Friday, October 26, 2007

Easiest Decision of the Week

We're in the process of hiring an editor for our weekly, which would reduce my workload down to editing TWO papers, though I'd still supervise that one. Here is a cover letter we received yesterday. Bear in mind that one of the necessary skills listed in the job application included computer literacy. Aside from sending out a form letter instead of actually saying why he'd like this particular job, I don't think he realized there was something attached at the bottom.

With the obvious redaction of personal information, his letter follows in its entirety:


M*** M. S***
(street address)
Portland, ME 04101
(phone number)

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing for the opportunity of a position with your Company. I have enclosed for your consideration a personal Resume detailing my education and professional experience. I have considerable experience in film and television production, media relations, and as a writer, editor and performer for a rather varied professional, business and creative clientele.

My work has been wide-ranging, and has accustomed me to a diversity of people, places and perspectives. I have a keen ear, a sharp eye, very sound aesthetic judgment and polished communications skills. I am looking for a position which will afford me the opportunity to wed professional obligation with creative instinct.

Thank you for taking the time to review the enclosed material. I would enjoy very much the opportunity to meet with you, introduce myself and answer any additional questions you may have. I believe I can make a significant contribution to your Company, your clients and your nterests.

M*** M. S***



How about: "We just want a first-rate Writer/Editor and we'll take a little time to teach you the "embroidery?"

This attitude wouldn't, per chance, have anything to do with this State hemorrhaging TALENT -- now would it?

God, you people are THICK -- not to mention provincial ...

Drop dead!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

My favorite also-ran

(Aaaargh: after getting some very nice comments, I discovered that I had a faulty list of years -- it had listed her films by the year they competed in the Oscars rather than the year they were released -- so that, when I went back to see who she lost to, the competition was mismatched.
Edits are in italics.)

When I heard today that Deborah Kerr had died, my reaction was "damn." Deborah Kerr was one of those actors who just seemed to pop up in a whole lot of really good movies. She was also in some not really good movies that were a whole lot of fun, too.

One of my early favorites was "Beloved Infidel," in which she played Sheilah Graham to Gregory Peck's F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was a fairly faithful rendering of Graham's self-serving, ahistorical memoir. But I saw it at a time when I was just getting into the concept of being a writer, and was still several years away from finding out what Scott was like, what Zelda was like and what Sheilah was like. Ah, the magic of Hollywood!

She also played the romantic lead opposite Stewart Granger in "Prisoner of Zenda," the lifeless remake of the much better original that starred Ronald Colman and Madeleine Carroll. Madeleine who? Oh, never mind. The real flaw was that they cast James Mason as Rupert of Hentzau, the wonderful villain earlier played by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., then had to speed up the film to make the fencing sequences look exciting. Should have sped up the whole film -- Every single actor in this movie appeared in something much, much better.

Certainly, Deborah Kerr appeared in many films better than those two. But somehow she managed to set an Oscar record -- the most nominations for Best Actress without a win (6). For the most part, it was bad timing.

Take a look:

1949 (not 1950)
Edward, My Son

Okay, I haven't seen this one, but she starred opposite Spencer Tracy, so it must have been pretty good. However, the award went to ... Judy Holliday for "Born Yesterday." Talk about being nominated in the wrong year! If they gave out Academy Awards by decade, Judy Holliday would have deserved that one.

1953 (not 1954)
From Here to Eternity

And the winner is ... Grace Kelly for "The Country Girl." I think she might have reason to be bitter over this one, because the scene above is a classic of Hollywood filmography. But that's one scene in a long movie, and Kelly was the Golden Girl. There's always next year.

Well, here's a distinction without a difference: She lost to Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday." Hepburn did some nice work, of course, and there could be a more interesting argument over this one. For my part, I think "From Here to Eternity" had a bit more meat to it, and, comparing the two roles, involved more heavy lifting.

1956 (Not 1957)
The King and I

You would think if there were a role that screamed "Oscar!" it would be this one. I mean, if "My Fair Lady" could pick off eight Oscars, you'd think Kerr could win for "The King and I"? After all, Marni Nixon sang the lead in both films! And it was a fun film with quotable lines, singable songs and terrific costuming. Isn't that the sort of thing that wins Oscars by the bushel basket?

And the winner is ... Joanna Woodward for "The Three Faces of Eve."

Maybe they need more categories. That's hardly fair.

She lost to Ingrid Bergman in "Anastasia." I'd have rather lost to Woodward. Bergman was great, and this was a good flick, but it wasn't her best work, and you could do a whole other post about the roles Bergman won for versus the ones she was nominated for.

Incidentally, Yul Brynner was in both "Anastasia" and "The King and I." He took home "Best Actor" for ... "The King and I." It is a puzzlement.

But speaking of "wait until next year ... " we are now getting into what must have been an absolutely agonizing phase. Watch the dates as we go along.

This was such an entertaining concept: Bad boy Robert Mitchum on a desert island with Deborah Kerr, not only a beautiful British ice queen, but a nun! Plus it was patriotic and exciting ... how could it miss?

And the winner is ... Susan Hayward for "I Want to Live."

Okay, this one is a ripoff. I've seen both movies, and Hayward was getting a lifetime achievement award, just as John Wayne got when he won Best Actor for "True Grit." I love Susan Hayward, but if this was her breakthrough role, she didn't ever break through.

(This is the one she lost to Joanna Woodward. No argument -- Wrong place, wrong time.)

So, wait until next year ...

1958 (not 1959)
Separate Tables

Now, here's a serious role. They can't deny her this time!

And the winner is ... Simone Signoret for "Room at the Top." And that, by golly, was a very serious role.

(THIS is the one she lost to Susan Hayward. That really compounds the sleight.)

Hey, there will be other chances.

1960 (Not 1961)
The Sundowners

I won't defend this one. They reunited her with Bobby Mitchum again, but it's no favor. The idea of either of them as Aussies was unconvincing at best. I have had chances to see this movie and haven't gotten through it yet. It's got its fans, but putting it up for five Oscars was, I think, a stretch. And, anyway, she could have put on the performance of a lifetime, because she was up against a juggernaut.

And the winner is ... Sophia Loren for "Two Women."

Not gonna win that one, no matter what you turn in.

(And you could repeat that for the actual winner -- Elizabeth Taylor for "Butterfield 8," though I think Loren worked harder for hers. However, either is a buzzsaw, and "The Sundowners" wasn't in the same weight class as either film.)

Finally, in 1994, the Academy gave her a special award, and I think it was well-deserved for someone who showed up and, whatever the quality of the material she was given, turned in a good, and sometimes an inspired, performance.

There's no moral here, no fine philosophical point to be made. Well, except that I have always thought that awards were pretty stupid. The regional writing awards I've won were for relatively ho-hum work, while the stuff I was proud of got nothing. I imagine, out there on the international stage, that a lot of actors feel the same way.

Deborah Kerr had very good reason to feel that way.

Ah, well. As Bob Dylan said in "Don't Look Back," "Applause is kind of bullshit."

Not a word I would expect to hear coming from Deborah Kerr, mind you, but she might have thought it a few times on Oscar night.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Photographing Four

Here is a photograph of my four granddaughters, taken at the littlest one's first birthday party yesterday in Vermont. This is not the only picture I took of them, of course. Getting all four to look in the same direction was a challenge, and I ended up taking about a dozen shots, all but two now deleted.

The mathematicians who drop by can figure out a formula for the number of shots it takes to take a good picture of a given number of granddaughters, factoring in their ages, but what I know is that it's not easy, at least not now.

As they grow older, however, I expect it to grow somewhat easier.

However, these four will likely never be any more cooperative than they were yesterday. The two brown ones, constant readers will realize, are my own. The standing dog is my older son's, the sitting dog my younger son's. I won't put their names in because the Internet is full of canine predators who would then appear in Chris Hansen's back yard with Milk Bones, calling to them.

I worked for about two minutes to get a shot of the four of them sitting and facing the same direction. Then I decided to modify my goal to see if I could get a shot of the four of them sitting at the same time, no matter which direction they were facing. I won't say how long I spent on that.

The problem was that I could stand in one place and reach three dogs, but never the fourth. So, when I'd get three of them sitting, I'd have to leave to grab the fourth dog, and at least one of the sitting dogs would either decide to come see what I was going to do, or would decide the sitting session had ended or would simply lose focus and drift away.

This is a good example of shutter lag. I swear, when I pushed the shutter button, there were four dogs sitting. (I am well aware that my children will refuse to confirm this, which is one of the disadvantages of not having the right sort of relationship with them.)

I remain convinced it can be done. Here are three dogs in a photo taken about 10 years ago, when the one in the middle was the youngest, rather than the eldest, as he is in the other shot here. Three is not that difficult. Can adding one more dog change it from challenging to impossible?


The question of how many more small granddaughters you can add before things go completely out of control, I will leave to my children.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mr. Big Stuff

I go through a certain routine each morning, with about 20 stops all set up in tabs on my Firefox page. This morning, I visited Sandra Bell Lundy's blog, where she has been recounting how she managed to get her comic strip, "Between Friends," into syndication. She talked about calling the managing editor of the Toronto Star, and (not to steal her thunder -- go read it) having him turn out to be a self-important putz.

The next tab in my daily sequence happens to be the Huffington Post, where they had posted this merciless, insightful and hilarious Jon Stewart interview with (or, if you prefer, "evisceration of") one of America's most self-important putzes, Chris Matthews, who has written a book about how to be a self-important putz!

I feel like I've been to a workshop on the topic, and it's not even 5 a.m. yet.