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Archive for October, 2019

“[Dave Martinez is] a fine role model for many. Just not, it seems, a very good big league manager.”
Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post, May 22, 2019
(A few months before Martinez led the Nationals to their first ever World Series appearance.)

“If the Nationals don’t turn it around soon, don’t be surprised if [Martinez is] the first manager fired in 2019.”
David Schoenfield,
ESPN article, May 8, 2019 

Last night, during game six of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals, I continued a baseball tradition from my youth. As a Little League player in the era before the internet and even cable TV, I was so in love with baseball that I would listen to baseball games on the radio. I was a fan of the Cincinnati Reds when they were nicknamed The Big Red Machine.

When they played the Atlanta Braves I was able to follow the play by play commentary from a radio station out of Georgia. And for reasons I’m not totally sure of today, I had better reception from the radio in my mom’s car. So if you can imagine a 11-14 year old in Orlando, Florida sitting in a station wagon at night listening to a baseball game, that was me.

I’ve been listening to the 2019 World Series that way as well, but on my phone and in bed. If the game is uneventful I drift to sleep like listening to a podcast. But last night I stayed up for the whole game because of the drama.

With the Washington Nationals down 2-1 there was a controversial call against the Nationals that could have potentially changed the outcome of the game and the series. Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez was so upset with the call he ended up getting ejected from the game for yelling at the umpire. But managers often do that kind of thing to fire up the troops. If that was the case, it worked. After his ejection the next batter, Anthony Rendon,  hit a two run home run putting the Nationals ahead for good.

It’s all part of what I’m calling “The Dave Martinez Redemption.” Just a few months ago, The Washington Post ran an article Dave Martinez is a good man. But he probably shouldn’t be managing the Nationals. At that point, in May 2019, the Nationals were in a slump and the season was considered a wash and columnist Thomas Boswell pointed to  “The Martinez Problem.” There was a problem somewhere, because the Nationals started the year with a win/loss record of 19-31.

Since that May article, Martinez led a team that didn’t seem destined for the playoffs, all the way to their first ever World Series appearance. And facing a rock solid Houston Astro team that was highly favored to win the series, they are now locked three games a piece going into the final game tonight in Houston.  High drama indeed.

And to add an exclamation to last night’s victory, Juan Soto did a bat drop after hitting a monster home run that gave the Nationals some insurance runs.

Time will tell if the Nationals can complete the total Dave Martinez Redemption tonight by winning their first ever World Series, but Martinez has proven his worth as a manager. And if they do win the Series, that ejection will be become legendary.

And I’m pulling for Martinez, because as I’ve written before, we both played baseball at the same high school—Lake Howell. I graduated two years before him so we never played on the same team, but we both were part of conference championship teams under coach Birto Benjamin.

The year after I graduated from high school I attended what is now Seminole State College and did a paid internship as a sports reporter and photographer for the Sanford Herald. I happened to cover the first Lake Howell baseball game of the 1981 season and watched a skinny junior I’d never heard of hit a home run in his first at bat. I remembered the name Dave Martinez after that. And I’ve followed his career since then— from playing fall ball at Valencia College to being drafted by the Chicago Cubs.

Over the decades he’s continued to make a name for himself, first as a player, then as a coach where he earned a World Series ring while coaching with the Cubs in their 2016 winning season. I imagine Martinez made a name for himself last night to a new crop of people who follow baseball only loosely. Working out at the gym this morning he was mentioned several times on ESPN (complete with footage of his arguing with the umpire), and on my drive to work he was also mentioned several times as they discussed the controversial call leading to his ejection.

Update at 11:52pm—The Washington Nationals completed their incredible year by beating the Astros and finishing World Series champs

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Related post:
Dave Martinez Keeps on Winning
LA vs. Washington
Silver Hawks Flying High
Screenwriting, Baseball, and Underdogs

Scott W. Smith

 

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“A writer who has had experience in newspaper reporting has an advantage [of finding movie story material] because he has learned what offers human interest. If the life of the world about you seems dull, the fault lies in yourself. You are not seeing it clearly or not interpreting it rightly. Life is the basis of all drama, but you must learn not to look for stories nor even for plots, but for story material, a different thing. You must watch what people about you are doing and what is happening to them, and always where there is interesting action or change you must seek for motivation. You will learn that the nuclei of touching stories lies not in the lives of the eccentric or abnormal, but often in the lives of apparently commonplace persons. It was among the poor and humble that Dickens found lives rich in sacrifice and love.”
Oscar winning screenwriter Frances Marion
How to Write and Sell Film Stories (first published in 1937)
page 169

P.S. Of course, I am aware that I as I wrote this post that The Joker is currently the number one box office movie (and the top grossing R-rated film ever) and is the epitome of an eccentric and abnormal person. (At least, it appears that way. I have yet to see the movie.)

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I absolutely treat myself like a factory. A word factory. That’s been really helpful for me because writing is very mysterious, and the creative process is very mysterious. It’s comforting to have a few mechanical tools at hand to help balance that sense of mystery.

First of all, if you don’t have a deadline, give yourself one and take it seriously. Secondly, I am thoroughly dependent on having a daily word count as a goal that I have to hit. If I get it done in an hour, I have the afternoon off. If it takes me until midnight, it takes me until midnight. The value of that is it makes concrete a process that otherwise seems ephemeral.”
Susan Orlean, Best selling author and writer for The New Yorker
The New Yorker’s Susan Orlean on the magic and mystery of writing by Lillian Cunningham, The Washington Post

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“It might have been one of the strangest nights in the history of Los Angeles, which is a city that has had its share of strange nights.”
Susan Orlean (on the 24-hour Save the Book telethon in 1987)
The Library Book, page 122

As I make my way through the audio book and paperback of Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, I am constantly shaking my head of having no recollection of the events surrounding the April 29, 1986 Los Angeles Public Library that she so well documents.

The event itself was easy to overlook for most Americans because it was overshadowed by the Chernobyl disaster and the entire world was on standby wondering what the global reprcussions would be from a nuclear fallout. But I was living in Los Angeles in April of 1986 so you’d think it would be kicking around somewhere in my memory bank. I remember well the Night Stalker terrorizing the city in ’84-85, Brice Springteen’s Born in the USA tour at the L.A. Colusumn in ’85, the ’87 Whitter Earthquake, and that the movie The God’s Must Be Crazy played for months. But I’m drawing a blank about the LA Public Library fire.

And Orlean does beauitiful job talking about the events following the fire and how the city rallied restore was was lost after a million books were destroyed or damaged. While the damage to the building was covered by insurance the books were not. So a Save the Books campaign was started culminating with a 24-Hour telethon in January 1987.

The telethon was hosted by the “unconventinal”, cigar smoking televangelist The Rev. Gene Scott at his Glendale studios and University TV Network. As Orlean recounts of the around the clock telethon;

“The fund-raising goal was $2 million. Celebrities were wrangled to appear on the show reading from their favorite books. There were dozens of celebrities readers, including Red Buttons, former governor Pat Brown, Angie Dickinson, Lakers coach Pat Riley, Ernest Borgnine, Edite Albert, and Henry Kissinger. Dinah Shore read from The Prince of Tide. Charlton Heston read the last chapter of Moby-Dick. Zsa Zsa Gabor showed up but forgot to bring a book.”

The entire telethon was rerun the next day and they exceeded there goal of $2 million. The Library Book is a great read/listen. Apparently, many people are discovering the book’s second wind with it’s recent paperback release.

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While I don’t remember the library fire—or the 24 hour telethon, I do remember Gene Scott. I used to stumble across his broadcast from time to time and he was always good for an unusual five minute. I hadn’t thought about him in over a decade until recently where I read an interview with Quentin Tarantino where he commented on watching him.

Scott died in 1985 and the Los Angeles Times reported that he “earned a doctorate in philosophies of education from Stanford University in 1957, also was influenced by the late Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.” He had his share of followers and critics.

After his death NPR stated that Gene Scott was a man that all channel surfers would recognize. They said, “Scott’s on air manner and apperance were hard to forget. He cursed, and ranted, wore sombreros one day, a crown the next, and asked for money—and got lots of it.”His television show was said to be carried in 180 countries.

I don’t know if a documentary was ever done on Gene Scott, but I imagine there will be sooner or later. Perhaps that’s something Tarantino can work on in his “retirement.”

But mark Janaury 11, 1987 as one unusual day in L.A. history.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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Who doesn’t like a good origin story? Here’s one I found recently in Susan Orlean’s book The Library Book. 

[Ray] Bradbury and his wife had four young daughters. When he tried to work at home, he spent more time playing with his children than writing. He couldn’t afford and office, but he knew a rook in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library, where typewriters could be rented for ten cents an hour. It occurred to him that there would be a fine symmetry if he wrote a book about book burning at a library. Over the course of nine days in the typewriter room at UCLA, Bradbury finished ‘The Fireman,’ expanding it into a short novel. He spent $9.80 on the typewriter rental. 

‘. . .  When he finished writing the book, Bradbury tried to come up with a better title than ‘The Fireman.’ He couldn’t think of a title he liked, so one day, on an impulse, he called the chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department and asked him the temperature at which paper burned. The chief’s answer became Bradbury’s title: Fahrenheit 451. When Central Library burned in 1986, everything in the Fiction section from A through L was destroyed, including all of the books by Ray Bradbury.”
Susan Orlean
The Library Book, pages 104-105

Scott W. Smith

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Since I was on the road more than usual this week I had the opportunity to listen to about half of Susan Olean’s bestselling book The Library Book. It’s so well written that I also bought the paperback at the Writer’s Block Bookstore in Winter Park, Florida.  Being an independent bookstore—as well as writing a book—is, to use Orlean’s words, “an act of shear defiance.” It’s important to supports both of those acts when we can.

Here’s a favorite passage of mine from the eighth chapter of The Library Book that centers around the 1986 fire at the the Los Angeles Public Library that “destroyed or damaged over a million books.”:

The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten—that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights, and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is if we never existed. If you gaze into that bleakness even for a moment, the sum of life becomes null and void, because if nothing lasts, nothing matters. It means everything we experience unfolds without a pattern, and life is just a wild, random baffling occurrence, a scattering of notes with no melody. But if something you learn or observe or imagine can be set down and saved, and if you can see your life reflected in pervious lives, and can imagine it reflected in subsequent ones, you can begin to discover order and harmony. You know that you are part of a larger story that has shape and purpose—a tangible, familiar past, and a constantly refreshed future. We are all whispering in a tin can on a string, but we are heard, so we whisper the message into the next tin can and the next string. Writing a book, just like building a library, is an act of shear defiance. It is a declaration that you believe in the persistence of memory.

In Senegal, the polite expression to say someone died is to say that his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve cataloged and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived. It is something that no one else can entirely share, one that burns down and disappears when we die. But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it— with one person, or the larger world, on the page or in a story recited—it takes on a life of its own.”
Susan Orleans
The Library Book, page 93

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #182 (Neil Gaiman Quote)

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I started these “Postcard” posts many years ago when I blogged daily and was caught up on some production and didn’t have time to write a post. My last several days have included late night edits and early morning shoots, so I couldn’t fit any posts in. But here’s a photo I took from my location shoot yesterday that qualifies for a nice writer’s postcard.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”
Neil Gaiman

Related post:

The Advantage of Boredom
Where Do Ideas Come From? 
The four most important words that every storyteller wants to hear to know their story is working (According to Neil Gaiman)

Scott W. Smith

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