video

Advertising Jacob

Random House has produced this 15-second ad for Defending Jacob. Fun.

Categories: My Books    Tags: · ·

“I’ve been stumped here for a while”

Paul Simon performs a partially written “Still Crazy After All These Years” in September 1974: “I’ve been stumped here for a while.” I know the feeling.

Categories: Creativity · Music    Tags: · ·

Ali for Apple

Think Different 15-second TV ad, 1997

Categories: Design · Sports    Tags: · · · ·

Steve Jobs introduces the “Think Different” campaign

Steve Jobs introduces the “Think Different” campaign in 1997. To put this video in perspective, remember where Apple was in 1997. In terms of market share, the company had only about 3% of the personal computer market, bottoming out at 2.8% in July 1997. Its stock traded at around $4 or $5 a share, also bottoming in July 1997 when it sank below $3.50 a share. In its previous fiscal year the company had lost $1 billion.

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: · · · ·

Southie reacts to the capture of Whitey Bulger

Categories: Boston · Crime    Tags: ·

NHL ’67

Amazing footage of the 1967 NHL season (though you may want to turn the sound down).

Categories: Sports    Tags: ·

Making books is fun!

“This man is an author. He writes stories. He has just finished writing a story. He thinks many people will like to read it. So he must have the story made into a book. Let’s see how the book is made.”

Categories: Books · Publishing    Tags:

How to Tie Your Shoes

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: ·

Wisdom

Book trailer for Andrew Zuckerman’s Wisdom

Categories: Books    Tags: · ·

“And then I saw her…”

When I’m stuck — as I have been for some time now, trying to crack the plot of my next book, to “break” the story, as screenwriters say — I always look for older stories to use as templates. The writer David Lodge has a great term for this sort of literary model: “precursor texts” (which I’ve mentioned here before). Books, movies, whatever — the form of the story doesn’t matter, only the quality of the storytelling. In fact, movies often make the best precursor texts, since their plots are compressed, highly structured, and easy to see. Screenwriting is storytelling stripped bare. Maybe that is why movies, if they’re the right movies, often get my imagination unstuck.

In this case I have been analyzing stories that touch on my book’s premise: a man vanishes into thin air, leaving his wife to cope with daily life in his absence and to solve the mystery of his disappearance. How have other, better storytellers handled that scenario?

So the other day I found myself watching “Out of the Past,” the classic 1947 noir directed by Jacques Tourneur, with Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer as the woman who’s gone missing. The movie is one of my absolute favorites. So much has been written about “Out of the Past,” I will refrain from gushing about it here. Suffice it to say: if you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a while, go watch it this weekend. You won’t be sorry.

Here is a taste, with Greer and a 30-year-old Mitchum, in his first leading role. They’re both great, but Mitchum just jumps off the screen. If they remade “Out of the Past” today, Greer’s black widow role could be played capably by Angelina Jolie, say. But what young actor today could fill Mitchum’s shoes?

 

Categories: Movies · My Books · Writing    Tags: · · · ·

Harlan Ellison: Pay the Writer!

Wonder what Harlan Ellison thinks of writers’ blogs. If only there were someone willing to pay me for every word I write. (And yes, I get the irony: I didn’t pay Harlan Ellison for reposting this clip. But then, you didn’t pay to watch it, either.)

Categories: Writers · Writing    Tags: · ·

Continuous Partial Attention

Linda Stone on attention in the age of web overload. This 2006 talk is remarkably prescient. The addled, distracted feeling she described five years ago as “continuous partial attention” feels like a permanent condition now.

Categories: Internet    Tags: ·

Mark Twain on film

Mark Twain at his Connecticut home in 1909.

Categories: Writers    Tags: ·

Seth Godin: Ten Bestsellers

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 2.40.57 PM

This video is not new. It is Seth Godin’s presentation at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in February 2008. But I loved it at the time and still do. It is one of the few discussions of the digital publishing revolution that get me excited about the future rather than just scaring the hell out of me. Godin is a great speaker, self-promoter, and motivator, but there’s plenty of ideas here for ordinary mortals, too.

I recommended the video to a writer-friend today who is gearing up to promote his book, then I had trouble tracking it down on the web, mostly because I could not remember the name of it. So here it is, John: “10 Bestsellers: Using New Media, New Marketing, and New Thinking to Create 10 Bestselling Books.” Enjoy.

Categories: Books · Publishing    Tags: · · ·

How to Balance Work and Family

Nigel Marsh: How to Balance Work and Family

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: ·

Daniel Pink: What Motivates Us

Categories: Creativity · Productivity    Tags: · · ·

How to give a TED talk

A short documentary about what it takes to give a TED Talk.

“The thing is not to get self-conscious. It’s just like playing the piano. If you play the piano and suddenly start looking at your fingers … the music will stop.”
— Sir Ken Robinson

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: · · ·

Darwinian Theories of Beauty

In this TED video, Denis Dutton explains how our shared sense of what is beautiful may have its origin in human evolution. The theory connects to another idea I ran across recently: that we humans acquired our species-wide instinct for storytelling as a biological adaptation. Telling one another stories conferred on our ancient ancestors an advantage, i.e. storytelling animals were more likely to survive than non-storytelling ones. Brian Boyd seems to be the leading exponent of this theory with his book, On the Origin of Stories. (Boyd summarizes the theory here. An interesting review of the book by Michael Bérubé is here.) If all this is true — if we are hardwired to find certain art forms beautiful and to enjoy certain kinds of stories — then maybe we should not worry so much about the death of the novel after all.

Categories: Art    Tags: · · · · ·

Shoes

This video made the rounds on the web a while ago, when Converse announced the latest reinterpretation of its sneakers by designer Ryusaku Hiruma, but I only discovered it the other day.

Fashion clod that I am, I had never heard of Hiruma or his Converse shoes. For the uninitiated: Ryusaku “Sak” Hiruma is a Japanese designer who has been studying traditional shoemaking techniques in Florence for almost a decade. Over the last few years, Sak has applied old-world craft to produce chic, luxurious handmade versions of Converse’s classic Jack Purcell, Chuck Taylor, and One Star models. The latest Sak/Converse shoe, a design based on an old basketball shoe called the Star Tech, features fine leather and hand-stitching throughout. Only 64 pairs will be made, in natural shades of tan, off-white and black leather. Retailing for $600, they will be available only in New York, Boston, and Costa Mesa. (Costa Mesa?) If you’re into shoe porn, details are here and here.

I loved this video. I found it oddly touching and romantic, not just for Sak’s dedication to craft and tradition but for personal reasons. My own family was in the shoe business for several generations. Growing up, I assumed I would be too. There were no writers or artists of any kind in my family or anywhere else in my world. Even now I think I might have been very happy making shoes.

Maybe that is why I have a nagging sense that, as a writer, I don’t really “make” anything. A book is an ethereal creation, a non-object. It exists as a chain of words, separate and apart from the paper-and-ink thing we call by that name. Book publishing is only now transitioning to digital, permanently alienating the idea of a “book” from a physical object, but writing made the leap decades ago. In my own daily working life, paper plays no part. Over the two years or so it takes me to produce a novel, I never print out a hard-copy manuscript. And when I am done, I simply email a digital file to my editor. There is no object to hold, really, until I receive bound copies from the publisher, long after the writing is done. Even then, the physical books do not feel like my creation. Only the words do.

Contrast that with the intensely physical world of traditional shoemaking in this video. The materials are so lush and sensuous. Even the tools have a gorgeous patina. That the shoemaker’s artistry is lavished on such a low, practical object — when you step in shit, it is not your hat that is ruined — only makes the concrete physicality of the whole thing that much more real and authentic. Only 64 pairs of these shoes will be made, and Hiruma will touch every one with his own hands. And, poignantly, every one one of those shoes will wear out.

Novels, of course, are theoretically immortal precisely because they are insubstantial. My books can be reprinted and rescreened into infinity, and each copy is no less my creation than any other. Maybe that is what makes the shoemaker’s art so poignant to a writer: he cannot give you his creation without surrendering it himself.

Categories: Books · Writing    Tags: · · ·

Happy St. Crispin’s Day

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Thrilling, though I’ve seen it a thousand times. (Unabridged text here.) Today is St. Crispin’s Day, October 25, the day that “shall ne’er go by, / From this day to the ending of the world, / But we in it shall be remember’d.”

Categories: Movies    Tags: · · · ·