Vladimir Putin, President

Russian Federation

Dear President Putin,

                In light of current events in Ukraine, I am dropping y you a line to share a few thoughts with you.  I know you are s busy man, even on an ordinary day when the sun is shinning, much less today.  Even so, sometimes it is good to listen to an outside opinion.

                You have said many times that the breakup of the Soviet Union, of which you were a KGB officer, was a great tragedy; and that you want to restore Russia its former glory.  Not exactly as it was, but close to it, by gathering back the recently independent states of the former USSR, of which Ukraine is a key player, into the Russian Federation.

                That is a very ambitious goal, Mr. President.  Every time the Russian Army goes on the march, ears perk up all over Europe and around the globe.  Many of us remember when the Warsaw Pact marched into Prague in 1968, on the pretext that the West had overrun Czechoslovakia and Pact troops were being sent in to rescue them.  That was a lie, as the soldiers soon found out. 

                Much has changed in the world since those days.  The Warsaw Pact is history, so is Czechoslovakia, so is the Soviet Union.  NATO remains, and I know you are uncomfortable with that.   Some of the former members of the Pact are now members of NATO, for example, the Czech Republic.  You want to draw a line and stop that advance, while, at the same time, trading with Western Europe and the world.  What would Russia’s vast energy resources be worth if you could not sell them on the world market?

                You don’t really want to own Eastern Europe and accept full responsibility for the individual states.  You want to be more like an uncle than a father, Uncle Vladimir, keeping this expanded Russian Federation under a watchful eye.  Well, many of us would like to bring back the good old days here at home.  We liked Ike and would love to bring back the Eisenhower years.  America was simpler back then.   The country was move unified.  Not perfect, by any means.  But those were happy days for many of us despite the onset of the Cold War.

                Perchance, did you ever hide under your school desk during air raid drills back then?  When the air raid siren sounded the lesson stopped.  We got down on the floor and curled into a ball, with our backs to the windows, so that if The Bomb went off nearby, we would not get get flying glass in our faces—not that that would have mattered much, under the circumstances.

                You see, there is one word to describe the Soviet Union to us back then: Fear.  Fear of all those rockets and bombs headed our way if it came to war.  Fear of the apocalypse, of nuclear winter, the extinction of life, as we knew it, on our planet.

                Stop for a moment and consider what Nadia wants instead of what Vladimir wants.

                Nadia teaches literature in a small school outside of Moscow.  She studied English and literature in university.  She visits friends in Moscow and once went with a group of fellow students to Paris.  In the virtual world, Nadia has many friends around Europe and the world.  Right now, she is sending them a snapshot she took of her boyfriend clowning in front of a World War II Russian tank that has been sitting on a pedestal since the end of the war.

            Usually, she gets a warm response to her texts and photos—she has a good eye.  This time, however, a friend in Budapest adds a few words of concern about politics.  Another Web acquaintance in London cancels her planned trip to Moscow in the spring.

            Nadia loves Russian literature and language.  She can recite poems by Pushkin and Yevtushenko, and listens to certain girl bands.  At the same time, she does not wish to be bounded by Russian politics and history.  Why should she?  With the device she holds in hand, she can communicate with folks around the planet.  Nadia is not exceptional, in this way.  She is like young people everywhere.

            More than you realize, Mr. President, you also live in Nadia’s world, as do your two daughters.  You do business with the West, sell energy to the West.  Since Peter the Great, Russia has looked to the West.  It looked to the West for help in the Great Patriotic War.  And the Allies were generous in their response to Mother Russia’s needs.

            Business interests must be based on mutual respect not the threat of military force to settle negotiations.  You understand force and the costs of force.  What did force get Russia in Afghanistan?  You could give the command for Russian troops to occupy all of Ukraine and place it under martial law.  How many thousands of soldiers do you think would be required to secure the natural gas pipelines that run for hundreds of kilometers through Ukraine?    You have an aircraft carrier deal with France.  What would you do if France stopped working on your order and froze Russian assets?  The French also possess nuclear weapons, so it would not be easy to push France around.

            Whatever crimes you might have committed, you are not Hitler or Stalin.  Your hands do not drip with the blood of millions.  I do not think you wish to visit that level of brutality on the world.  Surely, you must realize that by rebuilding  the USSR as the Russian Federation, you will trigger a new Cold War. The return of fear.  You have the power; you hold the lever of history in your hands.  How do you wish to be remembered by history, Mr. Putin?  How do you wish to be regarded by Nadia?

Sincerely,

Hudson Owen

Brooklyn, NY

 

No doubt you’ve heard the news by now.  Probably, you have.  Missouri All-
American defensive lineman Michael Sam declared he was gay, on Sunday, February 9, 2014.  He’s black, and he’s gay, and he’s proud of it.

Michael’s father’s birthday was last Tuesday, which is when his son, Michael, Jr., gave him the surprise of his life.  Michael, Jr. told his father he was gay.

”I was shocked,” Michael, Sr., said. “I’m proud of him. He’s my son.”

First Lady Michelle Obama gushed at how proud she was of Michael coming out like he did before the NFL draft.  He will be the first openly homosexual player to enter the draft.  A former pro quarterback opined that whoever signed Sam might need sensitivity training in the locker room.  The President followed with his public approval several days later.

Then Sam’s father backtracked a bit by saying he had been misquoted and that he was more of a traditional man when it came to sexuality.

One would have thought that the young man had done something special, like discover a cure for pancreatic cancer or  a new species of humming bird in the Central American jungle, or come up with a safer football helmet.  But no.

Sam’s sexual identity was an open secret in the Mizzou locker room.  He knew the liberal media, in particular, would greet his brazen announcement with roaring approval.  What choice did they have, really?  Fortune favors the bold, as they say, and Mr. Sam is nothing if not bold.

Other gay athletes have come out of the closet.  Most say they are glad they did, and it turns out that society and their teammates tolerated the news fairly well. Coming out is not quite the traumatic event it was a decade or so ago.

Actress Ellen Page decided to come out, as well, complaining about the entertainment industry’s “crushing standards” of beauty and success.  Ah, yes, that’s Hollywood.

And here we might notice a core truth about society and entertainment.  It’s one thing for a gay scene to develop in a comedy like Two and A Half Men, for instance, where Charlie and Alan Harper attend a gay party in Charlie’s business interests, and one of the gay characters praises Alan’s “breadbasket;” it would be something else to see two gay characters going at it in bed the way we see straight couples, or threesomes, or foursomes, deep-tonguing and thrashing around, showing serious skin.  Although straight men might well be turned on by lesbian scenes.  Ms. Page could thank her lucky stars that she has such a good job, in the first place.

What if Rock Hudson had come out at the beginning of his career?  Would American filmography have been the better for it?  Don’t we cherish certain illusions?

The truth is, straight America really doesn’t want to know much about Mr. Sam in the bedroom.  Is he the male or the female, or something else?  Does he engage in mutual masturbation, or something else?  It’s really none of our business.

It turns out that transparency has it limits.  It may be all right to come out of the closet, but drawing back the bedroom curtain, for those who do not watch gay porn, is a different matter.

Back in the swinging Seventies, in the era of Oh! Calcutta! and Studio 54,  pundits discussed the notion that sex might be public, after all.  Well, as it turned out, by and large, not.  When AIDS and HIV swept through town, in the Eighties, and the gay bath houses were closed in the interests of public safety, the you-watch-me, I-watch-you crowd surrendered center stage without much of a fight.  Swinging went underground, powered by the Internet.

In the politically correct world of polarities, you are either a virtuous homophile or a hateful homophobe.  There are no shades of gray.  In reality, for those of us who work in the arts, especially, our experiences with homosexuals are more nuanced.  There are shades of gray.  We admire persons for their friendship, generosity, kindness, and professionalism.  We realize that sexuality is identity not something as capricious as a lifestyle.  Identity is the kind of body you want alongside you in bed.

There is a certain brand or fanny-in-your-face showboating, in gay pride parades, for example, that rubs some of us the wrong way.  Certainly not to the extent that we want to see gay exhibitionists beaten and led off to prison.  No, not that.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor.  Discretion is useful.  My private space is valuable to me.  I don’t want you to know too much about me, unless I  invite you into my private space, my life.  If you are older, I don’t want to know whether you wear adult diapers.  I give you your space, you give me mine.

Let’s face it, there is only so far that heterosexuals can go in celebrating the Other, whooping it up for gaydom, without betraying, privately at least, their own identity.

But hey, Mr. Sam, you had a helluva coming out party.  I think you’ve got something there.  So, I’m coming out, too.  Are you ready, world?  I’m expecting a call from the White House any minute now.

By Hudson Owen.  All rights reserved.

CITY OF RAIN   CITY OF RAIN   CITY OF RAIN

Catch this beautiful Brooklyn Love Story now on sale.

I subscribe to several screenwriter’s newsletters.  One of the more interesting is put out by Marvin V. Acuna.  I enjoyed reading his newsletter because he clearly knew the business, and he wrote about other subjects.  He knew something about life as well as art.

 At the conclusion of each newsletter was an invitation to join his Business of Show Institute (BOSI) and pay him $497 to read your screenplay, that’s right, the Hollywood Man Himself.  I felt that I had neglected the screenplay branch of my writing in favor of e-books for too long, so I was interested.  I looked him up on the IMDb (International Movie Data Base).  He was legit alright, with shared producer credits on a number big budget films, most recently Lovelace, the story of porn star, the late Linda Lovelace (1949 – 2002), with an all star cast.  The man was in the know.

 Feeling that I had money to spend, though not waste, I did the deal.  The deal was a half-hour phone call with Mr. Acuna.  Via email, we set up a time of mutual convenience for the Big Call.  I would have much preferred written notes; you can always reread notes to get the exact wording.  However, I could see that from his perspective, with a newsletter to produce, he might well prefer the phone.

 Mr. Acuna had already made it clear, in writing, that he was not an agent or personal manager.   BUT, if he really really liked your screenplay, he might show it to two or three of his pals in the business.  In other words, he put that hope out there along with plausible deniability.  So, he was sort of a stealth agent, you could say.

 I called the number he provided for me from home, on my cell—I had dispensed with my land line.  He joined the conversation; we had a good connection.  He congratulated me on recognizing that screenwriting was a business.  Thus far, the business was funds from my account traveling into his account.

 First off, he launched into my title: The Bullet.  It was too short, he said, it needed to be more explanatory.  This confused me because there are scads of movies with two word titles, and I had sent him my logline.  Everyone knows that the title is always read in the presence of the logline, but, apparently, not Marvin Acuna.

 The rest of the conversation went all over the map.  He asked me if anyone had said a kind word about The Bullet and I said, yes, and gave examples.  He tried to characterize The Bullet as a road film, when it’s much more of a quest drama.  I said: “If I can sell one screenplay, then I can sell two screenplays,” which impressed the Hollywood Man. 

 Toward the end of our conversation, which went well over 30 minutes, Marvin mentioned new, more expensive deals to come, and hung up.

 I waited to see if there would be a follow-up email.  Something, a thanks-but-no-thanks note, would have been appreciated.  The introductory Hi Hudson emails continued, to what purpose, I wondered.  Did Mr. Acuna expect me to sign up all over again to have a new conversation?  Finally, I replied to one of those newsletters, reminding him of our phone conversation and the name of my screenplay.

 Tick tock, tick tock.

 Some semi-producing, semi-referral organizations that read screenplays for a fee will offer a reduced charge for a re-write.  That does not seem to be forthcoming from Mr. Acuna.  In the fullness of time, he might offer me a package to do lunch for a couple of thousand, air fare included.  I am not holding my breath, but I am holding onto my money.

 One more thing: There was a package in the phone deal.  I chose the producers’ package, which never came my way.  So, as to the question: is Mr. Acuna a scam artist—well, you decide. 

 The moral is this: If you want an agent or manager, then address your query directly to them.  They will not charge you a big fat fee at the top.  Agents who belong to the Writers Guild of America are regulated by them and charge standard fees only after they make a deal.  The truth is, you do have access to the film and television industry.  You can post scripts online with a reputable organization like Ink Tip, based in California.  They hold a large pitch festival annually in the Hollywood area, where you can meet execs in person.  There are other such pitch festivals.  You can grab a camera and make your own movie, a short short, and post it on YouTube.

 You can pitch your script online or blast it to an impressive list of studios and production companies.  You might get lucky.  Just like you might win the lottery.  I already knew this.  Once I had a West Coast agent.  Nothing came of it.  He turned out to be a crook.

 My big Hollywood dream is on hold for the moment, as I assess my marketing strategies for the New Year.  No need to re-work my Oscar acceptance speech.  Not for the time being.  I’ve already have it memorized.

 

Copyright by Hudson Owen.  All Rights Reserved.

 

UPDATE: Mr. Acuna subsequently read this article, apologized profusely for not supplying the promised producers’ package, and had one of his assistants email me the same. So, in answer to my question, no, Mr. Acuna is not a scammer.

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The 14 poems in the Living Legend of Peezis Rilly Here were written from 1973 to the mid-1980s. In 2000, I published the poems in a larger collection: The Endless Evolving Trilogy – A Poem Cycle. This year I published The Living Legend as an e-book. And now the CD.

The poems tell the story of Peezis Rilly Here and his friends, who live in a world where war is no longer possible but, still, problems remain. John Lennon said: “Give peace a chance.” So, here, in a whimsical way, is a not-quite-Utopian world. Peezis Rilly Here, Dr. Cerpeption, Dear, L. Vie & Olivence, are all original fictional characters. As such, they belong to the mythology of the Sixties. Peezis speaks in free verse with rhyme—what I call occasional or wandering rhyme–while Dr. Cerpeption speaks in rhymed couplets. A whole lot of energy was released in the 1960s. It was the release of human energy from the first generation born into the Nuclear Age, in response to the awful energies released from the atomic bomb in World War II and the threat of war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The energy shoots through the poems, twisting syntax and the normal order of language, in the way that physical force bends and transforms objects. You will find much humor in this imaginary universe. Needless to say, we live in a very different world today, a darker world not without hope, but all too often visited by bloodshed and violence. Even in the worst of times, peace is not a luxury but a necessity we each hold in our hearts and minds. Some token of peace gives us the courage to move forward through whatever trials the age throws our way. I hope The Living Legend of Peezis Rilly Here becomes part of your bag of valued words and sounds. Hudson Owen, Brooklyn, 2013

I try not to bother everyone with blog announcements here. But I just posted one that’s near and dear to my heart, and would appreciate any sharing or tweeting you can muster. It’s for a good cause, and is relevant because without the good fortune I’ve had as an author, I wouldn’t be in a position to do what I’m doing.

If you’re curious, it’s at http://russellblake.com/giving/

If you’d like to offer a tweet, here’s a possible one to send out: RT @Blakebooks – New blog on charity & saving lives. http://ow.ly/p4AmC #reading #amreading #pets #animals #dog #cat #rescue

I’d appreciate any support you can offer on this. I’m dead serious about the free book for each donation thing. Can’t think of a better way to lose money. Thanks to anyone who shares.

We were ready when Roger passed.  Gene Siskel, who passed in 1999 at age 53, paved the way for Roger Ebert.   Roger had been battling cancer for a long time.  The disease had left a mark on his face—cruel or comical; he looked almost like a cherub after the surgery.  He stayed on camera awhile and continued to write his movie reviews without on-camera presentation.  A few days before the end, April 4, the Chicago legend gave his numerous fans a prod, sent us a farewell.  He told us he would be cutting back in his commitments.

Four days later, Annette Funicello also passed at age 70.  Annette had been struggling with multiple sclerosis for years.  Her public appearances had become few and far between in recent years.  I recall a show featuring her co-star in the beach party films, Frankie Avalon, reminiscing warmly about the old days.

 Bam, bam.  Two hits in four days. 

Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, was never meant to live a long life in public.  She was the pre-boomer teen star of the Mickey Mouse Club.  She was the smiling kid with breasts.  She was the most popular Mouseketeer, the only Mouseketeer.  Ok, there was Doreen.

I didn’t much care for the Mouseketeers.  I did not like the Mouseketeer song or the ear-wiggles.  It was a touch too cute for me at age ten.  Disney, to me, was the nature films and the cartoon fantasies.  You could not reasonably dislike Annette.

We sometimes said in the late Sixties: Don’t trust anyone over thirty.  It was a way of managing our future in changing times.  The Cold War was going strong.  John F. Kennedy warned about the Missile Gap in campaign speeches—it turned out we had many more nukes than the Soviets.  But even one nuke going off in your backyard was difficult to comprehend, impossible to accept

We seem to have been given power over time…by our parents, who measured us and fawned over us, the first generation born under the nuclear threat.  It was a conceit, of course, that we could push back time to some safe zone in the future.

At 50, AARP shows up in your mail.  In your 60s, you become officially elderly when you climb aboard the Medicare and Social Security train.  When you hit the big Seven-O, everyone knows you are old.

You can look good at age sixty.  You can stay in shape.  You can’t run wind sprints with a twentysomething, but you can look almost as good.  You had more than a touch of gray hair.  There were products for that.  At 70…the products look more like coffins.

You started paying more attention to older people.  At what age would it still be cool to walk around this planet and show your face?  Maybe seventy was the new fifty?  You paid more attention to oldsters.  Grandma Posey needs a walker and has gobbler flesh at 83, but hey, she still has that pin-sharp mind.  Uncle Frank tools around in one of those motor chairs and puts his choppers in a glass at night.  Boy, if he gets you in his headlock, watch out!

You calculate what you still want to do in life, and what it will take to accomplish those bucket wishes.  Steve Jobs gave us a peek at the far side with his last works: “Oh,Wow, oh, wow, oh, wow!”  The German poet Goethe reportedly said: “More light,” on his death bed.  But I’ll take Steve Jobs’ string of “oh, wow’s.”  Unlike Goethe, he was not asking more from life.  He was reacting—we can only imagine—to some wonderful vision of experience beyond the grave.

When was the last time someone called you “young man?”  When was the first time someone called you “pops?”  When did you begin to notice you were forgetting more than usual?  You got up from your chair, took three steps and stopped—then it came to you and you became animated again.

If your core remains strong, you can imagine winning battles against time on the periphery: find something to fix cracked nails, smooth out crow’s feet, paper over spider veins.  Your mind is still working. All you need is more rest, to shave off a few pounds and you will be good for another 50,000 miles.   Sometimes younger men get out of your way.

 It was only yesterday that you were singing “Yesterday.”

 Seventy is no longer a safe place.  In the lives of Roger and Annette, battling, accepting years of poor health, it was the fullness of their time.

 The balcony is closed.

Copyright by Hudson Owen.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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