Friday, December 24, 2010

                              I like Christmas, but Christmas Doesn't Like Me

     I have a perverse relationship with this season. I always have had. I'm a lapsed Judeo-Christian so I understand the religious significance. I read so I know the pagan ritual roots thing. I paid attention during science so I understand about the Winter Solstice. I like the TV shows (well some of them) , the Alastair Sim "A Christmas Carol", "Scrooged" and "Miracle on 34th Street" (The Original)... I can deal with the songs...I have problems with some of the lyrics, but the music is generally pretty good

    More than anything I love the idea of  putting aside differences (which are largely the result of ignorance, vivid imaginations, and bad communication) and trying to get along. Shame it only happens around this time of year, but it seems to be all we can handle.

    So while I actually like Christmas (or whatever we're celebrating. I like to thinkit's our collective humanity) I tend to have trouble around this time of year. Personal problems, health issues, financial stuff including loss of employment etc... It all seems to happen around this time, and this year is no different.


     It's more likely in the nature of a self fulfilling prophecy. I always have very high hopes for the season, as I always have very high expectations of myself. Despite the fact that I'd probably be voted most likely be the Grinch, I am, at heart, an optimist. I live in hope that tomorrow will be better than today and that humankind isn't really suicidal. The majority of us are generous and caring. We can also be selfish, petty and afraid. Nobody is always one thing...We're complicated like that.

     So I expect a lot.

     I don't mean presents. I'm in the middle of purging a lot of detritus preparing to move.
I have too much stuff as it is. Don't get me wrong, I like  to get gifts as much as anyone. I can live without them, saves me from making the "Present Face" (as Garfunkel and Oates have put it) if I get something I'm iffy about. Anyway I prefer giving, and therein maybe the problem.

      I like to give presents, and over the last few years I haven't been able to give the way I'd like. Yes, it can be a money thing, but its also a time and materials thing too. I think that may be the root of a lot it. I can't give the way I want, so I'm disappointed with myself, and hence the season.
     There that was easy, wasn't it?  Problem solved.

     Except, that's not all of it...

     Maybe it's a spiritual thing, or lack of same. Kharma, maybe? I may have done something truly heinous that I'm unaware of, in this one or previous one, or am I mixing my religious metaphors.
     Maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's the time of man...

     Or maybe I'm taking it all to personally...Probably.

     Whatever it is, I apologize to Christmas for any wrongs I may have committed. I'm truly sorry. Please forgive me.

     And to all my friends, family, acquaintances, my reader and to anyone I've ever met, may you have the happiest of holidays, and may all your dreams and wishes for the new year all come true and then some.


Michael Hiller


Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Warning: This one's probably not going to be funny. Maybe in time...

     I have to move in 2 weeks and, at the moment, I have nowhere to go. In large part this is my own fault, and I really have no excuse other than I went through an unfortunately timed depressive episode after giving notice.

       The situation sucks. It's of my own making (to an extent).  So it goes...

     I have a lot of stuff I'll be cleaning up, throwing out, donating, selling, or giving away over a short space of time including books, furniture, DVDs etc.

    If the situation changes, or I find a place, I'll update addresses and stuff.

    Maybe this is a chance to reboot and renew... Cleanse and all that stuff.

    At the moment, though, I'm just a little scared...


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

     A couple of non-related things.

     There's a difference between a re-imagination of something and a remake and a reboot. It's a fine distinction sometimes. Example: Batman Begins is a re-imagining of an established character but it's also a reboot of an established franchise. A reboot of a franchise becomes necessary when a) The last movie in the series is so bad that another movie in the series becomes a question mark and/or a really long time has passed between the old series and the new one. (Batman and Robin kills the Batman franchise in 1997. The first 3 movies made enough to make it worth reviving the series. It takes 6 plus years for the studio to agree on a director, an approach, and a cast and 2 years for the actual movie to get made. Thanks to Christopher Nolan it works. The same can't be said for Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns") "The Dark Knight" takes it even further and becomes the most honored "comic book movie" ever made.

    And why am I typing this? 'Cause I just saw the remake/imagining/possibly reboot of "The Karate Kid".
I was never crazy about the original 'cause to me it was just a variation on Rocky. Even had the same director, John G. Avildsen who did a lot Rocky variations like 2 of the Karate Kid sequels and Rocky 5 among others. I also never bought the concept of Pat Morita as a martial arts teacher.

     So how come I loved remake/imagining/reboot with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Well, A couple of reasons... For one, They took the fish out of water theme to its extreme. Instead of being a Brooklyn outsider in California, Smith is the child of a transferred auto supervisor who has to re-establish herself in Beijing. The plot is essentially the same. But the change in locale changes everything. Language, customs, even food. And it is Beijing, not a backlot. I loved that it was filmed on location.

     The other thing it has going for it is the casting. Jaden Smith is good. He is also a "Kid" as opposed to an adult that looks like a teenager (Ralph Macchio), so the title makes at least partial sense (Still didn't really explain why it's still called "The Karate Kid" when they are quite obviously doing Kung Fu). The other revelation is Jackie Chan. Chan is great as "Mr. Han" (Mr. Miyagi by a Chinese name). He brings an authenticity and, dare I say it, a gravitas to the role. You know no matter what punishment he dishes out to Smith, its nothing compared to what he himself (and his contemporaries Sammo Hung and Jet Li ) went through at the Chinese Opera School when he was a kid. The other interesting shadow that looms over the movie is that of Bruce Lee.

      There's an unspoken resolution to an equally unspoken competition that's been going on since Jackie Chan was being touted as the successor to Bruce Lee. And American companies tried like hell to make him fit that mold. But Chan didn't fit it and, in fact, fought against it. Where Lee expressed rage and vengeance, Chan was a clown and an acrobat, and a stuntman who changed the rules of the game everywhere. And the finale of this Karate Kid is very much a showdown of styles. The Bad Guys use a very direct attack based style, while Jaden is very Jackie Jr, dodging and flipping out of the way, before landing a blow. Both Jaden and Jackie turn out to be the victors. I suspect it was destined to be so...One has difficulty picturing Bruce Lee as Mr. Han, but it fits Jackie Chan like a glove.

     So yeah, I liked it. And no, I don't think it should spawn sequels.

     On the same topic, sort of. Warner Bros. announced last week that it's going ahead with the controversial reboot of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer franchise without the services of the show's creator, Joss Whedon. The driving force behind this are the producers of the lame movie that preceded wildly successful TV series, which Whedon had all but disowned because the producers and director had messed with the script.
     All I have to say is that the whole thing is doomed before it starts. By my reckoning the only character they have the rights to is Buffy, herself. The rest of the mainstays of the series, Willow, Xander, Angel, Spike, Anya, and Giles, were created for the show and weren't in the original movie.

     It's kinda like doing a remake of "Gilligan's Island" when the only character you have the rights  to is Gilligan. No Skipper, No Maryanne, No Howells, No Ginger, No Professor. Just Gilligan.

Or would that be a reimagining ?

In other news it was my birthday on Monday. I saw a Lon Chaney movie on TCM that I had never seen, so that was cool. I made myself a cake, which turned out great (I think everyone should have cake on their birthday). And I started catching up on Smallville, about which more on a later date...

Anywho, sorry for the delay in posting this... I'll try to keep more regular...writing, that is.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

                 The Boys

      I like documentaries a lot. I have, in fact, committed the heresy of saying that I preferred "The Making of Gone with the Wind" to the actual movie. Same with "Hearts of Darkness" and "Apocalypse Now". I think that any balanced documentary beats out any biopic hands down. Since I'm a movie geek I like a lot of "making of"s and genre documentaries. I've been writing a lot about childhood stuff, lately, so the documentary I watched tonight was connected to that and a bunch of other stuff combined.

     It was called "The Boys" and it was about the Sherman Brothers who wrote many of the Disney Songs in the 60's. They also wrote all the songs for the first movie I saw multiple times as a kid, "Mary Poppins".

      In "My Best Friends have always been Monsters" I may have given the impression that I saw nothing but horror films when I was a kid. Not true. Between my parents and my own weird taste, I saw all kinds of different kinds of movies, and yes,  some of them were made by Disney. But I didn't own a lot of soundtracks. "Hard Day's Night", Help", "Mary Poppins" and "The Jungle Book". Most of the first 2 were written by Lennon and McCartney , the second 2 were written by Richard and Robert Sherman. Comparisons were made between both teams during "The Boys".

     The film was made by the sons of the Sherman Brothers, and part of it was an effort to mend fences between the siblings who, while they have worked together on various projects, have led largely separate lives since the 70's. They never attend family events together, and for show openings the are on different sides of the theatre.

      Part of what I found amazing was how persistent music and lyrics can be in the memory. I haven't heard a lot of these songs in decades, but when they were played I remembered all of them, music and lyrics. Also I never realized that the Shermans had also written the scores for "Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang" and "Snoopy, Come Home" among many others.

      There are several touching moments in the documentary, and I recommend it. Save the hankies for the end though, because even though it was released by Disney, remember, it's a documentary. not a movie.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

              Happy Birthday, Boris Karloff...

             William Henry Pratt never fit you, you always looked like a Boris Karloff.

             There is a story attributed to Karloff, that he was working at Universal playing bit parts and one evening he was given a ride home by the studio's biggest star, in fact one of the biggest stars in silent pictures, Lon Chaney. According to Karloff, Chaney advised him "The trick of this business is to do something totally different from the rest so they'll take notice of you." Chaney, if anyone, would know about that. Nobody could do what Chaney could do. Karloff never even tried, and the irony was not lost on him that when he finally found his niche, he kept being compared to Chaney.
             Even though he didn't do his own makeup,  he was as versatile as the elder Chaney. The Frankenstein Monster was one of only 15 roles he'd played that year (1931). He and James Cagney were  founding members of the Screen Actors Guild. He never lost touch with his stage roots, going back to Broadway on numerous occasions.

           And yes he played the Frankenstein Monster. He played it brilliantly, in a performance that holds up to this day. Bearing in mind Chaney's advice he never complained about typecasting.  On the contrary, he  said that "The Monster was the best friend I ever had".
            Mine too, Boris...

                                    Solipsism is the New Black

         It's my birthday next Monday (the 29th) and I'll be 51. I was born with almost exactly a month left in the 50's, or if you will a month to go 'til the 60's. It's a moot point because I don't think I've ever belonged in any decade. my favorite movies are from the 30's and 40's, also literature. I'm also a big fan of old time radio, and think that their should still be radio stations that carry original radio drama and comedy, because people get tired of just yapping about sports and politics.

         I guess I am unstuck in time. I like reading books. My art starts out from a pencil before it gets to a computer. But I do appreciate computers and technology and stuff like that there. I like video games, and I look forward to the advancement in technology where I can actually be IN the movie...It's getting there...There are a bunch of Bogart and Noir movies that I wanna do.

         Is it a getting old thing to miss civility? 'Cause I do...I miss when  people were courteous.

         Actually it's not an old thing. You know how I know that? 'Cause I see old people doing it just as much as younger people. The 60 something who barges in front of a line of people waiting for prescriptions, and loudly monopolizes the pharmacists time is just as bad as the teenager loudly having a one sided conversation on a cell phone on a bus late at night. If these were isolated things that would be one thing, but it's not. It happens all the time. People shove past you on the street, give impromptu sermons on crowded subways, have conversations in the theatre while a performance is going on...

And it ripples, feeds on itself, and breeds. The Clerk or the waiter who gets disrespected all day will, at some point, start issuing payback. Ditto the TTC Driver, Bank Teller, or Cop.

I guess it's that I seem to notice that people are spoiling for a fight and will supply you with one at the slightest provocation. And while I agree that there are legitimate reasons to be angry, It's important to be sure that anger is direct to the right person, organization or institution.

I suppose it's a form of Civil Disobedience, but it's not what Gandhi, or Dr. King intended anymore. Going from fighting against some large injustice to one persons inconvenience is not an equal use of time and rage.

Solipsism (loosely defined: Fuck everybody else, It's all about me, baby) has become a viable life path, and I think it sucks. That's only my opinion but who's were you expecting to see on my blog? Dennis Miller's?

I dunno. Maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy.

I blame the Danes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

      Almost Crazy is Not for the Feint of Heart

      I've been dealing with  psychologists and psychiatrists from the ripe old age of 8 or so, for a variety of reasons and issues. Believe me it wasn't my idea.

    Teachers started it because of the "not living up to potential" thing. I was the poster boy for not living up to my potential and I would have made one too, but I never got around to it. That went on from grade school to middle school, to the point where I was undergoing EEGs  and IQ tests. Psychologists would give me self-esteem tests too. Nobody would ever tell me whether I passed or not. There were vague references to a high IQ and being bored in class. I didn't care. It didn't make me feel any better.

    The irony to all this was the testing ended round about the time that the really nasty symptoms started manifesting themselves. Barn door locked, horse gone. But that's another blog (See Mr. Scary below)

     So for a long time I went through some serious shit by myself. I could have asked for help but I didn't want to go through the whole testing, poking and prodding thing again, with no results. I just wanted to be ignored by everything and everybody.

     Genetically I had reasons to worry.  I had immediate precedents on both sides of the family. and through multiple generations. Unfortunately you don't get to pick and choose which genetic traits you get any more than you get to pick your relatives. You just have to play the cards you're dealt, even if they suck. Luckily for me, I happen to be a pretty good poker player.

For the record (Those who know me already know this, because I have talked about it. If this is news, please don't worry, I'm still harmless) I have been diagnosed with Type 2 Rapid Cycling Bi-Polar Disorder, which is managed by medication, so I function in relative normality. I also have an anxiety disorder, as well which used to make new situations and meeting new people loads of fun. Again, Meds help...

A word about psych meds, since you asked...It takes a while before you can get them up to a therapeutic level. Most of them cause drowsiness, at least initially. Some of them have interesting side effects. One I'm currently titrating on gives me dry mouth something fierce. But I soldier on. And most people have no idea. They think I'm just an artsy, which is also true.

The next play I'm directing is "Nuts". I think I have the necessary background.

But I'm not crazy...I'm just a little unwell.

Don't be ascared. It's just me.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

10 Minutes on Obsession (not the fragrance)

        I'm the type of person who doesn't merely develop an interest in something. Unfortunately I'm the type that has to dissect a subject. I need to take it apart and see how it works. I delve into the history attempting to find out the why, put it into context of a when, and maybe somewhere along the line I can figure out a why.

      This is amplified by tenfold when I'm writing about something. It becomes a matter of trying to show off in a very MTV "You think you know, but you have no idea" way. It was in doing this kind of research that I discovered that Bob Kane was an asshole.

     The non geeks among you probably won't recognize the name Bob Kane. The rest of you will know that Bob Kane created Batman...At least he took credit for it, as it turns out that his friend Bill Finger added a good deal more to the mix than Kane ever did. As well as the overall look of the character (Kane's version wore a red union-suit, stiff batwings and a small domino mask, no gloves) Finger came up with the backstory, the main characters and the noir atmosphere that still remains with the book. Meanwhile Kane's participation with Batman seems to have stopped (apart from making sure his was the only name connected with the caped crusader, and ensuring he got a cut of any merchandising of same) with the 3rd appearance of the character, where Jerry Robinson pretty much takes over and you see a vast improvement in the artwork.

     I was researching the story of  Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for a project I'm still hoping to develop, when I uncovered another story that put Kane in a less than favorable light. It seemed that when WW2 was over and Siegel & Shuster were in renewal negotiations with National Comics (aka DC) for the rights to their creation, Superman. They went to Kane for help, and laid their cards on the table. If they could get his help then they would have the top two creations in NAtionals stable and force them to the bargaining table. Kane said he'd think about it, then used the information to negotiate a better credit and merchandising deal for himself, and when Jerry and Joe returned , he apologetically told them that he regretted that he couldn't help them. National fired Siegel and Shuster and informed them that since publishing the first Superman story in 1938, which they had purchased for 132 dollars, they had owned the rights to the Man of Steel, and didn't need their permission to do anything with him. Siegel and Shuster end up in borderline poverty, and Bob Kane makes a ton of money particularly during the different resurgences of Batmania.

     Jill Sobule has a song called "Heroes" which asks the musical question "Why are all our Heroes so imperfect..." In most cases it's simply because they're human. Anyway I traded Bob Kane for Jerry Robinson ( who eventually did see that Jerry and Joe got some of what they deserved) and Bill Finger, so I figure I got the better end.

By the way this took about a half an hour to write, but I figured since I missed yesterday, I needed to make up time.





Thursday, November 18, 2010

10 minutes on Bullying

In the schoolyards of my youth we had bullies. They had different prejudices but it amounted to the same thing. I don't understand you, therefore I will beat the living crud out of you. Pretty simple philosophy when you think of it, but probably ends up taking up a lot of your time because you probably don't understand a lot.
        It was a simpler time too. You got bullied for being different. That's it. Just be different and sooner than later somebody will show up that doesn't like you. Lord knows I had my share. I was different in so many ways.
        I was fat. I was in choir. I had long hair (despite the fact that it was the 60's it hadn't caught on everywhere yet) and I was thought to be a wuss. The latter was a mistaken assumption. I could be called every name in the book, and there was some beauties, but I wouldn't react. Get physical and that was a different matter. I would make it a matter of finishing what had been started.  It happened maybe twice while I was in grade school, and then never again... Change anything? Nope. They just changed tactics.

And they don't go away. They follow you to Middle and High School. They adapt, and you adapt. One thing that I've observed, though, is that they really don't like creative types much, and that's straight up jealousy.
             It feels like it will never stop and, yeah, the scars run really deep. But you're smarter than they are. You have avenues of escape. There're always people and paper and blogs and most of all there's You. And you are supremely powerful. That's what I hear, anyway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Ten Minutes on Music and Childhood

I was a rock and roll kid, with pop tendencies, and a touch of blues thrown in to taste. in my house everything was played, pretty much. There was Jimmy Reed, Johnny Cash, Richie Valens, Bill Haley, Clyde McPhatter among others.

As I started to develop my own tastes I naturally drifted towards what I heard on the radio and saw on TV. And what was on radio and TV from 1963 on? The Beatles...So naturally, my first all music album was "The Beatles 2nd Album" mostly because it had a cover of the Marvelettes "Please Mr. Postman" on it. I'd had kid albums before but this was like a grown up record. Mom got the Rolling Stones, and was never much of a Beatles fan. This would be typical of our relationship for the next few decades. To be honest my mom has pretty good taste in music, and I credit a lot of my eclecticism to her. I picked up on some of her faves. Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, Gene Pitney...

Gene Pitney had the most amazing voice. He had a 3 Octave range. When I practiced singing I practiced singing to "Half Heaven, Half Heartache' or "Every Little Breath I Take".And when I was a kid I could hit those notes. Of course when I was a kid, I was also a boy soprano in St. Simon's Church Choir...Chew on that one 'til tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This weekend I was introduced to the ten minute writing exercise as a means of uncorking the blockage that some writers go through. It was during the Fabulous Soul-O theatre workshops run by Tracy Erin Smith who is a great artist and a great teacher. The idea is to simply start writing and keep writing til the time runs out. Stream of consciousness, improvisation, call it what you will. You take a topic and just keep going until the 10 minutes runs out. The pen  keeps moving, the fingers keep writing for the duration, and when it runs out (the time) you stop. Some of what comes out will be crap (according to Sturgeons Law 90% of everything is Crap), but some of it might contain the germ of an idea, and some of it might be wonderful. I got some of each. It was enough to get me to enter the Fringe lottery. Something I haven't done in 14 years. Plus I figured that it was long enough from the last time that people would have forgotten.

     I'm at  a slight disadvantage here, because I'm a slow typist, and a slow cursive writer (my handwriting can be illegible if I'm in a hurry.

   By the way if you hadn't guess this one was about 10 minute timed righting exercises and time is now up...