Black Like Me

When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, I remember reading "Black Like Me." It was an impressive story, about a white man who masquerades as a black man in the South. But then I was set straight by the Autobiography of Malcolm X.And Langston Hughes.

I grew up in a white suburb. The only black person I knew well was Kelly, the guy who bagged groceries at the Jewel. He, along with Ben the Shoeman, a Jewish survivor of the holocaust who knew who belonged to every shoe in his shop, was one of the two adults who looked me in the eye and talked to me when I was a kid growing up in a suburb of Chicago. My parents liked Kelly and a couple of times asked if he'd bartend their parties - and Kelly had a heavy hand when it came to pouring drinks, so I can remember being about 11 years old and watching the neighbors get wasted in a few cocktails - and Kelly lost his car keys, so that was a panicked moment, until I figured he'd probably put them in his visor.  When he died, Kelly got front page stories in both the Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times - an amazing person, and my first introduction to African American culture.

My next was in High School.  I had long hair, spent a lot of time thinking of creative ways to ditch school (the ditch king from my high school was made famous in a film by John Hughes, who went to my high school; "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"). One day a teacher approached me and asked if I was interested in being part of a project that married inner city kids with suburban kids - I said "Do I get out of school?" And he said yes - there's field trips that go downtown.  So I joined up - about twenty kids from the inner city, teamed up with white boys and girls from the rich suburbs.

It was hilarious.  This was back in the 70's, so people in the group actually said stuff like "I'm just waiting for the revolution, (the upcoming black revolution predicted by the P Stone Rangers and other groups) and am casing the houses I might want to live in."  I was assigned to Frank Allen - who in every respect was exactly like me - same amount of brothers, football player, musician - he just happened to have a skin color that was closer to coal.  Frank and I became great pals - and we laughed and giggled at the others in the group - including the aforementioned revolutionaries.  We traded homes on more than one occassion - I went down to his place in the projects - many kids claimed they'd never seen a white person up close before, off the TV and one or two would check out my skin.. I'm serious.  Once in an elevator in the Robert Taylor homes public housing, a guy came into the elevator that Frank and I were in - Frank started to giggle and act like he was high - and I started to laugh as well, cause he was laughing so hard. When the guy got off the elevator Frank said "We had to do that to show him we weren't challenging him..." And when Frank came and stayed at our house, he slept on top of the sheets - as if he didn't want to wrinkle anything. And my well meaning parents brought out the family china for him to dine on - I guess to show him that he was an honored guest, I took it as some kind of odd reverse guilt - but my favorite moment was the day Frank and I were at the local Jewel (now that I think of it, I may have introduced him to Kelly, who was still bagging groceries, and who viewed Frank as someone from somewhere else) and ran into a friend of mine's mom - Dave's uptight, suburban mom nearly fainted at the sight of this tall handsome black man in beatler boots and cap (leather) smiling at her.

I mention this casual reflection having seen three terrific films in a row this week; "Precious," "The Blind Side" and "Princess and the Frog."  What they have in common are African American, or black protagonists, antagonists, characters, of all shapes, sizes.. admittedly the cinematic conceipt is that all are from a poorer side of the tracks, but at the same time, each character is different, with different hopes, dreams, desires, and background - a rich cultural slice.  What I loved about Precious, directed by my friend Lee Daniels - who I will now go around claiming to be a very close friend, when in reality we've crossed paths a bit through mutual friends, and I've always been a fan.. what I loved about the film was its portrayal of a world that's never been shown before - even if they appear over the top - Mo'Nique's characterization of Mary Jones is brilliant - I can't think of a worse depiction of a parent, perhaps Jim Colburn in Paul Shrader's film - but she's as memorable a villain as any I've ever seen. The casting was excellent, and I loved the class of girls - each unique, each someone I wanted to know more about after the film was over. As well as the effervescent Paula Patton.. The lead actress Gabourey Sidibe also did a fine job with a few lines.  Just breathtaking filmmaking.

But I have high praise for "The Blind Side" - which is another version of taking someone out of the ghetto and giving them a shot - this happens to be a true story of the amazing Michael Oher.  Wow. I loved the film, and I actually forgot Sandra Bullock was in it until she showed up about ten minutes into the story - and what a hilarious, multi-faceted performance.  I loved the film, kudos to John Lee Hancock, who did such wonderful work with "The Rookie" - he has a nice touch with his actors, and did a masterful job with the adaptation.  It reminded me of my own football days - the action on the field was well done - Not sure if I believed Sandra Bullock would confront the men from Michael's hood on her own, but it felt right, and was something we wanted to see her do - just a great movie all around.

And the Princess and the Frog - well, here we go again.. but in this case highlighting the great music and cultural heritage of New Orleans, one of my favorite towns.  I can see how African Americans could take offense at all of these films - each one is over the top in its own way - Precious created a fantastic reality of people who are in difficult circumstances - Blind Side took a real story and found the humanity in it, and Princess takes a cultural heritage of music and finds a way to weave a great story around Randy Newman's score.. Sure, it should have included the Neville's somewhere - as there's no New Orleans without them - but that's all a way of saying that story telling follows the same rules each time. Put your hero in a tree, throw stones at him or her, then get them out of the tree. If you can find a person with a background that is based in strife, then they're already in the tree, and makes for more compelling story telling... I wonder if people 100 years from now look back on this year as an era when black filmmakers (Tyler Perry and Oprah producing Precious, Perry with his own prodigious output).

As for me, one of these days I'll find a way to tell my own story - I got a call from Frank Allen a few years ago, and he said "Hey Rick, it's Frank, I'm up in San Quentin." And I thought, oh no, something bad has happened to him, so I said "Oh man, I'm sorry to hear that." And he said "No, no, my brother is a guard up here, I'm just visiting."  Frank used to say his only dream was to get out of the ghetto.  He didn't. He had two kids with a local girl, took a job at the Post Office, and basically phone it in for the next twenty years. However, the mother of his daughters did find a way out, and both his girls wound up going to Marquette.  So maybe that's the story I should be telling, instead of this mini review of two wonderful films, and one great Disney flick.  My two cents.

Food, Inc

For those of you who haven't seen this film, make sure that you do.  It's one of those things that you always knew was happening, and is really disturbing to have it in your face. To recap:

1. Chickens grown by Tyson, Perdue, and the other major manufacturers are grown in darkened sheds. The chickens are filled with antibiotics.  Chicken nuggets will turn you into a chicken nugget. The answer: eat organic chicken.

2. Beef is mixed and intermingled with other beef from questionable places of hygiene. Used to be 50 processing plants in the US; now there are 13.  Odds of getting sick go up exponentially.  If a cow eats grass it will shed the ecoil killing bacteria in a matter of weeks.  Answer: Eat grass fed beef only, organic is best.

3. Corn.  By artificially lowering the price of corn, subsidizing the crop, we've driven it into feed bins, into corn syrup, into everything on the grocery shelf.  If it contains Corn syrup, if you value your health, you won't eat it. Corn has been modified genetically - but worse than that, it doesn't belong in the foods its in.  I love corn! But I hate being fed like a cow.

4. Soybeans. Those of you who know me know I made the only feature film about Soybeans ever made. "Limit Up."  Since 1996 Monsanto has cornered the soybean market by patenting their bean, then aggressively prosecuting those who use it - only catch is, it blows into your farm, and if you don't pay them for it, they'll sue you.  90% of all beans are now Monsanto Genetically altered beans - and the FDA won't tell us if the soybean derivative you're eating has been altered. It's outrageous!  I for one am going to boycott all Monsanto products and will encourage anyone in listening range to do so. To make it illegal to use your own soybeans, or to clean old beans is unbelievable.  They are a monopoly and should be broken up - people have to wake up to what we're being fed.

5. Stonyfield. Cool company. Cool CEO. Shows that by purchasing organic you can make a difference. Go to your local market. I just have to figure out how to wean my kids off of chicken nuggets and burgers.. now if someone would open a fast food organic food place!!! Hello?


"A new treatment for autism appears to normalize brain function"

 Not my usual field of interest, but happened to attend a lecture given by Dr. Starr in Santa Monica on the subject of Autism - saw their studies, and the use of this holistic medicine in the treatment of autism. It's based on a native American root that they used to treat depression - and it turns out to have a side effect of helping serotonin be regulated by the body - hence why its effective on autistic kids.  I've seen footage of the trials, and felt compelled to post it anywhere that people might be looking for assistance.  From what I saw and hear, I was really impressed. I have no connection to this program, other than to pass along some interesting results... R

Dr. Fred Starr from Nashville and Researcher Elaine DeLack

Study: Respen-A medication appears to normalize brain function in autistic children

13. November 2009 01:19

A new treatment for autism appears to normalize brain function, according to Nashville physician Fred S. Starr, MD, FAACAP, BCIA-EEG.

In addition to high serotonin levels, autistic children have a characteristically common "u" EEG pattern reflecting impaired brain function, particularly in areas of the brain responsible for social interaction, communication, speech and bonding.

However, Quantitative EEG's conducted by Dr. Starr on autistic children after three weeks on the medication Respen-A showed that the children's brain patterning changed to "normal" patterning. Starr says that behavioral improvement was also "evident". "Speech, interaction and social skills improved markedly in patients using Respen-A, and displays of frustration and anger markedly diminished," Starr said.

The theory behind the use of Respen-A was developed by private researcher Elaine DeLack, Stanwood, WA. Unlike theories that center on negative reaction to vaccinations, DeLack looked at exposure to a commonly used drug used during delivery, and at brain enzymes that affect the brain both at birth, and again as the child enters childhood.

DeLack's hypothesis (which can be viewed in slide show format at www.Neuro-Med. net) connects autism to the use of epidurals during childbirth. Epidurals were introduced into this country in the 1960's. By the mid-80's, 22 percent of women received an epidural during delivery. In the mid-90's, the number grew to 67%. Today, nearly 90% of women receive an epidural during pregnancy.

However, DeLack contends that it may not be the epidural procedure, but the drugs given in conjunction with the procedure, particularly the drug Pitocin, that has contributed to increasing numbers in autism.

Pitocin crosses the placenta to the infant's system during childbirth. The drug requires adequate production of an enzyme found in the liver (CYP 3A4) in order to rid it from the body. If the infant has a genetic inadequacy of the CYP 3A4 enzyme (found more often to be lacking statistically in boys than girls), the drug's intensity could become elevated in the infant's system, and build with another naturally occurring neurotransmitter that plays a key role in brain development: the hormone Oxytocin.

Oxytocin builds naturally in the brain during the first 7 - 10 days of life, ensuring that nerve patterning develops as it should in the brain. Once Oxytocin levels reach a naturally predetermined level, the development of the brain's nerve system (HNS system) ceases.

DeLack theorizes that the addition of Pitocin into the bloodstream of infants without adequate CYP 3A4 genetic enzymes, causes brain development to "shut off" early, stunting crucial neuro-development.

DeLack hypothesizes that a second enzyme may explain why autism shows up in many children around the age of three. The enzyme MAO-A is essential in regulating serotonin levels in the brain. In the first years of life, MAO-A levels remain high, assisting brain function. The impact of MAO-A may, in fact, cover symptoms of brain impairment in infants and toddlers.

MAO-A levels diminish as the child ages - allowing serotonin levels to rise, impacting the areas of the brain associated with communication, speech, emotion and bonding. Respen-A curbs the level of serotonin in the autistic brain.

"We see promise in all of this," DeLack says. "Further study will determine if simple modification during childbirth could be all that is needed to stem the surging tide of autism," states DeLack. And for those who have autism? "Respen-A could give them a quality of life that they - and their parents - deserve."



Selling My Film Titles online

Okay, I'm back from my sojourn working on "Salt." I'm going to try and be a little more proactive about selling my titles online. Here's links to the various titles for sale on the net: - CANNES MAN AKA CON MAN (with Seymour Cassel, Johnny Depp, Francesco Quinn, Rebecca Broussard) - LIMIT UP (with Nancy Allen, Dean Stockwell, Ray Charles as God) - CAMERA - DOGME #15 (2nd American Dogme film, with Carol Alt, Angie Everhart, Rebecca Broussard) - JOURNEY INTO TIBET (trip from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash with Prof. Robert Thurman) - TIBETAN REFUGEE (interviews with Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India, includes HH Dalai Lama)

I'm going to put up all my films for sale at some point, but for now, just a couple of clicks and you own your own copy.




Me on Merv Griffin

Here I am on Merv Griffin. Note the aura.


You Tube clips of Martini Flix

I've got some clips of my films posted at You Tube.

Here's the link:

Oddly enough, one of my clips is a comic excerpt from my film "Camera - Dogme #15" - so far 439,000 people have viewed it.

Why is that?

Because it's labeled "Golden Gate Jumper"? This is just an idea I had while making the overall film about the pervasive presence of video cameras in our lives. I was visiting my pal Dave in SF, and was trying to think of a way to incorporate a video.. and this is what I came up with.

Apologies for those offended by any comic turns on suicide. Not a funny subject. But the complaints are pretty funny from all the people who came to watch someone die, instead watch a comic bit. Furious!

Here' the clip.

Creating a new net presence....

Hi gang,

I've just finished 7 months working on a feature film.

I wasn't able to blog about it as there's a fatwa against talking about the film in print..

However, I'm just mentioning that I will be building a new web presence asap, in the meantime there are some clips from my feature films to the right of this page if you scan down. Enjoy!

Burn them at the stake!!!

Brothers’ shock at allegations challenged

Thursday, May 21, 2009

IT was difficult to understand why allegations of abuse should have come as such a shock to the Christian Brothers as child sexual abuse was a persistent problem, the Commission of Inquiry in Child Abuse found.

According to the commission, during its investigation, the stance of the Christian Brothers was that their institutions were not abusive and provided a positive experience.

During the investigation committee’s hearings, Br David Gibson, then province leader of St Mary’s Province of the Christian Brothers, outlined the response of the congregation to the issue of child abuse in Ireland.

He said they had great difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that Brothers could have abused children.

"It was something totally contrary to the whole vocation of a Brother and yet we were getting detailed accounts of how Brothers abused children."

It had particular difficulty in accepting that members of its congregation had engaged in sexual abuse, the commission found.

The Christian Brothers submitted that their schools provided positive experiences for the boys in them and that they offered a generally good standard of care, education and training when considered in the context of the time, having regard to shortages of resources and finance, and lack of training for the Brothers.

When answering allegations of sexual abuse in its schools, the Brothers accepted that there were instances when members engaged in the sexual abuse of boys in their care – but denied that there was systemic sexual abuse in their institutions.

According to the commission, there were "several problems" with response statements from the congregation, which generally took the form of a blanket denial of the allegations.

"Some of the statements were signed by Brothers who were not in the school at the time.

"The fact that they had signed the document gave the impression that they were in a position to affirm the facts asserted in statements, but in reality they were in no position to do so," it found.

"Brothers who signed the statements gave evidence to the committee that contradicted the facts asserted in the response statements and some statements simply omitted relevant facts, while at the same time making assertions that were known to be incorrect or misleading."

Read more:

All right. Enough is enough.

Sorry I've been absent for so long. Just busy doing other stuff.

But this Irish scandal has outraged me. The Christian Brothers were able to successfully sue to keep their names from being publicly exposed in Ireland - the abusers.

Where's the outrage? Where's the internet hero who will find these names and leak them to the net? It can't be that hard to get a list of all the predators who worked in these charnal houses over the past century and post them all. If they want to deny their abuse - or their knowledge of abuse and did nothing to stop it, then let them. The Christian Brothers institution should be punished. Not just monetarily for all the abuse it has heaped upon a nation - it should be forced to pay for what it's done. Turn over all proceeds for the past ten years. Close the schools with the worst abuse. Public flogging. Something!!!!!

The world should be outraged, and they shouldn't let up abusing these abusers until every single one of them is brought to justice. Why just hunt for Nazis when the hunt for pedophiles in the clergy is as justifiable? Burn them all at the stake, to borrow a phrase from the lovely Vatican.

My two cents.

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