Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Shooting in the dark

Got back on Sunday from two nights at El Capitano Camp near Santa Barbara.

I slept in clean air -- not more than several hundred yards from the ocean.  My room was exactly like a hotel room, except that it was a tent.  What a delight.

I had the chance to use a three-chip camera, as shown in these photos.  Walked the beach, adding tar to the bottom of my feet.  On a beach, yes. 

But the view was stunning, warmed by fog and sunshine.

                        *     *     *

The weekend at El Capitano was memorable in other ways.   

Primarily because on Saturday night the hay wagon on which I was riding turned over during a too-sharp turn.   I was carrying the video camera pictured above. 

I was just getting off the back of the wagon as it went into the final turn.  I fell, bruising my arm and my shoulder.  But I protected the camera.

The entire wagon went over on its side, spilling everyone out, some on top of the others.  One rider bloodied her face.  Another broke one shoulder and dislocated the other.  

Somehow, I had the presence of mind to ignore the pain, get up, and begin shooting the accident.   I felt like an intruder as I shot the film, but the victims of the accident quickly figured out why I was doing it.

                           *     *     *  

Got a really wonderful piece of news yesterday.    I've been working for the last year as a story consultant to Laura Williams, who has been writing an historical romance novel, The Devil's Bargain.  

Well, it just won the Maggie Award for Excellence.   One of the judges was a Pocket Books editor, so Laura's hoping the award will help her to secure a book deal.  

I love her story.  Given the right marketing strategy, the book will sell!  

Another odd little note.  My mother's name is Maggie.

                        *     *     *

I've begun Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel.  Powerful piece.  Already, I keep going back to moments I like, rereading them with pleasure.  Funny thing is, I haven't even gotten past the first fifty pages.

Like this one...

"I hope I never own another piece of property as long as I live--save a house to live in.  It is nothing but a curse and a care, and the tax-collector gets it all in the end."

Eliza looked at him with a startled expression, as if he had uttered a damnable heresy.

"Why, say!  That's no way to talk!" she said.  "You want to lay something by for a rainy day, don't you?"

"I'm having my rainy day now," he said gloomily.  "All the property I need is eight feet of earth to be buried in."

Then, talking more cheerfully, he walked with her to the door of the shop, and watched her as she marched primly away across the square, holding her skirts at the curbs with ladylike nicety.  Then he turned back among his marbles again with a stirring in him of a joy he thought he had lost forever.

                        *     *     *

I saw Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder last night, starring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick.

Superb piece of black and white film.  Courtroom drama at its best.  And it's clear that either John Grisham or Joel Schumacher borrowed heavily from it about 37 years later.when creating the novel and directing the film A Time to Kill, respectively.

My only disappointment is that Preminger didn't do more with the relationship between Arthur O'Connell and Jimmy Stewart.  Several scenes were missing, even at 160 minutes of film.

                        *     *     *

I've mentioned a former student of mine from Hoover who was my yearbook editor in 2001.

Over the last few days, we exchanged several emails that both gladdened my heart, and amused me greatly.  You see, I've always been confused about whether I should spell her name Carlene or Carleen.

These emails have permanently cleared up my confusion.

                        *     *     *

Mr. D,

I wanted to thank you (again) for the letter of recommendation you wrote for me as a high school student.

I've recently FINISHED applying to medical school and as a part of the application process I had several professors and advisors write letters of recommendation on my behalf.

Dr. Hill (co-director of the Cutler scholar program) was one of the people I asked to write a letter.... I think you should find part of it rather familiar.



Doing Carleen Risaliti justice in a reference letter is a formidable task.  I have admired her since she was a junior in high school, five years ago,  and fully six months before I actually met her.  


She was then a nominee to become a Manasseh Cutler Scholar, and her nomination packet contained the most powerful reference letter I have ever read about a high-school student.  Her yearbook adviser and English teacher Steven Denlinger raved about her love of learning, her organizational skills, and her incredible work ethic, but the passage that still sticks in my mind is this:

"If charm is the ability to put people at ease, then Carleen’s approach to others defines the word.  Call it what you will—presence, poise, or grace—but Carleen knows how to create an atmosphere that elicits the best from those who work with her."

Our interview committee quickly realized that there was no hyperbole in Mr. Denlinger’s letter, and Carleen was awarded a Cutler Scholarship for four years of undergraduate study....

Every two years we produce a short video about the Cutler Scholar program....  In our most recent version, six Scholars have an unscripted conversation about their experiences. 

I have watched this short film dozens of times now, in presentations to different groups, but I still look forward to seeing two parts of it: Carleen talking about her interactions with the other Cutler Scholars, and Carleen describing her work in a pediatric cancer ward. 

As is so typical for her, she speaks not of her own accomplishments, but of what she has learned from the other students in her interactions with them.  Most remarkable is her description of the desperately ill children in that cancer ward—she expresses deep admiration for theirloving natures and good spirits.

Over and over again, Carleen has confirmed the extraordinary leadership skills, the deep sense of compassion, the indomitable spirit, and the buoyant optimism conveyed in that high-school letter.  To me, her most impressive assets as a future physician are her unique reserves of compassion and toughness.

In addition to that summer in a pediatric cancer ward, she has just spent another in a third-world “nursing home” (which had no nurses or other medical personnel).  She had more than enough empathy to bond with the residents and grit to cope with the squalor.

                        *     *     *


Do I thus get forgiveness for misspelling your name Carlene (a million times) instead of the biblical way:  the CORRECT way?  Carleen?  

Mr. D

                        *     *     *

Mr. D.,

Ha. Yes. Consider yourself forgiven.



vxv123 said...

Congrats on the award for the book!


freeepeace said...

Hi Steven.  Looks like a fun little camera.  Will we get to see some of the shoot?

Congrats to Williams for her Maggie Award.  Great news.  Must feel rewarding for you - a year's work, well worth it.

Anatomy of a Murder is on my Netflix queue.  I'm not a big fan of black and white cinema but I loved Twelve Angry Men.  I think that's why Anatomy was suggested to me.  Now I'm looking forward to it.  Maybe I'll add A Time to Kill with it.

Okay, where are you?  It's been a couple of weeks.  Did you sell a script?