21 march 1999  

slipping away

As usual, Spring has arrived to turn this young man’s fancy to thoughts of a serious road trip. I haven’t decided where I’m going yet, but I’m going. The desert? Up north to the Bay Area? Don’t know. But I have to get out of here.

While I do have most mornings to sit down and write, I often dream of the weekend as a time to tie up loose literary ends. Every Friday evening, over dinner at our local Chinese restaurant, I’ll casually mention that I’m planning on getting some writing done over the weekend, using the announcement as a shot across the bow of anyone thinking of thwarting the attempt. This fools no one. The fabric of any given Saturday or Sunday is always riddled with holes nibbled open by a girl who insists I sit for tea with her and Barbie or climb into the tree fort to escape whatever agenda may linger back there on the ground. And there are the unavoidable duties commensurate with my status as a land baron: lawn mowing, edging, trimming, sweeping, tidying, and general resupplying of all the suburban essentials. Full domestic participation means that come Sunday night my office looks like the floor in the practice room of an amateur magician – loose ends are lying about everywhere, bits and pieces of attempts gone awry, snippets of ideas, end-pieces of do-overs. When Monday morning rolls around I face a mixed mood of relief and frustration at not having met the challenge of finding something interesting to write about outside of my own closet.

* * * * * * *

Today I’ve discarded even the presumption of getting some writing done and moved on to watching the red carpet pre-Oscar hypefest on the local ABC affiliate here. Roger Ebert is teamed up with a woman who needs desperately to have an overflow valve implanted behind her ear to relieve some of the pressure she’s feeling to gush. I see she's already had the automatic hair flipper installed. She’s got her perk pots dialed up way past ten and is vexing even Roger with the transparency of her enthusiasm. She is shrill and insincere and apparently the best ABC could come up with, which is a clear signal that famine, war, pestilence and death should be arriving by limousine any moment now.

The reason she’s fouling my living room is because Ebert’s the idea man, the guy with the goods on the flicks, the Predictor, the fact boy. He won't, nor should he be bothered by the piggybacking details tacked on by Hollywood's promotional arm. This woman he’s partnered with is there to do the "color" i.e., "who are you wearing and what is your charity?" Which would be fine if she didn’t stink on ice.

What makes it all so enjoyable is being able to witness live chaos among people who work in an industry that needs and covets as much control as possible. While the celebrities push through the line and the huddled masses scream across the carpet, the flesh-shepherds and hype-spinners slink about with clipboards and earpieces listening for instructions from the brains whirring in a trailer out back. The celebs, the fans, the media, each faction hungers for the others so badly that the glamourfest sours into a corrosive clusterfuck, to use the cinéma vérité term, and the whole live event gets kicked up a notch to the level of a televised hostage situation. With borrowed jewelry.


Okay, first we need to send a very nice letter to Helen Hunt asking her to please not do that with her eye makeup anymore.

There are always two or three moments during every Oscar telecast when my emotions get the best of me during an acceptance speech, usually a poignantly grateful sound editor thanking his mother or, as in tonight's case, Keiko Ibi who won for best short documentary. They get choked up, I get choked up. They cry, I cry. They go home with a statue and a career, I cry.

When the Kazan moment came I was riveted, of course. It turned out as I expected. I kept thinking how difficult such a moment would be for a television director; who do you shoot and how do you shoot them, and why are you shooting them, and what effect will these decisions have on the overall issue? I wish the room had been miked better for ambient sound in the auditorium so we could have better heard whatever audible reaction there may have been, but I suppose ABC (Disney, hmmm) was not there in a journalistic capacity. It was nice to see some stony faces in the audience, and Chris Rock’s "rat" joke gets the prize for most courageous comment of the evening.

Alright, enough of this Hollywood blather. The blank page and the open road are calling…

today's music:

"That's Entertainment!" -- Judy Garland -- MUSIC FROM THE MIRAMAX MOTION PICTURE: LITTLE VOICE


today's wisdom:

"A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know."

- H.L. Mencken