“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
E. B. White (1899-1985) was a writer’s writer. He joined The New Yorker in 1927 as a writer and contributing editor, and held those positions his entire life; he never left The New Yorker. He met his wife, Katharine at the magazine; she too was a writer and editor. White was free to work on outside projects and a few of these have become classics. For example, in 1945 White wrote one of the most treasured children’s books, Stuart Little. Prior to this young people’s title, White and the celebrated humorist James Thurber had collaborated on a project: the 1929 title, Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do. He surpassed the triumph of Stuart Little with an even more beloved children’s title: Charlotte’s Web (1952). For adults, one of his towering achievements was his 1959 revision of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.; this work, to this day, remains a fundamental tool for authors. Here is New York (1949) was such a moving love letter to his city that Biography suggests it may be, “the quintessential depiction of the Big Apple experience.” White continuously published poems and essays, and he issued a third great work for children, The Trumpet of the Swan in 1970.
MERYL & THE STONES
For those who appreciate reading biographies there are two recent works focusing on enduring pop culture icons. I got turned on to the longer works, neither of which I have read yet, by wonderful excerpts. Michael Schulman, the author of Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, wrote a wonderfully informative piece for the April 2016 issue of Vanity Fair in which the author provided fascinating details of how Dustin Hoffman and Streep collaborated on the 1979 film, Kramer vs. Kramer, which took home the Best Picture Oscar; in addition, both Streep and Hoffman received Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor, respectively. Each of these superb stars brought their special talents to the set and readers will be enthralled how their personal styles and acting methodologies sometimes meshed and often clashed. For Stones fans, Rich Cohen, in a May 10 posting on Slate, describes how the group’s signature song, “Satisfaction,” took months to craft. It went through a variety of iterations, and at times the group was prepared to just drop the song because it wasn’t working. But they persevered, and through multiple creative breakthroughs (for example, Charlie Watts changing the tempo and Keith Richards being handed a fuzz box) the song that the world knows somehow emerged and made the Stones into a supergroup. Keith relates in the Slate piece how he didn’t even know when “Satisfaction” would be released as a single; he found out when he heard the song on his car radio. This band’s history is explored in The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones, just published on May 10.
Network, released in 1977, was a film far ahead of its time. Its subject matter was how a national television network functioned. In addition to major stars––William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch––the film also was shrewd enough to borrow from real life and present such national icons as Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor, and President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford. The movie was directed by Sydney Lumet and written by Paddy Chayefsky and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 2009, when he was 17, Aaron Leming––now a digital marketing specialist (with advertising and media production experience) released a work of “kinetic typography” in which the great set piece in Network was given new life. In the movie, Peter Finch (Best Actor Oscar) has either a breakdown or a revelation; Leming took Finch’s extraordinary monologue and visually augmented it; the words Finch shouts out are animated and dance to form visually arresting patterns and clusters. “Kinetic typography” seems to be a new art form symbiotically combining spoken word and animation and making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. When the spoken words are as chilling and mesmerizing as the ones written for Finch by Chayefsky––who won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay––the effect is stunning and unforgettable.
CREATING A MOVIE STAR
George Clooney became a star on the evening of November 9, 1995. It was the second season of ER and the show’s producers planned an episode to spotlight Clooney’s character, Doug Ross. In the show, Clooney is on his way to a black-tie event and dressed in a tuxedo when he has to stop and change a flat tire in a deluge of pouring rain. He learns of a trapped child, and much of the episode is devoted to Clooney’s heroic efforts to save the kid as both are up to their necks in water. Local news picks up the story, and a live video spotlights the action and anoints Clooney who hasn’t been out of the spotlight since. America took notice of this episode: 48 million viewers tuned in. To illustrate how the media scene has changed, the 2015 network television show with the highest number of viewers was The Big Bang Theory at 21 million. Non-network television is not yet in the same league as broadcast: the highest number of viewers for a streaming show was Jessica Jones (on Netflix) at 4.81 million; HBO’s hit Game of Thrones, in its season closer this year, drew a record number of viewers, 8.11 million. Clooney left ER to work in the movies and his latest film, Money Monster had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12. The film had a $27 million budget, also starred Julia Roberts, and was directed by Jodie Foster; yet, in its initial week it had ticket sales estimated at only $15 million. It was third in box office, dwarfed by the super-hero flick, Captain America: Civil War, which brought in $72.5 million. But no matter. Clooney has a huge movie career. His top grossing films have been the Ocean (11, 12, and 13) series with a combined gross of $426 million; Gravity ($274 million); The Perfect Storm ($182 million); Batman and Robin ($107 million); and Tomorrowland ($93 million).
With this week’s addition of my latest artwork, “Circle Mountain,” and the birthday/note/Christmas cards I’ve created, there are now nearly 40 pieces to peruse in my shop on Etsy.com. I’m quite proud of the way my body of my work is growing.
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