About Me

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Los Angeles, CA, United States
I am a writer, photographer and musician living in Los Angeles. In the last few years, new written work--numerous plays, screenplays, and two novels--have demonstrated this to be the most productive period of my life. The journal I have also kept for thirty-five years has, of late, become a personal sounding board for my thoughts on peace and the state of the world...about which I remain hopelessly optimistic! My writing here will be in tandem to video "Peace Talks" I have recorded, and which will be released throughout 2011. You're welcome to visit my website, the "Studio 5" link, to see my photographs. As a classically-trained pianist, I have been composing music all my life. Two guitar re-mixes of piano music are attached here, as well as several music videos, including "Consider Peace" the title track of an up-coming CD. Balancing writing, photography and music has been a long and challenging path...not to be recommended! Yet this very Aries diversity reflects an enthusiasm for the modern world of which I feel very much a part.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome...and welcome wisdom, too!

Aside from the most left-leaning radio stations, namely Pacifica’s KPFK here in Los Angeles, I have never---and I mean never---heard on prime time network television the kind of honest and extended discourse about global policy in the Middle East as I’ve heard in just the last few weeks.  Suddenly, Egypt, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries are being discussed not just in the context of oil and our dictator “friends”.  

For decades Egypt was Mubarak; Libya was Qaddafi; and the reality of millions of oppressed people simply never entered the dialogue. How much more of the world do we see (has been portrayed) only through the prism of national interest?  Yet lately on our TV screens, beyond the chatter about “policies” and "friends", are (gasp) real people, all with kindred aspiration to our own.  The protesting masses simply want to live in a world of peaceful co-existence, where dignity and the right to self-determination reign. How were we blind to such huge masses of oppressed people for so long?  Why now, are millions risking their lives to have what we’ve had all along—at their expense?  

But overnight our eyes are opening.  Suddenly, “we the people” is taking on a whole new meaning.  And frankly, it's a little scary.  Because if we mean what we say about “liberty and justice for all”, does that mean them, too?  If not, why not?  How will all this upheaval affect us?  What kind of world do we really want?  This IS the question.

These times are an awakening for the entire human race.  The new realities are forcing us to look at ourselves in a whole new way.  This is called expanded consciousness; another word for wisdom.  How much richer the world will be with these ancient cultures actually participating in the global discourse as we shape our new Century.  I, for one, welcome the new faces into the global--the human--community.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“The King’s Speech" or “The Social Network”?

I saw “The Social Network” under the most modern of circumstances:  quite literally under threat of Oscar’s legal wrath should the Motion Picture Academy DVD I was loaned fall into the wrong hands.  Several run-throughs assured me that the film was as good as I thought it was on first viewing.  So very “now”!  Such a testament to these early 21st Century times, and on so many levels.  I loved it.

Then last night, I saw “The King’s Speech” in equally special circumstances:  as the guest of my friend Ed Voralik who works at the theater where we watched the movie together.  Another excellent film.  In every way as representative of its time as “Social Network” is about the here and now.  Both address the challenges of a new technology:  radio in the 1920s, and the Internet today.

More broadly, these films also deal with social mores; and most interesting to me, the language of very different times.  In “Social Network”, it was the style of language that so nailed its present-day timeliness; no less so than the “king’s English” grounded “The King’s Speech” in its era.  From the value placed—-the savoring!-—of elegant phrasing, to the colorless mumbles and tweets of today....what opposing bookends to illuminate the arc of social style spanning our parent’s generation to the present one.

It wasn’t until I lived in London in the mid-1970s—and especially working at that most British of institutions, Harrods (said with rolled Rs!) for over two years—that I began to value the English language as a means of beautiful expression, more than the very American functionality of simply getting from A to B.  I discovered that language could be about the journey, not just the destination. 

If movies are meant to be entertainment, allow me the analogy of snack food.  “The Social Network” is pizza & beer---delivered.  “The King’s Speech” is rich chocolate purchased at a century-old English sweet shop.  Both can save the day, for sure; but they reference more than just taste.  The difference also highlights a fast-disappearing grace and style, which I vote to remember by honoring “The King’s Speech” with the Oscar…..I’m just saying.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's hard not to be inspired...

I keep coming back to the upheavals in Egypt.  As someone pointed out, what we're NOT seeing are cries of "Jihad" or "Death to America".  Those people protesting in the streets simply want their human dignity back.  They want freedom to choose their destiny, which means no more dictator, and no more thugs imposing "security".  The more people rally, the harsher the spotlight focuses on all that's wrong with the political status quo in Egypt, AND the forces which have maintained these policies--and, yes, that includes our own actions in the Middle East as well as many other places.

"Egyptians will decide...not the U.S." said one protester's sign.  And we are slightly jolted with the "affront" of this sentiment.  Why?  Because we're so used to dictating the terms.  We've been doing it the world over for one hundred years.  We, of course, frame our actions as benevolent.  What aggressor ever identifies himself as anything other than a "defender"?  Think about that.

Aggression need not only be militarily.  Of course, we have the muscle (and sadly, the stomach) for that, having "defended" ourselves brutally in Iraq and Vietnam to name but two places. (And to what end?)  Aggressive policies can also be implemented using money and business to cause a more pernicious kind of creeping violence--what Gandhi called the violence of poverty.  To that end, in countries throughout the world we cannot deny our complicity (think Haiti, or Central and South America).  One whiff of populism--asking for simple fairness!--is stamped out with cruel force.  Clearly, these policies are not the way to peace.  Quite the opposite....obviously.

Only policies with peace--not just financial stability, but true peace--as the primary goal will lead to peace.  Hating war will not lead to peace.  Loving peace WILL beget peace.  Let's consider the ramifications of peace as it affects the individual--not the state--first.  When we, as a race, finally see that what we're doing politically, militarily, financially and ecologically is NOT the road to the peace we say we want, then considering peace will be our only option.  Why wait until it's our last??

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quoting Former H&G Editor Dominique Browning...

An excerpt (slightly edited) from the former "House & Garden" editor's blog "Slow Love Life" (dot com)...a very good read:

"There is nothing to say about the extreme poverty of India--and its contrast to extreme wealth--that has not been said a thousand times over the centuries. I have nothing to add to the conversation about it. But I am somehow honor bound to bear witness. Nothing--no book, no article, no warning--could have prepared me for the shock. Three hundred million people living without access to electricity, or clean running water to drink, much less for plumbing. Think of the millions of gallons of clean water used to flush toilets in middle class homes; our waste get better treatment than do millions of people.

"While I was watching the sunrise over the Taj Mahal, my gaze kept returning to the men shitting in the open field--it took me a long time to understand what I was seeing. I kept wondering, where are the women? A few days later, I happened to meet someone whose husband, she told me, is “obsessed with the subject of waste treatment.” I learn that the women shit only at night, under cover of darkness. The chronic diarrhea that plagues the poor is not just a health issue for women; it causes a terrible social stigma as well.

"There is no way to be hard-hearted about enormous poverty, yet it is equally impossible to be always heart-broken. We need, perhaps, soft hearts, hard eyes--a clear gaze? We see how environmental degradation plays out: who gets the clean water and filtered air; who lives under the belching smokestacks and bathes in the sewage.

"India and the United States are brimming, booming, beautiful countries. We have a choice about how we will go on living: up to our eyeballs in shit? Or cleaning up the mess we’re all making."

Enough said, no?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Time to Clean House

Someone asked what I meant by “cleaning house”? In the context of these writings, it sounds like a pretty “sweeping” call to arms, and I guess it is…albeit peacefully. But let me explain.

When we decide to change houses, it becomes a time to assess things. Re-evaluate. Decide what will, and will not work in a new space. The old couch may just be wrong in the new living room. Out! What about that treasured heirloom? No need to disrespect it, but maybe put it in a private place as a valued memory. Certainly, it’s time to look around for a few new things.

Are you getting the picture? Some of what we’ve been holding onto as a race…well, we’ve got our house backed up so badly we’re choking on the mess. In fact it’s killing us…that is, if we don’t kill each other first. It’s even gotten beyond saying things are “right” or “wrong”, ‘cause even that argument will kill us eventually. No, what we’re doing—politically, socially, ecologically, financially, even religiously—is simply not working. Not if we want to get to that place of do-unto-others mutual respect which truly IS sustainable. It’s not only time to clean house; it’s time to move!

So, what to put into that metaphorical new house--the beautiful world we long for? What one-size-fits-all kind of basic thing will actually work that embraces everyone’s individuality and still makes us want to get along? What is a fundamental belief so all-inclusive, so obvious that we can all actually agree on it? Something that will work with us; that will adapt and function to be sustainable as we go forward?

Well, folks, it’s simple and it’s “sweeping”: We’re all One. If we get our heads around that and act accordingly, we will change the world…naturally! Let me add, too, that I’m not suggesting any kind of uniformity. Quite the opposite. The beautiful and amazing part about Life is that its parts are not the same, and never will be. Change and diversity are the very Process itself! But we are all individuations of that One Thing called Life. We’re as one with the stars as our eyes are with sight, and our fingers are with touching. And we’re all One with each other. To the extent that we resist this innate fact (of life!), we’ll have the accumulating mess we’ve got right now. Consider peace. It’s so simple.