May 29, 2009

Catching Up

I finally got my quota of screenplays read for the Austin Film Festival, earning a Producer's Badge. Last year it got me into a party where I chatted with Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame for 10 minutes or so. (Yes, that's me shamelessly name-dropping.)

And I got my own screenplay finished (the 6th draft, at least, who knows how many more I'll do) and submitted to the competition. And I've finished reading two books. (Reviews coming in due time.) But I have to tell you where I was last night.

I had a chance to chat with Roy Blount, Jr. at a Writer's League of Texas fundrasier. (Yes, that's me shamelessly name-dropping again!) They were taping Wait, wait . . . don't tell me in the Bass Auditorium and his sister is on the Writer's League board, so I guess it made sense for him to do a little talk and book signing as a fundraiser for the WLT while he was in town. He's authored 20+ books and is the president of the Authors Guild, pioneering the settlement with Google, which, as part of its scheme of global domination, has been practicing wholesale scanning of books for the past decade or so.

I got there a bit early, having stopped by Habana House to pick up my free monthly cigar. I loaded up on refreshments and stood alone at a white-table-cloth-covered bistro table. The next thing I knew, I was joined by Roy and Susan. We chatted a bit and I enlightened him about the joys of StupidInternetTricks.com, because, like, who wouldn't want to know about that?

Mary Gordon Spence kicked things off with a very long and hilarious introduction and Mr. Blount (as his close friends like me call him) followed with even more hilarious set of stories, interspersed with information and analysis of the Google settlement, which I signed onto and thanked him for pushing through.

Overall, the evening rocked. And I now have another book in the To Be Read shelf.

May 14, 2009

Half Price Books

As I've mentioned before, Half Price Books rocks.

The Woman wanted to check it out on Mother's Day, and who was I to deny her? We walked away with 15 books for $55 including tax. One of the books (a biography of Wodehouse) was $14, so you're looking at 14 books for $40 including tax. Hot dang!

Here's the haul. My purchases ($36):

  • Wodehouse: A Life, Robert McCrum. P. G. Wodehouse is probably the most under-acknowledged writer of the 20th century.
  • John Gardner: Literary Outlaw, Barry Silesky. Gardner's Grendel blew me away, 192 pages of genius.
  • Story, Robert McKee. It's a screenwriting classic. I guess I better read it.
  • The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman. Enjoyed Beirut to Lebanon. Can't wait to pick this one up.
  • Marriage Lines, Ogden Nash. I'm not much of a poetry guy, but it's only 108 pages. How painful can it be?
  • They Shall See God, Athol Dickson. River Rising rocked my world. Aching to start this one.
  • The Bookman's Promise, John Dunning. Finally getting around to the 3rd in this very entertaining series.
  • The Miernik Dossier, Charles McCrarry. Last year I picked up 2 of his books based on the jacket copy, but wanted to get in on the ground floor (first in the series) so I've been holding off reading them until I got this one.

The Woman's purchases ($15):

  • The Collectors, David Baldacci
  • Stone Cold, David Baldacci
  • Death of an Expert Witness, P. D. James
  • Shroud for a Nightingale, P. D. James
  • Devices and Desires, P. D. James
  • The Murder Room, P. D. James
  • The Lighthouse, P. D. James

She's a Baldacci fan. (I've never read him.) She got the James books because they were all on clearance for $1 (she's a sucker for a deal) and I told her I would eventually read them. Maybe when I retire, after I finish Agatha Christie. (Amazingly enough, I've only read one Christie. I'm saving her to savor when I have the time to lounge for a year on the deck with a refreshing beverage and read incessantly.)

As you can see, she got almost half the books, but spent less than a third of the money. Maybe I'll just count this toward Father's Day.

May 7, 2009


Like last year, I'm reading scripts for a film festival which cuts into my recreational reading. These days, the elliptical is surrounded by stacks of screenplays, not novels.

Unlike last year, I'm also entering the competition. I'm working on my third screenwriting project. I have three weeks to get the sixth draft done before the deadline. We shall see. Overall, it means I'm seriously behind in my reading.

So, when you see another review from me, you'll know that I finally submitted my entry and waded through the pile of other entries I have to read. (In case you're wondering, I'm reading in a different category than I'm entering. Everything's on the up-and-up.)

May 4, 2009

Feels Like Home

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

You may not recognize the name Randy Newman but there is no question you've heard his songs. After years of writing hits for 70s stars like 3 Dog Night (Mama Told Me Not To Come, Never Been To Spain), Joe Cocker (I Think It's Going To Rain Today, You Can Leave Your Hat On), and Harry Nillson, and having hits of his own (Short People, I Love LA), Newman turned to writing movie soundtracks (A Bug's Life, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars). I mean, who hasn't heard You've Got a Friend in Me?

Back in the 90s, Newmna wrote a musical adaptation of Faust. Feels Like Home was written for Bonnie Raitt to sing. (Sorry, the only Bonnie version I could find was this General Hospital fan video. But you don't have to watch it. Just listen.) It was also covered by Linda Rhonstadt and Chantal Kreviazuk and appears on the How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days soundtrack.

The female covers are great, but there's something irrevocably poignant in Newman's plaintive, mush-mouth voice expressing such transparent vulnerability.

This song is so powerful, not even a ukulele cover can completely destroy it.

And, as a bonus, here's a live recording of a lesser known but equally powerful Newman song, I Miss You.

Ed: How is it that I wrote this twice without realizing it? I featured the exact same song in Feb!