Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Art of Renting a DVD

It is a truth that must be universally acknowledged that video rental stores are stocked with rubbish.

I don't mean to sound like a snob. I know that every book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble isn't holy writ or deathless prose. Still, I marvel when I hear stories about how difficult it is to "greenlight" a film project, how only a few scripts out of thousands actually get produced.

And then I go to Blockbuster and see the walls lined with movies whose existence offers compelling evidence that the devil exists--and he has a producing gig with a major studio.

Having spent a fair amount of time wandering from desultory shelf to shelf, each of which is stocked withs scores of DVDs which serve as a chilling testament to the decay of art of storytelling. I herewith offer a few guidelines for the increasingly difficult search for a quality film:

1. Avoid anything with a half-naked woman on the cover. Overt sexiness is the most common tactic to distract from what David Putnam once called "the poverty of ideas."

2. A film that is foreign made is not necessarily a mark of excellence (has anyone ever seen a German comedy? What an oxymoron). Still, the fact that it made it to an American video store suggests that enough people liked it to convince cautious film distributors to show it to an audience not known for their love of subtitles.

3. If something strikes your fancy, write down the name, go home and do a web search. Somebody out in the blogsphere probably has seen it already and offered an opinion.

Any other recommended guidelines?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Literary Quote of the Week

For soldiers and their sweethearts.

"Touch her soft mouth, and march."
William Shakespeare Henry V

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Florida Living: Purchasing Your Sprummer Wardrobe

Florida does not have four seasons. It has two, which I will refer to as "sprummer" and "falter" which the verbally adept among you will quickly recognize as amalgams of spring/summer and fall/winter.

"Falter" which usually encompasses the months from early November to early/mid February is the shorter of the two seasons--and getting shorter it seems each year. This season is distinguished not so much by the presence of cool (let alone) cold weather, but rather by the absence of the humidity usually so abundant in Florida--and which causes Floridians to look soaked if they stand outside for at least 90 seconds.

Shopping for sprummerware is more of matter of having a discerning touch than eye. One must, upon feeling the fabric of the clothing in question, sense that it is sufficiently porous to allow the passage of air easily while being substantive enough to absorb several hours worth of heavy perspiration. Many t-shirts sold by national clothing chains, for example, are made of a fabric too heavy to be accomodating in subtropical weather. Personally, I find 50% cotten/50% polyester to be a good combination.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Terror of Being a Parent

"Grief is the price we pay for loving." - Queen Elizabeth II

Recently, the New York Times reported the tragic death of a toddler in New York who was killed by a stray bullet while his mother was taking him to visit relatives for Easter. The child was not walking or sitting in a carriage, but was instead strapped into a child safety seat inside the family van, which was in motion when the bullet struck.

The bullet was the result of the usual moronic street argument between a couple of evolutionary throwbacks who saw gunfire as a means of resolving a dispute.

In the past (pre-parenthood), upon hearing such awful news, I would experience a wave of sympathy for the grieving parents. Since becoming a father, my response to such tragedies has changed. Sympathy has been replaced by a stab of empathetic pain.

There is a terrible irony in the way this child died. Family vans & safety chairs are supposed to be special shields of invulnerability, weapons devised by our modern ingenuity to help us avoid or diminish the ominpresent dangers of this too imperfect and frequently sinister world. With this latest catastrophe, it's as if evil itself evolved, like a virus, to circumvent our latest defenses.

When you become a parent, you realize the world is ruled by rough magic--that small, wonderful infuriating creatures actually do exist, but that they can be snatched away at any time by forces dark and malevolent. The tools at your disposal--small bottles of mashed, carefully cooked food, the plugs for electrical outlets, the protective latch on the car seat--are like charms used to ward off evil spirits.

Yet despite, the dark and scary wood one must traverse as a parent, I do not regret setting out on it. Come what may, my life is the richer for it.

The Three Elements of Stagecraft

In an NPR interview, Anna Deveare Smith alluded to three areas of knowledge that a successful playwright must have

1. Creative Intuition (or "talent" as she put it)
2. Knowledge of craft
3. Knowledge of the business

2 and 3 can be taught.

She also posed the question: "Do you want to be in the arts to have your name well known or do you want to show the world something through your eyes?"

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Downside of Blogging for the Would-Be Book Writer

An article on Slate suggests that blogging might undermine a writer's career.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Cornell Method of Notetaking

The Cornell method of notetaking is as follows:

1. Record what is said on the right side of the paper;

2. Reduce the information into fewer words or headings on the left side of the paper;

3. Recite the information to be remembered, covering the information on the right side of the paper and using the headings as prompts;

4. Reflect on the material and incorporate it into previous knowledge; and

5. Review the information periodically to facilitate its permanent storage into memory.