Thich Nhat Hanh Walk With Me

Thich Nhat Hanh is a very popular Buddhist teacher.  Like the Dalai Lama, he is practically a one man publishing industry, he has so many books out.  Fortunately, he is the real deal.  I’ve never felt peacefulness and quietude as I have when I’ve attended one of his dharma talks.  His words, though simple and spare, are the stuff of poetry, and the wisdom he shares ‘goes beyond.’  Every thing I’ve read or heard of his has provided me with a different perspective, often on the things in life I tend to take for granted.

For instance, I like the way he describes how to eat mindfully in “Peace is Every Step,”

[We] look down at the food in a way that allows the food to become real.  This food reveals our connection with the earth.  Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth.  The extent to which our food reveals itself depends on us.  We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread!  Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness, can bring us much happiness.

In 2014, Thay, as he’s called by his students, suffered a severe brain hemorrhage, a stroke.  He was in a coma for seven weeks and lost the ability to speak.  Since then, his recovery has been slow.  I believe he remains speechless but he has traveled to Thailand and his home, Vietnam.  I assume he is currently at his residence at Plum Village in France.

I’m looking forward to seeing Walk With Me, the new documentary narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes).  The filmmakers describe Walk With Me as a “meditation on a Zen Buddhist monastic community, who have dedicated their lives to master the art of mindfulness with their world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.”  The film was released into cinemas worldwide during the fall but I don’t go to theaters any more so I’ll have to wait for it to show up on cable.

Here’s the official trailer:


Theories About Everything

Young British actor Eddie Redmayne won an Best Actor Oscar last night for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything. I haven’t seen it yet, but I figured that playing a guy with severe ALS required some acting chops, so I was not surprised that Redmayne won, he probably deserved it.

Redmayne with Hawking
Redmayne with Hawking

The Theory of Everything was not the only biopic nominated this year. So was American Sniper, a film about Chris Kyle, an American sniper. Unlike Hawking, I do not have a theory of everything, but I have a theory about everything, (well, nearly everything) and one of my theories is that if you took a poll more Americans could identify who Chris Kyle is than Stephen Hawking. I could be wrong, but as I am living in a country where many folks actually believe the President is a secret Muslim and Communist, I kind of doubt it.

I have not seen American Sniper either but I have certainly heard a lot about it and about Chris Kyle. Some folks regard him as a hero; others see him as a “hate-filled killer.” According to The Guardian:

In his memoir, Kyle reportedly described killing as “fun”, something he “loved”; he was unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a ‘bad guy’. ‘I hate the damn savages,’ he wrote. ‘I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.’ He bragged about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina, though that was never substantiated.”

Real nice guy, huh? American Sniper has been criticized for inaccuracies (like connecting Iraq with 9/11) and painting a distorted picture of Kyle. To be fair, almost all biographical or historical films distort reality, often in order to tell the story in a compressed amount of time, and sometimes for other reasons. Selma, the movie about the famous march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, has also faced some criticism for how it has depicted history (mainly the relationship between King and LBJ).

What I find most interesting, especially considering that Hollywood has such a liberal bias, that a film about an alleged racist received five Academy Award nominations, while the film about a man who gave his life fighting racism received only two. I don’t think it has much to do with the quality of the films, because let’s face it, Clint Eastwood is no Orson Welles. It must be show business . . .

Is there anybody here who thinks that following the orders
Takes away the blame?
Is there anybody here who wouldn’t mind a murder by another name?
Is there anybody here whose pride is on the line?
With the honor of the brave and the courage of the blind?

I wanna see him, I wanna wish him luck
I wanna shake his hand, wanna call his name
Put a medal on the man

Phil Ochs, Is There Anybody Here


New HBO Series “All Signs of Death”: A Sneak Peek

Well, sort of.

Living in Hollywood, USA can be interesting. A couple of years ago, just around this same time in August, a film (“Powder Blue”) was being filmed up the block and one afternoon I shook hands with Kris Kristofferson just a few yards from my front door. Let me tell you that for a rock/country music fan like me, that was quite a thrill.

Later the same day, I watched Forrest Whitaker dressed in a Santa suit sitting and sweating (in 100 degree temperature as it turned out to be the hottest day of the year) on a bench at a bus stop on Hollywood Blvd. Filming a scene for the same movie which never made the final cut.

Yesterday down the street, they were shooting the pilot for a new HBO series, “All Signs of Death”, based on Charlie Huston’s 2009 great pulp fiction/neo-noir crime novel The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. It’s about a twenty-something slacker who “stumbles into a career as a crime scene cleaner.” He stumbles into a mystery too, of course.

Now, this is obviously the vehicle they’re going to use in the series, parked around the corner from the filming, under a nice shady tree:

Notice there’s no phone number displayed. Who you gonna call? Somebody else, because these folks are fictional.

Actually, “crime scene cleaning” is big business these days. You can earn a six figure income in this profession. I wanted to know how one became a crime scene cleaner-upper. I went to a website run by Amdecon. They offer training and certification in just ten days! First step? Purchase the Amdecon training DVD program for $295.00.

Another company, Crime Scene Steri-Clean, LLC of California, like the fictional Clean Team, offers both commercial and residential services, and not only will they mop up all the blood from your crime scene, but if you have a need, they help with rodent removal, too. What’s more, Crime Scene Steri-Clean will also clean your car, no trauma required.

Here’s another view of the Clean Team vehicle. I didn’t check to see if the license plate is real. I have yet to see any vehicles like this on the block, but we haven’t had any murders, lately. A few rats, though.

I hope they don’t run huge vacuum hoses from these vans into the houses or apartments they service like those carpet-cleaning guys do. I hate that. What a racket. By the way, while I’m thinking about it, let me say, and I realize this is not really Buddhistic of me, that I am of the opinion that anyone who uses a gas-powered leaf blower should be shot on sight. No questions asked. Electric leaf-blowers, too. Besides, in Los Angeles it is against the law to operate those things within 50 feet of a residential building. A law that not a single leaf-blowing person has ever obeyed.

Anyway, back to “All Signs of Death”: I looked up the cast in case someone cool is going to be in it. I didn’t recognize any of the names. I guess I haven’t seen any of the television programs they’ve done. This guy here in the brown shirt is one of the actors. He might be somebody well-known. I don’t have a clue.

This next picture is how it looked from across the street. Elise’s has been in that location for fifty years. The tattoo parlor is a more recent addition.

In 1983, directly across the street here, the legendary director Ken Russell directed legendary actor Anthony Perkins in scenes for “Crimes of Passion” a much underrated and almost forgotten film that also starred Kathleen Turner. They put up a row of false storefronts, including a bar which they kept in place during the several days they were shooting scenes. After the first night, they had to post signs that the bar was not real. People kept trying to go in.

Well, another exciting day here in Tinseltown, and for this blog, a day’s respite from heavy stuff. At least in terms of this new HBO series, you can you saw it here first. Who knows, it might be the next “Dexter.”