THAT LONG TRAIN RIDE

I was right
About all the little things that didn’t matter.
I was wrong about all the big things that did.
But youth is for foolishness and mistakes.
The concept being that you will eventually learn from mistakes and your heart will grow a harder layer of protection. This can be a lifelong education of regrowth if you don’t pay enough attention to details.
One theory is that we keep falling in love with the same person, over and over, like some weird drunkard’s dance in a Groundhog Day scenario. Even if that person was all wrong for us in the first place. So is it familiarity that attracts? The devil we know is better than the saviour we don’t? Perhaps we just tire from the waiting and settle for what we know. Attracted to those who remind us of ourselves? Or marry for money and security even though that brings in its train a lifetime of boredom and unrequited dreams and hopes? But surely that is not a living, but a dying? For money proves to be a cold companion and takes more than it gives. Doomed to buy all the toys and trinkets to impress others whilst your subsequent depression stemming from your inner knowledge that nothing purchased brings any lasting pleasure. You are a compromised person and although you can lie to your conscience your sub-conscious knows the truth, and forces you to spend most of your days sleeping. Hiding from life. Avoiding waking to the horror of who you really are. A prisoner trapped in a cell of your own making. Spending all your approved allowance on the best drugs to dull yourself to the harsh reality that you are already dead.
I took myself to Disneyland today.
Why?
I wanted to return to a simpler, safer time when I believed in dreams and heroes.
All around me was the sound of the laughter of children and the look of wonderment in their eyes.
They are years from cynicism and reducing the world to something they can understand.
I had a photo taken with Mickey but my idol Donald Duck was nowhere to be seen.
Disneyland was conceived and built by a sad and lonely man who acted childish at times. Because the truth is he was still a child and needed to build a romanticised version of his childhood town – a place where it was always clean, and wholesome and safe. And contained no tyrannical father. Ironic huh? Was he insane? In most people’s terms, yes. But at least his dreams were safer than those of young Adolf Hitler, a failed painter from Austria. Y’know, if young Adolf had’ve sold three or four landscape paintings the whole Second World War may have been avoided. I always say, “Be careful about pissing off creative people. That creative light force once turned back on itself can become very dark and destructive.”
On the other hand, all of the world’s great accepted visionaries were a little looney tunes. Some, very much so. Fortunately their insanities were focused towards something more publicly palatable than the Third Reich or the NWO. They risked everything thinking outside the box. Their own lives became secondary to their dream. And many died in their footsteps upon that lonely highway. They sacrificed romantic relationships, friendships, their dignity (as many were publicly ridiculed), their personal happiness, and a comfortable safe life. Why? And what for? A higher calling? Immortality? If there is no God and no afterlife why do people do this to themselves? If we’re just here marking time until the long darkness, why not just put the tools down and embrace the fairly interesting train ride to nowhere?
It’s the same with love. If it’s not a God-given gift to share then what exactly is it? Why care so much about it? Or anyone else?
I pondered all these things as I sat in my chair looking out the window that was shaped like Mickey’s head on the Disneyland Express on my train ride back to somewhere.

(C) Frank Howson 2018

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THE PEOPLE OF DARKNESS

The living are always under attack from the dead. As night follows day so do those of darkness target those of light and stalk them with words of hero worship when,  the truth is, the mere existence of those with a spark irritates them and they consciously or, in some cases, subconsciously,  work toward the extinguishment of that flame. Wilhelm Reich writes about this condition in detail in his book The Murder of Christ.

The people of darkness use many tools to bring down the envied. Negative rumours, stories that are unfounded in fact, and a whole range of politically acceptable words to discredit their target i.e., Narcissist (this applies to anyone who is successful in showbiz who uses social media to promote their latest ventures) because the fact that someone may actually be getting off their fat ass and doing something reminds the person of darkness how meaningless and unfocused their own life is; Nazi (it is acceptable in today’s politically correct world to call anyone with an opposing opinion this and get away with it. This is disgustingly outrageous and unfair to their target whose only crime may be to have an original thought, as well as, obviously, making light of what the real Nazis did). But let me not bring logic into this lest I be called names. Anti-Semitic is a good one too in some cases. I have even witnessed Jewish people being called anti-Semitic because they dared to have an opinion that didn’t sit comfortably with the party line. Such is the out of control world we live in where the militant wheel gets oiled first and the logical debate is not only not considered it is condemned. Here we have a perfect storm for the people of darkness to not only hide within, but thrive.

Bob Dylan has predicted for some time now that we have entered the end game. Anyone who has studied theology and the predictions of the old prophets would have to concur. In my opinion we are currently engaged in the final war between good and evil, darkness and light, and the shadow people are only going to get more and more hysterical as things don’t go their way. They are currently very confused as to why things aren’t going the way of the Polls. Could it be divine intervention?

It is difficult to untangle yourself from a person of darkness because they are cling ons – spiritual vampires sucking your energy. And the more you give them the more resentful they will become towards you. For even your kindness is an irritation. A reminder of what they are not. They will insult you by praising strangers and even abusing and opportunistic ex-partners above your efforts to help, give and support. This is to make you crazy and so confused you will cease to be able to function and end up zombie like staring out a window into the light that was once your source. Do not under any circumstances feed them. Let well enough alone. Danger and madness this way comes.

(C) Frank Howson 2017

THOUGHTS ON ROBIN WILLIAMS

It was always his eyes that got to me. No matter how hard he smiled or how manic his brain was working, machine-gunning out hysterical one-liners, most of which you missed because you were too busy laughing at the last one – his eyes were sad. The sadness of a man who possibly knew that the world was insane and he was just going to go with it.

To me all the great comedians have one thing in common – they see the world from a unique point-of-view. Sometimes it’s not even that the one liners are that funny. What is humorous is their perspective on things. They see the bizarre in the things we take for granted, the mundane actions we mostly do on auto-pilot without even thinking about. But they do.

Another great example of this humour is Ricky Gervais. We identify and laugh at how silly and futile some of the things we do and say really are under the light of scrutiny.

I know a woman who worked for a TV show in Los Angeles for some time and she said one of the many guest stars on the show over the years had been Robin Williams. She told me when he arrived he was rigid with nerves. He was concerned he wouldn’t be funny. He was intimidated by the guest star on the previous week’s show and that he couldn’t top what they’d done, etc., etc., etc. She said he got so worked up he almost walked out before the taping and she had to calm him down and assure him he’d be wonderful. Perhaps that explains his rapid fire delivery of one-liners. They were being propelled at us from the nervousness he felt inside. What a drain that must’ve been on him and how exhausted he must’ve felt after every show, like a champion boxer after every title bout. Ironically, that inner fear that ate him away like a cancer also made him great.

That is the way with many great artists. Their flaws or perceived disabilities are their strengths.

Having spent many years researching the life of Bobby Darin for a new musical I have written, I was struck by a comment from his son, Dodd. He said that the heart problem that had afflicted his father from an early age also propelled him to greatness. Bobby had overheard a doctor say to his mother, “If that kid lives to sixteen it’ll be a miracle.” Now, there are two ways you can go with that knowledge. Either you just give up and think what’s the use of doing anything or you can go the other way and squeeze everything you can into every minute you have left. Dodd Darin has said, “People think that disease killed my father. Oh no, it made my father.”

Robin Williams said he was once advised to go see a shrink. He made the appointment and went to the therapist, laid down on his couch and talked about his life and his problems. At the end of it, the therapist said to him, “I think I can cure you, but you may not be funny anymore.” Robin got up, shook hands with the guy and left never to return. The world thanks him for that decision but damn, what a burden he carried for our pleasure.

Like you I will miss Robin Williams not being in the world. His absence, like that of John Lennon, makes all our lives a little colder. All I know is I’m going to miss him for a long, long time.

Every time I hear Smokey Robinson and the Miracles sing “Tracks of my Tears” I will think of him, “…So take a good look at my face, you’ll see my smile looks out of place, if you look closer it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.”

Rest in peace, dear man.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

THE OUTSIDERS.

When I started making films in Australia it was a time when “commercial” was a dirty word. Seemed strange to me because I never set out to make bad films, only ones I thought more than a few may enjoy. I can’t tell you the resentment hurled at me for having such lofty plans. It became more than a little bizarre and as a result of the local critical slaughtering clouded some people’s objective view of my work. I found that my movies received far greater respect outside of my homeland which saddened me as I’d always been a staunchly proud Australian. It compounded my feeling of being an outsider. Probably not a bad thing for an artist but a weight nonetheless.

As the years rolled by and I became disenchanted with my business associates and their agendas my films turned inward and became more and more personal. A reflection of my own frustrations and isolation- with a good dose of anger thrown in for good measure. I had gotten to a place where finally even my harshest critics had to relucatantly admit that, perhaps, I was doing something right, given the overseas acceptance of my work. For example my family movie “What The Moon Saw” became the first Australian film purchased by Miramax; “Heaven Tonight” the first ever sold to the giant American Broadcasting Corporation; “Hunting” (my directorial debut) sold to Paramount Pictures, etc., etc. Unfortunately just as I was beginning to have a local critical re-evaluation of my work, my business partner did a few things that gave those with agendas, or just the plain jealous, all the ammunition they needed to justify their ill-feeling.

It took me 3 years to get rid of my business partner and then another 3 years to fight him in court. All I had to do at any point during this time, to continue my career and go on making films and money, was to back down and agree to resume my association with him. I did not. As far as moments go it was, integrity-wise, my finest. But, for that shining moment, I lost everything, my home, my family, my money, and all my work. Freedom came at a high price. What followed was 10 years in the wildnerness, alone, where I was forced to re-evaluate everything I was or had stood for. There were many times in my anger I cursed how principled I’d been, given my loss. Would I be as good a man again? I would like to think so, but having lived through the sacrifice and now knowing how high the cost, honestly, I’m not so sure.

Faced with starting again in Australia and having to humbly ask rivals for a job, I decided to go to Los Angeles. I needed a new environment for my mental and physical health. I was in a bad way and had lost a lot of my desire to live. Cutting a creative artist off from his work is like slashing a main artery.

Upon my return to Australia in 2006, I was honoured when Richard Wolstencroft asked me to be President of the Jury at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. It was indeed a Festival for the Outsiders. The mavericks. People who’d made their movies on their own terms without wilting to the cocktail set of decision makers in the industry. It’s the people on the sidelines who kill your boldness. Once you lose your identity and begin making movies for your peers, your voice is lost. And tell me, honestly, how many experts do we have in this country who’ve ever made a hit film? If they could do it they wouldn’t be sitting behind desks being paid a weekly wage to be an industry expert. They’d be out making more hit films wouldn’t they?

Over the past 6 years I’ve spent a lot of time talking and helping young filmmakers and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They don’t carry any of the jealous resentment of the closed shop I broke into when I started out. What our industry is paying for now is the fact that the old brigade didn’t encourage the next generation. The fat cats just got fatter and as a result our product got thinner. Shame on them. Fortunately most of them are dead now, or retired, or living in large villas in France from the fortunes they accumulated from making shitty films that didn’t get sold anywhere. In most cases not even in their our own country.

Oh, and among the healthy signs for the future? Today’s young filmmakers don’t think “genre” films are a dirty word. To place any style over another is a meaningless and snobbish attitude. The real art comes not in the genre but in how bold and inspired you can be working within those restrictions. So, I salute all the brave, new, original outsiders who are finding their own voice and way in the current film industry. I salute their talent, their guts and lead the applause in their honour. They inspire me to be better.

 (c) 2013 Frank Howson.

 

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