new URL.

Also, I want to thank everyone who has commented here.  I will be taking down all or some of the archived articles from this site and migrating all or some of it to the new site.  I cannot promise to carry over your comments, but I hope you’ll forgive me enough to join the conversation after the move.



Words I Don’t Use – Memorial Day 2012

I am the father of three and would probably be defined by most people as a liberal (although I generally reject that term these days), yet our eldest child wants to be an officer in the U.S. Navy.  He knows more about geo-politics than most adults, let alone kids his own age.  He believes Iraq was a strategic mistake, agrees that it is an example of bad leadership misusing both the heart and the might of the military.  So, I asked him, “Why would you want to sign up for that?” His answer was, “Because I want to affect policy.  I want to be one of the people who decides how and when we use the military.”  Selfishly, I’d like to argue with him, but it’s hard not to be proud of his answer and tough to reject its logic.

On the actual 9/11, that child was 7 years old, and we were still in Manhattan.  A handful of us parents decided to take the kids out of school as a group and keep them away from televisions while we waited for news about one dad whose office was in the Trade Center.  We took a bunch of the boys to Central Park to play, and I remember thinking then how strangely idyllic this scene was while just 10 miles to the south, all Hell really was breaking loose.  It was so quiet uptown; the only indication of the unfolding disaster was the periodic roar of an F-16 circling Manhattan.  It was a gorgeous day.  We we were absolutely fine.

In 2002, the president addressed the nation and told what I believe to be one of the biggest lies uttered as part of an orchestrated prelude to the invasion of  Iraq. “They hate our freedoms,” he said.  I thought then, as I do now, that this was an act of gross misdirection; and as the saying goes, you cannot tell just one lie.  This one was a doozy that set off a chain reaction that became a clusterfuck.  That terrorist organizations and rogue nations threaten safety, even stability, is certainly true; but the idea that any external force can threaten our freedoms seems like a hysterical assessment of the contemporary geo-political landscape. Specifically, our freedoms have never been the target of al Qaeda, and even if they were, one might have paused a moment before the war and asked exactly how that organization might have succeeded in that agenda.

It’s impossible to imagine how a threat to our notion of freedom could come from anywhere other than from within.  Still, we tend to say that our men and women in uniform are “fighting for our freedom” to the point that it is now a throw-away, politician’s mantra.  I never say these words because I believe it is a disservice to perpetuate a lie.  I truly respect and honor the individuals who are part of the military, especially as my oldest child proposes to join their ranks; but I believe we civilians owe these people our integrity in return for their service, a willingness to call things as they are instead of how we’d like to perceive them.  If we cannot do that, we will always squander their blood with the fallacy of our words.

Tilting at Wordmills

This morning, a friend sent me a message asking if anonymize is the verb form of anonymous; and my first impulse was to say that no such verb exists, other than perhaps some corporate neologism.  A quick check on the dictionary installed on my computer revealed that anonymize is a word, and this was corroborated by dictionary.com and other online sources.  Out of curiosity, though, I blew the dust off my Concise Oxford Dictionary printed in the 1990s, and satisfied my initial instinct and found no verb form whatsoever for anonymous. So, the word is indeed a digital-age idiom, although I cannot find its origin on the Internet, just myriad uses, mostly in reference to what can or cannot be done to one’s data.

It’s tough to be a word snob these days, particularly when it comes to verbs.  As with the example above, our technological lives seem to insist that happily sedentary nouns get up and do a little work from time to time.  I’m still not over telephony’s addition of star-sixty-nining (which will mean nothing to anyone under 40), so I admit to a slight crimp in the epiglottis every time I use any conjugation of the new verb form to friend.

Admittedly, part of what makes a journey in English exciting is that, like the universe itself, our language is complex to the point of near chaos.  Like the stars, English words form, remain relevant for a period of time, then die and yield elements that coalesce into new words around which new systems of meaning begin to revolve.  The capricious nature of English that the foreign student finds so frustrating is precisely what the native writer loves about the medium.  One need never gaze at the same sky twice.

Why then do any of us word warriors bother to complain or even question corporate-speak and other modern coinages? If we can enjoy a frabjous day among the momeraths with Lewis Carroll, why scorn those who wish to circle back to download a client’s asks and realign the deliverables to achieve greater globality?  Why does all that sound so awful when, to the contrary, googling seems just fine?  Well, for one thing, the verb google is fun to say; but it also accurately and succinctly describes the intended action better than other available words or phrases.  There’s no way the drab and wordy imperative Look it up on the Internet can compete with the trim and bouncy Google it. And this of course is the brass ring of branding — to become a household term. 

By contrast, an expression like globality is a homely little non-noun that serves no purpose other than to sow more confusion in the increasingly vague parlance of business.  Even the adjective global needs sufficient context and qualifiers in order to give it meaning, so what concept does globality more succinctly convey were we to allow it at the grown-ups’ table?

When someone, say a client or a boss, inquires, “What is your ask of me?” both courtesy and job security require that you do not respond with, “What the hell are you talking about?”  And if this linguistic butcher happens to be a senior executive, you can bet the shoe money her subordinates will be repeating this idiotic expression before long, not only assaulting the language but also infusing it with the aromas of laziness and sycophancy.

Still,  why do we uppity word lovers even care what these suits do to the language? In an ever expanding universe that now includes about 600,000 entries in the OED, what’s the big deal about a little jargon here and there?  Speaking personally, the effort is a Quixotic desire to maintain some order amid the chaos.  Or to be more accurate, to maintain the chaos that gives both meaning and color to communication.  The worst thing about corporate speak is not the abuse of individual words (although that isn’t pretty) but the resulting homogenization of meaning.  Switching metaphors from the cosmos to food, the English vocabulary offers the most diverse ingredients of any language in the world, but corporate culture wants to transform every meal into a bologna sandwich.