In Memoriam: T.S. Cook (1947-2013)

January 15th, 2013 by

It was announced yesterday that veteran screenwriter T.S. Cook died on January 5, 2013. Here is an excerpt from a THR article on Cook:

T.S. Cook, who earned an Academy Award nomination for co-writing the 1979 nuclear power suspense thriller The China Syndrome, died Jan. 5 at his home in Hollywood after a battle with cancer. He was 65.

Cook also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for co-writing the 1996 HBO telefilm The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Lawrence Fishburne, Allen Payne and Malcolm Jamal-Warner.

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Cook shared his Oscar nom with Mike Gray and James Bridges for his original screenplay work on The China Syndrome, which starred Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda and earned four Academy Award mentions in all. The trio also collected noms from the Globes and BAFTA and won a WGA trophy.

A WGA West member since 1975, the Cleveland native served on the WGAW’s board of directors from 1995-97 and was a strike captain during the guild’s 1988 strike. He was a member of many WGAW committees through the years and a Pension & Health trustee from 2006 until his death.

Here is a tribute to the movie The China Syndrome:

The family has asked donations be sent to the Writers Guild Foundation.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Hollywood United Methodist Church.

For more of the THR article, go here.

Go here for Cook’s IMDB site.

Godspeed, T.S. Cook.

Reflections on life, death… and breathing

April 11th, 2012 by

It is January, 1991.
The day my son Will is born.
After thirty-six hours of labor…
And an emergency C-section…
My wife Rebecca is exhausted.
She’s had a few hours to bond with Will.
Share the joy with family members.
But now she requires sleep.
Which means…
I need to be a father for the first ‘real’ time.

We’re in a cramped room on the 3rd floor of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Rebecca lies in one of those standard hospital beds.
For the dads?
Something approximating a medieval torture device.
A Naugahyde chair thing…
That folds out into a too-short, buckled-in-the-middle, semi-cot contraption.

As Rebecca falls asleep…
I scoop up Will into my arms.
Going on 2 hours sleep since we arrived at Cedars, I’m extra careful…
As I tiptoe around the room.
Turn off the overhead lights.
Inch my way over to the torture device…
And while clutching Will to my chest…
Awkwardly of course…
Perhaps the second or third time I’ve held the boy.
I maneuver my body onto the contraption…
Cradling Will as gently as I can.

At first, he fusses and fidgets.
I pat his back with my fingertips…
And for some reason, start to hum something.
It’s a hymn.
Of the Father’s Love Begotten
A song for Advent.
A melody from the 4th century.
Why that hymn?
Perhaps Will in my arms reminds me of the Christ-child.
And the advent of a new experience…
Something called “parenthood”.

Will finally settles into sleep.
But he’s located in an odd position…
Up level with my head.
I consider moving him…
But I’m afraid I’ll wake the boy.
So there we lie…
I on my side…
Facing my son…
Who’s lying on his side…
Facing his father.
And in the dark silence…
I hear his breathing…
And feel…
The air emerging across his lips…
Little puffs…
Tapping against my forehead.
Over and over…
My son’s breath of life…
Caressing my face.

We lie like that…
I, afraid to move.
Don’t wake him.
And for hours…
Puff… puff… puff…
Feathery light traces of air…
Breathed in by my son…
Breathed out by my son…

It is April, 2007.
The night before my mother dies.
11 days before, I flew across the country…
After hearing the news of her stroke…

Every day and night since…
I have sat at my mother’s side…
As she lies unconscious in her hospital bed.

She is a Baptist, a believer…
A woman who has read her Bible every morning and every night for most of her 85 years.

And so every day…
For 11 days…
I have read aloud to her…
The New Testament.
Each of the Gospels.
Paul’s letters.
The Acts of the Apostles.
Even Revelations.

She never opens her eyes.
And yet I read the Bible to her.
Her beloved Scriptures.
Holding her hand in mine.
Hoping she can hear the words…
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither reap nor sow.
And yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.”

My mother did ‘talk’ to me one final time.
On the Saturday night before Easter Sunday…
What is known in the church as Holy Saturday.
I stand beside her…
Holding her left hand…
The paralyzed one…
I have picked up a hymnal from the chapel.
And I sing to my mother her favorite hymns…
Amazing Grace
Abide With Me
Go Tell It On The Mountain

She brings her right hand up toward her ear.
I think she is struggling to pull out the oxygen tube.
I cross to the other side of her bed.
And take her right hand in mine.

Opening the hymnal, I sing all the verses to…
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Then I lean close and find myself saying,
“I love you, Mom.”

She squeezes my hand three times.

I sing another one of her favorite hymns…
Blessed Assurance
“I love you, Mom.”

Again she squeezes my hand three times.

I sing…
A Mighty Fortress is our God
“I love you, Mom.”

Again three squeezes.

By now my voice is a quivering mess.
Tears streaking down my face.
I struggle to sing…
Breathe On Me Breath of God
As I finish, my mother’s face…
Her eyes still shut…
Seems to find a place of peace.

“I love you, Mom.”
Her hand is silent.

Nothing but her breathing.
Puffs of air…
Across my hand as it caresses her face.

I stumble into the bathroom.
Totally overcome.
Three squeezes of my hand.
I. Love. You.

And now, it is the night…
Before her death.
I have sung hymns.
And read the Bible.
And held my mother’s hand.
And sat vigil with her.
And made sure the nurses have taken care of her.
Washed her.
Combed her hair.
Made her comfortable.

It is deep into the night.
Just my mother, myself…
And her breathing.

That’s all she has left…
Her breath.
And soon…
Even that will be taken from her.

We breathe in.
We breathe out.
It is perhaps the most basic aspect of life itself.

The air sustains us.
A continuous strand…
From our first breath…
To our last.

And the truth is…
Every single breath…
Is a miracle.

[I posted this originally on September 4, 2009 as a Midnight Musing. I re-post it here today on the five year anniversary of the death of my mother. Godspeed, Mom.]

Remembering Kurt Cobain

February 20th, 2012 by

[This was originally posted on April 5, 2011 on the 17th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. I post it again to honor Cobain who would have been 45 years old today.]

April 5, 1994. The day Kurt Cobain shot and killed himself. Like many millions of people, I was a huge fan of Nirvana and especially fixated on Cobain. How he managed to emerge from his troubled childhood into a “spokesman for Generation X,” as some in the media dubbed him — much to Cobain’s regret — is a remarkable tale, albeit one ending in tragedy. Like Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison before him, another rock musician who died far too young at the age of 27.

Nirvana’s smash album Nevermind, featuring the #1 hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” was released 20 years ago in 1991. It was one of those albums, something that comes along every now and then that completely turns the music scene on its head.

I remember being at a party in L.A. in ’91 or ’92 and meeting someone who worked as part of Nirvana’s management team at Gold Mountain. When I heard that, I immediately reverted to gawking adolescent, blabbering on and on about how much I dug the band, listening to the album over and over again. My foolish behavior must have made an impression because the next day a courier delivered a shipping tube. In it were two posters: The famous Nevermind album cover:

And a 3 x 4 foot poster I’ve never seen before or since: All three members of Nirvana… autographed. That’s right, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic (he signed it as “Karl Malden”), and Kurt Cobain. I have it framed. It’s perhaps my most prized possession.

Why did Cobain commit suicide? You can go here to read his actual handwritten final note. I’ve studied his words a lot. There’s this line:

I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things.

Clearly he wasn’t enjoying the music as he thought he should have. But it’s this line that always gets me:

There’s good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don’t you just enjoy it? I don’t know!

That hits me. Hard. In my family, I’m known as the one who “feels” things, the one with “big” emotions. I’m convinced that’s one of the major reasons I have always done some form of writing – from songs starting when I was 14 to short stories to scripts. It’s a way to process the feelings, put them into words, create characters to experience those emotions. Stories provide a way to contextualize one’s feelings.

For Cobain, much of his personal pain seems to have been tied to his parents’ divorce when he was a child. From Cobain’s Wikipedia page:

When Kurt was eight years old, his parents divorced. Later in his life, he said the divorce had a profound effect on his life. His mother noted that his personality changed dramatically; Cobain became defiant and withdrawn. In a 1993 interview, he elaborated:

“I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn’t face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that.”

Life can be overwhelming. Depression is a powerful reality. But at the end of the day, this is a fact: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, seek help. To start, you can go here.

In memory of Kurt Cobain, one of the most gifted creative types in the last quarter-centry. Thanks for your songs:

From FlavorWire: 44 things you didn’t know about Kurt Cobain.

The Rolling Stone 1994 article about Cobain’s death.

MTV tribute to Cobain.

Spin magazine remembers Kurt.

Dan Bern’s song “God Said No”

I met God On the edge of town
Where the wind meets the stillness
Where the darkness meets the light
Where the ocean meets the sky
Where the desert meets the rain
Where the earth meets the heavens
On the edge of town I met God

I asked God
Do one thing for me
Send me back in time
Send me to Seattle
Let me go
Find Kurt Cobain
Take away his gun
Take away his bullets
Talk to him
Make him wanna live
Tell him how we love him
Help him see his glory
God Said No
If I sent you back
If you really found him
You would only ask him
If he could
Help you get a deal
If he knows a lawyer
If he can help you
God Said No

I asked God
Do one thing for me
Send me back in time
Send me to Berlin
Let me find
The one they call Hitler
I will stalk him
I will bring him down
I will bring along
A powerful gun
Loaded with bullets
Obliterate his memory
God Said No
If I sent you back
You would get caught up
In theory and discussion
You would let your fears
Delay and distract you
You would make friends
You would take a lover
God Said No

I asked God
Do one thing for me
Send me back in time
Send me to Jerusalem
Let me go
Let me go find Jesus
Let me save his life
As they try to kill him
Let me take him down
Down from the cross
Take the iron from his body
Try to heal his wounds
God Said No
If I let you go
If you really found him
Walking with the cross
You would stare
Your tongue no longer working
Eyes no longer seeing
Ears no longer hearing
God said Time
Time belongs to me
Time’s my secret weapon
My final advantage
God turned away
From the edge of town
I knew I was beaten
And that now was all I had
God Said No

Godspeed, Kurt Cobain.

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Taylor

March 23rd, 2011 by

TCM announces a 24-hour Elizabeth Taylor movie marathon on April 10.

What’s your favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie?

UPDATE: A few other items Elizabeth Taylor items via THR:

25 things you didn’t know about Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor’s 10 most iconic roles

In Memoriam: Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

May 30th, 2010 by

Go here to read Roger Ebert’s “In Memory of Dennis Hopper”. An excerpt:

For Hopper, life was an art form. His acting took such shape because he was able to reinvent himself as a character. More than many actors , he created characters we remember vividly for themselves: James Dean’s sidekick in “Rebel,” Marlon Brando’s drug-crazed acolyte in “Apocalypse Now,” the terrifying gas-sniffing pervert of “Blue Velvet,” the town drunk in “Hoosiers,” a hit man in “Red Rock West,” the villain in “Waterworld.”

He was also an intellectual, although that side was masked by his somewhat notorious drug abuse, gradually escalating from the 1960s until about 1983. Some of those years were lost.

“I was thinking I had no life or any memory really until now,” he told me one day in 1990. “There’s always this fear of not being able to make the films, not being able to do the work. I don’t think anybody, no matter how successful they get, ever loses that fear. If you’ve ever had a period of time, where you weren’t allowed to work–maybe because you were doing drugs and alcohol, but you didn’t know that was their reason–then the fear is always with you.”

Hopper’s last public appearance:

Interview (1983)

Inside the Actors Studio – Part 1

Inside the Actors Studio – Part 2

Inside the Actors Studio – Part 3

Inside the Actors Studio – Part 4

Inside the Actors Studio – Part 5

Here Hopper reflects on his role in the movie Hoosiers:

But let’s end this with one of his most memorable roles, albeit a brief one, from Apocalypse Now:

What are your favorite Dennis Hopper roles?

UPDATE: Peter Fonda, Gene Hackman, and Isabella Rosselini remember Dennis Hopper.

UPDATE #2: From a comment by Josh K-sky, a link to a great compilation of Dennis Hopper clips.