Writer’s Desk: Get It Down


This series has been visited by the great Neil Gaiman more than once. There’s a reason for that. In between all his other work, the guy manages to keep up a regular torrent of thoughts and advice on the witchy craft of writing that are rarely short of inspirational.

Recently, he’s been doing this on Tumblr. Here’s his response to a question from a fan who’s been having a hard time getting their “amazing ideas” down on paper:

Write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write. Do it a lot and you will be a writer. The only way to do it is to do it.

Gaiman goes on to tell the real way to write; it involves five golden berries, five white crows, and reciting the whole of Fox on Sox. Who knows? Maybe that way works, too.

(h/t: Galley Cat)

Oscar Guide: ‘Eyes Wide Open: 2015’


  • So which film is going to sweep the Oscars on Sunday?
  • Will Chris Rock remind us of why he used to be America’s greatest and most biting comedian?
  • Is everyone watching going to wish that they served booze in the theater so that by the end of the evening, all those getting awards can be nice and sloshed?
  • Is there any reason to think any of it will matter?
  • Is there a book in which I can read about (nearly) all of the films nominated?

Right now, there is only a definite answer to the last question, and that of course is yes.

Eyes Wide Open 2015:

The Best (and Worst) Movies of the Year

Available now in paperback and ebook

Eyes Wide Open 2015-cover 1st


Screening Room: ‘Triple 9’

In the latest star-packed teeth-gritter from John Hillcoat (LawlessThe Road), a gang of crooks and bad cops plot a heist that involves murdering a copy. Things go badly.

Triple 9 opens today. My review is at PopMatters:

Gruesomely violent and often idiotic, Triple 9 demonstrates the latest stage of decline for once promising director John Hillcoat. His previous films display a potent gothic sensibility: The Proposition and The Road, both explore the dark limits of human behavior, but even in showing extreme violence, they never acknowledge the complexities of loss. The focus of 2012’s Lawless is less clear, as a rote bootleggers’ story is enlivened only by the contrast between Guy Pearce’s flamboyant campiness and Tom Hardy’s rock-like stoicism.

With Triple 9, it’s hard to spy even a glimmer of Hillcoat’s earlier inclination. Just about any director could have shot this film…

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: February 26, 2016

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Rewind: Bill Murray’s Moonage Daydream in ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’


As the first in an occasional set of posts that look to some great (or even not so great) films from years or even decades ago that are worth going back to revisit, let’s start off with a real gem: Wes Anderson’s Bowie dream of a Bill Murray acid trip, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

“Bill Murray’s Moonage Daydream in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is at Medium:

Murray ambles through his performance as oceanographer Steve Zissou, whose longtime partner was just eaten by a rare species of shark (“which may or may not exist”) and is determined to set off on an expedition to find the shark and kill it. When asked what scientific purpose this would satisfy, Zissou gives an almost imperceptible shrug and says, “revenge”…

Here’s Seu Jorge in the film, covering Bowie’s “Life on Mars”:

Writer’s Desk: Writing Advice from Antonin Scalia


Although the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was best known for his strident dissents from not only his fellow liberal judges on the bench but even occasionally his conservative allies, he always prided himself on not just the slashing wit contained in his decisions but on his readable and provocative style.

A few years back, Scalia co-authored a book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. Some of its advice on presentation — dress to impress, and “Maintain a dignified and respectful countenance”— is not too helpful for the average writer, who we can probably agree are a (albeit proudly so) slouchy and indifferently attired lot.

But the tips from Scalia (a grammar nerd who bonded with his co-author over a David Foster Wallace essay titled “Tense Present”) on writing presentation are worth heeding:

There’s a myth abroad that you should never begin a sentence with a conjunction. But look at any species of reputable writing—whether it’s a good newspaper, journal, novel or nonfiction work—and you’re likely to find several sentences per page beginning with one of those little connectives. You can hardly achieve a flowing narrative or argument without them…

Banish jargon, hackneyed expressions and needless Latin…

People tend not to start reading what they cannot readily finish…

Remember, many lawyers write for a living. The better ones do it well.

Weekend Reading: February 19, 2016