Thursday, February 28, 2013

Three Interesting Things

I've talked about fabulous realities before, but the general idea, stolen entirely from my high school creative writing book, is to look out for the amazing, strange and interesting happening in the real world.  Sometimes they are so weird that you could almost never get away with it in fiction because people would sa oh that's too weird, or too coincidental.  But, in the general spirit of that, here are three interesting things that I found out and about on the internet. 
1. An adoptive mother takes newborn style shots of her new twelve year old son
2. Connie Britton's awesome is not secret to "Friday Night Lights" fans, and even "Nashville" fans.  But, still, this article was an not unexpected good read, especially for the note about how much easier it is to date younger as one ages. 
3. And this example of how even police can sometimes mistake social media for actual notice, where a mother discovers a message in her Facebook about her son's death. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Oscars Problem

The reality is, if I just wanted to know who won, then there are already lists across the land that I could look at.  So, tuning in to a four plus hour telecast to determine the four (I'm kidding, it was at least twelve...) awards presented live is not efficient.  If you wanted to see the dresses, there are numerous lists and recaps.  If you wanted to participate in the social media stuff, then, I imagine a clever person could just follow along. 
The host/hosts/hostess is not really the issue.  Here's my thought on that.  Humor is subjective.  I loved some of other people's least favorite hosts and probably vice versa.  Folks were posting last night that this was just like Seth McFarlane's normal humor and I know.  (That just happens to be why I tend to avoid large doses of Seth McFarlane.) 
Also, if you were watching for the hosting, I can't imagine what cross section of folks were equally excited about the folks holding the job the last five years.  (Oh you!  Hi!)
And let's face it the speeches are hit or miss.  Daniel Day Lewis was wonderfully funny though. 
So, sure the glitz and glamour, all those movie folks gathered together, it's good.
Eons ago, a producer of the Tonys remarked that he felt they had gotten away from the core reason they gathered, and he revamped the show to be less gag, more person(s) performing a moment from a play. 
The Grammys have gone a similar route, taking the opportunity to showcase all sorts of performers together on a stage. 
The challenge the Oscars has is if they turn the show into lots of movie clips, well, it feels like something I could do at home on my couch any day of the year. 
So, in theory the idea of showcasing music from the movies was a neat idea.  (Shirley Bassey!  Adele! The cast of "Les Miserables"!)  And I enjoyed it a lot.  But, aImost a little late.  As the changing landscape of media means movie songs are not the most direct route to get yourself noticed by the people, well, the fact that only three original songs were nominated says something.  So, they brought out other songs which (Dame Shirley Bassey!) was nice but made you wonder if you had maybe changed the channel by accident. 
I loved the year that they did a fashion show of the nominated costumes.  Honestly, I think the biggest issue is efficiency.  The pacing is weird.  There were still a ridiculous number of awards to go when they hit the time they should end.  Given the number of awards that have been shunted to the technical night and the number of people they Jaw's off, there is really no explanation for that.  I get that live shows are unpredictable, but they are not that unpredictable. 
So, if I was at that table when they next discuss the Oscars, my suggestion would be to figure out the pacing so that there's less margin for overrun (I'm not saying cut Shirley Bassey, but, well, many of those awkward presenter intros could have gone.)  And someone somewhere should know, hey, we're halfway through time but we were supposed to be here by now so here's what we're going to do.  Having just read a book talking about the terrible clock management in "Friday Night Lights" that often required to team to pull out a big win in the last two minutes, we have the same thing here.  Probably some stuff did get cut.  They probably didn't mean to basically stack the last few awards on top of each other.  But, in three hours, there should have been a better plan B.  Having nothing in your telecast to trim doesn't mean you made a great telecast, it means you are bad at planning. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Taste and Hype

So, it seems like it goes without saying that everyone has their own taste, particularly when it comes to entertainment.  I still find reviews be they professional or amateur the conclusion is often less interesting than the reason.  Partly because of differences in taste.  For a while there was one movie reviewer who had the exact opposite taste to mine, so anytime I saw raves from that person, I took it off my go see list.  Someone may say that they hate books in first person (doesn't bother me) or present tense (ugh, but for a good book I will put up with it) or with too many points of view. 
And of course I think most of us have had that moment where someone (or several someones) tell us something is amazing, and we find it kinda meh.  There have been times I have gone back to someone and said, so, here was my issue, now tell me what you loved about it.  And I mean that genuinely, because sometimes after some time to process, you see why that thing appealed to them (or not, but you can't know if you don't ask).  I once read a book based on someone talking about an awesome principle that the book addressed.  And I enjoyed the book but it was taking a while to get through.  And in practically the last chapter we got to the thing that that person had mentioned and it got not even a whole paragraph.  And this is not to say I wasted my time on this book, but I went in with incorrect assumptions.  Those were mostly, if not entirely, my fault, but it colored my experience of the book. 
Anyhoodle. All of that is to say, I want to point you to this post over at Super Librarian, wherein she details some reasons for not liking some popular books.  But, first, I want to mention that she gives reasons.  And really, in addition to the interesting discussion about what makes a book grab the casual reader (as opposed to the constant reader like myself), she has this fabulous quote that sums up much of my reading taste.  "I barely tolerate stupid people in real life, I can't spend my leisure time reading about them....."  Yes.  A thousand times, yes. Now, sure, stupid may be in the eye of the beholder.  But, yeah, nothing makes me more annoyed faster than stupid characters. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

7 Ways Project Runway is like Writing (And Other Endeavors)

So, we are on the teams season of "Project Runway" and while it's early days yet, it is interesting in how the teams aspect creates both differences and more of the same.  I was also struck by how much it's like a lot of people working in this writing gig, although certainly  it is equally applicable to other life endeavours.  So, here you go. 

1. Reality competition makes such things more directly competitive.  In the world of not reality television you are not necessarily in direct competition with fellow writers or chefs or job seekers of all kinds for that matter, but sure, if there's one opening for that agent or editor then, yeah, only one of you is getting that.  So, in that sense, the one prize thing seems very similar.  Of course, there will be other opportunities, and even for the contestants that remains true too.  Some of the most successful folks from reality competitions are the ones who came in second, third, or even fifth, but managed to capitalize down the line on connections made and exposure. 

2. One or more of your fellow contestants has no idea what they signed up for.  Now, this isn't always bad.  I have ended up doing some amazing things on little more than a whim.  But one of these people has never used an unfamiliar sewing machine.  Never tried to make something in a day.  Or did, but didn't factor in that that day included shopping for fabric, conferencing with fellow contestants and doing interviews with the camera.  How's that like the other stuff?  Someone else in that agent's or editor's query pile has sent something that isn't even a genre that that person represents or edits for.  Someone else has sent a cover letter and resume riddled with errors and demonstrating none of the required skills. 

3. You think you know, but you don't.  I feel fairly certain that everyone shows up at a reality show competition sure they can do this.  Probably win even.  You can watch shows, you can practice staying up late and working at home, but there are things you cannot really plan for.  You cannot plan for your roommates, the energy of the workroom.  As anyone who's ever had a vacation go off the rails after too much togetherness knows, being good with people is not like being good with people you can only escape in the bathroom and not even then because they just followed you.  Now yes, most jobs or writerly excursions allow for alone time.  But, working with people is often different than you expect.  People you thought were totally your people turn out to have different styles, or a sunflower seed habit, or they hate email and want to do everything by phone in the middle of your lunch.  So, there are often adjustments that need to be made.

4. There will be gossip. It's everywhere.  We always like to believe we don't do it, or will come out well in the telling, but again, you cannot predict.  I have never seen a workplace or conference or coffee shop for that matter that didn't have a little going on.  Sometimes its all in fun, or you manage to stay focused and away from the fray.  Sometimes not.  Hopefully, you can at least avoid saying something that you wouldn't also say to the person.  You may think you told someone who would never tell.  You may think you checked for cameras.  But that is often not the case. 

5. Everyone who has ever watched a competitive reality show knows there are critiques.  In "Project Runway" the Tim critiques are kind of famous.  And then other contestants will have thoughts. (And with the teams aspect they will have more thoughts.)  But I think sometimes the most maddening thing about critiques is that you can address and polish based on all that early feedback and then go to the judges and kersplat.  This happens in writing, it happens in jobs where there are clients or managerial layers, it happens everywhere.  And it's frustrating.  You can try to plan for it.  Have people looks at your stuff.  Ask for honest feedback.  Get used to processing and listening, but like many things, some days the things they say will make great sense and sometimes they will harp on your use of blue. 

6. You will fail.  Seriously.  You will do something so atrocious they will threaten to kick you off.  In fact, given there have never been co-winners in the finale (yet) your chances are abysmal, like lottery ticket low, of not getting eliminated. Kristan Higgans has talked about being told in a room of writers only one in one hundred will ever publish.  That doesn't mean one in one hundred will try.  Lots of people try.  And hey, like all statistics it just means the odds are against you.  There's no way you can be a writer and never get rejected.  There's no way you'll get every job you apply for. Even once you have an agent or a job, you will still fail.  (Chipper aren't I?)  It's part of life. 

7. You will have a memorable experience.  I've told people that sometimes the point of having roommates or crappy first (second, tenth) jobs is to better clarify for yourself what you do not want.  You may not have known previously that this or that thing was a dealbreaker for you.  Now you do.  So, the one things I can guarantee for a reality show contestant, and eventually, at some point, other job and career seekers, it will be memorable.  Even if you end up being the super stable on top of it person through the whole thing, so even keeled you barely get any screen time, I feel certain that the experience of being a reality show contestant is still memorable.  And those jobs, those roommates, those aforementioned failures, good bad or ugly, you will have experiences.  It's about the only thing you can count on.