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Showing posts from 2010

Be careful playing those swinging games with your children!

I was playing with our almost two year old daughter last night, swinging her around by her hands in a whirl that always makes her look blissful...when I heard a pop!

I knew something in her left arm had changed and she started holding her wrist and saying, "Ouchy," and crying a little (very little, brave girl).

We called our pediatrician, Dr Jay Gordon, to ask if we should take her to ER and he said that she had dislocated her elbow - the pain gets referred to the wrist for some reason.

He tried to talk us through popping it back in by pulling and rotating her arm but after several attempts, we were too worried about hurting her and said we would take her to ER to do it.

Dr Gordon called back a few minutes later to tell us that our local ER had a 4-6 hour wait (everyone is sick at the moment) and that he would meet us at his office at 8pm to do it for us.

So we drove to Santa Monica and Dr Gordon popped Paradise's arm back with one move. She didn't even cry. We are s…

Happy Holidays To All This Festive Season!

Sofia Coppola's Somewhere - My Film of the Year

Sofia Coppola’sSomewhere is a rare jewel in this year’s crop of movies: a film that actually made me feel and think about the characters, a film that mesmerized me with its stillness and its quietness, a film that I know I will return to, for its haunting mix of loneliness and the gentle love that family can offer.

A highly personal film rather than simply an autobiographical one (Woody Allen’s Manhattan comes to mind as a reference, not in terms of feel but in how that movie reflected both his love of New York and foreshadowed his relationship with a much younger woman), Somewhere draws a deeply shadowed yet highly subtle portrait of a celebrity-scored father-daughter relationship.
The father, superbly played by Stephen Dorff, is a not-quite-A-list movie star, Johnny Marco, who spends much of the movie holed up in LA’s wonderfully atmospheric and unique Chateau Marmont hotel.  There, he mixes empty and quite movingly lonely sexual encounters (including a series of almost identical pole…

The End of America

I have just posted a preview of The End of America, the two-hour Channel 4 TV documentary (first broadcast in Britain in January 2000) based on my book, Life On Mars, about my move to South Beach in Miami in the 1990s. Directed by Laura Ashton, the documentary features music by my pal, Andrew Hale, and songs written and performed by another longtime Miami friend, John Hood, who features prominently in the documentary.

You can read my article about making The End of America in Britain's Guardian newspaper by clicking here.

Warning: The documentary extract contains some graphic language, not suitable for children.

Block Town - Spatial Play

Our son, who is six, is lucky enough to be at a school and in a kindergarten class (with two outstanding teachers) where the importance of block play is fully appreciated.

Far more than mere entertainment or diversion, blocks are important tools for learning about spatial relationships (in our online world, too many of us think in two dimensions rather than three), collaboration with others, building design (Frank Lloyd Wright credited childhood block play with inspiring his love of architecture), problem solving - and even urban planning.

Our son's class has allowed the growth of "Block Town" - as the children themselves named it - over a period of two months.

It now covers almost the entire floor of one classroom, includes an airport runway, a hotel, office buildings, a police station and an aquarium...and has consumed every block available!

The children have also made extensive use of tape to bind blocks together into vehicles and to lay out "streets."  They…

Tea in the Sahara

I was emailing a British friend, Mark Willenbrock, in Morocco and he emailed back, "I am in the Sahara."

I remarked that it was amazing that he could email from the Sahara on his Blackberry (especially when I can't get iPhone reception in parts of Topanga Canyon) and that I hoped he would enjoy some hot mint tea while he was there - some years ago, when I visited the Sahara, I was invited into a rather grand tent by a local Berber tribesman and served delicious hot tea in a glass on a silver tray.

Moments later, this photograph arrived, also from Mark's Blackberry. It struck me how extraordinarily connected our world is - I was sitting in Los Angeles at about 5:30am and he was taking tea in the Sahara.

(Tea in the Sahara is also the title of Book One of Paul Bowles' magnificent novel, The Sheltering Sky.)

(Photograph by Mark Willenbrock.)

Kayaking with Hudson

I love the ocean with a passion, so it was a special thrill to take Hudson (who's six) out kayaking at Malibu - the first time he's been in a kayak.

It was a little rocky but we were extremely cautious: life vests, of course, plus a carefully selected point to launch and beach the kayak.

Hudson is a good swimmer but even so we stayed fairly close to the beach and did everything we could to ride the rhythm of the waves, which were just beautiful. (Many thanks to our friends for the use of the kayak:)

Chinese "dissident" Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize

This story about the Chinese government's reaction to the encouraging news that this year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Chinese "dissident" Liu Xiaobo is from CNN. President Obama has called on China immediately to release Liu Xiaobo from prison.

China blanks Nobel Peace prize searches

By Steven Jiang, CNN October 8, 2010 1:25 p.m. EDT

Beijing, China (CNN) -- With news media across the globe reacting to this year's Nobel Peace Prize announcement, authorities in the winner's homeland are racing to delete his name from all public domains.

Type "Liu Xiaobo" -- or "Nobel Peace Prize," for that matter -- in search engines in China and hit return, you get a blaring error page.

It's the same for the country's increasingly popular micro-blogging sites. "Nobel Prize" was the top-trending topic until the authorities acted to remove all mentions of the award.

Propaganda officials have also pulled the plug on internat…


A friend sent me this. I loved Inception...but this is so funny! (Thanks, Claire:)

The view from my window...

...if I were floating on the International Space Station. This panoramic view of the southwestern United States and Pacific Ocean, taken by an astronaut from the ISS (and courtesy of NASA).  More details about the topography, photography and camera (Nikon D2Xs) can be found here.

Swimming Under The Moonlight

I just meditated and swam beneath the moon and stars, a truly wonderful start to the week.

The impulse to swim at night always reminds me of Paul Bowles' magnificent novel, The Sheltering Sky - and in particular a passage where Kit finds herself, at night, looking into a garden at a wide pool, surrounded by graceful palm trunks:

"She stood staring at the calm dark surface of the water; straightaway she found it impossible to know whether she had thought of bathing just before or just after seeing the pool..."
Her swim becomes a revelation:

"She stepped out into the moonlight and waded slowly toward the center of the pool. Its floor was slippery with clay; in the middle the water came to her waist. As she immersed herself completely, the thought came to her: 'I shall never be hysterical again.' That kind of tension, that degree of caring about herself, she felt she would never attain them any more in her life."
From Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky.  (Ph…

The War Zone now available on Kindle for only $4.99

My novel, The War Zone: 20th Anniversary Edition, including my diary of the making of Tim Roth's multi-award-winning film of the book, is now available on Amazon Kindle for only $4.99.

The Bamboo Forest (A Plant I Love)

Our son is lucky enough to go to a school that has its own bamboo forest, a completely magical space that can enchant adults just as much as children.

The scale of the forest and the wondrous passageways through the bamboo take you completely out of your immediate world and place you not simply in nature, but nature at its most primal.

There is for me something unique about bamboo. I love all plants, and some people prefer a palette of colors with flowers all around, but the swaying green and golden-dry bamboo shoots and leaves of any species (and there are almost 1500 species of bamboo in the world) stir my spirit in a way that is quite profound.

Watch the extraordinary "Bamboo Forest" fight sequence (on YouTube) from Ang Lee's masterful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for a sense of the scale of bamboo in the wild, and its beauty.

As someone with a passion for gardening, I also enjoy growing bamboo - although it is a plant that you must be wary of, since there are two v…

Sofia Coppola's Somewhere wins Venice Festival's top prize

I love the films of Sofia Coppola - I think she is one of the most truly original and gifted filmmakers of her generation, with a unique personal vision quite different from her father's or any of her contemporaries.

Since The Virgin Suicides, through the stunning Lost in Translation (Bill Murray's best performance, even including the unforgettable Groundhog Day), and including Marie Antoinette - which I loved for its pure surface-quality and removed sense of being in the Royal Palace, almost totally unaware of the French Revolution unfolding outside (while listening to Bow Wow Wow, of course!) - Sofia Coppola has created haunting, dreamlike works that, to my mind, are like a kind of post-modern "world-suburb" alienation akin to Antonioni at his finest.

Her vision may to some extent be privileged, it may have something to do with Warhol's love of surface (she sat upon his knee as a child at family gatherings), but it is unique and just as meaningful as the grit o…

Hyperbole And A Half

Just discovered a very cool cartoon blog called Hyperbole and a Half by Allie. Don't know much about it or Allie but I just love it...fresh, like the produce:)

A Meditation on Meditation...

It's vital, I think - especially as the father of two young children - to have some moments in the day of silence and stillness, time in which you can be totally "alone" and quiet and reflect on who fundamentally you are, and ask the question: what is this world - this extraordinary and beautiful though sometimes savage - cosmos that we live in?

For me, that time is early morning, sometimes very early morning. I especially love the dawn, although often I wake to write much earlier, sometimes as early as 3am or 4am (I also mostly go to bed early and I only ever wake naturally; I would not be so happy getting up at 3am if it were forced on me by an alarm).

In summer especially the dawn is a truly magical time, especially when it is warm enough (it usually is in Los Angeles, although this summer has been unusually cold) to sit outside by the large Buddha in our garden and meditate.

I have been a Buddhist for about 20 years, ever since the death of my first ch…

100 minus 1 day (Winnie-the-Pooh)

“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you” - Winnie-the-Pooh (from Sarah Louise Wilson's Facebook page, she is really worth checking out, a beautiful soul).

Pooh is the Dalai Lama is love. There is nothing that is not beautiful in the Hundred Acre Wood...I would love to live there for eternity with all my family and friends. I am trying.

(My favorite edition of Pooh is A. A. Milne'sThe Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the -Pooh, with illustrations by the incomparable E. H. Shepard. Ours is a much-loved and much-thumbed copy:)

Hudson's Fantastickal Club House

Our six year old son, Hudson, and I have been writing a children's book together, called Hudson's Fantastickal Club House.

Most of the ideas are Hudson's - the story is inspired by his imaginary Club House in a graceful old olive tree in our garden - and we have had enormous fun writing it. We also have ambitious plans to build the Club House/tree house one day!

At some point we will put it all together into a book, perhaps in this form, perhaps geared more toward illustrations. We will also publish more chapters here and probably on its own blog page.

In the meantime, we thought you might enjoy the first chapter, "The Gulp." Click here to read. We hope you enjoy...and please feel free to comment!

Sunset Over The Pacific

Yesterday, at the end of a day of writing, we took our children to the beach for dinner al fresco as the sun set. It was a reminder of just how beautiful the simplest things can be. Watching children enjoying the ocean is magical in is the sun dipping down over the hills and the beach. We cannot create anything as intensely moving and memorable as a single moment in the company of those we love, or the astonishing complexity and beauty of each instant on this planet...

Kelp Forest on Exposition Boulevard

It's really worth checking out the astonishing Ecosystems Experience at the LA Science Museum (actually it's called the California Science Center) on Exposition Boulevard. There is a truly beautiful kelp tank with the shoal of fish I photographed here, as well as swell sharks, bat rays and other marine life that you would find in a kelp forest. The kelp has even started to reproduce in the tank - watch out for the tiny yellow triangles that show where baby kelp is growing. Really worth a visit. We took our young children and they loved it - as did I.

Twilight Over The Mountains

The twilight over the mountains on Topanga Canyon Boulevard was beautiful last night...I love blurry photos!

Swimming With The Fishes

I had a great time yesterday at UCLA talking to visiting film students from the University of Miami about my "journey as a writer" (mostly on the 101 and 405 to get to the campus).  It's always good to experience the enthusiasm and fresh perspective of those aspiring to work in the business - and it was wonderful to see my friend, Paul Lazarus, who runs the film program at UM, where I used to teach graduate screenwriting.
Paul, who is a former movie producer (Westworld and Barbarosa are among his credits) told me a tale of the high days of Hollywood in the 1980s, when - during a negotiation on a particular project - he received a call from a heavyweight (in every sense, including the Vegas-"connected" variety) show business attorney, who asked Paul, "Are you trying to screw my client?  Do you want to wind up at the bottom of a lake?"
Paul - a former entertainment attorney himself (Mel Brooks was a client) - answered: "Are you threatening my life?&q…

Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky

Some years ago, the British film director (and wonderful friend and collaborator) Nicolas Roeg gave me a book and told me, “Read this, it will change your life.”
I had no idea what to expect – except that with Nic, I trusted that he knew what he was talking about.  I went home and read the book, Paul Bowles’ magnificent novel, The Sheltering Sky, set in Morocco and first published in 1949, and indeed it both woke me up, psychologically and emotionally, and changed the way I thought about things.
The novel is set in Morocco, where American-born composer and writer Bowles lived for most of his life, and among its other effects, The Sheltering Sky made me fall in love with the country, too.  Marrakesh became one of my favorite cities in the world (I still dream of its exquisite architecture, its wonderful people and its unforgettable desert beauty) and the drive from there to the Sahara through the Atlas Mountains is still one of the most …