Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for Law, did not return phone calls last night... This is a sentence that Boston Globe readers have been seeing almost every day for the last three months. And from the way things seems to be going for the Cardinal, we're going to keep seeing it until the day he resigns.

Monday, April 29, 2002

"These are signs of a desperate regime that knows the Iranian people love America and hate their rulers...". Read the rest of Michael Ledeen's excellent article on National Review Online on the brewing crisis in Iran—crisis for the fanatic clerics, but good news for freedom loving Iranians.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Boston media roundup heading into the last weekend in April: The raves which Red Sox ace pitcher Pedro Martinez has been drawing from local newspaper, television and radio reporters must amuse former Baltimore Orioles star right hander Jim Palmer who does the TV color at Orioles games. Many of us who were priviliged to see Palmer, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and other greats marvel at the way Martinez has been babied and virtually nursed along to the point where a complete game by him will be headline news on Hub sports pages. To keep stardom in perspective, one should look up their records, especially that of the Cleveland Indians fireballer who spent the four prime years of his career in the U.S. Navy during WW II. In 1946 the 27-year-old Feller started 42 games for the Indians, completed 36 of them, had 10 complete-game shutouts, pitched 371 innings, struck out 348 batters, had a 2.18 ERA and won 26 games, losing 15. Not bad for the Van Meter, Iowa farm boy who was regularly facing American League greats like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio....

The Boston Herald's hard hitting political columnist, Howie Carr, had another great piece today, this one spelling out how tight many Massachusetts politicians are with their contributions to charity. "Pols don't give to charity, period." Carr wrote. "This not to say elected officials don't love giving away money, as long as it's your money they're giving away, not theirs." Carr concluded his rundown with a reminder to his readers that Mass. Sen. John Kerry who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, gave only $135 to charity in 1993, claiming he was broke. "But that same year he somehow scrapped together $8,600 for a brand-new, handmade, imported Italian motorcycle—a 1993 Ducati Paso 907 IE," Carr wrote....

Steve Buckley who covered last night's Bruins-Canadiens playoff game in Montreal for the Herald, described Bruins defenseman Kyle McLaren's vicious forearm to the face of Canadiens' star Richard Zednik in the waning minutes of the game as a cheap shot, totally uncalled for and one which "disgraced" the Bruins uniform.
Follow-up on Tolkien family spat: As far as I can ascertain, it appears that there was in fact a dust-up in the Tolkien family regarding the new movie. From what I've been told, Christopher Tolkien and his son fell out over the latter's desire to be in on the production (whether in a consulting capacity or not, is not clear, but that sounds like the most likely role). In any case, Tolkien's son and literary executor probably made it clear to his own offspring this would not be allowed—and probably had the financial strings to make his decision stick. A pity, as far as I'm concerned. The movie follows the book and Tolkien's background writings to the letter, indeed, to the point of slavishly following the descriptions of landscapes. The setting of Isengard, for example, where Christopher Lee's treacherous Saruman character lives, is point-for-point as Tolkien described it. Anyway, a Tolkien grand-child might have brought even more to the table in terms of detail....

Thursday, April 25, 2002

The sudden discovery of additional new incriminating documents concerning Fr. Paul Shanley's advocacy of man-boy love in the files of the Archdiocese of Boston is another nail in the career coffin of Bernard Cardinal Law who still maintains he has no plans to resign or take another church post in Rome. The cardinal has lost the confidence of the laity in Metropolitan Boston and with it the capacity to lead. But he seems to be the only leader in the area not to recognize it as he continues to insist he is the most qualified church official to pick up the pieces and lead the archdiocese out of the terrible mess which has engulfed it. Meanwhile the Boston Globe which broke the stories about pedophile priests in January, continues to work aggressively on new aspects of the church problem, particularly the financial burden for area Catholics which may ultimately approach $100 million. The Globe, incidentally, is certain to win one or more Pulitzer Prizes for its excellent investigative series which launched the ongoing national and international news story.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

First News First: Former Boston Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski finally married the beautiful young woman with whom he has been living, last Saturday evening at his favorite restaurant, Anthony's Pier Four in Boston. Yastrzemski who was a star left fielder for 22 years with the Red Sox, was married to Nancy Benson whom he met at the tail end of his career 22 years ago. A longtime friend of Yaz, a former priest who is married and has three children, performed the simple civil ceremony witnessed by a small group of family members and other relatives which didn't include Yaz' first wife, Carol. Yastrzemski's father who still looks as strong and fit as his famous son who will be 63 in August, was the best man and the bride's mother was maid of honor. Uninvited to the hushed wedding festivities at the world-famous restaurant were television and newspaper reporters and commentators who have covered Yaz throughout his four-decade carrer with the BoSox.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Interesting bit of controversy from the UK. Amid constant rumors that he and some of the other surviving members of JRR Tolkien's family 'disapproved' of the New Line theatrical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, Christopher Tolkien issued a statement through family solicitors that he did not in any way disapprove of the film, but that he thought it essentially not possible to capture the true essence of his father's book in any film adaptation. A biographer of Tolkien, Michael White, is quoted by the BBC as being more blunt, claiming that Tolkien loathed Hollywood.

Anyone with access to Tolkien's published letters (1981) knows this is not true. In fact, as early as 1957, according to the published letters, Tolkien was keenly interested in selling the motion picture rights to the trilogy because he knew he could get a substantial amount of money. In letters to Allen & Unwin publishers he details his interest in the possible sale. One letter is devoted to a spirited critique of an actual story line submitted to him for his comments from one production exec named Zimmerman. It's clear that what Tolkien loathed was Walt Disney and Disney's "cute" approach to cinema, not Hollywood per se. It's also clear that Tolkien had been to the cinema enough times to have a good grasp of how cinema could be employed to tell LOTR. He eventually did sell the rights in 1969.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Today's site is for indie DV filmmakers. I know digital movie-makers don't make films in the technical sense, not when they're actually shooting, but sites like DVFilm.com show you why it really doesn't matter any more. Texas filmmaker Marcus van Bavel offers a great book dealing with all aspects of DV filmmaking as well as the issues of going from DV to film for theatrical release. An engineer by training and profession, he also offers some great applications for much less than the standard $600 or more for the current crop of high-end DV products like Premiere, After Effects, Cleaner and Final Cut Pro. Particularly useful is DV Film Maker, a $95 application that de-interlaces DV video in prep for film transfer. A free demo version is available, and it's fully functional (the hitch being it emblazons a DV Film logo on your finished version). If you're new to DV movie-making and want to learn more, van Bavel's site is highly recommended.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Site of the day: Bad as things are in the publishing world, your chances of publishing fiction are still better than selling a screenplay to Hollywood. However, having said that, it's also become clear over the past year that more and more independent producers and agents are finding material through web sites. One such source is today's link: Writerscape. Writers, producers, publishers and agents have to register to make use of the site. Writers have to submit their manuscripts for review, and there is a fee. But, the site has definitely made sales to producers. I know from my own experience that I've made more things happen through contacts on the web than I ever have through the traditional snail mail, query letter approach. Check out Writerscape.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Site of the day: when it comes to opportunities for publishing short fiction, science fiction outlets have been—and remain the best. While other houses, firmly in the thrall of the conglomerates that absorbed them, have had to retrench and confine themselves purely to work submitted by agents, publishers like TOR and ACE still accept unsolicited manuscripts. Same goes for SF magazines. If you're a starting writer and haven't thought about trying your hand at writing SF, consider it now. Because there are a lot more places out there, like Anotherealm that are waiting to hear from you. Not only does Anotherealm publish short fiction, it's also looking for 'Flash' fiction, stories told using the web's hottest animation technology, Macromedia Flash.

Check them out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Site of the day: For writers in the industrial market, the Peter Schleger Company, based in New York City (Central Park South, no less), is on the lookout for scripts. According to his listing, "Produces material primarily for employee populations in corporations and nonprofit organizations." Programs not to run longer than 10 minutes.

Monday, April 15, 2002

The Death of Damon Knight. One of Science Fiction's originals passed away at the age of 80. In addition to being a very good fiction writer, Knight was foremost among the immediate post-war generation of SF writers to establish retreats for aspiring SF writers. What follows is some of a tribute to him by TOR Books Senior Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden from his web log:

"He was an absolutely central figure of the science fiction world. As a teenager in 1939, he hitchhiked from his home in Oregon to New York City, where he became part of the Futurians, the group of fans and writers that also included the young Frederik Pohl, Donald Wollheim, Isaac Asimov, C. M. Kornbluth, and many others; his book-length memoir of this period, The Futurians , remains one of the most entertaining works of SF history ever published. He was the first reviewer to subject science fiction to the standards of ambitious mainstream fiction; his collection of essays and reviews, In Search of Wonder , is the founding document of modern SF criticism.

"With Judith Merrill and James Blish, he founded the Milford series of writing workshops, which led to the creation of the Clarion SF and Fantasy Writers' Workshop, at which he and his wife Kate Wilhelm taught for decades—helping to raise generation after generation of some of the field's best writers. His book Creating Short Fiction remains one of the best how-to texts for the any aspiring fiction writer. He founded the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and served as its first president; he was a tireless defender of authors' rights and critic of bad publishing practices. He edited dozens of important anthologies, most notably the "Orbit" series; in that capacity, he discovered many writers who later rose to prominence, including R. A. Lafferty, Gardner Dozois, and Gene Wolfe. (Wolfe's classic The Fifth Head of Cerberus is dedicated "To Damon Knight, who one well-remembered June evening in 1966 grew me from a bean.")

"With a tremendous sense of non sum dignus, I served as editor on his last two novels, Why Do Birds (1992) and Humpty Dumpty: An Oval. I'm proud to have been involved in publishing them. Humpty Dumpty , in particular, is a novel I believe the SF world and the literary world will eventually catch up to; it is a great humming elegy for the world, told at the moment of death."
'Raping Steven Spielberg.' No, it hasn't actually happened. But that's the title of a new, rather wild, independent movie that's been making some buzz on the independent circuit. Here's a brief review by Eric Campos from Hollywood Film Threat. See below. Makes me wonder whether any enterprising east coast producers could make a name for themselves by producing 'Drowning Ted Kennedy.'

"You know you have gold in your hands when you get a film by a cast and crew who refuse to be identified. This is also one of those rare films that could get by alone on its premise—a homosexual rape fantasy featuring Steven Spielberg and the films that have made him such a household name.

No doubt, this film is based on the true-life story of that weirdo who showed up not long ago at Spielberg's home... And although the idea itself, as disturbing or side-splittingly funny as it may be to folks, has the ability to carry this 35 minute film, the unnamed filmmakers have a twisted sense of humor that keeps the laughs at maximum level. This is what true indie film is about—sticking it to the man and having some great laughs along the way."

DV site of the day: Dr. Peter Utz has a great VideoExpert page that covers virtually all aspects of video production (analog and digital). If you're just starting out or always wanted to know some of the finer details (like how camcorders actually record video signal) this is a great page. In addition to being a college instructor, Dr. Utz has been a consultant for Sony, Panasonic, JVC and other businesses and schools.

Note: Site of the day will vary between the world of DV production and the world of publishing, but will always focus on the 'new media' aspects.

Friday, April 12, 2002

In defense of Funny Bones. (The peanut-butter filled chocolate cakes, not the anatomical push-button that paralyzes your arm.) Words of wisdom—and what better on a Friday afternoon?

You do realize that if you stand in front of the pastry case at the coffee shop and calculate calories in your head, trying to figure out if a chocolate chip cookie is going to show up on your hips, you are actually doing more damage to your heart from the stress than if you simply ate the damn cookie and allowed yourself to experience the joy of it, right? You do realize that happiness and personal acceptance are hundreds of times better for you than stressful self-denial, right?

The only true blasphemy is refusing joy.

This gem is from Philip E. Lefebvre at Utne Online. The article features a more realistic diet than I've ever seen advertised...
Writing site of the day: I Love My Job! No, really. This California-based online journal is seeking humorous vignettes and stories from the work place. It's 100% freelance written; bi-weekly; pays $25 to $100 (on acceptance) for pieces up to 4,000 words. Contact editor Steve Herbelin at Riverbankbooks.com. Based on their site, they collect the best stories and publish them.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Writing site of the day: The New Brand Agency Group, LLC accepts queries by email only. That alone is enough to make them listing of the day. In these days of crushing competition, writers simply can't waste the time it takes snail-mailing material to agents who won't accept queries by email. Even A-List agencies often prove inept at handling their own mail. Most agents online respond quickly to email--much more quickly than they used to standard mail queries.

The info on New Brand: you can find them at www.literaryagent.net. New Brand is looking for fiction and non-fiction. Check them out. Contact Mark Ryan or Ingrid Elfver-Ryan. They've been in business since 1994. They currently represent 30 clients, 40% of whom are new/unpublished writers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

With the Shanley revelations and today's Globe calling for Cardinal Law's resignation (and a front page story concerning the implosion of his support) it just seems a matter of time before the Cardinal does resign.

Eileen McNamara has an interesting piece, wondering whether the reason for coddling Shanley is because of blackmail. She writes: Absent blackmail, why would Law recommend to dioceses in New York and California a ''street priest'' whose public advocacy of sex between men and boys contradicted church teaching and whose private behavior violated criminal and canon law? Law's insistence on adherence to convention, after all, is so strict that he had a nun fired two years ago because she had the temerity to wear a clerical stole at a baptismal rite.

She adds: Buried in Shanley's personnel file might be a hint. ''I have abided by my promise not to mention to anyone the fact that I too had been sexually abused as a teenager, and, later, as a seminarian by a priest, a faculty member, a pastor, and, ironically, by the predecessor of one of two cardinals who now debate my fate,'' Shanley wrote to the Rev. Brian M. Flatley in an appeal for Law's support for his efforts to be appointed director of a church-sponsored youth hostel in New York City.

What are we going to find out next? It's quite possible (perhaps likely) that Shanley is a liar. If so, why didn't the Cardinal have the courage to stand up to him? What will it take for him to realize that he is now inflicting more damage on the archdiocese and on the faith of churchgoers by his bunker mentality than if it turned out he had some dark secret of his own made public? What could be worse than the deviousness, evasiveness, the whole drip-by-drip destruction of credibility?

Monday, April 08, 2002

First, this item from the front page of today's Boston Globe:

During a Holy Week news conference in Rome, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos noted that most of the questions on clergy sexual abuse had been posed in English, and called that fact ''an X-ray of the problem.''

Castrillon cited research by Philip Jenkins, a professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, who argues that the problem is relatively minor. Jenkins then went on to argue in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that the clergy sexual abuse crisis is really an outgrowth of an ideological clash within the American Catholic Church.

''Questions about what the Church can or will do typically seem to assume that American Catholics represent the whole body of the faithful, which for no obvious reason finds itself under the supervision of a quirky, irascible band of elderly Europeans,'' Jenkins wrote. ''It is salutary to recall that the United States accounts for a paltry 6 percent of the world's Catholics, and that the fastest-growing Catholic centers are all in Africa, Asia, and Latin America - areas that do not share the American fascination with clerical scandal.''

Now this second item, from the very same front page:

The Archdiocese of Boston arranged the transfer of a known child molester, the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, to a California parish in 1990 with a top-level written assurance that Shanley had no problems in his past, according to a spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese.

The letter, which cleared the way for Shanley to work for three years at St. Anne's in San Bernardino, without restriction on his contact with children, was written by Bishop Robert J. Banks, who was then the top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

Back to item one: The arrogance of Professor Jenkins and that Roman prelate is almost breathtaking. Just how much money would the Catholic Church throughout the world lose if that "paltry" 6 percent of American Catholics decided to ignore the weekly collections every Sunday and stop sending money to charities and foundations overseas?

But, the attitude in Rome is very real. Confirmed for me by a friend in Rome who is a priest. This scandal is looked upon as an American problem. But as the story about Shanley makes clear--the real problem is the abuse of power going on in the hierarchy--and not just in America. It's about bishops like Cardinal Law knowingly sending predators into other parishes and not informing his own flock or other flocks about the danger these predators pose to children and the community. This is not about sex. This is about accountability. And if Rome is going to truly take this attitude, the damage this will cause to the faith of Catholics everywhere will be incalculable.

Friday, April 05, 2002

With the release of Final Cut Pro 3, at least one veteran online editor and DV guru thinks that Adobe will cease upgrading Premiere for the Mac. (This is probably "No kidding, you think?" obvious to many DV specialists.) Version 6.0 is the last gasp. It's a shame in the sense that Premiere was there at the beginning--when Macs were the only computers that could do any digital video. A shame too because Premiere 6 is a great program (if I do say so, having devoted a chapter from my upcoming Digital Movies book to it). The big question now is whether Apple is setting its sights to come out with a major compositing program to compete with After Effects?
Web logging was front and center this week as Alex Beam of the Boston Globe attacked New Republic writer Andrew Sullivan and syndicated political humor columnist James Lileks for their web logs--and web logging in general. Beam's schtick is, of course, to be a carmudgeon, but his whining seemed more than a bit forced.

I emailed him to ask him how his book sales were going (Gracefully Insane, about McLean Hospital)--trying to make the point that, if nothing else, web logs are a great way for authors to get new readers interested in their work. Beam, who has two out-of-print books to his name--responded with a cute wisecrack, but basically ducked the issue. Gracefully Insane came out just a few months ago--and got nice reviews. But it's nowhere on any best-seller's list. And it's a shame. Beam is precisely the kind of writer who would benefit from his own web log. He certainly can't pump his book from his column. The Globe wouldn't let him.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan tells me that his web logging has not only helped sell his books but has gotten him tons more calls from editors asking him to write for them.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

"As a soldier who knows the horrors of war, I seek a peace with every Arab country. We are ready to share our know-how with Palestinians, to help you and be helped by you. I see a Marshall Plan for Palestine -- call it the Bush-Sharon plan -- to solve your problem of unemployment. Together we can make tremendous achievements.

"These are the things I would have told the Arab leaders to their faces if they had let me come to Beirut. I am 74 now, with one thing left in my life to accomplish: security and peace for ourselves and our neighbors."

This prime minister, after a period of painful forbearance under intolerable provocation, is now decisively fulfilling the mandate Israelis overwhelmingly gave him: to turn back the tide of terror. President Bush is resisting powerful pressure from many in the worldwide opinion mafia and the oil industry to "engage" and undermine him. Though demonized by extremist Arab dictators and despised by fanatics left and right, Arik Sharon is the average Palestinian's last best hope in this generation for a good life in an independent state.

From William Safire's piece in today's New York Times. Bush seems to be holding out against all the "good" advice he is getting from our hapless allies. When Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have been exterminated, then the U.S. can "intervene" with a peace plan.

Monday, April 01, 2002

As Dan Shaughnessy and Peter Gammons point out in today's Globe, pehaps the best thing about this year at Fenway is that the new owners have already effected so many positive changes behind the scenes. Gone is the institutionalized arrogance that was part of the John Harrington (Bud Selig's bag man) and Dan "Baby Doc" Duquette era. Already the club house has been renovated for the players; the wives' club room is under renovation; the wall between the media suite and the executive suite has been taken down, and many other small but noticeable aspects of the park have been spruced up. These things may seem small but, come what may for the team in terms of contending, they are real reasons to quietly rejoice. Messrs. Henry, Werner and Lucchino have already made it clear that they tend to listen to the fans and not treat them as though they should feel lucky even to attend a ball game.