A Death Among my Friends.

Posted: September 12, 2016 by Bill Maxwell in Personal

Someone I was very close to chose to end their life early. Near that end, she and I weren’t on speaking terms — her choice, not mine — as she tried to sort out some incredibly complicated things in her life.

I know she tried to reach out to me about a week ago but in a way where I couldn’t reply without dishonoring her explicit wishes (and don’t think that’s not going to haunt me for a while).

So just for me, for her, for today, reach out to someone you love. Hold them a little tighter. Let them know you love them a little more. That’s there’s some light in the world for them and that together we’re a bit stronger than when we’re alone.

And for wherever she may be, having left this life, I hope she’s found the peace she was searching for and that whatever force may be behind this beautiful little universe holds her tight and says “Welcome home.”

My heart grows heavier as it sifts through everything we shared, good and bad. It grows heavier as I meet with the people she cared for, burdened as they are with her death.

The universe is as kind as it is cruel. There’s been plenty of things telling me to hang in there. There has been support and offered support. And I know by keeping a person’s story they have a link to this side of the world.

I just ache and with every wave of emotion comes the fear / knowledge that this tide will ebb in time and how I feel, how I react to this will solely become a faded memory. And I hate that. I hate that people who impacted us and loved us will only live on deep in our bones and not by our sides.

But you can’t fault the world for turning and the universe for moving on. And I can’t stop loving the world and all the people in it. We’re all stories in the end — that’s the quote I remember. My Zen dentist buddy will probably lecture me for hanging on to attachments for too long but this pain marks a person’s impact in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of man who will grow tired of that trade.

A Helping Hand?

Posted: September 7, 2016 by Bill Maxwell in Los Angeles, Mythic Ecology, Personal
Tags: , ,
Well, this could be uncomfortable

Tataviam tribe: mapOn Columbus Day (2015) a social justice committee at a church invited me to talk about the day, due to my previous work with the Tataviam people.  As you might figure out, the local tribe views that holiday just a wee bit differently.

I laid out the foundation of a conversation for the attendees: that the U.S., by its own admission, is in active occupation of 500 – 1000 sovereign nations in the continental U.S. and that the Los Angeles tribes (who are very much alive and still culturally active and yes, there’s even a tribal government) never had a ratified treaty.  If you live in L.A., you’re squatting on tribal land.

I also pointed out that the act of genocide, specifically attempting to annihilate the “Indian problem”, is still in full swing; it’s just out of the full-on murder phase and into the abusive plundering of tribe resources to make them into trinkets and historical items and fictions.

We had some very animated dialogue back and forth. One participant asked what the ideal solution would be and I honestly answered that I wouldn’t invent one.  The affected tribes could provide that answer far better than me and the answer would probably be complex and uncomfortable and angering and frustrating. But it’s a hell of a lot better than not having the conversation.

In the course of this same discussion, several people offered up that they felt the real solution was to offer up education and opportunity. With apologies, but it’s not their place to make the offer. That’s the province of the tribes. When you’ve (that is to say ‘us’ the settlers on this land) oppressed people for so long, you have to recognize the very real fact that the tribes may NOT want to play with you anymore and would like to take some time to repair all the damage you’ve done.

A Small Parable

A guy comes across a hole; it’s deep, it’s obviously artificial–maybe a well or a disposal site.  Someone is crying for help from the hole.  About halfway down, somebody is trapped. The smell from the hole is terrible.

“I need help” a voice from the well calls out.

“Give me your hand.” the person outside responds.

“Get me a board!” the voice replies.

The person’s just within reach. “You don’t need a board. Give me your hand.”

“Get me a board!”

“Just give me your hand!!!”

“I need a board!!!”

The guy’s upset. This person in the hole sounds unreasonable, right? The guy’s just trying to help, after all and in disgust, he turns to walk away. But he can’t resist one last biting question: “Why the hell do you need a board?!?!”

“I’m trying to save the kid beneath me.”

A Little Note on Importance

Here’s the point. No matter the good intentions of the folks living now, they can, in no way shape or form, relate to the struggles the tribes face. They can’t anticipate or intellectualize what the tribes need. The people can listen. They can understand if the tribe says “we want a spot over here and we don’t want to deal with you.” They can supply what’s requested. Because maybe the next generation of the tribe really needs help. Maybe it’s relatives. Or the landbase or the culture or generational damage.  Maybe the tribal authority requesting the help gets it wrong in the details. Hell, we’re only human! It doesn’t matter. We can’t see what’s going on nor are we required to.

Is it so hard to admit our shame and start acting like adults? We have the money, the will and the land to truly alter the future.

I harp on this because Los Angeles has an unprecedented opportunity to work on this and make a meaningful change. We need to restore history all the way back to its pre-European roots and admit that horrible mistakes were made.

I ask again, wouldn’t that be amazing?


About a week back (more or less), I was witness to one of those curious interchanges that occasionally leapfrogs its way across social media. This one was about art. Insults were exchanged, friendships were broken, and both sides rushed to sooth the wounded. Pretty typical. But its commentary on art and its placement in society got me thinking.

Since I make my living on art, I figured I might as well jot those thoughts down.

I’ve probably heard this about a few thousand times over the years (maybe I exaggerate a bit, but probably not): the birth of human culture is found in art. Not tools, not domestication of fire, or habitats or funerals or settlement or brain weight or body type or agriculture. Art. Some consider art proof of ‘abstract thought’ and most recognize art as a skill that combines both technical expertise and imagination to evoke a visceral response. It’s how our ancestors talked to their children across vast seas of time.  It’s how cultures first talk to each other; through analyzing their aesthetic.

The first recognized arts are visual, blobs of paints on different media from stone to bone, exquisite in their window onto the lives of ancient cultures. Writing is the far-removed, bastard step-child.  It’s a visual media that takes lines and curves to create hallucinations (the much better quote is from @KatieOldham is below) that are vaguely consensual among users. It condenses visual information down to two-dimensional points and still manages to explode it across a person’s cortex, transporting them across time, space and sanity.

Given the power of such artifice, that it literally forms the foundation of human culture and arguably forms the glue that binds societies’ current forms together, why, oh why, are terms “artist” and “starving” ever used together? Why is funding cut for art in school? Why are young adults wanting to go to art school considered to be childish dreamers, as opposed to fearless visionaries, which is much closer to the truth? After all, art is quite possibly entirely why we are human.

Animals require three things in this world.  First, a healthy body, able to deal with the various standard challenges of the day. Whether it’s waking up when the stimulus is right, understanding how to find food that keeps you going, to recognizing your own physical needs for comfort or family.  A healthy mind is next up, a net of input that is filtered by that organ (in whatever form it takes) to allow one to sift through one’s relationship to the environment.  Food vs. medicine vs. threat vs location. The last piece of the trilogy is the heart, which holds the core of memories, allowing things to connect to you, whether it’s lovers or friends or foe. It both warms and warns an animal, affecting the behavior.

Yeah, fine… but what does this have to do with art? Art is the ability to make our own personal environment interactive, mutual. It’s our attempt to reach out and connect proactively to the Other. To any Other. Whether it’s the girl you want to woo, the other band of humans (or Neanderthals or Denivosans or Norwegians), that head of cattle, or that pack of wolves, it’s art that gets you there. Art is the cauldron within which body, heart and mind cook and combine to produce a healthy human. We produce Art to interact with the world around us and you can look at the world around us to see where our current art is targeted.

You want to know where all the non-starving artists are? In marketing. In graphic design. In advertising. In legal writing. In tech writing. In convincing you that there is no world out there, save the one we make, in which there are things you can consume, manufacture or trash. The primary art of this culture, and it’s been this way for a long time but not forever, is mirrors and obfuscation.

This places creative art in the service of rebellion. Sometimes it’s productive; sometimes it’s futile. But like all the revolutions, the folks in charge / the folks invested in the system will consider it childish. They will ridicule it, even as they buy little bits and pieces of it to consume. They will let talent starve to prove how ‘unrealistic’ their talent is.

That’s why, at my core, I applaud anyone who takes up the pen or the brush or the camera or the instrument and completes something. Even attempting is worthwhile. It’s been in our blood for so long, it’s ingrained in us and for good reason. And it is the best way to reclaim our selves from a society that threatens to devour us.

[Next Post: On being a professional Rebel]

forgive us

“I know. I understand. It’s a lot to ask. But please forgive us. We had no idea at the time of what was to come. After all, who really can tell what’s the difference between a banishing and a summoning. Who can? Not me. Not us. Not then.

I can’t say it was the most unusual thing we’d ever seen. After all, this rocky, biting cold, miserable little piece of coastline had been on our radar for years. Well, that’s more of a truism than you know; that’s literally why we discovered it. Radar had been brand new and the Home Office was having fits. Every time a plane or balloon or flock of birds flipped over that stupid spit of land, it was blip off the radar. They thought they had a failure. Or a hole. Or who knew what. They just got concerned that Jerry would find out and a fleet of Nazi bombers would somehow take advantage of the phenomenon and flit in to wreck the dreams of freedom, liberty and all that trap.

So, they co-opted a bunch of birdwatchers, too flat-footed to be on continental duty, and threw in a D-grade scientist or two to oversee the bunch, and set up Project Finch. Day after day, they’d go over to the coastline and run their little tests and watch for the fighter wings that never came. It would be delightfully ominous to say that the original scientists went mad or that there was an unexplained murder or two, or horrible mutation. Sorry. Nothing of the sort…”


forgive usThe complete story is available on:



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Screenplay done & in the Hands of Hollywood

Posted: August 16, 2016 by Bill Maxwell in Personal
Tags: , , ,

I’m going to have to remember to light a stick of incense, dig up the corpse of an unholy monster, sacrifice to the gods of the Everdeep or otherwise prostrate myself in front of the forces of Entertainment.

Yes, it’s correct. I have finished a screenplay and it is in the hands of a producer.

So take a group of students, add what they believe is going on, and then sidestep right into an ancient evil. That’s where the script takes you.

Can’t wait to see what -they- think of it.