Monday, August 26, 2013

happy 93rd birthday to women's right to vote

Four score and thirteen years ago today, women got the right to vote in this country, years after it had already been granted to women in Canada, Australia, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Norway, Hungary, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Lithuania, Estonia. And oh yes, Russia. So why is it that, by most measures of gender diversity, the executive branch remains reflective of a country where "all men are created equal."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

poems as op ed?

Anthony Russo / For The Times August 11, 2013
In a gratifying departure from the usual guidelines, Los Angeles Times editors solicited views in verse for a feature dedicated to opinion poetry. Grateful to the editors for including mine among them today. And for putting poems where poetry usually isn't. A few years ago, I had the privilege helping the Poetry Society of America in their mission to get poems into ad space on subways and buses. It's surprising how many people who don't like poetry discover they do, when it crosses their path.

for sale: literary laundry

Must be the week for airing laundry of literary icons! Not only is a tell-all about reclusive JD Salinger about to break in book and film, but...Eugene O'Neill's shorts are for sale. Not THOSE shorts. I mean his real, bonafide boxers which can now be yours for a mere $1750. But even if you're not in the market for century-old skivvies, a visit to the purveyor is worth a trip if you're in the vicinity of Salisbury, CT.  Johnnycake Bookstore is a booklover's bookstore, the kind NYC used to be full of: stocked with first editions, myriad books you've meant to read and run by a friendly bibliophile who knows his stuff. (Sorry, Dan, I'm holding out for Virginia Woolf's corset.)

Proprietor Dan Dwyer chats up a customer

"With O'Neill's monogram upper left waistband, blue high-grade pima cotton, size 34, from Bullock & Jones, San Francisco. Provenance: Purchased early 80s by a book collector from Boston-area booksellers, who had acquired these, along with books and other ephemera, from the O'Neill estate when it sold off O'Neill's summer place in Marblehead Neck, MA."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

airbnb solicits your 6 secs of fame

Remember when commercials were big-budget enterprises, when Travel Depts (remember Travel Depts?) booked you First Class to LA or Bali or even the North Pole? (OK, that spot was for Coke, which I never worked on, and before my time. But still, I MIGHT have been sent there if I'd ever written polar bears into a script...) Anyhooooo. Enter fee-based compensations, risk-reward structures and procurement teams and what do you get? Crowdsourced commercials, the bane of agency confrontations with cash-strapped product managers. But clever minds at Mullen figured out how to make this all-too-frequent request work for them: don't leave creative up to the crowd. Curate the pics before you source them. Storyboard the spot. Direct the shots. Don't give up creative control. Starting today, the Airbnb twitter feed put out a call for wanna-be filmmakers to contribute their 6 second Vine to a brand film. The prompts are shot lists, well-thought out and very specific, such as a paper airplane flies thru diverse landscapes, left to right. Show the best parts of where you live! Mullen will choose and edit selects, then premier final montage online and on the Sundance Channel. All you need to enter is a piece of paper and camera phone. So much for gaffers and props masters as indisputable line items.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

winnie-the-pooh turns 92

On this day in 1921, A.A. (Alan Alexander) Milne brought home a stuffed bear for his son Christopher Robin's first birthday. A.A. was a playwright, but that writing (to his annoyance) came to be overshadowed by the success of stories he'd write about Pooh. The original Pooh, along with the rest of his son's menagerie which inspired the series-- Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Tigger--are on display in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (sadly, the new name for the New York Public Library Main Branch) in New York.
Photo: Chae Kihn

the creative process

When I was a cub copywriter burning the midnight oil on an assignment I'd gotten weeks before, one I'd just started with my partner (though it was due the next day) after many Happy Hour drinks and free food-like fried objects at The Rusty Scupper, I imagined how different things would be when I was grown-up writer, when I'd learned to master my time-management skills. But. Some things never change.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

RIP Elmore Leonard, ex-copywriter

Elmore Leonard died today, at age 87 while working on his 46th novel. Leonard wasn't always a crime writer, he began as a copywriter, writing ads for cars and trucks in Detroit where his father worked for General Motors. He stayed in advertising for 10 years, getting up at 5 am to write, staying up late to work on his stories, until finally his first crime novel, rejected 84 times, was made into a movie. His mastery of dialogue and plot was legend. No matter what you're writing, your writing can benefit
from his rules of writing:

 1. Never open a book with the weather
2. Avoid prologues
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"
5. Keep your exclamation points under control!
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use dialect sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Same for places + things.
10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

new interactive literary novel

There's a new interactive novel out today--not from a game publisher or vimeo artist, as you might expect, but from old-line, mainstream, behemoth publisher, Random House. The writer is the award-winning Marisha Pessl, author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Night Film is her second novel, a thriller that she's made into an immersive storyworld with website screen captures, old media clippings and photos that link to cyber content. But wait. How can a hardcover novel formidably grounded in the ILR world – the tome weighs in at a 600 pgs. and 1.75 lbs – be "interactive"? Yep, you guessed it – there's an app for that. In the back of her book, just before the acknowledgements, Pessl invites readers who want to continue the storyworld experience to download the free decoder app from itunes or elsewhere. The app is a scan app that lets your smartphone or tablet "read" a bird image that appears on some of the pages. Like a next-generation QR code, the bird jumps you to bonus content. Pessl isn't the first novelist to provide her readers with "extras" in cyberspace (ahem!) but she's the first one I know of to do so from the confines of an analog book. Kudos to her and to the Random House digital team for having the vision to do so and the chops to carry it off.