New Year’s Preview

Twenty Nineteen topics I plan to write about on this blog include an app for the Church of Scientology, a newly revised book by Thomas Sowell and a song by Smashing Pumpkins. After 10 years of writing this informal forum for my thoughts on movies, culture and ideas, with today’s media market getting thinner and dimmer and more fragmented, it’s time to focus on other forms.

Proposals and copy for aviation and military defense technology as well as uncredited fiction and non-fiction for screen and publication are among assignments I wrote last year. I also develop projects for customers in construction, real estate, movies, journalism and literature.

I regard the blog as advertising. Readership has increased and I’ve kept it informal, but the blog takes effort to sustain. Accordingly, I started a PayPal donation campaign to support my writing, including this blog. Please consider making a donation.

Buy the Book

What’s to come includes new movie, television, book and stage reviews. I’m looking forward to attending local theater productions in Southern California. I look forward to seeing and writing about a new stage production starring Psych‘s Dule Hill as Nat “King” Cole. I plan to review a show at the Wallis Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills this month. Comedienne Julia Sweeney will be staging another one-woman show, which I’m excited to see. The same goes for a new production of a play by Sophocles which one of my mentors calls one of eight great plays.

I also aim to write about apps, TV shows and, of course, classic movies. I’ll be posting an exclusive interview soon with screenwriter and director Robert Benton, with whom I recently met for an interview again, this time in Hollywood, to honor the 40th anniversary of his underrated Oscar-winning Best Picture, Kramer vs. Kramer and the 35th anniversary of his seminal film Places in the Heart. I’ve received positive feedback to my classic movie writings. There are more analyses to come. I am exploring possibilities to publish books of my interviews, reviews and other writings.

A few of my short stories are in contest contention. I continue to teach media and writing to adults in Southern California. Last year, I hosted an alumni networking event in a small venue near Hollywood. Current and former students met, mixed and talked about first-look deals, options, events, readings and tips, resources and platforms. I announced a new partnership and had the privilege to encourage fellow writers and sole proprietors. I’ve added another mixer next month.

Buy the Book

Ventures and endeavors for new media, books, movies, TV series and stories (mine and work for others) are in the works. I’m often busiest during the summer, but I’d like to attend 2019’s OCON. This summer’s event celebrates 50 years of Ayn Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto in Cleveland, Ohio. So, I’m enthusiastic about prospects for the new year. Feel free to reach out, inquire and/or donate.

Happy reading in the meantime.

Annual Report: 2018

at GSX in Las Vegas, 2018

Twenty eighteen was productive. Newsletters, articles, business plans, website and marketing copy I wrote helped customers tell stories, persuade audiences and fund enterprises or sell services and goods.

This year, I contributed to or wrote screenplays and manuscripts, creating taglines, plots and themes for publication, architecture, technology, U.S. military defense, construction, movies and aviation. I had the privilege of researching, writing or editing screenplays, speeches and white papers.

Whether as a contractor creating a marketing strategy, script or bio or as a reporter writing an article for print or online editions of the Los Angeles Times, I have been a professional writer for over 25 years.

Most of mine are repeat customers. Companies, media, VIPs, entrepreneurs and intellectuals often hire me after reading this blog, which turned ten years old this year.

This year’s posts were among the first to warn against the Me, Too movement. I still write about selected movies, assessing Marvel’s blockbuster hit Black Panther as mediocre while forecasting the Disney film to win Oscar’s 2018 Best Picture. I named three better, more life-affirming movies as 2018’s top three best pictures: the best picture, Love, Simon, followed by Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Green Book.

I wrote in multiple genres, including sports, comedy, philosophy, drama and business. Blog readership and demand for services, which include coaching, consulting and social media management, increased.

In short, I expanded readership and output and I challenged the status quo. I achieved my goal to discover, examine and, to paraphrase the song, accentuate the positive. To this end, I posted about music conducted by Arturo Toscanini, an architectural exhibition at the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino and visits to San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas (where I updated my profile picture, included here), downtown LA and OCON in Orange County. I recommended broadcasting, music and Apple’s AirPods.

After teaching media and writing to adults for five years, I hosted a mixer for former and current students. I am happy to work with an outstanding team. We’re already planning new reviews, products and ventures for 2019. 

Please consider supporting my writing. Rather than accept fees or subject the blog to the terms of a funding source, such as Patreon, I keep control of the blog and articles archives without advertising. I recently created a goal-driven PayPal campaign (learn more or contribute here).

The goal of my campaign, $10k, helps me pursue my media and writing projects. I pay for my own education, media ventures and creative works, such as my non-fiction and fiction, without institutional aid.

As an individual, I appreciate support. Each donation helps. I look forward to creating new partnerships, posts and projects next year and I think you might like what I have in mind. I have never been more enthused about the future.

Meanwhile, let us toast to good health, happiness … and the rise of the new intellectual.

My New Media and Writing Lessons

My New Media and Writing Lessons

This fall, my media course returns in Burbank, Southern California’s Media City, with a new focus. Originally conceived as a workshop for predominantly self-employed artists in LA’s mid-Wilshire district, the 10-week course on social media functions as a media self-defense kit. I’ve re-formulated what was once a tutorial on essential ideas for general social media for branding, purposing and self-defense.

The Maximizing Social Media theme that rational social media is created, used and applied as the means to the end of one’s selfish pursuit of happiness remains. This means that students create, examine and discuss profiles, posts and campaigns on sites, apps and technology such as Tinder, Instagram and Snapchat as well as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Quora and Facebook. I also instruct the class in the origins of each company and impetus for startup in addition to success and acquisition, so a company’s motives, potential conflicts of interest and record of privacy also get attention, from Microsoft, Lynda.com and LinkedIn to Comcast, NBC Universal and Snapchat, for instance. But it’s not a business class, so one’s personal and professional profile and development come first.

This is why I’ve come to appreciate social media as a tool for self-defense. Bearing in mind the privacy implications of any among today’s tech tools, which is an important caveat (Edward Snowden advises against using Facebook at all, for instance), media which is social in purpose and origin can buttress one’s values, arguments, body of work, reputation and philosophy. Reasons why this might become necessary are rapidly changing in today’s world, thanks to changes in technology, work and the culture. Today’s dominant or trending catastrophe, fact or news cycle can be tonight’s opportunity for advancement, management of expectation or aversion of unwanted attention. I’ll engage students in this new exercise for the first time this fall in Maximizing Social Media. (Get details and register online for my Maximizing Social Media and Writing Boot Camp courses here).

Writing Boot Camp returns, too. With emphasis on my seven-step writing process, the 10-week course affords opportunities for each student to think, formulate, re-think, finalize, detail, research, draft, edit and read aloud new pieces of writing. Then, the student gets feedback. It’s called boot camp for a reason, so I engage the student in a serious endeavor to think hard and for longer periods than many of today’s adults may be accustomed to and there’s enough practice, repetition and participation to undergird what’s learned and gained.

Students also read, break down and study excerpts, stories and great works of literature. Among the short stories, articles, essays, authors and poems past boot camp enrollees have evaluated for topic, theme, research and outline are Berton Braley, “The Lottery”, Charles Darwin, Invictus, Maya Angelou, The Early Ayn Rand, Rudyard Kipling, Leanita McClain, “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and science fiction by Ray Bradbury (as well as some of my own unpublished short stories, blog posts and LA Times articles).

One of my recent boot camp “alumni” members, who enrolled and attended both of my courses, was employed by a Burbank studio as a talent scout. She recently announced on LinkedIn that she’s now a literary agent. Other past students have been published in poetry and story collections, do standup comedy and pitch pilots, movies and series to studios. Students have also been peace officers seeking to write clearer reports, lawyers, businessmen, immigrants studying English and entrepreneurs.

Next month’s course includes a new lesson integrating what I’ve learned from my 30 years of freelance writing. But, really, the whole Writing Boot Camp cashes in on that subject.

If these courses sound interesting, I invite readers to come to Southern California and attend the courses at the Henry Mingay campus near Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport. Class size is small and intimate. Tuition is low, thanks to Burbank Adult School, which pays for these courses entirely through the fees. Also, feel free to tell others and share this post, tag me on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and spread the word. Classes accept waiting lists when capacity is reached and I’m happiest teaching to a full classroom, so if you’re unable to attend, help me fill each class.

My Blog Turns Ten

Ten years ago today, I introduced my blog as an informal forum for my thoughts on movies, culture and ideas. Then and now, this ‘web log’ primarily exists to advertise my writing. The blog serves my purpose.

By July 20, 2008, I knew that I wanted to acquire new knowledge, so I enrolled in extended writing and philosophy studies and, later, a course by my former boss, author, talk radio/podcast host and philosopher Leonard Peikoff. Having declined an offer to write and edit for a website owned by one of the world’s largest companies, I instead pursued my goal to write in a variety of genres and formats, from stage, science fiction and short stories to serious speeches, interviews and articles.

The blog, which I never named, became an outlet. Within weeks after my first post, the U.S. economy had taken a historic plunge and America was unceasingly attacked by Islamic terrorists. During this time, amid a surge of surveillance statism and new technology including mobile devices, the media rapidly downsized, sensationalized and splintered. America was in turmoil. My blog was less of a bugle in this sense than a refuge, chiefly for myself. The blog became a means of exercising free speech on issues which were being distorted, neglected or evaded and ignored in the press and among intellectuals. One of the posts I pursued was an interview, which was granted and turned out to be one of his last (and I think one of my best), with author, historian and scholar John David Lewis (read the worldwide exclusive here). One of the bits of wisdom the then-ailing Dr. Lewis (who was my friend, reader, teacher and patron) gave me was to write about matters of personal interest, if warranted in first person, which is frowned upon in academia.

Obviously, I took the advice. I wrote about losing a friend to suicide — another downward trend, which seems to be getting worse — following Obama’s re-election. I wrote about finding the good, whether posting the first review of Olivia Newton-John’s first headlining show in Las Vegas, the first OCONs in Pittsburgh and Chicago and new reviews of good and, in some cases, exemplary movies. I have since praised TV shows, apps, movies, products and books — even a kiss during a North American riot.

I was among the first writers to praise Edward Snowden as an American hero. I did so as a warning against American dictatorship. I was among the first writers to scrutinize and denounce George W. Bush (and his father), Barack Obama and Donald Trump (by the same standard and principle). When the worst single legislation in my lifetime threatened to destroy the health care industry and what was left of the medical profession, I wrote on the blog. While others were galvanizing around flawed premises, saying and doing nothing or campaigning for fracking, fuel and genetically modified organisms, arguably good causes if not as urgent as the looming danger of the Affordable Care Act, I defended individual rights in health care, denounced ObamaCare on the proper grounds and forecast its disastrous impact — in newspapers and online publications. But always here on the blog.

So, I’ve observed, named and examined the good and the light as well as the insidious and ominous darkness. I write here about the truth as I see it, which is all a decent reporter can do, especially in a perceptual media age. With a relatively small readership of influencers, I’ve been able to write about what I regard as the fundamental conflict of our time: the individual versus the state. I exalt the individual.

Ten years later, my posts or archived articles are cited, referenced or reprinted by Stevie Nicks, the Cato Institute, Mental Floss, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, Salon, The Hollywood Reporter, Turner Classic Movies and the New York Times. I get feedback on the posts from entrepreneurs, students, activists, scholars, artists and readers across the world.

One university professor assigns my post on the Obama administration versus free speech every semester as required reading for students studying freedom of speech. I’m told that my post criticizing Starbucks with specific solutions, posted days before this year’s fiasco in Philadelphia, was distributed by company executives in the days that followed. Top artists, such as composer Alexandre Desplat, whom I’ve interviewed a few times, post links to our interviews on their sites. The blog attracts clients. One screenwriter read one of my posts and subsequently asked for help with his screenplay.

I’ve fulfilled my recent pledge to add previously published articles to the site’s archive. This way, readers can browse and discover other articles of interest. Posts may soon or eventually be removed and appear in another format, as I clear space for new posts and make site changes. Feel free to subscribe to my e-newsletter, which is currently on hiatus. The blog, as I’ve written, is mainly a means to help me develop, pitch and write in a variety of arts and communications, including screenplays, books, social media, marketing and branding, on assignment and as work for hire (read about my method). This is why I accept support, which sponsors my writing.

If you read and gain value from my blog, please let me know. I appreciate criticism and correction. Above all, tell me what you think. Contact me if you think that I’m qualified to add value to a project (if I agree that I am able to do so, I will). The Federal Trade Commission requires that I disclose that I receive unsolicited invitations, review copies and gifts, whether an iTunes gift card or a donation (which I do not expect). Like other commercial-free blogs and independent sources, I do accept and appreciate the support. I value your readership and I am grateful for your social posts, especially when rendered with a comment, so please like, share and link to my blog posts. Any of these actions matter and directly support this blog, this writer and this life, mine and yours. Happy 10th blog anniversary and happy reading to you.

This Summer’s Courses

Summer courses in suburban Los Angeles are open for registration (see links from both images for prices, dates and details). As I finish teaching the spring semester’s lessons, I’ve come to understand the challenges of instructing adults that work, create and write as talent, social media managers and lawyers as well as entrepreneurs, screenwriters and authors.

The productive adult in today’s anxiety-ridden culture faces less freedom, stagnant growth and wages and higher inflation. Also, there are multiple and chronic distractions. So, I notice that today’s adult student faces greater difficulty making a mental effort. Whatever their educational background, students enjoy unparalleled technological advantages yet, at the same time, they suffer from an unmitigated assault on the intellect. Of what value is a powerful computer in your pocket, let alone its best features and apps, if you’re bombarded with notifications and distractions that tempt you to blank out? Though my classes are neither especially demanding nor rigorous, most of my students tend to flame out. Certain students buckle at any sign of an expected expenditure of effort.

I give a few assignments in both the media and writing courses, yet few students distinguish themselves with an endeavor of exceptional work. The ones who do tend to be extremely goal-oriented and rational. The best choose to consider new ideas. Conversely, the worst choose the opposite; one student this semester attended half the classes, didn’t do the assignments and wanted to argue about the premise of the course. However, another student reports achieving the goal to add customers through the outreach I’ve instructed for using LinkedIn. The same student reports increasing business revenue using Facebook as demonstrated in the class. Another writing student made a major, creative breakthrough with last week’s final writing assignment. The upshot is that it’s getting harder — but diligence pays off.

Summer lessons for my Writing Boot Camp, in which I guide the student through what I call a pre-writing phase and a proprietary six-point process, begin later this month.

Register Now

Balancing, integrating and making the best of socializing in today’s media is the focus of my social media course. The premise is that the student is a social being and ought to strive to leverage social media sites, tools and apps to advance his or her self-interest.

Register Now

The four-session series, Maximizing Social Media, starts next month and runs Mondays in June in the San Fernando Valley at an adult educational campus near Bob Hope Airport. It’s been several years since I was first contracted to create stories and campaigns for business and celebrity brands across multiple platforms in social media. I recycle what I learn in the lessons using a combination of research and writing assignments, live demonstration and audio-visual instruction.

This summer’s Maximizing Social Media is concise. The more intensive series covers essential social media management principles with privacy, branding and a sense of purpose in mind. And, while general lessons include how to create and activate an enduring, rewarding social network, each class features slide show displays and customized live social app or site demonstrations (with the student’s consent), as well as opportunities for one-on-one personal instruction. Register online for Maximizing Social Media.

Updated Articles Archive

One of my resolutions this year is to add articles more often to my site’s backlog, so I’ve included, if not yet sorted, eight pieces to the Writings tab and checked that item off my list (read my new year’s post here on spring course offerings, fiction and other goals). The newly added articles appear on separate website pages, so they are not blog posts, with hyperlinks on headlines in bullet points included below. For various reasons, I may have to remove these articles at some point, so if you’re interested in any of these, read them sooner than later.

The oldest article went to press in 1999. It’s a roundup of then-newly printed works by Ayn Rand, anchored by two reviews of books published by the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) peppered with or consisting of essays or writings by Rand, whose birthday, incidentally, is tomorrow. I haven’t re-read my thoughts on those books in years. I think the reviewed versions may have been updated with new editions by the organization’s ARI Press. The reviews are generally favorable. A related article is among the most recent pieces: the first interview with ARI’s new CEO, who discussed seeing Rand lecture near Harvard, where he was enrolled in business studies, his favorite course by Leonard Peikoff and what being an Air Force commander adds to the challenge of leading an organization dedicated to advancing Objectivism.

Three other exclusive interviews appear. Composer Alexandre Desplat, nominated for an Oscar for scoring The Shape of Water, spoke with me from Paris about Charlie Hebdo, Islamic terrorism and his methodology in making music for movies, including predominantly his 2015 movie, Suffragette. That same year, Leonard Maltin, whom I’ve interviewed several times since we met, talked in depth about classic movies and the third edition of his Classic Movie Guide.

I had been asking him for years to do an extended interview in person and, finally, we did, at his home. The interview ended right on time as a TV crew came in for set-up and perhaps you’ll agree with me that it’s our most serious exchange. The third movie-related interview took place a year later with a historian who knows all about the slave rebellion depicted in a controversial film, The Birth of a Nation (2016), which opened to widespread praise in a film festival only to lose critical darling momentum when its writer and director was linked to a rape victim who later killed herself. This pre-Me, Too Hollywood derailment only made me more serious about judging the merits of the movie, distributed by Fox Searchlight, the studio responsible for the powerful 12 Years a Slave, so I’m glad I went to the young scholar who studied the facts which form the basis for the motion picture. The exchange amounts a history lesson on the truth about slavery in America.

A couple of articles report on interviews conducted by others for the annual classic film festival — the only movie festival I’ve consecutively covered — hosted by Turner Classic Movies in Hollywood. Read my account of Club TCM’s detailed tribute to Leonard Maltin, who got personal about his early career in book publishing, movie journalism and an affiliation with the Walt Disney Studios and my 2016 report on TCM’s rare and respectful one on one exchange with one of America’s last glamorous movie stars, Faye Dunaway, who talked about Network, Barfly and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Finally, I’ve added an article from a local edition of the Los Angeles Times which I conceived, researched and wrote on assignment. This is the tale of a mid-range shopping mall nestled in a prime location in the shadow and hum of LA’s newest freeways. The property would begin with publicity visits from movie stars and Olympic athletes amid concern about lost business in a neighboring suburb whose government was so frightened that they passed regulations to stop people from shopping there. Its decline began when two of the most feared Los Angeles serial killers stalked — and enticed, captured and murdered — children at the mall.

Newly added articles include: