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Winter Writing

A movie about exceptionalism overcoming racism at an agency of the government, an effort to restore a building and a forthcoming book about accounting for an entire arts genre give me fuel this winter.

Top U.S. film

America’s top movie at the box office is Hidden Figures, which centers upon three individuals of ability in the Jim Crow-era South, when racist laws infected even an aeronautics U.S. agency charged with launching an American into outer space. It’s a wonderful film, really, which doesn’t surprise me because it’s written and directed by the same individual who wrote and directed 2014’s St. Vincent, which is also very good. His name is Theodore Melfi and he recently talked with me about writing and directing the talented cast, which includes Empire‘s Cookie, Taraji P. Henson, his thoughts on racism, storytelling and what he’d do differently and having his movie screened at the White House. Read my exclusive interview with Melfi about the nation’s number one motion picture here.

Eagle Rock Clubhouse by Neutra

Speaking of exclusive interviews, I’ve recently had the pleasure of interviewing architect Dion Neutra at his home and office designed by his father, the late modern architect Richard Neutra, whose legacy I explore in an article about a campaign to restore one of Neutra’s signature buildings (read the story on LATimes.com here). I’ve been covering this effort by an architect and a realtor who say they want to restore the Los Angeles clubhouse to its original splendor, and finally met and interviewed them at Neutra’s building for a detailed restoration tour. The building, a parks and recreational center in northeast Los Angeles, opened in the 1950s with a stage that plays to both interior and exterior audiences, a kitchen with a window for selling concessions, an athletic court, reflecting pool and sloping landscapes—all in glass, brick and Neutra’s favored metal, steel—with a director’s office overlooking gymnastics, trails, pine trees, playgrounds, tennis courts and with retractable walls to let the air and spectators or audiences inside. The two gents are in talks with Dion Neutra as I write this.

New book this March

A forthcoming book features new and interesting data about the words and works by William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, Stephen King, Agatha Christie and Ayn Rand among other literary greats. It’s titled Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve (Simon & Schuster, March 14, 2017) and the author covers detailed statistical analyses of these and other writers in a solid narrative. Among the newly mined data are authors’ ‘favorite’ words, how sexes write differently—Rand rates as “masculine”—and use of adverbs, exclamation points and novels’ opening lines. Mine is the book’s first non-trade review. Read my article here.

The newest Writing Boot Camp starts up next month (seats are still left in the 10-week course, so register here), moving to Tuesday nights, the day after my all-new course on social media (register here). These courses evolved from career camp workshops I was asked to teach several years ago. I subsequently taught a series of nine media and production workshops for Mood U, online, economic development, expo and public library presentations and developed the writing and media classes into full courses a few years ago for adult education in LA. They’re works in progress yet past students give positive and constructive feedback, so I’ve created Facebook groups for past students. Stand by for details and more on the upcoming courses.

Meanwhile, thank you for your readership, support and trade. I read every piece of correspondence, though I’m sometimes slow to respond, sent through the site and social media. This year, I plan to remake my website and I am working on other projects, from stories in manuscripts and screenplays to my cultural fellowship, new partnerships and a new media enterprise. For now, I want you to read, share and gain value from these articles about inspecting works of art and making, or mining, something good.

Architecture: Richard Neutra’s Eagle Rock Clubhouse

A recreational city park in northeastern Los Angeles has the distinction of featuring one of the signature buildings by architect Richard J. Neutra (1892-1970). The sleek design for the Eagle Rock Clubhouse, as it was originally known, includes a kitchen, director’s office, athletics court, recreational room and a stage connected to an outdoor amphitheater on a sloping hillside.

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Eagle Rock Clubhouse, photo by Scott Holleran

The primary feature, however, are the athletic court’s walls, which retract to the open air of the surrounding park. Hills, pine trees, shaded walkways, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, a workout and gymnastics area, children’s center, outdoor playground and tennis courts fill out the area, which is just off a freeway between the Los Angeles basin and the San Gabriel Valley in a section of LA known as Eagle Rock. Unfortunately, a reflecting pool was paved over and columns were added by city officials.

Though the clubhouse is badly in need of repair and renovation, and the park, too, needs an upgrade, the wonders of the property come through. Walking on curved, tree-lined paths amid vistas and sounds of a baseball game gives Eagle Rock Recreation Center an old-fashioned air. Toddlers waddled around their parents’ picnics, bachelors played fetch with their dogs and couples played tennis while musclemen worked out on the gymnastics bars, runners jogged and a team of girls played volleyball inside the building. Neither freeway noise nor poor building maintenance completely diminishes the presence of this impressive building, which retains an inviting functionality. Despite the need for landscaping, rebuilding and restoration, one can imagine the calls and cheers of past weddings, proms, games, scout troop meetings, play dates and playhouse productions. Conjuring an outdoor audience attending a play, dance recital or piano concert is easy.

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Eagle Rock Clubhouse, photo by Julius Shulman

When Eagle Rock officially opened the park 62 years ago this fall during the peak of Hollywood’s Golden Age, William Holden (Stalag 17, Picnic, Golden Boy, Sunset Boulevard, Executive Suite, Network) was reportedly on the guest list. Among those in attendance was the young architect Dion Neutra, Richard Neutra’s son, who worked on the project with his father, an icon of modern architecture and 20th century culture. He remembered that day during a recent interview with me for an article about the city’s proposed changes to the recreation center, which he told me he found lacking (read my interview and view recent pictures of Neutra’s clubhouse on the Los Angeles Times‘ website here).

Interviewing Dion Neutra, who turns 90 years old this week, led to a meeting at his home in Silver Lake, where we conducted a more extensive interview about his late father, architecture and career. We talked about the house his father created for director Josef von Sternberg (Shanghai Express) in 1936, which Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead) later lived in during her Southern California years, and his thoughts on Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Look for the interview soon. In the meantime, I’m told that there may be an effort underway to restore Richard and Dion Neutra’s Eagle Rock clubhouse to its original condition. For Dion Neutra, who told me that he named his father’s clubhouse in his will as a possible memorial site for after he dies, the prospect of total, pure restoration makes the perfect birthday gift in a city of America’s greatest modern arts enriched by Neutra architecture.

Social Media and Writing Boot Camp

This week’s job skills workshop, covering writing the perfect resume and cover letter and mastering the job interview, will be held in the auditorium at Burbank Unified’s adult school campus near Bob Hope Airport at 10:00 am this Friday, August 26. I’m excited to teach this new class, which the director asked me to create to help people find rewarding work.

The theme of this 90-minute class is that looking for work in today’s market requires explicit assessment, awareness and positive assertion of one’s record, experience and philosophy of work.

MSOSM BPL anchored 8:22:2016

Social media workshop 8/16 | Burbank Public Library | Photo by Jeffrey Falk

Feedback from Monday’s workshop in social media, which I delivered in downtown Burbank, was constructive. One of my students suggested adding thematic detail to title slides, a good suggestion which I plan to incorporate, and I’m told that the LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter screenshots were helpful. Attendance at the Burbank Public Library-sponsored event exceeded my expectations and audience questions were sharp, serious and insightful.

This area north of Los Angeles is a diverse economic mix of artists, entrepreneurs, professionals and crew that represents the Southern California industrial blend of media, movies, technology, retail and manufacturing. I covered a wide scope of functions and editorial best practices in major social media and I was impressed by how attentive and knowledgeable today’s readers and communicators are about the nuances, details and complications of branding one’s presence on social media.

"Making Sense of Social Media" 8/22/2016 | Burbank Public Library

Social media workshop 8/16 | Burbank Public Library | Photo by Jeffrey Falk

I plan to add aspects of this class to this fall’s 10-week course on social media, which starts on September 12 (follow this fall’s All About Social Media on Facebook here). Space is limited, so if you’re in Southern California, sign up because the course is filling up. The new fall course includes live demonstrations and tutorials in social media. Computer laboratory instruction for each student’s social media profile(s) is an optional part of the fall program this semester, too, so expect to get individual attention with emphasis on how to improve what you’ve made or want to make. Look for updated lessons based on the newest trends, tools and failures, including experience from my projects, campaigns and branding. From Joss Whedon quitting Twitter after negative reviews for Tomorrowland to Brian Williams losing his stature and Robin Williams‘ daughter Zelda Williams reclaiming social media as her own domain, my course covers today’s terrain.

To register for All About Social Media go here.

This course is an editorial orientation. In other words, this is not a course on every detail or feature of Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. My approach instructs the student in how to engage social media based on one’s goals, values and self-interest while exploring certain uses, tools and functions.

WritingBootcamp

Touch/Click to Register

The same premise goes for my fall 2016 Writing Boot Camp, which breaks writing into progressive steps, from before writing begins to after completion of the first draft. Writing Boot Camp includes spot and assigned writing and notes. Course subjects include habits, resources and immersion in writing as an art and as a science.

Selecting the format, designating the topic and formulating a theme are studied and both writing and editing are practiced, both one on one as well as in collaboration with other students in class. Students are asked to read aloud. The 10-week series is based on what I have learned and fundamentally grounded in my professional writing background. I am enthusiastic about Writing Boot Camp. I plan to introduce the course’s first guest speaker, a published author of dozens of books, this coming fall, too.

Register for Writing Boot Camp here and follow the course on Facebook.

Who enrolls in an adult writing course? Poets, screenwriters, published authors and anyone seeking to achieve clarity in writing. Students are entertainment industry executives, songwriters, police officers, lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs. Certain students attend for general knowledge and practice in a disciplined approach. Others seek to refuel the creative supply through my encouraging immersion in the art and business of storytelling.

Writing Boot Camp starts on September 15. Both courses are held at Burbank Adult School near Bob Hope Airport. However, if you’re unable to attend and you want help, I am available by appointment, video or telephone. Contact me for details.

Fall Courses & Workshops

Here’s a roundup of my new communications studies this summer and fall.

Breaking writing into progressive steps, from before the writing begins to after you’ve completed the first draft, whether a screenplay, manuscript or blog post, Writing Boot Camp features assigned and spot writing opportunities and my detailed feedback. Course topics include pre-writing habits, tips, tools and resources and immersion in writing as an art and science. I instruct in selecting the format, designating a topic and formulating the theme of what you aim to write. Writing and editing are studied, examined and practiced, both one on one as well as in collaboration with the class. Students are tasked with active thinking, writing and reading aloud. So, it’s called boot camp for a reason. I introduced the course last year after creating a 90-minute workshop on assignment and, while it is structured based on what I have learned in classes I’ve attended, the course is proprietary and fundamentally grounded in my own professional writing experience. I’m enthusiastic about the new material and I hope to have my first guest instructor, a published author of dozens of books, this coming semester. I plan to expand Writing Boot Camp in the future (follow the fall course on Facebook here).

WritingBootcamp

Touch/Click to Register

Who takes the adult education course? Everyone from screenwriters, poets and published authors to police officers trying to improve clarity in reports and lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Past students include songwriters, teachers and entrepreneurs, also a studio executive in charge of writing talent, a social media manager aiming to improve his storytelling and a celebrity actor’s manager seeking to better ascertain quality scripts. Some students come for acquiring knowledge and practice in a disciplined approach. Others seek to replenish a creative supply through immersion with other writers in an encouraging, guided environment. Register for this fall’s Writing Boot Camp, which starts on September 15 near Los Angeles, by going to the link included here.

My social media series starts that week, too (follow this fall’s All About Social Media on Facebook here). Space is limited for both of these 10-week courses, so if you’re in Southern California, mark your calendar and sign up soon as enrollment has started and both courses are filling up. Improving the social media course based on student feedback, I make time for new, live demonstrations and tutorials and plans for computer laboratory instruction. I want to include guest instructors for this course, too, and I’ve already updated lessons based on the latest social media trends, tools and failures, including experience from my own client projects, campaigns and branding.

The course remains a general orientation to social media with emphasis on best editorial practices, so I want to be clear that this is not a course on every feature of Instagram or Facebook. This approach leads to interesting exchanges as you can imagine. Students often come expecting me to tell them what to do in each part of the social media experience. But, as advanced users know, you learn by doing, too, and trial and error is integral to mastering new technology. Also, the downside of social media stems from plunging in without purpose, direction or clarity in one’s highest goals, which feeds drift, distraction and aimlessness. So, I’m careful to instruct students in how to guide social media based on their own decisions while pointing to certain uses and specific features. Past students include adults who want to know more about this amorphous new industry, from filmmakers and artists seeking a better grasp of distribution means to grandparents, activists and merchants seeking to better connect, persuade and cash in. To register for All About Social Media go here.

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Touch/click for details of “Making Sense of Social Media”

Additionally, I’ve been asked to help individuals who are looking for work, so I’ve created a new 90-minute workshop on writing the resume and mastering the job interview. This one-time class is scheduled at the adult school for August 26 and it’s free to the public (details below). So is another one-time 90-minute class I’m giving on social media in downtown Burbank on the upsides and downsides of social media. “Making Sense of Social Media” also examines a range of recent social media examples, trends, success and failure.

Go here for details and here to follow “Making Sense of Social Media” on Facebook.

All About Social Media
Tuition: $89
Burbank Adult School
Mondays, 6pm-8pm
Sept 12-Nov 14, 2016
Call to register: (818) 558-4611

Writing Boot Camp
Tuition: $89
Burbank Adult School
Thursdays, 6pm-8pm
Sept 15-Nov 17, 2016
Call to register: (818) 558-4611

Free Workshops

Making Sense of Social Media
7pm-8:30pm
Monday, August 22, 2016
Burbank Public Library, Central Branch
Downtown Burbank, California | FREE admission

Jobs, Resume & Interviews
Writing the Resume
Mastering the Job Interview
10am-11:30am | FREE admission
Friday, August 26, 2016 at Burbank Adult School | Call to register: (818) 558-4611

Of course, let me know if you are unable to attend the classes, which are offered in downtown Burbank at the library and at the Henry Mingay campus of Burbank Adult School near Bob Hope Airport. Otherwise, if you want help, I can probably work with you remotely or meet if you’re in LA. Contact me to schedule a private session. Follow my events on Facebook and feel free to connect and follow on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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.