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Locked Down: Mini Review /Budget Question

A cleverly written and entertaining romcom/heist film on HBO Max, directed by Doug Liman, written by Steven Knight, starring Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor and a galaxy of well-known actors in cameos. Written and shot entirely during Covid, a fact which is obvious but not limiting.

At $10 million, it is what is now called a low-budget film. Which reminded me of something I’d love help finding. Years ago, I read an essay―in the New Yorker? Premier Magazine?—by a well-known critic (Pauline Kael? Gene Siskel?) that contended that movies were better when budgets were smaller because directors were forced to be more creative. If you can’t carry the film with special effects, lavish locations or overpaid stars, you are stuck with plot, dialog and cinematography. I agree completely with the thesis, but wish I knew who planted the seed. If you know who wrote that essay, please tell me.

Post to the Host

Post to the host is what Garrison Keillor calls his mailbag, and what I am now going to call mine. The inaugural edition comes from a good friend and regular contributor, Daniel Dern.

I'm a fellow Galaxy Quest fan, we re-watched it recently. Should the proposed (and somewhere-in-the-process) TV series follow-up happen, I'll happily give it a chance.

Groundhog Day: I agree that it's (still) a great, funny, touching film... but, that said, like the song Baby, It's Cold Outside, it's also not hard to view it  as a creepy stalker movie. [Ed. Note: I still like Baby It’s Cold and Groundhog Day, which were fine in their time, and not as bad as, say, Our Girl Friday.]

(Similarly, we recently started watching Our Girl Friday (w/Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, but quickly gave up, Grant was being a controlling a-hole. I haven't yet revisited Bringing Up Baby to see if that, too, has not aged well.)


Work From Home


As the debate on working from home roars on, it is time for me to weigh in. Apparently 70% of employees want work from home, 70% of CEOs do not. I am on the side of the employees.

I worked from home for most of my 20 years at CMP, including several years during which I was the only WFH employee.  I know some of my fellow employees (including a couple of readers of this column) resented the “deal” I had, but it worked out well for the company. It is a matter of verifiable fact (if there were still any copies left anywhere in the world you could check) that I wrote one-third of the copy in InformationWeek during the tumultuous August of 1985. I was almost always the most productive member of every staff I served on.

It came about in an amusing way. I moved to Orinda, CA in April 1979 for a job in Cupertino, CA. I chose a town an hour away because that’s where my future wife owned a home. For my first six months, I worked three days a week in Cupertino, spending two nights at a Motel 6.

The situation was untenable. So, on a visit to headquarters in Manhasset, NY (in pre-PowerPoint days) I prepared a flip chart presentation for Computer Systems News’ lanky, sweet and daffy publisher, Tom Cooper, explaining why it was OK for me to work at home.

When I entered his office with an easel, his reaction was immediate. “What do you want?”

“To work from home,” I replied.

“If you don’t show me the flip charts, I’ll let you do it.”

In 20 years at various CMP publications, I spent many hours on I-680 driving to Silicon Valley for interviews and news conferences, and many more hours on planes to visit vendors all over the West. What I didn’t do was spend hours each day commuting to an office so I could eat bad food/snacks and drink too much coffee. I never missed a deadline―and I never missed a soccer game or school play.

Every older journalist I ever knew had a bad back from decades of sitting in the crappy chairs supplied by their employers. Working at home, I bought my own ergonomic chairs. A reader who knows about this wrote:

“My team actually just published a comprehensive article on Ultimate Ergonomic Seating Criteria For Working From Home which I think your visitors would truly appreciate and add value to your awesome article."

The Rule of Three

In the item above on Work from Home, I was looking at my description of Tom Cooper. All I had was “sweet and daffy.” It nagged at me. Then I remembered: the Rule of Three, an ancient writing device that explains both “A Priest, a Minister and a Rabbi walk into a bar,” and the phrase “tall, dark and handsome.” So, I added “lanky.”

I remember when I first learned about the rule, during the 1960s, when I was an avid reader of Time Magazine, a very heavily stylized weekly newsmagazine co-founded by Yalie Henry Luce, who insisted that everyone’s name be preceded by three adjectives. I would call him “wacky, wealthy, classically-educated Henry Luce.” He also found a constant march of simple sentences boring, so, in the immortal words of parodist Wolcott Gibbs: “Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind,” a perfect example of Timespeak.

I realize now that I missed a trick in the summer of 1975, when I was on the overnight desk at UPI Boston, writing the Red Sox summary for the New England radio wire. Luis Tiant never recorded an appearance without being referred to by dozens of New England radio station announcers (reading my script) as “cigar-chomping right-hander Luis Tiant.” If only I’d though of adding “Cuban.”

So, I decided that I am plump, bouncy, chatty Paul Schindler. Perhaps if I, too, had been a Yalie and not an MIT grad, I might say plump, ebullient, chatty. What three adjectives would you use for yourself? Let me know by clicking this email link, or commenting.

This and That

A Serious Word on Marjories

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe turns serious this week, discussing Marjorie Taylor Taylor Greene’s Holocaust remarks: I’m The Other “Marjorie”

A Small Ray Of Hope

A small ray of hope behind the NY Times firewall: David Brooks, The American Renaissance Has Begun, aka, every dark cloud has a silver lining.

The women in my life and my spiritual practice released the tethers that grounded my mind for years; it is now soaring. For the first time in my life, I can begin to imagine how people levitate. I think when you cut the tethers that bind you, gravity becomes a suggestion rather than a law.

Something’s Better than Nothing
“Something’s better than nothing” has always been a slogan of mine. Recently, while doing not-enough foam rolling and taking a too-short nap, I realized that, mathematically, something is an ∞ percentage improvement.


Mother Dearest

Sometime in about 1962, Mrs. Sweet, my piano teacher, gave me a treacly piece of sheet music entitled Mother Dearest, Mother Mine. I could barely pick it out on the keyboard, and we gave away our player piano shortly thereafter. For the last five decades of her life, wherever I was in the world, I sang it to my mother on Mothers’ Day: “Mother dearest, mother mine, you make life happy all of the time.” There are more lyrics, but that’s all I can remember.

Most of the ephemera of my childhood has been findable on the Internet, but not this ditty. Not on the Internet in general, nor in the ASCAP, BMI or SESAC databases. Kudos to anyone who can find it, with or without the sheet music.