It's been a while since we've had some Mean Tweets from the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show, so let's head over there once more.
It’s always a weird experience when a friend gives me something they've written to read for my opinion. If it’s a first draft, their expectations are sky-high, though since nothing is yet set in stone there’s a little flexibility for constructive comments. (I always call them "comments," rather than "notes" which sound far more imperious, a haughty checklist of things that Must Be Followed. But it's just comments, my personal opinion. It might be good, experienced opinion, but still opinion.) The tricky part is asking them how detailed do they want my comments to be? Because I say I can be cursory or go into great detail, which might be much more than they want. And most people say, “Oh, tell me everything and be totally honest.” Though what they’re thinking is that they want to hear me say, “Okay, I am being totally honest here – not since William Faulkner has writing moved me so much. And that’s my totally honest opinion.” Anything less tends to really annoy them.
(Not everyone -- I have two talented friends who dearly love rewriting, Bart Baker and Rob Hedden. Rob actually loves rewriting so much it's almost to an obsession, to the degree that it’s become a joke, even Bart the Rewriter considers it hilarious. On the other hand, another friend always said he wanted a totally honest reaction, and after a couple of totally honest reactions for his work, I didn’t get sent any more. To be clear, it wasn’t that I didn’t like what he wrote – I did -- but the problem for him was that I didn’t think his first drafts were without flaws and needed no changes.)
Trickier, though, may be when a script or manuscript is finished, and in final form. If you see problems, there’s not much you can say. Because it really can’t be changed. So, how do you get across an honest reaction when anything critical can only hurt?
The most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever had to read was an early draft of a play by Larry Gelbart. Now, Larry was probably one of the great American TV-movie-theater writers of the 20th century. And that’s not hyperbole. Among his voluminous works were the Tony-winning Best Musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and City of Angels, Oscar nominations for Oh, God! and Tootsie, developing the TV series M*A*S*H for which he won an Emmy, the HBO movie Barbarians at the Gate, writing for the legendary Caesar’s Hour, getting 17 Emmy Nominations, being inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame and…and…and…and… (that's just the surface).
And it isn’t that I’m not at that level, but that I can barely even see it. However, Larry said he liked to give me his works because he knew I’d be honest with him. (I once asked if he had a hard time getting reactions from friends because He Was Larry Gelbart, and so they’d all be loath to tell him if there was anything they didn’t think was right? And he said, in all honesty, yes, and that was a problem. Because he knew drafts all need work, but no one would tell him what wasn't working. So, I felt an added obligation.) As I said, there was this one play he gave me -- and it was very good. And later got produced and got good reviews. But there was one scene in the early draft that I just didn’t think he got across the way he wanted. I was wary (the very low-key word) about how to tell him that, but he was appreciative with all the comments, and rewrote the scene. And it was better -- but…but (and this was the hellish part) it still didn’t work for me. So…er, um, ack, how on earth do I tell Larry Gelbart that?? When I give comments to writers, they always begin with “This is only my personal opinion.” But still… But I had to tell him, it was why he gave me the draft, and with much hesitancy and coughs and ahems I did. And he was appreciative, because that’s who he was. And addressed more changes. And happily the play got finished, was extremely good and got successfully produced.
I say all this because the other week a friend, Ed Zuckerman, gave me his new book to read. And when I say it was his new book, I don’t mean the first draft -- or even the final draft. But a hardcover copy because it’s just been published. So…aghh, what do I say if I don’t like things in it -- or don’t like it at all? "Wow, it was beautifully typeset!"
I first met Ed when we played in a weekly softball game of Writers Guild members. I tended to pitch much of the time -- and Ed is something like 6’17” (okay, yes, that’s an exaggeration, but from where I stand close to the ground, that’s how he seemed), so whenever he came to the plate, I would generally fear for my life. Usually, I prayed that we’d be on the same team.
Happily, Ed is an accomplished writer, and the book is very enjoyable. So – phew! My old concerns of pitching to him and seeing my life flash before my eyes disappeared. To put his talent is perspective, among his many credits Ed wrote on the TV series Law & Order for around 20 years, give or take. In fact, he co-wrote my favorite three-part episode for the show, their sort of version inspired by the O.J. Simpson case, which they called “D-Girl,” “Turnaround” and “Showtime.” But his credits go far beyond that, over 100 from series like Miami Vice to Star Trek: the Next Generation, JAG, Blue Bloods and a lot more, but over 50 writing credits from Law & Order. So, I knew he knows his stuff.
His novel, Wealth Management, is a financial thriller set in Geneva. It centers around three friends from Harvard business school whose lives have periodically crossed paths romantically and in their individual fields of hedge funds, international banking, and investments. And bit-by-bit, their personal and professional stories overlap with global terrorism.
What struck me is that Ed tells the story in an interesting way – moving between about a dozen characters, jumping the story around in chapters that are mostly no more than three pages. That gives the book a very cinematic feel, something I suspect was intentional because it keeps the story moving at a fast pace, which is important since a lot of the action is, in essence, about moving paper. But what I think he does best for my taste is give “backstories” to almost all the characters, and not just the main three – even including a very minor character, a Syrian street kid who does a bit of pick-pocketing, and so we learn how he got to that point. It’s not critical to the story, but it makes his character more real whenever he comes on the scene, rather than as just A Plot Point. All of this fleshes out the story a great deal, making it more involving, understanding motivations of most everyone, rather than knowing only about the main characters and relying solely on the plot to create interest.
If I had one quibble, it would be that it with three main characters and covering so many other characters – all of whom are easy to follow – I wished on occasion that it focused on just one or two main characters to feel more grounded with them on where the story was going. But ultimately, that’s not what this story is. It’s meant to be a whirlwind affair to keep you wondering, filled with various surprises. And in the end, the three main characters do create a foundation to it all.
The larger point being that it was a pleasure to tell Ed. Not that it mattered all that much, since, in fairness, the book has been published regardless of what I said. But I know that should we ever find ourselves on a baseball field again, and I’m pitching to him, there’s a good chance the bat won’t come flying at me.
To anyone interested, the book is available here.
Over the years, Sesame Street has had more than its share of cameo performances from celebrities -- and country music is no exception. I came across an article a while back with some of the more notable ones, and they're all a joy...even if you don't have kids, or like country music Here's the first, a duet between Big Bird and Waylon Jennings, doing a parody of sorts of a Jennings hit. It's sort of touching, but also funny thanks to the performance by Carroll Spiney as Bird.
Fun, too, are all the little kids dressed up as Birdketeers, which I assume is a Sesame Street joke about Mouseketeers.
The other day, CEO Joy Gendusa of PostcardMania, which is based in Florida, told employees that they should keep working through Hurricane Ian (in order to have a good end of quarter) because the hurricane was likely to be a "nothingburger." Unfortunately for her, the comments were made on video, and it became public. What I love is that, as a result of the public response and within the company, their president Melissa Bradshaw backtracked by saying that the CEO's words "weren't official company position"!!
Employee reaction was, not shockingly as I said, not positive, not just for the initial statement, but also the reversal. “There is no company worth sacrificing for,” one worker said. And another employee commented -- “She speaks for the company. She is the company. She is the boss.”
I have no idea if Ms. Gendusa is Republican. I do know that "nothingburger" has become the beloved term of disdained dismissal by the far right, after Don Jr. used the term to disdainfully dismiss meeting with with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential campaign.
You can read more about the story here.
I have several relatives in Florida, and after checking with them, all are well, happily. Three live in Miami which appears to be out of the hurricane path, though as they said, it's impossible to know which way the storm will bend and with this being King Tide season, there could be bad flooding. So, at least two of them have moved to a hotel for the night to be safe. There have been a few power outages, but it hasn't been problematic for them.
The other relative is a cousin (my mother's first cousin) who recently turned 101. So, moving around would have been a burden. But again, happily, she lives in an area that's actually somewhat protected by a small island just off the coast, with a small bay in between, and so it acts as a bit of a barrier. She lives on the fourth floor, and because the building caters to older, independent-living residents, it has generators and ample food. And her caregiver is staying with her. So, good.
As I've watched the coverage, a few thoughts have come to mind.
I wrote about one yesterday -- how I look forward to Pat Robertson chiming in, as he always does whenever a natural disaster hits a blue state and claims it's God's divine intervention, bringing retribution on the sinners of that that. No doubt he will do the same here, perhaps adding that it's God's anger at how Ron DeSantis treated Disney World.
I wish too that there was far more attention paid to how when Ron DeSantis was in the U.S. Congress, he voted against federal aide to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Because, y'know, that hit liberal East Coast states. But now he's already called in for federal assistance -- which he should -- and President Biden has offered all help that will be needed. Which he should, too, rather than snarkily smear the residents of the state for poor hurricane management, as Trump did with West Coast wildfires.
Somewhat related to this, I heard some analyst praise how Biden and DeSantis were "working together" on this, despite being such big political rivals. And my immediate reaction was -- say what???!! Ron DeSantis should get close to zero points (maybe about eight points) for "working together" with President Biden. DeSantis needs federal aide. He's asking for federal assistance. He pretty much has to "work together" with the White House. Because the very last thing he wants to do -- most especially since he's up for re-election in about one month! -- is sashay around that he alone can handle the hurricane and piss off those ready to help him. It's President Biden who is impressively "working together" with a governor who has been going out of his way to undermine the Administration and promote fascism.
I also kept thinking that for all those who don't "believe" in science and think Climate Change is a hoax, it's good to remember that meteorology is a science. And hurricanes don't care if you believe in them or not.
And finally, as I watch the news and see the crushing winds and rivers of water flowing over towns, I keep wondering why isn't Ron DeSantis telling Floridians that it's their Personal Choice if they want to go outside during the hurricane??
Mind you, I'd think it would be utterly insane to go out, but then I thought it was totally crazy not to get vaccinated. And not to wear masks.
And after all, as mind-numbingly nuts as either action would be, at least going outside during a hurricane isn't infectious and won't risk killing others...
Y'know, Personal Choice and all.
From the fine folks at The Dodo, this is a really funny, but mainly utterly adorable story about Oliver, the 14-year-old Wandering Golden Retriever. He wanders to the neighbors every day, and pretty much waits to be let in and take over, but wanders all over, and in the end, always returns home.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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