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Posts Tagged ‘NY Times’

Three nights ago 25-year-old San Francisco Giant pitcher Madison Bumgarner helped his team win the World Series by earning a save in the 7th game of the World Series. He also won the World Series Most Valuable Player.

Though sports is filled with cliché quotes, Madison’s father Kevin gave a line about his son to NY Times after the game that hit me as a fresh description. It may be a common phrase in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina where the Bumgarner’s are from, but I’d never heard it before:

“That boy would try to steal a steak off the devil’s plate.”
Kevin Bumgarner
NY Times article by Michael Powell

If that was a character description or a line of dialogue in the first page of a screenplay I’d think the writer was in command of his or her craft.

P.S. Kevin’s line also reminded me of the well-known proverb, “He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.”

Related posts:

Descriptive Writing (Frank Darabont)
Descriptive Writing (Stephen King)
Descriptive Writing—Part 1 (tip #22)
Descriptive Writing—Part 2 (tip #23)
Descriptive Writing—Part 3, Characters (tip #24)
Descriptive Writing—Pt. 4, Action (tip #25)
Descriptive Writing—Pt. 5, Setting tip #26)

Baseball Related Posts:
Burns, Baseball & Flawed Characters
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdogs
Baseball, Bergman & Bull Durham
September 6, 1995
‘Field of Dreams’—25th Reunion

Scott W. Smith

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”If you don’t have any real feeling for the suburban middle-class life, and if you didn’t have any sense of that time, (The Wonder Years) wouldn’t make sense.”‘
Neal Marlens
Co-creator of The Wonder Years (set in the late 60s/early 70s)

I’ve finally decided what I’d like for my birthday this year—a complete Blu-Ray set of the TV program The Wonder Years. There’s one problem, it doesn’t exist. I have no idea why, but that’s what my research tells me. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) I image it has to do with ancillary music rights which weren’t covered when the show was created in the 80s. Couldn’t find much online  either about the co-creators of the program, husband and wife writing team, Neal Marlens & Carol Black.

Marlens and Black not only created The Wonder Years but Growing Pains and Ellen so it’s surprising there isn’t more about them online. The quote below is from  The New York Times and is just about the only thing I could find about the show from one of the creators.

”We’re caught inside the sensibilities that we grew up in, so we come by it honestly and without judgment as to whether it’s good, or it’s bad, or it’s yuppie, whatever. To write from our experience and to write our experience is to write to the audience that’s out there…. we’re writing what we enjoy and what’s interesting to us, and that’s what the audience is liable to like.”
Neal Marlens
NY Times interview in 1988 with Peter J. Boyer

Marlens’ predication came true. The first show aired right after the 1988 Super Bowl. After only six shows it found its way into the top ten. It won an Emmy for Best Comedy that season. For whatever reason Black and Marlens left the program after writing 19 programs. But The Wonder Years held on to its audience and ended up running for six years and lived in TV’s top ten programs the entire time.

Here’s the last voiceover of the older Kevin (Daniel Stern) from the final episode of The Wonder Years;

“Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next you’re gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years I still look back in wonder.”

I’m not sure who wrote those words, but I always believed that the producers, directors, writers on The Wonder Years always did an excellent job of capturing an era. Of a sense of time and place. A time of dreams fulfilled and opportunities missed. They captured simply growing up, which resonates even if you didn’t grow up in a the suburbs.They captured what one of my producers friends says is the most important thing to capture in a movie, documentary, or TV program; “Life.”

I image half the writers out there have at least written a coming-of-age story, I know I have. It was actually the first (and only) script I ever wrote where someone told me it made them cry. An interesting side note to that is an agent once told me that script would never get made because I didn’t have an adult lead. I had never thought about that, but I did realize that similar  stories all had some adult leads (Stand by Me, Sandlot, Bad News Bears, Big, My Dog Skip). Maybe the next re-write I’ll include a role for a now grown-up Fred Savage and tap into the whole Wonder Years vibe—and audience.

P.S. If anybody has any links on how the producers/writers approached writing each show please send them my way.

Scott W. Smith


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“I kept saying to over and over to myself that God would probably lead me home.”
Nadia Bloom
(11-year-old girl who was found in swampy woods after missing for several days)

“We’re looking forward to the whole story. It’s got to be awesome.”
Jeff Bloom (Nadia’s father)

The story of Nadia Bloom’s rescue from the swampy woods in Florida gets more interesting the more we learn. It’s a little in the great adventure tradition of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway mixed with Alice in Wonderland.  A mixture of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Robinson Crusoe,  Tarzan, Rain Man, Dorothy, and a little less known but much more contemporary literary character named Lanie. (“She’s an energetic girl who discovers the world in her own back yard.”)

Nadia’s story is also a story of faith, hope and a lot of determination by a large team of people. It’s the stuff of great stories.

It turns out that she had been missing for 90 hours and the Winter Springs Police Chief said that six more hours of searching was the point where it would have turned from a rescue mission to a recovery mission.

And though there were 150 searchers in the area, the foliage is so thick that machetes are needed to proceed and visibly at times was only 20 feet.

There were 30 dog search team that couldn’t find a trail due to knee deep and waist deep water —that at times dropped to fifteen feet of murky water.

ATV, horses, divers, side scan sonar machines, helicopters and a few days time turned up nothing. It had to be discouraging.

Then early Tuesday morning James King, a church going man with five children of his own, set out at sunrise believing that God would lead him to the girl. (Granted, when the press and many people hear that— the soundtrack to Deliverance kicks in, but in this case it appears to be just a real deal person of faith. The Blind Side kind of person who is just trying to do the right thing.)

King found Nadia near the shoreline of Lake Jesup. The lake that I mentioned yesterday that is estimated to have 10,000 alligators.  It took a team of 15 men to daisy chain carrying her out of the swampy woods.

The 85-pound girl was reported to be shoeless and covered from head to toe with mosquito bites, but otherwise doing “remarkably fine.”

Nadia said she prayed to be rescued and recalled the Bible verse,  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The sheriff’s office has her camera and those pictures will be sought after in the coming days as people will want to know what Nadia saw in her own version of Wonderland with skunks, snakes and such.

In many ways Nadia is an average elementary school girl who likes Webkinz. She or her younger sister was reading the American Girl book Lanie. (Either way I bet the story was familiar to her.) I found this description of the book at Amazon:

Ten-year-old Lanie loves science and nature, but she has a problem: she’s an “outside” girl with an “inside” family. She longs get out and go camping, but they all want to stay home. It wouldn’t be so bad if her best friend was around, but she’s halfway around the world, living out their dream of studying wildlife. Lanie feels she never gets to have any adventures-anywhere. But when her favorite aunt comes to stay, Lanie discovers that the wonders of nature are everywhere-even in her own backyard.

An adventure in her own backyard? Sound kinda familiar? Nadia’s younger sister and father at the time of her disappearance were actually on a camping trip with a Brownies troop in the Everglades.

Lanie was written by Jane Kurtz and just published at the end of 2009. Kurtz has a website and a blog and it sounds like she has had an interesting and adventurous  life as well. She was born in Portland, Oregon but moved to Ethiopia with her parents when she was just two. Speaking engagements have taken her to Uganda, Nigeria, Romania, Indonesia and many other places, and she lives in Lawrence, Kansas. (Here in the adventurous Midwest.) She also helped start Ethiopia Reads, a nonprofit group that is “planting the first libraries for children in Ethiopia.”

But what may have led Nadia into the woods more than anything was her mild Asperger syndrome. Something that can lead to a preoccupation with one subject of interest. A simple desire to take a picture on the edge of the swampland could have led to another step, and another photo, and another step until she was deep in the woods.

Nadia is not the first child for this to happen to in Florida.  Back in 1996 the NY Times reported a 10-year-old autistic boy named Taylor Touchstone disappeared four days in a black water swamp area in the Florida panhandle. That search included “Army Rangers, Green Berets, marines, deputies with the Okaloosa Country Sheriff’s Department and volunteers.”

The NY Times article said the boy went for a swim and “just felt compelled to keep moving” and was found unharmed four days later by a fisherman farther down the river than search teams imagined was possible. One thing that both Taylor and Nadia have in common other than great adventures is they both share mild forms of autism which has been reported can make them hyper-focus and times and be fearless. Perhaps the things that both led them into their adventures and helped them survive.

I’m glad James King didn’t do the sensible thing Tuesday morning and sleep in or perhaps Nadia wouldn’t have been found in the dense brush. But know from the public’s fascination to this story, as well as the literary output of the “lost in the woods/stranded on an island/on the yellow brick road” themes that it is fertile ground for writers to explore.

P.S. To add to the odd connection file, I just saw online a video at CBS News with Rev. Jeff Dixon who is the pastor at Covenant Community Church where Nadia and her family attend church. I know Rev. Dixon from my days in Central Florida and once used him as a cameraman for a video I was producing.

One last thing, if you’re ever in Central Florida and want to get a taste of Florida before Disney, visit the Black Hammock Restaurant located just a couple of miles from where Nadia was rescued.

Scott W. Smith

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