Archive | Pets RSS feed for this section

Three Interviews

Dion Neutra (photo by Scott Holleran)

Nestled in the hills of Los Angeles is a uniquely compact and inviting home where I first met Dion Neutra. I had spoken with and interviewed the noted architect, who studied and worked with his father, the late Richard Neutra, a few times for articles about modern architecture. The prospect of an extensive interview had previously been discussed though it hadn’t been conducted. This time, when Dion Neutra suggested that we meet for an interview, it was promptly scheduled. I drove to LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood, parked and climbed the steep stairs. I soon met the man who made with his father some of America’s most distinctive and iconic homes and buildings. We sat in a dining room and talked for over an hour. Days later, we would toast to his 90th birthday and, later, talk again about a campaign to restore one of his father’s signature buildings, the Eagle Rock Clubhouse. During our exchange, we managed to cover a lifetime of memories, thoughts and details of his father, meeting Ayn Rand, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Kun house, World Trade Center, Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama and his childhood trauma in Silver Lake. I knew from previous talks that Neutra’s son and heir could be both eccentric and exhausting. This conversation is no exception. Read my exclusive interview with Dion Neutra.

Jim Brown, Ayn Rand Institute CEO

Another inheritance-themed opportunity for an exclusive talk recently presented itself when the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) named a new CEO. His name is Jim Brown and his background is in business, financial analysis and military leadership. Qualifications alone merited my interest and I immediately welcomed him to ARI and asked for an interview, which he kindly granted at his Irvine office. Though days into the job, he discussed plans, management philosophy and his favorite Leonard Peikoff works. As an Objectivist who first visited ARI as a teen when I took the bus to its office on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, who has worked and studied with ARI, I think Jim Brown is the right man for the job. So, I want my readers to read the interview and consider supporting ARI under Jim’s new and purposeful management. An edited transcript of my conversation with the center for Objectivism’s chief executive officer—Jim Brown’s first interview as ARI’s chief executive officer—appears on Capitalism Magazine (postscript: read a shorter version in the Los Angeles Times here).

And I am delighted that my favorite filmmaker—director Lasse Hallström—granted to me his only interview about his successful motion picture, A Dog’s Purpose, before returning to making Disney’s adaptation of the beloved Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. I am often enchanted by Mr. Hallström’s work. I always anticipate whatever he chooses to make. And I am privileged to have interviewed Lasse Hallström before. This time was particularly rewarding.

Lasse Hallström

Lightness in his pictures is perhaps the most indelible quality. Think of the French village in Chocolat or Venetian escapades in Casanova. The way he guides an ensemble cast to perfect union for an exalted or higher cinematic goal—around foodmaking in The Hundred-Foot Journey, liberation in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, serenity in An Unfinished Life, healing in The Shipping News, and the power of a dog to align man to what’s here and now in A Dog’s Purpose—should also be known. All of his movies, which began with his film about ABBA, are wonderfully musical including A Dog’s Purpose. But what, besides unity, love and lightness, is more pressing and relevant now than the seriousness with which he films his stories? This unique blend by a Swede who lives in America is often mistaken strictly as sweetness, which one should expect in a circus culture of cynics, celebrities and smears. The interview with Lasse Hallström, the artist who to me best expresses in today’s movies the American sense of life, is one I know I’ve earned and deserve.

I did not plan the pieces as a thematic trifecta, though it occurs to me that these three interviews explore man’s mastery of living in accordance with nature, man’s mastery of advancing the ideal and man’s mastery of recreating both in movies. Read, think and enjoy.

Book Review: The Soul of a Horse

Soul of a Horse by Joe Camp

Click to Buy the Book

Some years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing a real Hollywood maverick named Joe Camp. You might remember that Joe created the Benji movies, those independent features that shocked the studios and made a bundle of money by offering simple stories about a persistent little mutt named Benji. Camp, whose son, Brandon, recently directed Love Happens with Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston, kept creating books and movies about the beloved Benji, whom I referred to in 2004 as the screen’s most popular pooch since Lassie. But when the last movie failed to ignite, Joe Camp was discouraged and decided to take up a new hobby, with his lawyer wife, Kathleen. The result is his book, The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd, published in 2008. It’s an exercise in transference from dog to horse by someone who made his career out of caring about animals.

One of the best aspects of the Benji pictures, including the one that didn’t do as well, Benji Off the Leash, is Joe Camp’s strong sense of what forms the bond between man and pet and his soul-searching book about horses builds on that bond. As Camp turns inward in this meandering journal of an amateur horseman discovering and coming to terms with how one ought to treat a horse, he yields page after page of original and thoughtful insights about properly tending to this beautiful animal of prey. From feeding, riding and communicating to blankets, horseshoes, and ropes tied to posts, his hard-won lessons on the ranch, coupled with Kathleen’s slightly different approach, is another volume in the growing literature of books that argue for an organic, or “natural”, treatment of the horse.

One need not accept all of his conclusions, most of which make sense, to gain value from this thought-provoking, and, at times, poetic call for knowledge and understanding in horsemanship. As he puts it: “Few have put it all together into a single philosophy, a unified voice, a complete lifestyle change for the domesticated horse.”

“Leadership makes a difference,” Camp writes. “Even with borrowed horses. Or rented trail horses, who carry folks around every day of their lives. You never know when it will come in handy for the horse to think of you as a leader. And it’s so much nicer to know that you’re off on a ride with a friend. A partner who trusts you. Not some vacant-eyed mechanical device manufactured just to carry you around. The rub, of course, is that leadership isn’t easy or free. With horses or in life. It’s earned. But it does make a difference, and is worth every ounce of the effort.” Whether it’s his most treasured horse, Cash, or Kathleen’s Skeeter, or Mariah, Pocket, Handsome, or, later, Mouse, Soul of a Horse, with a foreword by Monty Roberts, is itself something of a treasure, from a man whose love of dogs has given us so much joy on screen. (Kindle for iPad app version read and reviewed. Click here to buy this book.)