Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Hits PHX! Do You Care?


Yesterday, it was announced that an 8-year-old boy had been (past tense) infected with the Swine Flu. He has since recovered, but the rest of the Valley has not.

With that positive confirmation, Moon Mountain Elementary School in the Washington School District announced that the school would be closed until May 7th unless there were more children who presented signs for the virus.

One school shut down is one school too many.

I have said before that this Swine Flu panic/concern/scare/pandemic is much ado about nothing. And your elected political heroes are playing you for a fool.

The main reason given in shutting that one school down was for “containment” purposes. That kite has enough string, but I don’t think it will fly.

State School Superintendent Tom Horne announced on Monday (and Governor Jan Brewer reiterated in a press conference yesterday) that any school who has students test positive for the Swine Flu would be shut down. That’s a great CYA move.

Government is very good at pointing out problems. Government is not good at solving them.

If the government were serious, truly thinking that this Swine Flu could have demonstrably, imminently mortal consequences for Phoenix, or any other part of the country, they would announce a full-scale shutdown of our daily lives.

But that hasn’t happened and that’s why I think yesterday’s announcement was a joke.

So far, one child has tested positive for Swine Flu. But it didn’t start with him. He’s not the Alpha case. Swine Flu has been in the Valley for weeks and we are just starting to unravel the trail. But that infectious trail didn’t start with an 8-year-old boy from the north valley.

What I want to know is: where did the kid get the virus? A fair and reasonable assumption would be the child was infected with the Swine Flu from an adult. Why, if logic dictates, doesn’t the government close post offices, grocery stores and restaurants? Why don’t they encourage you to telecommute or (ironically) call in sick to your employer?

Kids aren’t the only ones who catch viruses. Anyone could be a Swine Flu carrier; anyone could infect you, the entire Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, or me. But we are told to carry on with our daily lives.

Except if your child attends Moon Mountain Elementary. Then only you should be concerned.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Buy the Swine Hype


If you’ve been watching the news, you would think that this new strain of the “Swine Flu” has caused millions of people to die, decimating whole towns and countries like the Black Plague from the Middle Ages.

But in reality, that's just not accurate.

As of Monday, 149 people have died from this virulent strain in Mexico. The United States had 40 confirmed cases in five states and the Director Of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was on every cable news outlet pleading for people to not sneeze on anyone. Great advice, even if you’re not sick. It’s just disgusting and rude.

Outbreaks of diseases and biological agents are the stuff of great novels (The Stand by Stephen King) and movies (The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak, to name two) but to start wearing one of those masks you see in an ER is ridiculous.

Pharmacies in some states are seeing a run on flu medicines and cold remedies. People are stocking up, in some cases hording, waiting to see how bad this new strain of “Swine Flu” could potentially be.

Some people who have gotten the strain of the virus and have recovered quickly; others say it’s not as bad as the “normal” flu, whatever that means. The most alarming piece to this new influenza puzzle is that it seems to attack and infect those with the strongest immune systems: 15-55 year old people.

Every year, people get the “flu” or “influenza.” According to the Center For Disease Control in Atlanta, last year over almost 26 thousand people were diagnosed with the virus. Don’t get me wrong; it’s serious, as people die every year from the flu.

But I am not ready to push the panic button yet like they did back in the mid-seventies.

Back in 1976, Gerald Ford made a decision that is still hotly debated today. When an Army Recruit at Fort Dix became sick and died from a strain of the “Swine Flu,” people panicked, gravely concerned about a plague that killed over a half a million people back in 1918. Could the same type of influenza cover the world, killing innocent people?

Gerald Ford imposed a mandatory inoculation of (at that time) all 220 million Americans, with a program that cost 135 million dollars.

To some, it was the pinnacle of the health and medical fields in United States history. The federal government made a series of public service announcements to alert people that the “swine flu” was not to be taken lightly and everyone needed to line up in an orderly fashion, receive their vaccination, and in doing so, save humanity.

But thousands of people didn’t die; whole towns weren’t wiped out. Some thought it was the greatest government infringement on their personal freedom. Some were killed from the rushed vaccines; others were severely crippled or paralyzed.

The Ford Administration said they erred on the side of caution.

I just remember it being called, “The Epidemic That Never Was.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perez Missed the Point


When openly gay Internet blogger and solipsist Perez Hilton asked Miss California that loaded question during the Miss USA Pageant, he missed the point of her answer.

Hilton's question was direct, but not simple like, “Can you wear white after Labor Day?” It was political; it was ideological and had the potential to be inflammatory. And there’s no one that likes everything flaming than Perez. Here was the question he posed to Carrie Prejean: “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”

Although the question is totally appropriate for the telecast, the potential for her answer to overshadow the Miss USA contest was undeniable.

And it did just that.

Prejean had a decision to make immediately. Did she compromise her morals and lie with a very PC answer or did she tell the truth without being confrontational and mean-spirited? She chose the latter and I have more respect for her today because of it.

I don’t agree with her on the issue of gay marriage, but I respect her for at least acknowledging that her answer wasn’t going to be popular. It was not a debate on Fox News or CNN; it was a beauty pageant for the love of Bert Parks. (Yes, I know he hosted the Miss America pageant, not Miss USA, but let me make my obscure, pop culture references).

Perez gave her 0 points, a goose egg, zilch for her answer and she plummeted in the contest scoring from being a lock to win the pageant to not even in the Top 5.

But what’s even more egregious to me is that Perez totally missed the point concerning her answer. Sadly, he’s not the only one as beauty contestants from the four states that do allow gay marriage have spoken up saying Miss California should have given more politically correct answer.

Are they serious?

I am tired of a small group of people dictating the rules of engagement. It physically drains me to live in a society where every word, sound bite or press release is packaged, processed and poised so conversations are vapid, opinions are scarce and people do express an opinion; it is (ironically) tantamount to violating someone else's rights.

Perez Hilton is a bully and ironically, the same thing he called Miss California on his web site.

If he doesn’t appreciate the fact that we should stand for what we believe (as he does with the issue of gay marriage and blogs incessantly on his site) then I guess he should just point the finger back at himself with the big fat label DUMB B%^&* on his forehead. Don’t worry, it would fit... with room to spare.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

America's Little (Big) Secret


Here’s a little secret that many people don’t know. But don’t tell too many people because it will throw the media into a tizzy! Most Americans surveyed say they don’t want government intruding on their lives.

Last week when I read that a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll revealed that most Americans “approve of President Obama and the government’s latest assertiveness” in dealing with our soured economy. But they don’t want government’s intrusion to last too long. I hate to tell you this, Sally, but that horse has been out of the barn for years.


The poll stated that, “3-to-1 people surveyed say government’s expansion should be cut back when the economic crisis is over.” Excuse me, but does anyone realize that Big Government’s been intruding, inserting, injecting, insinuating, interjecting, interpolating, interposing, and introducing itself to the American people almost a complete century?

According to Big Government, the crisis is never over.

*When the Great Depression hit and the banks failed, Big Government decided to introduce a novel idea called The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation so people would have faith and deposit money back in the banking system. We still have that program today. In fact, he government recently doubled the guarantee on your account from $100,000 thousand dollars to $250,000.

*When Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law social programs that were titled, The Great Society, it was supposed to wipe out poverty. These programs were expanded under the Nixon and Ford Administrations and we have actually spent more money trying to expunge poverty from America and yet more people are living below the poverty line than when LBJ signed the bill into law.

*Speaking of Nixon, it was on his watch that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were created. These agencies were supposed to last 10 years and then dismantled.

*After 9/11, George W. Bush decided that all agencies that dealt with security (CIA, FBI, ATF, NSA, etc) in the United States needed to be brought together under an umbrella of one department that would report to the president. Not since the Truman Administration had a layer of bureaucracy been added to that size and magnitude and so quickly. You know it today as the Department of Homeland Security.

From spending trillions of dollars to prop up the economy, to absorbing toxic assets with tax payer money, to firing CEO’s from the private sector, Barack Obama is redefining Big Government’s role in taking control of our current economic crisis. Obama says he inherited the mess created by “the last eight years of failed economic policies.” His solution? Do what many other presidents have done before him. Insert Big Government programs.

The president said at Georgetown University last week, “we’ve been called to govern in extraordinary times.”

Can’t any time in American history be called “extraordinary” if the government feels the need to insert itself into the private lives of Americans?

FDR would be proud.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jet Packs and Tang


After JFK said we would make it “to the moon within this decade,” (and we did) the Space Race permeated every facet of American culture. Television shows like Lost In Space and Star Trek gave us an inaccurate, but optimistic look at what we could do after taking “one small step for man.”

America was fascinated with anything about space, the stars, and life on other planets. Astronauts were treated like rock stars. Every space launch was covered with reporters and viewers holding their breath as that long tube blasted upward higher and higher with a loud, deafening roar and explosive fireball into space.

Back then, when people and experts talked about the “future,” we were all supposed to be wearing unitards, food would be reduced to a tablet and we would go everywhere in air cars (like George Jetson) or by jet pack.

And we would be free from the smelly, dirty viscous fossil fuels that we had to dig out of the ground. We would look upward to the skies and find a new source of energy.

Sadly, that day and that dream haven’t come to fruition. We don’t dress in unitards (thank goodness) or take pills for nourishment, but we have white-knuckled a technology that really hasn’t changed since Karl Benz received a patent for a two-stroke gasoline engine in 1879.

Sure, certain car producers have made hybrids. But for the most part, the dreams of clean, renewable energy hasn’t been realized and people finger point and make excuses as to why we can’t seem to drive something that’s not dependent on 87 or 91 grades unleaded gasoline.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon wants to implement EV Car charging stations at ballparks, malls and city garages. He also announced this week that he wants to see the city fleet as go with electric cars as soon as it's feasible.

Good luck.

Here’s the dirty little oily secret that people don’t want to talk about: our dependency on oil and gasoline is not about the car or the fuel; it’s about behavior.

Inventors, politicians, soothsayers and talk show hosts alike can say, scream, and demand until they are red in the face about getting off oil dependence, or going green, but until there is a seismic shift and conscientiously alter their behavior to make going green a habit, then all the talk and good intentions are for nothing.

We all need to look upward again, be inspired, alter our behavior, or else we still be stuck back in the 60’s talking about wearing unitards and wishing we had jet packs.

And when was the last time you had a glass of Tang? They don’t even drink that stuff on the Space Shuttle.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Economic Downturn Has People Scaling Way Back


This economic downturn has spawned a new phenomenon among some Americans.

Instead of taking advantage of cellar-low mortgage rates and refinancing their house, buying foreclosed homes to sell when the housing market comes back, stockpiling money in anticipation of a bullish stock market, or just simply weathering this doom and gloomy storm of a recession, some have decided to just simply drop out. Their mantra? “Start over.” Scale Back. Less (a lot less) is more.”

They’re called Economic Survivalists, their goal is to make the least amount of money, surviving on skills not needed or used since Manifest Destiny took hold of the American Spirit back in the mid-nineteenth century.

Their cable’s been cut, their cell phones thrown in the garbage or donated to charity. The expensive SUV’s traded in for a used pickup truck; golf clubs are being sold to buy farming equipment.

Folks have had enough – and their ranks are growing. People are stockpiling food in numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Seed packets and transplants have seen a 30 percent rise in sales. The National Gardening Association released a stat that was staggering: 7 million more households are growing their own food compared to just last year.

But it goes beyond just having a green thumb or wanting to go out in the back yard and pick your supper. Economic Survivalists are serious about being off the main “grid” of society. Canning supplies have seen a 30 percent rise since last year, more people are researching and learning how to sew to mend or make their own clothes, blankets and other home items.

In extreme cases, people are just moving to live in a smaller, simpler place.

The goal? People want to feel more in control of their lives. There is a need, a desire for people to get back in control of what they have, redefining what they need and radically changing their lives. It sounds like an oxymoron, but there’s much validity to this “radical” way of living.

We have evolved so far from an agrarian society – where if you didn’t make it, grow or farm it, you didn’t need to it – to a consumption society where you can’t walk a block without seeing two Starbucks facing each other on opposite sides of the street.

Coming from a farming community, one thing I learned early on was self-sufficiency. The earth took care of you, if you took care of the earth and hardly anything went to waste. You learned to sew a button back on a shirt, not go to the mall and buy a new one. If the tractor stalled, you learned quickly how to get it running again before the sun went down. And you never took for granted that you could just rely on someone else to take care of things.

Now I don’t know if I want to throw away my iPod and cut my cable off just yet, but I do know that I feel a kindred spirit towards these people, these Economic Survivalists, who actually decide to take more control of their lives.

Self-reliance is a beautiful (and simple) thing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Which Is the Bigger Insult?


Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said something rather shocking that went under the radar of most news organizations. As he was visiting a middle school in Denver he said to the gathered students, “Go ahead and boo me” when he made an insulting accusation about our nation’s schools.

Secretary Duncan frankly told the students, “I fundamentally think that our school day is too short, our school week is too short and our school year is too short.” If Secretary Duncan has his way, your child will be required to attend school for 6 days a week and go for 11 months out of the year, saying it’s a necessary change in order for our kids to compete with other countries. “[American students are] competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; eleven, twelve months a year.”

He wasn’t met with boos. Just stares.

I don’t know which is more stunning: the fact that Secretary Duncan just basically, in two sentences, indicted our national school system and basically admitted we as a nation have failed our children. Or, that in these economic times, how in the world would the Obama Administration actually find the money to keep your kids in a classroom six days a week, 11 months out of the year when school systems across the Valley and the country are laying off teachers, trying to keep schools open and operating in a tough economy.

Some school systems are so broke they are limiting school days to four a week, combining classrooms and shutting down after school activities. Yet Secretary Duncan has the bright idea to tell a bunch of middle schoolers that their educational system has already failed them.

If that is the case, why do so many students apply and come from around the world to attend our colleges and universities? Why is it that America is still looked at as the leader in innovation as well as the scientific and research giant in the private sector?

I don’t think Secretary Duncan realizes any these things. And maybe that’s the biggest insult to our children.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rush: To The Movies!


Once is a fluke, twice a pattern. Three times is just sick. Since when did three guys from Toronto who’ve cranked out quality music since the early 70’s become the “hot” band to include in movies?

Rush has arrived. At least in the cinema world, that is. Just this year, the trio with one of the most loyal fan bases, who admittedly and proudly were never an “image” band, has been highlighted in three quality movies.

In I Love You Man with Paul Ruud, their most recognizable and highest charting hit Tom Sawyer is used more than just one of the band’s most recognizable songs, it is an anthem used for guy bonding, and remembering the adolescent catharsis even after you’ve bought into the myth of suburbia and all of its pedantic trappings. The band even has a cameo in the end of the movie playing Limelight.

Adventures of Power, which I saw at the Phoenix Film Festival, showcases the drumming of Neil Peart at the heart of the film. As the main character Power wins a tournament air thumping Tom Sawyer, Neil himself has a cameo, handing out the top prize, and as always, handles himself with class and dignity while keeping the tongue-in-cheek attitude.

And just when you thought that a band that has outlasted many of their prog- and arena-rock brethren couldn’t be used again in a flick this year, a character in Adventureland skillfully uses Limelight in a pivotal scene (including skillful air drumming).

I don’t know if it’s kismet, serendipity or Cygnus X-1 (sorry, couldn’t resist) is in full phase, but just why in 2009, three different films with three different directors have decided to mine the seminal work of the Moving Pictures album is anyone’s guess. But, as an admitted and unabashed Rush fan since second grade, I am geeked to finally see directors declining to use bands who are the flavors of the month and use a band that spoke to many of us as kids and still speak to us as men.

Now when are we going to see 2112 on the silver screen?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Send In The Clowns


Once again, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under intense scrutiny for the way he allegedly conducts the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in what he calls “crime suppression sweeps.” Others call it racial profiling, comparing Arpaio to Bull Connor.

This isn’t the first time that Sheriff Joe has been in the thick of controversy. The Mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, who has repeatedly proven that he’s intellectually bankrupt and has the spine of a well-cooked shrimp, wrote the U.S. Attorney General, begging for help after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency came from DC to MCSO execute their crime suppression sweeps and dig deep into its records.

ICE found nothing improper or illegal about what the Sheriff was doing. Neither did the Attorney General.

Before she fled from the Copper State to work for the Obama Administration, our own governor, Janet Napolitano, teamed up with the Mayor and basically took Sheriff Joes’s check book away, thinking that would stop him from, as he put it, “enforcing the law.”

That didn’t work either.

So, in a curious and maybe fortuitous, turn of events just this week the Reverend Al Sharpton decided he would join Bertha Lewis, CEO and chief organizer for ACORN, and loudly called for the resignation of Sheriff Joe – all the way from New York City.

And, the Rev blustered, if Sheriff Joe didn’t step down, he vowed to come to Phoenix next month, organize activists, protestors and gadflies alike, and march in the streets.

The sheriff responded in his usual way when asked about Al Sharpton coming to town, he was more than inviting, “If they want to come down here, be my guest.” But he did offer this little nugget of advice when Gaydos and I interviewed him on KTAR. Arpaio reminded Al Sharpton that he’d better brush up on Arizona law. Sheriff Joe wouldn’t want Revered Al or anyone else from New York City violating our laws and taking a detour to Tent City.

The Reverend Al Sharpton has been a polemic and divisive and instigating figure for over 20 years now. He and other so-called “activists” like to parachute in to a community, not because of social injustice, not because of oppression of a certain ethnicities, but for one thing: publicity.

But Reverend Al Sharpton hasn’t seen Joe Arpaio at work. The Sheriff is also a master manipulator of the media, never shying away from a microphone or television camera.

If Al Sharpton brings his posse of do-gooders here to Phoenix, he will only help Sheriff Joe stay in office.

Even Sheriff Joe recognizes that. “My approval ratings are in the 80’s (percentile), if he [Sharpton] comes, it’ll go up to 99 percent,” he boasted on KTAR. Arpaio is absolutely correct when he made that assertion.

What Phil Gordon, Elias Bermudez, Rev. Al, etc., don’t realize is that the sheriff is an elected official. If people didn’t like the job he was doing, he wouldn’t continual be voted back into office. He’s appointed, not by an elected political hero, but by the people. And the people have spoken. They like Sheriff Joe, they like pink underwear and Tent City and they like a guy who doesn’t shy away from controversy.

So when the circus comes to town next month, and Al Sharpton is marching down Central Avenue, Sheriff Joe will be there and there will be a fight. Not a riot between protestors and police, but a fight for TV time. Reverend Al will talk of hate crime, racial profiling and injustice. Meanwhile the Sheriff will spout off the same, tired line that has gotten him re-elected, “I’m just enforcing the law.”

Let Al Sharpton come. Let him organize. Let people march in the streets with their signs, screaming that the MCSO is racist, engages in racial profiling, and harasses only certain ethnic groups. Sheriff Joe’s approval ratings will ascend like the main tent in the Big Top.

And then remember, Reverend Al Sharpton, it was P.T. Barnum who once said, there’s a sucker born every minute.

Like A Good Neighbor, Next Time I Won't


Here’s the story of how my civic responsibility almost turned into civil unrest.

I was shopping at the grocery store this week when a homeless man approached me asking for his own stimulus package. Not only was he asking for money, but he was walking in between cars and not paying attention around him. He could’ve been hit by a car.

People may think it, but not everyone will say it, so I will. I want to believe this guy was really down on his luck, I want to believe that me giving him some money would help him out of his bad situation.

But we’ve seen so many stories about people who take advantage of and play on the sympathies of kind-hearted people. In other words, my skepticism got the better of me.

I decided to tell the store about the panhandler.

So imagine my surprise when I was accosted, not by the homeless man in the parking lot, not by the store manager, but by a woman standing in line who overheard me tattling on the panhandler.

I was in such shock that this woman was blocking me with her cart, yelling at me while shaking an accusatory finger, that I only remember a couple of phrases she spit out during her tantrum. “I can’t believe you won’t leave people alone.” “Who do you think you are?” And at the end of her tirade she gave me the classic, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

I’m Irish Catholic by culture, not by choice. I’ve already got a lot to be ashamed of and guilty about starting at conception. Complaining about a panhandler is not sending me scrambling to confession.

So I shrugged my shoulder and summarily replied, “meh…” and walked out of the store.

Look, I only expect three things out of you as a citizen living in these United States of America.

1. Finish high school. Take advantage of a free education.
2. Don’t go to prison. It really screws up your civic duty.
3. Don’t bring children into the world you cannot afford.

In other words, take responsibility for yourself. That’s all I ask.

Harry Truman and Jesus both said the same thing when it came to the poor: they will always be among us. There will always be lost souls who can’t find their way in this world. There are places for this person to get a hot meal and a hand up. I’ve seen the good work the Phoenix Rescue Mission has done to get people’s lives back on track.

But I guess to that woman at the grocery store, because I asked management to remove a panhandler, well, that makes me a Class A Jerk.

Yeah, I’ve got a lot to be ashamed about, but this episode isn’t one of them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shoshanna Stern Interview


In a previous blog, I told you how I went to the Phoenix Film Festival and saw a great movie entitled, “Adventures of Power.”

Shoshanna Stern plays the character of Annie in the movie and is a tremendously gifted actress. She’s been in a number of television shows like “Jericho” and “Weeds” and has a radiant presence on the small and silver screen.

I had only seen her in serious roles until “Adventures” where she’s a very funny love interest for the main character. In real life Shoshanna is hearing impaired, so I was curious to find out what challenges she faced acting in a comedy.

When she agreed to answer some questions via email (she’s already back in LA working on another project), I was elated. Below is our interview:

You’ve been in a number of TV shows; is it harder for you to do films because of the style and pace of a film rather than a half hour episode of a TV show? Which do you prefer?

I wouldn't say harder, they're just different. With television, you have a lot of arcs that happen in every episode, and then you have one big arc for your character that happens in the entire season, and you don't necessarily know what that is when you're starting out. It's hard to guess when you should hold back and when you should give it your all, especially when you're on an ensemble show. I remember I got one episode where I thought, "Okay, so this is my big one," and I did the trembly lip thing, eyes welling up, and then a few weeks later I got something even bigger, and looking back, I wished that I'd held back a little then. With film, you know exactly what is going to happen and you have a bit more time to get to know your character. I think there is something about film that is really satisfying, but I don't have enough experience with that to say that there's one I prefer yet.

As an actress who is also hearing impaired, how difficult or easy is it to do comedy? In your role as Annie in “Adventures of Power,” you do a fantastic job and have some really funny lines that you deliver with perfect timing and a brilliant personality. Does that come naturally?

I don't know if my hearing loss has anything to do with my comedic ability. But I know that all my deaf friends are funny, especially my girlfriends. I think there might be something about the experience of being deaf that just makes you cynical and more prone to making fun of yourself. You don't take yourself as seriously. At first with Annie, I was thinking really hard about how to be funny, but I think with comedy, you can't really try to make people laugh. So I decided not to over think it. I'm still not sure if it is the character of Annie that makes people laugh or if it's actually Power's reactions to her, but I don't think that really matters as long as people are laughing.

How hard/easy was it to work with Ari Gold (the director) (or any director who haven’t worked with hearing impaired actors) and how were you picked for the role of Annie?

Ari was great. He has so much patience with the whole process and he really put so much thought in everything. Every time I see the movie, I notice something different. The only time I have issue with directors is when they think they know how deaf people are or how they should be and then I feel really compartmentalized. Everyone handles the experience of being deaf differently because it is such an individual thing. There's also something about sign language and the deaf experience that allows people to assume that what they think or know is factual. There are so many people that say that they're fluent in sign when they can barely fingerspell, and writers that don't do enough research when they write about deaf characters because they think plugging their fingers in their ears for a couple minutes is experience enough. As long as you let me show you who I am, rather than trying to make me into someone you think I should be, we're good.

I only know this story because Ari told it to me. He was given a list of “names” for the role of Annie by his casting directors because they thought trying to cast Annie would have been a doozy because she was so specific. Ari was really good about staying true to the origins of almost all of the characters in the movie, and there is so much diversity there. But he was starting to think that he might not be able to do it with Annie. The story goes that one of his friends was watching “Weeds,” saw me on it, called Ari in the middle of the night, and said, I found your Annie! Or something like that, I might be making some of that up. The end result was that I got sent the script, met him for coffee, don't think I handled it appropriately because I was just like, okay, so do you want to hire me? Good thing he said yes. So we just went from there.

I’ve seen you in the TV show “Jericho” and loved the depth and gravitas you brought to that character. Do the characters you choose closely resemble your own personality or do you try to take parts that aren’t reflections of you? Would you ever play a “bad girl” or a villain?

I would definitely play a bad girl, and I'd definitely love to be the villain. I've been a bad girl a few times, but on television, I think writers get inspired by the actors themselves and what they see on a daily basis. I think Megan on “Weeds” started out a bad girl but she didn't necessarily end up that way. I think everyone has a degree of darkness in them that we just don't see because circumstances might not have made it necessary for them to show that side of their personalities yet. I think anyone could commit evil acts or do bad things if the situation forced them to, and I'm kind of morbidly fascinated by that.

What role have you always wanted to play but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

Dana Halter in T.C. Boyle's “Talk Talk.” He's an amazing writer and his words are so visual that I would love to play her in the film version. The rights have been optioned, and they have no idea when they will begin production, and to be honest, when they do, it will probably be on such a large scale that I probably won't even be considered. But I think about it all the time, because Dana is so whole and flawed that it would just be a dream come true to be able to, and I think we all have to have dreams because it keeps us hungry.

Any word if your movie, “Adventures of Power,” has been picked up by a distributor?

No word. That's really Ari's thing, not mine, I'm just a measly actor, so I try to stay out of those things. But I think we'd all naturally love to see the movie get out there!

Not Like the Shampoo


I had the pleasure of attending the 9th annual Phoenix Film Festival over the weekend and saw a lot of great movies.

One movie in particular named “Adventures of Power” caught my attention when I read the description: In the toughest of times, a small-town mineworker Power only wished he played drums. So after his father calls for a strike at the mine, Power heads out across America, discovering an underground subculture of “air-drummers” who just might hold the key to changing the world. Run time 89 minutes.

Plus I found out the movie had a cameo from one of the best drummers ever from my favorite-all-time, until-rock-is-dead-and-buried-beside-the-rotting-corpses-of-Hip Hop-and-Tejano. Forever and-ever,-Amen bands…Neil Peart of Rush.

So while watching the film, I kept noticing that some characters in the movie repeatedly mis-pronounced Neil’s last name. Every time one of the characters made this serious verbal flub, it was like picking a scab or rubbing vinegar into your eyes. It’s a simple mistake, many people make it, and that’s the difference between a casual Rush fan. At first glance, Neil’s last name looks simple enough to pronounce. Casual fans, or the ill-informed pronounce his last name PERT, like the shampoo. That’s incorrect. It’s pronounced PEER-T.

After the third time in the film, I was determined to find out how in the world could have someone, anyone allowed such a grievous error to remain in the film. I was going to demand overdubs and an apology to Mr. PEER-T, himself.

It never escalated to that point, since I made the embarrassing mistake in the Q&A after the movie of asking a wonderful actress who just happens to be deaf, Shoshanna Stern, was she or the director aware that characters in the movie kept butchering the pronunciation of Neil’s last name? She had no idea, and of course, I looked like a complete and total jackass for asking the hearing impaired girl about a man’s name who she’s probably never heard of, or would even need to know.

But, like the true pro she is, Shoshanna said through her interpreter that I was more than welcome to email the director who couldn’t be at the film festival since he was in Serbia showing his film at a festival there. I didn’t know Serbia even had electricity since the war, let alone a DVD player that was hooked up to a projection screen.

So I took her advice and asked for a business card for Ari Gold (no lie, that’s his real name. It’s even printed on the back of his card in yellow: yes real name thanks).

I emailed him that I loved the film, but how could you not get the last name of the guy who agrees to do a cameo in your film? I mean, really! During the hours and hours of intense editing of your film that took you three years to make, did you or no one casually listening to the dialogue, catch that you were sullying the good name of the guy who is responsible for the drum beats and lyrics to such classic tunes as Limelight, Spirit of Radio, 2112 and Rush’s seminal hit, Tom Sawyer?

Of course I was not that rude or direct, but I made darn sure he knew that I wanted an answer. And I hit the send button, expecting nothing. After all, this guy’s made a movie. He’s gotten some pretty cool actors to be in a good film about air drumming. He’s in Serbia, for gosh sake, showing his movie, for the love of sweet and sour! And he scored a cameo of Neil Peart. Why would he need to answer me?

Well, he did answer me in pretty short order. Below is what he said:

Hi Mac,

I actually know it's "peert" but I figured the character of Power, without access to Internet or TV and "in his own world", wouldn't know that! After I shot it the way I thought Power would say it, I thought about dubbing it "peert" because fans would be miffed by the multiple pronunciations, but decided it was realistic this way... who knows, Neil didn't seem to mind...!

All the best. Let me know if you ever want me to do a call-in!

Ari


After reading his response it made total sense. See, that’s why I do a little rinky-dink show in KTAR with Gaydos and this guy directs movies. He knows what he’s doing. Maybe, just one day, someday I will too….

The Best Show You're Not Watching


If you’re not familiar with Coach, Coach’s wife, Riggins, Street, Tyra or even a guy named Landry, then you’re not watching the best show on television.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Friday Night Lights is one of, if not the best, show that has hardly been watched by TV audiences for three struggling, confounding seasons. NBC had strong hopes for the series that is about football in a small Texas town. Critics have been lauding the show since it was first aired and it’s developed a core group of rabid viewers even when NBC shifted time slots and days.

But this was supposed to be the last season since DirecTV struck a deal with NBC. The show would air first on DirecTV and then NBC would run the episodes in January on (ironically) Friday nights. Never before had a series been aired like this and TV people were skeptical if this marriage between network and satellite would work.

Last week the announcement that NBC and DirecTV had hammered out a deal to keep the show on for two more seasons. Even Lazarus didn’t get this many shots at rising from the dead.

I am not going to apologize for the confusion of the title and the day the showed first aired not being congruous. So the show wasn’t on Friday nights, like the title suggested.

And I won’t apologize for understanding how high school football is like religion in Texas; where high school kids are lionized as conquering heroes when they win, and chastised as despicable and worthless when they lose.

Friday Night Lights is more than glorifying the high school gridiron. The show’s writers have carefully constructed characters and plot lines that make Gossip Girl and 90210 (both old school and the remake) look arrogant and insipid.

Maybe I love this show because I lived in a small town in Texas whereupon my first week in town I wasn’t asked where I was from, or what college I went to, but what church did I attend? Followed immediately by the second question “what football team do you follow?” I thought the correct answer would be the Texas Longhorns.

Wrong.

What the gentleman asked was what high school team did I follow? Was it Robinson, Hewitt, Midway or University High School? It was culture shock, to say the least.

When you live in a small town you soak up the culture, accept the foibles, extol the virtues and turn a blind eye to the scandals. But most of all, you learn and quickly accept who people are and what they stand for.

That’s why I love Friday Night Lights. It’s more than just a show about dumb jocks playing high school football. The show is written with a brutal honesty and subtle grittiness that steadfastly champions the underdog on and off the field without being saccharine or crass.

Friday Night Lights reflects what happens in many towns across America on Friday nights in the fall. It’s more than awkward teens transformed into gridiron gladiators, if only for four quarters. It’s about what makes a small town great, even if you’ve never lived in a small town.

If only you would watch.

Do yourself a favor and stop watching Lost; it’s so confusing that no one in Hollywood has a clue what’s going on, or how to end the show. ER is (finally) going away. Grey’s Anatomy jumped the shark when Meredith drowned and came back to life. Stop with the reality shows. Idol is fixed. The Biggest Loser isn’t about fat people losing weight. Get a copy of the book Friday Night Lights and read it. Or, rent the first two seasons of FNL and catch up on the episodes on NBC from this season.

By next fall, I am sure you’ll be watching anxiously waiting to see Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor) Connie Britton (Coach Taylor’s wife), Taylor Kitsch (Riggins), et. al., enter a new season with the Dillon Panthers.