Socrates Gone Mad in Southern California

Slomo at the Acropolis

‘Slomo’ at the Acropolis

Slomo is a 69 year old man who roller blades in slow motion along the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, California. He does this daily, unceasingly, and is known by nearly everyone who frequents the beach, bars or coffee shops. Many discount him as drug-addled, schizophrenic, or crazy. But he is not so easily dismissed.

For Slomo is Dr. John Kitchin, a former neurologist and psychiatrist, who abandoned his lucrative career in order to live in a studio apartment by the beach and pursue “a kind of divinity” through skating. Slomo is not crazy. He is a clear eyed, articulate, and bright man who has forsaken the lifestyle of the “typical institutionalized, educated, Western man.” Continue reading

Pope Francis and his Prodigal Gay Sons

The Embrace of Pope Francis

The Embrace of Pope Francis

“Who am I to judge?”

These words, spoken by Pope Francis in reply to a question about gay priests, may represent a change of direction for the Catholic Church and signal a move away from the censure and moralizing that have come to characterize it.  This is something for which many Catholics have long been waiting.

The condemnation of homosexuality within (and without) the Church was a case in point, because it seemed to rest on three predeterminations:

1. That homosexuality is a choice.

If there is no ‘choice,’ then the Church is condemning people for being as God made them.  Homosexuality may be a choice for some, but most of us end up staring at the boy or girl in front of us at some point in our lives and that’s that.  From that moment, the only choice to be made is one of sexual fulfillment or not.

2. That this choice is sinful.

While there may be some places in the Old Testament where homosexuality might appear to be condemned, Jesus never cared about the sexual inclinations or practices of any of the people he encountered.  He merely welcomed those who wanted to be welcomed, accepted those who asked to be accepted, and forgave those who asked to be forgiven.  It was simple really, very simple.

3. That there are those who are in a position to cast judgment.

The only people Jesus judged in his life and parables were those who stood in judgment of others.  In John 7:53-8:11, when the adulterous woman is brought before Jesus by the “scribes and Pharisees” to be stoned, it’s these men that Jesus challenges, not the woman.  And in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), it’s the good son’s resentment and judgment that become his punishment.

The sexual strictures of the Church – celibacy for priests, heterosexuality for members, opposition to the use of birth control, etc. – are trivial concerns at best.  And the judgment that arises from trivial concerns is more bias than anything else.

This Pope seems to understand that.

The Catholic Church is global, sovereign, wealthy, and historic.  It has set the standards by which we measure our years and much of Western art, music, literature and architecture.   It has been simultaneously sacred and profane, both revered and despised.  Yet it stands alone as an institution on this fragile planet and amongst restless and growing populations that may desire or, indeed, require its intercession.

So we can only hope that this singular Pope and this distinctive Church have at last begun to withdraw the pointing finger, offering instead an embrace that’s wide and warm and welcoming of all God’s children – the way Jesus did.

My debut novel, THE LAST ISLAND, can be purchased here.

Sharks in Coach (Talking about my Novel with my LA Agent)

Hollywood Shark

My LA agent had been sitting on my book for a couple of months.  I’d gotten no feedback from him, only the studied silence of a poised insect.  I decided to breach the stillness and give him a call.

The Phone Call

David:  Happy New Year.  It’s David.

Agent:  Know how many Davids I know?

David:  I know my full name shows up on your phone.

Agent:  So kill me.  What’re you calling me for?

David:  Did you read my book yet?

Agent:  Sure, I loved it.  Some great s— in there.

David:  So you want to represent the dramatic rights?

Agent:  Hold on.  I’ve a phone call coming in.

Papers shuffling in the background.  The Agent cups the phone and yells at his Assistant.  A minute or two later.

Agent:  What were we talking about?

David:  You representing the dramatic rights of my novel.

Agent:  Yeah, no, well, I’m not sure just yet.

David:  You didn’t read it, did you?

Agent:  F— no.  It’s over 200 pages.

David:  That’s short for a novel.

Agent:  The only thing I ever read over 10 pages is a lawsuit.

David:  What about screenplays, do you read those?

Agent:  I read the coverage.

Note: Coverage is the appraisal of a book or screenplay by a reader and usually includes the plot, characters and commercial potential.

David:  And you’re looking at the coverage for my novel right now, aren’t you?  That’s what your assistant just brought in.

Agent:  A dolphin, a fireman, fishermen, Greece.  Not exactly Iron Man.

David:  The female lead is very intriguing.  You could find an actress involved in environmentalism and animal rights and start from there.  Actually, I think it’s a timely and resonant story that-

Agent:  -Know what you need… a shark.  A shark on a f—ing plane.  There’s your title too.  That I could sell.  The thing starts from the back and eats only people in coach.  Write that.

David:  I’ll think about it.  In the meantime, my novel…?

Agent:  I give you a million dollar idea and you ask about your f—ing novel?  Put some orphans on the plane, and an old lady with an oxygen tank, and a cute little dog.  All sitting in coach.

David:  If you’re trying to make a statement about economic inequality with a, uh, shark thriller, maybe it should eat the people in first class instead?

Agent:  That’s the dumbest f—ing thing I’ve ever heard?  Think about it.  If the shark eats the people in first class, who will finance the f—ing film?

My novel, THE LAST ISLAND, can be purchased here.

Weighing in on Theoretical Physics (That’s right, theoretical physics!)

Just the beginning...

Just the beginning…

I just finished reading this article, The Accidental Universe, in Harper’s, and I’m no rocket scientist or theoretical physicist (or rocket physicist or even theoretical scientist), so let me try to get this straight.

For our universe with its particular features to come about is so highly improbable and incalculable that it had to come about by accident.
Okay… check.

Now, physicists don’t like that because their job is to explain events, and to explain an event like our universe as ‘an accident’ is like theoretical malpractice for a physicist-ian.
All right… check.  

So in order to explain this accident (our universe), some theoretical physicists have postulated that there are an infinite number of universes out there (called the multiverse) and we live in only one of them.
Go on…

And the reason our universe has the basic features it does, is because in that multiverse, one of them has to have our features – and us – just because of the sheer number of universes in it.
Huh?  

Again, I’m no rocket scientist, etc. but haven’t these physicists just proposed a grander improbable (the multiverse) in order to make the original improbable (our universe) probable?

I say why stop there?  Why not propose a multiverse of multiverses?

In a multiverse of multiverses – imagine the infinities! – all things would come about and replicate endlessly.  So those same physicists would be studying their multiplicity of universes in a multiplicity of universes.  Accordingly, we would all exist in countless alternate universes as well.  (That trip to Bali?  Curl your toes in the sand.  The woman who got away?  Standing right next to you.)

This idea of a multiverse of multiverses also puts a nice spin on the anthropic principle (i.e. that the universe must have the features it does because we are here to observe it.)  You see, it’s no longer that this universe is what it is because we are here to observe it.  It’s that an infinite number of we’s exist in an infinite number of universes, observing all of them the way they are.

So, in this universe (and many others), I (and many others) am writing this post (and many others), but elsewhere in that infinity of infinities, I (and many others) am a theoretical physicist at M.I.T. myself (along with many others), proposing a multiverse of multiverses of multiverses theory which, of course, only leads to ever more blog posts such as this one (and many others) and ever more multiverses.

To misquote the playwright Tom Stoppard: “Infinity is a terrible thought.  I mean, where’s it going to end?”

My debut novel, ‘THE LAST ISLAND,’ which has nothing to do with theoretical physics, is available here.

Prostitutes and Playwrights (Another Conversation with my LA Agent)

Woo Ho

I called my agent to tell him I’d finished another play.  He wasn’t pleased.  He thought plays stole time from screenplays that he might be able to sell.  It was an ongoing debate.

One time, I mentioned the value of art for art’s sake.  I thought he’d have a stroke.  He popped Tylenol like Tic Tacs though – and that might’ve saved him.

The Phone Call

David:  I wrote a new play.

Agent:  What’s this s— about?

David:  It’s about the Irish novelist, Flann O’Brien.

Agent:  You wrote a f—ing play about a f—ing novelist?  Where’s it premiering?  In a black hole?

David:  If it gets up in LA, I’ll comp you tickets.

Agent:  No thanks.  I mean, I’d love to see your f—ing play when it opens, David… but I don’t like sitting alone.

David:  That’s a good one.  You use that with other clients?

Agent:  They don’t write f—ing plays.  I don’t understand why you do.

David:  Because screenplays rarely get made even when sold… but plays do.  Believe it or not, I like seeing my work produced.

Agent:  And I like to sleep with beautiful women, but you don’t see me going to all that trouble.

David:  The trouble of actually sleeping with them?

Agent:  You’re f—ing hilarious, David, you know that?

David:  I’m your client, aren’t I?

Agent:  Look, I can meet a semi-attractive woman and take her on dinners and dates and all that bulls—.  Or I can sell a screenplay, not one of yours apparently, and buy a beautiful hooker.

David:  Are you saying that writing a play is like dating a semi-attractive woman and writing a screenplay is like buying a beautiful hooker?

Agent:  Which is less trouble?

David:  You’re suggesting that I prostitute myself both professionally and personally?

Agent:  Of course not.  I’m advising you to prostitute yourself professionally… so you can buy a prostitute personally.  Sometimes I think you don’t know which end is up.


You can buy my debut novel, ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

 

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The Sacred and the Desecrated

The Rockies, Greece & Ireland

The Rockies, Greece & Ireland

One evening, while cruising the wine-dark sea off Psathura, a deserted island in Northern Greece, I thought that an epiphany was at hand.  This may have had something to do with the heat and the ouzo, however, because that epiphany proved as evanescent as the breeze and remained unknown.

What happened in Psathura isn’t unique though, this sort of encounter with the world’s majesty that transcends the everyday and seems sublime.  It’s happened to me at other times as well: in the Rocky Mountains, and on the Sea of Cortez, and upon the wavering greens of Western Ireland.  It’s occurred on bicycles and horses and surf boards.

It’s likely to have happened to everyone who chances upon this post.

I thought of these encounters when I heard this quote from the Kentucky poet Wendell Berry: “There are no sacred and unsacred places; there are only sacred and desecrated places.”

Those few words have changed my way of thinking.  Like our innocence, every place we encounter is indeed sacred unless proven otherwise, and we trespass upon the sanctified daily.  It’s a humbling, lifting and affirming way of passing through the world.

And I’m beginning to think that was the epiphany that hung in the breeze off Psathura.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

‘Pitching and Kissing’ (Meeting Producers with my LA Agent)

My agent organized pitch meetings with a few production companies.

“Make it short and sweet,” he said. “Just give them your f—ing pitch and see if they bite.“

“So you know,” he added. “The more important they are, the worst dressed they’ll be. You meet a d—–bag in a Speedo and flip flops, their last film probably made a 100 mil. Meet a s—head in a suit, their last film was probably seen by less people than one of your f—ing plays.“

I went to the meetings. No one was wearing a Speedo. I did meet with one guy in a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts. True enough: he was the development guy for a comedy team with a string of hits.

The last meeting went like this.

Pitch Meeting

An office in Santa Monica. Impressionist art, movie posters, a red couch. I’m ushered into a conference room.

Their development guy is maybe 25, wearing black jeans and a Talking Heads tee-shirt. The usual small talk. I mention CBGB. He thinks it’s a government agency.

Eventually:

D-guy: I read that script.

David: I thought I was here to pitch it.

D-guy: You are. But I like to read the script before people pitch it so I already know what they’re going to say.

David: What’s the point?

D-guy: It’s like when the police ask questions that they already know the answers to.

David: Am I a suspect?

He coughs out a knowing laugh.

D-guy: Your only crime is a screenplay that feels like it was written in the 80’s.

David: When the Talking Heads were big?

He lets it slide, or else hasn’t yet realized that he’s wearing their shirt.

D-guy: If you’re going to write something like this, it has to have a modern feel… say like the Bourne series.

David: I see. You mean the Bourne series based on the books written by Robert Ludlum in the 80’s, right?

End of meeting.

Back at my agent’s office, I tell him what happened.

Agent: You gotta learn to kiss a–, David.

David: I don’t do that very well.

Agent: It’s not hard. I do it every day. All my clients are a—holes. Want to learn how to kiss a–? I’ll show you.

He walks around the desk and kisses me on top of the head.

Agent: How hard was that?

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

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