La La Land

Seven Golden Globes? No way! I saw La La Land, and La La Land was no Manchester by the Sea. Light, upbeat, feel-good, fun to watch, catchy tunes, Ryan Gosling—but nowhere near the award-grade film that some others were. So what's the deal?  I think I figured it...

manchester-by-the-sea

It's taken a week for me to recover from the emotional impact of this film. The unflinching tale of a family's tribulation and one man's inescapable heartbreak is easily the finest film I've seen in 2016, showcasing not only director/writer Kenneth Lonergan's deft...

fantastic beasts

How wonderful to see Fantastic Beasts, and where to find them—this latest tale of magic, darkness, and colorful creatures— without ever having read or seen any of the Harry Potter films. I was in a unique position bringing no expectations or prior acquaintance...

Two upcoming book events!

Hitting our stride now! Two Santa Cruz "Inside the Flame" events coming up. Please SAVE THE DATES! Tuesday December 6th we'll have some dinner, some wine, and I'll read a bit and reveal a lot @ Gabriella Cafe. Afternoon Prosecco Party at Soif, December...

Allied Boredom

Since this film will be gone by the time you read this, there isn't much point in offering an actual critique. Allied is a film loosely structured around Brad Pitt's ability to wear suits and Oscar-winner Marian Cotillard's inability to spin straw into gold. The film...

The Trespasser

As reviewers are writhing all over themselves in praise of Tana French's latest mystery, The Trespasser, allow me to remove myself from the frothing queue. Still bruised by her last book, I've been bruised all over again by this one. I had devoured French's In the...

Magical Mystery Tour

As I emerged from a period of mourning over the recent election, I headed for what I knew would provide the perfect antidote—a matinee screening of Dr. Strange starring the elegant and resourceful Benedict Cumberbatch. The Big Screen and plenty of popcorn—it was...

In Praise of Clutter!

In our zeal to clean up, throw away, and streamline we are in danger of losing touch with important moments and aspects of our lives. Before you toss out that old theater program or cluster of dried leaves, step back, take a deep breath, and consider this: • Clutter...

Inside the Flame Events

Excited about the Inside the Flame events lined up for November and December. Please come to any and all of them and help me spread the word by telling your friends, too. I am so honored to share this with my great community and beyond. (Take a look Inside the Flame...

the girl on the train

There's the book, and there's the movie. The book moves quickly, until it doesn't. The movie has a score by Danny Elfman. A very haunting, distinguished score by Danny Elfman. The book ended in a hail of red herrings, dei ex machina, and obviousness. The movie simply...

Being Everywhere

How many times have you walked into a room, and gotten sidetracked by a piece of mail and after you opened the mail you realized that you'd forgotten why you came into that room in the first place? You re-trace your steps, hoping to remember what you started out to...

the post-birthday world

It was a piece in The Guardian that led me to read Lionel Shriver's justly renowned novel The Post-Birthday World. In this richly imagined, cunningly plotted, and brilliantly realized "what-if?" novel, we meet Irina McGovern, a book illustrator pivoting between...

immediate approach

"Feeling so nostalgic for London," said my friend Tai this morning. "It must be the autumnal weather." She and I spent two weeks in England exactly a year ago, hiking through Jane Austen country in beautiful Bath and then sampling the great parks and urban energy of...

how ideas take shape

It usually begins with something written down longhand. I take it up to my computer, apply a little blind faith and just begin in-putting what's written on the page. Then something clicks and I'm expanding those ideas without actually thinking. Something else has...

censoring the imagination

  A college birthday party featuring tequila, piñatas and sombreros is branded "an act of ethnic stereotyping." The perpetrators are branded racists, their party deemed an act of "cultural appropriation." Thus begins writer Lionel Shriver's piercing critique in...

becoming post human

In a smart and emotional article in New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan concludes: There are books to be read; landscapes to be walked; friends to be with; life to be fully lived. And I realize that this is, in some ways, just another tale in the vast book of human...

free time flow chart

Many people feel that the time they spend at work is essentially wasted — they are alienated from it, and the psychic energy invested in the job does nothing to strengthen their self. For quite a few people free time is also wasted. Leisure provides a relaxing...

The current New Yorker cover illustration by Christoph Niemann brought back a tingling rush of pleasure for those long summer days during graduate school when I played more than my fair share of tennis.   The body's arc of contraposto just before letting loose...

Indignation: film review

  Screenwriter James Schamus turns director with this supple adaptation of the 2008 Philip Roth novel Indignation, starring Logan Lerman as socially innocent, intellectually precocious Marcus Messner, son of a kosher butcher from Newark, New Jersey. We meet...

art imitates life

Painter Hildy Bernstein is an existentialist and a shamanic seeker. In her relentless artwork she probes her own unconscious as well as the unseen world of mythic archetypes. She waits, all her skills ready like the sword of a trained fighter, until that elusive...

behind the Big Screen

  I'm a fool for Big Screen movies. No hand-held device, no TV, no laptop will ever be able to deliver that tangible, chewable breathtaking immersion in another reality that movies seen in a theater can do. Before you think "oh how yesterday," consider the...

ode to a frozen Charlotte

What is this? I asked the saleswoman at the store in Berkeley.  I held in my hand a tiny white figure of a little girl made of porcelain, with one arm missing. That's a "frozen Charlotte" she smiled. There was a cautionary tale behind this figurine: it told of a girl...

dreaming of paper and pen

In a digital landscape — would she have survived? It is a bit of a seance, your fingers feeling for something deep within the paper, locked inside—or beyond. Hoping that the fingers can channel the exact right word, or phrase for some subtle distinction or nuance...

what would Virginia Woolf do?: Part Two

Virginia Woolf used to complain when she ran out of ink, or if she needed a new nib for her pen. Definitely old school. But those of us who write for a living, or out of passion, we each have rituals that not only define our process but which define the outcome as...