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Aug

5

2015

Back_to_the_future

 

Had I felt about the Civil War as I felt about “Back to the Future,” this was my visit to Fort Sumter, Gettysburg and the Appomattox Courthouse all at once. And it was the first time I realized that although we see movies as distant, expensive objects made the year before by people we will never know, they were often born in the same world that we pass through every day — they weren’t beamed to us from a far-off kingdom, but lived here, among us, in places that belonged to us, too. Their permanence could be on celluloid or server farm, in the culture at large and in our own memory, but also in concrete, soil and steel.

On the occasion of the great movie's 30th birthday, I look at the time I tried to find the real Hill Valley



Aug

5

2015

An actor playing a real-life criminal adds a loud asterisk, not so much for how we then imagine them as John Dillinger or Aileen Wuornos but how we’ll perceive them afterward. The choice to play not just evil but infamy on screen may only extend as far as that movie. But when you look at an actor’s filmography, his or her performance as the engine of a true-crime movie never stays quiet; it always says something about their body of work as a whole. 

What happens when we see a performer we recognize in the skin of an infamous person we recognize? The answer is never “It didn’t really matter.” The five outcomes we’ve seen and outlined below are how it did.

Sarah D. Bunting, a writer I admire very much, asked me to contribute to a true crime publication she edits called The Blotter. Given those conditions, how could I say no?

Above then is a piece of an essay I filed called "Criminal Career Moves" i.e. what happens to an actor's when they play a real life thug.

Here the whole bloody thing.  

 



Jun

22

2015

6a00d83451bb5369e201a3fcb95dcc970b-320wi

In February of last year, I mentioned I'd started on a new book called Brat Pack America, about locations made famous by 80s teen movies (Shermer Illinois, the Galleria Mall, the Goondocks and so forth). I predicted that book would be out by this fall. In actuality, it will come out next summer. 

That does mean, however, that it's done. At least the initial draft. Written, sent, and being edited as we speak. I'll get it back soon and be revising and editing this summer. 

Much work left to be done but the hard part's over. And I couldn't be happier



Jun

22

2015

Goonies

 

It is estimated that 10,000 fans will arrive for “The Goonies’” 30th anniversary celebration this weekend, effectively doubling the population of Astoria. No one quite remembers how Donner and executive producer Steven Spielberg chose the town as the film’s primary location — one story involves a childhood friend of Spielberg’s, another Donner’s co-producer, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest — but “no one remembers when it wasn’t going to be filmed here either,” Derek Hoffman, current vice president of Donners Company, told me.

Astoria is only mentioned once or twice in “The Goonies” and lives on-screen for about 20 minutes of a movie that takes place almost entirely in underground caves re-created on sound stages. Knowing Astoria = the Goondocks and coming here (the town is two hours from the nearest major airport in Portland) represent a kind of super merit badge of fandom.

I wrote about The Goonies 30th Anniversary for Salon. The movie was shot on location in Astoria, Oregon, a former fishing village at the mouth of the Columbia River, in November of 1984. 



Mar

23

2015

Breakfast_club

 

Try this: Watch “The Breakfast Club,” think about how much you have to do this week and then consider the last time you spent eight uninterrupted hours with a stranger and emerged the better for it? Maybe it’s by definition a rare occurrence. Or it only happens when we are young and open to it. Or it happens against our will, like when we’re stranded at an airport. Or maybe uninterrupted time in another’s presence, even for the young, the willing or the stranded feels as anachronistic in 2015 as Principal Vernon’s sharkskin suit.

In honor of its 30th birthday this spring, I wrote about The Breakfast Club and uninterrupted time for Salon

 



Mar

4

2015

"As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself.”  

--Agatha Christie 



Feb

19

2015

“Writing is a job, a craft, and you learn it by trying to write every day and by facing the page with humility and gall. And you have to love to read books, all kinds of books, good books. You are not looking for anything in particular; you are just letting stuff seep in.” 

 

-- Stephen Dobyns  (via The Writers Almanac)



Jan

30

2015

 

Each January I make a playlist of 50 songs I  discovered that year. They can be from any genre and any time in music history with only prerequisite that I first heard them in that calendar year.

Usually I "discover" around 600 new songs. I'd like to share my 50 favorite from 2014 with you. 

Playlists for 21032012 if you're curious or inclined.

You can hear them on the playlist window above. And I'd love to hear about your favorites/least favorites when you're done. 



Jan

20

2015

Dave_goelz_muppets

 

I recently spoke to Dave Goelz, the mind, voice and puppet hand behind The Great Gonzo, Zoot the Sax Player, and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew about his history with Jim Henson and his merry band of puppet pranksters.

The interview ran in Salon this past wekeend.  My favorite question:

What is Gonzo?

[laughs] We didn’t know. [Muppet head writer] Jerry Juhl wanted to answer the question, so he wrote “Muppets from Space” (1999), which revealed that Gonzo was an alien. Later, Frank Oz insisted that was just a movie, and we still don’t know what he is.

Read the whole interview



Jan

15

2015

I include trivia in each one of my newsletters. Subcribe here

  • The idea for Back to the Future came when co-writer/producer Bob Gale was visiting his parents and found his father's high school yearbook. While thumbing through, he asked himself "What would it have been like if my father and I had been in high school at the same time?" 
  • The idea for Home Alone came when writer John Hughes was about to leave on a family vacation then at the last minute scrawled down the idea "What if we left one kid at home by mistake?" 
  • The following Christmas songs were written by my people, the Jews: "White Christmas," "Let it Snow", "Santa Baby," "I'll be home for Christmas," "Silver Bells," "Winter Wonderland." 
  • The word "December" means come from the Latin word for "10," Back in ancient Rome, the calendar only counted only 10 months, beginning with March. The western calendar didn't start on January 1 until 1582, many centuries later. 
  • The reason "lbs" means "pounds also comes from ancient Rome: "LB" is an abbreviation for "libra", the Latin word "to weigh." (via 99% Invisible).