Friday, January 16, 2009

Pictures, still and moving - Darwin - Morris

Four topics today.

Pictures, Moving: I'm netflixing Robert Downey, Jr. movies lately, because he's one of those actors who I find consistently mesmerizing. The other night, I saw him in a little movie called "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," which was about a guy going back to his old New York neighborhood and confronting his past. It resonated with me. What do writers do, after all, but this? Over and over again...

Pictures, Still: Went to World Press Photo '08 last night -- their opening reception and "Behind the Lens" presentation, as I have for the last several years. It's a wonderful event, hosted annually by the Annenberg School of Communication here at USC. World Press Photo is "the leading international press-photography" competition. Of the thousands (tens of thousands) of images submitted each year, they select one winning image, but also first second and third places in a variety of new photo categories, from sports to war to daily life. The pictures are on display in the lobby for a month or two (and free to look at). But the "Behind the Lens" presentation is where several of the photographers themselves are brought in to speak about their work. I've read some very good work by war correspondents (special note goes to one of my all-time favorite books, Dispatches, by Michael Herr). I got deeper into the heads of the people in this strange profession while writing Heads, once I decided to toss Michael Apres and Jack Velazquez, journalist and photojournalist respectively, into the second cell. So this event is right up my alley. Last night's speakers were the big winner, Tim Hetherington (lovely English accent) who had been embedded for a year with a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan. He was smart, well-spoken and did an excellent presentation and explanation of his work. The other photographers there included Erika Larsen (winner for a series on young hunters published in Field & Stream), Justin Maxon (winner for an image of a homeless Vietnamese woman and her child), and David Liitschwager (winner for images of microscopic sea creatures published in National Geographic). Tremendous variety in what they were trying to do, but storytellers all, in my opinion. I look forward to attending World Press Photo '09 next year.

Darwin: According to the Evilutionary Biologist, whose blog I frequent (since writing Song of Extinction got me thinking about biology and ecological concerns), 2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of the author's birth. The two top science journals in the world, Science and Nature, are gearing up to provide a year's worth of content about him and his work. I look forward to reading the highlights, at the very least... interesting stuff!

Morris: Steven Leigh Morris, LA Weekly theater editor, has lost that position at the paper. Meaning that the position has been done away with, not that he's been replaced. Tough news for our town, which is full of theatrical productions clamoring for attention from critics and audience alike, and in need of smart and thoughtful people to give voice to the larger picture which we scribble in the corners of. But I really like how he puts things in his blog today. Both gracious and demanding that we take responsibility for our own theater-making. Worth a read, and all the best of luck to him as he continues to write and review here in LA.

Workshop tomorrow. Must go write pages now.

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