Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Strike Beard

There is an interesting piece in the Talk of the Town section of the current New Yorker about the beards being grown as a sign of support for the writer's guild strike. Perhaps the most famous of the beards belong to David Letterman and Conan O'Brien. Jay Leno's conspicuous chin is notable for the absence of a beard, and he is about to pay a fine to the WGA as a consequence of going back to work.

The New Yorker piece is interesting to me less for the connection to the strike and more about how beards are often the result of a transitions in men's lives. "Thus we get Al Gore after the election (whiskers of grievance and release), and Ted Kaczynski in his cabin (isolation and madness), and Johnny Damon with the Red Sox (superstition)-all iconic beards in their proper context."

To that list you can add me (lazy, cold), but not so iconic. Just coincidently, but perhaps not, I stopped shaving just before the new year. We'll see how it goes. I have had a beard a few times before, just as they said in the New Yorker during times of transition. For me it was right after 9-11. I was on vacation during the event and was not shaving and just kept going for awhile until I needed to get on a plane and looked a little too Atta-esque. The last time was a couple of years ago when I had a little brush with my own mortality and had a beard for about six months.

I hope the strike ends soon.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Experimental Witch

The author Paulo Coelho is doing something interesting with his latest novel, The Witch of Portobello. Instead of selling the film rights to Hollywood he is inviting his readers and filmmakers to participate in making the movie. The plan is as simple as it is cutting edge. It takes advantage of all things internet and I am sure it is a great piece of publicity for the book and author.

Here are the broad strokes.

1) You select a character and chapter you want to make a short film about. The synopsis from Publishers Weekly (via Amazon) is below.

2) You register on his website. The first 200 valid filmmakers get chosen to submit a short film.

3) You post the film to You Tube and the winning chapters will be selected. Each winning filmmaker gets a 3,ooo Euro prize.

I think it's a great idea and will sign up just to be part of it. If I get selected all the better. But mostly I think it is a great way to for an artist to share his work with others. I hope many (i.e. student readers) filmmakers register.


From Publishers Weekly
Multimillion-seller Coelho (The Devil and Miss Prym, etc.) returns with another uncanny fusion of philosophy, religious miracle and moral parable. The Portobello of the title is London's Portobello Road, where Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, finds the worship meeting she's leading—where she becomes an omniscient goddess named Hagia Sophia—disrupted by a Protestant protest. Framed as a set of interviews conducted with those who knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens, the story recounts her birth in Transylvania to a Gypsy mother, her adoption by wealthy Lebanese Christians; her short, early marriage to a man she meets at a London college (one of the interviewees); her son Viorel's birth; and her stint selling real estate in Dubai. Back in London in the book's second half, Athena learns to harness the powers that have been present but inchoate within her, and the story picks up as she acquires a "teacher" (Deidre O'Neill, aka Edda, another interviewee), then disciples (also interviewed), and speeds toward a spectacular end. Coelho veers between his signature criticism of modern life and the hydra-headed alternative that Athena taps into. Athena's earliest years don't end up having much plot, but the second half's intrigue sustains the book. (May)
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some Thoughts About Chevy Chase

A few weeks ago Chevy Chase came to Flashpoint to talk to our students and I didn't have the time to blog about his appearance, but he has been on my mind so better late than never.

I want to begin by saying that until meeting him, I didn't really think anything about Chevy Chase. I liked him on SNL 30+ years ago and a few of his movie appearances, but that was about it. However, after meeting him and seeing him talk I have become a fan. The following are some of my highlights of his hour speaking to students. First off he was very funny almost the entire time. It is clear he just is funny.

1) Collaboration. Almost the first thing out of his mouth. He talked about how important it is in the arts to work and collaborate with others. As faculty we preach that all the time, but somehow I think coming from a star it will have more impact.

2) The importance of writing. He credits his success to being a writer first and a performer second. Again, as faculty we talk about developing students' writing skills. This, too, I hope will sink in.

3) He is really smart. It is clear he is well read and can draw from a wealth of knowledge.

4) His comedic influences. His father, a noted political and social commentator. Chevy told a very funny story about how a few years ago his father cracked up Mike Wallace and others at the US Open tennis matches by referring to the ball boys as an 11 letter epithet that begins with C that years ago got Lenny Bruce arrested. The point being that anarchy and surprise are a big part of his comedic background. He also cited Groucho and Ernie Kovacs (Chevy and I have something in common afterall) as major influences on his career.

5) Schools. He admitted as a young person he had issues and was sent to "nurturing" schools. He wished he had a place- like Flashpoint- that would have allowed him to be himself.

6) In the middle of his talk, sort of out of nowhere, he launched into "Live from New York it's Saturday Night!" When he did I got goose bumps and it surprised me. I had that "Wow, it's really him," moment.

I hope our students got as much out of him as I did. Last week I flipped on the TV and there he was in Christmas Vacation. Not a great film, but I watched for awhile out of my new found respect for Chevy Chase.