99% Invisible – As a proud owner of the 99% invisible Challenge Coin, I’ve been a fan and supporter of this podcast for several years. A podcast for the curious, it explores design and the stories behind how architecture, infrastructure, objects, and ideas came to be what we see today. Here is one my more favorites: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/ten-thousand-years/
Hamilton – This is no secret. The musical has inundated pop culture and deservedly so. Not since RENT has a Broadway musical worked its way under my skin and occupied so much of my mind (and time). “I’m not throwing away my shot!”
The Power of Myth – Spending time with Joseph Campbell never disappoints. This book, based on his interviews with Bill Moyers, is thought provoking and at times surprisingly moving.
Ragnar Relay – For the second time, I joined my running buddies from work for the SoCal Ragnar Relay, a nearly 200-mile race that starts in Huntington Beach and finishes in San Diego. It is an exhausting yet fun experience: running in the middle of the night, sleeping in vans, feasting at local dining establishments along the route. It took us 26 hours to cover the distance of which I ran 17 miles. Overall, we placed 10 out nearly 700 teams. Not shabby for a bunch of weekend warriors.
Writing, Loathing, Thinking, Procrastinating, Rewriting…Repeat. – I’ve been doing a lot of this while puzzling through the script I’m working on. It’s funny how some days you’ll write something and think, “Yeah. Okay. That works." Then you come back to it later and read it again and say to yourself “That’s terrible. Vomit! What was I thinking? That doesn’t work at all.” You’re about to hurl it out the window when you catch yourself, “Wait! Maybe if I change this and cut these lines…” And the next thing you know you’re back at, “Yeah. Okay. That works.” Such is (the writer's) life.
I was in Indonesia a few years ago with a non-profit organization that partners with churches in impoverished communities to offer supplemental education, medical care, and skills training. We were in Bali and they wanted to take us to one their centers in the rural mountains. They said that because of the remote location, the community there rarely receives visitors and it would mean a lot to them if we came. So we did. We left the tourist magnet of Denpasar on the southern end of the island and winded our way north into the rural heart of the ancient Hindu island. When we arrived, the smiling faces of children greeted us as their proud parents and teachers stood close by. It was later, when I was kicking around a soccer ball with a group of teens that I discovered the pictures painted on the wall. It was my old pal Mickey Mouse.
I love these pictures for so many reasons. I love that they are not perfect. I love that they are faded and cracked. I love that the tools of a caretaker drape the walls. But more than anything, I love the mystery of it. How in the world did Mickey Mouse get here? Who brought Mickey Mouse and his friends to this remote, resource-strapped community so geographically and culturally removed from the western civilization that created him?
I would have thought it an isolated and coincidental mystery had it not happened again.
A few months ago I was in Kolkata, India visiting a community nestled on the Ganges River about a two-and-a-half hour drive northwest of the city. I walked into an old Anglican mission that dated back to time of British Raj. And there it he was again. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The walls of the mission were adorned with pictures, most were of Jesus, some were of Mickey Mouse... with a mustache.
In retrospect I wish I had grabbed the priest and asked my questions: Who painted the images? How long have they been there? Why Mickey Mouse?
I didn’t get an answer, but I did get a clue. Later on that same trip I met a charming and bright young Indian woman who was raised in the slums; a child of poverty, but through education, hard work, and faith she is now in college studying to be a teacher. (Her name was Cinderella, no joke.) I asked her if she knew who Mickey Mouse was. She smiled and said, “Oh, yes, I know Mickey Mouse. I watched the cartoons as a child.” Even the poorest of the poor enjoy their Saturday morning cartoons. (For the record, her favorite cartoons were Mr. Bean cartoons because they were “so funny.”)
Much has been written about the globalization of the Disney brand. But when the images of the brand appear in communities that hold no purchasing power, any cynicism regarding the consuming reach of western capitalism can be suspended.
Instead, what I see is the power of a story. The story is of a mouse and his band of loyal friends who always seem to find themselves in a whirl of trouble, but through cleverness, resilience, and sometimes a little mischief, they overcome. They always overcome. And that is the genius of Mickey Mouse. He is not just an American symbol. He is a story of the human spirit. And those kind of stories reach beyond borders and languages and customs. And sometimes, like ancient cave drawings, we paint them on walls, so we can remember.
I prefer to write about writing, but after spending the past week at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for CinemaCon, I thought it time to write about my other job, my day job, my job in the King’s palace (see About Me). Besides, I had hit a wall with my script. A story problem had been nagging at me the past couple weeks, so the trip to Vegas was timely. Sometimes the best thing for my writing is not to write. While some stories are extroverts and won’t leave you alone. Other stories are introverts and need to be left alone. You have to let them come to you when they’re ready. I digress.
A WRITER AND TRAVELER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES