Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dreams and losses... always fight.

Last week I signed with a brand new, small, but strong literary agency and it was the culmination of two years of struggling. I am not complaining at all, just explaining my situation. Since I moved to Los Angeles I:

a) almost got arrested for driving a car without updated tags

b) lived in three different places, each with varying degrees of roommate drama

c) had a fire in my last apartment where I nearly lost everything I brought with me from NYC

d) have not had access to a car

e) have been struggling to pay bills on a regular basis

With all that, me signing onto an agency was a bittersweet moment because there's no guarantee that anything will change in my writing career, but it does feel good to have someone outside of your personal circle validate your work.

I moved to Los Angeles in Sept of 2008 in the middle of the worst economic climate in the U.S. since 1929. Not only that, but I moved here a year after the Writer's Strike that shut down Hollywood film & TV for several long months. For those outside of the business, whenever there is a strike of any sort, the people already working within the business will receive some kind of compensation - either financial or labor oriented. Usually the studio executives are left pissed off to no end and the writers walk away with a little more respect than before.

However, for the new writer, this situation is deadly because the executives in charge of hiring writers will go out of their way to find ways to circumvent new people breaking in while keeping costs low. So while they might hate the A-level established guy with many credits and the 12 million dollar bank account, they can find a B-level established guy with no income and pay him half of what he's worth and that guy will be happy for the gig.

They used to say that Hollywood was like a castle with a moat surrounding it filled with Alligators, Crocodiles, Sharks and Giant Squids fighting each other. Now, its more like a steel fortress with land mines, killer bees and laser-guided missiles behind an electrified fence around the border. I'm not kidding, it really seems like that.

Add to the mix liars, fakers, phonies, flakes, opportunists, morons, leeches, parasites, racists, sexists, elitists and a whole other batch of douchebags and assholes, and you've got 21st century Hollywood.

So what did I do?

Instead of packing up and rushing back to my cherished alcoves on the East Coast (NYC and Baltimore), I dug my heels in and refused to give up. Despite the fact that I hate Los Angeles as a city, and I miss my friends and family, and I can't stand the weather, I decided that following my dream of being a working Hollywood screenwriter was worth the two years of displacement, hunger, discomfort and loneliness.

When I was a kid in Baltimore, and things were going sour with my family situation from time to time, the one place I could go was the movies. I would go and watch STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SUPERMAN, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, GHOSTBUSTERS, ROCKY, MISSING IN ACTION, KARATE KID and a bunch of other classic stuff at my neighborhood theater. While I had no idea what the words "directed by" or "written by" really meant, there was a part of me that wanted desperately to be a part of that world. After all, it takes something powerful to entrance the heart and soul of an only child on the streets of Baltimore in the mid-1980s when the crack cocaine explosion had turned my city into a giant casualty.

Even when I was making close to $60,000/year teaching high school in NYC public schools, my heart cried out for something else. I knew that I had a serious choice to make, either become a principal, go to law school to try to address the serious problems affecting the educational system or take a big chance to shoot for my dreams in Hollywood at the ripe old age of 34 (which is like being 70 in Hollywood years).

So with nothing more than $2,500 and a few old connections in place, I moved out here to face of a world of uncertainty, doubt and fear. And Lord knows, I was scared.

On Thursday (11/18), I will get some news from my agent about a major group of people being interested in my work. Even if they decide to pass, it means that my work has been seen by some big time players in the Hollywood game and that's progress. Considering that over two years ago I was standing in the middle of a classroom in Harlem teaching economics and government while confusing my co-workers with talk of box office receipts, screenwriting structure and obscure movie quotes I don't think I'm doing that bad at all.

So whatever it is that you wish to do with your life, find it. Find that passion and let it govern your existence. Don't be satisfied with just living and paying bills because life goes by fast. And as Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

The same thing applies to your dreams. Before you know it, all the opportunity and passion could blow through your life like a summer breeze. Fleeting, warm, sensual, and sweet, but impossible to replicate.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I'm not writing this as a complaint, or an indictment of White people, skinny people, rich people, female people or as a condemnation of anything. This is just an observation of how I see the world based on my experiences.

It's not a stretch to say that we live in a shallow, narrow-minded and materialistic society. People on TV barely resemble human beings anymore considering the fact that the majority of celebrities today have had weight-loss procedures, botox injections and more plastic surgery than Cher. I hear folks saying certain actors and actresses are "beautiful" but to me they look like deformed action figures.

*NOTE* - Watch any TV show from the 1970s-early 1980s and see how much the celebrities then looked like your neighbor.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of American social history will know that Black folks in the Western world have gotten the short end of the stick (hell we used to get beaten with that same stick) and that's putting it mildly. Sure, there have been many advances across the socio-political and economic spectrum, but the bottom line is that a lot of non-Black people seem to be very uncomfortable with the presence of Black folks -- and in particular -- Black men in social spaces.

For example: A few nights ago I was leaving work at Barnes & Noble and walking to the bus stop. On this particular evening I had to go to a late-night pharmacy which is about two blocks further than I would normally go.

Two fairly ridiculous things occurred during this short jaunt: 1) A Middle-eastern couple walking toward me jumped out into the street rather than pass me on the sidewalk. At first I thought that there might have been a reason -- like dog poop or a hole -- but there wasn't.

About another block down, an Asian woman was walking toward me and when she saw I was approaching her SHE WALKED INTO THE STREET (where there was traffic behind her) instead of walking past me on the sidewalk.

Now, I have dealt with this kind of thing for the last 20 or so years since I have become an adult and racist fear of Black men is nothing new, but it really gets to me how people can give someone else so much power over their decision-making. Conversely, this doesn't help me because a lot of the people who might be afraid of me usually are the people that control the jobs in the industry where I would like to work.

It's not just me being BLACK, but I am also 6'2" and overweight (but I've lost 70lbs since January!!!) and this means I not only get the racist reaction from people, but I also get the whole anti-fat thing which is a nasty double-whammy and it makes life very un-fun.

Living in L.A. is tough when you're big and Black. This place is not only shallow, vapid and simple-minded, but its also deeply segregated along race and class lines and things are getting worse.

So I sat down and thought about all the ways it sucks being a big Black guy in our world today. I don't care if you agree or not or if you believe me or not. Just understand that this IS the way it is.

Being a Big Black Guy means...

people automatically assume that you're dumb, lazy or dirty.

that you'll never get the benefit of the doubt on anything you say. Folks will assume that you're making things up or you're in error. This is funny because I never say anything that I can't back up with a book, website or some other verifiable source. The idea that Black guys go around making false and arbitrary statements about things that can be easily researched is another way that racist beliefs creep into our consciousness.

that you'll never be invited to the "popular" parties and if you do go, expect to stand around looking at the walls because no one really wants to talk to you unless they want to know about the cool new dances or the name of an obscure hip-hop song.

that no matter how nice you are, or how cool you are, never expect to be fully accepted by people who are physically in good shape.

that most people only become friends with those they wouldn't mind having sex with. Therefore, expect people to be nice to you, but not extend themselves to you like they would to those they wish to screw at some point.

that people will go out of their way not to have conversations with you. Case in point, there's a woman at my job who has never had an actual conversation with me. I don't care at all, but its interesting to note that whenever a new White guy is hired, this same woman talks to them all day long. I've also had people ignore me when I was talking to them and then claim "not to have heard me." I guess selective deafness is a recent health pandemic only in play when there are overweight people around.

that you will get a nasty attitude from folks for no reason. More often than not, its because some Black guy did something to someone they knew at some point in time; which has nothing to do with you, but because you're Black -- which means that we all know each other and plot together in secret meetings -- you get the delayed rage and frustration meant for another guy.

that you have to be very selective where you go for recreational activities. You can't just go to any bar or nightclub and expect to get in. And if you do get in, don't expect great treatment. Sometimes, you are limited in your choices, and if you expect to meet people and have a good time, your best bet is to pick the fat-people party circuit where there is less pressure to "fit in" with the vapid crowd.

that when you do lose weight, its hilarious to watch how differently you are treated by the same folks who ignored you when you were heavier.

I know that a lot of people will read this and not believe it or not care. F--k 'em is what I say.

Being overweight is something that I am working hard against, being Black is something that I love and would never be ashamed of under any circumstances. I just wish the mixture was as beloved as mixing chocolate and peanut butter.

Yes, I know, a food reference, I had to make at least one. LOL


Monday, June 28, 2010


1) Go to Tokyo.

2) Kill someone with my bare hands.

3) Go to London.

4) Publish a sci-fi novel.

5) Go to an MLB All-Star Game.

6) See CHICAGO on Broadway.

7) Go into space somehow.

8) See the Orioles win the World Series.

9) Make some kind of major discovery as an amateur astronomer.

10) Run onto the field in the middle of a baseball game.

11) Get elected to public office.

12) Sell a screenplay.

13) Build a car from scratch.

14) See Linkin Park live in concert.

15) See Earth, Wind & Fire live in concert.

16) Increase Constitutional Literacy in our society

17) Set an Abercrombie & Fitch on fire.

18) See a U.S. Congress actually get something meaningful done (*wishful thinking*).

19) Have a child.

20) Buy a home in my native state of Maryland.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I think it's safe to say that I know a lot of women.

Not women I've slept with or dated, just an accumulation of women met through life, school, work and other general activities over the years.

From some of these women have come complaints of me being "sexist."

I wholeheartedly deny the charge of being a sexist on the grounds of the definition of sexist/sexism from Dictionary.com which is:


I do not believe in this idea at all.

I believe with my entire heart and soul that women should have equality of pay, health care, reproductive rights, educational opportunity and all other aspects of positive social, political and economic freedom in the United States (I would say the rest of the world, but that would be a case of cultural relativism and I don't feel like having that discussion today).

Anyone that knows me, knows that I believe in these things and have (and continue) to fight for these ideals for as long as I live.

Now, my problem arises whenever I say something that many people (almost universally) believe is true but are too scared or PC to say it out loud on the subject of sex/gender issues.

For example, recently, I pissed off a woman I know because I said to her "I don't expect you to know anything about video games, Star Wars or science-fiction in general because you're a woman."

She got really pissed off and called me a "chauvinistic pig" and a few other choice terms I won't repeat here.

Maybe I've just been unlucky in meeting women that like Star Wars or video gaming, but let's say I randomly pick 20 women I know from my Facebook page, I can gaurantee that less than 5 have any knowledge of -- or interest in -- any of the aforementioned hobbies that tend to be overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Whenever I bring these subjects to light around most women I know, I get that standard 10,000 yard blank stare, like the kind that people have after being bitten by a zombie (wait, how many women watch zombie movies?). In other words, they look at me like I just quoted the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation or something. They have no idea what I'm talking about.

And if I pick 20 random guys off my Facebook page and mention either: 1) Star Wars, 2) video gaming, 3) something from the world of sci-fi; I can bet heavily that there will be somewhere between 12-18 that will not only know what I am talking about, but will have some kind of smart-assed response ready to fire back at me.

If this is the case, is it truly "sexist" to say that a woman won't know a damn thing about those subjects?

Granted, there are some hardcore female gamers and Star Wars fans out there that not only know more about these subjects than I do, but also have almost bottomless passion toward these things. However, they are the exception, not the rule. As I am sure that there are a few straight men that watch PROJECT: RUNWAY, but that's the exception folks. Not the rule.

This becomes an argument of biology vs. socialization.

There is nothing genetic built into a woman's DNA that suggests that she wouldn't be able to enjoy a video game or Star Trek or Star Wars on the same level as a man.

However, there is plenty to suggest that women in most societies are immediately socialized into a gender role stereotype (as are men) and this leads to certain choices about what to "get into" in terms of the pop culture zeitgeist. From the time we are born, we are put into gender roles -- male babies wear blue, female babies wear pink -- and from that moment, human gender identity is further constructed by fashion trends, political movements, community culture, religion, economics and peer groups.

For whatever reason, action-oriented, high-octane, external-threat-based stories and toys have been marketed to boys and domestic-oriented, internal-struggle-based, and superficial-emotional-conflict stories and toys have been marketed to girls.

With that in mind, there also seems to be a conscious choice by both sides to follow certain types of shows because it is expected that they do so. Every now and then you get someone to break through the gender curtain, but its not a normal occurrence.

Case in point:

I never watched LIFETIME in my life. I don't watch it now. But for a short period of time in the late 1990s-early 2000s I watched that channel because they showed one of my favorite shows of all time- UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, hosted by Robert Stack (RIP). During the commercials, I would see about 27 different commercials for about 15 different Lifetime made-for-TV movies about how some insane White man tried to kill his beautiful blonde White wife and the movies always end with her driving the car through their living room and kills him while he was trying to assault: a) her mother (his mother-in-law), b) a concerned co-worker, c) a nurse, d) their dog, e) the kindly old detective who takes a paternal role in the story.

All these movies ended with a bunch of bruised, crying women standing in front of an ambulance while they were being wrapped in a blanket by an anonymous fireman.

There was a week when I watched this stuff. Honest.

I almost lost my goddamned mind.

And by the way if you think I'm making this stuff up, take a look at a random assortment of movies for Lifetime:

When he wears glasses AND has beard stubble, you know this guy is a serious @$$hole.

I don't think I need to post anything else because these are the general plots of 90% of Lifetime movies.

Why these are marketed toward women, I have no idea because these people don't behave like any woman or man I've known. Why this appeals to women -- who seem to have something against sci-fi because its "fake" -- I also will never understand.

My point is that I at least went over to the other side to see what the appeal might be. I can have a conversation with a woman about these kinds of stories. Now, guys, go up to the first woman you see at work/school/restaurant and ask them this question - "Was Episode II how you imagined the Clone Wars to be after hearing Princess Leia's message in Episode IV?"

I bet 1 in 75 will be able to give you an answer.

Or better yet, ask them this - "Do you believe Halo: Reach will be better than Killzone 3?"

Bottom line, I know that people have tastes and have every right to choose what they wish. But I don't believe its a sexist thing to say that women just won't know about certain things because they are women. Not things like science, math, economics, history or politics. I know lots of brilliant women that know lots about those subjects.

But how many women, seriously, do you know that get excited about the same things you do? Better yet, how many women do you know that don't mind LEARNING about those things and sharing them with you?

Go ahead and count, I'll wait... I have another 45-50 years in my lifespan. :)