Education is everything: learn, know, understand, so easy now with online learning. We live in a wonderful time where we can get classes about anything and everything online, and usually for free. Like with exercise – challenging yourself mentally keeps your brain bright and active throughout your life, and the challenge is the thing according to this NYTimes article about superaging.
“no pain no gain”
I plan to keep a list of the online classes that I’ve taken and recommend here in this post, as well as the classes I am currently taking. The classes are at different levels, different colleges, different websites, etc.
The current favorite:
UQx:Think101xThe Science of Everyday Thinking • This is a unique widely seen free MOOC from the University of Queensland Australia via edx.org objectively looking at how we as humans think… about everything. Assumptions, bias, proof, sources, intuition, insight… fantastic. So successful they put together a podcast in 2016 http://think101.org to cover many of the topics from the class.
Game Theory • Free without a certificate at coursera.com, taught by professors at Stanford University and The University of British Columbia. A topic always intriguing to me, but I’ve never spent the time to wrap my head around it.
I never wrote a blog post about the Squam Art Workshops before, though I’ve been attending since 2011. I suppose I never knew how to put it all into words: meeting great people, taking intriguing classes, dodging “woo”, and, well, the food.
I also took Gudrun Johnston‘s Short Row class, which was really helpful – I really had no idea there were 4 different ways to do short-rows, and that the one way I knew – turns out I was doing it wrong. I took no photos in this class, as it was a knitting circle, basically. Her designs are beautiful, she had a container full of them where she showed us where she used short rows. Such an inspiration.
But, then, it ends. We say goodbye to everyone at breakfast and we go.
So to console myself on the way home there was a stop at Mr Mac‘s, which really needs to be a national chain.
My mother told me that when I was a little kid, like 3 or 4 years old, my grandmother crocheted a hat for me.
This is a photo of my grandmother and me, maybe a bit before the incident, I don’t have a photo with the hat.
While looking through a magazine she saw a little kid wearing a granny square hat, so she made me one. She knit three granny squares, connected them in a row, added ties, and gave me the hat. The thing is, my mother says I wouldn’t wear the hat because my grandmother wasn’t finished with it yet. Evidently I recognized that there needed to be a forth square in the back, stitched to the first three to make a hat shape. My grandmother didn’t realize this, she just knew she had to crochet the ones she saw, she wasn’t thinking about the structure in the back. So, the poor woman went off and made the forth granny square, added it to the back of the hat, and then I wore it. I remember the hat, I remember I liked wearing it. I do not remember sending my granmother back to finish it.
Little kids are cute as a life saving device, I suspect.
This is the grandmother who taught me how to knit, btw. She taught me when I was about 5, having me knit a purple headband (it was the 70s) – 7 stitches across. It bored the bejeezus out of me, so much so that I never finished it. I’d pick it up every few years, having to add a few more rows since my head was bigger (figuratively and physically) every time.
It took until a Boston Ski and Sports Club trip to Italy in 2004 to get me into knitting. I understood it differently at that point. Instead of a headband shaped hole in space, it was the process of knitting that made the hobby interesting. Maybe by then I had lived a life of deadlines at my day job, and sitting down to quiet time to work with beautiful yarn was a reward in itself. (Italy had some gorgeous yarn.)
Since 2004 I have been knitting. And while spending my days working on a team designing computer chips, I would doodle knitwear designs and patterns in my notebook.
About three years ago I had an idea for a shawl design that I couldn’t believe no one had come up with before. The universe needed this, so I have been trying to make it happen ever since.
The idea? Police boxes in a tiled rhombus pattern (I, also, had to look up the name even though I’ve seen a tiled rhombus pattern a thousand times.)
I tried and tried to make this concept a reality when I was working, I just couldn’t get it done.
Fortunately, I lost my job last September.
Seriously, I had been planning, nesting, saving, and preparing for a lay off in my office since we were bought by the last company. So when the day came, I was the happiest person in the room. As I walked out I realized other people weren’t happy – at all, so I told them “Don’t worry, I’ll be sad later.” They laughed. They were happy for a minute, anyways; laughing at or with me? I wasn’t sure.
Turns out I lied. It didn’t happen, I wasn’t sad.
I was thrilled. I could finally get this idea on a .pdf and up on Ravelry.
I thrashed around a little bit. I was always driven by adrenalin at the day job, and now I was living with no time restrictions, no place restrictions. Possibility was my restriction. The hardest thing, I found, about leaving corporate America was time management and direction.
But I have to say, my favorite thing about all these re-enactors is when you see people in historical clothing mixing in with modern-times. For example, my boyfriend has a photo of a minuteman carrying a leaf-blower, which he really needs to have online somehere.
Here I have this sneak-over-the-shoulder #selfie thing: Minutemen, in line for a port-a-potty.
Priceless. There should be a name for this mash-up of modern and 18th century, a hashtag, something.
I had driven by Munroe Tavern, where the British set up their field hospital after that first night of the Revolutionary War, a hundred times. This time we finally stopped in. Here are some iPhone photos that I took. (Aram’s awesome photos are here.)
Red coats getting ready for the battle re-enactment at Tower Park
After the war President George Washington visited the Munroe family for tea, to thank them for all their troubles during this battle. The family saved everything he touched. He sat in that bigger chair in the middle, and the cup he used is in a display case nearby. Gotta love the love people had for the pertinence of these items.
I would be remiss if I didn’t post a photo of the flax spinning wheel. Making linen from flax was important in the avoidance of buying British cotton goods in the 18th century.
Inside the Munroe Tavern.
And here are the lobster-backs getting ready for their part of the re-enactment on the front lawn of the tavern. This Tower Park battle today (Saturday) actually took place after the famous battle of Lexington Green (Monday), they just do it on this Saturday beforehand to get everything done in the weekend.
So much fun nerdy stuff going on around here right now. Can’t miss it if you try, get out there and see some of it.
Had my eye on the World Science Festival for a few years now. 2013 was the year the forces of the cosmos aligned and I was able to go. Fortunately I didn’t have to twist my BF’s arm to take the trip to NYC for this event, as he is a big nerd too.
I don’t have any photos of this event as I followed instructions and didn’t take any inside the theater, tho if you search instagram and flickr you can find plenty of other people’s photos of the show. 🙂
Going in I was expecting the typical panel discussion, even though we were in a swanky legit Broadway theater. Turns out it was Brian Greene doing rehearsed stage schtick about Quantum Mechanics, spooky action, quantum entanglements, etc, with 3 other actors and a nice multimedia show projected behind him. My nerdly self was thrilled. Through this show they got complex ideas across as well as taught a bit of the history of how physicists like Einstein and his contemporaries worked through these game changing ideas. Here’s an overview video from the WSF.
How do I say this? Truthfully, “Infinity” my least favorite talk. The description for this one said “Does infinity exist? Can it be found in the physical world? What types of infinity are there?“. Really the group ended up speaking about the last question: “What types of infinity are there?” One guy was working on infinity past the highest number you can count to, another guy was working on the infinity that exists between numbers 3 and 4, i.e. 3.11111111111, 3.1415927, 3.99999999998, etc. Interesting to think about, in and of itself, but I felt like the group of guys was arguing a point without having that point defined, and so no one came to any conclusion. The whole discussion was nebulous, and I felt like I was watching a pissing contest where no one knew what they were aiming for.
I, an aetheist, found myself agreeing most often with the person representing philosophy and religion, Philip Clayton. He cut to the heart of the matter a couple of times, finding a point to the discussion where the others were often speaking about their own research as an answer to a question that wasn’t explicitly asked.
Have a look at the video, jump around to listen to bits and pieces to get the complete gist of the talk.
If you watch one video from this post, watch this one, as it will give you information that will help you understand things happening in medicine right now, and more widely so in the next few years.
The premise of this talk was that, before recently, scientists believed that we inherit our DNA cleanly when we are conceived. Turns out this is not the case, we instead inherit our DNA with our specific markers already turned on and off depending on the lives our parents and grandparents lived. Different genes and traits are favored by the software that runs on the hardware of our DNA.
Things like a predisposition to be overweight, or to be stressed, or to be super fit, or the ability to live to the age of 100, are influenced by things including the nutrition and stress levels of parents. The speakers were always very careful in how they spoke, because they realized there can be implications if, say, someone decided to go out and sue their own mother for being stressed and therefore causing them to be unhealthy.
All of the members of the panel had their own interesting research to share, as well as ideas on more research that could be done.
And then, members of the audience asked the best questions, my favorite being about culture and such influencing the health profiles of entire populations.
John Hockenberry (great name!) kept everyone grounded and added just the right amount of snark to keep the tone of the discussion in the realm of accessibility by the audience.
The discussion was between Andreas Albrecht, Alan Guth (MIT!), Andrei Linde, and Neil Turok. Each working on different theories on the origins of our universe including the possibility of other multiverses, the “uni” goes away when we open up to the possibility of having more than one. Three of the four were working with the theory of the existence of multiverses, and one, Linde, landed on the side of ‘nope, just the one’.
My favorite part of the talk (besides Hockenberry carrying us nicely through the discussion) was towards the end when Turok opened up the possibility that there’s not one, nor many, but TWO multiverses that exist in tandem, constantly influencing each other. Guth laughed at Turok’s video, calling it two universes clapping, and dismissed the theory outright… ‘cuz what is science but the proving and disproving of theories with experiments and calculations… or just outright mockery. The moment was funny because it was fun seeing the scientists “throw down” over REALLY abStRacT concepts. My own opinion would be to give the two multiverses clapping theory a chance, yeesh.
Here’s the video, I think I need to see it again, if only to enjoy the moderator’s commentary, and perhaps some of the science here will make some more sense.
Oh, and check this out, people getting the physicists’ autographs.
Good times, to summarize: go to this event. The World Science Festival is a wonderfully unique experience connecting brainiacs with the curious public.
P.S. & as a post script let me point out the three places I got tasty gluten free food at while we were down there. Nizza, just west of Times Square in Hell’s Kitchen, had great dinner and brunch, completely gluten free savvy, reasonably priced, and delicious. Bareburger, near NYU, served just what you’re looking for when you order a hamburger. And Pie by the Pound, for GF pizza downtown, yum.
A couple Saturdays ago we did something a bit different. Assistant organizer, Amy, brought us to afternoon tea at the Park Plaza hotel where tea sommelier Cynthia Gold hosted a tea tasting, teaching us all about the world of fine tea. Instead of ordering off of the tea menu Cynthia brought us five different teas along with scones and tea sandwiches and a tea infused port … so good. The first tea was “Steep Towards a Cure”, a lovely mix of white tea, green tea, and cherry blossoms, mixed especially to support breast cancer research, this is the only of the teas we had that were for sale, and $5 of the $15.50 price is donated to Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Research. She explained how she plans a mix of tea, looking for a dominant flavor, and then complimentary flavors. Then the mix needs to sit for 3 to 7 days for the flavors to blend, but not longer so the tea remains fresh. This particular mix was inspired by the anti-oxidant qualities of the ingredients.
Next up was the World Tea Expo award winning St James Ceylon tea, my favorite, followed by Aria Estate Darjeeling, followed again by an 18 year old Chinese Pu-erh from Yunnan province, ending with a Bohean tea from Anwi province in China.
Cynthia explained the tea harvesting process, and how the fine tea is hand picked to get the best leaves. We learned that the same estates that produce the mass market machine harvested tea also produce this fine handpicked tea. And, that over the next twenty years the world of fine tea will most likely become very expensive as fewer and fewer people are interested in doing the skilled harvesting work. The estates had set up a system where they provided education for the children of the tea pickers, and subsequently with education the children rarely want to follow their parents into the family business.
We also learned about the origin of black tea. White and green tea sent in ships from South Asia to Europe would go bad by the time it arrived in port. The estates learned to dry and ferment the tea before packing it onto the ships bound for England, and even now black tea is still the most widely used in England and the United States.
The Bohean tea that she served with dessert is the same type of high end tea that was thrown into Boston Harborin 1773. The fermentation on this and the Pu-erh tea were definitely noticable. An aquired taste, but fantastic to try.We asked if tea were grown in the U.S., and she mentioned American Classic that was grown in South Carolina, as well as some tea being grown in Hawaii that seemed promising. Tea needs varied climate with dry and wet cycles, good draining and high elevation that steep hills provide, Cynthia explained.
Here’s the basic problem with politics: anyone that actually wants to be a politician is exactly the kind of person you do not want in charge … of anything. Simply put, wanting to be a politician should disqualify you from being one.
From both sides of the fence, liberals and conservatives, who would want to go through all the baloney a person has to go through to get themselves elected? Clearly a person would have to be mental … or a narcissist, as evident in 95% of our political offices.
So here’s my solution: we get people for political office the same way we get people for jury duty.
For each office we get a random sample of the electorate, maybe twenty or forty people, send them summons for the office they qualify for, and they have to report for candidacy. It will hark back to the days when holding a public office was considered a civic duty, and not power trip it has become. Yeah, some people would try to get out of it, but there would definitely be some worthy players who never would have gotten the chance otherwise.
The media would love it, “Summons Day” would be like a carnival for them, running all over the voting districts trying to have the first interviews with the people selected to show up for duty. The voters would be able to vote from a complete cross section of society, for better or worse. We’d have debates between opinionated old women and their frat boy opponents. The people in charge would be as diverse as the constituents. And I’m talking about every office, from mayor, to state representatives, senators, even the president – ten randoms from every state, we could find a good candidate out of that pool of 500. Could it really be any worse than what we have now? Every term we would have a fresh new batch of public servants ruling out cronyism. And most importantly, people would be interested in politics, because it might actually effect them personally.
Imagine that one day, heading out to your mailbox, finding the red, white, and blue computer printed summons, opening it up…
“Crap, I got governor”.
This first photo is from Glendalough, so green I had to put it first.
I arrived in Dublin at 11PM June 5, I tried a day flight over to see if it’d help with jet lag, it did. So there was no showing up at 5AM and not being able to check into the hotel ’til noon. I just showed up at night and slept immediately, it worked well. Friday I walked around the city, taking it easy. For night time I had tickets for the Abbey Theatre’s production of the Plough & the Stars (why do they name everything in Ireland after bars in Boston?). Here’s a picture of the Abbey Theatre.The play was great, as expected. On my first nightly walk up O’Connell Street to return to my hotel I caught this shot below of Parnell Square. My hotel is the building with the facade outlined in white lights. I’d been told to stay on my guard on O’Connell Street at night, and I ended up walking up it every night about the same time. No troubles at all. I found it worse during the day when the sidewalks were mobbed with people walking every which way, bumping into each other. I discovered that Dubliners walk like Bostonians drive.
On Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 4, I took a playwriting class at the Irish Writer’s Centre next to the Dublin Writer’s Museum (and a ballroom dancing place which I didn’t visit). Our class had lunch in the museum cafe on Saturday. I didn’t get to visit the museum proper until the 12th, on the morning of the day I left. It was well worth a visit to learn about all the great storyteller/writers that came out of Ireland.
This is the room where I had my class. I didn’t have the guts to ask my classmates for a photograph, but now I wish I had. I have this picture of a lonely room while we took a noontime tea break. The folks in class were great people, each one of them has at least a couple great plays in them. I hope we keep in touch. The teacher was fabulous, Tee O’Neill, an Australian playwright relocated to Dublin. She was very inspirational in getting each of us to figure out how we work best, and then standing by it. I found some of the information very similar to screenwriting, and some to be quite different. I took a lot of notes, and came up with an idea for a play… the trick, as always, is showing up to do the work.
Saturday night after class I had dinner at Eliza Blue, and then meandered all over Temple Bar. I came across this great Spanish guitar player/singer and watched him for a while. He took his guitar case away to stop collecting money because he said it was his last show before he went home, so he was playing for Dublin that night. He said that a lot of Spanish students go to Dublin these days to learn English, and I certainly saw lots of Spanish folks during my week there.The baby got a coin for being such a good dancer.
Sunday night after class I went on the “Literary Pub Crawl” as recommended by my cab driver coming in from the airport. It was a lot of fun. Two actors took all of us to four different pubs of literary significance, stopping in between to tell stories by and about all the Dublin writers: Becket, Wilde, Joyce, Behan, etc. They gave us quiz questions as the night progressed and at the end of the night gave away a t-shirt and two lil bottles of Jameson to three lucky quiz winners. Well, I didn’t get in any of the answers from the questions they gave us, but at the end they asked a dark horse question: Which US rock star is buried near Oscar Wilde in Paris? I offerred up ‘Jim Morrison’ and won myself a little bottle of Jameson ‘body lotion’. I can’t imagine this sort of thing ever happening in the states, I mean, the giving away of hard liquor on a tour, at least without a lawyer being involved. Pretty fun. Ask me about the Welsh’s guy and his identical twin brother story, and also about “eight plain clothes nuns”, can’t post ’em on the web.
These are pictures of our two tour guides.And the photo below is one of the pubs on the tour. There was a nice traditional band just starting up when we got there.
On Monday I headed for the coast.
This is the day it rained.
This is Bray, south of Dublin. The hill off in the distance at the right is Howth, north of the city. I bought a day ticket for the D.A.R.T. for 6 euros and rode the train from end to end. The rain on Monday was fine, it reminded me of home, funny enough. Every other day had plenty of sun, I heard later that it rained like crazy back in Boston while I was gone. Strange thing to go to Ireland to get good weather, but that’s what happened.
Took a nice walk along the beach here. Since it was a Monday and raining it was all but deserted. This place must get hopping on weekends in nice weather. I grabbed lunch and tea at the Heather House, walked into downtown away from the ocean, and then jumped on the train to go all the way to the other end on the north side, to Howth.
Boy was I cold by the time I got to Howth. I ducked into a shop and had tea and a scone to recharge for more walking. There’s a nice cliff walk around the point in this photo on the right if I had four more hours, plenty of sunshine, and better shoes.I met two young German women on the literary pub crawl, and then ran into them on Monday night at the Abbey Theatre. They said that they did the Howth walk that morning, said it was nice. I guess I’ll have to go back.
This and the next few photographs are of the St. Mary’s Abbey at Howth, the tourbook says “once a medieval seat of learning famed throughout Europe, now little more than a roofless 16th century shell”. The grounds have an ‘active’ cemetery, with quite a few recent burials. The flowers all over kept me snapping pictures.
Monday night I zipped over to the Abbey Theatre again to see if there were any tickets available downstairs at the Peacock Theater. Doldrum Bay was on, and yes there were tickets left. So I got to see another play while I was in town.
Tuesday was my birthday and I started out by taking a “Historical Walking Tour” recommended by the literary tour people. A history graduate student from Trinity brought us around and explained quite a bit about the history of the country. I met a New York student on her way home from studying abroad in Paris. She was bumming around Europe for two weeks before she had to go back to the States. After the tour we had lunch together, and then went our separate ways.
Then I ran around Dublin shopping. And then at night I had nice pizza at the Mona Lisa restaurant. I was supposed to be meeting bookcrossing people there, but I didn’t spot them. I ended up leaving a bookcrossing book on the hotel bookshelf. I was so wiped out from all the walking that I just made watching tv in the hotel room a cultural event for the evening after dinner. I wanted to rest up for the tour I signed up for on Wednesday.
The tour was a bus ride from the Gresham Hotel, near mine. It took us in a 30 person bus down through County Wicklow. We stopped at Dalkey, and the Avoca weavers, and then headed into Glendalough. This is a monastery established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. This cemetery also has recent burials for the families that inherited the plots.
Does this tour guide look like he’s related to Cap, or what?
The tour guide sent all 30 of us on a walk in the woods, twenty minutes to the upper lake. He ran back to the tour bus to meet us up at the lake after our walk.
Look at these green woods. I couldn’t get enough of them.
Between this forest, the coach house for the horses in Enniskerry, and Baggot House in Dublin I felt like I was in Middle Earth.
This is the view as we approached the Upper Lake at Glendalough. I saw our tour bus on that road on the right in the distance.
The Upper Lake at Glendalough. As we arrived at this beach our tour guide, Kevin, handed each of us a plastic shot glass. When we all gathered around he pulled a full size bottle of Jameson out of his pocket. We couldn’t leave the beach until we killed the bottle. Luckily there was thirty of us, and he didn’t drink any himself since he was driving. When I finished my first shot Cap’s clone was right there to refill, and I couldn’t refuse.He drove us to lunch right afterwards, good planning. I had some great Irish stew in a pub with another woman who was a solo traveler. She was from Singapore and has travelled all over the world.
I found travelling alone to be a lot of fun. I noticed that the people that travelled in pairs on the tours I took didn’t seem to meet as many people and weren’t as outgoing. I met so many great people on this trip.
Here’s a panorama shot of the Guiness Lake. They call it that because of the natural color of the water. The Guinness family owns the land at the bottom and that light strip of sand on the right was imported from Florida. It really makes the lake look like a giant glass of Guinness.
This shot out the front window of the hills around the Guinness Lake shows the view from my seat on the bus. Thirty people on this bus and I have to ride shot gun in the jump seat next to the driver. It was a great view out the front, though. This driver, as well as my cab drivers, asked if I was Irish, they always seem proud of the folks with the Irish heritage coming back to see the old country. Their manner of speaking, and sense of humor really reminds me of home.
After this tour on Wednesday night I got a fancy sandwich at the bar in the Gresham Hotel. Then I walked over to Trinity to meet my new playwriting friend who invited me to sit in on her informal summer writing class at a pub away from the city center. Again, I met great people, and got to get the writing group vibe in Dublin.
My flight out of Dublin was at 3:45 PM on Thursday, so I had time to get to do a few more things that morning. I went to the Writer’s Museum right after breakfast since it’s situated right near my hotel. Then I jumped on the Dublin City Tour bus. The one I took in 97 when I was in Dublin with the guys was much funnier, but this one took us up to Phoenix Park which I hadn’t seen before. The Guinness Brewery had a new sky high restaurant which I didn’t get to see. Again, I’ll have to go back some day.
Above are a photo of the James Joyce statue and the Olympia Theatre. When I got home I looked up the nickname of this Joyce statue, figuring there must be one, it’s “The Prick with the Stick” or “The Prat in the Hat”, cracks me up. Also, the Floozie in the Jacuzzi statue was removed from O’Connell Street and a giant spire was in it’s place (what’s the spire’s nickname?!). I guess Dubliners weren’t too fond of the Floozie, I thought she was cool. The tour guides said she’s in a basement somewhere now and will probably end up in St. Steven’s Green.
The Olympia Theatre is where Smoothie took us to see the Concert for Maureen in 97 with all the great female musicians, I really wanted to get a photo of it.
Here’s a shot upstream from the O’Connell bridge on one of my walks back to the hotel.
What a fun trip, I hope I get back there again someday.
Creative Screenwriting Expo. Los Angeles, CA.
November 16 & 17, 2002
I am an east coaster who steeps daily in the science of high tech, using my spare time to find some magic in stories. On a quest for enchantment, I take a trip with some friends to a screenwriting seminar in the heart of that magical land known as Hollywood.
Arriving in Los Angeles, I am actively looking for the magic. We see a minor celebrity at the baggage claim, and it’s thrilling to have someone to jump out of pop culture and do something as commonplace as retrieve their luggage. Ok, this is what Iâ€™m looking for, if I have already been charmed at the baggage claim, I shouldn’t be disappointed. We board a shuttle bus packed with other budding screenwriters and we head off down the Los Angeles freeway towards our hotel. It’s night time and for a few moments a subway car with Friday rush hour commuters travels next to us on the elevated highway, we look at each other vacantly for a moment until the train descends from our view leaving behind flourish of blue sparks from it’s roof. I see magic in this. The motion, the sparks, the people, the night. We arrive at the hotel and it invokes the feeling that we’re in exotic Morocco. I’m entranced. I’m happy.
Saturday morning we walk over to the convention center to pick up our registration material and begin our classes. The number of people at this event is staggering. One long line for class registration, one for people participating in an on-the-spot writing competition, and another for the opportunity to pitch their story ideas directly to producers. I’m astounded by the number of people that have a stories to tell, and want, also, to be a part of the magic of Hollywood.
As classes begin I realize that there’s a science behind motion-pictures, and not just on the technical aspects of camera and lighting, but of story. From engineering school I know about how the internet works, computers, cell phones, television, etc; these things appear magical to those that haven’t studied the formulae and models used as a baseline to create these things. And I begin to see that the art of story-telling comes from a methodical study of human behavior, of how the human mind interprets images, remembers information, and connects thoughts together to achieve an experience. The most moving works in cinema start with that foundation from the earlier models and formalae, which is an analysis of the old tales, the mythology and folklore that comes to us from the mists of prehistory. More than one speaker spoke of Carl Jung’s archetypes and collective unconscious, and Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces.
The three speakers who gave me the most information were Kevin Downs, Richard Krevolin, and Melody Jackson. All three were good teachers that have read and analyzed countless screenplays, and could distill their knowledge into understandable morsels of wisdom appropriate for a two day seminar.
Kevin Downs spoke about character’s inner motivation. He used the example of Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal is a captivating character revealed through his actions. But itâ€™s because of his solid inner motivation that his behavior rings true. Well, so, what’s his inner motivation? We think quietly for a moment, we have a hard time putting our finger exactly on it. Then Kevin tells us, Hannibal is a cannibal because he wants to prove his superiority by showing that he’s not a member of the human race. Yes, I think, of course. This is what makes him compelling without any blatant exposition in the film explaining this. His action gives us this information, but it comes to us at a base level of understanding. The audience couldn’t say it outright, but that’s itâ€¦ he wants to be better than the rest of the human race, and he shows this by eating people while drinking chianti.
Richard Krevolin spoke about structure with a remote control in his hand as he fast forwarded through a tape of Stand By Me. He showed us how the movie is bookended by a modern day narrator, with the bulk of the story shown in flashback. The hero is a boy on a journey which will make him a man. The speaker shows us coupling, when a certain battle is lost in the first half of the story, it is there so it can be won in the second half of the story when our hero can then handle it. Our little hero spills some blood towards the beginning of the film, we learn this is a symbol invoking an initiation right. We hear the sound of flies on the soundtrack when our hero is simply walking along, we learn this implies death. I’m beginning to feel used at this point, am I such a chump to fall for all these machinations? The speaker tells us that we have to check in with the bad guys every ten to twelve minutes so the audience can see them being bad and they’ll remember this for the final conflict. If it’s more often then ten minutes, then it might not be the hero’s story, any less than ten minutes, we might forget about the bad guys. Toward the end of act two or beginning of act three we should have a revelatory monologue, so the actor that plays our hero gets a chance at the Academy Award. Now, I definitely feel used. Well, so if you’re watching a movie, how do you know when we’re transitioning from act to act? The music swells, he says, always. At this point I become cynical, though I hang on his every word. He says that if the writer’s hand if present, then the writer has failed, it should be an organic experience. Yes, I believe thatâ€™s where the magic lies, but how?
I find the answer in Melody Jackson’s lecture which began with new age music and the lighting of a candle. She spoke about tapping into the mythical archetypes to tell the most moving story you can tell. We’re trying to create the sort of movie that afterwards leaves you standing on the sidewalk outside the theater speechless. You know you were moved, but you can’t find the words explaining how. By using archetypal energies we can get there, she says. The archetype of the mentor, the trixter, or the eternal child. The father-son relationship, mother-daughter, lovers. Events such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, funerals. Dilemmas such as love vs. money or career or loyalty. Life changing moments as when the doctor calls you into his office and tells you he has bad news. That deep primal feeling you have when you hear this, that’s the level we want to reveal in our stories. Things we all can understand as we experience them safely with the onscreen characters as the vessels for our emotions.
And so, with all this newly learned information I walk back to my Moroccan flavored hotel feeling somewhat used and disenchanted, thinking all those years as a movie-goer were just me being duped by film-makers. I’m a beguiled puppet, how depressing.
Nearly back to the hotel, I see for the first time there in the distance, nestled into the side of a hill, the misaligned white block letters spelling HOLLYWOOD. I smile because I realize that I am willing to be manipulated to experience these timeless stories. And it’s a thrill to aspire to contributing to the behind-the-scenes wizardry. My pilgrimage to Hollywood was all I had hoped for.