MICHAEL CHASE WALKER WINS GEORGE RR MARTIN SCREENWRITING AWARD

MICHAEL CHASE WALKER IS RECIPIENT OF THE COVETED 2016 GEORGE RR MARTIN SCREENWRITING AWARD

14991179_1160320370670608_2778740851033389402_oThe New Mexico Film Foundation is proud to announce the winner of our 2016 George RR Martin Screenwriting grant. Congratulations to Michael Chase Walker. Look for a presentation by George RR Martin and a stage reading of last year’s winner Jocelyn Jansons in early January.

Our runners up were;

Mary Haarmeyer, Kirt Bozeman, John M. Broadhead, Regina Scherffius, Marina Ashrei Victoria Giorgii, Kristin Goodman and Cathy Weber. Congratulations to them as well.

And a big shout out to our judges; Terry Borst, Donald Davenport, Scotty Nërdräge and Ginny Cerella.

MY RESPONSE:

Thank you, Dirk, and thank you, judges! I’ve served at the screenwriting bench many times and I know how hard your task can be. It is an incredible honor and I am thrilled. Moreover, I am in awe of our own resident genius and raconteur supreme, George RR Martin. Every year, I marvel at George’s mastery at having fashioned the greatest televised cinematic event in history. I don’t think I’ve ever read or watched more stunning character arcs so deftly drawn since the works of our earliest literary masters. To receive this acknowledgment associated with his name makes all those years of lonely, nail-biting, deprivation and hard work worth the endeavor.

I was first inspired to write scripts at an Academy lecture by Larry Kasdan. Years later, dead broke, and going through a divorce, I ran into him at a Wrap party in Santa Fe (Wyatt Earp). I told him how he had inspired me to write and thanked him for ruining my life. He laughed, patted me on the back and asked, are you going to quit? Nope!

Thank you, George. Thank you NMFF. Thank you, Dirk Norris, you are a great credit to NMFF, and thank you, judges!

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HARVEYWOOD BABYLON, OH PULEEZE!

Harveywood Babylon

My how the schadenfreude flies this time of year, and, true to form, Ross Douthat of the NYT piles on with his own eye-rolling holier-than-thou altar boy casuistry (zzzz). I knew both Harvey and Bob professionally and socially. They were talented and ambitious Kashrut observant Jews from Buffalo, New York who would take their family-owned independent movie theater, Miramax, named for their beloved mother and father, and turn it into a prestigious Oscar winning television and motion picture distribution and production behemoth. 

The Hollywood they arrived and thrived in during the Eighties had come a long way since the days of Darryl Zanuck’s hidden pied-à-terre behind his palatial office suite at 20th Century Fox. (Although David Letterman supposedly had a similar set-up.) It was widely accepted the entire studio would shut down daily at four o’clock to accommodate the studio boss’s penchant for ordering the latest starlet du jour off the set like a Blue Plate special.The same Darryl Zanuck who trawled the Madonna Inn on weekends with his pal Sydney Chaplin (Charley’s older brother) to see how many brides they could bed before or after their nuptial vows. 

While it wasn’t exactly Hollywood Babylon on the level of Errol Flynn class debauchery, or even superstar heartthrob Montgomery Clift, who patronized a gay necrophilic prostitution ring run out of the back of a funeral home, it was still a time of Don Simpson mania, cocaine-fueled casting couches, escort services, and brazen star-fuckery where the mere flash of a DGA card was considered a sure thing on a Saturday night. It was a Hollywood characterized by Joe Barbera of Hanna Barbera, who, when told he would soon lose his entire Ink and Paint Department of young girls to computerized animation quipped, “How will anyone get laid anymore?”

It was a time when Dawn Steele,  the bawdy, ballsy and ribald President of Paramount Pictures proudly displayed a lobby card movie poster in her office signed by Jim Abrams and the Zucker Bros. thanking her for “sleeping with them from the very beginning.” Dawn rose through the ranks of Paramount merchandising after finding fame and fortune printing the Bible on novelty rolls of toilet paper.  Jeffrey Katzenberg said of her, “She was highly opinionated, extremely self-confident, had a fantastic sense of humor and was someone of enormous style and taste.”

Nora Ephron, the writer, who Dawn gave her first directorial job said, ”Dawn certainly wasn’t the first woman to become powerful in Hollywood, but she was the first woman to understand that part of her responsibility was to make sure that eventually there were lots of other powerful women.”

Hollywood is an industry driven by sex and power,  on and off the screen, but to single out Harvey Weinstein as a “pig” and a pariah is as histrionic and specious as Captain Renault’s shock to ‘find gambling going on’ at Rick’s Cafe. The exploitation of women, or anyone, is ugly, despicable and reprehensible. While there is no excuse for it  there is a psychological, historical and even cultural context that should not be swept aside by the hysterical historical revisionists as they rush to tar and feather Harvey as some aberrant monster. For chrissakes, did they even watch one fucking episode of Mad Men? If Harvey’s Icarusian downfall hastens the demise of sexual harassment in Hollywood, great! But,  please, let’s keep it in perspective. 

The Pigs of Liberalism https://nyti.ms/2yPv7nV

On Hef’s Passing: The End of an Era and Icon

Eldon Didini

On Hef’s Passing: The End of an Era and Icon

Hef came of age during WW ll when many young men went off to war with the hope of saving the world, bolstered by their haunting reminiscences and longings of small town first loves, movie star pinup girls and the heady promise of French stockings, Belgian farm girls, foreign brothels, star crossed love affairs and one night stands. They returned with a hard earned, hard edged testosterone-driven ethos of ‘Save the World and Get Laid’ as their unspoken reward. 

The America they returned to had changed as well, and that seismic cultural shift was reflected in the popular books and movies of Ian Fleming and his glamorous, galavanting, globe-trotting super spy James Bond, Jack Kennedy in the White House, and to no lesser extent, the early 1953 appearance of Playboy Magazine at the local corner drug store magazine rack. 

The war had come home, but the battlefield shifted from the European theater to Publisher’s row, Television City, Madison Ave. Hollywood, Big Corporation and ultimately mass social and cultural revolution. We still experience vestiges of that dying ethos in the antics of aging Baby Boomer political leaders, the comeuppance of ‘has been’ comedians, scandalized celebrities, and corporate dinosaurs like Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, (and, apparently, most of Fox News), but it is fast going the way of the Woolly Mammoth, WW ll, Playboy Magazine, and now, Hef himself. It’s been a helluva ride! 

Hefner’s first wife CHEATED on him – a betrayal which spawned Playboy lifestyle https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4565862/hugh-hefners-first-wife-cheated-playboy/

TO BELIEVE, OR NOT BELIEVE: THAT IS THE QUESTION

zeusthechariotofzeusfroman1879storiesfromthegreektragediansbyalfredchurchpubdomainwikimediacommons

TO BELIEVE, OR NOT BELIEVE: THAT IS THE QUESTION:

This appears to be an amalgam of old science, and seems to trip over itself in its specific definiens of both religion and belief. While, it is true that believers maintain that humans are hardwired for both, we also know that these are the filters through which the religious-minded believer perceives everything. In other words, they believe, and therefore assume everyone else does in some form or another. (Identify-Protective Reasoning, Dan Kahan, Yale Cognition Project, Sherman and Cohen)

It is also true that while some self-declared “atheists” pronounce themselves to be non-believers they are especially prone to other types of superstitious, magical and paralogical thinking. They don’t believe in a god, per se, but believe in a myriad of substitutes without question. Ostensibly, they are still programmed, they just substitute it with another false epistemology.

New science, or neuroscience according to Dennett and McKay, Thomson, Peter Boghossian, etc. very precisely respond with the latest evidence that humans are not predisposed to either belief or religion, rather they are in fact hardwired for “misbelief”, and that is the crux of the matter and a very intriguing distinction.

As Dennett and McKay write in their excellent essay, The Evolution of Misbelief:

“Other approaches notwithstanding, the currently dominant evolutionary perspective on religion (morality) remains a by-product perspective. On this view, supernatural misbeliefs are side-effects of a suite of cognitive mechanisms adapted for other purposes. Such mechanisms render us hyperactive agency detectors, promiscuous teleologists, and intuitive dualists; collectively and incidentally, they predispose us to develop religious beliefs– or at least they facilitate the acquisition of such beliefs.”

Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion

http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/disbelieve-it-or-not-ancient-history-suggests-that-atheism-is-as-natural-to-humans-as-religion

A Primer for the Parents and Children of Reason in the Modern Age

creation_of_man_prometheus_berthelemy_louvre_inv20043_n2-1

This may seem presumptuous of me, but I felt inspired to compose this for those who face the daunting task of raising a child of reason in a very difficult and confused age.

Or, as Joseph Campbell wrote in Primitive Mythology: “For surely it is folly to preach to children who will be riding rockets to the moon a morality and cosmology based on concepts of the Good Society and of man’s place in nature that were coined before the harnessing of the horse! And the world now is far too small, and men’s stake in sanity too great, for any of these old games of Chosen Folk ( whether of Jehovah, Allah, Wotan, Manu or the Devil) by which tribesmen were sustained against their enemies in the days when the serpent could talk.” (Toward a Natural History of the Gods)

Dearest Child, there will come a day when it will be our responsibility to discuss with you in detail the nature of human mythology, religion and our infinite capacity to create stories, and sometimes, perhaps, many times, we are genetically, socially and familially compelled to believe them. It is the way humans have bonded and survived for hundreds of thousands of years.

While other species have “closed” nervous systems and pass on their vital information through their genes, natural instincts, and behavior, homo sapiens have uniquely adapted “open” nervous systems where we pass on survival information by perceiving patterns in the stars, fire, tea leaves, animal intestines, acts of nature, and random events, and weave marvelous tales around them through our rituals, stories, costumes, dances, superstitions, and song.

The great ethnologist Leo Frobenius described this process as “paideuma”. Philosophers call it teleology, and neuroscientists know it as H.A.A.D or Hyper Active Agency Detection. We experience this everyday through another cognitive mechanism known as Pareidolia, or the innate ability to see faces in the moon, a tree, the sky, a mountain, or even a burnt tortilla. Many people today will see a holy visage in a cheese sandwich and believe it to be a miracle or manifestation of a god, saint, or beloved ancestor. They call them “signs”.

Most of our modern religions attest to this as the groundwork for all of them was laid tens of thousands of years ago in the human brain and developed over time by priests, kings, scribes, tribal shamans and sacred texts. Today, we call them religions.

Another name assigned to that process of creative adaptation, revisionism, syncretism, interpolation and fabrication is called theology. The purpose of theology is to constantly improve upon and update the various canons, dogmas, and logical holes in a doctrine, and apply its own “spin” on any countermanding argument that questions or threatens the belief. Dr. Peter Boghossian calls this “false epistemology”.

The four building blocks to ensure the success or spread of any spiritual or contrived belief system are:

1.) Create, exploit or ritualize an individual or group experience of awe, otherwise known as the Mysterium Tremendum.

2.) Invent a cosmology that explains how the universe was created and humans came into being.

3.) Mythologize or lionize a legendary figure, be they a king, magus, hero, savior, military leader or world teacher and endow them with magical abilities who, in turn, passes down or imparts:

4.) A social system of codes, mores and parables that initiate an individual into a particular belief system, while often demonizing those who reject it.

Throughout the history of humankind there have been tens of thousands of gods, goddesses, messiahs, saviors and holy ones and all of them have passed on into the realm of myth, mnemohistory and tradition.

We name the days of the week after a few of these extinct gods and goddesses of yore: Monday for Mani, the moon god, Tuesday, after Tir, or Mars, the god of war, Wednesday takes its name from Wotan, or Odin, Thursday from the Norse god Thor, Friday, from the Germanic Celtic Roman goddess of love (Venus), Frīġedæġ, or Frigg. Saturday, from the ancient god Saturn, and, alas, Sunday from the Sun god also known as Sol.

In modern times we meet many intelligent, and some not so intelligent people, who embrace the doctrines of a religion, as well as some fundamentalists and fanatics who cannot imagine or conceive of any truth outside of their ingrained belief system. We call them theists or religionists, or according to their own brand of belief, be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and a thousand other denominations and nomenclatures.

We also meet a growing number of equally intelligent men and women who have studied the evolution of misbelief, mythology, neuroscience, anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary psychology, quantum theory, physics, empirical evidence, comparative religion and science who understand the natural origins of belief, and see no evidence or need for these old Bronze and Iron age gods and their doctrines. We know them today as agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and skeptics.

They still experience awe and mystery, gratitude, morality and compassion but they do not assign it to any particular god or religion, but only to the natural evolution of the human species, and its necessity to communicate, socialize and advance through knowledge and education. Many of these people still celebrate the traditions of the world religions like Chanukah, Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, or Diwali, etc. but they do so knowing they are ancient traditions, customs and rituals, and not exclusive objective truths for all humankind.

In the end, dear child, it is good and proper to question everything, be it Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or even Jesus, Moses and Mohammed.

As Thomas Jefferson, one of the great founders of our country once wrote: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.” (letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787)

Etymology and Evolution of Atheism

atheism-vs-agnosticism

Certainly, it is a valid and noble attempt to specify the various definiens, but we mustn’t lose perspective that as new information, research and advancements congeal, the ‘God of the Gaps’ narrows to near improbability and even impossibility.

The Standard Model of Particles and Quantum Theory (Sean Carroll) put forth very strong evidence against an intervening “supernatural force” operating and interacting undetected within the natural universe, and conversely, the endless teleological theological spin of religious pseudoscientists and apologists becomes increasingly exposed as utter nonsense- the equivalence of the endlessly desperate antics of an eight year-old, or psychopath, caught in a lie.

In the words of the psychiatrist, Dr. Anderson Thomson “We are getting tantalizingly close to a comprehensive cognitive neuroscience of religious belief. Robust Theories. Empirical evidence.” (Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith Pitchstone Publishing (June 1, 2011)

It is time we devise more bold and contemporary definitions for all forms of atheism. If theology, according to Dr. Peter Boghossian, is indeed, “false epistemology”, it is fair and about time we upgrade and describe atheism for what it truly is: a multi-disciplinary and evidence-based form of scientific methodology.

Atheism vs Agnosticism: What is the difference?  http://bit.ly/1dBKPb9 via @AtheistRepublic

 

 

Religion or Myth: Good Apples and Bad Ones. Who Gets to Decide?

good-apples

 

If you’ll forgive me, John, the good apple/bad apple analogy is a bit simple. We’re so much beyond that right now. As someone alluded to with his meme, it’s not simply a matter of branding, but an endemic ideological virus that is seeded in Christian doctrine and dogma and fueled by Balkanized pockets of increasing fundamentalism and fanaticism taking root throughout the country.

Calling oneself a Christian means very little anymore because the label is so diverse, generic and all encompassing as to be rendered practically meaningless to anyone but an individual’s specific definiens.

Perhaps, in the same way that an Anglican Bishop and Peruvian shaman might nod their heads in agreement of G-d’s existence, but when you break it down they are talking about completely different concepts.

We might look at it in the way that most moderate Muslims regard their more malignant branches and ideologies. We can argue about the historical differences and doctrinal roots of such malignancies, but the one thing they share in common with Christian extremism is they are both born out of a gradual usurpation and suppression of liberal education, science and religious tolerance.

Islam itself flourished from the 8th Century to the 13th, even to the point of surpassing Western civilization in its advancements of art, architecture, science, and medicine until the dark day Hamid al Ghazali (1058-1111) declared:

“Scientific deduction is the work of Satan”, and the Word of God in the Qur’an was the only source and vehicle of truth. Scientific thought leads to “loss of belief in the origin of the world and in its creator.”

(How the decline of Muslim scientific thought still haunts http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/how-the-decline-of-muslim-scientific-thought-still-haunts via @TheNationalUAE )

“And thus, the authority of the general community, the Sunna, (consensus) which Mohammed the Prophet had declared would always be right– cracked down. And so it was that, just when the light of Greek learning was beginning to be carried from Islam to Europe- from circa 1100 onward- Islamic science and medicine came to a standstill and went dead.”

(Excerpted from Joseph Campbell’s Lecture “The Impact of Science on Myth” at the Great Hall of The Cooper Union Forum)

This is going on right now in vast portions of our country where fanatical Christian doctrinaires are taking over local school systems, regional, state, and now, the federal, Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches of government.

So, to follow your analogy one might be a good apple or a bad apple Christian, but in a democratic republic threatened by religious extremism who gets to decide which is which?

Bridging the Divide

bridge-divide-690x300

Having spent a few years in the Midwest recently the problem is much more complex than mere politics. While the denizens there enjoy all the modern amenities of technology: cell phones, computers, cars, television etc., their world view is still very much centered on an intractable and widely-shared fundamental belief that this “6,000 year old” planet was created by an invisible theocrat whose principal adversary works through science, progress, intelligence, education, reason, culture, and, yes, even women’s reproductive organs to undermine, thwart and depose His absolute authority and dominion over all.

While there are many denominations and subtle differences between these closed doxastic cults, the underlying mind-set for the majority of these fellaheen is that this life, our deaths and afterlife will continue on into a Manichaeans structured tyranny for eternity.

If you have even a modest understanding of history, government and politics, Heaven and Hell pretty much host the same type of slavery and uniformity — only in different climates.

Essentially, this parochial worldview has been nurtured, accredited, cultivated, promoted and institutionalized on every church corner and religious school in every tiny village throughout the country for centuries.

Moreover, anyone who tries to intervene is demonized, ostracized and must be shunned, because they have socially and individually immunized themselves from reasonable argument and logic. They will not, cannot, nor even approach an ideological detente with us, because to do so severely threatens their entire personal identity, as well as their social standing from here to eternity. It would be existential suicide.

Ultimately, this is what we’re up against when we propose repairing the divide. It won’t happen and can never happen until we asseverate and demand that the freedom to practice religion is not an absolute right to legislate and instruct ignorance, intolerance or an ideology or spiritual slavery that is antithetical to our country’s founding principles.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
― Isaac Asimov

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/the-dark-rigidity-of-fundamentalist-rural-america-a-view-from-the-inside/#.WIOJ65qq6ls.twitter

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” 

― Isaac Asimov

The dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America: a view from the inside

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/the-dark-rigidity-of-fundamentalist-rural-america-a-view-from-the-inside/#.WIOJ65qq6ls.twitter