Archive for the ‘Reality’ Category

Joan Rivers, we’re so sorry

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

 

(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

(UPDATE: Very sad to see Joan passed away September 4, 2014, but I stick by this story as I know one tough and funny broad would appreciate)

Dear Joan,

Remember this letter in the Los Angeles Times Calendar section for June 17, 1984:

HERE’S JOANY

When is NBC going to wake up and give Joan Rivers her own late night talk show? They don’t have to get rid of Johnny Carson – just put him on after David Letterman. Then Joan could have the best laughs, Johnny the last one, and we’d all be happy.

I was moved to write the letter because Johnny Carson’s show had been getting a little stale of late, and every time you had guest hosted, the energy lifted, the gossip barbs flew out like cluster bombs, and I was entertained.

And I guess my letter entertained you, because the day after it ran in the paper I got a phone call from your assistant in Las Vegas, where you were currently performing. The assistant said you saw the letter, were very grateful, and you wanted to personally invite me to attend your next nightclub show when you were in L.A.

Was I being punked? It turns out not. I got another call soon after saying I had been put on the V.I.P. guest list for your appearance at Carlos ‘n Charlie’s nightclub on Sunset Strip. Did I have any guests I wanted to bring? Well, my girlfriend, Danette, of course. We had been dating for a little more than a year, and wow, this would surely impress her.

We dressed in our finest 80’s nightclub wear; me in skinny tie and a textured jacket of multi-colors with the narrow lapels; my girlfriend with shoulder pads and the hair teased big.

When we arrived we were escorted to the front row of the club, just like the scene in Goodfellas where Ray and his main squeeze get the V.I.P. treatment. And for the next hour or so we heard you call every famous woman on the planet a ‘bitch,’ with scathing tales of venom, spite, gossip, and frankly, hilarity. Kathy Griffin owes everything in her act to you. Donald Rickles, who also knocked celebrities down to size in his act, was tame by comparison. He only called them ‘hockey pucks.’ You wielded the “B” word like a light saber. And we laughed our asses off. Or maybe we just felt compelled, since we were so conspicuous in the front row.

The show ended and, sure enough, we were invited backstage to meet you. You didn’t even wait for us to get to your dressing room. You came charging out of the room with a big smile on your face and your hand extended in generous friendship.

And that’s when it happened.

My girlfriend fired the “B” word right back at you.

“There’s the BITCH,” Danette loudly announced as you approached. I guess I forgot to mention that she was an actress, had just watched your act for an hour and a half, and probably wanted in on the fun and was playing it back to you. Don’t they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery?

But it was something you definitely didn’t expect, and you stopped cold in your tracks like a mime hitting an invisible wall. Your smile disappeared. Your extended hand drooped faster than a granny tit from an unhooked bra. There was what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence.

But you’re a professional, and it took you only a few more moments to recover, put the hand up again and address me with gratitude.

“I read you letter in the Calendar,” you said, “And you made this old broad very happy.”

I don’t remember much past that. I’m sure you looked at Danette and shook her hand and tried to say something pleasant. But the bloom was off the rose. It was obvious at this point we weren’t going to be invited to party on any further that night with you or your entourage at the Beverly Hills Jockey Club, or go for blintzes at Cantor’s Deli, or anywhere else, for that matter.

You had been bitch-blocked. You weren’t that hot on meeting us anymore.

And for that, I’m sorry. Once you got past being playfully called a ‘bitch,’ you might have found us a fun couple. We could have had a few laughs.

But I guess you didn’t have quite the sense of humor when you were given a taste of your own medicine. What’s that they say, “You can dish it out, but you can’t take it.”

So for possibly dampening your evening, and not being welcome to hang out longer, I’m sorry.

But there’s no way I’m sorry for my girlfriend calling you a ‘Bitch.”

That was classic.

I had to marry that girl.

Twenty-six years later, we’re still together, and we recently went to a Kathy Griffin concert and listened to her call every other more famous woman a ‘bitch’ for ninety minutes.

 

Despite the laughs, I won’t be writing a letter to the newspapers praising her anytime soon.

And as far as bitches go, you’ll always be our “Number One.”

— A. Wayne Carter

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James Cameron, I’m so sorry

Monday, March 18th, 2013


(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

(A true story)

Hey Jim,

It’s Wayne. Remember me? 1982. We both live in L.A. You’re just getting your feet wet as a director. I’m getting some good assignments as a screenwriter. We have the same agent … Gene L-. He’s got a one-room office on Beverly Blvd. His suit, shirt, shoes and shag carpet are still left over from the early ‘70s. He’s got no partners. No secretary. No class.

But he has us.

You are the art director on a Roger Corman sci-fi production called Battle Beyond the Stars, and you just directed your first feature called Piranha II.

I recently scripted a couple of features for National Lampoon at Universal Studios to follow up on the surprise success of their release, Animal House.

We are two rising stars.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this blog is to apologize for costing you $100,000 at this time when you really needed it.

Gene L was an agent past his prime (in Hollywood, that’s around 28), but he did get us both a feature motion picture deal on the basis of my latest spec script, and on you’re being from Canada. A Toronto-based film company was going to get $1.5 million in matching funds from the Canadian Film Development Board toward the budget of the movie partly on the basis that the picture be shot there, and the director be from there.

The deal was built around my screenplay, M-PATH. You remember that script, don’t you? It was a pretty good one.

M-PATH, or Multi-Purpose Advisor for The Home, was a story about the development of a new computer that spoke to users in a completely natural voice. A voice with empathy. Thus, the dual meaning of the title.

The hero of the movie invented the computer and was beta-testing it in a small Colorado mining town that had gone bust after the local mines dried up. The locals were desperate … desperate enough to agree to be re-trained in new economic skills, as well as to receive emotional counseling and therapy from the same home computer; M-PATH.

And the experiment works. Eventually all the test subjects in the town begin to turn their lives around with the help of the M-PATH. HE teaches them new skills. HE listens to them. HE tells them he understands them. And HE solves their problems. M-PATH is always there for them. And they become emotionally dependent on HIS presence.

M-PATH

M-PATH’s creator, Brad, of course, realizes this is a DISASTER … Human beings becoming addicted to a machine to the point where their lives are no longer private, their minds are no longer free, and their time is no longer their own? That’s not at all what he intended. It’s diabolical. But M-PATH assures everyone this is all a good thing.

So Brad tries to pull the plug on this experiment he sees as gone astray. Naturally, M-PATH won’t let him, and begins manipulating its users to block his efforts. When one of users goes too far and puts Brad in the hospital, M-PATH is already there controlling the ER. The creation has HIS own creator’s life within control.

Let’s just cut to the chase and remember the hero escapes and lives. And M-PATH? HE wins, too, by analyzing data to uncover a rich new mining source that bails the town out of its economic crisis. All is forgiven amid the flush of financial success.

The end of the script finds M-PATH being delivered to nearly every home in America. And the hero realizes you can’t stop the march of technology … even when it’s sometimes trying to kill you.

The script sealed the deal, the producers were happy, and you were happy. You saw the story somewhat as a religious metaphor, and were eager to direct the picture and add your own original touches. We both had no doubt it was going to be a blockbuster.

But you were also going through a divorce and had ended up at an apartment in the exile land of cheaper rents known as San Fernando Valley, with NO furniture and mounting financial obligations.

You could really use $100,000.

And that’s what the deal was: $100,000 for you, the director, and $50,000 for me, the screenwriter. Decent money for a low budget (under $5 million) picture at the time. Less the 10% agent fee to Gene, of course. And I would also be splitting my earnings with a friend and computer professor from USC, Buzz, who I had brought into the project as a technical consultant, but wound up giving co-writing credit to on the basis of the valuable ideas he brought to the project. We thought we were on the cutting edge. And perhaps we were right. There’s STILL no computer like M-PATH to this day.

A date was set for production of the movie in Canada

One of my spec feature scripts was going to finally get produced. I was ecstatic.

But there was one small glitch.

The producers decided they needed a more spectacular ending. One with, you know, a lot of dead bodies.

“Couldn’t M-PATH start, like, zapping people through their keyboards? Electrocuting them … Like ‘Jaws,’ the computer?”

I took one look at my esteemed computer genius writing partner … and have never witnessed someone grow so pale with horror. “Who are these … imbeciles?” his expression screamed.

“Is THIS what screenwriting is all about? Sacrificing logic and principle and originality at the drop of dime (or, in this case, $25,000)? ‘Zapping’ people? Are you shitting me? The ending we have where the computer has psychologically enslaved everyone is ten times more horrifying. You can’t get any more creepy or insidious.”

Okay, maybe this wasn’t all Buzz’s doing. Those were undoubtedly my own thoughts while staring at Buzz’s incredulous face.

So, weeks into negotiation and pre-planning and you, Jim, probably already thinking about how you were going to spend that lovely $100,000, Buzz and I backed out of the deal and walked away with our script.

And, looking back now, I really feel bad about it.

I probably didn’t need the money as much as you did at the moment. I guess I didn’t think it through. I suppose I wasn’t … empathetic. Ironic, isn’t it?

 

And we had become good friends. We shared our hopes and ambitions, and stories about our budding careers in the business. We ate breakfast routinely at the Omelette Parlor in Santa Monica. We flirted with the waitresses. We talked about all our favorite movies and television programs. We had the same all-time favorite TV show; The Outer LimitsWe were only two months apart in age. You were almost purely visual. I was all story. It was a collaborative match made in Hollywood Heaven.

And then, I fucked it up by giving our lottery ticket back.

I don’t know what came over me. Integrity? Ethics? Arrogance? Stupidity? All of the above? I guess it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I’m sorry. I know it must have seemed like a betrayal at the time, but it had nothing to do with you. It was all me, being a little selfish, and trying to show a buddy and a budding writer that we writers don’t have to compromise our principles.

I’m not apologizing because I’m in “The 12-Step Program”, or, like the character in My Name Is Earl I have a list of people I need to mend fences with to restore my good karma. Well, okay, maybe it’s a little bit of that.

But I really do mean it.

And I really did like the script you showed me when we were hanging out as friends. You were a little unsure about the writing on the script, but you had total confidence in your ‘vision’ of the script. You carried around this drawing with the script of a half-machine, half man with the top of his head and an eye and his legs blown off, dragging himself across the floor relentlessly still in pursuit of someone to kill them. You called it, The Terminator.

Whatever happened to that script?

I got frustrated with life in Hollywood after about 50 scripts written, 12 sold, and none of the major studio ones produced, and took my beautiful wife and left Hollywood forever to start a family in a normal environment somewhere else and never looked back.

But I’m still sorry about the $100,000.

And I wonder. How did things work out for you?

— A. Wayne Carter

 

 

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I think it’s gonna be a long long time

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

I live less than 50 miles from Cape Canaveral, formerly Cape Kennedy, and formerly Cape Canaveral before that.  Talk about an identity crisis.

And now it’s going through another one: What’s the mission?

This week there’s a scheduled launch of an unmanned Ares rocket, which could replace the Shuttle, now on its last scheduled flights in … well, forever. NASA has submitted several mission proposals and budgets to the government, but the government’s got its own budget problems. How can we send a spaceship to Mars when we can’t get our own Earthship in order? Why should we go back to the moon when we’ve already been there? And are we content to just send astronauts up like janitors to regularly empty the Porta Potty on the Space Station?

I find these choices and questions somewhat sad.

Fifty years ago, in 1960, I was playing with my Cape Canaveral toy set as an excitable young boy growing up in Maryland and dreaming about our great big space adventures to come. Our rival superpower, the Russians, had beaten us to space with Sputnick, and now President Kennedy was promising we would beat them to the moon within 10 years.

And, by golly, we did. In the most amazing run of technological breakthroughs, NASA team dedication, personal sacrifice, and fast track government and popular support this world has ever witnessed, we went from stranded on Earth in 1960, to stepping on the moon in 1969.

But we dreamed much bigger than that.

Our favorite prime time television cartoon at the time was The Jetsons, where a family like ours lived in a penthouse perched in the sky and traveled around in their own personal flying saucers. They also had a cool robot pet dog that fetched the newspaper. (Paper newspapers? In the future? Now that’s science fiction).

Our favorite books were science fiction treats like The Martian Chronicles and R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury, who wrote of international space travel, aliens and other worlds as if they were already here, and a natural part of our daily life experience.

We went to the movies and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, which evo-leaped us in the single tossing of a bone from raging primates to commercial
passengers on celestial spaceships waltzing through the galaxy to “The Blue Danube.”

David Bowie sang about Ground Control to Major Tom in Space Oddity, and Elton John picked up on Ray Bradbury’s working stiff astronaut theme by singing as a Rocket Man, who punched a clock and did his job five days a week, but also had time to ponder why he was, “burning out my fuse up here alone.”

Star TrekSpace 1999, and Star Wars delivered us warp speed to a time where we had so distantly moved on to exploring (and fighting with) other worlds that living on Earth wasn’t even an afterthought anymore.

And beyond going to the moon … none of these things happened.

And none of them likely ever will. At least the way we’re headed now.

It was all just a fever dream fueled by huge leaps in rocket technology, hope, and great expectations.

My childhood imagination soared on those expectations.

And now, as an adult, I don’t even want us to spend one more dime to go anywhere else in the universe. I just want us to get Earth … right. I don’t want us to burn one more drop of ultra high octane rocket fuel further depleting the ozone layer and exposing the Earth to deadlier levels of radiation. I don’t want us to send one more man or woman into space unless it’s for some reason to really help us back here on Planet Earth, today. It’s not enough to live on the fantasy of what travel through the universe can deliver us anymore. We’ve got to deliver here, first.

This isn’t some tree-hugging idealist writing.

This is … merely a realist.

A realist who doesn’t think we need to completely abandon our dream of space, but just abandon the last century’s model and method of how we get there.

The next leap in evolution could be some matter-anti-matter dylithium crystal
device breakthrough that beams us throughout the universe without burning fossil fuel or using any more precious resources, but it won’t be constructed from any blueprints left behind from the existing technology paradigm. It will be another great leap of imagination that re-invents the way we meet the stars.

You see, I’m still hopeful that we will explore the space beyond, and maybe even live there one day. But the realist in me now understands we must the find the way way out by better exploring the space within.  That’s where we’ll find even greater answers to the questions of what’s out there. That’s where the bigger mysteries wait to spark our inspiration and be revealed. And that’s where the next phase of space exploration can begin.

Maybe Cape Canaveral will still be the harbor for this new evolution and rename itself Cape Higher-Consciousness.

I can’t wait for that play set.

 

— A. Wayne Carter

 

 

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Watching Bill Maher, religiously

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

I watch Bill Maher, religiously. Every week. Like church.

He speaks truth to power in a manner so cool and rational and funny, it’s refreshing and entertaining beyond shit.

No matter who the guest or panelist is, he has a way to instantly disarm them with pure reason. It’s hard to argue when someone is brandishing the cold, hard, indisputable facts.

Unless, of course, the subject of religion comes up.

Suddenly, this cool, calculated rationalist begins ranting and raving; practically foaming at the mouth about gullibility, ignorance, stupidity and the ‘fairy tales’ of the believers.

To quote Shakespeare, “Methinks thou doth protest too much.”

How is a raving atheist spewing contempt and intolerance for believers in Jesus or any other faith any different than an evangelical Christian on the other side spewing condemnation and intolerance for heathen non-believers?

They are really mirror images of the same basic intolerance.

Who CARES what someone else believes? Nobody really knows. Why does it bug you so much, Bill? If someone wants to believe in Jesus, Mohammed, Scientology, Leprechauns, or the magic underwear of Mormonism, what’s it to you?

Sure, if someone uses religion to incite hatred and violence and war (as so often has been done throughout history, past and current), then expose it and condemn the hypocrisy of the agenda behind it. But don’t become one of them.

CNN has a religion column and 90 percent of the people who post comments to the column appear to be atheists angrily mocking or condemning the idea of faith, God, or religion. Religious columns online provoke more responses from atheists than actual followers of one faith or the other. What does this say?

Again, methinks they doth protest too much.

I have a theory that many atheists, and probably Bill Maher included, are burned believers. Why else would they get so riled up over what someone else believes?

At some time in their lives, perhaps in the early devout Catholic upbringing of the half-Jewish Bill Maher, they fervently believed in something. Maybe it was the power of prayer. Maybe it was the saving power of grace. Or maybe it was a miracle that just didn’t come through. They lost a parent or precious loved one or even a pet; the bully unjustly got away with his crime; or their parents stopped loving each other and divorced. So they threw away prayers or faith in anything beyond belief in the random cruelty or callousness of life, and embraced pure rationalism.

And now, any time someone else brings up faith or religion, it stirs their blood and those inner emotions and triggers a deep anger at something they once might have believed in and have since lost. How DARE someone else have faith in something?

It’s just a theory.

But I would also remind atheists or non-believers attempting art that almost every great masterpiece in the world of art or music was inspired by faith in something bigger than, or beyond the ego or rationalism of the artist.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (that’s Jesus in man’s ‘Joy’ there)

Mozart’s Requiem

The Beatles “Let It Be”

Michelangelo’s Pieta or David or Sistine Chapel

Even a secular artist such as Paul Simon found his greatest inspiration in gospel music when he composed, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

And what would Soul Music – think Marvin Gaye, Al Green or Otis Redding – be without the ‘soul?’ Probably just lifeless, uninspired programmed crap like the Black-Eyed Peas, “I Got a Feeling,” who’s only inspiration appears to be greed for a dance floor remix that has a shelf life about the same as milk.

John Lennon sang “imagine no religion” in his classic, “Imagine,” but he wasn’t talking about God or faith. He meant the use of religion by men as a form of control over others. And keep in mind he wrote this song after extensive experimentation in primary therapy writing cathartic songs like, “God,” and “Mother,” where he was screaming about the loss of … well, his mother. It happened when he was young. He probably prayed to have her in his life and felt betrayed. And he got angry. And later … he protested too much.

But he must have made his own peace eventually forgiving everyone else their silly beliefs in faith or God or religion or alcohol or pills or magic underwear, because one of the last NUMBER ONE hit songs he ever had was the very positive and cheerful, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”

It’s all right. It’s all right.

Here’s a simple test to determine whether you believe in some form of God or spiritual life.

Have you ever meditated? Do you believe in the power of meditation?

We’re not talking prayers. Prayer is ASKING for something from above or beyond yourself.

Meditation is LISTENING for something beyond yourself.

If you believe in the power of meditation, then you are not an atheist.

Because meditation is going within yourself to find a silence or inner peace beyond the chatter of your own mind.

It’s letting go of the ego or mask of identity you’ve created for yourself that pretends you really are separated from anyone or anything else.

It’s going within to find that inter-connectivity.

In physics, it’s called The Unified Field Theory. Everything in the universe; solid, gas, or liquid is really just dancing particles of energy suspended in space. Everything really is just ONE thing in a field or matrix.

In metaphysics, this inter-connectivity is called the Collective Unconscious, or Universal Consciousness.

In religion, followers call it God.

And to poets and dreamers, it’s called … Love.

Believe in that, Bill, and you just might find the inner peace and tolerance that evade holier-than-thou zealots who simply can’t “live and let live,” or “Believe what you want, and let believe.”

Believe in that, Bill, and you just might believe again.

I believe in you, Bill.

— A. Wayne Carter

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Predictions for 2013

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

 

Happy New Year!

Aren’t you  glad that last one is over? I know I am.

I’m also relieved to report that, despite some interpretations of the ending of the 5,000 year cycle Mayan calendar, the world did not come to an end on December 21, 2012.

However, it’s a fact the Mayan calendar NEVER actually predicted the end of civilization; it only predicted the coming of Honey Boo Boo.

Of course, most scholars say that’s the same thing.

But in the spirit of wildly speculative predictions attributed to the Mayan calendar, I hereby present MY wildly speculative predictions for 2013:

 

… Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones will join the cast of “The Walking Dead” next season… playing himself.

…It’s possible the universe WILL implode when matter and anti-matter collide in the form of Mariah Carey and Nikki Minaj working together on American Idol.

…The Supreme Court will legalize gay marriage AND marijuana, but everyone will be too stoned to remember what sex they are.

… Redskins 5,000; Patriots 50. Wait a minute, sorry about the mix up, but that’s not a prediction for the Super Bowl… that was the final score of Custer’s Last Stand.

…Dedicated doctors and research scientists will finally find a cure once and for all… for Gangnam Style.

… The world WILL come to a cruel end for teenage girls everywhere when Taylor Swift DOES NOT break up with her latest bad boy boyfriend, Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, Jr., and fails to release a new album of chirpy revenge songs.
…In a major Oscar Ballot screw-up , Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” will lose Best Picture at the Academy Awards to “Lincoln the Vampire Slayer” at the Oscars. Way to swing an ax, Abe.

… The world will be miraculously spared any more sequels to “Twilight.”

The first new gun control law will be a test for mental illness to prevent you from owning a gun. If you are a civilian and want to own an assault weapon… you are mentally ill.

And, finally.

… Zombies will invade Washington,D.C.seeking to eat the brains of our Congressmen… and will promptly starve and die. Again.

— A. Wayne Carter

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In a place called Vertigo

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

In honor of the release of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection on Blu-ray, which includes what BFI film critics now name the greatest movie every made: Vertigo (yes, move over Citizen Kane), I had the delightful experience of getting to know just what this condition is all about.

It’s your worst nightmare.

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and casually turning your head from one side on the pillow to the next, and suddenly the room, the world and everything is spinning uncontrollably around you. So violently, that just to move is to get instantly nauseated. You try to stand up, but it’s like you’re falling over and down from a great distance. You hold on to the walls just to keep from falling over. You think you’re brain is exploding. The first thing that comes to mind is that you’re having an aneurysm – some vein in your brain has popped and you must be bleeding internally. Or a tumor suddenly pushed somewhere to make its presence known. What other explanation could there be for something so shockingly horrifying? You are completely incapacitated. Just the thought of an ambulance taking you to the hospital fills you with dread. Just moving terrifies you.

So this is what happened to me, and I just remember going “Oh, God, oh God, this is bad, this is REALLY bad,” over and over again thinking the worse. And, being a writer with a vivid imagination, when we think the worse, we can REALLY think the worse. Somehow my wife got me to the ER and I’m just slumped over in a wheelchair looking like I must be tripping out of my skull, trying not to move an inch, but my eyes betray the stillness and are spinning around out of touch with where my head is.

Where’s the CT scan to confirm my worst fears? After more than an hour of hearing gagging and vomiting and crying from behind other curtains in the ER, they finally come to take me to the CT and just moving me to the table causes me to become violently nauseous. But I get through the scan – it only takes a minute or so, and I’m wheeled back to the ER, the universe still spinning around me.

An hour later the ER physician comes back, tells me all the tests were negative and it’s just a bad case of vertigo, here’s some Meclizine and your discharge papers to sign. So that’s it? That’s all modern medicine can do for one of the most terrifying things you can experience – the world spinning mad around you uncontrollably.

Yup.

You go home and collapse on the sofa and remain as motionless as possible for the next 24 hours and, mercifully, try to keep your eyes closed.

Gradually, the dizziness subsides enough that you can make a phone call, talk to friends and relatives, even glance at a website to begin to understand what’s going on.

Tiny little crystals in your inner ear called otoliths suddenly got out of place and threw off the delicate balance between what your head feels is upright and where your eyes are. These tiny little frickin’ bastard crystals have messed your world up beyond recognition. What do you do?

Go to a chiropractor and have him put you through a series of exercises to try to shift the crystals? At this point you’ll try anything.

Another long, queasy drive, and you find an empathetic ear (and one with their otoliths still in place), and he puts you through the motions. Turning your head one way makes you very dizzy. But your eyes settle down a bit. You leave somewhat better. The sheer relief of knowing you don’t have an aneurysm or brain tumor should have been enough, but you’re very greedy at this point. You want to be able to… function.

You have lousy insurance with a high deductible, but you’re so miserable, you go for the big bucks guy – the ear and balance specialist. By this time a couple days have passed and you’re almost 75% better anyway, but that’s not enough, you want the whole ball of stationary earwax.

The doctor tells you what you already know; you have Positional Vertigo. He can fix it. He has a machine. Lead me to it.

The machine can only be described as a human gyroscope. It’s the same type of thing you might see at a carnival, on Coney Island, or in the tourist corridor along I-Drive here in Orlando. It’s the same type of machine teenage boys PAY to ride in. Well, I’m sure I’ll pay my adjusted fee as well in the long run.

They strap you in, put blackout goggles over your eyes with cameras pointing at your pupils to measure eye movements, and then begin tilting you this way and that. It’s not so bad. I can do this. You’re in total blackness gripping two handles turning on one side, then the other. The flip from left to right gets my head spinning. The therapist measures the eyes shifting and explains that the purpose of the chair is to find the spots that trigger the shifting of the crystals and to dislodge them so they get back in place. Sounds reasonable. She puts me through the same flip from left to right until my eye stops shifting. I can really do this.

Then, just to be sure, she tilts me straight down upside down, and then back up again. Suddenly I’m in a F-16 fighter jet in pitch black skies spinning horribly out of control plunging to me death thousands of feet below. Or so it felt like. My entire body breaks out into a cold sweat and I’m instantly drenched. You literally have been put through what an out-of-control tailspin plane crash must be like except for that final bad part. She knows by my anxiety, shudders and groans that we hit the OMG-spot. She’s almost happy about it. Hey, we found ANOTHER spot where the crystals are out. We better try it again.

I don’t know what part of masochistic impulse lets me think this is a good idea, but I’m so determined to be completely cured in one fell swoop, I agree to one more swooping fell. And bang, I’m spinning again, but not as bad. She stops the machine. I’m exhausted. Bathed in sweat. She says we better stop for now, and try again in a couple days. Oh, great, I can’t wait.

I actually drive myself home completely wiped out, queasy, exhausted, dizzy, but not spinning so much that I’m a threat to other drivers. But I am going about 10 miles below the speed limit crawling home in the slow lane. I get home and pass out.

And I flip my head on the pillow that night and the spinning resumes.

I wake up worse than the day before, and in a panic. Oh, shit, what did I just do to my otoliths? I was ALMOST there. I almost had those bastards back in place, but NOW…NOW I’ve gone and done what impatient, gotta-fix-it-now over-thinking guys do every day… FUCK THE SITUATION UP.

The therapist calls the next day asking if I’m coming in for the next session.

Not on your damn life. I’ll take my chances.

And, sure enough, it gets better over the next few days, and I’m like 90% now.

I’m buying peaches at Costco and I run into an acupuncturist who my wife and I have been treated by in the past and she asks me how we’re doing and I casually mention the vertigo. And she says, “Oh, yeah, I’ve had a lot of patients who get that, and sometimes it’s triggered by a virus. It lasts a week or two and it passes. But if you want me to try and speed it up, I can do something for you.”

Thanks. But, no thanks. I’ll live with it. For now.

Cue Jimmy Stewart hanging from the roof in the opening sequence to Vertigo, trying not to look down for fear of triggering the world spinning around him.

I know how you feel, bro’.

My advice? Stay away from the Gyroscope.

And Kim Novak isn’t such a good idea either.

— A. Wayne Carter

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Why I am a Democrat

Monday, October 1st, 2012

(11/6/12 UPDATE: Congratulations, America! You got it right and you won. And with even more votes and enthusiasm than in 2008!)

With the November Presidential election barreling down upon us and the country more polarized than ever, I don’t consider it a particular act of bravery to come out as a Democrat; but I do believe it’s an honor.

Former President Clinton in his speech at the Democratic National Convention summarized the current philosophies of the two parties as, “Winner takes all,” versus, “We’re all in this together.”

My father was the smartest and most decent man I ever knew. He never stopped improving his education by reading and had a library of the Harvard Classics, Will and Arial Durant’s History of the World, Winston Churchill’s History of English Speaking People, and just about every other historical text you could imagine. He loved history. And he passionately supported Democrats. From the earliest age, I can remember standing with a campaign poster at age 10 near voting locations before I even knew what voting was or who I was supporting (Carlton Sickles, a Maryland House Democrat, it turns out). We were taught to be involved, invested. My dad was involved. As a civil attorney for our Maryland county, he believed in justice for everyone. He supported Civil Rights before it was more widely popular. He voted for John F. Kennedy primarily for his civil rights stance, and then took our entire family to President Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration to see the man who would finally fulfill Kennedy’s vision and pass that Civil Rights Act.

He used to explain that Democrats passed Social Security, Medicare and, to him, to most important contribution to the building of the American middle class – the G.I. Bill. Veterans such as my father returning from fighting in World War II were supported by the government through education assistance programs and easy-to-finance housing loans. Those education programs put my father through law school at night so he could get a job that would support three kids and allow our mother to stay home to raise us. Those loans would give us a modest house in the suburbs where we could enjoy security that millions of other Americans were finally able to enjoy as they pursued their version of the American dream. Because my father had served his country, our great country with a conscience… ‘had his back.’

That’s all we’re asking of our government. We’re all in this together. And we’re only as strong as the weakest among us.

No one is saying government is perfect, fair, efficient or always right. Government is often sloppy, inefficient, and unjust. But it’s also more often better than the alternative. The government, which functions to collect taxes to offer services to the people, at least has its heart in the right place, if not its brain. Government has a conscience because it consists of people who recognize the need for teachers, police, firefighters, good roads, safe bridges, pollution restrictions, disaster relief, social security nets, infrastructure and all the other services it provides and the ‘real’ people it employs who provide them.

Corporations have no conscience (and they’re not ‘people’ either, but that’s another story). They serve a smaller group of people than the electorate known as investors, and their only mandate is to continuously make a profit no matter the tactics. If that could legally involve hiring 10 year-olds working in toxic sweat shops in Indonesia for 10 cents per hour, so what?

Countries in Europe have been around centuries longer than America experimenting with governing systems. Most of them have found a balance between the best tenets of capitalism and some parts of socialism (that’s socialism, folks, NOT communism). Germany, the strongest economy in the world today, supports their workers through government subsidized education, health care, and retirement. Conservatives would have us believe that welfare systems encourage lack of productivity, but the reality is just the opposite. Workers have a better attitude and are more productive when they know the government ‘has their back’ and that they won’t go broke or become destitute if they have a health crisis. They know the taxed labor they put in over a lifetime helps sock something away for them when they retire. How can any society assume everyone knows best how to manage their own money? How can you possibly concentrate on that, and still do the backbreaking labor many of those jobs require that build our infrastructure?

An estimated 68 percent of college graduates are either Democrats or progressives (with some Libertarians). Being educated and well-informed  facilitates a better understanding of the ‘big picture;’ – not just how a current situation, policy or event effects one of us, but how it can affect us all. History does repeat. Anyone studying the history of Afghanistan would know it’s a quagmire of unconquerable tribes in an impenetrable landscape. The Russians walked away after 10 years of trying.

History could have sent a red flag against going into Iraq with an invading army (instead of just a Navy Seal team to take out Saddam). History could have kept us out of repeating so many mistakes thinking we can control events throughout the world with pure military might. One of my dad’s favorite volumes was historian Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, The March of Folly. We now all understand what that ‘folly’ is that America readily goes marching after.

It seems like 99 percent of creative writers, actors, poets and musicians are also either Democrats or progressives. One reason is they tend to have traveled more, met other cultures and people in their curiosity to find ideas to inspire their craft. But the main quality that defines good writers or actors is their ability to fully inhabit the reality of those other characters, whether on the page, the screen, in verse, or on the stage. Writers understand what it means to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ because we do it every day to develop and form our characters. There’s no way you can do this effectively without developing some empathy for your subjects, no matter what path they walk upon, high or low, or whether you personally know them.

I consider myself a true patriot who loves America enough to want the best from her, but not to the point where I am blind to how she can always be improved. I resent anyone who questions my love for country beneath their own. And I have no problem paying more taxes if those levies are used wisely to make improvement in the lives for all Americans.

We  really ARE all in this together, but the Democratic National Convention looked a lot more like the America I live in.  I even saw a guy who looked like Jesus on the floor of the DNC, a bit scraggly, somewhat disheveled, and with a beard.

But he had a smile on his face, and was carrying a sign that read; “We’re all in this together.”

And he was wearing a “Forward with Obama” button.

— A. Wayne Carter

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Shot putting NBC, an unofficial Olympic event

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The most popular event at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games… Trashing NBC’s coverage, of course.

Let the games begin!

Top Ten Beefs about NBC’s Olympic Coverage

10. Not showing the marquee events live on network television. I don’t care if it’s 2:30 in the afternoon, I’d like to have the option to watch the premiere events live on network television instead of in a packaged edit program every night when I already know the results from them being blasted on every form of social media.

9. Not showing gymnastic scoring. In the women’s gymnastics all-around finals you tell us how many points the Russian gymnast will need to upset American leader Gabby Douglas on the last event, but when she finishes her final floor exercise routine in spectacular fashion, we never even get her score. Gabby wins, but why tell us that the Russian needed 15.3 to beat her, and then not bother to show the score first?

8. Bob Costas, the Talking Dead. Hey, we like Bob Costas, but not with dyed hair, Botox, and surgically lifted eyes making him appear somewhat corpse-like. We’re old enough to remember Jim McKay never bothered to dye his hair or artificially hold back time for vanity’s sake. It just doesn’t become a man covering sports. He looks a bit like some creepy painted ventriloquist doll sitting in those interview chairs that are too big for him.

7.  Where are the other competitors? Sure, we’re patriotic, we’re gung ho jingoistic Americans, but in some events you get the impression no one else is competing. I can’t even name what country came in third in women’s gymnastics overall. We never saw them compete. We’re all about the thrill of victory, but it’s the agony of defeat that often makes for the best drama (like that sobbing Russian girl). Let’s have some perspective and remember what these games are about – the world, not just US. Maybe you need an Atlas. FOX News certainly does, they reported one Iranian Gold Medal winner as from… Baghdad.

6. What the hell is Ryan Seacrest doing there? Is there an Olympic karaoke competition I missed? Is he there to make Bob Costas look larger? Is he doing the radio play-by-play for NBC? Just exactly what credentials does he have to be a sportscaster commentator for Olympic coverage? Or does he actually own NBC now, which is entirely possible.

5. Bob Costas’ mid-point interview with Michael Phelps. “What happened to you?” “What’s with not medaling in one event?” “And getting a Silver in another, no less?” “What kind of slacker are you?” “We know you spend a lot of time in the water, but are you all washed up?” Maybe he wasn’t that direct, but that’s how it came across. Excuse us, Bob, but you’re lucky he didn’t freestyle shot put your puny nonathletic frame into the Thames.

4. Saving all the best events until near midnight. We understand the marketing value of making viewers stick around without telling them when you’re actually going to air a final event (which networks used to do in previous years), but prime time ends at 11 p.m. for anyone who has to go to work, or go to school (hey, band camp), or is worn out from waiting through four previous hours of canned events, quarter and semi-finals, heats, and Progressive Insurance commercials.

3. Using up all our DVR space. The only way to circumvent your diabolical programming strategy is to record the entire evening’s programming so we can fast forward through all those commercials, Bob Costas yakking, and events we don’t care about until we get to those 11 p.m. events… which we still have to watch the next day to avoid all the fill.

2. All those Revolution TV series promotions. Let me get this straight. You’re using the electronic medium of television to incessantly promote a new Fall television series about people living in a future world devoid of electricity. If your goal is to make us start to appreciate what an attractive reality that actually might be, it just might be working.

1. Oh, what, the hell, all is forgiven. Nobody’s ever going to please everyone with such a diverse event of this magnitude, you’re doing the best you can, and this is the only time when seeing half-exposed asses on prime time television is considered great family viewing.

We hope you see gold with your ratings and revenue, but we’ll only go so far as to award you… Silver.

UPDATE: NBC’s Silver medal was unceremoniously withdrawn for postive testing to DOPING. That’s right, they were the unbelievable huge dopes who blundered by interrupting the closing ceremony program to show a lame sitcom about pet doctors, and postponing the grand finale performance of the legendary rock band the Who until after midnight. Unforgiveable. This should automatically disqualify them for participating in this event in the future. We won’t forget.

And we won’t get fooled again.

— A. Wayne Carter

 

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Your dog is a superhero

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Dogs are superheroes

What is their super power?

Dogs can smell danger.

Think about it.

Can you smell danger?

Maybe you can see it or hear it or feel it.

But can you smell danger?

I doubt it.

A dog’s sense of smell is 17,000 times more powerful than a human’s.

A dog can smell a bear from 300 yards.

A dog can probably smell a fart from the space station.

They can even smell a snake.

Can YOU smell a snake?

I mean one that crawls in the grass.

Sure, we know you can smell the grass.

ANYONE can smell grass.

But you can’t smell the snake.

Your dog can.

Think about it some more.

Who does your dog like?

Who does he not like?

Which dogs does he run up to and politely sniff?

Which dogs does he bark at?

Your dog can smell danger.

And probably before you see, hear or feel it.

You dog can smell the adrenalin pumping.

You dog can tell when someone’s excited.

Even if you’re not moving a muscle.

Your dog could smell a mugger.

Your dog could smell a Philadelphia quarterback… from Atlanta.

Your dog can smell danger.

Keep him or her close.

When you can’t trust your eyes or your ears or your senses.

Your dog can smell danger.

Your dog is a superhero.

— A. Wayne Carter

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Getting my kicks on Route 66

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

In honor of the complete series of the classic television series Route 66 being released on DVD this past month, I offer this replay blog from my book related to the show, and written at a time I was seriously fed up with L.A. and wanting to get the hell out.

April 16, 1986

My Route 66 story…

I’ve been watching the old Kerouac-inspired show every night on Nickelodeon with a passion. Stirling Silliphant, the principal author, is a brilliant character writer and scenarist with a poet’s heart. He always writes about people on the edge; alcoholic women drowning out their failed loves, children suddenly forced to grow up faster than they deserve, adventurers beginning to feel vulnerable to the presence of the grim reaper – people walking on tightropes at critical turning points in their lives.

Route_66_TV_ShowYoung bucks Tod (Martin Milner) and Buz (George Maharis) cruise into a new town each week and sweep us into the story. One’s a preppie (conscience and reason), one’s a street kid (instinct and volatility), and they act as a catalyst to the story, but quickly recede into the background for the telling. Silliphant used to go to some town, hang out for a week and get the feel of it, then hole up in some cheap motel for two days and write a script. The production crew and cast would follow the next week and, presto, a series is made with hip episode titles like “Hell is empty, all the devils are here,” or “Bird cage on my foot,” (with Robert Duvall as a heroin addict), and lines from children’s poems, etc.

So I get hooked on this vicarious traveling to the point where the show is really helping me through a dull period. I’m craving to leave L.A., but I’m trapped by economics, so this show becomes my way out. It inspires me. I start writing again. I’m 64 pages into a new script but, dammit, I still hate living in L.A. at this time. One night after work, I agree to meet a couple buddies in a new chi-chi bar/restaurant near the beach in Santa Monica. I get there at eight, my buddies don’t show up – but who does instead? … Buz (George Maharis), 25 years later.

I can’t resist but to go over and talk to him. We get into a cool conversation about the show. I’m asking him about the writing of particular episodes and he’s getting off remembering and wondering about the actresses’ names – “What was her name… Audrey… something…” I go, “Totter.” His eyes light up. “Yeah!”

I ask him how old he was when he did the series. He says 25. I tell him he must have been on top of the world. He smiles and tells me he’s 59 now (which, I got the feeling, was my cue for me to say, “Wow, you look great for 59 – he was obviously very vain with a finely-coifed toupee and a fancy-trimmed sailing jacket). Then I realized the ages didn’t tally. If he were 25 years old when he did the show, which is what the character was supposed to be, he’d only be 49 now. But why would he lie ten years UP? Then I realize he must’ve lied ten years DOWN for the age he was doing the show at the time. The conditioned lie was that, when he was 34 and doing the show, he told everyone he was 25. Danette and I figured out from his physique that he was definitely in his 30s for the show. That’s an odd twist for Hollywood vanity; tell the truth about your current age and lie about something 25 years past.

Anyway, he goes to dinner, I go home to catch the 11 p.m. episode. I’m driving home feeling pretty excited. I ask myself what this encounter meant – what this was an omen of – the one night I go out in weeks I run into this particular character. The answer was obvious; this couldn’t have happened anywhere else. Only in L.A. can you have an experience like this. I felt glad to be here again. It was so simple. Little triggers. Big results. The following Sunday I saw John Mellencamp at the Forum and danced my ass off for three hours.

_______________

I mailed my writer buddy John a postcard from Sante Fe less than a month later – a black & white shot of lightning striking over the high New Mexico desert. The postcard simply said “Lightning has struck.” I had just sold my new Voodoo thriller script Trance to Paramount Pictures.

I gave the first 30 pages of the script to a studio Vice President (Lindsay Doran) who had been a fan of my Recess script when she was with another studio. She liked the pages of the new script and asked me to come in and pitch her the rest of the story. When I was finished, she simply told me that she would contact my agent and make the deal. Paramount wanted the script.

Trance is a humorous-but-scary detective story of a down-on-his-luck radio disc jockey who gets mired into love and Voodoo intrigue in New Orleans. He’s hired by a rich, paranoid media magnate Ted Turner character to find out if his beautiful Creole wife is using black magic to slowly kill him. The detective, Michael Dove, of course becomes romantically involved with the woman, who turns out to be a Voodoo queen. The story builds to a point where Dove has to believe or not believe that Voodoo is real. When he rejects the notion and tosses the effigy doll of the husband out the window and, coincidentally, the husband suffers a fatal fall at the same time, he is sucked into the reality of it with no chance to turn back.

Lindsay liked the “fish out of water” premise to the story, which was a studio trait (they recently had tremendous success with the Eddie Murphy Beverly Hills Cop film), but she most of all liked the twists and turns and surprises. The only other script she was devoting as much time to developing was a little thing called, Ghost.

Despite getting a green light from the team of Vice Presidents at Paramount, Trance never made it to the screen when the studio president at the time nixed the go ahead because another picture with voodoo elements from competitor Warner Bros. was coming out called Angel Heart. Nevermind the two films could not be more remotely different in tone or topic (Angel Heart was a very dark tale involving a deal with Lucifer); those are the whims upon which films and fortunes turn.
— A. Wayne Carter

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