ON THE WAY TO OUR DREAMS

He wanted to be a movie star, on the silver screen. I wanted to be an author. Somehow on our way to our dreams, we found our way to the college radio station. A puny thing, just 10 watts when Garry and I met in the tiny studios under the Little Theater. I was 17, Garry 22. He was a little older than most of the undergrads because at 17, he’d enlisted in the Marines and by the time he got out, a few years had passed.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLWe found the radio station by accident, but it fit. Garry stayed and became its Program Director. I hung around and began dating the Station Manager, who coincidentally was Garry’s best friend. Which is where our personal history gets a bit tangled and hard to explain, so I won’t. I was the Chief Announcer. Even though I knew I wanted to be in print, not electronic media, the radio station was a great place to try out new skills. There were scripts to be written, newsletters to create. And I had my own radio show and a whole bunch of great friends, most of whom are still great friends.

We were all oddballs. Creative and talented. Almost all of us went on to careers in media and the arts. We turned out a couple of authors, audio engineers, talk show hosts, DJs, TV and radio producers, news directors, commercial writers, college professors and Garry, a reporter whose career spanned 45 years, 31 at Channel 7 in Boston.

Surprisingly little footage of Garry’s on the air career  survived and until someone found this clip, we had nothing from his years at ABC Network. An old friend of Garry’s sent us this footage from 1969, the last year Garry was at ABC before he jumped to television. It’s a promotional piece for ABC News and features faces and voices from the past … and one young up and coming fellow, Garry Armstrong.

Let us return to those days of yesteryear, when television cameras used film and there was a war raging in Vietnam. 1969, the year my son was born, the year of Woodstock, the end of an era, the beginning of everything else.

Look at the equipment circa 1969. Antiquated by today’s technical standards, but the standards by which the news itself was gathered and reported were incomparably higher than what passes for news reportage today.

THE WHOLE GUN THING – I DON’T GET IT

I don’t get it. I’ve been listening to arguments against gun control since I was a child. When I was six, I didn’t understand why anyone would not want guns regulated. I do not understand it today when I am 66.

Our family has a Red Ryder Daisy BB rifle with which we shoot paper targets. My son inherited his father’s target 22. It’s a pretty thing. Holds a single shell and is intended for competition target shooting. My son keeps it clean, oiled, and unloaded. I assume it works, though no one has used it in a long time.

Red Ryder BB gun

I like target shooting and I’m a good shot. I’ve never killed anything, not counting bugs … and you won’t get any apologies from me on that score. If insects stay outside, that’s okay with me. In my domain? Bugs get as dead as I can squash them.

But the whole gun thing. The fascination with guns, the passion for them. The belief that we need to have them because if not, “they” will take away our freedom? Who are “they” and what exactly do they want? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anything much that anyone would want. Frankly, if you want it that badly, geez, just take it. I’m not going to die for anything I own. They’re just things.

WHAT FREEDOMS DO YOU WANT?

At the risk of asking a stupid question, what freedom are “they” coming to take away? My right to have a blog? Is this blog so important that someone is going to bring the swat-mobile to stop me from posting? How about my right to take photographs? Does anyone care that much? The right to pay my bills? You can have that freedom. Please, take it. No guns required. My right to own a car? That’s pretty well-regulated already. Watch TV? Charter Communications owns me. Feel free to take Charter Communications, however. Just leave me WiFi.

How about phone calls? I’m in thrall to the cable company and AT&T already. Could the government be worse? I tend to doubt it. My calls — and yours — are already monitored by the NSA. Seriously, exactly what freedoms are “they” going to take and why would “they” bother?

Virtually every aspect of life is regulated. You can’t cut hair or sell insurance without a license. You can’t own or drive a car without a license, registration and insurance. Most places, you need to get a license to build an extension on your house, change the wiring, remodel your kitchen or put up a new roof. You need a license for your dogs and cats.

We aren’t connected to town water or sewage, so we pay whatever it costs to keep our well healthy and our septic functional. If they ever put in city water and sewer, I’m sure we’ll be required to hook up and pay some ridiculous amount of money to do it.  With all the perils, I prefer my own water. As of this writing, the air is free. If someone figures out how to regulate it, I’m sure they will. And sin. That’s free, but there’s always (heh) syntax.

traffic-jam

So what is such a big deal about requiring gun licensing and registration? We control and limit citizens’ access to pretty much everything. Why are guns sacred? Don’t talk to me about the Constitution. We have reinterpreted the constitution to align with the realities of modern life over and over again. There is no reason guns can’t be treated the same way as anything else.

The arguments against sensible gun control are stupid. If we control who can drive a car and how that car can be driven and there are a staggering number of traffic regulations enforced with considerable vigor, why can’t we exert at least as much control over weapons? You can’t drive drunk, how come you can walk around drunk with a gun? To whom does this make sense? Not me. I’m flummoxed by the illogic.

I would never want to limit my right — or yours —  to own a car, unless there’s good reason. Such as eyesight so poor you are not able to safely operate a vehicle. Or your having been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or being unable to pay for at least minimal insurance and registration. Or you can’t pass the driver’s test. It would be irresponsible to give licenses to blind, drunk, or incapable drivers, wouldn’t it? How could equivalent oversight not be appropriate for guns? Seriously?

Butch Cassidy’s gun sold for $175,000.

MY “SO SIMPLE IT’S ALMOST STUPID” GUN CONTROL PLAN

To own a gun, you have to pass a test to make sure you know how to shoot and care for a weapon. You become obligated to keep it out of the wrong hands. You need to be able to see well enough to properly aim a gun and be able to hit a target. You need pass a background check so we know you aren’t a felon or a dangerous wacko.

You have to register your guns. All of them. You must know where they are and you may not lend them to anyone. If a gun is lost or stolen, you must report it. You need gun liability insurance on every weapon you own that contains a firing pin. If a weapon registered to you gets used in an illegal act, causes harm to others — with or without your consent — you are responsible for damages. If you don’t go to jail, you can still wind up in court.

OldJail-300-72

The nation, as well as individual states and counties can tax your weapons and refuse to license weapons deemed inappropriate for private owners. If you want a weapon that is considered unsuitable, you will have to get a different license, not to mention provide an explanation.

Simple, isn’t it? We license cars because cars are potentially dangerous; you can kill someone with a car. All this regulation doesn’t mean we don’t own cars. Obviously we own a lot of cars. We simply try to control who is allowed to drive and keep track of who owns what. It doesn’t mean we can keep every drunk off the road, prevent all accidents or stop joy-riding kids, but we do the best we can.

I have yet to hear a coherent argument against this plan — probably because there isn’t any. Guns should be regulated like every other dangerous thing.

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

cropped-75-sunflowernk-2.jpg

It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.

UncleWalterOld

He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.

murrow

I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network – a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

Daily Prompt: If you feel successful, you are.

96-90,000Hits-NK-1

You can’t write about success  without defining the term. Success is relative, after all. When I started blogging, success was ten hits in a day, five of which were no doubt my husband. Then, as numbers rose, I  began to get the hang of it. The election kicked into high gear and a monster storm battered the east coast. I wrote about them and began to see pretty large numbers. My expectations rose accordingly, while simultaneously, my definition of success subtly altered.

September 8, 2012

September 8, 2012

Driving home last night from the Cape, I began thinking about where I am these day with my blog. I passed 90,000, close to 91,000 now. When it gets to 100,000 … I’ll celebrate. Maybe. Or when my followers, now at 476 (more or less, last I checked) hit 500.

The thing is, my numbers have slowed. Or maybe stabilized … sort of. I could push to speed them up … but I don’t want to. Because that would mean I’d have to write about things only to pull people in rather than what I feel like writing about. If I do that, I won’t have so much fun. My readership seems more or less steady. I’ve got friends out there. Maybe that is success.

My most popular all time post was written during a five-minute commercial interruption of the 2012 première episode of Criminal Minds. Over a thousand hits came pouring in for it in about an hour plus another few hundred over the next few days and many more in the months since. It remains my highest drawing post. When the season première came around in England, I got 1400 hits in one hour. It’s time has, I think, finally expired. I used to get a steady 50 or more hits a day from it, but it no longer makes the top 10. Just as well. It was a false statistic and only obscured the more important numbers.

I always know when the episode is playing somewhere because each time it shows, anywhere on earth, in rerun or as a new series, I get another thousand or so hits. The last time was the middle of June when a rerun of the episode was on cable and I got just under 900 hits in about an hour and another 300 the next day. Sure does goose up those stats, eh?

June 2013

June 2013

What have I learned from this? If you want to be popular, write about television shows. Be lucky. It helps if Google has you at the top — or near — of the search results. I wrote a little piece quickly, published it within a couple of minutes. It accounts for 10,111 total hits: The FBI can’t do a simple Google search?

In second position for all time hits, with a solid showing of 5,043 hits is a joke about cell phones and Albert Einstein. I copied and pasted it from Facebook: The man who saw the future …

Other very successful posts (in a viral kind of way) include reblogs, tech reviews, and photo galleries. The pictures never go “viral” like writing can, but good pictures get looked at. Nice and steady.

August 2012

August 2012

And well-written articles get read. Not as much as pictures get looked at, though. In the grand scheme of things, probably 75% of my followers come for photography. Which is okay. I make pretty pictures. Photography has been an important hobby for more than 40 years, though writing and editing has been my profession. I’ll bet a lot of people who follow me don’t think of me as a writer at all, but as a photographer.

We have, some of us, many lives. I have one friend who still thinks of me as a musician. When we were closest, back in college, we were both musicians. He stayed a musician, or at least, music has remained the center of his world, even if performing is no longer how he earns his daily bread. Me? I didn’t entirely abandon music, but I went back to writing — my first love, nearest and dearest to my heart. And stayed there for nearly 50 years. I took pictures too. But never professionally.

December 2012

December 2012

The thing is, I write about what I love and many of them, being books, are not my most popular posts. I also write about history and love those articles because ferreting out obscure historical stuff is fun. Doing it makes me feel like “The Time Detective.” If only numbers counted as success, these not-so-popular posts would disappear. Sure, I wish more people read them but I don’t write just for numbers. If that were the single reason to keep blogging, it would be work.

Blogging would stop being fun — and I would stop blogging. I would be poorer for my loss and maybe, here and there, a few others would note my disappearance.

Fortunately, there are times and areas where high interest (on the public side) and my interest (on the writing end) coincide. That’s when things get a little “hot.” Comments and hits roll and it’s fun, but I know the curve will continue to roll up and down and I have to live with that or become something I don’t want to be.

The real bottom line success is I love writing, love the interchange with readers. Love the conversations, pictures, life stories, new relationships. I love reviewing new books, even though they are my least popular posts.

The Best Moment Award - April 2013 from Mike Smith

The Best Moment Award – April 2013 from Mike Smith.

I am mad about books and being even a tangential part of that world makes me happy. That IS success, though there’s no statistical way to compile it.

I’m not a one-subject, focused blogger. When big events or issues are in the news, I write about them and reap a statistical bump from them. I enjoy it when it happens and if I can tie in news and other trendy stuff to this blog, I do. But I won’t force the issue.

- – -

Daily Prompt: The Stat Connection – How to make friends and influence people

My most popular all time whiz-bang post was written during a five-minute commercial interruption of the 2012 première episode of Criminal Minds. Over a thousand hits came pouring in for that post plus another few hundred over the next few days and many more in the months since. It remains my highest drawing post. When the season première came around in England, I got 1400 hits in one hour.

shadow me

I always know when the episode is playing somewhere because each time it shows, anywhere on earth, in rerun or as a new series, I get another thousand or so hits. The last time was the middle of June when a rerun of the episode was on cable and I got just under 900 hits in about an hour and another 300 the next day. Sure does goose up those stats, eh?

swan 93

What have I learned from this? If you want to be popular, write about television shows and be lucky. Make sure Google puts you at the top of the search for that thing, whatever it is. Because that’s what drives them to me. Not my brilliant writing, not the extraordinary subject matter. I wrote a little piece quickly, without much thought, published it within a couple of minutes. It accounts for 10,111 total hits. I have no idea what kind of lesson to take from that. Do you? You may read it here: The FBI can’t do a simple Google search?

In second position for all time hits, with a solid showing of 5,043 hits is a joke about cell phones and Albert Einstein. I copied and pasted it from Facebook. It’s funny, but it’s not exactly a cogent, well-written commentary on the human condition. I’ve written shopping lists with deeper meaning. In the name of scientific inquiry, feel free to give this your full attention: The man who saw the future …

Finally in the number three position with 2,645 hits is a reblog of an article comparing two Olympus cameras, the PEN PL-5 and the PEN PM-2. It gets from 20 to 100 hits a day, every day since I published it about a year ago. Apparently if you are shopping for Olympus cameras, you are more likely to find me than the original author. The mystery of Google strikes again. You will enjoy this if you are buying a new mirrorless camera. The information is excellent and if I’d written it myself, I’d be prouder still: Olympus E-PL5 vs. Olympus E-PM2, a surprise. I bought the PM2, by the way. I already owned the PL-1 and P3.

There is no connection between these posts other than they hit the public fancy and placed well on Google’s search engine. One was written by someone else, another is a well-known Internet joke, and third comments about a popular TV show and involves hunting serial killers. What it proves to me? Popularity has little to do with good writing, meaningful subject matter, or even good taste. Taken by themselves, statistics are worse than meaningless: they are deceptive. If you can find another interpretation, I’m all ears.

Rarely are your best efforts your most popular posts. So far, never. The pieces of which I’m the most proud often languish unnoticed while articles written in haste with little thought, but about popular subjects do very well. On the rare occasions when a piece I’m genuinely proud of does well, I glow.

75-Cyclone-NK-066

Meanwhile, by dint of working really hard at finding interesting, entertaining and valuable subjects to write about, I’ve got almost 85,000 hits, more than 400 followers, about 1200 posts and Word Press has never found a single thing I’ve written or photographed worthy of being Freshly Pressed. Not a single picture or post. That boggles my mind too because I’ve read a lot of the freshly pressed material and can’t remember any of it. It was smooth reading and totally forgettable. Maybe I’m trying too hard.

Some days I wonder why I bother? I could just go find stuff on the Internet and reblog it and get fantastic numbers. But then I slap myself on the face and remind me I don’t do it for the numbers or even for the recognition, though I certainly wouldn’t mind positive input.

75-UP-NIK-17

I do it because I love it. The writing, the photography, the relationships. I really, truly love it. So until I just wear out and give up from sheer exhaustion, I guess you are all stuck with me.

Other recent top entries, many of which are informational and/or technical should not surprise me because I was a technical writer for 35 years and I write a good reference stuff. After all those years, you’d figure I’d have a grip on that, at least. So here’s a list of my most popular posts (not in order, but overall hit count showing). Within the list are contain some pieces I think are pretty good. Well-written and containing interesting or useful information, or just an opinion I’m glad someone found worth reading.

Why tablets can’t replace computers. And why they shouldn’t. (301 hits)

Amazon Kindle Fire 7-Inch HD: 13-months later (369 hits)

The Felix Castor Series, Mike Carey (359 hits) 

How many states are trying to secede? (843 hits)

Things that go bump in the night (354 hits)

Gazing through to the other side: Hollywood and Moral Character (751 hits)

Where do the swans go? (334 hits) (photo gallery)

Old Coney Island Impressions (306 hits) (photo gallery)

Nothing ties these articles together. Not theme, style, subject matter. The only thing they share is (with two glaring exceptions) the author — me. What should I make of this? You tell me. I don’t like any of the conclusions I draw.

The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

On NewYorker.com
pageturner_twitter_final-580.jpg

I was in the Time magazine archives recently, doing research for my biography of J. D. Salinger, when I pulled open a drawer and found a small box containing a bunch of discarded typewriter heads for the I.B.M. Selectric typewriter—the cutting-edge writing technology of my youth. I had written, or tried to write, my first stories while sitting before this ominously humming machine. At its center was a typeball—like a golf ball with letters—that leapt up to punch each letter onto the page with astonishing violence. Hitting a key was like firing a shot. A sentence was a strafing machine gun.

It seemed, at the time, like a radical innovation, but now I think of it as part of a unified group that includes everything from the quill to the word processor and the early forms of the P.C. All these technologies, however different they made the experience of composition, produced writing that was, at first, for the eyes of the writer alone.

I picked up the box, handled the metal orbs, the many tiny letters. Even in their diminished state, the little alphabet-planets retained some of their punishing, mechanical glamour. I put them back in their box and took a picture, which I then tweeted, along with a hashtag that seemed to speak for the charms of antique technology: #IBM.

Though Twitter is not exactly a new writing technology, it is a technology that is affecting a lot of writers. It used to be a radical cri de coeur to claim, “We live in public.” Like many mantras of the cyber-nineties, this turns out to be mostly true, but misses an even larger truth: more and more, we think in public. For writers, this is an especially strange development.

***

I sometimes wonder how the great writers of the past would handle the Twitter predicament. Would they ignore it or engage and go down the rabbit hole? Who are the really unlikely tweeters from literary history? Would Henry James, whose baroque sentences could never have been slimmed down into a hundred and forty characters, have disdained Twitter?

Most great writers could, if they wanted to, be very good at Twitter, because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line. But some writers achieve their effect through an accumulation, or make sense via sentences that are, by themselves, on the far edge of making sense. (Robert Musil comes to mind.) Not everyone is primed to be a modern-day Heraclitus, like Alain de Botton, who starts each day, it seems, by cranking up his inner fortune-cookie machine and producing a string of tweets that are, to varying degrees, sour, funny, fatalistic, and bitingly true. It’s a comedian’s form. The primal tweet may be, “Take my wife, please!”

Gertrude Stein, with her gnomish, arty, aphoristic tendencies, would seem to be ideal. “There is no there there” may be one of the great proto-tweets.

- – -

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Really interesting article! If you blog and write, you should read it.

See on www.newyorker.com

Marilyn’s Desert Island Eight – Movies I never tire of!

Eight movies to have on a desert island? So many movies … but if I had to make the choice, here they are!

The Lion In Winter

The Lion in Winter (1968 film)

The Lion in Winter (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Awesome performances by everyone, from Hepburn and O’Toole, to Anthony Hopkins in his first screen role. Wonderful script and matchless screen chemistry. It’s not accurate history … but the interaction of the members of the family is surprisingly close if you want to examine only the emotional content. In the end, it’s all about the performances. From top to bottom, every performance is extraordinary. Hepburn got an Oscar, one of three wins for the film. Many more nominations plus three Golden Globes. All well-deserved.

The Americanization of Emily

Cover of "The Americanization of Emily"

Paddy Chayevsky‘s script is among the best movie scripts of all time. Add superb performances by James Garner and Julie Andrews in her first dramatic role. The whole movie would be worth it just for Garner’s monologue on war. But there’s so much more. It’s funny, sharp, downright brilliant.

The cast knew they’d never have a better job. All of them list this movie as the favorite or as one of the top one or two of their professional lives. Roles like this don’t come along often in any actor’s career. The actors showed their appreciation by working their hearts out. Everyone is at the top of his or her game.

Tombstone

This is one of those movies that I like better each time I watch it … and I watch it often. We can recite dialogue with it. It’s got everything you want a western to have: passion, revenge, violence, humor and brilliant cinematography. It’s Val Kilmer‘s best performance and arguably Kurt Russell‘s shining moment.

This is my go to movie if I need a revenge and violence fix. It manages to have a satisfying body count without the gore. I like that in a movie.

Maybe it isn’t one of the all time greatest films, but reminds me of some of the best of times in my life as well as music I dearly love. It’s funny, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, a loving parody. It’s a warm-hearted and nostalgic look at a time many of us look back on with great affection. The music manages to be humorous and good — a difficult act to pull off.

Casablanca

Not the most original choice, but it’s so good and it has worn well despite the years. We saw it on the big screen not long ago. Wonderful. It’s pure mythology, but it’s the way we wish it had been. I need heroes.

Three Oscar wins — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay plus nominations for just about every member of the cast. Seeing it on the big screen was like seeing it for the first time and gave me an even better appreciation of the brilliant script.

Blazing Saddles

It’s hard to pick just one Mel Brooks movie, but if I have to choose, this has to be the one. It was a tough choice. “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety,” and “History of the World, Part I” are right up there too. “Blazing Saddles” wins because it’s got some of the all-time great movie lines. That’s HEDLEY Lamar!

Starman

Science fiction movies usually disappoint me because they aren’t science fiction, but westerns in space using spacecraft for horses, featuring millions of dollars of special effects, but no script. This is all acting. A fine script, wonderful performances, romantic, touching and believable. A great performance — underrated — by Jeff Bridges. And I almost forgot to mention the haunting score. Rarely mentioned, it’s the best kind of science fiction … concept and character based. And unforgettable.

The Three and Four Musketeers (1973 – 1974)

I know they were issued as two movies, but they were filmed as one. The stars of the film(s) sued the studios since they had only been paid for one movie, and they won. Nonetheless, both movies play like a single film in two parts. You can’t watch one without the other. They keep remaking it, but none of the others come near this version. It’s fast, funny, and surprisingly true to the books. Dumas would have been pleased. I love the sword fights. I used to fence in college, and this has some of the best choreographed fencing I’ve ever seen. It’s not the elegant fencing you usually see, but brawling — the way men really fought — not to get points for good form, but to win without getting sliced up.

- – -

And that’s my eight. If I could pick a hundred more, I wouldn’t run out of choices. Oh, and I might change my mind tomorrow!

- – -

Gazing through to the other side: Hollywood and Moral Character

Blitzen Trapper

When I got 1000 hits in about half an hour, I knew that they must be rebroadcasting this season’s premier episode of Criminal Minds. I’ve written more than 1000 posts, but this is the one that gets the most hits.

So, it must be the perfect time to re-post this piece. The question is whether or not the plot used in the premier show of season 8 of “Criminal Minds” is based on a song by a group named Blitzen Trapper, whose lead singer/lyricist is Eric Earley. This comes up each time the show airs, which is how come I get all these hits on that post.

To settle the issue once and for all — or until the show airs again — one of my correspondents is a producer on Criminal Minds. He assures me the group is being compensated and nothing underhanded is going on. I’m grateful to discover things are not as bad as they seem. It’s so rare. Usually, whatever is going on, things are worse than I imagined possible.

A screenshot of the BAU Team on the jet.

A screenshot of the BAU Team on the jet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve gotten a bunch of emails from people who seem otherwise intelligent yet against all reason believe big corporations would never take advantage of “little people,” and certainly would never commit (gasp) plagiarism. What makes this belief bizarre is that the corporations under discussion are run for and by people in show business. Unless my correspondents are living on a different planet than me, why would they think this? Have these people displayed such high moral character that they are incapable of illegal or immoral behavior? Could anyone be that naïve?

Apparently yes.

Corporations spend millions of dollars on public relations and advertising campaigns designed to convince us that they have our best interests at heart. They are entitled to give it their best shot, but why would anyone actually believe them? How has any corporation ever shown itself  to be on any side but its own? And show business folks? These are not people famous for moral turpitude. Plagiarism is ridiculously commonplace. I don’t know a writer with hopes of breaking into “the business” who hasn’t had a piece of work stolen. Here’s how it works.

You go for an interview. You bring your story idea, your script, manuscript, lyrics, arrangement, proposal, whatever. You present it to the person to whom you hope to sell it. You make your pitch, praying this is the big score you’ve been waiting for. Alas, it is another rejection. You’re used to rejection. It comes with the territory.

A few months later, a new television series is introduced that has an identical storyline to the one you were trying to sell to that very production studio. A few relatively minor details have been altered, but you recognize it and so do all your friends.

Wathcha gonna do, eh? You’re going to sue the studio? Take the network to court? Bring suit against the record label? You have that kind of money and clout? If you were pitching your material, you are probably broke. They’ve got armies of lawyers. You’ve got your paycheck and tips from waiting on tables while you try to finish your next piece. Only in the Bible does David win. Goliath wins in the real world.

There is a great deal of plagiarism in television and movies, so much that the relevant lawsuits rarely make the news any more.

In the software world, accusations of intellectual property theft have reached the point where, after endless legal battles between Microsoft and Apple, every major manufacturer is suing every other manufacturer for copyright infringement. Who wins? Since everyone steals from everyone else and everyone is guilty to some extent, the winner is the company with the best lawyers or the most political influence. And of course, who paid off who.

Oh no, that doesn’t happen, you cry! Our legal system can’t be bought and sold. Right. And the tooth fairy left you a buck under your pillow last night. No really, she did. Honest! My congressman told me, so it must be true.

Public servants are as honest as the day is long. Corporations care about you and me. Hollywood and television executives are persons of the highest moral character. The moon is made of green cheese. Tomorrow I’m going to sprout wings and fly.

In this case, I believe my source, that Blitzen Trapper is being duly compensated and the worst crime involved is bad scriptwriting, which is not illegal, though it ought to be. The writers assumed the audience would not Google the song lyric within the first 10 seconds after the show’s characters said “there’s no reference to it anywhere.” Obviously they think we the audience are incompetent and stupid. It’s infuriating but it’s not against the law. Yet.

Just when I’m getting on my high horse about how we aren’t as dumb as they think we are, I get letters from readers proving that a lot of people may really be that dumb, or at least that naïve. I find this scary. Hell, these people are allowed to vote!

My signature line on email uses the following quote: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” – Robert Hanlon

In this case, for this show, I may have attributed to malice that which was in fact adequately explained by stupidity. That’s their excuse, but what excuse do you have for believing propaganda paid for by people who would squash you like a bug without a second thought?

I don’t get it. Maybe someone can explain it to me,

As I Went Down In The River To Pray

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

As I Went Down In The River To Pray, Northern Ambassadors Choir and more … See on euzicasa.wordpress.com

Some wonderful music and  a great video clip from one of my favorite movies, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).