What can reading a great novel do for you? Can it make you smarter, kinder, or more sensitive to the world around you? A new memoir by William Deresiewicz, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship and the Things That Really Matter, seems to suggest that it can. The author believes that he is the man he is today because of Jane Austen. But Laura Miller with Salon.com takes issue with his assertion. In her words:
Does reading great literature make you a better person? I've not seen much evidence for this common belief. Some of the best-read people I know are thoroughgoing jerks, and some of the kindest and noblest verge on the illiterate - which is admittedly an anecdotal argument, but then, when it comes to this topic, what isn't?
What do you do when you can't get your independent movie into a film festival? If you're Leslee Scallon and Michael Trent, you start your own film festival. They contacted 15 other independent filmmakers, called their festival "Dances With Films" and had a great time. When they had an after-festival party in their apartment and announced it was just a onetime affair, the other filmmakers in their makeshift festival begged them to keep it going.
And so they continued. The 14th annual Dances With Films kicks off Thursday evening at Laemmle's Sunset 5 and continues through June 9. Billing itself as the "Last Independent Independent Film Festival," the event typically attracts 6,000 to 7,000 patrons during the week and includes an awards ceremony. The festival is funded by sponsorships, submissions, tickets and volunteers. "We range from about 1,100 to 1,400 submissions depending on the year," Scallon said. "We have shown films from all over the world. We had a film from India that was a one-minute short, and the filmmaker actually came in from India for the premiere."
So the good news is you got a gig in Hollywood. The bad news is that gig is a cemetery. You read right. Bands have found a new venue to showcase their musical talents, a cemetery called Hollywood Forever. The grounds are home to some of the silver screen's biggest deceased legends, such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Cecil B. DeMille. There are even a few legendary musical acts that call Hollywood Forever their final resting spot, but clearly the most astonishing thing about the cemetery is that bands are dying to play there (sorry, I had to do it).
One of the most popular recent shows at the cemetery was Austin's cinematic, instrumental experimenters Explosions in the Sky. The band's Munaf Rayani says of the experience, "Very rarely does one get a chance to play for the living and the dead. We were lucky to get the opportunity." The week before the performance, the cemetery opened its gates to a handful of visual artists, each of whom created a piece to accompany a song from Explosions' new album. The crowd roamed the park after dark listening to music among the gravestones.
Are you ready for novels on Broadway? Okay, so it's not Broadway exactly, but it is the theatre. A troupe of actors has gotten together in New York to do dramatic readings of some classic novels. They recite a chapter or two with the book in hand and read it with the passion and aplomb a classic American novel deserves. They call themselves Elevator Repair, and they've performed to some acclaim.
Over the weekend, as part of the centennial celebration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Fifth Avenue headquarters of the New York Public Library, the troupe presented a simultaneous mash-up of all three novels in brief performances in the library's periodical room. "The Sound and the Fury," "The Sun Also Rises" and "The Great Gatsby" in just 22 minutes? Why not? We all have short attention spans these days.
Does the Palme d'Or Translate into Box Office Success?
Being a filmmaker and getting accepted into Cannes must be an exhilarating feeling. I mean, besides the idyllic Mediterranean coast scenery, there are industry professionals galore and celebrity hobnobbing to be had at every champagne-catered affair. But does winning the grand prize at Cannes do anything for a film at the box office?
Over the last 20 years, it's helped set the table for box-office hits such as "Secrets & Lies," "Fahrenheit 911" and "Pulp Fiction" - at minimum facilitating momentum the movie already had, and in some cases actively putting it on the map. The average filmgoer may not know a Palme d'Or from a palm reader, but he or she is certainly acquainted with the media that respond to one. On the other hand, the Cannes prize did almost nothing for "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "Elephant," both of which failed to break out of an art-house ghetto.
What do you get the folk rock legend that has everything? Apparently, endless tributes make the perfect birthday gift. Bob Dylan turned 70 recently, and musicians all across the land stepped up to the mic and belted out his songs that shaped American music in 1960s and 70s. They may have not been able to match his rare vocal style, but their hearts were in it. In some cases their hearts were in it for hours.
In India, rocker Lou Majaw be doing what he does every year - a 10-hour-long tribute concert, dedicated to Mr. Zimmerman (Dylan's original last name). Majaw started this ritual on Dylan's birthday back in 1972 as a way to honor the legendary folk artist and has continued every May 24 since. Majaw has since pushed to make the artist's birthday a national holiday but, to no avail. Now that's some dedication.
The value of MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs has been a topic of debate for as long as there have been MFA programs. Those who support MFA programs say they help the talented hone their skills and craft. Those who decry MFA programs claim they churn out cookie-cutter writers who lose all sense of originality. Salon.com devoted some virtual space to the question: are MFA programs good for literature or are they ruining literature?
It's true that MFA programs have produced far more competent mediocrities than shining stars, but that's also true of every other literary ecosystem. Shining stars are by definition exceptional. (This is what Batuman means when she describes literature as "elitist.") Yes, MFA grads with nothing to say are now able to say it more skillfully, but authors were pretty good at being boring before university writing programs came along and would surely go on being boring if every MFA program were wiped off the face of the earth. The programs don't make them dull, even if they also can't make them interesting.
Let's say you want to make a movie based on a classic American novel. And then let's say there's already a movie based on the classic novel, and not just a movie, but an iconic movie that won Oscars. What can you do to set your movie apart? Well if that book and movie is To Kill a Mockingbird, you make a movie that features a "modern retelling" of the classic novel.
BBC Films, the Corporation's film-making arm, is to make a movie inspired by Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Cillian Murphy. It will transfer the story's setting from the 1930s American Deep South to contemporary England's industrial northeast. The film, Broken, is adapted from Daniel Clay's 2008 novel of the same name, itself a modern retelling of the 1960 classic.
Unless romantic comedies from the 80s were totally wrong, there was a time when a band had to load their equipment into a barely road-legal van and travel from dive to dive playing their hearts out. They do this for years until one night, a label executive shows up at one of the bars by happenstance and offers said band a 10-album contract after a killer show. Nowadays, YouTube seems to have eliminated the need for the van and seedy bars. Just ask the group Karmin.
YouTube sensations don't have much longevity outside of the site (unless you're Justin Bieber), but Karmin, the No. 8 most-viewed artist this month, seems to be overcoming that tendency. With appearances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and a recent onstage collaboration with the Roots, Karmin appears to be on its way. The group blends hip hop with acoustic balladeering to popular effect. We had a chat with the duo that make up Karmin, Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, on their recent rise in popularity and their plans for the future.
It seems the road to books sales is paved with sadness. Not just any ordinary sadness. Sales for books in the grief memoir genre are doing quite well. This begs the question, why are readers interested in other peoples' mourning? Are they looking for answers, inspiration, or is it just a natural progression of our voyeuristic society? Author Raina Wallens doesn't see it that way. In fact, she thinks there aren't enough grief books on the market.
I don't know if 5 grief memoirs means we should make way for a new genre, but I do hope these books open up a discussion about grief and mourning, love and loss, resilience and renewal. And pave the way for other books that revolve around death to get published. Because I like breezy-light books as much as the next person, but there's only so much I can read about Labrador Retrievers.
You can read the entire article on The Rumpus' website: Does Sad Sell?
Get Ready for Revisionist History with Fangs
It's one thing to adapt a novel for the silver screen, but it's quite another to adapt a horribly inaccurate historical novel for 3-D screens. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is currently in production; believe it or not, the filmmakers are striving to make it as historically accurate as possible...with the small exception that old Abe is a champion vampire hunter. And, I have to say, I am pretty psyched about this film.
The film's production designer, François Audouy, has an unexpected approach to the historical aspects. He uses both computer effects and actual locations to blend the real and the artificial in ways that could only be imagined when Woody Allen posed with Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover in "Zelig" and Forrest Gump received a Medal of Honor from Lyndon B. Johnson. In the production office here in Louisiana recently, where the film will be shooting into next month, Mr. Audouy's associates were sorting through a stack of seemingly authentic Civil War maps, just a tiny sampling of the myriad props that are turning "Vampire Hunter" into a true period epic.
Smells Like Teen Spirit...Wait, Is That Miley Cyrus?
Kurt Cobain personified the anti-establishment rocker. He wrote and performed songs that revealed a deeply passionate and confused artist. He was the brooding front man of a ragtag trio of musicians that called themselves Nirvana and defined the Seattle grunge rock movement. They had a tortured, soulful sound that spoke to a generation of disenfranchised music lovers. So how is it that Miley Cyrus, the young lady who gave us her bubble gum pop alter ego Hannah Montana, wound up performing Nirvana's signature song "Smell Like Teen Spirit" on stage recently?
A video of Miley Cyrus performing Nirvana's breakthrough hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," in Ecuador this past weekend has been spreading around the Internet in the past couple of days - and inevitably, this performance has been widely criticized and declared blasphemous by rock fans who have no love for the teen pop icon. But Cyrus is hardly the first pop singer to take on the grunge classic. As it turns out, "Teen Spirit" isn't just one of the most frequently covered rock songs of the past 20 years. It's practically become a cornerstone of mainstream pop.
Author Richard Ford asks the question, "Does writing qualify as work?" After all, those who do write full-time don't usually keep regular hours. A lot of writing requires hours of thinking, which looks remarkably like doing nothing. And I suppose those ongoing battles with writer's block could look a lot like wasting time. So is writing work? From Ford's article in The Guardian:
Work, after all - to me, anyway - signifies something hard. And while writing novels can be (I love this word) challenging (it can also be tedious in the extreme; take forever to finish; demoralise me into granite and make me want to quit and find another line of work), it's not ever what I'd call hard. A hard job, okay, would have to be strenuous and pressurised (writing's almost never that way). It would have to be obdurate, never offering me a chance to let up (I can quit writing any time I want to and come back tomorrow, or never).
While the digital age has ushered in a much-needed revolution in the world of filmmaking, it has resulted in a confusing array of differing file formats that vary in quality. As a result, some think continuity has become a casualty of digital filmmaking. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science has stepped up to the plate and is doing their best to tame the digital frontier.
Files have had to be translated to and from dozens of file formats, with images not always translating properly, quality suffering, and time and money wasted fixing the problems. Enter the Acad's Image Interchange Framework (IIF), a new way of gathering, processing and preserving more picture information than has been possible in the past. The Acad's Science and Technology Council spent five years developing the file format, with an eye toward making it possible for anyone in production, post or preservation to have a standardized way of working with all the digital elements now involved in filmmaking.
It's widely thought that Ralph Macchio's second greatest movie is Crossroads. The story is about a classically trained guitar prodigy whose only desire is to be a great blues guitarist. He travels to the Mississippi Delta and ends up selling his soul to be the greatest blues guitarist ever. Very few people know that the story is actually based on a myth about legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson. There are those who say Johnson sold his soul to be able to play the blues as well as he did.
...the original intersection of Highways 61 and 49, the place where seminal blues musician Robert Johnson is said to have arrived one midnight to seal a deal with the devil, trading his soul to become the greatest blues musician in history. Perhaps. Actually, there are at least three such crossroads around northern Mississippi, any of which might be the one Johnson had in mind 75 years ago when he wrote his signature song "Cross Road Blues" - and that's only relevant to those who are remotely likely to believe in such things.
If you are a good steward of your money, you likely won't spend crazy amounts of cash to finance your advertising fund. Even if you have a great deal of expendable income, I wouldn't recommend that you pour all of it into a traditional advertising budget.
It's not that I think traditional advertising doesn't work. It can, and I'm proof of that. I own an exercise program because of traditional advertising. I bought that program after seeing the infomercial, or parts of the infomercial, approximately two hundred times. Every Saturday and Sunday, when I would sit in front of the TV in the morning and sip on my coffee, I would see the infomercial on three or four channels as I surfed, looking for something to watch. After a year, I gave in and purchased the program.
That's how traditional advertising works. It showcases a slick message surrounded by all the bells and whistles and finds ways to beat you over the head with it. The magic bullet, here, isn't a bullet at all. It's a hail of magic bullets that keeps coming and coming and coming. In order for that kind of advertising to work for you, most of your money will end up funding your repetition strategy. In other words, how will you get your message in front of the consumer over and over and over again?
For most independent artists, this a strategy you can't adequately fund even if you do have crazy amounts of expendable cash. That's why I'm such an advocate of non-traditional online methods, which I've talked about on this blog for some time. They all involve more of an investment of time rather than money. Spend your time blogging. Spend your time on social networks. Spend your time creating personal videos. Save your money for things like professional cover design, formatting, editing, etc.
There may be a day when traditional advertising makes sense for you and your project, and you'll know it when that time comes. If you're a first timer, however, you might find it more effective to put away your checkbook and set aside time in the day to work on your online marketing methods.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
It's no secret that young female readers far outnumber young male readers. The question is why don't boys read? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer. There are indications that it is a cultural flaw. Most boys are taught that physical prowess is much more important that mental prowess during their developmental years. Others believe that it's a simple matter of there being more reading material created for girls than boys. Here's more on the topic from The Tennessean.
You've got your typical boys. Then bring in Kelly Miller, assuming the role of the relentless eighth-grade English teacher. She's determined to buck the odds and get all her students - boys and girls - to meet a goal of reading 30 novels this school year. Miller knew the same general facts that had troubled Calame: Boys read less than girls. Surveys show they're more likely to have a negative experience with books. And boys lag behind girls in reading skills.
Even the great ones must make compromises and promises to get their films made. And there is no greater one than Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock had heard the story of a man, Manny Balestrero, wrongly accused of committing a robbery. He was brought to trial where a mishap with a juror caused a mistrial, and that's when the great director got interested in the real-life story.
As "Manny" waited for a retrial, the real robber was arrested while trying to hold up a grocery store. With that arrest, "Manny" was exonerated. After hearing the story, Alfred Hitchcock decided to make a film. He created The Wrong Man and wanted to make the film as real as possible. He approached Judge Groat (the presiding judge) to see if the Court Room in the Queens County Court House could be made available to film a portion of the movie - just as it had happened in real life. Judge Groat said, "Yes, but with one condition." That "condition" required Alfred Hitchcock to speak at a local Young Republican Club.
Every once in a while, a talent comes and goes from this planet that is just too good to let go by without acknowledging. Sadly, Phoebe Snow succumbed to illness at the young age of 60 and passed away last week. For those of you who don't know, Snow was a singer/songwriter who broke onto the music scene in 1974. She had a deeply rich and beautiful bluesy voice that she showcased perfectly with her haunting and moving songs. She gave up music to care for her disabled child. Even though it was a decision that most likely cost her millions of dollars and elite stardom, she never regretted it. Though her life and contribution to music were far too brief, she still left an indelible mark.
Ms. Snow was discovered at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village in 1972 by Dino Airali, a promotion executive for Shelter Records, based in Tulsa, Okla. Mr. Airali and Phil Ramone produced her first record, which included guest performances by Zoot Sims, the Persuasions and Teddy Wilson. Besides "Poetry Man," the most striking original song on her debut album, "I Don't Want the Night to End," is about a lover named Charlie Parker (not the jazz saxophonist), who had died. The introspective, quirky coffeehouse torch-singing of that hit was a style she later largely abandoned to pursue various hybrids of hard rock, soul and gospel.
Lights, Camera, Action: 3 Words that Aren't Just for the Film Industry Anymore
Being an author today is a lot like being on a tightrope and juggling three chainsaws while doing your taxes and putting on ice skates. There is a lot to do besides the writing. There's the editing and the designing and the blogging and the social networking and the book trailer...Wait, you mean you don't have a book trailer? Author Rye Barcott isn't crazy about them, but he recognizes their importance.
Book trailers are relatively recent additions to the literary world. Most of the authors I know detest the very idea of them. We pour our souls into creating a book, a piece of work that can take people deep into places, problems, and things that matter...Can a few minutes on a screen really do justice to such a rich experience? I don't think so. Yet I realize that book trailers are important to me as a reader. I watch them when they appear on Amazon or B&N.com, and for books I don't know much about, the trailer often influences my decision to buy.
You have to figure that a proven track record of raking in tons of money for a Hollywood studio means you can pretty much write your own ticket, right? You're the big cheese that brings in the big dough. There's no need to keep looking in the want ads. Well, the recent ousting of a Warner Brothers studio executive who was behind films that collectively made billions of dollars has some people in the industry wondering if there's any such thing as job security in Hollywood.
The upshot, say longtime industry watchers, is that Hollywood's clubby, insular business culture is fraying as studios grow ever more corporate and answer to multinational companies that either don't know the customs of Hollywood or don't care about them. Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner all answer to bosses in New York. Walt Disney Studios is the sole major film operation that has a local owner.
I learned a new word. Busking is the act of performing on the street for money. Now, as a writer, there's very little call for me to type on my laptop in public. I've done it before, but no one's ever given me a quarter for it. But some musicians have a lot of success busking. In fact, musician Chris Seth Jackson says that it might even be a crucial ingredient to earning a living as a musician.
Physically busking in one area is limited to only that one city and the people only walking by at that particular time. YouTube is global and timeless. Record yourself playing your music daily and throw it out to the world on YouTube. Record yourself while you're busking on the street. At the end of your YouTube busking, add a call to action. Give a link to your website and ask for 25 cents. On your site, provide people a way to donate a small amount of money to you. PayPal has options for micro transactions. Use it! The good ol' long tail theory could net you a bit of cash over the life of this YouTube post.