Archive | Announcements RSS feed for this section

The Blog at Eight

What began as an informal forum for my thoughts on movies, culture and ideas remains so eight years later.

These have been turbulent years. Weeks after the first post on July 20, 2008, the U.S. economy faltered in a historic plunge from which it hasn’t really recovered. The nation has been unceasingly attacked by Islamic terrorists. I lost a friend to suicide—another national trend indicating a downward spiral—following Obama’s re-election in 2012. Posts about coarseness and cynicism, military suicides, top generals being fired, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia’s connection to 9/11 highlighted or reported new information and analysis about the West’s decline, examining the ominous rise of Islamic barbarism and American statism.

Taliesin (C) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.

Taliesin (C) Scott Holleran 2013 All rights reserved.

I have also written about the good, whether visiting Starbucks on a Monday, seeing sculptures in central Florida, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Wisconsin, Taliesin West in Arizona or his Hollyhock house in Los Angeles and Wright houses in Illinois, posting the first review of Olivia Newton-John’s headlining show in Las Vegas, OCON in Chicago, Christmastime in the Southwest or interviewing top artists about new works. I’ve praised TV shows, apps, movies, products and books and a kiss during a North American riot.

Subjects include everything from discourse on race and religion to Steve Jobs, Ayn Rand and Aristotle. I’ve looked back at Brokeback Mountain, critiqued The Sound of Music, examined ebola virus and I was among the first to herald Edward Snowden as a hero. I’ve denounced Duck Dynasty‘s patriarch, Hillary Clinton and, pointing out his causal relations to today’s sensationalistic media, Donald Trump. I have warned against censorship and dictatorship. I’ve remembered Robin Williams, Lizabeth Scott, David Bowie, Katharine Hepburn and Neil Armstrong.

Mostly, I aim to stimulate the reader to think, whether about the deaths of unarmed Americans, playing football, Johnny Carson, the homeless, creating a new album, making movies or writing a book.

I aspire to objective communication, though I know I make mistakes. I am grateful for the reader’s backup. My blog is my forum; it’s both advertising for my work and activism for realizing the ideal in a troubled world. Exceeding my expectations, posts and archived articles are now cited, referenced or reprinted in forums, books and articles and linked by grade schools, colleges and universities, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, Salon, Turner Classic Movies and the New York Times. I hear about what I write from businessmen, students, activists, scholars, artists and readers across the world.

As I enter a new phase, I plan to post less frequently, remove older posts and publish an index on site of interviews, articles and citations. Certain posts may be archived and appear in a future format or edition. Even as I clear the way for new posts, I plan to keep adding previously published articles to my writings archive. Readers that typically browse the blog should visit those pages for other articles of interest.

WritingBootcampThe blog is a springboard. Besides my variety of communication roles, including social media management, marketing and branding, I write and edit on assignment and work for hire. Essentially, I write stories. As a freelance writer, on a limited basis, I help in these and other endeavors (read about my method). I investigate or engage enterprises, partnerships and opportunities as well. Some fail, some flourish. Others I am not at liberty to disclose. Besides the blog, I write everything from business plans, social media and startup websites to speeches, screenplays and manuscripts. Projects may stall, restart or slowly make progress. I also teach communication courses and workshops in metropolitan Los Angeles (subscribe to my newsletter for updates). My passion continues to be enlightening the world through stories about man, large and small, real and imagined.

If you read my blog, let me know what you think. I appreciate criticism and correction. I am also happy to help but only if I think I’m qualified and think I can add value (contact me).

Finally, a note about specific requests and readership: I welcome support, whether a note on what you’ve read and appreciate, disagreement or a suggestion. Occasionally, I receive unsolicited invitations, review copies and gifts, whether as an e-book, book, Amazon or iTunes gift card or PayPal donation, which I neither solicit nor expect but, like other commercial-free blogs and independent content sources, appreciate and accept. I’m also grateful for liked, shared and linked posts, especially if rendered with a comment. Each of these are a means of supporting this blog and this writer.

Scott Holleran WriterIf you have something you want me to know about or review—i.e., a book, movie or recording—it is best to inquire and, if I’m able to accept it, please send the item with acceptance of the fact that whether I write about it is at my discretion. Or ask a publicist to contact me to send a review copy. Please know that I give preference to material created and solicited by the individual. Please also know that I am often inundated with material so I am not always able to respond, let alone consider everything. Include a telephone number for faster response. I want readers to know that, while I discriminate, I welcome new material. I take each opportunity to explore work seriously and I strive to find the good in a movie, song or book. With rare exception, I review that which I think I have a reason to like and enjoy.

These have been eight exciting years and I gain value from writing the ‘web log’. So, may you gain value from reading it. Cheers.

Springtime Festivals

This spring, two annual festivals caught my attention. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at University of Southern California (USC) is always interesting for its literary lectures, panels and appearances. I usually learn about new stories, books and publishing deals, trade trends and developments and run into someone I know or want to know and this year was no exception. I learned about everything from new literary journals and adapting Greek plays to new small publishers, printers for self-published books and blogs, resources and programs for writers.

FOBooksUSC2016The Festival of Books panels, in particular, can get pretentious as writers and editors share their thoughts from the ivory tower and some of the comments reinforce that today’s dominant intellectuals are disconnected—some knowingly—from audiences and reality. For instance, a dramatic arts dean at the university, a published author, admitted that he hadn’t read the play he was adapting. He added that he’d read it once decades ago but seemed oddly proud of his not having studied and mastered his topic, as if this was the point of adaptation; to evade the cause of the work. Others rambled and most speakers at the panel discussions talked as if everyone was familiar with every term, work and literary reference, though moderators tried to keep them grounded in communicating with a wide, general audience.

Listening to writers talk about writing makes me think about better habits, tools and techniques and the event offers an opportunity to meet other writers, editors and publishers. For some of my contracted projects, it’s especially helpful to know about new producers in the market at any point in the writing-to-publishing process. So, overall, I’m glad I went.

Turner Classic Movies hosts a classic movie festival in Hollywood every year, which I attended for the first time in 2015 and again this spring (read my roundup of 2015’s event here and a preview of 2016’s festival here). The panels are, perhaps not surprisingly, less pretentious than the book festival’s, though I found myself wanting more of the exchanges than some of the brief interviews and panels delivered, though Faye Dunaway’s interview was extensive and the star of Network, The Towering Inferno and The Thomas Crown Affair was thoughtful and gracious (more on this later).

ClubTCMBWA panel discussion on journalism and movies with writers, editors and a producer, which I wrote about for LA Screenwriter (read my report here), could have lasted another 45 minutes and I would have stayed. TCM’s panel, which was moderated by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, a TV journalist earlier in his career, included writer/director James Vanderbilt (Truth), Oscar-winning writer Josh Singer (Spotlight), broadcast news producer and author Mary Mapes (portrayed in Truth by Cate Blanchett) and journalist/editor Ben Bradlee, Jr., portrayed by John Slattery in Spotlight—Bradlee was partly responsible for managing the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, the subject of Spotlight, which won 2015’s Oscar for Best Picture.

This year, I was able to see at least one past Best Picture Oscar winner on the big screen as with last year’s screened classic movies—Too Late for Tears (1949) with Lizabeth Scott, Gunga Din (1939), Malcolm X (1992), Viva Zapata! (1952), So Dear to My Heart (1949) and The Sound of Music (1965)—and this one, Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 hit Rocky, was a film I had never seen in any format. Read the reviews, which include notes on accompanying festival interviews where applicable, either on The New Romanticist or here on the blog as available. So far, besides Rocky, I’ve reviewed Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) with Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood (1991) with Cuba Gooding, Jr., Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932) with Marlene Dietrich and Elia Kazan’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) with Dorothy Maguire. I’ve added a review of The Virginian (1946) starring Joel McCrea, which recently screened at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, too, and there are a few more reviews to come (of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Band Wagon (1953) and I’ve Always Loved You (1946).

Additionally, I plan to post a roundup of 2016’s TCM Classic Film Festival, themed this time to “Moving Pictures”, including coverage of other lectures, interviews and related news, such as TCM’s new fan club, Backlot, and its new streaming partnership with the Criterion Collection. ‘Like’ my Facebook page for regularly posted mini-reviews of films on TCM’s lineup.

For live instruction, evaluation and discussion of movies, books and media, and studious breakdown of the writing process, feel free to attend my classes if you’re in Los Angeles this summer. Space is limited for updated courses on social media (read more and register here) and Writing Boot Camp (read more and register here) in Burbank. If you want help with a project and you’re unable to attend, let me know (I can probably help by phone, FaceTime or Skype). Otherwise, read the monthly newsletter for tips, tools and thoughts. Look for new reviews, articles and stories to come.

Spring Books and Movies and a New Summer Course

Enrollment in my writing course for adults doubled this semester, so I’ve been invited to teach a summer course. The weekly Thursday night class in general writing begins in June and runs through mid-July. I also teach a summer course on social media.

I will add summer registration links. In the meantime, both courses this spring have been enhanced to include new readings, demonstrations and material. In the writing course, I’ve incorporated study of writings by Rudyard Kipling, Shirley Jackson, William Ernest Henley, Ray Bradbury and O. Henry. Students read their work aloud in class this week and next week’s class features a lesson on resources, including books about writing based on lectures by my favorite writer, Ayn Rand, who wrote bestselling fiction and non-fiction for stage, screen, print, broadcasting and literature. Rand additionally wrote for journals, newspapers and for certain editions of books by Leonard Peikoff and Victor Hugo.

BurbankAdultSchoolAyn Rand’s lectures on writing were adapted for two outstanding volumes, The Art of Fiction and The Art of Non-Fiction. For motivation, I suggest reading screenwriter Brian Koppelman’s 202 Practical Writing Tips, which are excellent. Proper writing practices are also addressed in All About Social Media, which offers an essential guide to creating, using and maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (contact me if you have any questions). These general courses are for personal enrichment and students represent a range of personal and professional interests. This semester includes the usual mixture of musicians, actors, writers and entrepreneurs and also an engineer, an attorney, a chiropractor and a studio executive, so the environment is relaxed, studious and inclusive. Classrooms have free wifi and courses include my visual presentations. The campus is located near Bob Hope Airport.

This spring’s Festival of Books at University of Southern California’s campus is on my agenda this week and, later this month, I plan to attend an event in Santa Monica featuring Objectivist co-author Don Watkins on his new book. I’m reading a novel by the late John O’Hara that Robert Benton recommended to me and I look forward to reading a new book by Georgetown University scholar Randy Barnett on the Constitution (for HarperCollins with a foreword by George Will). I finished filmmaker Mike Binder‘s exciting first novel, a political thriller set in London (for Macmillan’s Henry Holt and Company). I plan to post a review.

Besides my contract work, I’m entering stories in competitions and studying, developing and exploring new projects, which takes time. I plan to return to Turner Classic Movies’ Classic Film Festival in Hollywood this month for new insights and interviews on motion pictures. I’ve recently enjoyed several movies with good scripts—Zootopia‘s the best film in theaters and I recommend the new movie about Hank Williams, I Saw the Light, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition (expanding soon) and The Weinstein Company’s wonderful musically-themed 80s film Sing Street, opening soon—and I look forward to the new Jungle Book picture by Jon Favreau based on Kipling’s tales. A sneak preview I saw at Disneyland last week looks terrific.

2016 Communication Courses

writing_boot_camp copy

Click to Register

Early next year, I plan to offer my media courses again. I finished teaching my first writing course this month and repeated the social media course, too. Both are scheduled to return in February 2016.

Registration starts this week. Enroll in my 10-week Writing Boot Camp here. Register for my 10-week All About Social Media course here. Both courses take place on a campus north of Los Angeles.

Students in the writing course learn how to prepare for writing as an exercise, how to build, write and edit the piece, and how to write with the audience, context and format in mind. Each student will have an opportunity to have his writing evaluated. The 10-session series for general adult education includes a final writing assignment.

This fall, the class, which consisted of those writing for Hollywood, blogs, reports for work and fiction, read or studied literary works by Hans Christian Andersen and O. Henry among others when we weren’t reading and studying student writings, outlines and themes. I refer prospective students to this much-appreciated endorsement from a producer who enrolled in both one of my courses and several of my workshops:

Scott Holleran is the best instructor in his field in the Southland. He is also incredibly talented as a writer and blogger. He has one of the sharpest minds I have encountered anywhere. He is brilliant and creative and very skilled in all facets of communications, journalism and adult education. His instruction has had a tremendously positive impact on my life.”

Writing Boot Camp’s outline is: the pre-writing phase; choosing format, topic and theme; writing within the genre; making lists, doing research and creating the outline; the writing phase; checking one’s work and the editing phase.

social_media_bleed copy

Click to Register

My social media course covers proper social media management, including instruction in creating campaigns. This features a full examination of one’s brand, goals, context, contacts and connections, and is rooted in my premise that being social is a natural part of being human and that success must be measured by what one gains from the experience. Accordingly, students learn all major social media, including through live demonstration and step by step instruction and analysis, based on my thesis.

All About Social Media’s outline is: basic orientation; conducting introspection; Facebook; Twitter and LinkedIn; visually-driven media, such as YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest; differentiating from other media; pitfalls and live class demonstration. A final presentation by each student is also part of the course.

Registration for both courses is now open (if seats are available), so register online (All About Social Media and Writing Boot Camp) or, after January 4, feel free to call (818) 558-4611 to enroll over the phone. Please note that these courses are not yet available for online attendance.

Burbank Public Library

Burbank Public Library

I also gave a blogging workshop this month sponsored by the Burbank Public Library, which was standing room only. The 90-minute class in downtown Burbank was packed with bloggers, artists, entrepreneurs and published authors and screenwriters and the program director was kind enough to add more seating, so I hope that everyone gained value from the lesson. I appreciate the greeting assistance from my former students Jeff and Rayne and I enjoyed meeting everyone. If I missed answering your question or you thought of a question afterwards, feel free to contact me.

Private individual and group instruction is also available if you’re not able to attend class in Southern California. Contact me for details.

Capitalism on Chicagoland’s North Shore

Spending my youth in the suburbs north of Chicago often made me curious about its origins. There were exotic American Indian names, mysterious trails, woods and tales of corruption, scandal and murder amid the lush, green bluffs and flat, fertile soil, not to mention the lakefront, the railroad and the industry. I know I’m scratching the surface, but I’m enjoying writing about the towns, villages and enclaves north of Chicago in a newspaper history series I conceived and developed with my editor, David Sweet, earlier this year.

The theme is capitalism—the entrepreneurial spirit—on Chicagoland’s North Shore.

Glencoe, Illinois waiting station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Talking with local and regional historians, curators and scholars, my research yields new takes on local myths and legends, facts about iconic names, dates and places and, above all, clarity about the men who forged new paths, pioneered Northern Illinois, fought for the Union during the Civil War and settled some of the nation’s most creative, productive and wealthiest towns. These men were largely men of vision and reason and they were farmers, frontiersmen, traders, industrialists and, mostly, individualists. Telling their stories, including notorious facts in the history of these towns, is more rewarding than I had thought possible when I first offered to write the articles.

These front page and cover story articles, which include bits on America’s first recorded serial killer, the only bridge ever designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright and the invention of Christmas bubble lights, Girl Scout cookies and Frenchmens’, Indians’ and religionists’ plans for the area near and along Lake Michigan north of Chicago, are currently available online for free. Read about Glenview, Wilmette and Glencoe. Know that there are more stories to come.


Related

Murder in Kenilworth

Feature: Teen Depression and Suicide on Chicago’s North Shore

Sheridan Road: My First Intellectual Activism

Sheridan Road: Former State Senator Roger Keats

Sheridan Road: Interview with Kathryn Cameron Porter