Good vs Evil: More Police Brutality in the Wild West

west_film_landing

A social worker in Paris once spoke about how Islamic fundamentalists recruit from the poorest areas in the city. They provide food and shelter and understanding and create huge gratitude and loyalty. It’s an easy step to convincing those they’ve rescued that their ills stem from the animal West, that purity of soul and heart rests only in Islam which needs to be defended even at the cost of life and limb.

It’s called grooming. It has nothing to do with Islam. Pedophiles do it. Christians have been doing it for a long time and they still do. I’ve seen it happen in Cape Town, where there are a lot of people living on the street. Christians take them in and brainwash them. If they refuse to do what they’re told and accept the tenets of whatever brand of Christianity is being foisted on them they’re thrown out and harshly judged—not by people, you understand. By God, or Jesus. Of course. We all understand the truth and wisdom of that.

The French social worker said that if societies don’t deal with poverty and inequality of opportunity realistically and humanely poverty will deal with those societies.

That was over ten years ago. Some leaders and many social workers, international organizations, celebrities and citizens of different countries have worked hard and still do to try and stem the rising tide of everything that’s unjust and inhumane in societies.

But it’s kind of like dealing with global warming; too many people just don’t want to face reality and deal with it. They don’t like change and their comfort zone is denial that there are consequences to their actions—including to their denial. So the right in politics gains ground everywhere and laws that should be secular and independent of religious bias are poisoned by zealots with huge financial backing. Right wing media brainwashes millions every second of the day and the line between Good and Evil, so often portrayed as easily identifiable Black and White, is unutterably blurred.

Now ISIS is an international problem, inequality in western societies is beyond the pale, too many poor people live right alongside too many people with so much money they can’t possibly use it.

There’s too much demoralization, too much exploitation, too much crime and too much of a violent backlash against criminals, too much rage all over the place, directed towards even perceived criminals, immigrants, people of color. Too many guns, oh my God, so many guns and weapons of destruction. Too much entitlement in law enforcement to beat suspects up, shoot to kill for no reason. Many of us think of the Wild West in America with fondness, as a romantic thing of the past, thanks mostly to Hollywood. But actually, the Wild West is on the rebound and not in cinematic form. In real life. Maybe it never was overridden by civilization but just took on different a different medium.

There’s so much good happening in the US right now, with President Obama working tirelessly to build up the middle class and diminish inequality in his own country, and to forge democratic, peaceful solutions in foreign policy and particularly in the Middle East. As always he constantly faces a powerful and vocal Conservative Right, but it doesn’t stop him. It’s inspiring to watch him and members of his Administration, like John Kerry in the Middle East and Eric Holder, dealing with corrupted police culture.

Now that’s a big job. We’re living in an era where in the US police can do whatever they want, shoot to kill an unarmed 12 year old or a man for no reason, chase and beat up a suspect.

The latest brutality to hit the news comes from San Bernadino. Yesterday sheriff’s deputies tried to serve a search warrant on Francis Pusok who lives in Apple Valley on the edge of the Mojave Desert, north of LA. He ran and they gave chase. Pusok passed Deep Creek Hot Springs, grabbed a horse and rode off into the desert. He was followed by a helicopter and 11 deputies. One of them Tasered him and he fell off the horse. He lay unarmed, face down, with his arms outstretched. But the deputies descended on him and beat and kicked him senseless in the head and groin, for minutes. Then they stood up and looked down on him as if he was a piece of dead meat.

And they were captured on video by a NewsChopper4. It’s a 6 minute video; hard to watch for the inhumanity it shows. Interestingly, the video starts with audio, until the deputies start kicking the life out Mr. Pusok.

The whole murderous incident is being internally investigated, but of course the police haven’t released the truth of Mr. Pusok’s state; they’ve simply said he’s in hospital with unknown injuries. What a load of rubbish. I wonder if he survived. I hope somebody gets to the truth of that pretty soon and that there are huge consequences to the criminals.

Good versus Evil; somehow it’s always David against Goliath. This is nothing new; it’s how humanity does itself. When I first learned about the Dark Ages I presumed that everybody knew it was a Dark Age. But now I reckon it was no different to how things are now, except that there are so many more people. And millions can record their lives and those of others and spread the word around the world. Maybe social media is the modern version of David’s sling.

What’s kind of miraculous about it all is that even when the Dark is very dark and depressing and seems overwhelming, the light part of humanity finds a way to fight. That’s the human spirit for you.

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Rest in Peace, Walter L. Scott

Walter L Scott

At about 9:30 pm on Saturday North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager shot and killed an unarmed African American Walter L. Scott (pictured above) while he was running away.

The North Charleston police statement’s version of the events was that Slager pulled Scott over for a broken tail light. Scott ran, so Slager used his Taser to try and stop. That didn’t work and a scuffle ensued, during which Scott grabbed the Taser and tried to use it on the officer, who was forced to resort to his service weapon. He shot Scott dead. That was the official original police report.

It’s clear from the police statement that something isn’t true. First Scott tries to run away. Then Slager Tasers him. The statement indicated that that didn’t work, which would mean that Scott was still running away so how could a scuffle ensue?

But the inconsistency didn’t bother the North Charleston PD; nor was anybody particularly interested in the fact that Slager had, by his own later admission, had quite a few beers before coming on shift but he wasn’t tested until 5 hours later. So that’s where the story would have ended. Another unarmed man killed in cold blood by a police officer. This time for a broken tail light.

Except that the truth was captured on video by a bystander, who gave it to Scott’s family. They brought it to the New York Times. The footage shows an unarmed Scott running for his life from Slager, who fires repeatedly at Scott’s back, hitting him 7 times until he drops dead. The autopsy report showed that the last three killed him. Another officer at the scene doesn’t try to resuscitate Scott, he simply turns his body over and examines something. At that point he’s handcuffed and clearly dead. I guess the handcuffs were to ‘prove’ that Slager hadn’t killed him.

Slager appears to plant something next to Scott’s dead body then stands casually over him, dusting his hands, showing no remorse at all for the fact that he just took his life—for no reason at all other than because he could—and tried to cover up his crime.

His version of the events, accepted originally by the North Charleston Police Department, is a lie from start to finish. And for once, justice might be served. Slager has been fired and charged with murder. The thin blue line, which is increasingly more like a very thick blue fortress wall, can’t withstand the power of a bystander with a smart phone. Times are a-changing.

Walter Scott’s brother Anthony issued a public statement saying that he and his family don’t believe all police officers are bad; just that some are. His dignity was awe-inspiring as he called for prayer.

Rest in peace, Walter L. Scott.

Of Hollywood, Heroes and Heroines

Hollywood 1920s

Hollywood. Who can ever understand what motivates decision makers in their choices of scripts to pump money into? Lots of people think they’ve nailed a formula for success, most notably those who teach scriptwriting and sell their services as script editors. It’s a huge industry. They all claim they know what makes producers choose your script. They gloss over the truth that ‘producers’ come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them think they know the formula for success and they reckon the other guy doesn’t. The other guy – oh, I don’t need to finish this sentence, do I?

The script teachers and editors also rarely agree with each other. It’s confusing if you’re new at the game or don’t have a mind of your own and can’t figure out that self-styled authorities’ true skill lies in milking your insecurity.

They need you to believe your writing is full of imperfections and that you’ll never succeed without their very special advice. I entered a high profile script competition last year and didn’t make the short list but within days of being told so I got an email from a guy who’s a co-partner or something or other in the company, telling me, congratulations! You’ve won a discount on an advice session.

I called him up. He was a nice guy; I enjoyed talking to him. Then he said he could help me with my script and tighten it up so that agents and producers would be more likely to look at it. I said how do you know anybody will like the version your advice has led to? IMO, I continued, getting noticed is less about a perfect script and more about gutzpah; getting out there so people know you exist. Not backing down or giving up when you don’t win a competition or somebody says no thanks.

Or says it more rudely; it’s not unheard of for a big fish in a little pond who doesn’t like your work to tell you you’ll never make it in the industry. Pretty much everybody who’s succeeded in the world in any discipline has been fed that line some time or another. And we all know who’s the one left with the regrets.

My fella seemed to be smiling when he admitted he couldn’t guarantee that his advice would further me in any way.  Ha! The pleasures of having a mind of your own.

All of this is not to say that I don’t care about the quality of my scripts. I do. But that’s just for me. I’m under no illusion that it’ll be the primary factor in my success. So I turned down the generous offer, which amounted to R2500 for an hour. Of advice that might or might not be of any use to me. But my money would have been of a lot of use to that fella.

Some of the teachers etc. really do understand story-telling and can boast of many ‘students’ who have achieved a lot of success. But whether that success came directly and solely from their teaching or not, who can say?

Here’s the reality: Sometimes there’s a massive difference between a good script and one that will attract a producer, or between a brilliant director and one whose work will garner Academy Awards. Take Martin Scorsese. He’s widely acknowledged as the most influential filmmaker in the history of Hollywood but he’s only won one Oscar. And Boyhood, nominated for a best screenplay Oscar this year, deserves a column on its own, not all of it gushing praise.

But sometimes a quality script does attract producers – I’m thinking The King’s Speech – and awards and great directors do get Oscars for their work. Robert Zemeckis won in 1994 for Forrest Gump and beat Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction). Good decision.

There’s just no predictable formula in Hollywood, because producers come in all shapes and sizes and are as subject to whim as those who determine what or who should win an award.

I reckon the best way to get the most out of everything as a screenwriter is to write as much quality as you can and enjoy yourself when doing it, then fight like the devil to find producers who’ll throw money at you, and find ways to enjoy that fight as well. Because if you write to please producers you’ve never met, based on somebody else’s opinion of what those producers want when they’ve never met them either… It’s gambling on rather long odds. And the worst part of it is how horrible the whole experience is.

Scripts are all about heroes and heroines so if you’re writing about them I figure you might as well be one yourself. Heroes and heroines do their own thing and everything they can to forge a path to success, facing fears, dealing with insecurity and with all the demons and harsh realities that are part of the landscape of not playing it safe. They don’t strive to adapt. They strive to conquer.

The World United Against Latest ISIS Killings

Moaz al-Kasasbeh

In 2014 ISIS started beheading people and posting videos of the executions online. Wiki lists the following:

75 Syrian soldiers; Khaled Sharrouf posted a photo online of his 7 year old son holding the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier; James Foley, an American freelance journalist; Ali al-Sayyed, a Lebanese Army Seargant; Steven Sotloff, an Israeli American journalist; David Haines, a British humanitarian aid worker; Abbas Medlej, a Lebanese Army soldier; Kurdish soldier, as yet unidentified; 15 family members, of local police officers in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan; Hervé Gourdel, a French mountaineering guide; Kobane and eastern Syria beheadings, two male and three female Kurdish fighters, four Syrian Arab rebels and a male Kurdish civilian; Alan Henning, a British humanitarian aid worker; Raad al-Azzawi, a TV Salaheddin cameraman from the village of Samra, and others; 3 unidentified men in Baiji, Iraq; Peter Kassig, an American worker; 18 Syrian soldiers, unidentified; Alleged beheading of 100 foreign fighters, unidentified, who tried to desert from Raqqa; Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Gotō, Japanese journalists; Hujam Surchi, a Peshmerga officer.

These executions have received wide media coverage prompted outrage and condemnation from the international community and from the governments of the victims’ countries. May all of them rest in peace. It’s hard to imagine what their last years, months, days, minutes, were like, or how their families and friends suffered and are still suffering. But the Arab or Muslim world as a whole didn’t unite in condemnation of the killings. Just as the West, let’s not forget, didn’t unite in condemnation of Bush’s invasion of Iraq for spurious reasons. Mind you, nor did the Arab world. And round and round it goes.

On Dec. 21 2014 ISIS militants captured Jordanian fighter pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh (the photo is of a vigil held for him). Shortly afterwards the Jordanian government threatened dire consequences if the militants harmed the pilot. The militants’ response, in February 2015, was to put Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh in a cage and burn him alive.

How do you get your head around that? He was by all accounts a beautiful man. May he rest in peace. May his family and friends somehow, somewhere, find solace.

And, wonderful to behold, the entire Arab world is up in arms. Even the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt agree with each other for once and the head of the Cairo Al Azhar institute, a university founded in 970, said the militants should be “killed, or crucified, or their hands and legs cut off.” Saudi Arabia’s response was to suspend their airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, allegedly out of fear of retribution, and demand that the American-led coalition against ISIS, of which they are a member, improve its search and rescue operations in Syria.

But I can’t help asking myself, and I don’t mean to demean the importance of Moaz’s death, where has the Arab/Muslim world been up to this point?

The principle of taking somebody’s life because you feel like it and the inhumanity and brutality of a ‘simple’ beheading or of suicide bombings hasn’t elicited a unified response and it seems that the objection to this latest killing is that ISIS militants burned a man alive and Islam prohibits death by fire as too extreme of a measure. Well, being beheaded is an extreme measure to the victim and to his family. Brutality is brutality, whatever form it takes. I’m grateful that the Muslim world is speaking out but what happens when the next beheading occurs? Will everybody go silent again?

Public executions are carried out in accordance with Sharia law in Saudi Arabia, the only caveat being that the audience is not allowed to video the execution. The crimes for which beheading is acceptable are murder, rape, false prophecy, blasphemy, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery.

Murder, rape, blasphemy and apostasy are on a par, the last being that you realize you have a mind of your own and decide to change your religion.

Other countries governed by Sharia law where public beheading is legal are Iran, Yemen, and Qatar.

Does the fact that Sharia law promotes beheadings have anything to do with why as a whole the Muslim world has united in horror at only the latest ISIS killing? I don’t know. My first thought on reading the headlines today was ‘this is good; the West gets to see that most Muslims are anti-violence and are as outraged as we are at this horrific murder.’

I still believe that. But I also believe that just as in the West we have to look at that within our culture from which emerges violent mass murder of innocents and even of children and promotes or forgives violence done to citizens of other countries, so must the Muslim world look at whether there is something in Islam which allows for the kind of violence that has escalated to the point of a man being burned alive.

On Life, Success and Other Things

Every time I see a photo of John Boehner I think of the scene in The Wedding Planner where a bride presents a blotchy, orange face from too long under the tanner. JLo says ‘quarter cup of lemon juice and half a cup of salt and scrub scrub scrub’.

graphic woman for ebook cover smallYou live most of your life with your eyes screwed shut and you don’t even know it. Then one day you open them and realize that your real is godawful. You close them again; don’t want to look at that picture. Sometimes when you open them again you realize your real is freaking brilliant. Does that make you schizo, or manic depressive or just very alive and aware? Or all three? Life is mercurial for some and that’s a fact.

susan sarandonThe Law of Increasing Complexity: the less aware you are the fewer choices you make consciously and the simpler life is at some level. At a consequence level though, it’s chaotic because your repressed stuff controls your behavior as if you were a puppet.

As you become more conscious of your belief systems, emotions, self esteem and entitlement, what drives you and what you need, and bring repressed stuff up into the light, you heal wounds and move into the driver’s seat. You’re not so much of a puppet any more so your life becomes less chaotic. There’s more of you to give to others from a genuine place.

But you also become conscious of emotions and belief systems etc. in everybody else. And you can see when they’re conscious of what they’re feeling and when they aren’t, when their belief system limits them but they don’t see it. So life is more complex for you. Being in a roomful of people can be pretty damn lonely because you can’t talk to anybody about what’s flying around; either nobody else sees it, or if they do they don’t want to talk about it. You’re on your own, kid. Strength of mind is a useful tool here, as is permission to take a hike.

If you choose to stay it can be challenging and you have to guard against the fear that you’re going mad. But it’s the price you pay for becoming more conscious. And it helps to remember that the rewards are pretty amazing. You feel alive in so many different parts of you. If you’re a writer hey, you’ve got more to write about.

And much as everybody says being lonely is the worst thing in the world, it isn’t. Being mostly numb, half dead, passive aggressive, blind and deaf, that’s the worst. Because some part of you knows it and screams at you all the time. You have to work real hard to keep it out of your awareness.

blind justice cropped smallWe’re all over-adaptive in some way or another. If you’re aware of it you’ll feel like a ghost in your own town until you find your voice. And when you do you might also find that you don’t like that town at all. You might grab the only horse there is and head on out. Some of the people left behind will be sad to see you go but thrilled for you. Others will blacken your name. If it happens, just keep on riding, don’t look back.

Or you might find that you are the horse. You’re just a kid and you have to head on out alone. Don’t worry, you’ll find others soon enough. They’re gonna love you, kid.

horses galloping tinyI don’t like missionaries who target the poor or the needy, give them nice stuff like food and shelter and then indoctrinate them. At some level, even if they’re adults, there’s a vulnerable child within. The missionaries exploit the same principle that makes a child loyal to a man or woman who takes them hostage and then rapes them for years. Stockholm Syndrome, it’s called. It has many variations and there’s more than one way to take a child hostage and rape it.

Missionaries don’t respect your right to think for yourself. They respect their right to overpower your mind, though. And they sure believe that God talks to them more than he/she does to you.

make the connection cropped and smallTo date James Patterson has written 130 books in 38 years and sold 305 million copies in all. He’s been the world’s best-selling author since 2001; way ahead, btw, of JK Rowling. He writes unashamedly to a formula and has an army of ghost writers working for him now, as well as a PR department in his publisher Little, Brown which he rules with an iron fist. He’s having a ball with it all.

His first book, The Thomas Berryman Number, was rejected 31 times before somebody at Little, Brown said ‘yeah, this is a winner’.

“Unbroken”, Oscars, Egos, Presidents and Things

US President Barack Obama Visits The UK - Day One

What a competitive world. At one level Al Qaeda battling ISIS for popularity and exposure and, going from nightmare horror to the ridiculous, shows like Keeping Up With The Joneses – uh, that Kardashian ‘show’, if you can call it that; Idols, the X Factor, America’s Got Talent, outpicturing of Simon Cowell’s massive ego. Shows that have drawn furious criticism from greats like Elton John who said Cowell has destroyed the integrity of the music industry and who refused to be a judge on Idols because he wouldn’t descend to slagging performers.

Shows that have convinced musicians the world over that if you don’t win, your life and your [potential] performing career are over. Elton John said of Cowell’s empire that it’s “become boring… ***-paralysingly brain crippling.”

Man, people go to extreme lengths to compete. Politicians slaughtering each other in broad daylight at election time for, in too many cases, the coveted positions of not representing those they’re supposed to represent. The altered universe of brain washing aka advertising, making it impossible to go anywhere without some message, if not a gazillion of them, coming at you saying we’re better, we’re the best.

What about Angelina Jolie noticeably abandoning sexy outfits and power dressing [down] conservatively as she campaigns for the Oscars for her movie Unbroken and does her best to try and convince Hollywood, the Queen of England and the world that she’s not a drama queen but a serious filmmaker as in writer, director and producer and that Unbroken is a work of genius that didn’t deserve to be passed over for Golden Globe and Screen Actors’ Guild awards. Well, it did get a SAG nomination for its stunt ensemble and it opened on Christmas Day and grossed $15.6 million, which is the 3rd highest ever Christmas Day opening figure – if you don’t adjust for inflation, which no doubt Unbroken’s producers would rather we didn’t.

But that’s just good marketing, the big names the Cohen Brothers and Angeline Jolie (who, ironically, has always seduced the world with her sensuality) and a fantastic trailer. It was brilliantly executed; moving, exciting, inspiring. Enough so to convince the world that a great opus was about to be unleashed.

I wondered, though, whether they hadn’t just extracted the only worthy scenes in the whole film and strung them together cleverly. As it happens, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 50% rating, down from 51% a week or so ago, the main criticism being that the film crawls and somehow never quite comes to life. Blame it partly on the script, I say. The famous and mightily well paid Cohen brothers adapted it from the [alleged] 300 page monstrosity that was written from the book by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. It just goes to show something or other. My green-eyed monster jealousy more than anything else, probably. I’m sure they’re great guys, really…

I digress. Your own bitchiness will do that to you. My point is that it’s hard to get away from competitiveness at all levels of life. Leaving Al Qaeda and ISIS out of the story, I actually the like the spirit of it; the rough and tumble of engaging in life, aiming for the stars and doing everything you can to get as far as possible. Hey, competitiveness can drive you to overcome fear. Nothing bad about that so long as you’re not on a suicide bombing mission. So, good for Jolie for being smart enough to know what an effect her fashion statement makes on the world and for holding her head up high and going for gold despite the awards snubs.

Still, that rough and tumble tends to make the world one of chaos and din so it’s beautiful when somebody who has every reason to be driven by competitiveness and to have an inflated ego just isn’t (in his job; he is when he plays basketball) and doesn’t. But does have a great sense of humor. Enough to engage in a game of ping-pong with David Cameron against school kids and have a lot of fun.

American Presidents also love to play golf. If they’re any good at it, they let everybody know their scores. If they’re not so good, like Clinton, they claim Presidential Pardons for mulligans and gimmes, all in good fun of course. But Barack Obama sticks to the rules. He’s a pretty lousy golfer, which he readily and laughingly admits. Retired basketball great Michael Jordan, who’s crazy about golf, quipped that he wouldn’t choose Obama for his ideal foursome because “he’s a hack, man. It’d be all day playing with him.” Obama was quick to quip back. He’ll do it with a straight face so you can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Until he breaks out into that million dollar smile.

He isn’t a good golfer; he’s got lousy posture, for one, but he loves the game, so he plays. With a sense of humor about himself. There’s a whole lot of dignity in that and I’m sure it makes him fun to be around. And he is getting better, so that’s something.

Another golfer said of him that the way he plays gives the measure of him as a President. He’s honest, he keeps his cool through rank adversity, he smiles and he doesn’t give up. I raise my glass to that. And to Angelina Jolie, good luck with the Oscars. She has spirit in spades, that woman. As for the Coen Brothers, guys, you need me, I know what went wrong with your script… Hey, a girl can dream.

The Artist’s Lamentable Way

Body and Soul video image

If you want to listen to music (me singing Billie Holiday’s Body and Soul) while you read, click the image or here; the Youtube will open in a new page. Then come back here to carry on reading.

Ever come across the idea that it’s noble to be a poor and miserable artist living in a garret, unappreciated by the world, and that artists who don’t have that experience aren’t being true to themselves? It’s seductive, like the idea that poverty is romantic and worthy of being elevated in grand masters’ paintings and that the artist or the poor wretch also finds their misery romantic.

Right. It’s romantic until you try it or find yourself there. You don’t like it and nobody likes you. There’s a great blues song Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. It’s been sung by Bessie Smith, Adele, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin – each one a fantastic rendition – and a host of others, for good reason; it’s gorgeous and the words are pretty damn true.

It’s also true that many artists have experienced poverty and rejection of one sort or another and their creative response has been mighty powerful. But the notion that you have to be miserable to be a true artist is formulaic, so it can’t apply to all the artists all the time. As an African American musician Ella Fitzgerald didn’t have it easy, but she also didn’t go through the pain that Billie Holiday or Etta James did, but all three of them are brilliant. Michaelangelo never experienced Van Gogh’s depths of misery and rejection but they’re both superb artists. Ella had a different temperament to Billie and Bessie. Michaelangelo knew how to market himself whereas Van Gogh, poor soul, had no social skills at all.

Some people get less creative when they’re down and out, others get more. There just isn’t a formula for it. Like there isn’t a formula for the perfect painting, the perfect song, the perfect screenplay.

There’s a monumental industry built by self-proclaimed authorities on the subject of artistic perfection. And they all need you to believe that you can’t judge the quality or otherwise of your own work and that if you don’t do what they say (because they know how to do it) you’ll be a failure. The screenwriting industry is a great one for that.

But here’s my difficulty with it. With painting you can see if the artist hasn’t accurately represented what they’re painting. It’s called anything from Expressionism to Cubism to Abstract. I’ve seen paintings that are picture perfect and I can see that the craft is good but the art doesn’t move me, whereas a painting that’s kind of childlike and loose will touch my heart.

With music you can hear if there’s a wrong note but I’ve been at classical concerts where the solo violinist played quite a few wrong notes but oh my God their passion was supreme and I and the whole audience gave them a thunderous standing ovation. What about quality of sound or depth of interpretation? Don’t even go there. No wait a minute, let’s go there. I think Adele sings like a dream and a lot of people in the world think so too. But what about Rod Stewart? You can’t compare his gravelly voice to Adele’s but he’s divine. IMO. My Dad didn’t agree with me. But then he loved Bing Crosby. As it happens I like him too.

As for books, plays, screenplays, there’s no penultimately perfect one: there’s no single Writer God whispering into anybody’s ear. There are a gazillion Gods all jostling with each other “I’m right!” “No you’re not, I am!” I just partly read a John Grisham novel and I found the dialogue is unbearably stiff, unnatural and often just irrelevant; it doesn’t move the story along at all, so the pace positively crawls. But many will say he’s brilliant. I saw a one-man play by Tennessee Williams starring Al Pacino. The man was a few yards away from me for heaven’s sake. I yawned all the way through. I tell you, I missed my opportunity there; the audience was invited to give feedback on the acting. I had some that I thought could be really helpful; Pacino acted at the same level of intensity; if he’d broken it up he’d have been brilliant. I didn’t send my letter in. What the hell was I thinking? Forehead slap!

So here’s the thing. Quality of art and success are two totally different animals and IMO it’s best not to confuse them. Success in the world is sometimes on account of artistic integrity and the artist refusing to change to suit the world. At first they might get rejected but often the power of their work eventually speaks to the masses; not always in their lifetime, alas. Sometimes success comes to those who study a sector of ‘the market’- you know, those mindless beings who can’t think for themselves and just want to be force fed – and then give it what it thinks it wants.

If you can figure that one out, kudos to you and bingo! Dollars in the bank. Inner satisfaction? I don’t know, who am I to judge? I like dollars a lot and they give a gal a creative boost for about ten seconds then the motivation factor pales. Same thing with external ‘discipline’. The only thing that turns me on consistently and sustainably is love of what I’m doing.

To get back to success, sometimes it’s about being persistent. Sometimes it seems to just come upon you. Sometimes it’s because you know a lot of people. Sometimes somebody sees you in a bank and likes the look of your face. The next thing you know you’re starring alongside all the A-listers. Talking about Charlize Theron here. Sometimes, a la Diablo Cody, it comes to you when you’re a dancer in a nightclub and a director reads your blog and says I want you to write a script. You say nah, I’m not into that stuff. And, contrary to what everybody says (you only have one chance so don’t blow it) you don’t lose your chance, because when you change your mind and think you might as well try, you produce an Oscar winner. And you’ve never done it before, never studied screenwriting.

Formulas? Nightmare city for me. The best I can do is listen to my own standards and do my best to get better all the time, because that’s when I have more satisfaction and when I’m enjoying myself it’s infectious. And there seems to be something in putting forward a confident air. So that’s about as formulaic as I can get. I listen to Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Adele, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Janis Ian, Peggy Lee and others and I learn from them something about how they use their voices and I fiddle around with acoustic and electric guitars and piano; think about fiddling around with a real fiddle again. For screenwriting I watch movies and read screenplays and decide what works for me and what doesn’t. For novels I like American crime writers like John Sandford so that’s kind of my style too. My art has been on hold for a while but my sketching and painting is kind of sort of Impressionist I guess.

Whether or not anybody else will agree with a person’s standards or like their artistic output is in the hands of the Gods, I reckon. I’m not above praying to them, mind you. Now and then. And when they don’t respond, I’m a great fan of the Tantrum.

One thing I do know; I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and see that I never even tried to do it my way. What a damn waste that would be.