Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Journalism

I have noticed a disturbing trend in Online reporting.  Sensationalized headlines that are made to entice a reader to click a link only to find that the story has little or nothing to do with the headline, or worse: The story contradicts the headline!
A really monstrous example of this appears on todays AOL homepage.  The headline screams out at how people shopping on Black Friday, watched a man hit the floor with an apparent heart attack and shoppers stepped over him to keep shopping for "deals."

If you read the story, you find that the fact is that SIX! people came to the man's aid and performed CPR on the victim until EMS arrived.  Is this what journalism has become?  A bait and switch con to get clicks on links?  I think that a good writer could have written a headline that celebrated the people who came to the man's aid instead of appealing to the cynical side of the reading public.

Another "trick" is to put a question mark in the headline and make an outlandish claim, and since it's posed as a question it turns out that the claim is just speculation and can therefor be excused for not being fact.  ........REALLY? 

An example of this appeared last week.  The headline read "Julianna Hough (insert any celebrity name here)  cellphone hacked, nude pictures found ?"  If you read the story you find that in fact "NO"  no nude photos were found.  The question mark made it OK to let the headline imply that there were nude photos to be seen. it isn't  OK!

The time has arrived when quite a few people (myself included) get the majority of the news from the Internet.  It is sad that most of what I am reading is not news at all but a marketing ploy to get clicks on a link.  Shame ......for shame.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Heroes have always been Rock Stars

I just finished reading Keith Richard’s Biography, “Life.”  It is 550 pages long in hardback and I gotta tell you, it could have been 500 pages more for the amount of ground it covered. 
I was fascinated by the story of the origin of the Rolling Stones, and being a teenager in the 60s, I was most interested in the nostalgic aspect of the times he was talking about.  I vividly remember when the Stones and the Beatles burst on to the scene and getting to hear about it from someone who lived it was very enlightening and entertaining.  Of course it was all from Mr. Richard’s perspective so it was biased, but I was impressed that he didn’t sugar coat anything.  He admitted that he was quite often an asshole, but he was also was proud of the fact that he was rude and obnoxious and anti-…well, just about everything but music and drugs.

He struck me as an extremely passionate and sensitive person.  When he loved, he loved deeply and when he hated his wrath was just as intensive.  He was not a person who set out for fame and celebrity, but he also did not shy away from it, nor fail to capitalize on the perks it afforded him.
He was extremely candid in regards to his use of drugs; in fact you could almost say that his addictions are almost as much a part of his story as the music.  He called himself a "junkie" when it applied to his situation at a given point and painted a sad picture of his physical and mental state at the time.  The one thing that bothered me was that he never warned against the dangers of addiction, or urged others not to follow the path he had taken.  He was very cavalier in regards to his drug use and subsequent brushes with the law and wore every arrest and prosecution as a badge of honor for his anti-establishment persona.  He described many horrible times in his life as they related to his drug use that in and of themselves were a message that doing drugs is not a good thing, but it was almost like he didn’t want to say “Drugs are bad” outright, because then he would lose his “street cred."

As long as the book was; I was sometimes sorry he just glossed over happenings without going into detail or the aftermath of something that happened that I remember from the time and always wondered about.  He mentions it happened but not in great detail.  It was like …..”It rained last week.”  Not which day, how much it rained and if there were any consequences to the weather, just that it had in fact, rained.
If you like rock n roll music, play Rock n Roll music, are nostalgic for the 60s/70s era, or are just interested in the origins of pop culture I would recommend this book.  If you were born after say 1980 it might be interesting from a historical standpoint also, a chronical of "Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll."   Keith lived through it and as he says on the book’s jacket, “believe it or not, he remembers all of it.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Deja Vu

I watched the recently released Coen Brother's remake of TRUE GRIT.  I was hesitant at first because I had fond memories of John Wayne’s Oscar winning performance and didn’t want to contaminate them by subjecting myself to a remake.  There are, with a few exceptions, no good reasons to remake a “great” movie.  Having said that; I have to admit that as a lover of Cinema, I am interested in any and all movies, and I sometimes enjoy seeing a classic or older movie brought into modern times, with the new technology that allows a man to fly and visits to locations that were previously only available with cheesy animation or strong imagination.

I think it takes a very talented writer to update a script, that many thought was perfect, and tell a story that the audience is already familiar with, in a way that makes it worth revisiting.  If it is not changed at all, then I think it is really a waste of time and money.  Take for instance the remake of PSYCHO which was shot frame for frame the same as Hitchcock’s original, and it stunk up the room.  KING KONG on the other hand, with the recent Peter Jackson directed release, benefited from updated technology and told the story from a new angle that made it enjoyable.  There is no argument that Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion animation original was a masterpiece, but the computer aided realism Jackson brought to the screen was truly amazing, and fun to watch, and it stands apart from the original.  There is a classic Cary Grant movie that is called BRINGING UP BABY.  It was remade by director Peter Bogdonavich and his version was almost unrecognizable.  He called it WHAT’S UP DOC.  It was clever, funny and one of my favorites, along with the original.

Which brings me back to True Grit.  I can say I liked it.  The performances were good, although I do think Matt Damond was miscast in the Glen Campbell role as the Texas Ranger.  Jeff Bridges was very good; not as Great as John Wayne but then, who could be?  The new girl, Hallee Steinfeld, who played Maddie Ross, followed in the footsteps of Kim Darby who was also a relative unknown in the day.  She was as believable as Kim had been in a part that very easily could have slipped over the top into caricature instead of character.  For that I credit the writers who took sometimes trite dialogue and made it credible.

The bottom line is; I believe some movies should NEVER be remade.  ( But no one listens to me)  Some are sacred and untouchable and any remake of a true classic should be ignored.  (Who would want to see CASABLANCA without Bogart or GONE WITH THE WIND without Gable?)  Other already told stories can be made with the new tools of movie making and would be as enjoyable, or even more so, as the originals. 

There certainly are a lot of remakes out and more on the way.  Some I am looking forward to, some, not so much.  I don’t think it is a slam against writers who cannot come up with new ideas, but rather a Hollywood studio system that wants to hedge their bets and put out a product that they know audiences are already familiar with.  It is, after all, the movie business and all about making money. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


It is often remarked that there are no new Beethovens, Vivaldis or Mozarts.  I disagree.  I believe that the new “Masters” of classical music are the men and women who compose and arrange the music for movies. 

The number one has to be John Williams.  His body of work will span the test of time and his recognizable anthems from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters and Jaws are as instantly recognizable as Beethoven’s 9th or Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Hans Zimmer has had his share of masterpieces; including the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Batman, Dark Knight and one of my favorites, the score of Gladiator; a true example of how film, set to music, can elicit true emotion from an audience.

Danny Elfman was a member of the punk group Oingo Boingo.  He has graduated to scoring film.  He works a lot with Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow) on his often off beat visions, but his main stream work includes the soundtracks to the Spiderman movies, the original Batman and Terminator-Salvation which expands on James Cameron’s driving beats to create an opera like score that compliments the robotic action as well as enhances the humanity of the movie.

Even without watching the movie, I love listening to soundtracks the same way I enjoy the classical music of the past.  The beauty of David Arnold’s work for Stargate, the eclectic sounds created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network, or James Horner's Avatar music, are all as entertaining and as moving as any work from the classical masters. 

I do have a favorite, it is the music created by Randy Edelman for the film Dragonheart.  If you can listen to the finale without tearing up you have no soul.  The soundtrack has a mix of whimsy, drama and grandeur worthy of any symphony.  Next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the music and you will hear the new Beethovens, Bachs and Mozarts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I came late to the HUNGER GAMES party.  I don’t know why, blame it on how many other things I have been paying attention to lately I guess.  I had a cross country airplane ride coming in the middle of June and was looking for something to occupy my time during a 4 hour layover in D.C.  As I was browsing Amazon a little voice, far in the recess of my storage memory, reminded me of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” 

I navigated to it, and low and behold, the gods favored me and It was ON SALE !  How cool was that?  I sent it instantly to my Kindle with one click and packed my bags.

Well boys and girls let me tell you!  What a treat!  It reminds me of a marriage between “Mad Max” and “The Most Dangerous Game.”  I read the entire first book of the trilogy before I reached California, and downloaded the second before you could say “District 12.”  The story, the characters, the drama, the action, the romance (which was the smallest part of the story subdued) was totally captivating.  I found myself quite enthralled and invested in the story.  I was almost sorry that my visit to So CA was going to interrupt my reading.

I read each night before going to sleep and whenever there was a lull in my touching base with relatives and friends, I had my Kindle at the ready.  I consumed the second book like a starving coal miner and quickly sent the final book to my e-reader anticipating my finishing “CATCHING FIRE” in no time.  I was most thankful that I had the power to acquire the books wirelessly and would not have to wait for an opportunity to take a trip to the “Capitol” book store, because by the middle of the second book I was already craving more. 

MOCKINGJAY,” the third and final book, did not disappoint in any way except wishing there was more.  I finished all three books in less than 4 days.  The series has been described as “Young Adult” fiction to which I must disagree.  While it will surely appeal to young people, it has an undercurrent of maturity that will both entertain and give pause to older readers as well.  It is thought provoking and moving.  It may not be "great literature" but it accomplishes something that every author hopes for.  I “Couldn’t put it down.”  I cared about the characters, and was satisfied and moved by the ending.  I not only recommend it I give it a hearty “Hell Yes!”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Favorite Authors - Continued

The thing I love about Rex Stout is that he is a writer whose work has stood the test of time.  His stories are just as entertaining and exciting now as they were when they were written in the 1930s all the way up to the 1970s.  His main character Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin are two of the most well written and interesting people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. 

Stout was born in 1886 and died in 1975.  I can only imagine how wonderful it was to experience life over the course of the changing of the century and millennium when there was so much technological and social changes.  When we baby boomers witnessed our own century/millennium change it was without quite the same impact as the horses to jet planes that the 19th to 20th had.

The Nero Wolfe novels have everything you could want.  A good mystery wrapped around wonderful characters and interesting circumstances.  Gourmet food, orchid growing, clever, snappy dialogue and interplay that rivals Aaron Sorkin, and language that plays to the fact that readers are smart and ”get it.”  Stout mixed social commentary into his stories too, but he did not beat the reader over the head with it.  His political opinions landed him on the FBI watch list during the McCarthy era, but he continued to make his points none the less and stirred them into the mix so that the reader could take it or leave it and not miss a beat in the story.  His views were not the main focus of the stories, more like asides that added to his characters more than preached to the reader.

I discovered the Stout books in college at the end of his life and was thrilled to go on a treasure hunt to find all that I could.  I had a great appetite for them and cobbled them up as fast as I could find them and then re-read them again, enjoying every savory bite.

If you have not read a Stout novel, or only seen the TV shows of Nero Wolfe stories (Timothy Hutton was a great Archie Goodwin by the way) do yourself a favor and read the books, they are a treat.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I have had a subscription to PLAYBOY magazine for as long as I have had the resources to pay for it.  In fact I can’t remember a time when I purchased it in a store.  My entire adult life I have had it delivered to my door and looked forward to it arriving every month.  In these times of unlimited access to any form of image imaginable (thanks to the Internet) I can say with a straight face and total truthfulness that I get PLAYBOY magazine so that I can read the articles. 

That used to be a joke of course.  Why would any person of the male gender pay good money to “read” a magazine like PLAYBOY?  The answer is quite complex.  At the root is the fact that the magazine is well written.  Even the stories that go along with the pictures of women in various states of undress are well written.  Now don’t get me wrong; I DO look at the pictures, but usually with an eye for the photographic skill or curiosity at the latest celebrity who decides that it would be a good career move to pose for the magazine sans clothes.  But the point is that the pictures are not my main motivation in obtaining the magazine.  It takes me on the average about an hour to read everything in PLAYBOY I wish to read.  Of that time I spend maybe 2 minutes looking at the pictures, maybe. 
The other factor, in the magazine being more satisfying to read than look at the pictures, is because, quite frankly, the pictures are boring.  Airbrushed (Photoshopped) to perfection they do not represent the girl next door, but rather the “fantasy” of the girl next door.  Now these images might be exciting to teenage boys or even young adult males looking to make their way in the world, but I believe a well grounded “Adult” male knows what the reality is and even bachelor “players” know that the a real woman does not look like that.  It’s like looking at a picture taken by the Hubble telescope.  It might be pretty to look at, but I’m never going to be able to get there, really.

So, “What kind of man reads PLAYBOY?”  I think…..All kinds; and some women too.  The articles are insightful, informative, educational, entertaining, and sometimes sexy and titillating.  (A lot more than the pictures.)  Exactly what a good magazine should be.  They take contributions from some of the best writers in the world.  They cover a variety of subjects including current events and past history, politics, fashion, sports, humor, celebrity, sexuality and media entertainment.  And if you agree with Mr. Hefner’s politics and philosophies or not, his editorials do provide some food for thought, and invite debate, if nothing else.  That’s why I read the articles.  They are a Good Read, and worth the 40 bucks a year.  The pictures are just an added bonus.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Favorite Authors 3

One of my favorite authors is a relatively lesser known guy named James Swain.  He writes a series of Detective mysteries.  He actually writes a couple but I really like his "Tony Valentine" series.  Tony is an ex-cop, private investigator in Atlantic City who specializes in "cheaters" who rip off casinos and other navarious, dastardly deeds. 

Mr. Swain's obvious expertise in the subject of gambling, and the crimes and characters that go with it, makes this series entertaining and believable and exciting.   His hero characters are well defined and human; with flaws to go with their heroics.  His bad guys are really bad and his plots are not so technical as to be confusing but rather have just enough insight into the methods used by cheaters to be interesting.

I like the glitz and glamour of the casino locales mixed with the seedy underbelly of the criminal goings on.

I just wish there were more of them.  I really enjoy Tony's adventures.  I wish Mr. Swain a lot of luck in the future, and I am sure he is happy to be on my humble Favorites list.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


George Carlin once said that he believed that his comedy was successful because he spoke of things that were Universal.  When you can relate, it's funny.  When you can think, "Been there, done that," the story is humorous.  That's why bodily functions always get a laugh, everyone does it!  When it comes to writing a humorous scene I try to keep that in mind.  I try to sprinkle humor into all of my writing.  I am not looking for the laugh out loud, I just like it when there is a smile once in a while to go with the drama/action/ or whatever else I am offering up.

There is a crop of reality video clip shows on TV right now that are extremely funny.  They are Sophomoric at best, but they are always good for a laugh.  (Who can keep from laughing when someone takes a pratfall?)  It is a lot easier to watch something funny than it is to read somethin funny.  Seeing a pie in the face always gets a laugh, but try incorporating a scene in a story describing a pie in the face: reading about it is not so funny.  The reader might smile at it (I doubt it) but seeing it makes it so much funnier.

Smart banter and dialogue is a writer's “pie in the face.”  Reading sharp conversations, with humorous interaction between characters makes the reader smile.  Aaron Sorkin is a master at this.  His dialogue is wonderfully quick and witty.  How great it would be to think of those great things to say in everyday conversation.  Of course he is lucky, he writes so actors can say his words and audiences get to see and hear the funny.  It makes it easier to get the laugh but not easier to write.  Sorkin is one of my favorite writers and he deserves every accolade he has ever received, in my opinion.

I don’t wish to write like Aaron Sorkin, I strive to write in my own style, but I try to add humor to my story, the way he does, without being trite, crass or silly.  Comedy is hard, comedy dialogue is harder still. 

RIP George, thanks for the funny.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A short primer on electronic reading

What wonderful times we live in! We can communicate from almost anywhere, access information that used to take forever to find, and be entertained by a variety of devices that were science fiction a few short decades ago. 

Convenience is the watchword of the day and one of the biggest advances in the digital age is the “e-Reader.” Powerful devices that connect to traditional booksellers through the Internet and allows potential readers to access countless books, magazines, newspaper and other print media with the push of a button. These devices are sometimes scorned by some purists who lament the lack of the feel and the smell of paper but the bottom line is the e-Reader is here to stay and it has changed the way we read and purchase the printed word. 

Amazon has a Kindle. Barnes & Noble has a Nook. Sony has a Reader and there are other companies who have their own versions. But you don’t need one of these gadgets to read e-books. If you all ready have an iPod/iPad or any desktop/laptop computer, tablet or smart phone, you can access e-books. There’s an App for that! 

What used to be delivered on some sort of media, like a CD or a floppy disc (remember those?) can now be streamed to any device that has access to the Internet. No waiting, instant gratification—all at a reduced price, because there is no box or CD to drive the cost of production up.

So, if you have one of these magical devices, you can be reading almost any book your heart desires in a matter of minutes, and in some instances seconds. They can be purchased in most cases at less than an actual book costs, and sometimes for free. Just download the App from Amazon or Apple and have a great read.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Favorite Authors Part 2

Long before there was John Grisham and Tom Clancy there was Alistair Stuart MacLean.  He was born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, April 21, 1922 and he was the son of a Scottish Minister.  He died in Munich, Germany in February 2, 1987 and was buried Celigny, Switzerland. In his final years he was destroyed by alcoholism.  He once said that he wrote fast, taking only thirty-five days to complete a novel, because he disliked writing and didn't want to spend much time at it. He also claimed never to re-read his work once it was finished and to never read reviews of his books. According to the New York Post, MacLean once explained: "I'm not a novelist, I'm a storyteller. There's no art in what I do, no mystique." Despite his disclaimers, MacLean's many adventure novels sold over 30 million copies and were translated into a score of languages.

His adventure novels thrilled me as a teenager and young adult and I read and re read them, enjoying them to the fullest.  Many people would recognize his titles because they were often adapted for the movies.  (Some were successful, others not so much.)  All of his stories were character driven thrillers that were a joy on the page.

He also crossed many a genre line.  Even though all of his novels were action adventure he mixed the western of Breakheart Pass, with the war dramas Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone and its sequel Force Ten From Navarone.  Ice Station Zebra was in the frozen north as was my favorite, Night Without End. 
In Night Without End, MacLean takes the reader on a journey through the darkness that would bring murder and betrayal and cowardice.  A tale of secret identities; that is a constant puzzle to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  MacLean’s novels have stood the test of time and are just as exciting today as they were when they were first published.  They are truly excellent writing, and a joy to read.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In the 70s I was in Community College in Pasadena California, studying drama, planning to be a movie star.  (Yea…that didn’t happen.)  I was part of a small group of like minded individuals, male and female, who were seeking to make “acting” their future livelihood.  Our Drama teacher, Bruce Gill, turned our group onto a collection of short stories called Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  It was copyright 1914……1914!  It was (and is) basically a collection of epitaphs of the people who lived and died in the town of Spoon River.  Eight of us adapted the book into a presentation that was classified as an “Oral Interpretation” of the work and took it on the road, performing in various collegiate speech tournaments.  We won a few of these contests with our combination of dramatizing Master’s free form poems, guitar music and song.  This was very edgy in the 70s, kind of a carryover from the beatnick 60s.  We were also disqualified from a few tournaments because some judges believed our presentation was more performance than pure oral interpretation of the written words.  We didn’t care, we truly were in love with the material and we reveled in the joy of performing it.  The epitaphs were emotionally moving, humorous and meaningful.  Impressionable college students ate it up with…well….with a spoon.  The thing is that the work has transcended the passage of time.  The short stories are just as relevant today as they were in 1914 when they were written, in 1972 when they were adapted by talented teenagers and today when the world is moving at a speed Masters, who passed away himself in 1950, could never have imagined. 
I pulled the book off the shelf the other day.  The 40 year old pages are yellow and brittle.  The $1.50 price tag, a badge of its age.  I think back on those times and am filled with satisfaction for the creative endeavors we undertook, proud of what we achieved in our efforts, and a strong affection for the group of boys and girls I was privileged enough to collaborate with.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I know as a writer I should HATE unscripted ( Reality) television, but I LIKE American Idol.  There I said it, and I know the first step is admitting you have a problem.
I like Survivor and Big Brother in the summer and Top Chef too.  Is it so wrong?  Should I feel guilty that I enjoy getting invested in these people?  I am fascinated by the social and psychological aspects of the games as well as the competition.  It is no different than watching a football game…really.
In my defense I do NOT like the Bachelor/Bachelorette; anything with “The Real Housewives…” in the title or any show that determines paternity, catches spouses cheating or follows the family of burned out rock stars.
I LIKE the Pickers, and the Pawn guys, Antiques Road Show and the Storage Unit guys.  The possibility of finding long lost treasures is always fun.  I am educated AND entertained by the Mythbusters, but could care less about the loggers, fishermen, and gold miners.
Then there are the “Cop Shows.”  At first I found it interesting; seeing how they enforce the law in other parts of the country.  Then it got frustrating because I saw so much BAD police work, it was embarrassing.  I worked for a major Southern California city for 2 decades and in one episode of a reality cop show I saw more things that would get you in trouble than I did my entire career on the street.  Now I know watching a group of officers doing things right would probably be boring television, but I resent showing marginal work for the sake of entertainment.  The scripted shows are not any better.  To those who may not know…..Crime Scene Investigators DO NOT interrogate suspects, knock down doors to take bad guys into custody and NEVER work a scene ALONE with no one there to protect them.  I cringe when I watch some of the things on these shows.  But I stray, sorry.
In a world with hundreds of channels it would be near impossible to fill them all with something a writer created.  How cool it would be if it was though; a lot of writers would be working in television.  Shakespeare said there were only so many plots to be written and when you think about it he was right.  Reality TV allows all the participants to be writers, for all the world’s a stage and all the people players.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Favorite Authors Part 1

Long before it was called “Young Adult” literature, Robert Heinlein was writing fantastic sci-fi stories that would appeal to teenagers and adults.
I discovered him when I was in High School, devouring every book I could get my hands on.  There was a used book store in downtown Pasadena and John and I would go there once or twice a week and peruse the musty back room, for treasures that we could acquire for cheap.  While searching through boxes I noticed that there were a lot of titles by Robt. Heinlein.  I figured he must be pretty good if he had published so many books, so I gave him a try.  In those days I was reading a book every two days.  Heinlein became one of my best friends, and I chewed through everything I could find of his and then read them over and over again.
I won’t go into his bio here (If you are interested you can Google him) but I will say he was an engineer and a very free thinker.  His attitudes in regards to sex, marriage and society were as progressive as his take on technology, religion and politics.
One of his YA novels, Waldo & Magic, Inc., showed a world where manufacturing was accomplished mainly by giant robot arms that he called “Waldo’s.”  Sound familiar?  He wrote about automated factories……In THE 50s.  He was truly a man with vision, imagination and talent.
His YA books like Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and Red Planet, Starman Jones, were light and exciting Sci-Fi tales that would thrill young readers while still holding the interest of seasoned adults.  It was his more Adult offerings that really grabbed me.  Stranger In A Strange Land is probably his most famous and most controversial.  Door Into Summer, Starship Troopers, (much better than the movie) Glory Road, Puppet Masters (again better than the movies) I Will Fear No Evil, and Revolt in 2100, also push the boundaries of what is and was considered taboo subjects in the mid 20th Century America, when they were first published.
The underline theme of all of Heinlein’s novels was always, Peace And Love, will solve all of problems, either personally or globally.  He had a glass half full view of the world.  He was not blind to the problems we face as a nation and a planet, but he recognized that the same people that made the mess had the ability to fix it.   We need his message today more than ever.
If you have never read a book by Robert Heinlein get ye to a bookstore (online is fine) and pick one up.  I suggest you start with the YA tales and work your way up to the more Adult novels.  You may not agree with all of his politics, religion and/or sex philosophies (they are pretty radical even by today’s standards) but it makes for interesting reading. You won’t be sorry, and I am sure you will be hooked the same way I was in the 60s.  If you have read his work, then you Grok what I’m saying.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Life Instructions

Here is the next in my series of "quotable quotes."  They rank up there with "Don't spit into the wind" and "Don't mess around with Jim."












Monday, March 14, 2011

The Better To See You With, My Dear

I saw Red Riding Hood over the weekend.  It is a monster (Werewolf) movie, which is not my favorite genre, but my wife likes it and we were celebrating our Anniversary, sooooo, I decided to let her pick the movie and she chose RRH.
First of all it has NOTHING to do with the fairy tale; it is a straight forward creature feature, much in the tradition of the old B&W Universal Monster Movies.  It does have one tie to the fairy tale, however.  It borrows some lines and passages from the tale and incorporates them in the dialogue and/or scenes.  I like when movies and TV shows do this, especially in this time of re-makes and sequels.  I love the idea of little “in jokes” that are a wink at the audience that knows the source material well enough to “get it.”
On the flip side of that is when a Movie/TV show contradicts a fact or character from the source material.  That bugs the crap out of me.  It is sloppy writing and an affront to the person who created the mythology in the first place.  In RRH case it was ok to stray from the fairy tale story because the movie was NOT about the fairy tale.  The fact that the girl wore a red hood and there was a wolf and a grandma in the story was about as close as it got, but others have blatantly betrayed the original and I really hate that.
Many of these contradictions are made to modernize an old story.  It would not do to have a 50s character dressed in a signature way with a story set in today’s world.  I can understand and deal with that.  What I cannot abide is obvious deviations from known facts.
The biggest example of this in media today comes with the sudden influx of “Vampire” stories.  Everyone knows the lore of the vampire.  Garlic, crucifixes, and holy water…not good!  The grand daddy of all Vampire mythology is the simple fact, “Vampires CANNOT be in sunlight.!”  This is not negotiable, yet today there are so many Vampire stories on screen, in books, and on TV that to make each one stand out from another, “changes” are made.  It drives me CRAZY!  I want to scream at the screen, “You can’t have him chase them; it’s DAYTIME, the sun’s OUT!!”  <sigh> 
There are so many clever and talented writers out there.  You’d think they could come up with logical ways around the mythology instead of plowing right through it. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Love & Other Drugs

I just watched Love & Other Drugs starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.  It was a “good” movie, not “Great,” but good.  I enjoyed it a lot more than the Rom/Coms that have been coming out lately.  The reason I am mentioning it here is because of the writing.
The script was very interesting from a writing standpoint.  It was at its core a romantic comedy because it was funny in parts and romantic in parts.  But….mixed in were also underlining themes that were meaning-full and important.  There were points made in regards to the obsession this Country has with drugs, the horror of Parkinson’s decease, the failure of the health care system, the mental health problems of the homeless, ADD, and a variety of small references to other social troubles that are prevalent today.  How impressive for a 2 hour movie!  There were very few solutions offered, it was more like a mirror held up to see the problems and hopefully cause at least one person to look a little harder and maybe “think.”  Isn’t that one of the goals of a writer?  To get the message out there and have the reader (watcher) react in some way.  This movie accomplished that.  For that it made a mediocre “Boy meets Girl, Boy losses Girl, Boy gets Girl back” formula-matic story into a good movie that was entertaining AND thought provoking.
Much has been made of the fact that Anne Hathaway is naked in a lot of this movie.  It is a shame because her performance in this movie was very good and should have been acknowledged.  I wonder if the Director had made the decision to unrealistically hide her behind sheets and fancy lighting and camera angles if her acting would have been complimented and recognized?  The nudity in the movie was very important to the story.  It showed “Character” and, without dialogue, let us know something about both the male and female lead characters.  It wasn’t uncomfortable.  In places it was playful and in others romantic and an important part of the story.
As a life-long lover of movies I “liked” it, and recommend it.  As a writer I was impressed.  It was a lesson in storytelling, and I was paying attention. 

Monday, March 7, 2011


Over the years I have collected a variety of writings that have moved, amused, or disturbed me (in a good way.)  I would like to share some of them from time to time.  Reading them is like rubbing a stone.  Slowly, they become smooth and shiny and even more profound.  I think the more they are read the better they get.  These have to do with friends and friendship:



“Quarrel with a friend and you are both wrong.”

“A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

If you make but one friend in your entire life
You can count yourself lucky.

“I am wealthy in my friends.”

Friendship ruins angels, and elevates man.”
Alex Drey

If I don’t have a friend I have nothing.

Wherever there is friendship there is a chance for human beings.

“A King cannot have a friend, but a peasant can.”
Ben Franklin

True friendship shows itself in private
 more then in the company of others.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Music to sooth the savage beast

It can be said that a song is poetry set to music.  That is basically true, but with a disclaimer; not ALL songs are poetry.  Repeating “I Feel Love” over and over and over again is not poetic, and while “Staying Alive, Staying alive, a..a..a…a..Staying Alive” has a great beat and can be easily danced to, its lyric is not genius.
There are, however, great examples of brilliant writing for the purpose of song.  There is the mystical and cryptic:  “Been through the desert on a horse with no name” or “She’s buying a stairway to heaven” and “I am the walrus.”
The beautiful:  “Hello darkness, my old friend” -“I’ll stand by you” and “You are the wind beneath my wings.”
The whimsical: “You can call me Al” or “You don’t mess around with Jim” and “Itsy Bitsy yellow pokadot bikini.”
Country music likes to be punny and mix metaphoric.  “We buried the Hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out.”  “I’m much too young to feel this damn old” or “You ain’t much fun since I quit drinkin.”
There are songs that are complete stories in themselves:  "Abraham,Martin and John" "Harper Valley PTA" and what exactly did Bobby throw off the Tallahasse Bridge? 
The granddaddy of them all is probably the Moody Blues whose Knights and White Satin even ends with spoken poetry as the strings swell in the background.  “Cold hearted orb rules the night, remove the colors from our sight.”  Wonderful..... good stuff.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of those kinds of lyrics anymore.  Popular music today seems to be driven by a dance beat, more than the thought provoking refrains of say Dylan, or Crosby, Stills and Nash, but I must say I enjoy almost ALL popular music.
I am often inspired by good lyrics.  Poetry set to music that elicits an emotional response.  I enjoy good lyrics almost as much as good prose.  I just wish there were more Moody Blues and less Gaga to be inspired by.

Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar goes to..........

Well, I watched the Academy Awards telecast last night, which means I stayed up way past my bedtime to see the end.  I Love the Oscars because, despite what some people say, they are the celebration of a job well done in a craft I love.  It is a chance to tell the people who entertain, inspire, and sometimes move, that they did a great job.  I like to think that the Academy is giving the award to deserving members of the film community, for me.  I take it kind of personal, which is silly I know, but I just do.  I always mark my ballot ahead of time and then check off the ones I get right and frown at the injustice when I am wrong.  How could they?  Obviously I know better than the ones that voted contrary to me!  I pick the winners about 90% of time most years and this year was no exception. (All though I did miss on Best Picture, I thought Social Network deserved it.)  I make sound logical decisions, forgoing my personal fondness for a film and voting for a movie that I might not particularly care for, but believe it deserves the award, more than my favorite.  I am proved right often, but sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised when the most deserved is also my fav and is awarded the prize.
During my College years, when I still thought there was a snowballs chance in hell that I would make a living as an actor, making movies, some day; I would fantasize about what it would be like to be there in person, rubbing elbows with the great artists of the film industry.  Getting dressed up and pontificating about it being “an honor just to be nominated.”  Today, I have to be satisfied living vicariously, thrilled for the winners, (Aaron Sorkin is my favorite writer, and he sooo deserved the award,) sad for the one’s that didn’t win, ( I think the song from Country Strong should have won) and maintaining the thinnest thread of connection to the beautiful people whose business is making movies.  I like to think of them as my friends.
I have had this affinity for the Oscars for as long as I can remember.  We used to have Oscar parties every year attended by dozens of people who shared my love of film.  They were lavish affairs, befitting the occasion.  One year we even dressed in tuxs and gowns just for fun and had a gourmet dinner prior to the show.  Now, since I relocated to the East coast it is more of a one on one celebration with the ceremony.  No group of people to commiserate with, just me, (and my lovely wife, wearing Dolce flannel PJs) sitting there in the living room, pretending I am in a seat, in the theatre along with all of the people I admire and respect, dreaming they are my peers.  "And the Oscar goes to...." the presenter opens the envelope and announces my name as the winner.  Hoorah for Hollywood!