Wild and precious life

29 February 2008 | 7 Comments

What will you do with your one wild and precious life? — Mary Oliver

There are moments like being brushed with a feathertip, a soft fleeting understanding that so many things are so much more possible than I let myself believe. That it doesn’t matter whether I get everything I want, but rather that I want things so fiercely that I try to get them. Against the odds. In spite of my limitations. With disregard for what I know to be possible or, gods help me, appropriate. I want to look at my life and constantly marvel at how wild and precious it is, and the only thing appropriate to that is to love and dance and work and live as well as I can in the face of all my private triumphs and despair.

No, I haven’t been drinking. I’ve been feeling.

A note to my executive producer

28 February 2008 | Comments Off

(Calvin and Hobbes)

My week’s going great, thanks. How’s yours?

Vandana Singh on gender

28 February 2008 | Comments Off

I really enjoyed this interview with Vandana Singh on the Aqueduct blog. Singh’s experiences are very different from mine, but her perspectives feel very… hmm, what’s the word I want? Sympathetic, in the sense of resonance.

An open letter to the Academy

27 February 2008 | 1 Comment

Dear Oscar guys,

And I know you are all guys, because no one who has ever actually worn one of those dresses would make people sit in them that long for such a boring stupid program.

I was fairly amazed at the cluelessness of it all. I understand that the reason the Oscars are a million hours long is so the network can sell 999,999 hours of advertising and make a packet. But yeesh, people, there’s no point in selling ads when the audience isn’t watching. (This year’s ratings were The Worst Ever since Nielsen started tracking the show in 1974.)

And why aren’t we watching? Because we are bored. I can only imagine the suffering of the live audience — at least I can TiVo through the worst of it.

Here is what I want: a return to dignity. It’s Hollywood’s biggest award, so why not let the awards, and the nominees, shine? I don’t need a funny host (and if we have to have a funny host, can we at least have a funny host?). I don’t need a monologue. I’d love to see a confident, successful actor host the evening — Denzel, Meryl, Jodie, Tommy Lee, I have a list. I’d like them to open the evening by saying, “Welcome to the 81st annual Academy Awards show. I’m honored to be here, and to have the pleasure of recognizing the fantastic work of this year’s nominees. Tonight, we begin with the nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.” Ba-da bump. On with the show.

And then have one presenter for each award. One actor in nice clothes who comes out and makes a brief, heartfelt, personal speech about the category for which they are presenting — what the category is, and why it’s important to film. Don’t make the presenters be “entertaining,” and for the love of god don’t make them pronounce anyone’s name.

And then show lengthy clips, at least a minute each, that highlight the nominees’ work — including the cinematographers and the composers and the editors and the writers. Oooh, that’s hard! Here’s the thing: if you aren’t running around like a blue-assed fly trying to write jokes for presenters, you might have the brainpower/critical sensibility/time you need to select clips that would (and here’s the really radical notion) actually make people want to see the movies!

And then give the winners at least 90 seconds each to thank their goldfish if they want to. You Oscar guys are so fucking rude to the winners that it’s unbelievable. So what if their speeches are lame? They just won an Oscar, dude, they deserve their 90 seconds. And I would rather watch a minute and a half of someone being incoherently (or even tediously) happy than watch one more second of lame scripted patter between presenters who are only there because their agents had power lunches.

And then end the show.

Oscar guys, why is it so hard to understand the power of simplicity, dignity, and focus?

I’ve just written my first screenplay. Of course I’ve written my Oscar speech… but when I imagine giving it under the circumstances of last Sunday’s award show, I just want to put a nail through my forehead.

I will not thank you for your attention, since I suspect you will pay none. But mark my words, one of these days it will be impossible to tell the difference between the Oscars and “Dancing with the Stars.” Oh wait, “Dancing” will be the one with the bigger audience….


20 February 2008 | 1 Comment

As I begin yet another revision of the screenplay, I am reminded why I started down this mad path in the first place:

(From xkcd)

I hope my answer will always be yes!

Like a Song: Elevation

17 February 2008 | Comments Off

This is an essay I wrote for @U2, where I am a staff writer. It’s part of an @U2 series called Like a Song, in which staff members offer personal reflections on U2 songs.

Let’s talk about joy.

I am standing in front of the stage with a heart like a jackhammer and a soul ready to take off, a kite that only wants a strong wind. The power of music: to make us fly. I’ve sat on a cold Seattle sidewalk for 12 hours and stood crammed in this crowd for another three, waiting, waiting, wanting to soar. The power of music: to make us feel. And now the crowd is roaring: we are a hurricane of noise, and the eye of our storm is U2, taking the stage, taking a scan of the arena, and then taking us all to the places we all want to go. The power of music: to show me myself in a song. To remind me tonight that I am large inside, so much bigger than the tiny boxes that everyday life sometimes tries to squeeze me into. Tonight I am a creature of hope and love and joy, and there is no better song than “Elevation.”

Higher than the sun
You shoot me from a gun
I need you to elevate me here

I listen to U2’s music at different times for different reasons – to feel the fierce abandon of “The Fly,” the anger of “Mofo,” the yearning of “Streets.” Because a song describes a desire so private that I can’t, or won’t, seek it anywhere except inside the music. Or because I need to put a name to some specific pain so I can cry over it, and begin to be healed. The power of music: a stranger sings our innermost self. I put U2 in my headphones to hear myself, and the songs I like best are the ones that are most about me.

But I come to the concerts to see four men make the music happen right in front of me, and here the songs I like best are the ones that are most about them. Forget about being pulled up to dance, or getting the autograph outside the stage door. That’s not where the real juice is. If you want to meet the band, then watch them make their music, because in the instant when they give themselves over to it you will see their souls. You will know all about them in those moments. I have seen their fierceness and their anger and their yearning. And I have seen “Elevation” live, and know that whatever else they may be, Adam, Larry, Edge and Bono are people of joy.

See for yourself.

This is the 2001 Slane performance of “Elevation,” full of joy. The power of love to bring us out of the dark of ourselves into the sun. The jazz of the four-way relationship, the heightened awareness of each other that comes from 25 years of playing together: you can feel it when they share a look, when they lean toward each other for a note.

And above all, there is the sheer joy of making music. Bono can’t wait: he howls it out as the audience quivers in the moment, and then Larry counts them in tap tap tap tap, brings his sticks down BLAM and the lights come up and Bono leaps into the song. Watch it fill him so completely that it propels him around the stage and makes his body move, move, move. Watch Adam lean into the music and smile that private smile. Watch Edge dance with his guitar as Bono sings about jubilation. Watch for that twirl of Larry’s drumsticks at the end. And look at Bono smile as he walks back toward his band. That, my friends, is the joy of U2.

You make me feel like I can fly
So high

The power of music: our worlds collide and I am sharing soul with my Irish brothers, whom I never love so much as in these moments when they sing themselves and take me with them. Not let’s get naked love or some kind of worship, but the electric connection of shared humanity: they are full of joy, and so I am too. It’s such a human thing to do, to show our souls and make joy for each other. And that’s why I come. That’s why I wait in line and stand until my back is frozen and offer up my heart. I come to see U2 be human and make music. I come for the joy of it.

Put down the hammer

13 February 2008 | 1 Comment

This one is for every woman on the planet who has ever had a period, and anyone who has been inside her kill zone. It is one of the funniest damn things I have read in ages, in no small part because it is So Fucking True.

Wendi Aarons, I don’t know you, but I love you, sister. Go get ‘em.

Girls rock

12 February 2008 | Comments Off

Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and they get even more beautiful when they start to be powerful and they decide to rock. –from Girls Rock!

Go watch some beautiful powerful girls.

Of interest to writers

12 February 2008 | 1 Comment

Well, certainly of interest to this writer.

First, John Scalzi’s excellent post on the harsh realities of the business (and this follow-up). I wish I’d had this when I taught Clarion West this past summer. It would have saved a lot of conversation. I could have just said, “Go read Scalzi’s #4,” et cetera.

Speaking of which — the 2008 Clarion West workshop is now accepting applications, but put your skates on. Deadline is March 1.

Looking for an agent? Colleen Lindsay has just hung out her shingle

If you’re at all interested in screenwriting, I recommend looking back through the comprehensive coverage of the WGA strike at Deadline Hollywood Daily. If you’re not too worried about being linear, then start with this blow-by-blow reporting of the recent events leading to the recently-announced deal. And don’t just read the post — ponder the 300+ comments that follow, and what they reveal about the human cost of the strike. The last strike was in 1988, when there was no technology for this kind of immediate, urgent public discussion — and it reveals the huge losses for many below-the-line people who aren’t writers and didn’t have a choice, and the long-term damage to writers and the industry as a whole. In these comments are redline levels of excitement, despair, empowerment, uncertainty, and vitriol, interspersed with some thoughtful examinations of Hollywood business and the writer’s place in it.

Book publishing isn’t as different from Hollywood as you might think — book writers may not have a union, but we do have some of the same issues. There are lessons here for every writer.

Nicola in Santa Cruz

9 February 2008 | Comments Off

Nicola will be doing a thing at UC Santa Cruz on Tuesday, March 11. The ANWAGTHAP reading is terrific, the hypnogogic pieces are downright amazing, and Nicola herself is smart, funny and loves nothing better than to talk with people about whatever comes up.

The event is open to the public, and I’ll be in the audience to cheer her on. Join us if you happen to be in the neighborhood…

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