IT MUST NEVER BE OVER!

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A complaint you hear far too often these days implores us all to stop posting “political garbage” and get over a presidential election heavily influenced by a foreign power, a derelict Fourth Estate, timely interference by our own Director of the FBI, swayed by hyper-partisan agitprop manufactured, perpetuated and espoused by a profoundly unstable autocrat and his team of professional propagandists.

What exactly would you like us to get over and move on with?

Firstly, such a misbegotten plea requires some serious self-examination. What exactly bothers you about your fellow countrymen, a majority of whom voted against the president-elect for very sound, reasoned and historically informed purposes?

Psychologically, the complainant first bears the responsibility of self-examination. What precisely are you demanding, and why? Indeed, the sweeping demand you’re making reveals more about yourself than those you would stifle.

The truth is those of us who persist, resist, protest and dissent perceive a travestying injustice has occurred. Do you expect us to gloss over these evidence-based convictions simply because you’re fatigued or oblivious to them? In other words, you have acquiesced for personal reasons, and now foolishly, and, I must say, rather solipsistically suggest the uniform response for all of us.

If little else this attitude reveals a truly vulgar understanding of what a democratic republic is about. IT, however you intend for us to get OVER, is NEVER OVER. It will never be over! It must never be over, lest we die as a democracy, republic and sovereign nation.

Did Carrie Fisher Play the First Truly Kickass Princess?

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It might be a little too simple to credit Carrie Fisher with such a total sea change and view it more as a milestone in a continuum of progress. The reality was that women were changing across the cultural divide, and subsequently, so too, were attitudes about women and women’s roles in films. A whole slew of young filmmakers were emerging from Sixties and early Seventies influences and universities (Milius, Kasdan, Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, Zemeckis, Spielberg, and, notably, James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow ) and they were more interested in playing with archetypes than stereotypes – hence the anti-type casting of a deep-voiced no nonsense Leia.

Certainly, Ms. Fisher was no slouch. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds had pioneered and achieved a kind of balance between America’s kid sister and the tough talking Unsinkable Molly Brown. Likewise, so too, did, Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda and even Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark offer fuller and more syncretically complex male/female or feminist protagonists.

In a story meeting at Lightstorm Entertainment Larry Kasanoff told me outright he and James Cameron had no interest in doing stories with male protagonists. Compare that to former Warner Bros. production chief, Jeff Robinov and his “…no more female lead characters” edict in 2007.

Carrie Fisher played the first truly kickass princess http://ti.me/2huwq7p

How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them?

scam-artists-dtFor me, the bigger issue is the growing numbers of American fellaheen in the 21st century. Having recently spent four years in the Midwest I found these folks to be intellectually isolated and culturally balkanized from more current scholarship and information trends.

Oh yeah, they’re all up on the latest technology, model cars, music, movies, and TV shows, but when push comes to shove their entire worldview is a weirdly antiquated hybrid of Iron Age Manichaean constructs of fact v fantasy, science v religion, black v white, good v evil, theism v atheism, right v wrong and Liberal v Conservatives.

There is an average of at least 20 denominations of Christianity in these relatively small, mostly white, communities, and they all pretty much adhere to the same fairy tale construct of a 2,000 year-old Rabbi from Outer space who devised a means to come to earth, have himself brutally murdered so he could save the world from a 6,000 year old curse levied by himself, but disguised as his own son.

Now, statistics show that 140,000,000 of these fellaheen believe this self same ancient Space Rabbi will return within the next fifty years or so.

Oh, and FYI, 129,000,000 Americans voted in 2016.

I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of reminded of what David Hunnam once said about P.T. Barnum and a sucker being born every minute. Are these people truly likely to realize they’ve been conned? I’m not so sure.

How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them? http://wpo.st/I3kL2scam-artists-dt

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!

ON PRAYER: The Imaginist Sermon of the Day

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1. What you consider to be the Bible (presumably OT and NT) contains many so-called “commands” you arbitrarily choose not to obey, e.g. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (Leviticus 19:19). So simply because, ” the Bible commands it” [prayer] is not a terribly definitive answer.

2.) Assuming his teachings are authentic (big leap!) Jesus did not believe in germ theory nor in the washing of one’s hands (Matthew 15:11). He believed “devils” caused illness, and magical poles could cure snakebites by gazing upon them (Jn 3:14). So there’s no superseding reason to believe the act of prayer is any more veridical than his other teachings.

In today’s science we know magical incantations, repeated babble and spontaneous prayer have no impact or interaction with physical reality other than perhaps some assuaging psychological benefit for the supplicant. In essence, the only effect prayer has is on the prayerful and no one else.

Science does show that what we call prayer is actually a side-effect of a suite of cognitive mechanisms adapted for other purposes (Dennett).

The human brain is hardwired to engage in imagined one-sided conversations with all manner of inanimate traffic signals, supernatural forces, parents, adversaries, loved ones, phantoms, and even celebrities. As the famous movie line goes (The Sixth Sense): We talk to dead people! (Or at least imaginary ones)

So prayer is nothing more than a ritualized formal agreement to direct primitive neurological processes towards a cherished archetype as a coping mechanism with no empirical evidence of efficacy proven otherwise.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: Tarzan, Rick Deckard, Roy Batty and Jerry Weintraub:

tv-tarzan-marathonI haven’t seen it as yet, but just reading some of the reviews I was reminded of an article by Michael Kinsley where he referred to Al Gore as “…an old person’s idea of a young person”. I had the same reaction to Ron Howard’s disappointing production of In The Heart of the Sea and had similar problems with a proposed adaptation of Moby Dick I was hired for.

There are just some ideas, mores, themes and genres that are defined by a certain time and culture with a very definite shelf life and cannot hold up to a remake without major surgery. Surgery, which in some cases would destroy or completely alter the original story. With Moby Dick I found that the wholesale slaughter of whales to be so repugnant to today’s audiences it would be extremely hard to create the kind of classic protagonist today’s audiences demand. As great as the Ray Bradbury/John Huston film was, it was not a natural adaptation. The process reminded me of what Robert McKee used to say about Bladerunner’s Rick Deckard character as “not possessing the center of goodness” and thus suffered from a misplaced Protagonist/antagonist plot structure. In many ways Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer)was a much better human than Deckard.

This latest Tarzan was the swan song of the late Jerry Weintraub whose first choice for the role was Olympic champion Michael Phelps for the old Johnny Weissmuller role– that is until he saw Phelps act. In hindsight, it might have been better had Jerry realized then and there that today’s movie theaters have changed and are no longer welcoming Countries for Old Men…

What is the Value of a Mythological Notion or Misbelief?

Mattheus_van_Hellemont_The_AlchemistAs a screenwriter, I am fascinated by how susceptible we humans are to misbelief, superstition, and myth, I am reminded (daily) that we are now firmly in the fever pitch of mass mythologization and anathematization.

We’ve reached Gladwell’s Tipping Point and are through the looking glass in a dysmorphic, hyper-politicized realm of sinners and saints, demons and angels, and heaven and hell.

As with the most virulent beliefs there is an element of anosognosia to it. As Dan Dennett explains, “If some (beliefs) are culturally evolved parasites, we can expect them to be insidiously well designed to conceal their true nature from their hosts, since this is an adaptation that would further their own spread.”

In other words, one of the more insidious aspects of belief affliction is the afflicted one is typically the last one to know it. We see a lot of this today with the epidemic spread of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In fact, one of the principle reasons we form identity-protecting group beliefs or ad populum congregations is to publicly reinforce the veracity of the fiction, even when it defies all logic and reason.

Is it reasonable to believe that the Supreme Creator of the Universe, presumably the greatest physicist and mathematician ever to exist, would contrive to incarnate as his own son and have himself brutally slaughtered in order to save his beloved creation from the 6,000 year-old curse of his own making?

Of course not, and yet as a world superpower in the 21st century we would be hard-pressed to elect a leader who openly questioned it.

Malcolm Gladwell describes the virulent nature of mass belief this way: “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

In Aristotelian terms, be it Sophocles, or Mad Max: Fury Road, we gather in a confined arena (movie theater) to willfully (or perhaps autonomically) suspend disbelief and join in on the confrontational, and climactic catharsis (katharsis) to come.

According to the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his 1817 “Biographia Literaria”: We are mandated… “to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment…”

Such is the nature of the human brain.

As, Virginia Woolf once wrote, “Love is a story we tell ourselves about someone else”.

We humans are prolific, if not, pathological storytellers, biologically destined to seek out phantoms and patterns where none exist, and make up shit about it:
We superimpose a human face on the Moon and weave a tale about an omniscient heavenly being overseeing our actions and deeds.

Of course, in our most primitive beguilements it didn’t hurt that said “White Goddess” also controlled the crops, tides and women’s menstrual cycles and spectacularly transformed into cow horns every month. (Etymologically we derive our words moon, month, menstrual, man and woman from the Sanskrit root “me”)

We see the pareidoliac image of a bearded face on a cheese sandwich and claim it to be that of Jesus– even when no physical description of Jesus is put forth from either Paul’s earliest Epistles or the Synoptic Gospels. (Apologist references to Josephus’ is widely considered a forgery of Eusebius, the Fourth Century “Father of Church History”)

So where does that leave us?

Should we continue to indulge these primitive Bronze age misbeliefs, or do we confront them?

With all the solace that religious beliefs bring, and much of the good they aspire to all over the world, what to speak of the ingenious art, music and architecture they have inspired, why not simply let them die out on their own?

Isn’t this what happened to the all the ten thousand other gods, goddesses and beliefs from antiquity?

I suspect these are questions we all need to ask whether it is our own impassioned political notions or habituated ideas about morality, creation and the meaning of existence.

As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Symbol without Meaning:

“Let us ask, therefore: What can the value or meaning be of a mythological notion which, in the light of modern science, must be said to be erroneous, philosophically false, absurd, or even formally insane? The first answer suggested will no doubt be the one that, in the course of the past century, has been offered many times by our leading thinkers. The value, namely, is to be studied rather as a function of psychology and sociology than as a refuted system of positivistic science, rather in terms of certain effects worked by the symbols on the character of the individual and the structure of society than in terms of their obvious incongruity as an image of the cosmos. Their value, in other words, is not that of science but of art: and just as art may be studied psychologically, as symbolic or symptomatic of the strains and structures of the psyche, so may the archetypes of myth, fairy tale, archaic philosophy, cosmology, and metaphysics.”