Thursday, January 26, 2012

The BEBE Billboard

I was out walking my dog and I came across this bus billboard advertising the clothing line bebe.

Strangely enough, the two women started talking to me.  I know, weird huh?  But strange things happen in North Hollywood.

And this is what they said.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movies that SHOCK!

What does it take for a filmmaker to shock an audience these days?  Well, it depends on the audience of course.  I was shocked by that crazy documentary Jesus Camp which is about youngsters learning about  scriptures but I suppose there are people who could watch it and wonder what all the fuss was about.  Toddlers and Tiaras, the show on the TLC cable station, shocks me when I take the time to watch it but if you’re a mother of one of those toddlers, it obviously seems quite normal to dress a five year old up like a dimestore hooker.

So, I still get shocked and some of my favorite movies are the ones that have shocked me the most.  I have put together a list of these movies and why, at least from my perspective, they seem so memorable.  The list is in no particular order.  If you haven’t seen some of the titles, I caution that you need an open mind even to get through some of them.  They are definitely NOT for all tastes.  You have been warned. 

Blue Velvet (1986) 
This used to be my favorite movie of all time.  It still is on my top ten list and bounces around on that list depending on my random cinematic moods.  It’s a story revolving around a severed ear, some very bad gangsters, two innocent teenagers (who don’t really look like teenagers) and a beautiful nightclub singer who gets abused (and sometimes likes it).  The best part about this movie is how the director David Lynch directs the clash between the innocence and evil.  And it’s pure evil.  The kind of evil that makes you think that something very very bad is going to happen to the main characters.  Favorite scene:  Isabella Rossellini makes Kyle MacLachlan strip naked while she threatens him with a knife.  Not exactly shocking by itself but what comes after certainly is. 

Pink Flamingos (1972)
If there is one movie that should get the most shocks per minute of screentime, I would like to vote for this one.  John Waters created this low budget masterpiece by using a cast of friends who apparently weren’t afraid of doing anything.  Pervert with a turkey neck tied to penis?  Got it.   Singing asshole?  Got it.  Drag queen eating dog shit?  Okay, hasn’t everyone scene that scene?  Even Mr. Waters is apparently tired of explaining that yes, that scene did actually happen and Divine did call up a doctor’s office just to make sure that he wouldn’t die of some sort of canine parasite.  I am amazed that I can’t think of another recent film that has this many jaw dropping moments.  There is even bestiality.  Strangely enough, none of it seems gratuitous.  In some ways, it just looks like a group of friends got together and shot a lot of crazy shit with a camera.       

Hustler White (1996) 
This film seems like a documentary but isn’t; the film borrows its beginning from Sunset Boulevard where the narrator is face down dead in the water.  This film follows the journey of a Hollywood hustler who is part of a very seedy, twisted and most of the time, outrageous underbelly of LA’s sex scene.  Extremely graphic, this is the type of film that you would only dare your most open and closest friends to watch because anyone else would probably never talk to you again for suggesting it.  The star is Tony Ward, who seems strangely comfortable in this strange world. 

Henry:  Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
We see so much violence on tv and in the movies these days that it takes A LOT of brutality to get through our jaded exteriors.  But this movie seems to do it.  Based on the true story of serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, we follow Henry as he casually kills people without any real motive.  He simply seems compelled to do it.  And he does it without any sense of regret.  The opening scenes of the dead bodies in macabre tableaux are bad enough (especially the one of the half naked girl at the sink with a glass bottle embedded in her head) but it only gets more shocking with the torture of a naked woman while her husband and son are unceremoniously killed.  And the whole scene is filmed by Henry’s accomplice, Otis.  Such raw evil is chilling; these victims could have been your mother or your father or your child.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer shows us how cheap human life can be.  To add to the horror, Henry gets away with it in the end.  His real life inspiration wasn’t so lucky. 

A Clockwork Orange (1971) 
I saw this movie for the first time with a church group.  Admittedly, it wasn’t an older church group, we were all “youths” and someone brought along this gem for a “movie night”.  Obviously, we didn’t have any older supervision that night and I suppose all of us were too shocked or intrigued or at that age, turned on, to turn the blasphemy off.   If you’re not familiar with the story, it tells the tale of a very bad adolescent who is part of a violent gang and in one of the more gruesome scenes, they rape a woman and permanently maim her husband all to the joyous melodies of “Singing in the Rain”.  Weird indeed.   The leader subsequently enters therapy—pretty much desensitization to violent images while his eyes are held open—and you might think that he would be cured.  But you would be wrong.  Sexually and violently graphic, the acting and directing elevate it beyond a simple exploitation film.  Why is called A Clockwork Orange?  I have no idea.  One of the great movies of the Golden Age of cinema.    

Anatomy of Hell (2004)  
And now we have a little French film.  A little French film that is filled with such disgusting and nauseating images that it’s best if you haven’t eaten a meal for several hours.  I’m not really sure of the plot.  I suppose it revolves around a woman who tries to kill herself but then is rescued by a gay man who is intrigued and repulsed by her sexuality.  Makes sense so far, doesn’t it?  Oh well, it’s French and that explains a lot.  To its credit, it pushes a lot of boundaries that most filmmakers wouldn’t even want to approach and in my opinion, doesn’t deserve the 4/10 rating on the IMDB website.  If anything, this film will make you realize that there is always something out there that will shock an audience, no matter how open minded they are.  And believe it or not, this filmmaker is a woman, the one and only, Catherine Breillat.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

musical me

You could say I'm in photoshop training.

I'm giving myself an E for effort.  The right ideas are there but it just didn't come together the way I wanted it to.

Oh well.  Next project!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Year end thoughts for The Savong Foundation

This was the best year ever for the Savong Foundation!

I can say that with 100% honesty since the Savong Foundation became official on May 4, 2011.  On that day, we received our 501(c)(3) paperwork from the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which allows American contributions to be tax deductible.  This process took nine months from start to finish and involved a lot of fun paperwork with interesting challenges like “Show us proof that you are not  funding terrorist organizations within Cambodia.”  I wanted to write that all of the children promised me that they would never ever build nuclear weapons at the SOC (Savong Orphan Center) but from what I hear, the IRS does not have a sense of humor. 

In Cambodia, it seems that progress can be a slow painful process.  Savong doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy because in 2011, it seemed like his projects were evolving at a rapid pace.  At the Savong School, a new outdoor classroom was built and free Korean instruction was added to the curriculum.  (English and Japanese were already being taught).  Three of the older students (Pomsen, Orong and Seyha) signed up for University and they received their tuitions, living expenses, a laptop and a small amount of spending money thanks to generous donations from their international sponsors.  Savong also made the decision to go back to school because he clearly does not have enough to do in his spare time despite the fact that he welcomed a new baby into the world.  (A big welcome to Lucky!) 

After a short downtime, the Medical Clinic at the SOC was back up and running.  Dr. Phin Sopheak leads the helm and she sees about fifteen patients a day at no charge from the surrounding community as well as from the SOC.  Also at the SOC, a full time guardian, Nan, was hired and the child safety policy was implemented (you can read about it here   The care, well being and happiness of the children at the SOC are always a top priority and if you have ever visited this care center, you know that they deserve the best!     

Construction of the new student center began this year and we are still doing some finishing touches.  This will be the home for the older students (ranging in age from 15 to 24) who are attending the local high school or the university.  All the land and construction costs (which were considerable since Siem Reap is just not as cheap as you might think) came from private donations.  We hope to get the students into this facility by January or February at the latest.    

For me, the most fun I had this year was the trip to Cambodia in mid November.  I was there for a couple of weeks with the treasurer of the foundation, Eddie Lamborn.  I say “fun” but for most of the visit, it was all about business and there never enough hours in our days.  Savong was gracious with his time and we discussed current projects and future ambitions.  We had a great discussion about needs and wants and Savong was very helpful in teaching us about the Cambodian culture.  That knowledge is essential; if you want to help a population of people, the first step is understanding them.  And Cambodians are not Americans.  Or Australians.  Or British.  That seems obvious but it is amazing how ingrained the Western culture can be and without even realizing it, visitors such as ourselves can make judgements which are misinformed or worse, just plain wrong.  In other words, I learned that working in Cambodia means leaving a lot of cultural baggage at home where it belongs.  

What is in store for 2012?  The main focus for the foundation at this point is getting the student center operational and making sure that the students learn as much at school as they do outside of school.  We do not want to make them into adults who are dependent on outside help but instead want to foster their independence while working as a team with the other students.  When we were in Cambodia, we interviewed all of them and I’m excited about all the potential they hold.  There is no question in my mind that they have what it takes to make the most of the wonderful opportunities that they have been given.  Beyond the student center, there are some other exciting projects on the horizon which will be discussed with Savong, Duncan (in New Zealand) and the foundation.  We are working hard on improving the website (stay tuned!) and a fundraiser dinner is in the works for February. 

As always, I want to say a huge (HUGE) thanks to all of you.  Your commitment, financial or otherwise, is much appreciated and without your help, there is no way that we could do the things that we do.  I had no idea that the foundation would take up as much time as it does but it is worth it because the kids are worth it.  If you haven’t been to Cambodia yet, I hope you do someday because you will see what I mean first hand.  For those who have been to the Kingdom of Wonder, you know exactly what I’m talking about.   The foundation is dedicated to making their lives better and we will do so with both accountability and transparency. 

Please continue with us on our journey. 

Have a great 2012!

Phil Caldwell
CEO The Savong Foundation

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Apologies to Morro Bay

There is a big mistake with this picture which you might not immediately catch.

Oh Happy New Year and all that.  I hope 2012 in a good one and the Mayans are wrong and everyone gets what they deserve--good or bad.  Moving on ...

I took this picture in the fall and I guess it has been a while--or maybe my memory isn't very good--because I could have sworn this place was called Mono Bay.  So I photoshopped it with a big mono bay sign which is unfortunate because it is called Morro Bay.

But I have better things to do with my time than play on photoshop (cleaning, doing laundry, walking dog, shower, eat and plan world domination, not necessarily in that order ...) so I have decided to leave it as is.  It didn't take me long to do but still, I think I hear my dog peeing on the carpet ...

Morro Bay is a great spot to visit.  Not sure I would want to live there (it's a little too sleepy for me) but it is very picturesque and they had some pretty good chowder on the docks.  It's on the coast, north of Los Angeles on the way to San Francisco.