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HAPPY NEW YEAR - CHANGE EVERY MOMENT

Don't Mess With The War Zone

I just came across this picture of me with Ray Winstone and Tim Roth at Sundance with The War Zone in January 1999.

If only I'd been wearing black, we could have really worked our Reservoir Dogs look!




If you're interested in the Kindle 20th Anniversary Edition of The War Zone, it is currently available AT A SPECIAL HOLIDAY PRICE OF $3.99 FROM AMAZON.
The print edition is its usual outrageous $15.99 - it's hard for me to get that price down, but I'm going to make sure that the next edition is better priced!

My Film Of The Year - Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom

My film of the year, I think: Moonrise Kingdom. It made me happy, what more can you ask? We have a huge poster for The Life Aquatic in our house, which Hudson and Paradise have grown up with. I hope their lives unfold like a magical Wes Anderson tale.

If Wes Anderson controlled the cosmos, it would be a far, far kinder place:)


Happy Holidays and Have a Wonderful 2013!

Wishing everyone a very happy festive season and a wonderful New Year! Thank you for following the blog - 2013 is going to be a fantastic year.

Peace - love - namaste,
Alexander


Running Free

I wanted to post this photo of our dog at our friends' ranch near Groveland (which is near the north-west entrance of Yosemite National Park), simply because I love the picture and I love the fact that she had such a great time at Thanksgiving running free there with a "pack" of our friends' four dogs.

She was so happy that I wondered if friendship can be measured by how well your dogs get along.


Wonderful, Inspiring Kelvin Doe - And His Trip To MIT

This wonderful, totally inspirational video was on our friend, Michael Betanoff's fantastic blog, tintin americain (which you should definitely check out - today's offering is John Lennon's immortal Imagine).

It tells the story of the remarkable Kelvin Doe (aka DJ Focus), a fifteen year old self-taught genius from extraordinarily poor circumstances in Sierra Leone, who has taught himself to how to build all kinds of equipment, including his own generator and radio station, from parts he found rummaging through the garbage.

A doctoral student at MIT, David Sengeh, recognized Kelvin's astonishing talents and arranged an invitation for Kelvin to visit MIT, as the youngest person in history to be included as part of their "Visiting Practitioner's Program."

The world needs many more Kelvin Does - and we should all feel humbled by what he has achieved with so little (and so young!), and the wonder and love he has for our world. 

Innovation and inspiration should gu…

Thank You Sonora ER, Dr Trujillo and Dr Johnson.

Our eight year old son, Hudson, has been having severe abdominal pain over the past week to ten days, and this week we took him to see Dr Jennifer Neufeld-Trujillo, one of our regular pediatricians at the Forest Road Pediatric Clinic in Sonora, and also to ER at Sonora Regional Medical Center.

We just want to say a big thank you to everyone - including all the very friendly and helpful staff at ER - for their care of and concern for Hudson, who is gradually starting to feel better.

We would also like to make a special mention of Dr Lisa Johnson, who was on call tonight for Forest Road Pediatrics, and who had a long telephone conversation with me, in which she answered many questions with a depth of knowledge and experience that was both highly reassuring and informative, and who left us feeling confident that we are on the right path for the weekend - always a difficult time when your child is not feeling well.

Hopefully, Hudson will continue to improve in the days ahead, and we would li…

Bond, Barbara Broccoli - and Skyfall!

I cannot wait to see the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, starring the perfectly cast Daniel Craig as James Bond and Javier Bardem as, reputedly, the best Bond villain we've seen, Silva.

Skyfall is already - in its first weekend of release in the United States - the most successful Bond movie ever, with a worldwide gross, as of writing, of $669.2 million. Not bad for a franchise that is 50 years old!

I'm particularly pleased for producer Barbara Broccoli, who was the first person to option the film rights in my novel, The War Zone, some considerable time ago (although she wasn't involved in making the film when it was finally produced).

Barbara was a wonderful person to work with, and a lot of fun - we even went down the helter skelter on Brighton Pier together, as part of a dare:)

Here's to blowing things up (on screen) for fun!


Our Buddha in the Snow

Last weekend, we had our first dusting of snow this winter - and it was beautiful.

There was only a little at our house, just enough to give our Buddha his first taste of white flakes this year - but a little farther up the hill, our local playground looked like something out of a fairytale.

We moved here because our children wanted snow. Last winter was remarkably mild, although we did have a little. This year, given the fact that we've had some before Thanksgiving, we are hoping that we'll have a good deal more.




VOTE VOTE VOTE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA - AND HISTORY

I had hoped to write something sweeping and inspirational, as well as considered and smart and carefully argued, about tomorrow's presidential election - an election that feels as if it has been a decade in the making - but time has proven tighter than usual in the past few days, and so you get this: an impassioned plea to get out and VOTE tomorrow, if you have not already done so, and to VOTE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA AND HISTORY.

I first wrote about Barack Obama on February 3, 2008, for my previous blog, Loving The Wolf, in a fairly lengthy post in which I talked about my reasons for moving to the US from Britain in 1990, my choice to become a United States citizen, the coming economic disaster that George W Bush had led us into, and the future that candidate Obama (at that time, he was still campaigning in the Democratic primaries against Hillary Clinton) offered.

I ended that post with these words, which I still wholeheartedly believe today:


"One of the greatest things about livin…

Please Join Me On Saturday At 11am For My Talk On Film Noir

Please join me on Saturday November 3, 2012, from 11am-noon at Sonora's historic Opera Hall for my talk Film Noir: From Murder To Mainstream.

It is presented as part of this year's ITSA Film Festival in Sonora.  I will be exploring one of my absolute favorite film (and literary) genres, noir, and its influence not only on the noted detective/"pulp" classics such as The Maltese Falcon and The Postman Always Rings Twice, but on contemporary mainstream cinema, from the "future noir" of Ridley Scott's groundbreaking science fiction movie Blade Runner to David Lynch's films, such as Mulholland Drive, and dark, intense dramas such as Christopher Nolan's Inception and even the major hit television series, Mad Men.


I'll be there at 11am on Saturday November 3 at the historic Sonora Opera Hall, 94 Washington Street, Sonora, CA 95370. 


For more details, please visit the ITSA Film Festival website or call: 209-962-0342.


The War Zone Message Board - Something Remarkable

Thirteen years ago, when the film of my novel The War Zone was released, something remarkable occurred: a film and a book about incest gave birth to an online message board, The War Zone Message Board, intended for survivors of incest and abuse, and all who wished to discuss relevant topics in an empathetic manner.

It is not a fan site for either the book or the film. It is moderated by volunteers - currently two young women called Nath and Norie - who give freely of their time to insure that those who wish to give voice to their feelings, or to find solace or help or support from others, may do so.

Some of the people involved call themselves "zoners," which for me is something quite remarkable and humbling: that a novel I first started thinking about almost 30 years ago, and a film that Tim Roth directed so stunningly 13 years ago, should spawn its own support system for those caught up in the horrifying world we reflected on the page and screen.



Tim recently decided to step b…

PLEASE VOTE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA - NOW!

It is not too late to VOTE EARLY FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA NOW using an absentee ballot. Details of early voting are at www.barackobama.com

Early voting is critical and gives a greater push to the Obama Campaign - as well as freeing up resources, including perhaps time you might contribute yourself, to get out the vote on November 6.

This election is a turning point for our nation. Either we go forward with President Obama, and give him four more years to bring his policies to bear, or we take a massively backward step with Romney and Ryan, who will tear up so much of the social fabric that protects the less advantaged and less successful in the United States, in favor of major corporations (which Romney likes to call "small businesses" - you know, Exxon, Chevron, etc) and the extremely wealthy.

Please give President Obama a second term in which to support women's rights and the rights of minorities, in which to see the economy continue to grow from the worst economic recession s…

Charong's Novel With Nomi Khan: JAHAADA

Please watch this brief 2 minute video for my wife Charong Chow's remarkable novel-in-progress, Jahaada, written with Nomi Khan, about being Muslim in America - and please consider contributing to their Kickstarter campaign.

Charong, who is not Muslim (she's Chinese-American), has worked extraordinarily hard - and successfully - to capture Muslim culture in New Jersey, and to explore the world of a normal American father, an accountant, who feels increasingly marginalized and victimized by his religion.

The book presents a unique view of America from the standpoint both of Nomi's experience as a Pakistani-American and Charong's as a Chinese-American.

Please visit their Kickstarter page - and share it with friends. Thank you.


My Talk at Sonora's ITSA Film Festival - Film Noir: From Murder To Mainstream

I'm very excited to be talking at this year's ITSA Film Festival in Sonora on Saturday November 3, 2012, from 11am-noon at Sonora's historic Opera Hall.

My talk is titled Film Noir: From Murder To Mainstream, and I will be exploring one of my absolute favorite film (and literary) genres, noir, and its influence not only on the noted detective/"pulp" classics such as The Maltese Falcon and The Postman Always Rings Twice (which inspired one of the classic existential novels of the 20th Century, Albert Camus' The Stranger/L'Etranger), but on contemporary mainstream cinema, from the "future noir" of Ridley Scott's groundbreaking science fiction movie Blade Runner to David Lynch's films, such as Mulholland Drive, and dark, intense dramas such as Christopher Nolan's Inception and even the major hit television series, Mad Men.



Please join me at 11am on Saturday November 3 at the historic Sonora Opera Hall, 94 Washington Street, Sonora, CA 953…

Romney Tax Plan EXPLAINED - At Last

However you're voting, you MUST click on this Romney Tax Plan site. It explains everything in language even a child could understand.


P-P-P-Paul Ryan Music Video - HILARIOUS!

This absolutely hilarious P-P-P-Paul Ryan music video gives us a little taste of the America of the 1950s - or is it the 1850s? - that Paul Ryan would love to take us back to, in terms of limiting welfare, women's rights, worker's rights...you name it.

Written by the extremely talented Anna Callegari and Doug Widick, the video was directed by Dan De Lorenzo.

Here's hoping Ayn Rand...sorry, Paul Ryan BOMBS in the debate tonight.


Stunning 3D Animation Of A Nebula - WATCH

This stunning 3D GIF animation of Nebula IC 1396 in the Cepheus Constellation was created by "Astro Anarchy" space photographer J-P Metsävainio. It is truly mesmerizing and beautiful to look at.

For more of Metsävainio's remarkable images of space, please visit his blog, Astro Anarchy.

With NASA's valiant Voyager 1 spacecraft, originally launched in 1977, about to leave the solar system and enter a new zone of outer space and the Milky Way, who knows what we will learn?

Our cosmos is an astounding and humbling place - and our lives unfold within it (most likely in more dimensions than we know), although many of us rarely stop to think about that.


Deadmau5 - CLOSER - and Close Encounters (MUSIC VIDEO)

I love this Deadmau5 electro track, CLOSER, which riffs on the alien landing from Steven Spielberg's magical Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It brings back the fun and wonder of seeing that movie for the first time. If you've never seen it, watch it - and in the meantime here is the YouTube link for the alien landing sequence that inspired Deadmau5. Note that there were no FEMALE scientists in evidence back in 1977!

I recently saw that Deadmau5 is one of the world's highest paid deejays - with earnings around $11 million per year, I believe!


Happy 20th Wedding Anniversary To The President And First Lady

Today is not only President Obama's first - and hopefully decisive - debate with Mitt Romney, but also his 20th Wedding Anniversary with First Lady Michelle Obama. No doubt she will be wondering why their special dinner is delayed.

Aside from wishing them both a very happy anniversary, I also hope that, with the debate, President Obama opens up his lead in the national and swing state polls by as wide a margin as possible. They say that debates can only account for a 3 or 4 point swing - but that would double Barack Obama's lead over Mitt Romney to 8 points, which would be fine for now.

I'm looking for a landslide Democratic win on November 6, not just for President Obama but for a powerful Democratic Congress for him to work with. 

Barack Obama has endured four years of abuse and obstruction from the Republican Party (the ridiculous "birther" controversy - racism in sheep's clothing - to name but one). November 6 is the day to correct that.

May tonight - and Ele…

Sunset Over Phoenix Lake

A particularly stunning sunset over Phoenix Lake. It makes life that much more wonderful.



I Am Speaking This Sunday At The Writer's Retreat In Columbia

Many thanks to Gary Linehan and the Union Democrat for their excellent piece about the Writer's Retreat in Columbia this weekend, and for writing so generously about me.

Anyone interested in attending the retreat should contact Jill Klajic-Ryan on 209-743-8097. I am speaking at a lunch at the Columbia House Restaurant (recently The Black Bart Skillet) on Main Street in Columbia on Sunday September 30, from 12:30-2:30pm.


The Simpsons: Homer Votes 2012 - VIDEO

WATCH this brilliant and hilarious SIMPSONS VOTING VIDEO - and also fight to ensure that everyone is actually allowed to vote, even if they don't have ID...or are black...or poor...or students...or yellow cartoon characters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArC7XarwnWI&feature=player_embedded

Since requiring ID to vote is a Republican idea, I think only registered Republicans should be required to show ID!

Thanks to @RafalcaRomney, Mitt's dressage horse, for this one :)


Chavez Ravine - A Sad But Astonishing Chapter In Los Angeles History

There is an absolutely fascinating article about a lost chapter of Los Angeles history on KCET's website, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.  KCET is the Los Angeles-based community television station for southern and central California.

Chavez Ravine, now known best as the hillside above which Dodger Stadium perches, was once the site of a thriving Mexican-American community, dating back as far as 1844, when Julian Chavez acquired 83 acres encompassing a narrow valley northwest of the city center.

Chavez was a native of New Mexico who had arrived in Los Angeles in the 1830s, and who promptly became a leading political figure.

The story of how the community developed (actually as three distinct neighborhoods: Bishop, La Loma and Palo Verde), with goats grazing on hillsides and residents raising domesticated animals from pigs to peacocks, is vividly told on the KCET website.


Sadly, due to various attempts to redevelop the land (at the expense of the local community), by 1957 only 20 f…

Sonora Democratic Headquarters

We have our own Sonora Democratic HQ - not bad for some pretty Republican territory. Does Romney even have an office here?  (Maybe he has 53% of an office - minus the 47%:)  

There's a grand opening ceremony this Friday September 21 from 5-7pm.  The address is:

47 Washington Street, Sonora, CA 95370 - tel: 209-588-9288.

Major kudos to Barbara Farkas on this one!

And remember to vote for President Obama - and a Democratic Congress - in November!

I Will Be Speaking At The Tuolumne Writer's Retreat In Columbia State Historic Park

I am speaking on Sunday September 30, 2012 at a lunch from 12:30pm-2:30pm at the Sonora Writers' Group's first Tuolumne Writer's Retreat, which runs from Friday through Sunday, September 28-30, at the Columbia State Historic Park.

The retreat includes a ghost walk on Friday, open mic sessions with poems, stories, music and a Native American poetry and drum circle on the Saturday, and "Author's Row" on the Sunday.  Guests include Blanche Abrams and Charity Maness.

I will be speaking during the lunch about my career as a writer and my experiences both as a novelist, non-fiction writer and children's author, and as a screenwriter for the major Hollywood studios and independents. 

For more information about my career, please visit the Biography page of this blog.

Advance registration is required for the workshops and meals. The registration fee is $145, with a 20% discount for students.

Please contact Jill Klajic-Ryan at 209-743-8097 or visit www.sonorawriters.org…

Brilliant Chang, Cocaine and Chinatown Nights

The image below of a woman taking cocaine is, I believe, from the 1910s and is one of the many research pictures I've amassed for my noir novel - a love story and thriller set in 1919 - Chinatown Nights.

Although drugs do not play a huge role in the plot, several of the characters in the novel are involved in the world of illegal drugs, illicit drinking clubs and other rather suspect activities - including arms dealing.



Brilliant Chang, a notable Chinese figure in London in the 1910s and 1920s, who is fictionalized as a character in Chinatown Nights, was alleged to be one of London's primary cocaine dealers (cocaine was a popular drug, then as now) and was the subject of a great deal of police attention.

Chang was charged in 1924 with possession of a single packet of cocaine (a surprisingly small amount for one of the supposed "drug kingpins" of London - probably planted by the police), was jailed and was eventually deported from Britain.

He moved to France…

Chinatown Nights Kickstarter Campaign Very Successfully Funded - And Ended

I was thrilled that the Kickstarter campaign for Chinatown Nights ended yesterday, meeting not only its initial target of $2,000, but the new unofficial target I set of $2,500, thanks to a very generous donation yesterday afternoon.

Thank you to everyone who participated and contributed. My full thanks, and more details of both the novel and the campaign, are on the Chinatown Nights Facebook Page. Please "Like" it if you visit it! Thank you.

Only 7 Hours To Go To The End Of My Kickstarter Campaign For Chinatown Nights!

Only 7 hours to go to the end of the Kickstarter campaign for my noir novel set in 1919, Chinatown Nights - and it's just $101 short of my new unofficial target of $2,500!

The campaign will end at 6:13pm Pacific time today, Thursday August 6, 2012.

Please contribute now, if you can. More details, images and extracts from the novel are at its Facebook page: Chinatown Nights.

There are also several posts about the book if you scroll down below, including an extract from the end of Chapter Three of the novel.

Huge thanks to everyone who has contributed so far!

Very best wishes,
Alexander

Our Phenomenal First Lady: Michelle Obama At The Democratic National Convention (VIDEO)

We are fortunate indeed to have a First Lady as intelligent, eloquent, committed, compassionate and grounded as Michelle Obama.

Here is video of her entire and very wonderful speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday September 4, 2012.

Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Historic Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park

We have fallen in love with Santa Cruz, and in particular with Wilder Ranch State Historic Park, located on the coast of Monterey Bay, just north of the town of Santa Cruz.

Originally known as Rancho del Matadero, and founded by Mission Santa Cruz in 1791, the Wilder family later acquired the land and operated a very successful dairy on the property - which includes an extraordinary stretch of coastland, with spectacular cliffs and coves.


Many of the coves of what is now a state historic park are preserved for the benefit of marine wildlife - snowy plovers, pelicans, seagulls, seals and dolphins. 

You can walk along the cliffs and enjoy the spectacular vistas, but only a couple of the beaches are accessible for swimming - but they are well worth the hike to get there.


Our entire family, including Hudson, who's eight, and Paradise, who's three, enjoyed climbing out along the rocks to view an outcrop of rocks where seals and pelicans were basking in the sun.


Hudson and I also greatly…