My Version of Thanks

Color me guilty. I didn’t participate in the Facebook Thanksvember…I’m not even sure that’s what it was called. Something to that effect? I’m not a monster. I genuinely smiled when I saw others expressing thanks for their kids, their homes, their lives. I was happy to see a chance for people to look for and ‘status update’ the good in the place of the usual snarky ironic observation that typically comes through my newsfeed. Not to point fingers. I have also sought the easy laugh from my FB BFFs…I too have posted stuff that expresses my disgruntle in a ‘humorous’ way when, ultimately, I’m just looking for someone to commiserate. Why look for such commiseration when we can seek co-celebration?  How sad is it that I just had to make up that word?  Is there a word for that already?

So. Boom. Here is my Thanksgiving-esque blog. Why not.  What am I most thankful for?

I wanted to pick one — ONE — all encompassing thing, and I think I found the thing that makes me the happiest to be alive. Because it really is the umbrella under which everything huddles.

And it’s this: the capacity to love.

There you have it.

I love.

I love smells and colors and food and music. My sister laughs when I tell her that one of the things I love most about my favorite city (Los Angeles) is the trash. Even the trash in LA is beautiful. I don’t know if it’s the way the sunlight hits it, or if it’s the reflection cast on it from surrounding pink stucco, or the sound it makes when folks root through it looking for recyclables in the wee hours of the morning. I just love it.

I love people, I love stuff people do, I love stuff people make, I love ideas people have.

I love people. Sue me.

It’s just that, humans can be pretty rad when they use their powers for good. True, sometimes those powers are used for evil, but it seems like the former is somewhat more prevalent than the latter. Happily, sometimes humans even use their powers for the stupendous. Most engrossing to me is the passion and love for extremity that seems to run rampant when folks are in the zone of wholly enjoying the art of being human animals.

This guy dancing.

This love story.

This observation of a human nearly destroying himself for the love of excess.

This song that made me fall in love with someone for the first time.

This image (below) that I’ll be in love with until I get around to painting it. Then I’ll fall in love with the next one.

Friends, separated by thousands of miles, that love enough to meet once a year to sing in the mountains of Montana.

This example of the power of human creation.

And this (explicit) one.

The fact that dogs love people. That’s a big one. (Why the heck do dogs love people so much?!)


This love for everything and everyone is relatively new to me. Until about seven years ago I was really angry with people, circumstances, myself. And had been for a couple of decades.

Five things opened my eyes to the special nature of human beings and why even the shittiest people you meet are the most amazing creatures.

  1. I had a child.
  2. I lost someone I loved dearly.
  3. I began writing seriously, which requires paying attention to *why* people *do what they do.*
  4.  I gave up worrying about what other people thought about me.

And those are in order. And they had to be.

Here’s the funny thing about people:

Dogs don’t run away when I freak out with joy over them, petting them, loving them and praising them. But people often do (although, with people, I generally hold back on the petting). My enthusiasm and excitement for and my interest in the magic and talent and ins and outs of people I meet, their expression, their history, their personas, their beings, my wanting to tell everyone about them, often scares them away. What have these people been taught? What are they afraid of, being praised, appreciated? What have they experienced to make them run in the other direction? I hope I find out what it is so I can teach my son the opposite.

So people may have a thing to learn about allowing themselves to be admired and loved. And that was actually my number five, if you noticed it was missing.

5.  I learned to accept love from others.

Not easy, but huge.

Don’t let this last daunting challenge cause you to miss out. There is no rhyme or reason why people love and admire one another. That’s the beauty. People do things that display the depths of the human soul and heart and brain and all expression in all sorts of appreciable form.

Everything from my son’s art (left)…

…to his favorite classical piece, Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.

Fascination (the fancy word for geeking out) might even be considered a form of expression. It might just be my forte.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. — Rumi




Cardboard Hearts and Happy Mistakes

Sometimes I hope the aliens really are watching us. I hope someone or something out there sees the bizarre and poignant things humans can do. This desire of mine makes itself known during moments in which I feel just so proud to be one of this weird species, populated by those with the hopeful potential to create and observe and feel. Sometimes really extremely sensitive and talented human beings manage to capture emotion and observation in some form of art for the rest of us to witness. And in those moments, I tremble. Blinded by giddy awe, my power to analyze these works of art may leave something to be desired, but my capacity for feeling, on maximum overdrive most of the time anyway, becomes moved to the point of sudden clarity. All it takes to really set it off is the right trigger.

One such trigger was this little number:


A humble and forthright, simply, beautifully and tightly shot short that played at the (20th Annual!!!) Austin Film Festival last month. I was, almost literally but not quite, dragged (okay, ‘encouraged’ is a more accurate description) to the shorts program in which it played by friend and talented director/actor/awesome person Peter Michael Dowd who had his own film in the festival (short doc THE KING OF SIZE). Peter had met the filmmakers behind another short playing in this particular program. A program called, unbecomingly (at least to me) something like ‘FAMILY MATTERS.’  Family programming is not normally my cup of tea.

Still, I went. And I spent the next 24 hours thanking Peter. And I spent the next few weeks stalking BOOP BEEP filmmaker Murphy Gilson. Because the first thing I knew, as soon as it ended, all 5 minutes and 18 seconds of it, was that, if I didn’t see BOOP BEEP again, soon, I would probably die.

BOOP BEEP is described on its wonderfully comprehensive Facebook page (you can watch tons of ‘making of’ vids there!) as: ‘…a handcrafted  love story about a lonely little robot who tries to win the heart of the girlbot next door. It’s a homemade film which attempts to eschew perfection in favor of the beauty of happy mistakes. At its very full cardboard heart, this film is about childhood wonder and how simple things can be magical.’

HAPPY MISTAKES. That’s it. That’s the special ingredient. The secret weapon. The unpretentious yet wildly imaginative design of the ‘bots. The sensitivity and wry humor behind the set decoration (the camera pans by a copy of STEEL MAGNOLIAS during the opening credits, just one small example). The viewer gets the sense that the magic of the production wasn’t wholly by design. That it was guided by sudden inspiration, last minute ideas, by a sense of fun, by a ‘hey, that makes sense!’ sensibility. With all due respect, because I can imagine that crediting serendipity may come across, unintentionally, as a back-handed compliment to hard-working and seasoned filmmakers.

But if I could front-handedly slap any filmmaker across the face with a compliment it would be Murphy Gilson. The craft behind this film captures that sense of serendipity and magic in a way that is simultaneously palpable yet invisible. An admirable feat. When I contacted Gilson on Facebook to freak out all over his film, to congratulate him in all my heartfelt yet sycophantic glory, I didn’t realize that he was already an award-winning filmmaker for his short PARTIALLY TRUE TALES OF A HIGH ADVENTURE.  And, in fact, as I write this, I notice that just hours ago, it was just announced on Facebook that BOOP BEEP won Golden Reel Award Winner at the 2013 Nevada Film Festival.

Awards and laurels aside (and there are a lot of laurels: Austin Film Festival, San Diego Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, the list goes on…), one gets the sense, when watching BOOP BEEP, that it was not created out of anything more than a love for creation. A need for expression. An uncomplicated desire to repair something in the viewer (and perhaps in the filmmaker, if I dare?) in the same way that the male robot finds a glimpse of something compelling enough to make him duct tape the grate, upright and ready, across his chest after seeing the glimmering female robot across the street. Readying himself for the next, new, possible step.

In a film with this level of honesty and beauty there is often found a moment. A moment tantamount to a plane taking off or a roller coaster beginning its slow click-click-click up some impossibly vertical hill. In BOOP BEEP there is such a moment, during which you know you’re about to go on an emotional journey. For better or for worse. And there’s no hiding. The simple and ‘handcrafted’ (as described) robots ironically echo this ‘oh the humanity’ sense, with the same hodge-podge and taped together emotional gravity that, if you’re lucky, you remember life felt like as a pre-teen (and if you’re really lucky, life still feels that way). When everything had so much hope yet felt so tragic and monumental. And one smiling, shiny (robot) at the bus stop across the street could change the day and just maybe your outlook on the rest of your life.

Playing at The Beverly Hills Short Film Festival at  Busby’s in Los Angeles, on November 23rd at 3pm. Like the BOOP BEEP Facebook page for more screenings.