Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Today’s (TV) music video

October 22nd, 2014

A tip of the hat to whoever is the music supervisor for “American Horror Story.” The episode tonight, and next week as well, will feature the Pere Ubu song “Road to Utah.” That shows good taste!

Check out the song for yourself:

Today’s music video

October 21st, 2014

Here’s another incredible performance by Puddles Pity Party, delivering a cover version that far exceeds the original.

Taking root

October 20th, 2014

Eleven years ago yesterday, on October 19, 2003, my son and I planted the tree you see above in our front yard. At the time it was a sapling, a five-foot-tall slender branchless stick with a clod of dirt wrapped at its base. Now its canopy grazes my roof and its web of wood provides a highway for squirrels, a sanctuary for birds, and a relief for my house from the relentless heat and sun.

How do I know the date we planted it? Because while we were doing it, I got a phone call confirming my contract with what turned out to be the first client of my new business, which gradually morphed into the business I now own. You tend to remember the date of a contract like that, when someone agrees to be the first to pay you a fair sum of money in a new endeavor because they’re taking your word that you’re good for your end.

In the eleven years since, that son has grown to be a 23-year-old man with his own successes and a career, the company has grown exponentially with three dozen client projects at any given time and a staff to handle them, and the tree has become a daily touchstone for me to regard on my way out in the morning and on my way in in the evening. It reminds me that we all take root with each other, that every thing is part of something larger, and that every day time passes and life goes on.

I can see for miles

October 20th, 2014

Which is a good thing, because that’s about how far back my seat will be for The Who, who will be playing the Staples Center.

Actually, the seats aren’t nearly as far off as the date: September 15 of 2015. I wonder if Daltrey and Townshend will still be alive then. Daltrey seems very healthy, but who’s to say that magic bus won’t roll over him unexpectedly? Townshend has been sober for more than 20 years, which certainly will improve his odds. If something happens to either, would they just get a substitute? Given past history, you better you bet. Fifty years later, and despite band deaths and determination that every tour was the “final” tour, it’s clearly too early for The Who to say the song is over.

Rotten for the win

October 20th, 2014

The news piece I’m about to link to is my favorite thing on the Internet right now. But first, a little background.

This time last year, comedian Russell Brand was encouraging people not to vote, partly because he never has, but largely, he claimed, because voting effects no change. Well, I can predict one change for sure: If you don’t vote your interests, the votes of other people, with interests opposed to yours, will count for more. Because there will be more of them. So let’s say you’re concerned about climate change and would like to see more research and funding, but you decide that your vote doesn’t count, so you don’t show up, and that all of your pals — the cultural elite who will even know who Russell Brand is — don’t show up either. Guess who will still be coming out. I think you see where this is going.

Anyway, here’s Brand’s infamous interview from last year:

Now, a year later and in an election season, an unlikely voice of tradition and reason has shown up to give Brand the finger. Yes, I speak of none other than Johnny Rotten. Mr. Rotten, whom some of us know as probably the most influential singer of the latter half of the 20th century, and who came to prominence in a band called The Sex Pistols (still an unbeatable band name), declaims that Russell Brand is a “bumhole,” and provides the public this seemingly rather un-punk-like advice: “Get smart, read as much as you can and find out who’s using you. I did. What’s wrong with you?”

Here’s the whole story. This makes me gloriously happy. The Sex Pistols were punks because of the failure of the establishment, just as Jonathan Swift was making a moralist point when he advised that the Irish end the famine by eating their own children. Mistaking The Sex Pistols and their ilk as stupid louts always reminds me of the line Joey Ramone shared about the Ramones, who right from the start were profitable and who always, always made money: “We’re dumb, but we’re not stupid.”

Today’s music video

October 19th, 2014

Sure, Leonard Cohen can write and sing weepy songs with great power. But he’s not a 7-foot-tall depressed clown.

Hallelujah – Puddles Pity Party from Gary Yost on Vimeo.


October 19th, 2014

Once upon a time, I posted here every day — sometimes multiple times a day. Lately, it’s been more scattershot. But I just noticed that it’s been three weeks.

I could provide a laundry list of other duties (something I know that Joe Stafford would enjoy; he always loves the laundry lists in my plays), and indeed I wrote a “chore list” for today so I could get everything finished that I’d like to (including working on my book; going to the gym; grocery shopping, which I handle because I stick to my budget; and work on my company — so there’s your laundry list, Joe).

But instead of going into all that, I’m just going to return to posting more often. Thank you for your patience — if you’re still out there.

Scary writing experience

September 27th, 2014

Through an odd fluke of scheduling (including three different trips out of town in November), the “Words That Speak” playwriting workshop that I lead is off until November 29. This is highly unusual; in general, we meet every Saturday, and then take about a three-week break after eight sessions. There’s an occasional Saturday that gets scheduled off — but 10 weeks off? Unheard of in its 22-year history.

So what’s a guy to do when he’s got 10 weeks off from his workshop? Sign up for someone else’s!

I was thrilled — thrilled! — to see that my schedule is clear on Saturday the 25th, so I signed up for Chris DeWan’s “Monsters in the Woods” one-day writing workshop. JUST THE NAME ALONE appealed to me. But here’s more about it:

(and other scary magicks)

Why are we afraid of the dark? How do writers terrify us with nothing but their words? And how can we do it in our own stories?

Come celebrate Halloween with a one-day intensive horror-writing workshop. And do it at an eerie, isolated site in the Angeles National Forest*.

Through a series of unnerving exercises, we will plumb classic fairy tales, ghost story tropes, and our own memories to generate material for new and in-progress horror stories.

The “Monsters in the Woods” workshop isn’t just for horror writers. It’s for any writers who want to explore their own fears, dreams, and memories for new story material.

At a spooky, undisclosed location in the Angeles National Forest!

That just has “me” written all over it. Years ago, I wrote a show called “Monster Stories” — a collection of three short plays — and I’d sure like to get back into something like that. And I know Chris is a good writer, and he’s a theatre person (that’s how we met), so I’m feeling confident about this experience.

(By the way, how did I find out about this? I’ve known Chris for about 15 years — but I don’t believe I’ve actually seen him in person since 2013, as he reminded me via email this morning. I saw this workshop posted on LinkedIn, and then on Facebook, both of which were open to me because, as I said, I know Chris. So hey, everybody who complains about social media — in your face.)

Anyway — I believe there’s still a slot or two open. So if you’d like to join me for a few hours of being terrorized by snakes or a guy with an axe, here’s your link.

You’ll see this coming

September 27th, 2014

I could have saved the money

September 25th, 2014

I worked my way through college (which, I know, now qualifies me as Old Economy Steve), earning a BA in Literature and Language.

But now this makes me think I could have saved the money. It sums up so much of my studies so quickly! Luckily, I’ve still got all my Chaucer-studying (in Middle English, no less!), which is not addressed here.