Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Musings

Since I just returned from Joshua Tree, I was pleasantly surprised to find this essay on the place and its role in the imagination from Deanna Stillman, the author of Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave, and Joshua Tree: Desolation Tango.

Here's an excerpt:"

I started skipping dinner parties, openings, reordering my life. Joshua Tree National Park had become my church, my temple, my Stouffer’s frozen turkey tetrazzini. Week after week I would leave Los Angeles, the Xerox machine of America’s dreams, and head for the Mojave, where they all started. I felt at home in this vast space where, if you happened to be near the right dune at the right time, you might stumble across a cosmic joke in the form of a shamanic workshop at the corner of Highway 111 and Bob Hope Drive, a biker with a used bookstore and an espresso machine (more on this later), a cosmetic epiphany in the form of a shack that peddles thigh cream next to an earthquake sinkhole, or endless miracles of nature such as the reclusive desert frogs that leap out of the sands after a rainstorm.”

The combined book review and opinion sections of the LA Times debuts today and David Ullin, its book editor, makes a game attempt to show that the experiment will put more, rather than less, book news in the paper. Something about new online columns and such.

With the news about the shuttering of Cody’s San Francisco, the Chronicle publishes an editorial lamenting the decline of idiosyncratic, neighborhood-friendly bookstores.

Los Angeles Times reporter Anna Gorman writes a moving piece about discovering she carries the BRAC1 gene that predisposes her to cancer. After her father, grandmother, and aunt die of cancer, Gorman makes the difficult decision to take out her ovaries.

Last but not least, Michelle Chihara writes for n+1 about casting the reality television show “I’m From Rolling Stone.” It turns out that the good writers didn’t do so well on camera. (via FishbowlLA)

"We did get applications from many, many good writers, even great writers. We interviewed every single one of them. I swear to you. When we were really impressed or even a little impressed by the writing, we went for the next step. We were prepared to have a talented and charismatic and truly funny-looking cast. (Good writers, it turns out, tend toward the funny-looking.)

Here are some of the other problems we had with really good writers:

(1) They hated being on camera. Many spent the interview inspecting their shoelaces, avoiding eye contact, or giving one-word answers.

(2) They hated the idea of reality TV so much we spent most of the interview fielding hostile attacks. We would ask things like, “So . . . what are you listening to these days?” and they would snap back, “Why? Who are you trying to make me into? What do you want from me?”

(3) They backed out after they sat down and thought about being filmed. They looked that amount of intrusion and exposure straight in the eye, and said no."

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