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Monday, August 17, 2009

A Minor Miscommunication

When I told the client to post the notice I meant for him to display the notice. I did not mean for him to mail the notice. In another field, this would be funny. In the legal field, this is not funny.


Maybe a little funny.

I blame the British.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Welcome Change

I almost did a little happy dance in my chair. The Los Angeles Times redesigned their website. FINALLY!

It's cleaner, more accessible and though in some ways it's reminiscent of the New York Times website, it has the added benefit of loading a heck of a lot faster.

Any time there is a major design change, there are always people who love it and hate it. Judging by the comments on the New Look announcement, team 'love it' is a little more crowded than team 'hate it'.

My favorite design feature: the inkblot on top and bottom. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

John Hughes' Neverland

For the last couple days I've been trying to come up with some sort of explanation and analysis of the Google Settlement for you, but the complexity of the agreement has me completely locked up. I'll keep picking at it and see if I can put something together for you, but I hope you'll forgive me if a post on the issue never arrives.

In the meantime, I wanted to pass on a link to this lovely article by Molly Ringwald from the New York Times, The Neverland Club. It's a very thoughtful perspective on her relationship with John Hughes.
Eventually, though, I felt that I needed to work with other people as well. I wanted to grow up, something I felt (rightly or wrongly) I couldn’t do while working with John. Sometimes I wonder if that was what he found so unforgivable. We were like the Darling children when they made the decision to leave Neverland. And John was Peter Pan, warning us that if we left we could never come back.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Goodbye, John

Sloane: The city looks so peaceful from up here.

Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.

Cameron: I think I see my dad.
One of the pleasures of growing up with a film is that as you mature, your appreciation for it can also mature. You see new things, appreciate new moments, connect to it emotionally in a different way. For me, nothing encapsulates that experience more than Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I can distinctly remember a time when I found Ferris' synthesizer, the one that emits puking sounds, to be hilarious. A little later I found myself enthralled by the fantasy of Ferris' wild adventure during his day off from school.

But it wasn't until my adulthood that I realized that it wasn't only Ferris who really made me love the film. It was Cameron Frye.

If you have no idea who I'm talking about, you probably haven't seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (And shame on you! Dude, it's on TV all the time!) Cameron is Ferris' best friend, and as Ferris so eloquently describes him, he's a little uptight: "Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond."

The heart of Cameron's problem isn't particularly novel - his absent parents are cold and distant, and his father seems to care more about his car than he does about his son - but instead of the film exploiting his anxiety purely for chuckles, it fleshes him out and treats him with compassion. The film allows Cameron to flip out, break down, and eventually break out. And in the end, it's not Ferris who makes the hero's journey, it's Cameron.

This wasn't uncommon in the films of John Hughes, the writer and director who passed away yesterday at the age of 59. Hughes' films were littered with characters that were just a little bit more than their archetypes. A mom who just wanted to get home to her son (Home Alone), the Geek who will patiently listen to your problems and then still ask to borrow your panties (Sixteen Candles), the tomboy who so desperately wants to be seen as more than a best friend (Some Kind of Wonderful). I could go on. Sure, there were cardboard cut-outs too (Long Duk Dong comes to mind) but for the most part, there were fully-fleshed jump off the page characters, and John always gave them their moment.

In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Cameron stands in an art museum in front of a pointillist painting by George Seurat, and as he stares at the image of a little girl, the camera cuts back and forth, jumping closer and closer to each shot. As we get closer to his eyes, it seems as if Cameron is having an existential crisis. As if he is facing the realization that we are all just little dots.

In an industry where anything that seems superfluous ends up on the cutting room floor, it is to Hughes' credit that his film allows for the moment, one that continues to move me to this day. That is the gift of John Hughes.

"I gotta take a stand. I'm bullshit. I gotta take a stand against him. I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I'm going to take a stand. I'm going to defend it. Right or wrong, I'm going to defend it."

Who do you love? Who do you love? You love a car!"

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Finding the Story in the Every Day

Everyone's heard that old bit of writing wisdom 'write what you know.' And sometimes it seems like there are writers who have success doing just that very thing, whether it's Jack Kerouac writing about life On the Road, or the more recent success of Isabel Kaplan, a youngster writing about growing up in Los Angeles' Hancock Park. 'Write what you know' (let's call it WWYK for the purposes of this post) has been a successful writing guide for a very, very long time.

So you think to yourself, well hey, it worked for them, why not for me?

But then you sit down in front of your blank page and think... uh oh - my life is totally boring.

What do you do? How do you make WWYK work for you?

1. Don't Be A Strict Constructionist

If you try to take WWYK too literally, you'll most likely bump up against the 'my life is mundane and boring' problem - that is unless you're currently traversing the globe in a hot air balloon or crossing sub-Saharan Africa on foot. Instead, break apart your biography for potential elements of a story - the setting of your childhood, the characters of your family, the emotional tone of your youth - and mine them for starting points or center pieces of your story. Sometimes a story is more about how something felt than what happened.

2. Remember Your Anecdotes

Remember that time you went on that horrible first date? Or the day your older brother tried to teach you to drive? Or that time you ended up in the emergency room? Your life is full of stories, and if you think about it, you probably have quite a few of these on rotation for cocktail parties. Well they're not just for cocktail parties anymore. Ask yourself what makes this a story that you like to tell? What about it do you think people find interesting, humorous, compelling? Answer that and you may have somewhere to start.

3. Friends are Fun

Listen to people. Listen. Listen. Listen. You're not the only one with stories, buddy, and sometimes listening to other people's woes and triumphs can inspire your own work, and help you add a little bit more K to your WWYK. (That's "Know" for those of you having trouble following along at home.)

4. Jump Off Into the Sky

Jane Austen's novels were chock full of romance and happy endings, even if she never got a happy ending of her own. What she did know was about people, family, and social conventions. She used what she knew as a foundation to leap off into the world of dreams, fantasy and in particular romance. Don't be afraid to start with your feet on the ground (or page as it were) and then let yourself dream up the rest.

5. Find the Story in Your Every Day

It's really simple: the mundane to you may not be the mundane to everyone. Don't be blind to the stories in your every day life. Think about interesting moments, interesting things you see, interesting things you hear. Try thinking small, and working your way to big. Remember: it only takes a small seed from which a very big story can grow.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sorry... What Was I Saying?

It's alright to admit that you've missed me. I've missed you too. A lot has changed in the world - my world, and the bigger one I've come to call home - since we last spoke. I'll try to pick up our conversation again, and get back to the business of blogging on a more regular basis.

With that in mind, there was a fascinating article in the New York Times yesterday by David Carr about a moment that represented the dizzying heights to which the magazine publishing industry had once hyped itself up, and down from which it has come crashing.
"Most of us who covered media did not fully understand the implications of the new technology that could publish and distribute information at zero marginal cost. The Web was viewed as a niche, as a way to supplement and enhance the printed product, certainly not a threat that would make many of those publications obsolete."
Take a look at "10 Years Ago, An Omen No One Saw."

Of course this story can only have one ending. An ending that brings us to the present, and the new world of blogs, print-on-demand, ebooks, and digital media. As for the future of publishing? Its fate is in our hands.