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


Today’s music video

September 25th, 2014

In which K-Pop meets CGI, and the singer seemingly pays a debt to Yoko Ono. This is either the worst or best music video ever. As a song, it’s the nadir. Let’s see how much of this you can handle.

Thought for the day

September 19th, 2014

3 a.m. on a sleepless Friday morning. I finally finished Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. Like Newark, New Jersey, it was terrible through and through, but I finally got to the end of it. Picking up the next book now — Love Will Make You Drink & Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night by my friend Shelly Lowenkopf — as a way of rinsing off my brain after too much time in the maze of muck with Mickey Sabbath.

Oh, THAT’S where I left that!

September 15th, 2014

How often has this happened to you? You open up the trunk of your car and realize you’d left something in there too long?

Maybe something like this.

Thrill ride

September 9th, 2014

Pere Ubu’s latest CD, “Carnival of Souls,” hit stores today. I had to have it instantly, and now I do. I’m playing it over and over and over while writing. Whatever impact the video below (of “Golden Surf II,” the first track on the album) might make on you, I can tell you that it makes me incredibly happy. Almost thirty years after discovering this band, the thrill is still very much with me.

A revolutionary reading device

September 3rd, 2014

This could change the way everyone reads!

The reading report

September 2nd, 2014
  1. Now on page 321 of Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. One question remains: Is it the worst novel I’ve ever read, or merely one of the worst? Given that it’s by a writer of otherwise extraordinary talent, it seems to qualify as the first.
  2. Read over the table of contents of this week’s New Yorker. Twice. Finally handed the entire issue over to offspring unread. Usually can find at least one “Talk of the Town” item, or a review, or a “Briefly Noted” worth engaging. Not this time.
  3. Still need to finish reading a script for a client. Also a stack — er, wait, four stacks — of books within reach waiting to be read. But, oh, the thrill of getting a new book to read. I keep salivating over the prospect of reading The Martian — surely a survivalist tale of the most difficult challenges.
  4. One third of the way through The Filth, a collection of the 13-issue comic-book title by Grant Morrison that I picked up at Comic-Con this year. Typical of Morrison’s latter-day comics, it’s equally invigorating and incomprehensible. Once upon a time, one could enjoy his inventiveness while also understanding what’s going on. But that seems to have been 10 (or 20) years ago.
  5. Various newspapers, mailings, magazines and other communications, including the latest issue of Inc. magazine, enumerating the “500 fastest growing privately held companies in America,” of which several at least are flat-out lying about their results. I’ve been to their websites, and if their businesses are anything like their online presence, they ceased to exist sometime during the first Bush admiseration.

More reading tomorrow, and every day hereafter.

The next day

August 17th, 2014

On Facebook, a friend of mine congratulated his brother Mike, who “built this Northern MN cabin for $4500, retired off the grid, collects rainwater from a roof irrigation system, eats berries, reads by candle light, catches trout & talks to the animals. He’s gone inside the world to grok its natural rhythms while the rest of us watch Netflix. Here’s to living life on one’s own terms.”

And I thought, that’s great. That’s really great. So, let’s say that’s on Monday. What’s Mike going to be doing on the next day, on Tuesday? My bet is: going batshit crazy.

Mike is entitled to do whatever he wants, so long as he isn’t, say, spending time in his hinterland chateau plotting to overthrow the government. But those of us who grew up in nature – who aren’t tourists who’ve moved there for some idealized bucolic existence – know that nature is more accurately not a place of “natural rhythms” where we can escape Netflix, but is more properly known as a place that swings wildly between being boring and deadly. Nature is a place filled with flying dusky things that like to bite or sting you, that either way want to eat a part of you. It’s a place where one wrong step plunges you into a sinkhole or crevasse you can’t get out of. It’s a place where if you’re not eating, something is eating you. It is also a place where it’s exceedingly hard to get a cold beer, let alone a roast beef sandwich or even a pillow. It’s a place where, when that glowing orb in the sky drops below the crestline, it becomes pretty hard to read, and the places to recharge your smartphone are scant. In short, nature sucks.

Oh, it’s fine to go there. As a tourist. Briefly. A week or two – or even a day (half a day!) – should suffice. Have at it! But when you get back to your campsite and hanker after that thing you forgot to pack – salt, or another book, or, my God, is there any water left in the cooler? — then you’ll remember all the reasons we as a people left this place behind millennia ago.

After our having spent thousands of years of trying to best it, to idealize it now is just stupid. It’s sentimental drivel. It’s not beautiful, and it’s not peaceful. It’s the ugly reality of striving after day-to-day existence.

Before you get the wrong idea, please be reassured that I love the rhinos. And the giraffes. And the lemurs and all those other things that live out there. I want them to survive. I want them to thrive! They may have these outdoors, now and forever. And I may want to visit them from time to time. But to live with them, to commune with them, seems to me to be like reducing myself to their circumstance. As they are without theatre, and music, and museums, and opera, and liquor stores, and cigar bars, and supermarkets, and 30% off sales at Macy’s, so would I be. This is antithetical to progress, and should hold no attraction for any of us.

I prefer to think of nature as this: Nature is the space between buildings. Because it’s the buildings that have made us into what we are.

It’s not actually that challenging

August 17th, 2014

As part of this ALS challenge, I have submerged a bottle of Chardonnay in a bucket of ice. And then I have emptied that bottle into myself.

The good news

August 12th, 2014

Yes, Robin Williams killed himself. And Lauren Bacall is dead. But here’s the good news.

What we remember

August 11th, 2014

What we will remember foremost about Robin Williams now will be his suicide.

At least, that’s what I remember most about people I’ve known who’ve committed suicide. Unfortunately.

Almost 15 years ago, a friend of mine took too many of his prescribed pills one night and downed a bottle of whiskey with them. He knew exactly what he was doing, especially given that he wasn’t a drinker. (Didn’t drink at all.) Here’s how I found out about it: a mutual friend called me and said, “Well, he finally did it.” This, after years of therapy and medication and other treatments.

I prefer to think of this friend another way — as being gifted with a sharp, dry wit (when my then-roommate asked how to get to Richard Nixon’s funeral in Yorba Linda, my friend said, “Follow your nose.”), with the ability to perform all sorts of odd voices and to replicate a vast array of animal sounds live on stage with that voice, and as a writer and performer who always made me laugh.

But, foremost, I think of him as someone who killed himself. As in, “He was so good that I wish he hadn’t killed himself….” The two sentiments are inextricably linked.

And that’s how we’ll remember Robin Williams: as the incredibly successful funnyman and actor who killed himself. It’s not a legacy I wish on anyone.