I’ve been so disappointed by recent TV and Film that I’ve gone back to the past to recharge. Over the years I’ve read a few Charles Dickens novels: Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol in high school, Nicholas Nickleby and A Tale of Two Cities more recently, and a few years ago my wife, Beverly, directed the musical, Oliver, at St. Paul’s school. But I’ve never gotten around to reading some of the others. So, I bought a collection of all Dickens’s novels on Kindle (for next to nothing) and dove in at the beginning. The Pickwick Papers was fun and painted a lovely portrait of the curious English towns and their eccentric residents in the mid-1800s. I then read Oliver Twist, which was definitely worthwhile, even though the story was more about the characters (Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Bill Sikes) surrounding its hero than it was about little Oliver (who seems to be frequently a bystander to the story). Then I skipped over a few novels and jumped to David Copperfield and I’m simply awestruck at how good it is. Less a novel than a semi-autobiography, it’s the writing of a master revealing aspects of his life through his “fictional” characters. Three things immediately stand out: how the voice of the narrator (David Copperfield) changes in awareness as he travels through life – Dickens gives us the innocence of David's youthful observations while at the same time communicating the truth of the moment to the more knowledgeable reader. Then, the observations about life become more clear as David grows in experience. Next is his ability to detail the nuances of conversations and the emotional impact each moment has on the participants. It’s amazing how conversations that took place nearly two hundred years ago (in the mind of the author) resonate so strongly today. Most admirable is Dickens’s mastery of subtext. So much of David Copperfield’s adventures are told in subtext that the reader has to slow down and savor the lines to truly appreciate what exactly is going on. Then there is Dickens’s incredible vocabulary which makes us realize how limited our word choices are today. If you read his work without using a dictionary (fortunately Kindle provides one) it’s easy to miss how words are chosen by the author to fit exactly the meaning he wanted conveyed. I’m not quite finished reading David Copperfield, but I’m already looking forward to going back and starting it over again from the beginning. These days in our culture we encounter such a rejection of Western Civilization and the work of “dead white men” that we forget that, in many ways, those who came before us, might actually be better than we are. 01.10.23
As a writer, I view censorship as a negation of what I do. The idea that someone could cancel someone else by censoring their work is simply abhorrent. If you grew up in the United States, you’ve enjoyed the freedom of speech your entire life. It’s a right that’s enshrined in the first amendment to the Constitution. And yet, as we’re learning from the past policies of Twitter (and likely other social media) as exposed by Elon Musk, censorship was a part of their everyday life. Most awful is how many people are OK with it. I saw a congressman interviewed who said it was “much ado about nothing.” Nothing? Why not burn a few books while we’re at it? I don’t often get political in my posts, but this is not about politics, it’s about freedom. If people feel it’s OK to cancel the voice of others, then they don’t believe in freedom. All voices should be heard. Then let those who hear those voices decide to listen to them or not. Anything else is tyranny, and has no place in America. 12.10.22
Twenty-One Days of Covid. Happy to report that I took my first post-Covid bike ride this morning (selfie of me on the bike trail along the beautiful LA River). Didn’t do my usual eight miles, but did six. Sure glad my iPod still had a charge – I couldn’t have done it without music. Went on antibiotics a week ago when it didn’t feel like I could shake the damned virus. Today, I’m finally feeling almost normal though my legs and lungs have to do some rebuild. Gotta give credit to Dr. Fauci and the other Dr. Mengeles with their “gain of function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They really cooked up a doozy with this one. 07.21.22
Seven Days of Covid. My wife, Beverly, got it last week and it seemed to follow the usual trajectory of a bad cold. On Monday, I noticed a sore throat and achy body. On Tuesday I was tested positive for Covid, went on prescription Paxlovid. But it wasn’t really that much of a cold so I did my usual day’s work. On Wednesday, I was feeling fairly normal and thought “What’s the big deal?” I even taught my online screenwriting class on Wednesday night. Lost my voice near the end, but made it through. Thursday I was much worse – bad body aches and constant cough. On Friday I hit the wall. Friday night I hit bottom. My lungs were wheezing, and I couldn’t lay down without the wheezing getting worse. Constant junk (without getting too specific) coughing up. The only way I could breathe at all normally was to sit up and lean forward. That’s how I spent all Friday night. Saturday, I spent the day in bed, recovering from Friday night. Sunday, the sun seems to be shining. I feel like myself again. Still weak, still achy, still coughing but I think the worst is over. I think Covid affects different people differently. If you get it, take it seriously. 07.10.22
Originality has always had a tough time in Hollywood. The safe course has never been about trying something new and exciting, but rather remaking something that has been successful in some other form. Copying success, any degree of success, has always been a more bankable proposition for Hollywood executives when choosing properties to develop. In doing my research for the Dreamland project, I’ve been reading a lot of Tradeviews, the column written in nearly every issue of The Hollywood Reporter by publisher Billy Wilkerson (a distant relation). Here’s some wisdom from his column on July 15, 1931. Billy writes…
“The trouble with the whole system of selecting and buying story material in the picture business is just this – stories are not bought because they are GOOD. They’re bought for every other reason but that. They’re bought because they were produced as plays on Broadway. They’re bought for the Broadway stamp, however meaningless it may be. Stories are bought because some magazine published them, or because some book publisher put them out as novels. It doesn’t matter whether the sale of the novel went to five thousand copies, or five hundred thousand. They received the magic baptism of printer’s ink. Therefore they MUST be good. They MUST be great.”
It’s not much different now, is it? Studios put out pictures to make money, sure, but is that the only reason people are in the entertainment business? I recently watched The Batman on HBOmax. There is nothing new here, other than a different guy in the bat suit. Everything else has been done many times before (and mostly done better). Yes, it made money, but is that the only reason we're creating film and TV? Haven't we learned anything about originality in ninety years of film production? Apparently not. 06.22.22
Really sorry to read about the death of comic book artist Neal Adams. When I was a kid, I was far more drawn to DC Comics than to Marvel, and Neal Adams was the reason. His drawings were not only more detailed than any other comic art, but they were filled with incredible movement, mood and action. Neal Adams was the DC artist who rediscovered the strength of Batman and remade him into the powerful image we have of him today. So, back in the 1980s, when I was running my advertising agency, Wilkerson Advertising, it was a real thrill for me to be able to hire Neal Adams for a series of ads we were doing for our client, Roland Corporation and their division, BOSS Products. We somehow came up with the idea of using comic book art in our ads, probably to deal with a good product with a goofy name – the Dr. Rhythm. It was the kind of name that the Japanese market (where it was made) really liked, but didn’t exactly “play” in the USA. We knew we had to come up with a way of making Dr. Rhythm somehow cool, otherwise we were sunk. The answer was to hire Neal Adams to do the artwork which was simultaneously outrageous fun and imparted a kind of “cool factor” to the product. The four ads that Neal Adams drew for us were really well received, and, most importantly delivered sales for our client. I know we are merely a footnote to the work of a great comic artist, but I’m glad to be part of that footnote. 04.30.22.
I've always loved this piece of music written by George Frederic Handel and thought it would be fun to do an EDM version.
Written by Ron Wilkerson, Recorded in 1989.
I wanted to do a video for this song but didn't have a lot of pictures of the band. In searching the web for pictures of Rudy Love I found out, sadly, that he had passed away last October. So now, this video is dedicated to his memory and his fabulous voice. 02.26.22