Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

I promise to return to the subject of my Los Angeles life and the entertainment business soon.

But not quite yet. Not for the Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial day is a strange holiday. It's a time to remember all those who died having served our country in war.
It's a very noble holiday. However, like Christmas, it's been co-opted by big business. One of the most guilty is, of course, Hollywood. This weekend translates into big bucks. Get the pirates out there waving their swords. It's seen as a harbinger of business to come for the summer months.

Did you know that Memorial Day originally was to honor the dead of the American Civil War?

There is irony as I think about memorial day this year and how the monkey is guaranteeing a fresh stock of bodies for us to be memorializing for years to come - in what is now another civil war.

So, while you eat your Hamburgers and drink your sodas and beer, do think about the soldiers of the past that never got to see another picnic. About that, don't be cynical. People laid their lives down fighting great battles that were important. Battles against true evil - especially during World War Two.

But also, think hard about these newly dead.

And think about what this well dressed animal is eating this weekend.

What is he celebrating?

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I'm disgusted with the Democrats.

Why are they such weak-spined... politicians?
Imagine I said that last word with bile pushing the 'P'.

Big promises, broken as they bent over for the Monkey that defiles our country.

Is it a surprise? No. But it doesn't mean I'm not disappointed.

Watch this to see what this war is costing us.

Oh, and by the way --- the numbers are now out of date.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why the difference?

If you haven't read my article about foreign levies yet, you should. It will put this entry in more perspective.

Today I got a check from the WGA for foreign levies. A few days ago, I got one from the DGA.

In both cases, the amount of information about where the money came from was pitifully miniscule. In the case of the WGA check, there was no information at all.

I know the WGA has the information as some of it was read to me over the phone. Why didn't they include with the check?

Unfortunately, there is something more disconcerting. These checks, from both the guilds, are supposed to be identical in size. The most the difference would/should be would be 3% -- based on the fact that the WGA takes a 5% commission for their hard work vs. the DGA's 2%.

The WGA check was almost 50% LESS than the DGA check. This would lead one to believe that perhaps, past the obvious problems with foreign levies that I've already written about, there is something else "problematic". The checks in question are also four figure checks, not a couple bucks.

Obviously, I will be investigating this further, and hopefully the WGA will provide me with more information, and an explanation about this rather large discrepancy.

Since these are the first checks that have come from foreign levies, past payments, different accounting periods, etc. can't be used as legitimate excuses. Bottom line – these checks should be the same size.

The thing that is disturbing: I'm the writer and director (as well as producer) of the project in question. Had I only been the writer, I would never have known about this nor had anything to compare the WGA check to.

I really hate to be a sore spot for the Guilds, but damn it, why couldn't they be above board?



Thursday, May 17, 2007

A bright spot in all the grim news

This blog is called Stefan Avalos tells all.
It was done in a fit of unoriginal energy when I first created it a few years ago.
Well, in the spirit of letting people know what really pleases me, and because he says it so much better than I would, here is a clip that I hope will bring as much joy to you as it has me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Island Fire

I certainly hope my blog doesn't turn into a fire report as 2007 continues. However, two days after Griffith Park, Catalina is on fire.

Catalina Island is a resort island about 30 miles off the coast of California – twenty six miles, if you want to sing about it. When Marianne and I moved to Los Angeles, we spent our first Thanksgiving there. We sailed to the island with a neighbor and had thanksgiving dinner on the boat, before going ashore and spending a day. I've been back a few times since – camping, or a sailing destination.

The island is a magical one. By Ferry, you can get to it from the mainland in about forty minutes. Once there, you're a million miles away from reality, though you're still technically in Los Angeles County. Some tourists have asked if they use American Currency – that's how different it feels. No cars, just golf carts, and only two small towns – Avalon and Two Harbors. The rest of the island is wild. There are trails you can walk or bike (provided you have a bike permit and proper tires) but for the most part, it's inaccessible.

Now it's on fire. As I write this, they say 4000 acres are burning. Though the town of Avalon is a concern, I wonder about all the wildlife. Buffalo roam the island as do all kinds of other animal you won't find anywhere. The Wrigleys (who originally owned the island) have an amazing cactus garden there. Will that survive?

It doesn't take long to destroy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Push…ahhh… SPLASH!

An interesting story in today's L.A. Times.

While this is not directly related to the story I wrote, it certainly is indicative of the foreign levies program run by the guilds. If the scandal grows to the proportions I believe it could, I wonder if others – "bigger" others, will be handed over to the police as readily as this low-level person.

Writers Guild seeks police probe of former employee
By Richard Verrier, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2007

The union representing Hollywood TV and film writers has formally asked Los Angeles police to investigate a former employee who it alleges embezzled union funds.

A report filed Monday by the Writers Guild of America, West, alleges that Michelle Trinh, a former assistant administrator in its foreign levies department, misappropriated $17,000 in union funds by issuing unauthorized checks to the sister of her boyfriend.

The filing of a police report does not mean Trinh has been charged with a crime. Investigators will look at the allegations and prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges.

Trinh, whose responsibilities included disbursing funds and researching names in a member database, could not be reached for comment.

Guild officials have declined to comment on the report or the circumstances of Trinh's recent departure.

Last week, guild officials acknowledged that an internal investigation found evidence of missing funds and that the matter was being turned over to authorities.

Trinh, 28, worked in the department that has come under growing scrutiny over its handling of fees levied by foreign governments to compensate writers for the reuse of their work.

Over the years, the guild has amassed a pool of foreign levy funds totaling $20 million that it has failed to distribute. That has fueled criticism that the guild is improperly holding on to money that belongs to hundreds of writers or their heirs.

Guild officials have dismissed allegations that they are deliberately holding on to the funds, citing such problems as scant information provided by foreign collection societies and the difficulty of tracking down authors who aren't union members.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hell's Flurry

The smell of smoke is still in the air but has diminished quite a bit.
What's most surreal is that at a couple points this morning, it looked like a very light snow flurry outside. Outside, collected against walls and wherever the wind wants are the faint drifts of the "snow" - which of course is the ash of the trees and brush.

It's still early so the temperatures as of yet are cool. It's going to be another hot day, so the fire fighters are racing against time.
From what I understand, the fire is under control and from our house we don't see any smoke.

I've grabbed a couple pics from yahoo and put them here. I didn't take these pics, so if a copyright holder gets annoyed, let me know.

This area is near the famous old Merry Go Round

Imagine seeing this view from your house?

I described the the fires looking like a volcano in the midst of the city.
Perhaps these photos help visualize that.

It's hard to comprehend that just a couple miles away, firemen have been waging a battle on the ground and from the air that has been as intense as many a military battle. Seeing it on the news, and seeing with my own eyes, I give them my utmost respect and thanks.

The Inferno

It's not the same when you see it with your own eyes.
The fire, which got a lot worse as night fell is hard to describe. On television, the aerial shots are horrific: firefighters dragging houses, dwarfed by flames that are inhaling trees and brush.

The smell of smoke is in the air. There's no escaping it. inside, outside, it doesn't matter. It's in our clothes.
Tonight we went to a friend's place in Pasadena. Like the photo I took in the last post, the smoke is awing to behold - however, to see the flames. That brings a different level of disbelief.
As we drove along the freeway (134N) to our left, the fire - not a string, not even a wall - more accurately - fields of fire, raging deep orange flames - stretched out over not one, but several mountain and hillsides. I've never seen anything like it and I find myself grasping for words.
On the way back home, the sight was equally surreal: A ring of flames in the mountains, appearing to be perhaps a mile in diameter, the center a flickering, pulsing faint red. The best way to describe it would be that the mountains look like a volcano, the opening a mile wide, full of seething lava. In the sky, helicopters point beams of light into the smoke and flames below.

All in the middle of the city I live in.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Heating up

Here is what you never want to see... but to see it in May is very frightening.

The fire is in Griffith Park and as I write this, it is still going strong.
It's the kind of fire that could be devastating; we're basically talking the Hollywood Hills here - ablaze! There's a zoo, golf courses, museums, not to mention all the homes, the multi-million dollar homes.
With the hot, dry winds of the last couple days and with temperatures of 95, it seemed inevitable.
But it's evidently the work of an arsonist.

What keeps going through my mind is - it's only May.
We only had three inches of rain since last July, the driest season on record.
My God, this is going to be a rough summer in California.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The sound of things hitting

The stories – the LA TIMES, the LA WEEKLY and FADE IN (mine) are starting to cause a stir.

The WGA just issued a press statement in regards to what is going on.

In the interest of fairness, here is a link to it.

On the other side of the coin, here is an email the editor of FADE IN received in regards to the story.

I thought your article about the foreign levies scandal at the WGA and DGA was wonderful. But in terms of the unanswered question as to whether this is inefficiency or corruption, I can assure you as someone who served two terms on the Board of Directors of the WGA it is:

Corruption. The Guild has been deliberately stealing as much of this money and has engaged in a huge cover up. That cover up is falling apart now, but the corrupt people remain in charge.

Writers and Directors won't get their money until the
people running these Guilds are exposed.

J. F. Lawton

J.F. Lawton is a pretty well respected screenwriter in addition to having been on the board. His most famous writing credit is Pretty Woman.

A little day in my life to keep you entertained.

A couple weeks ago, Marianne and I went out to enjoy a nice cool night in our Hot tub only to discover – cold water. Very cold water.

Flipping the switch to turn it on was followed by heart sinking silence.

A couple days later I was able to determine that the pump that circulates water when it is heating had died - a 160 dollar part.

Thanks to the wonders of Google, I found a warehouse in Arizona selling the pump for $65.00. I called, only to be quickly told by the very friendly woman, that if I was calling about the little pumps on the Internet, they were all sold out.

We talked for a few minutes longer before she told me to wait while she took a look on the shelves. Lo and behold, there was one pump, but it hadn't been sold for a reason. Upon opening the box, she saw the reason. It had no power cord, hence no one wanted it. She opened it up but couldn't figure out where a cord would even go. For them, a useless item collecting dust on a shelf. I asked her if I could buy it and she told me to "make an offer".

"Ten bucks?" I asked, figuring that if it couldn't be salvaged, no harm done.

Done deal… fifteen dollars with shipping.

Today, I wired it up and HA HA, it worked!

Another three dollars and change in plumbing parts, and about forty minutes to put it in, and I'm back in action.

Total cost: $18.61

The Dead Pump… and it was only twenty one years old.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Story Has Gone Live!

Because of yesterday's double hit in the presses, the Editor of FADE IN Magazine decided to do the very rare thing of putting the story online before it even hits the streets.

So, dear reader – I submit to you –

It's on the right column of the website.

Also, if you are a writer or director (or if you want to see the extent of the lists) click on the links at the end of the story.

Please leave me comments here. I'm looking forward to them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Partial Reveal

Okay, a little bit of info. More as I receive it.

The investigative story that I've been researching and writing is going to be in this coming issue of FADE IN magazine.

What appears to be the cover. I'll let you know as soon as I have one in hand.

My story is about the foreign levies programs of the WGA and DGA.

Never heard of the words "Foreign Levies"? Didn't think so.

Sounds dull? Trust me, it's not.

Remember how I was racing against a couple other writers covering the same story? Well, they both hit the streets yesterday. However, it's not a bad thing – one was in the La Times, the other in the LA Weekly. The LA Times story is good, however the LA Weekly article is incredible. In the spirit of accepting and acknowledging Dennis McDougal's great investigative writing, here's a link to it. My story covers some of the same ground, however it is a bit more independent filmmaker oriented.

You could very well be witnessing the beginnings of a monumental scandal – a scandal you can't quite call a "Hollywood" scandal, because it involves so many people not truly associated with Hollywood.

I'm going to try to keep my blog the free form, "day in my life" thing It's been. However, be prepared to see some future entries get very industry and film specific.