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 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.

The Year Ahead

I’ve started 2018 recovering from influenza and, at least for now, still in contention for fiction writing competition and submission. I am writing new stories and will keep you posted.

More info on my social media course

Otherwise, I make notes and revisions and screenwrite for others. No two scripts are alike and the process is unique to the individual. I’m enjoying the challenge of hunting, harvesting and essentializing data for a short research and interview assignment on someone’s forthcoming book. I also write copy and articles for clients’ websites, publications and books. Small projects can yield surprising rewards. For instance, I recently helped a friend, a published author, get organized. I performed menial tasks, really, yet I gained valuable insight from observing his approach.

Another client asked me to coordinate a campaign and compose letters for an effort to persuade authorities to reconsider and re-open an investigation into a child welfare case. As I always do, I gathered facts, read relevant case files, conducted an independent review, asked questions and formulated my conclusions, drafting final documents accordingly. The project was an unusual assignment in some ways, if typical in other ways, and, while I am not always able to accept such writing assignments, I found the challenge invigorating. My customer was fully prepared and a pleasure to work with. This makes the initial outcome — the district attorney’s office contacted my client upon receipt of the documents, opening the prospect of further investigation — only more rewarding.

More info on my writing course

As this year begins, I’m looking forward to creating each new theme, campaign or story. Twenty eighteen marks ten years of blogging and I plan to keep at it for now, adding selected book, movie and TV reviews and cultural commentary with occasional updates and announcements. I also plan to return to teaching my media courses this spring, so please note that Writing Boot Camp and Maximizing Social Media are open for registration and will commence as 10-weeknight classes at the Henry Mingay campus of Burbank Adult School near Bob Hope Airport. Enroll in social media studies here and my writing course here.

Here we go into what I want to be a Happy New Year!

Year in Review: 2017

This year was mixed for me, though I’ve made progress. I know that I’m grateful for the best readers, clients and partners. Though this blog is an informal repository for my thoughts, I covered essential movies, ideas and cultural points this year and I managed to find, explore and examine the good, even the best. But 2017 was the year of the purge, as I argued here, when men of ability, skill and reason, such as studio executive Harvey Weinstein, broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Judge Alex Kozinski, were, whatever their alleged crimes and flaws, prejudged, smeared and maligned due to a surge of groupthink based on faith in egalitarianism. This year, it became harder to find the good.

The year began with the death of a talented actress who embodied goodness, tact and restraint, Mary Tyler Moore. MTM was the best. An effort to restore one of Richard Neutra’s most cherished buildings gained my attention for an article published on the Los Angeles Times site. I did an exclusive interview with the writer and director of last winter’s feel-good box office hit Hidden Figures and I previewed a literary study of famous authors’ words and writing patterns, all of which I wrote about here.

The Neutra article led to an in-depth interview with the architect’s son on the eve of his 90th birthday. I posted about my time with Dion Neutra and other exclusive interviews (i.e., a new head of the Ayn Rand Institute and Lasse Hallstrom on his cinematic tribute to man’s best friend, A Dog’s Purpose) which I covered here. The interracial horror comedy, Get Out, merited a positive — not a rave — review. I reviewed the Oscars, probably for the last time.

Battlestar Galactica‘s original Captain Apollo, Richard Hatch, died this year. Hatch, whom I had met when I was a boy and, again, for an interview as an adult, was a passionate actor and a kind and decent man. Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran released new albums with melody and soul. Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News over claims of sexual impropriety, major media news which started a disturbing trend. I had already warned against jumping to conclusions over claims spread fast and wide via social media when I wrote some time ago about NBC News penalizing anchorman Brian Williams. I returned to the topic again in 2017 to forewarn that mass hysteria over Harvey Weinstein could spread far and fast, too, and not for the good.

Sadly, this is exactly what happened. Prejudice, jumping to conclusions and injustice compounds.

This year, I posted detailed reviews here about the LA TimesFestival of Books and Turner Classic Movies’ Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, which paid homage to TCM host Robert Osborne, who also died this year. I miss Robert O. every time I watch classic movies on TCM.

Unfortunately, cancer was caught again in Olivia Newton-John, who exudes strength, confidence and grace as she keeps recording, performing and healing. Anyone with cancer, or who loves one with this disease, should know about Olivia’s efforts, artistry and example. I wrote Southern California stories for the Los Angeles Times’ local editions on a new center for studying Los Angeles at Occidental College, a new leader in Ayn Rand’s philosophical movement and the shopping center targeted by the Hillside Stranglers, which I linked to and bundled here. I added a number of articles to my backlog, including three previously published articles on Walt Disney’s Bambi, taught my night classes on media and writing and a summer media series for seniors in the park, and posted a 30th anniversary review of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, a review of his classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and a 40th anniversary review of the filmmaker’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

In politics and government, Republicans and the president failed to repeal ObamaCare, so I criticized so-called free market intellectuals for not stepping in to help. To back it up, I offered a detailed proposal in a piece published on Capitalism Magazine about forming a proper starting point in seven steps to exit this monstrous health care law (read it here).

Christopher Nolan’s war movie, Dunkirk, was the year’s first serious best movie contender. I was also impressed with books, new and out of print, which I reviewed in detail: Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty, The Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, biographies of a Soviet spy for Josef Stalin and George W. Bush, Bush, and broadcast journalist Harry Reasoner’s memoirs, Before the Colors Fade.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of my favorite novel, Atlas Shrugged, so I posted my thoughts and a remembrance of my first reading here. I attended some events at an annual conference dedicated to studying and applying its author’s philosophy, the Objectivist Conference (OCON), where I found need for improvement and a reason to celebrate. I wrote about OCON here.

Pittsburgh is the setting for an extraordinary new television series, This Is Us, which I reviewed and recommend, especially for families and those with middle class values. More so for those dealing with cancer, bigotry and alcoholism. I also reviewed and appreciate Wonder Woman (the new Thor sequel, too) but the comics genre is fading. In the absence of great new romanticist works, I prefer the fresh and more subtle humor and thematically more realistic and uplifting stories in depictions such as This Is Us. Sundance TV’s gripping and intelligent microseries Cold Blooded aired this year, too, in what ought to become a new sub-genre of non-fictional true crime programming: a whole perspective which accounts for the lives of the victims.

This summer’s murder in Charlottesville, too, left widespread damage in its wake, and not just from the so-called alt-right or the so-called antifa movements on right and left. The Charlottesville protest was premeditated, coordinated, attacked and, in the aftermath of the president’s ignorant response and the often ignorant reaction to his response, silenced many reasonable Americans into not talking about politics, ideas or dissent about any serious topic. I think this self-imposed suppression of one’s thoughts, writings and speech is a grave mistake. What the West needs now is a more, not less, frequent and persistent exercise of speech.

On the blog, I posted several firsts in 2017. I decided to create a Christmas gift guide on the blog, which turns 10 years old next year. Read my first review of an Alfred Hitchcock movie here. Read my first reviews of Ernst Lubitsch films here and here. I took on the topic of technology’s aggregation — in news and in movie reviews — and I was the first to warn against a rising voice for theocracy, Roy Moore, and on the proper principle.

For the first time, I posted reviews of LA stage productions: The Rainmaker and Driving Miss Daisy. Both of these plays had long ago been adapted for the screen, the latter as Oscar’s Best Picture winner for 1989 (the subtly integrationist movie could never win in today’s lynch mob atmosphere). Other adaptations or revivals this year, besides Thor and Wonder Woman movies, include an entertaining screen version of Stephen King’s novel, It, which is the year’s most unanticipated box office success, Denis Villenueve’s Blade Runner 2049, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour and the Dionysian Call Me By Your Name.

That last film, like Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, does not depict a love story, contrary to its raving critics’ assertions. Like 2016’s Moonlight, which initiated this trend of overestimating moodily immersive movies of style more than substance, the visually striking or appealing movies lack depth and/or coherence. The same is true of another of 2017’s hit movies, Disney/Pixar’s animated Coco, and this year’s entry in the annual Star Wars debut, The Last Jedi.

Better, deeper movies this year focus on the individual of superior ability: the biting and judgmental (as against pre-judgmental), I, Tonya; the enjoyable Battle of the Sexes; the poignant Thank You for Your Service and the story of the young, principled lawyer who would become a judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall. Note that each of these films essentially dramatizes known, fact-based events in reality, i.e., naturalism. The more the faith, feelings and fantasy-based movies advance in the culture, the more pressing the need for great works of romantic-realist fiction.

2017 closes with the demise of the American male, amid the deaths of rock’s Tom Petty and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, as a byproduct of clustered, disconnected accusations from an often nameless, faceless clan of claimants that break silence (and contracts) to come forth via publicity campaign, not in a judicial court assuring due process. The movement’s name is similarly flawed and amorphous: Me, Too.

For this year’s Me, Too-ing, few noticed that one of the year’s most popular cultural products, a mediocre Star Wars movie, is made possible by Hollywood’s most powerful woman, Kathleen Kennedy, who originated one of the year’s most ominous cultural acts. Kennedy, who runs Lucasfilm for Disney (currently subsuming Fox), called for creation of a new commission to establish work standards, on the condition that the standards be established by (her words, not mine) college professors, feminists and activists.

In fact, Hollywood’s powerful new women’s group, the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, is in formation. The commission has designated its leader — law professor Anita Hill, who long ago accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment, assertions which were never charged, litigated or substantiated — and the new order for anti-sexual, anti-male rules of engagement is currently underway. Pressure on government to enact rules against speech, conduct and sex in the workplace (and everywhere else) is likely to expand, not contract.

Meanwhile, in lieu of catastrophic threats from jihadist states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia and North Korea, the proper role of government — defense, a judicial system, police — shrinks while the state’s improper role expands. For instance, the cost of government-controlled medicine, i.e., ObamaCare-compliant health plans, rises while access and quality of health care plummets. In the past 72 hours, government-controlled lights went out in America’s busiest airport and a government-run train derailed with deadly wreckage in the West. Soon, what you say and do at work could be regulated or influenced by a commission run by a law professor at Brandeis University — an institution which silenced an author who’s a feminist for speaking out against Islamic terrorism — or a government agency, crony or subsidiary.

So, those who think different and speak up face these and other obstacles in the year ahead, which means 2017 ends as a year in which disaster and darkness looms while silence spreads. More and faster than ever, as Ayn Rand forecast over 60 years ago, we are running out of time to save ourselves. This culture of fantasy and faith must be challenged, opposed and countered. This writer does everything I can do to offer tools, stories and fuel for the journey ahead.

 

What’s New

New to the archives are my 2006 interview with actor Sam Elliott (Grandma) about his role in a TV movie and other work (read the Sam Elliott interview here) and my 2011 interview with Robert Osborne about Liza Minnelli (New York, New York), who spoke about her movies and late parents, director Vincente Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis) and Judy Garland (A Star is Born). Read the interview about Liza here.

Sympathy_vote_FINAL_1007I’ve added a 2013 newspaper article about an unsolved murder in Illinois that happened 49 years ago today. The 21-year-old victim was the twin daughter of a wealthy CEO running for the United States Senate and her name was Valerie Percy. She was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her bedroom while the family, except her stepmother, who awakened during the crime and became an eyewitness, slept in their lakefront home. The homicide remains unsolved, though the author of a book (pictured) names a prime suspect. Read Murder in Kenilworth here.

I also want to add my interview with an author of a book about Iran’s 1979 attack on America because the Iran deal is unfortunately imminent. I’m enthusiastic about my recent interview with Bob Hope‘s biographer. Besides articles, speculative writing and work for others, plans are underway to make more interviews, including several unpublished transcripts, available.

In the meantime, this summer’s writing workshop at the local library was a success, so I’ve been asked to teach a class on blogging, which I plan to do later this year. I am making a new low-cost webinar series this fall for which I plan to include a media booklet to help entrepreneurs, businesses and artists create, relate and distribute what they make and do. It’s in progress, so please stand by, as I know some readers outside of LA have asked about attending classes online or via streaming. I hope to post more information soon.

Hurry to register for next week’s 10-week courses here in suburban Los Angeles: an all-new Writing Boot Camp (register here), which explores writing habits and methodology and includes a checklist. Writing Boot Camp is fun, lively and streamlined (click/touch here to register). Registration is also open for All About Social Media for maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (register here). Contact me about private sessions.

Look for new book, product, home video and, of course, movie reviews. I have to admit that I am excited about the new season of Fox’s Empire (read my review of the first season here), which is purely an indulgence in escapism.