Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I am a little wary to see the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp/Stephen Sondheim collaboration, "Sweeney Todd" only because I feel so loyal to the version I grew up with. I know, I know, I need to give it a chance. I realize that unlike movies, plays are meant to be reinterpreted time and again and different actors should be allowed to inhabit the roles. But this one is so close to me. It's like reading a great book and having it adapted to the screen. In your head, you have heard one voice. In your head you have seen one face.

After so many years of listening to two voices (Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury), it's going to take a lot for me to love this demon barber over the ghosts of the past.

I'm being a snob, I know.

Monday, November 26, 2007

After I dragged my bloated body into work, I realized that I haven't written in over ten days (that, and the gentle prodding of my old friend, Steve). Sorry. I know everyone has been waiting with baited breath for the next chapter of the Malchus saga to begin.

Julie's folks arrived in town on Wednesday night and we had a very low key Thanksgiving this year. It was a pleasant change of coarse from our usual holiday celebrations. As custom, we wind up at Budd and Karyn's with Karyn's family and 2000 other people in one house. I love having so many people around. Still, it was very peaceful to just hang with our small family. I know that Julie was excited to cook the Turkey and command the kitchen with her mom. We have never had Thanksgiving at our home, so I was excited, too.

I did something potentially stupid by purchasing a ticket for the April Springsteen show in Ananheim. We can't afford it, but it's Springsteen. I figure, if I don't go to Starbucks for the next 100 days, I will have saved the $100 it cost to buy the ticket. That's my logic and I'm sticking with it.

Jake's been having a real hard time with his breathers lately. He's really struggling with having to take the time to do them. He fights having to sit down and do them and calls them boring. In addition, he tries to end his vest treatment before the 14 minutes is up. Julie and I have reamined strong. It's hard, though. He gets so upset and sometime breaks into tears. You can see it in his expression that he just wants to be like other kids who get to sleep in to a reasonable hour and just eat, get dressed and go to school. God, how I wish his life could be that way, too.

Then I think of the thousands of other kids with CF who do not have the good health that Jake has. And I think about this 12 year old girl that Julie has been reading about who was so healthy one day then caught some nast virus and is waiting for new lungs. Last week, a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that lung transplantation in children with cystic fibrosis does not increase survival for the majority of the children studied. You read something like that and your heart just stops.

How do you fight a monster that is able to sneak around your defenses and weaken you when you least expect it. I don't know. I only know that we have to keep up the treatments and we have to be dilegent. We have to do our job and parents to make sure that Jake is healthy no matter what.

One day at a time, you know? It's like, I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I only see my feet being illuminated. That light is there, but I'm too busy to worry about if were going to make it because I can only do this one day at a time.

Sometimes I wish I were more spiritual. Sometimes I wish I could turn my heart over to God so freely like the millions of people you read about each day. What's stopping me? I don't know. Instead of relying on my faith, I sit around and worry, pulling my eyebrows out one hair at a time.

I'm so tired of this bullshit. It's not fair.

It's just not fair.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The next Ben 10?

On Sunday, we attended a screening of the live action "Ben 10: Race Against Time" movie that will premiere next week on Cartoon Network. Jake was beside himself because he's been waiting for this movie since they announced it would be made back in March.

The presentation was great and the network did a nice job accommodating all of the families. In addition to the costumed characters walking around, the lead actors were friendly enough to get their picture taken with the gaggle of young kids on hand. That included Jacob, who was wearing the one of a kind Ben 10 shirt that my mom sewed him at the last minute. We called her on Sunday and she had it to us by the next Saturday.

Thanks Mom!

Anyway, we forgot our camera, but Julie had her cell phone. The quality of the picture isn't great, but you can see how excited Jake is to have his picture next to the "real live" Ben 10 (the actor's name is Graham Phillips). As soon as we entered the theater, kids were gawking at Jake's shirt and adults were commenting on the adorable boy in the Ben 10 shirt. I told my mom she could make a killing if she started sewing the shirts now and selling them on the the Internet.


Happy Birthday, Jacob

Today is the little guy's 6th birthday. There are so many issues in our life right now that it would be easy to get crushed under the weight of daily stress. But on a day like today6, I'm reminded of what is so right in our lives. This boy, this miracle that laughs and dances, gets pissed and throws dramatic tantrums, and who is full of so much joy and love, this boy is what is right.

The day he was born is so vague to me now. I have more vivid memories of the days following his birth. The time in the NICU. The moments of confusion when the doctors said they were gong to perform surgery, then they weren't, then they decided to fly him to UCLA by helicopter for the surgery after all. I'll never forget that weekend spent in UCLA where he was placed next to children much older than him and in much worse physical shape.

I'll never forget the doctor releasing him to us and finally driving home from UCLA all the way back to Santa Clarita. Through all of the turmoil and fear, there was still optimism that everything was going to be okay.

Maybe I'm a fool for saying this, but everything is okay. I know Jake has to take a lot of medicines. I know that from the outside it may appear that he's one sick little boy. But he isn't. Jake is a normal little boy who loves his mommy and daddy and his big sister, Wo-Wo. He's a normal little boy that who loves 'Ben 10' and 'Teen Titans'. He's a normal little boy that loves Springsteen. Maybe I did that to him, but you get the point.

I take that back. I am not a fool. Everything is okay.

This morning in the shower, as I stood there half awake, shaving, I thought about how just before Jake was born, I questioned how someone could love two children equally, but not the same. Before Jake was born, I didn't think I'd have room in my heart for a another child like I did for Sophie. As soon as I held him in my arms for the first time, I realized it was possible. I realized that your heart has many compartments and each child fits into those different compartments in their own unique way. I can hang out with Jake in a different way than I can with Sophie. We have bonded in a different way than Sophie and I did. And that's the way it's supposed to be.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What the...? "Deceit" on DVD!

I know what you've been thinking. "Hey, Scott, when is Lifetime going to air that movie you wrote again?" Honestly, I couldn't tell you. But, I can tell you that the movie, entitled "Deceit", will be released on DVD next week.

At this point, I know it will be available to buy from Amazon. However, since it's being released by Thinkfilm, I'm optimistic that it will also show up in Hollywood Videos and Blockbusters across the country.

Still, we all know you want to OWN your own copy, right? Sure you do. Really.

Here is the cover art.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert 10.30.07

I could have written a short review of Springsteen live at the L.A. Sports, but "fucking awesome" doesn't begin to do this particular concert justice. So, without further ado, here is my long winded, worshipping write up of the E Street Band show from last week.

The Los Angeles Sports Arena is a sweltering old concert venue that seemed like an odd choice for a superstar rock act to perform at, what with the glittery Staples Center just up the road. But Bruce Springsteen is no ordinary rock star. He’s done Staples (back in 1999) and hated the atmosphere. With the LA Forum unavailable, Springsteen and his musical family, the trusted E. Street Band, descended down into the Sports Arena for two sold out shows to end October with a bang, not a whimper. I was lucky enough to score one ticket for the October 30th show (the second night), justifying that the steep ticket price my birthday present this year. What a great present it was. It was pretty damn close to perfection and ranks as the best I’ve ever seen the band perform live.

The scheduled start time was 7:30 pm. I arrived with a minute to spare, wearing the sweet sweat stench of a man who spent the day at work and an hour and a half on the jam packed LA freeways fighting my way to downtown L.A. Wading my way through the crowd of mostly 40 and 50 year old baby boomers, I was pleasantly surprised to see the children of so many Springsteen loyalists brought along to experience the glory and the majesty of the E Street sound.

The dingy, faded blue gymnasium seats and the enclosed feeling of the Sports Arena reminded me of the Richfield Coliseum, where I saw so many rock concerts in my formative years. With the exception of the Halloween spirited jack-o-lantern lights on the floor and amplifiers, the open-air stage was the same set up as previous tours. No frills. Why mess with something that works, right? Massive speakers hung from the rafters next to large screens for video projection. The setting is definitely old school, perfect for a tour supporting Springsteen’s current masterpiece, Magic. It is an album with lyrics that address the pointed political present but juxtaposed with melodies that hearken back to the 70’s and 80’s sounds that made the Boss famous. Unlike previous tours, I purposely avoided any reviews or online postings of the set lists. Sure, I knew there’d be plenty of the new songs, but I didn’t want to know any specific order or what classics he’s been digging up. I wanted to wonder and be amazed.

The band members wandered out on stage in no apparent order. The silhouettes of guitarist/ consigliere Little Steven Van Zandt and Big Man, saxophonist Clarence Clemons could be made out, and Max Weinberg was clearly visible in the backlight as he climbed up behind his drum kit. But the Man himself was nowhere to be found. A blue light shined down on Danny Federici sitting behind his organ as he began playing ominous chords reminiscent of an old Hammer Horror film. Fog swept out from backstage and six crew members, dressed in hooded black robes and wearing white beards carried out a casket. They set the casket down center stage and Little Steven walked over with Springsteen’s signature Telecaster guitar in hand. Van Zandt looked down, shook his head with a pursed lip and held out the guitar. Suddenly, an arm shot right out of the casket and grabbed the telecaster! The stagehands monks hoisted the casket to face the audience. There he was, not dead, but the living and breathing savior of rock and roll, Bruce Springsteen.

Dusting himself off, Springsteen Looked out at the sea of heads and shouted, “Is there anybody alive out there?”

With a roar of approval, the band exploded into “Radio Nowhere”, the first single for Magic. They sounded tight, better than any band should having only been on the road a couple of weeks. They rocked hard, making a proclamation to the sold out crowd to get ready to have their asses blown away! From “Radio Nowhere”, they went straight into “The Ties that Bind”, one of my favorites from The River (with its great lyric “It's a long dark highway and a thin white line/Connecting baby, your heart to mine”) then finished their opening volley with “Lonesome Day”, from The Rising. On the latter, I nearly broke down. The songs on The Rising are intrinsically tied to my family and that period in 2002 when we had (barely) begun to grasp Jake’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. I missed the kids during that song. I wanted them by my side.

Next up was “Gypsy Rider”, from the new album. It’s a song that has burrowed deep into my psyche and gets more powerful with each listen. In it, the narrator recounts the return of his fallen brother from war and the effect it has on the soldier’s family, friends and divided hometown. The despair in the last line gives me chills every time I hear it. Tonight was no exception.

By this time, I’d been on my feet singing every word, pumping my fist at every chorus. I’m sure I looked like a raving lunatic, or worse, one of those freaks you always see at rock concerts. The mood came down as the band played the title track from the new album. Bruce addressed the crowd about the meaning behind the song, that it isn’t a song about hocus pocus, but about tricking people. This clear allegory for our country’s leaders had a couple of musical miscues, including some awkward harmonies between Bruce and his wife, Patti Scialfa. Something must have been off technically because I’ve never heard them mess up their singing like that before. Still, Nils Lofgren’s acoustic flourishes and Soozie Tyrell’s violin playing more than made up for the false notes.

After “Magic” ended, Little Steven began a swamp boogie guitar lick that sounded very familiar. I turned to my neighbor and shouted, “The hell? Are they playing ‘La Grange’?” I expected Bruce to start saying “A how how how” at any moment, but I was way off base. Out came the harmonica and a bullet mic. When that harp began the cry, I suddenly knew what song it was. “Reason to Believe”, the closing track from Nebraska. I imagine this may have been what Bruce wanted the song to sound like way back in ’82. This arrangement transformed the dark, bluesy number into a roadhouse rocker. I half expected Steven Tyler to come out and join in the fun. The show was in full force now. I had no clue what to expect next and I was fucking thrilled.

With a youthful force, the band played “Night,” the first of several songs I have never heard live before. The guy next to me leaned over, asking if the song was “She’s the One”, that other classic from the seminal album, Born to Run. I shook my head “no”. He shrugged, as if to say, “this still kicks ass.” Much to our surprise, the very next song was, you guessed it “She’s the One”. With Max pounding that Bo Diddley beat (dum-dum-dum-dumdum), everyone in the house clapped along with him. On any given night, this song would be a showstopper and the band could consider their job done. But, come on people, this is Springsteen, and we had just reached quarter mark of this marathon.

“Livin' In The Future” followed. This new track is one of the most upbeat, spirited songs Springsteen has recorded in nearly 30 years. Seriously. The lyrics, though, are heavy, man, an examination of the way our government has trounced on our constitution in the past six years. Springsteen took the opportunity to explain the meaning behind the lyrics before actually singing the song. As the band vamped behind him, Bruce did some of the speechifying he’s known for. It didn’t work. Sorry, Boss, I love to hear what you have to say, but you should have chosen one of the other tunes from Magic to teach a civics lesson. The dialogue drained the life out of the beginning of the song and it took until halfway through for the energy to rebuild. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many of the concertgoers on their feet, singing “Na na na na” at the end. If that brief lapse in attention lost some of the crowd, as soon as “The Promised Land” began, all was forgotten.

Of the hundreds of songs in Springsteen’s catalog, I feel like this one, from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, best captures what he has been trying to say since the 70’s and it still says it best. With the crowd still cheering, Bruce called Nils and Little Steven over and called an audible. The two guitarists spread the word through the band. “All right,” Springsteen told us, “we need some woman power.” Then, the band began one of Patti’s songs from her recent solo record, Play It As It Lays. If you think this was some kind of charity gesture for Bruce’s wife, you’d be wrong. The band has played this song on numerous tour stops and by that night, whatever bugs there must have been are gone. Patti and Bruce sang duet on the sultry number. Nils and Danny once again shine and this track sounded like it was written for the E Street Band all along.

“Town Called Heartbreak”, with it’s chorus “You gotta work, baby, baby” is a nice compliment to the next song, a stellar “Tunnel of Love”. This song was the highlight of show. Bruce and Patti sang side by side and shared a mic, inches apart. It’s remarkable to see. They are the new century’s Johnny Cash and June Carter. They were pitch perfect. And Nils. Christ, that man is a god on guitar. He brought more soul and passion to that six-minute song than Eddie Van Halen brings to two hour of pyrotechnics. When the song ended, I was freakin' drained. But guess what, I didn’t have time to rest because “Working On The Highway” was the next song. No time to sit.

“Devil’s Arcade”, a heart wrenching new song from Magic was next. This song has grown on me with each listen and through the performance, as I sat there, I could feel my emotions welling to the surface. The song ended with three strong spotlights literally shooting through Max as he pounded out the final heartbeats of the song. Powerful.

Quickly, Bruce called out a quick dedication and they began “The Rising”. More than “Lonesome Day”, this song pulls my heart apart. Besides the subject matter, it’s the first song Jake and Sophie learned. I can still see them running around in Hawaii with their new ukuleles, singing “Come on up for the rising!” I sang every word, wiped my eyes and nose and missed Sophie and Jake even more.

The next two songs came from Magic, “Last to Die” and the anthem “Long Way Home”. Most of the crowd sat down and absorbed the music. I did not object and sat with them. On these songs, as with the entire evening, the harmonies between the large group were near perfect. I couldn’t get over how in sync all nine members of the band throughout the whole night. It may sound easy, but spread out across that large stage, there could easily be a slip here or there. The final song of the “1st set” was “Badlands”. Not much more can be said about this song. It’s a classic and the crowd knows it by heart. Springsteen was having a blast entertaining a young girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders at the front of the stage. At one point, he leaned down and let her strum his famous guitar. What a memory for that girl! Springsteen, perhaps energized by seeing second and third generation fans in the audience wore a huge smile the rest of the night.

After the lights went down and the band left the stage, something wonderful happened. The crowd continued singing the harmony part from the bridge of “Badlands”. Over and over again, everyone was singing, “Whoa oh oh oh oh whoa!” The only time I had ever heard something so in sync and beautiful was the end of the 1987 U2 concert at old Municipal Stadium, when the crowd of 70,000 continued singing the end of “40” as they left for their cars.

It must have been no more than five minutes when the band returned to stage for the finale. First up was “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, a song so catchy that even those unfamiliar with the new album were singing along by the second verse. This tune should be a radio hit, it’s that wonderful. But Bruce Springsteen’s new songs don’t get played on the radio. “He’s too old,” the corporate executives say, “kids won’t listen.” I say those executives are out of touch. I say that kids are listening and you can hear the Springsteen influence in artists as varied as The Hold Steady, Jason Marz, The Killers and The Arcade Fire (who came onstage at a recent show in Canada). In addition, Springsteen’s work ethic should be celebrated and held up as the standard and not the exception. All night long, the 50-something E Street Band mates performed longer and harder than musicians half their age. And there was no better example of their stamina than the very next song. “Here’s a pre Halloween treat for Los Angeles”, the Boss said just before he started 1973’s epic, “Kitty’s Back”. Like he’d done throughout the evening, Springsteen controlled his voice, making it sound younger to better match how it was originally recorded. And the Big Man, Clarence Clemons hit every damn note as if his life depended on it. Danny and the Professor shined in extended solos, and even the backbone to the band, the venerable Gary Tallent on bass, stepped up to the microphone to sing backup alongside Little Steven. This may have been a run down sports arena in the heart of Los Angeles, but it might as well have been some firetrap dive club in Jersey, Philly or Cleveland. Springsteen proved once and for all why he earned the nickname “The Boss”. He twisted and bent his guitar strings making them wail and moan. This was the biggest surprise of the night and it left everyone speechless.

After that 10-minute frenzy, Kitty left town again and the band played its two biggest hits, “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark”. During “Born to Run”, which we’ve all heard a thousand times, what could have been a plodding, methodical run through still sounded fresh and vibrant. Maybe it was because I was singing along with my compadre beside me, pumping my fist with each “whoaaa!” Or perhaps it was because I was thinking of Julie, but I loved hearing this song. The final verse, when Bruce sang “Together Wendy we'll live with the sadness/I'll love you with all the madness in my soul/Someday girl I don't know when we're gonna get to that place/Where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun…” That’s Julie and me. Whatever sadness we have in our lives, it’s countered by our love for each other and our love for our family.

The show concluded with every member of the E Street Band joining Bruce out front to play the raucous “American Land”. This song was born during Springsteen’s last tour with his Seeger Sessions band and can be found on the Live in Dublin cd. For the first time ever, Springsteen scrolled the lyrics on the video monitor for the audience to sing along to. One would think that adapting this folk song to the sound of the E Street Band might not work, but it fit right in. The Big Man played penny whistle, Danny and the Professor played dueling accordions, Little Steven pulled out his trusty mandolin, while Bruce, Patti and Nils tore it up on guitar. With the entire band lined up on stage, it was the perfect ending.

After the show, I wiped my face and plopped down in my seat to wait out the crowd to clear out. I was covered with sweat, tears and snot and felt like I’d run a marathon. My hands throbbed from the constant clapping and drumming on my thighs; my throat was raw and aching for water. I reached for the small notebook I had carried in my back pocket and to my surprise a small fraying spot in the denim near that pocket had given way. A large hole, the size of a quarter, was clearly visible to anyone watching me walk by. I wasn’t worried; I had on clean boxers. And if anyone were to ask what happened to the back of my Levi’s, I could tell them that I had my ass blown away by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's Monday. Is there anything else that really needs to be said? I spent the weekend cursing about having to purchase a trash disposal we can't afford, installing said disposal and then marveling at what a handy man I'm becoming. At this point, the only thing I haven't replaced in the kitchen sink is the kitchen sink. Knock on wood that will never happen.

The Writer's Guild has gone on strike and that effects me in no way possible, at this point and time. The one opportunity I had to join the union passed before I even knew it was there. The producers of "The American Standard"... er "Deceit" offered to help me get into the union. Unfortunately, filming had already begun and according to the rules on the WGA website, I missed my opportunity. Great. Still, I figured another opportunity would be right around the corner. Yeah, I'm still waiting.

As a writer, I am in agreement with everything the Guild is fighting for. The studios make a shitload of money off of DVD sales (like, how many times do the release and rerelease movies just to make another buck? New Line alone released how many versions of "Lord of the Rings"?) Despite their claims that DVD sales are needed to offset the high costs of shooting movies, I think that's a crock.

The bad thing about a strike is that a lot of people struggling to make ends meet are now without a paycheck. I have friends in the Guild who have children and are barely getting by. This is going to kill them, especially with the downturn the California economy has taken in the past six months. Hopefully this will be worked out soon. With the DGA and SAG contracts up next summer, things could get really ugly real out here in CA.

One positive from the weekend was a meeting with Jay Ellison, who graduated from Bowling Green and hails from Medina, Ohio. He's a filmmaker and has a good head on his shoulder. Jay read my script, "Blood Brothers", a werewolf story, and wants to raise the money needed to make it with Tony directing (and supervising the monster effects). We're in the early stages and there are hundreds of things to work out (a meeting between the director and Jay would be nice) but I feel positive about this one. Julie and I have discussed his age (mid 20's) a couple times. Is he too young? Is he in over his head? But I look at guys like Spielberg and Tarantino, who dove headfirst into filmmaking. Age didn't matter. Any guy who approaches me with a business plan is ahead of the game, in my book. We made "King's Highway" with none of that organization and have suffered numerous times because of it. I'll keep you updated as things progress.

Speaking of "King's Highway", I have removed it from the iKlipz website because of some very, very interesting developments in the past two months. I can't say much more, but things could be very exciting come February.

I hope to have the Springsteen review in a couple of days.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

November 1st... the start of another year

I tell ya, everyone should have the opportunity to take the day off of work on their birthday. There is nothing better than spending time with your wife and kids on a special day and having some relaxing moments to reflect on who you are, what your life is all about, and what you hope to achieve in the next year. I realize that most people do this on New Year's Day, but shouldn't it happen on your birthday?

So here I am, 38 and still working toward that brass ring. I've nabbed the sucker a couple of times in the past 8 years, but never been able to grab it and clutch it as mine. But I'm not giving up. No, I've found inspiration again in a couple of projects that are sprouting in my head. And I've returned to the words of Springsteen, whose lyrics to "Racing in the Street" have carried me through so many rough times when I felt like I'm going nowhere.

Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin' in the street

I have to keep on working. I have to keep on writing. Something will break. The odds are in my favor. Now that "King's Highway" appears close to getting the distribution we have so desperately sought for four years, maybe some doors will finally open and I'll be able to make a living as a working writer. I don't know what happened in the past week, I really don't, but I feel rejuvenated. Even spending four hours swearing, banging my head and wrenching my back replacing the kitchen faucet did not phase me.

Today is a good day. Today I feel alive and excited about the future once again. And now I have something to look back on when the days aren't so good.

It has been a happy birthday, indeed.