September 27, 2008

Paul Newman Dies

Funny thing about Mr. Newman, I've never considered him one of the best--just one of my favorites. Part voice, part character, part icon I suppose. My favorite story of him is when he took out a newspaper ad to apologize for his lousy performance in The Silver Chalice, the kind of action that suggests self-deprecation, humility, persistence. Not that all of his work is a shining beacon of light over the vast darkness of Hollywood. But he does have so many great performances.

Look at Cool Hand Luke, Nobody's Fool, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Road to Perdition. With the exception of Cool Hand Luke, none of these films come close to perfection but his performances in each and every one of them is remarkable, full of nostalgia and a confidence from an older, better era of film-making. Old-school charisma or, as the slogan on the cover of my Nobody's Fool DVD says: Worn To Perfection.

I don't know the man outside of his film characters, but the records of his charity work are equally if not more impressive. The loss is two-fold; not only do we lose another link to a dying era in film-making, we lose a humanitarian. And Lord knows there's not too many of them around either. So, I doff my hat to Mr. Paul Newman. A person worth remembering.

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September 18, 2008

The Restless Appetite For Applause

I am El Presidente of the Kwantlen Writers' Guild. All bow to my ineffable wisdom. *scoff* The truth is I'm not sure I'm the right guy for the job. My cynicism prevents me from jumping on board with every supposed grand idea.

The Guild:

The Good - a place to revel amongst peers, share ideas, crack wise, come up with plans for fund raising. There will be a publication and a contest and a reading. That sort of thing. Needless to say, all this could be done via email, but heaven forbid we miss out on an opportunity to sit in a circle and gaze at each other. Most valuable achievement during the meeting: agreeing that Touch Me is an absolute crap title for the publication.

The Not So Good - Realizing that most people who submit their work are looking for affirmation instead of ways to improve. One first-year student and the rest are third and fourth years, with looks in their eyes--I dare you to find something wrong with this poem or short story or whatever. And if you do find something wrong, know this: I will hunt through your own work and come up with something horrible to say in return. I suppose affirmation is good, but it feels really disingenuous in this setting, where legs bob up and down as each person anxiously awaits "their turn".

In class today, not part of the guild but still related to Kwantlen, a mature student shared with me that last semester a professor asked them to re-submit a different story because their current one was perfect--no room for improvement or revision. Not sure why I was told this, or if I even believe such a thing. But what motivates a person to make such comments about themselves? Part ego, sure. I suspect fear, too. I could have clapped said student on the back, cajoled him/her with soothing wow, you are such a great writer and we could all really learn from you. Instead I envisioned this person sending said "perfect story" off to The Malahat Review and nine months later receiving a letter suggesting they take some Creative Writing courses.

Sometimes I don't want to be all-inclusive with my writing. I don't want to share it with everyone--just certain people who I know will make objective, unmotivated, honest comments. Sometimes I don't want to hug everyone and say we can do it. Everyone will get published and we'll all live in a castle far away, sipping hot-spiced rum and laughing at the world toiling below us.

The truth is no one has to read your work. Convincing people to actually want to read what you've got requires playing a game of whoredom. Writing is solitary. Success is infrequent. Perfection is a useless ascription because it denotes a peak, the very best you can ever do. Everything after that is sub par. I want agony, anger, the constant ache to create something of value--to anyone. I want success, perhaps before other people around me.

September 13, 2008

Vintage Audio: Back to Vinyl

Best $180 I've spent in years. Went to a vintage audio dealer in Surrey and found a great turntable and receiver for my records. Full-range audio; no more truncated spectrum from CD's or, even worse, MP3's. Turntable - Pioneer PL A-35 in wood case. Receiver - Pioneer SX - 3700; the first and possibly only receiver to have AM stereo output...not that any AM stations put out stereo signals these days, ha ha. Gorgeous blue-light display, manual tuner with digital display above it. Heavy as a muffler-trucker (each about 25 lbs).

Vinyl played on first day:
Luciano Pavorotti - Yes Giorgio Soundtrack
The Swingle Singers - Going Baroque
Neil Young - Harvest
Nat King Cole - Love is a Many Splendored Thing

All hail vinyl.

September 2, 2008

Television to Look Forward to: Goodbye HBO, Hello Showtime

C'mon folks, it's not all bad. Not everything that comes out on the glorious idiot box has to be about narcissistic celebrity has-beens reveling in drug rehab or scrawny, pseudo-glamorous housewives and their fabricated beauty. We can escape the horrifying nose-jobs, the 200 calorie-a-day diets, the story lines that offer absolute meaninglessness. Good shows abound.

I've had my reservations about HBO in the past, mostly because they're too chickenshit to see a story through to completion. Too many great pieces have been snipped: Deadwood and John From Cincinnati to name a couple, all due to whatever perceived ratings not being reached. So maybe I should move on to Showtime instead.

Two worthy replacements, though entirely different in content: Dexter and Californication. Both exhibit excellent writing. Dexter's story from season one has been carefully manipulated, each episode a gut bomb of tension. Californication is an absolute clinic in dialog, with complex, deeply-flawed characters that the audience can relate to. The lascivious lifestyles of the main characters are not just mere entertainment, but an interesting psychological examination in addiction, midlife crisis, and trying to find a moral line in an otherwise bankrupt environment. Both shows begin their respective new seasons Sunday, September 28th.

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