Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Writers Wednesday

Screw-up Update

Yesterday I wrote about the Department of Homeland Security "accidentally" granting U.S. citizenship to a list of people who were scheduled to be deported.
My commentary focused on how progressives always wave off such bureaucratic screw-ups in their never-ending push for more government control of our lives,
and on how dismayed I am by this blind-spot in their thinking.

As it turns out, the screw-up was even worse than what was initially reported. We were told originally that 858 scheduled deportees had been granted citizenship "by mistake." Turns out it was actually more than 1,800 "accidental" naturalizations granted.

"You bipeds and your silly bureaucracies crack me up."

Glad to hear it...we're only here for your amusement, after all...

Feast Day

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio

Today is the feast day of St. Matthew, one of the Original Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and revered as one of the Four Evangelists.

Matthew's Gospel is the first book of what is called the New Testament.

Because he worked as a tax collector before answering Jesus's call to discipleship, Matthew is considered the patron of accountants, bankers, and civil servants.

Requiescat in Pace

Original 1997 "one sheet" poster
Among this morning's news items was
a report that screenwriter and director Curtis Hanson had passed away in Los Angeles yesterday, at age 71.

Hanson was the director of one of my favorite '90s films, L.A. Confidential,
based on the James Ellroy novel.
It garnered an impressive nine Academy Award nominations, including one for
Best Picture, and Hanson won the Oscar
for Best Adapted Screenplay (with co-writer Brian Helgeland).

L.A. Confidential is one of the rare thrillers that I still enjoy re-watching even though all of the suspense has been removed. That speaks well of Hanson's skills as a writer and director.

Happy Birthday!

On September 21, 1886 Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, a suburb of London. The son of struggling  lower-class parents, Wells himself struggled to find a calling for many years. Fortunately, he had numerous opportunities to spend time in the company of books, and it was there that he found his own muse.

Wells became one of the most prolific authors in the English language, writing both fiction and non-fiction best-sellers. His 1920 book The Outline of History sold phenomenally well and made Wells a wealthy man.

My own encounters with Wells were primarily his "scientific romances," which I first read in Classics Illustrated comic book form as a boy. Stories like The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Food of the Gods fired my young imagination, and I sought out his novels as soon as I was old enough to tackle them.

Wells's novels have been popular with Hollywood for decades, and he is widely regarded as one of the founders of the literary genre known as science fiction. I celebrate him for that, even while acknowledging that he was also a daffy socialist (but I repeat myself).

"Nobody's perfect, eh?"


A Simple Story, Well-Told

Original 1937 1st Edition cloth binding

On September 21, 1937 a modest children's fantasy novel called The Hobbit was published.

To the surprise of its author, college professor J.R.R. Tolkein, the book was an immediate commercial and critical success, including a nomination for the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

The publisher of course pressed Tolkein to write a follow-up, which he did with the high fantasy masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954. I doubt that his publisher enjoyed waiting 17 years for the sequel, but genius can't be rushed. The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as the greatest fantasy novel ever written.

For its own part, The Hobbit is considered a classic of English juvenile fiction on a par with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows (a favorite of mine), and The Chronicles of Narnia novels.

Better Late Than Never, Right?

From the indispensable comic strip Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, which you should read every day, as I do (even though Wiley is a squishy liberal).

Until Next Time...

One of the more frustrating aspects of being a songwriter during the heyday of the "music video" was having one's artistic vision compromised by the demand for music that lent itself to visual storytelling. One of my favorite guitarists and songwriters,
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame, encountered this kind of pressure with the release of the band's fifth studio album, Brothers in Arms, in 1985. The album was their biggest seller ever, spending nine weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 Albums chart. It won three Grammy Awards and nine platinum certifications from RIAA.

At the time, though, musical artists were expected to support their releases with music videos. The first single released from Brothers in Arms did not have an accompanying video, and it stalled at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band's label worked closely with MTV to produce a video for the album's next single release, "Money For Nothing,"
a process which left songwriter Knopfler feeling manipulated. Among other things, he didn't enjoy seeing his song drastically truncated to fit the video format.

Original 1985 "radio edit" 45 rpm single
On September 21, 1985 the radio edit of "Money For Nothing" reached No. 1 on the Billboard 
Hot 100 Singles chart, a position
it would hold from three straight weeks. Although the band had a dozen U.S. charting singles in its career, this would be their lone

The version of the song heard on the radio and sold as a single had been drastically edited, reducing its playing time to 4:38 from the CD version's 8:26 (and 7:04 on the vinyl album).

The innovative music video the band released used the radio edit, and won Video of the Year at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

Today's send-off is the 1996 remastered version of the original full-length album track. Enjoy...

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