Hurricane Poetry

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
King Lear, Act III, Scene II
William Shakespeare

As the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew passed through Central Florida today I thought I’d share an image I captured that’s less clichéd than the zillions of palm fond shots favored by news organizations. I guess there’s a place for sensationalism, but wind blowing through a 100+foot oak tree draped in Spanish moss can show the etherial and beautiful side of nature.

Then again I have seen Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (shot by director of photography Ron Fricke) a time or two, and am drawn to these kinds of images. Especially in the  Internet-saturated world we live in today I think the 1982 “life out of balance” film holds up real well. Check it out if you’ve never seen it. (And there are big screen viewings of Koyaanisqatsi from time to time in various cities.)

P.S. Of course, the destructive side of nature is sad and tragic as we learned of not only the damage to buildings and coastlines, but the loss of lives in Haitai, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the southeastern parts of the United States.

Scott W. Smith

Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storm commin’ soon
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season


From all reports it appears that Hurricane Matthew will be the worst storm to hit Central Florida in the past 50 years. They’re expecting a category 4 storm (winds range from 131 to 155 mph, and possibly a category 5) by the time it heads up the east coast of Florida (West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach).

Even here in Orlando where the airport is only 50 miles from Cape Canaveral the sustained winds are expected to be 50-70 mph. I hope there are no more serious injuries or loss of lives due to Hurricane Matthew, but unfortunately the odds are quite good that this will disrupt lives for days or weeks, and possible alter the landscape forever.

One more reminder that there are things way beyond our control.

And because this is a screenwriting blog there are a few takeaways. There’s conflict, visual conflictstakes, urgency,  a good bad guy (Hurricane Matthew) who threatens lives and well being, a dilemma, a ticking clock,  and a central dramatic question—what’s going to happen in about 12 hours from now?

One of the best Hurricane-related movies is the 1948 classic  Key Largo (which is actually set during an impending hurricane hitting Florida) written by Richard Brooks and John Huston, based on a play by Maxwell Anderson:

Gangster: Hey Curly, what all happens in a hurricane?
Curly: The wind blow so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.  

And today I found this Lux Radio version of Key Largo starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson:

And here’s a fitting Jimmy Buffett song (from one of my all time favorite albums, A1A) to close this blog post:

To watch live feed of Florida beaches during Hurricane Matthew check out Surfline.


Related posts:

Postcard #27 (A1A)
Shelter from the Storm (Dylan)
Havana Daydreamin’
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Issac)
Postcard #22 (Kelly Slater Statue)
Postcard #90 (Second Light)
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 2)
Jim Harrison 1937-2016 (part 4)
The Weather Started Getting Rough
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 2) A little Steve Goodman, a little Pat Conroy
Writing Quote #31 (Hemingway)

Scott W. Smith

“Once there is sufficient volume of air involved in this phenomenon, it can sometimes begin, quite slowly at first, to turn in a counterclockwise direction, an effect of the drag of the earth’s rotation, the way a speeding truck will create whirling dust devils along the dry shoulder of a highway.”
John D. MacDonald


Unless someone at NASA is working on their Photoshop skills, the above photo is what Hurricane Matthew looks like as it heads toward Florida. An image worthy of a Hollywood Horror film. And brings back memories of Heath Ledger as The Joker.


Maybe it’s time for someone to remake John D. MacDonald’s book Condominium (about a Hurricane heading toward Floridainto a new movie. (It was made as a TV movie back in 1980.)

P.S. The new trailer for next Pirates of the Caribbean movie Dead Men Tell No Tales dropped two days ago so maybe this whole thing is just a huge Disney PR stunt.


Scott W. Smith

The work of photographer and documentarian Camilo José Vergara  reflects a sense of time and place. Often a place heading toward a state of decay. Places like Detroit, Harlem, Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Check out the evocative photos on his website.

There’s something about his photos that tell a deep story and stir the soul.

Scott W. Smith

“All humor is rooted in pain.”
Richard Pryor

“I like to swing upon my perch and sing a little song,
But there’s a cat that’s after me and won’t leave me alone.”
Tweety Bird

Related post:
Visual Conflict

Scott W. Smith

Tim Tebow hit a home run in his first professional at bat. Of course he did.

That’s how mythologies are made. (Sure his home run was in unimportant instructional league game, but we’re still talking professional baseball here.)

But since this is a blog about screenwriting, let’s look at Tebow’s life so far from a dramatic standpoint. Let’s see if it appears if Tebow is on track to reach the status of Zeus and Paul Bunyan (or at least Chuck Norris) some day.

Movies are about heightened reality. Or as Carson Reeves at Scriptshadow wrote it’s about the best or worst day or time in a character’s life. Now most people don’t have a “bomb on a bus” moment, but everyone has a special day or two in their lives.

Before reaching the age of 30 Tebow has more than his share of special moments:

—As a college freshman his team won a national championship.

—As a sophomore at the University of Florida he was the starting quarterback as the Gators won another National Championship. Oh, and he won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in off of college football. He was the first college sophomore to ever win the Heisman.

—By the time his college career was over he held SEC all-time records in both career passing efficiency and total rushing touchdowns.

—He was a first round draft pick of the Denver Broncos.

—His NFL career was short lived, but he did throw the winning touchdown in a playoff game to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. John Elway said that without Tebow helping to elevate the team that ear they would have never signed Payton Manning. Last year Manning was the starting QB as the Broncos won the Super Bowl.

—Tebow turned to making a living as a broadcaster on the ESPN-owned SEC Network. (A job that alone would be impressive without all his other accomplishments.)

—Tebow sightings are more command these days that Elvis sightings. His doing missionary work in the Philippines one day, then praying for a man on a plane who had a heart attack, and yet on another day he’s in an Orlando hospital after the Pulse shooting to comfort a friend & former teammate who was a bartender at Pulse during the tragic terrorist shooting in last June.

Now he’s trying to become a Major League Baseball player after not playing since he was a three sport star in high school. And he’s the oldest player in instructional league. The odds are against Tebow having a MLB career, or even playing a game in the big leagues (aside from a George Plimpton/Paper Lion-like experiment). I wouldn’t bet on Tebow as a baseball player, but I wouldn’t bet against him in this case.

I always appreciated basketball great Michael Jordon trying his hand at baseball even though the odds were way against him. I even went to late spring training game at Wriggly Field in Chicago to watch Jordan and the White Sox play the Cubs. Though Jordan failed in that endeavor, he came back to professional basketball with renewed passion and helped the Chicago Bulls win three more championships.

The take away for us mere mortals is even the great ones, the accomplished ones, are not afraid of failure. And since this is my third Florida-centered post this week it’s probably as good a time as any to toss in a quote from one of the greatest surfers of all-time, and one born and raised in the Sunshine State:

“When there’s a generational change, there’s a change in the way things are done. And people who are stuck in their ways and don’t want to see change are the first ones to be vocal about it. And I feel totally supportive because I’m still trying to take my surfing to different levels and that’s exciting for me. Because, honestly, there were times when I first got on tour that I was bored with the level of surfing. And I’d much rather be getting my ass kicked than being bored.”
Kelly Slater
Surfing Magazine
Interview by Matt Walker

The 44-year-old Slater is currently in his 27th year as a pro surfer. And even though he’s having his worst year ever, he still wins occasionally.

I heard it said on a podcast recently (by I forget who) that “people will respect your strength, but they will connect with you in your weakness.”

Slater, Jordan, and Tebow are not perfect human beings—or even athletes—but we can admire their accomplishments, and be inspired as how they push themselves.

In an election year here in the U.S. where picking a presidential candidate is like triage— now would be an ideal time for Tebow to walk away from is Major League Baseball dreams and, say, run for President of the United States. Who would doubt that he’d be more likable that the current candidates?

Scott W. Smith






“The novelist and short story writer John Cheever, when asked why he wrote did not say, ‘To show the upper middle class lives of Connecticut.’ He said, ‘To make sense out of my life.”
Wallace Stegner
On Teaching and Writing Fiction

P.S. Both Wallace Stegner and John Cheever had connections to Iowa. Stegner (who won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972) was born in Lake Mills, Iowa and received his Master’s and Ph.D at the University of Iowa. He went on to start the writing program at Stanford University where his students (which he did not claim credit for) included Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Ernest Gaines, and Larry McMurtry. Cheever, who won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction,  spent a semester teaching (and drinking with Raymond Carver) at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Scott W. Smith

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