Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It Was Hemingway, I Think

I've always been fascinated by what writers have to say about writing, actors about acting, directors about directing. But I can think of only one good piece of advice I ever gleaned from all those interviews. It was Hemingway, I think, who said something like: The trick is to stop writing while you know what's going to happen next.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Foreclosed Spaces

All spaces retain the imprints of the people who once occupied them long after the people have moved on.
This is true of rooms and ruins above and under the ground, of large and small spaces.
You just have to know how to photograph them.
Copyright 2009 Billy Glad

Friday, March 13, 2009

Culture And Politics

Yesterday, I was listening to some kind of NPR afternoon concert on the car radio while I waited for my daughter to get out of school, and I had the satisfying experience of realizing I knew the opera I had tuned in on was by Wagner. The long, melodic baritone solo in German, joined by a chorus at the end, had to be Wagner. Did he ever compose voices singing in harmony? Maybe he did, but all I remember are conversations. When the piece ended, I found out I had been listening to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and it struck me that there are people who would have immediately recognized the opera, the baritone and the conductor as well, maybe even remembered the exact date of the performance. But I don't need to know that much to enjoy, at some level anyway, a few minutes of Wagner on a bright Thursday afternoon while I wait for my daughter to come out of school. I just have to have a radio of some kind and tune it to my public radio station, or some other station that broadcasts classical music. As long as those stations exist. As long as nobody comes along and decides classical music is a waste of time. A waste of money. The same goes for Public Television, doesn't it? Anyway, I think it does.

I've been trying to remember the programs I saw in Austin the night PBS programming came on the air in 1969. No luck so far. There was something about Joplin and Hendrix about that time, but I don't know if I saw it that first night.

I saw some good things on PBS. Sometimes, I wonder why they don't pull out all that tape and put together a week-long best of PBS. I remember Orson Bean in Star Wagon, singing Jerusalem, telling his side-kick as long as I've got a dollar, you've got fifty cents. Krishnamurti. Alan Watts in the afternoon. Documentaries like High School.

I was at Arden House in New York at a Corporation For Public Broadcasting bash for documentary film makers the night Richard Nixon cracked down on PBS and the CPB. Rumor had it the disaster had something to do with Frederick Wiseman's Basic Training. I never found out. But, after that week, it seems to me the story of PBS has been the saga of a long, slow climb back into the light.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

Yesterday afternoon, I spent 15 minutes watching Fred Zinneman's 1977 film: Julia. The film is based on a book by Lillian Hellman, author of The Children's Hour, which was noted briefly here the other day. Ms. Hellman's relationship with Dashiell Hammet, the detective story writer, is pretty well known, as is the fact that she was a prominent and controversial, maybe a fascinating, figure in the McCarthy saga. There are people around who know a lot more about that than I do.

I'm interested in the relationship between Hellman and Hammet, Lilly and Dash, as portrayed by Fonda and Robards, that I caught a little of yesterday.

I started watching at about the time Hellman is finishing her first play. Hammet sends her back to rewrite it. The second try meets his approval. It's a success on Broadway. She gets royalty checks, he gives her the benefit of his wisdom on the subject of money, fame and writing.

"Free me glazies!" Little Alex cried.

I can't explain why, but that piece of film literally made me sick to my stomach.

I won't inflict the needy, cloying Fonda and the smug, condescending Robards on you here. Be grateful for small favors.