Obama, Crichton & My Birthday

I normally don’t write something too personal, I find that those that do end up sounding too pretentious. But on November 4, 2008 three significant things happened.

On this date I hit a milestone – I turned 30. I thought turning 30 would somehow change me, affect me in some way, but it didn’t. I can’t say I feel more mature or even wiser. But for some strange reason I feel more pro ud, proud enough to tell people I’m 30. In fact, being thirty is not that bad, it’s not the end of the world, I mean, Mark Twain published his first short story, Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog when he was 30. And Danish novelist Hans Christian Andersen published his book of fairy tales when he was 30. I have published a novel bu t hopefully like them I can keep writing and perhaps publish many more.


I’m not American but just seeing Barack Obama elected President of the United States was overwhelming. I’m not going to spend too much time on how significant this was, millions have done a far better job of this, but I will say this is not only great for the United States but also for the entire world. Obama is the son of a white Kansas mother and a black Kenyan father. He was raised in Asia and has a half-Indonesian sister. His middle name is Middle Eastern. He is all of us. Only time will tell whether he lives up to all our hopes and dreams, but this is a step in the right direction.


I was shocked to hear the death of author Michael Crichton. In my teens I was introduced to his books by my brother. I remember reading them and being completely immersed in his world, whether they be about alien viruses or the 19th century gold heist in London. There was something about them; they were both ambitious and entertaining. He made science digestible! What made him stand out amongst all the great writers was that he wasn’t afraid to write a different kind book: Jurassic Park (dinosaurs), Timeline (time travel), Prey (nanotechnology), Rising Sun (Japanese/American relations) and so on. His books were controversial, yes, but at least they made us think. I can’t tell you how excited I would get just hearing that he was coming out with a new book. Just the thought of what other worlds or journeys he would take us on gave me goose bumps.

Michael Crichton inspired me to become a writer and for that I am forever indebted to him.

Titanic & the Stubborn Popcorn

I have always been a fan of movies and have seen my share of them in theatres. Obviously, popcorns and drinks are a must when it comes to the movie-theatre-experience. But one event changed all that.

It was during the movie Titanic. I went, somewhat eagerly, to see what all the hoopla was about. This was early 1998 and Titanic had just won a whole slew of Oscars.

I buy myself a small size drink – small because I didn’t want to get up and run to the bathroom during the movie and a medium size box of popcorn.

I am there early, about ten to fifteen minutes before the start, just so that I can get a good seat. I watch as the theatre slowly begins to fill. People move up the aisles, glancing first at the screen then at the seat they are going to sit in. Some may not think this, but choosing a seat is the most important and difficult part of the movie going experience. Choose the wrong one and you’ll be regretting it for the entire movie. So arriving early is crucial.

During this time the sweet aroma of the popcorns bombard my senses. I take one, then two, and then three and before you know it I am enjoying them even before the movie begins. The commercials come up, then the expected trailers and then finally the main attraction.

By this time my box is half empty and my drink nearly finished. I gulp the last drops as the opening credits roll.

The movie is slow but I don’t mind, I know that it picks up as the ship is supposed to break in half and then sink (thank you, Internet Movie Data Base).

Then something unexpected happens. A piece of popcorn gets stuck in the back of my throat. I reach for the drink and realize its empty. I try to conjure up some spit. Nothing. My mouth is dry. The popcorn had sucked up all the saliva. Now this tiny piece has become a big problem. It’s irritating and agitating my throat.

I try to cough, or make a gurgling noise, but realize this is not the right time. Up on the screen Rose (Kate Winslet) has decided to jump off the ship and Jack (Leonardo Di Caprio) is persuading her not too. Let me say, this is probably the quietest scene in the entire movie. There is no background music, no special effects, no loud anything. It consists only of dialogue between the two actors and the slow (far away) sound of frigid water splashing.

I’m sure this scene is not that long but when you have an intruder that you cannot get out with your tongue stuck in the back of your mouth, this seems like an eternity.

I plead to the screen. Jack, let her jump. Let her make some noise. It’s only water. Once I get this popcorn out I’ll save her.

But that would not be. He would not let her jump.

So I decide to get up, apologize for stepping on people’s toes, and make my way to the bathroom.

Just as I’m about to do this I feel this wetness underneath my tongue. Oh, sweet dribble. I quickly suck in and wash the culprit down. I can’t explain the relief I felt. It was as if I was the king of the world.

Then I proceed to enjoy the rest of the movie, which I found a bit too long and a bit too long. And of course, I do so without eating any more popcorn.

Moral of the story: No popcorns unless Jack is willing to shove Rose overboard.

Soundtracks (Part 2)

Seven Years in Tibet by John Williams

Track(s): Seven Years in Tibet, Regaining a Son

This soundtrack started my love for the movie score. The cellos by Yo-Yo Ma are both beautiful and sad. Listening to the track, Seven Years, puts you in a dream like state of enchantment. Both Western and Eastern sounds are blended together gorgeously.

Last Samurai by Hans Zimmer

Track(s): A Way of Life, Spectres in the Fog, Idyll’s Hands

A delicate and emotional soundtrack, that infuses Eastern sounds with Western beats. The middle of track Idyll’s Hands is so forceful that it leaves you feeling empowered.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Tan Dun and Yo-Yo Ma

Track(s): The Eternal Vow

The track Eternal Vow is a deeply moving and haunting track of unrequited love. The cellos by Ma are mesmerizing, leaving the listener heart broken and yearning for more.

Lawrence of Arabia by Maurice Jarre

Tracks(s): Overtures, Main Titles,
On to Akaba/the Beach at Night

My praise of this movie is evident in my first blog, so why wouldn’t I love the soundtrack as well. Overture immediately starts of with massive drums and moves to cymbals and trumpets, then followed by a hypnotic Arabian melody.

Jurassic Park by John Williams

Tracks(s): Theme from Jurassic Park,
Welcome to Jurassic Park, and End Credits

It is a light and entertaining soundtrack of a highly successful movie that was based on a book. What more inspiration do you need for a writer?

Soundtracks (Part 1)

Music plays a big role in writing, at least it does for me. It helps set the mood and spurs the muse into action. I tried writing with the radio playing in the background but the DJs kept interrupting my thoughts. I tried playing CDs but found the lyrics distracting. Then I tried playing movie soundtracks and found that this not only inspired my writing but also helped me stay in the ‘writing zone’.

(I’m not a music writer so my comments are not indented to be a professional review but merely my take on these wonderful soundtracks)

The following soundtracks, including some of my favorite tracks, were instrumental in writing my first novel, R.A.C.E.

Gladiator by Hans Zimmer

Track(s): The Battle, Elysium, The Might of Rome, Honor Him, and Now We are Free

What can I say about this soundtrack? It has everything. From the pounding and inspiring track, The Battle, to the peaceful and soulful track, Elysium, containing the melodic voice of Lisa Gerrard. This soundtrack is grand and personal.

Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers by Howard Shore

Tracks(s): Evenstar, Forth Eorlingas, Riders of Rohan, Samwise the Brave

Enya sings in Evenstar and being a fan of hers I was thoroughly enchanted by the track. The track, Riders of Rohan, is both majestic and has a feel of urgency. The rest of the soundtrack reminds you of a world that is not ours, but is magical and far, far away.

Road to Perdition by Thomas Newman

Track(s): Road to Chicago, Road to Perdition

The soundtrack is propelled by the sound of the piano and violin. It evokes the atmosphere and feel of the 1930s. The track, Road to Perdition, is heart wrenching and powerful.

Braveheart by James Horner

Tracks(s): The Love of a Princess, Freedom/the Execution/Bannockburn, End Credits

The scores are mixed with bagpipes, flutes, and drums. The soundtrack goes from powerful to reflective. It has an incredible choir chorus that is both sad and empowering.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark by John Williams

Track(s): The Raiders March

The Raiders March track is distinct and universally recognized by an Indy fan. For those who have never heard of it, it has drums, cymbals, trumpets; the entire London Pop Orchestra, the same orchestra that did Star Wars. When The Raiders March starts up a chill of excitement goes up my spine. What more can I say?

Why Write?


I have always wondered about this…why do I write? And I think this question relates to who reads today anyways?

Times are changing. There’s the vast internet, the good old television, the hot video games, the expansive DVDs with hours of extras, there is so much out there to occupy our time, so who would spend the time to sit alone and be immersed in the written word?

As a writer you always battle with this last question, because it has a great impact in what you do. If no one read than what is the point of writing. No one will appreciate all the hard work you, as the writer, has done. Then the second question is even if someone did read would they enjoy reading your work?

Writers spend countless hours sitting behind a blank computer screen or a blank piece of paper, hoping, fearing, that what comes out of their mind is nothing short of readable. They know they have a story, even if it’s only vague, and they want to share this story with the rest of the world.

I have battled this too. There were oh-so-many times where I had quit, sworn to whatever is holy that I would never write again, only to find myself back in front of the blank screen. Why do I torture myself?

I think the answer is simple: as writers, we know, that the story lurking in the back of our subconscious is good and must be told, even if it isn’t, by the time we put it on paper it will be. We think, through our sheer determination we will transform that thought into something tangible. It is then that we will be praised as geniuses, deemed society’s moral compass, or even heroes to have written something that no one had to courage to write.

When I started out I struggled with this, what if something I write is not good. What if it is not worth the piece of paper it is written on, meaning who would want to publish it?

These kinds of thoughts can cripple a young or new writer. There is just too much doubt that lingers when one is working on his/her craft.

Then one day I read something that kind of gave me solace. I think of this whenever the doubt creeps back into my subconscious. I read it years ago and I can’t seem to find out who said it, but with all due respect to the author, I’ll paraphrase:

“No one is going to miss a book that’s not written.”

So there, if you have a story that’s worth telling and you don’t tell it then we’ll never have the opportunity to appreciate it.


People ask me who my favorite actor is and depending on which movie I’d seen at the time, I would spew out names like Leonardo Di Caprio, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks…etc. But in reality there is one actor that whenever I see him in a movie (and most of the time he’s playing a very, very, very minor role) a huge smile crosses my face.

The actor I’m speaking of is Bruce Campbell.ArmyOfDarkness(A)

For those who are not familiar with the name he is of the Evil Dead trilogy fame. He starred in Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and the Army of Darkness as Ashley ‘Ash’ J. Williams.

I remember watching the first two movies as a kid and being scared out of my wits. I had nightmares for a very long time. You could say it was because of Evil Dead that I stopped watching horror movies and to this day will avoid them like the plague.

There was this one scene from Evil Dead II that I replayed in my mind over and over again as a kid. It was a cool scene. Through the course of the movie Ash is beaten, punished, and tortured in every way by the demons haunting the cabin he is in. After a demon possesses his right hand Ash has no choice but cut-it off. Angry and pissed, Ash goes into the tool shed where he replaces his right hand with a chainsaw. He saws of the front of the shotgun (to make it more lethal), twirls it around and puts it in his back holster. Now armed and ready to do battle with the demons, he raises one eyebrow and says, “Groovy.” (No matter what happens to him, he’s still cool and hip to let it slide and get on with it)

Many years later, when I was in my teens Bruce Campbell starred in a short series called, Brisco County Jr., a western where Brisco (played by Bruce Campbell) is a bounty hunter who goes after the gang that killed his father. It lasted only one season about 27 episodes but at that time I couldn’t wait each week to watch it. There was something about the show… it was fun! It had a horse named Comet that had an attitude. Even now I still remember that show fondly.

Many years ago when the Internet was just beginning to catch on, my brother, who happened to have an e-mail address at the time, found Bruce Campbell’s e-mail. Excited, he and I sat down and wrote a long, glowing letter to him. We were like school kids drooling at the prospect of finally getting a chance to connect with our hero. We wrote in the end that we hoped he would get better roles in the future. Once we were done, we decided to save it and come back later and re-fix. This letter had to be perfect the last thing we wanted was to say something inappropriate to him. The next day we received an e-mail—it was from Bruce Campbell!!! (How did the e-mail go through? We thought we had only saved it?) He thanked us for writing to him and at the end wrote that he was proud of the roles he had done. We were devastated…was Bruce Campbell (aka Ash, aka Brisco County Jr.) offended by what we said?

I guess what most people are still wondering is what is it about Bruce Campbell that puts him ahead of some of the heavy weights in Hollywood, in my opinion? The simple answer is…Bruce Campbell looks like he is having fun. I can’t describe what that means, except that he’s someone you wouldn’t mind hanging around with because you know it’ll be fun.

So that brings me back to my story, do I think Bruce Campbell was offended by our comment? No, I don’t think soAnd somehow if I ever met him and told him of the story, I bet he’d say, with his one eyebrow raised, “Groovy.”

I’m Batman

BatmanBegins8Growing up I read comic books. And lots of them. X-men, Spiderman, Superman, Spawn, and in turn also watched their subsequent movie versions. Some I liked while others I didn’t. There’s one character whose comics I never got into reading but greatly enjoyed the movie versions. And that’s Batman. Okay, let’s forget the last one Batman and Robin with George Clooney as Batman. That one was a mistake and should never have been made but Batman Begins with Christian Bale as Batman makes up for it, and in a big way.

So what is so appealing about Batman? Here is a character that has no super powers but yet is as old as Superman. He can’t fly, but glides. Can’t dodge bullets, but has a bulletproof suit. Can’t magically disappear, but uses diversions (smoke bombs, shadows) to escape. Then why is he such an intriguing character? Maybe, he is dark and at times just as vicious as the villains. Maybe, that is why he is referred to as the Dark Knight. Maybe, he is more human, and therefore, more flawed than any superhero out there.

Here are 5 reasons why I’d want to be Batman:

1) He is a billionaire. Who wouldn’t want to be filthy rich and be the owner of a company like Wayne Enterprises? Wayne Manor looks like a mini Medieval Castle. Not only does he get to do charitable work through his company he also has money to spare on toys.

2) With that extra cash he can develop whatever he wants, and he does, the Batmobile. Here is a hot rod that looks super cool and also has a jet engine in the back that can blow fire! Not to mention the numerous concealed weapons this vehicle has. Speeding ticket? Shazaam! Tailgating? Kapow! Parallel parking between two cars? Bang! Problem cleared.

3) Obviously, where is he going to park his Batmobile? He can’t just pull up in front of his driveway, open the garage door and park his one-of-a-kind vehicle without having some annoying neighbour ask him stupid questions, like, how much gas does it take or fast can it go, or even how much is the insurance. So, he creates the Bat Cave. A secret, state-of-the-art underground hideaway, developed underneath Wayne Manor, where he can park his Batmobile without anyone knowing. The Bat Cave also has a huge TV screen.

4) He’s rich, has the Batmobile and also the Bat Cave so what does he do? He goes and helps those that are in need. But he can’t just do that looking like an average Joe. So he gets himself the Batsuit. A full black, Kevlar suit, with muscles already chiseled out, and a mask that would strike fear in any super villain. Plus, the Batsuit comes with a utility belt that has all the gadgets he’d ever need: grappling gun, smoke bombs, batarangs.

5) He’s got everything he needs, but he still needs someone to watch over him, someone to confide in, and someone to mentor him and get him out of tight spots. He needs Alfred, his butler and surrogate father. Without him Bruce Wayne would be nothing but a rich, spoiled kid. It is Alfred who guides him and is there for him when he needs him.

Above all, Batman feels real. If you get the above YOU too can be Batman.

As a kid when I saw the 1989 Batman movie with Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, I remember getting chills and excited with those now immortal lines when Bruce Wayne in costume is holding a thug off a ledge and the thug asks him, terrified, “W-what are you?”

Bruce Wayne pulls him closer and calmly and icily says, “I’m Batman.”

Greatest Movie of All time

As this is my first entry in ‘this is not a blog’ I figured why not start of by making a bold statement. I know there is no such thing as the greatest movie of all time, just as there isn’t one great book of all time. All books in general are great, that however can’t be said for all movies. Movies nowadays are laden with special effects combined with fast-paced-in-your-face action. This movie that I’m talking about does not contain a single second of special effects and by today’s standards (or perhaps even from its own time) can be considered extremely slow.

This movie won 7 Academy Awards.

This movie was released over forty years ago, many moons before I was born. Calling it long would be an understatement. The director’s-cut version is over 216 minutes – that over 3 ½ hours! Who would want to watch a movie that long, unless it’s another movie by Peter Jackson, which happen to have hobbits or gorillas? No. This movie has no such creatures or characters. It is neither fiction nor fantasy. It is based, perhaps loosely, on true events but those events are extraordinarily riveting.

This movie has lots and lots of sand.

It was shot in Jordan, Morocco and Spain, spanning over 2 years. It was shot in the most ungodly climates with temperatures that could boil, melt, and fry a brain. It was shot in the desert. Did I mention not a single frame is computer generated? This means all those desert scenes could not be created inside an air-conditioned room. It had to be on location, regardless of how devastating nature could be. Steven Spielberg, who, according to reports, watches this movie before starting working on each and every one of his films, has said if this movie was shot now it would cost over $300 million.

This movie has lots of camels.

It is a vision to see, with its long canvas scenes that fill the entire screen and evoke a sense of being there. It has perhaps one of the most beautiful and heart-stopping scores ever written. At the time it contained an ensemble cast that was the envy of it’s time. It has action sequences that would rival any movie today, excluding those with computer special effects, of course. It has a script that is top notch, with dialogue that sticks in your memory for a long, long time.

This movie has Peter O’ Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, and Anthony Quinn.

By now you’ve guessed which movie I’m talking about, unless you’ve spent your entire life with no TV, no magazines, no newspapers, no movies, no internet, no nothing. In short you’ve been living underground like a mole and have just come out and somehow stumbled upon this website (how you learned to use a computer or the internet I don’t know). This movie that I think is the Greatest Movie of All Time is…David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia.