Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I'm thrilled to feel like I know a great novelist. John Pipkin, who (along with his wife Eileen) was a classmate of my good pal Julie Steward while they were both at Rice University , just published his first novel, and it's getting amazing reviews.

It's called Woodsburner: A Noveland it riffs off of a little known incident in the life of Thoreau.

He got a cover blurb from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and a review I read of it the other day declares it Pulitzer Prize material. Zounds!

My copy arrived today and I can't wait to read it. I haven't seen John or Eileen for years (since I left Houston in 1996ish), but I remember them fondly -- and also remember when John was working on a big sprawling novel about Ireland. Maybe that one will be his follow-up.

Anyway, buy the novel. Support people we know!

Friday, April 17, 2009

My New Favorite Coffee Place

Sometime last year I walked into a Dunkin' Donuts for some, well, coffee and donuts. I noticed a big plastic travel mug on sale and I figured, what the heck, I could use a mug to keep at the shop and my old Dunkin' Donuts mugs are, well, old. So I bought one. It looked a lot like this. (Image from an ebay auction of a mug similar to the one I bought.)

Today, Bob and I stopped at a Starbucks to get some coffee. This would be a nice change of pace from the 52 cent gas station coffee I'd been getting the last couple of weeks. So I handed over my Dunkin' Donuts mug and asked them to fill it up. I perused the pastry selection while the barista rinsed out my mug. Then she walked to the back of the store. She came back out and said this to me. "My manager says that if you give us your Dunkin' Donuts mug, he'll let you have any mug in the store."


I walked over to the shelf of mugs. I glanced around, I asked the barista, "Which one is the most expensive?" She showed me a mug she particularly liked. I liked it, too. I said, "Okay!"

She filled it with hot, tasty coffee. I thanked everyone several times and proclaimed this to be the best day ever. The manager smiled and told me, "Good choice. I have one like that at home." I asked him what he was going to do with my old mug. He unceremoniously dropped it into the trash.

I now feel a warm affection toward this particular Starbucks. This was only the second time I've ever walked into this particular Starbucks. It certainly won't be the last.

Behold the mug!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Star Trek Lives

Yes, it seems as if, once again, life imitates art.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lump in the Throat

(Another Piece Written for Film Score Monthly)

Maybe it’s a lump in the throat or a chill up your spine. Perhaps you feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck or you just get a good case of the shivers. Whichever way it manifests itself, there’s one piece of music that can still get to you, even after hearing the piece again and again and again.

And not just that feeling you got the first few times you heard that THX crescendo.

These are emotional moments, cues that invoke memories of a particularly poignant moment in a movie, or maybe just in your life. Moments that hit you sometimes for no logical reason at all.

For a long time, for me, it was “The Enterprise,” the rapturous cue from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I’d turn it up good and loud and no matter how many times I heard it, when that bass rumbled at cue’s end, I’d feel it, that emotional rush. There’s something transcendent about that piece, and for a Trekkie nerd like me, that long, loving look at the starship during the film could never go on too long, especially not when accompanied by Goldsmith’s glorious music.

More recently, I keep getting the goosebumps whenever I listen to “All the Strange, Strange Creatures” from the Doctor Who Series 3 soundtrack. Here’s the thing. I didn’t cry at my wedding. I didn’t cry at the birth of my children. But when the Master returned on Doctor Who, I got chills, I got choked up, I started crying like a little girl. It was like a bolt coming straight from my childhood, a weird nostalgic vision of watching the Jon Pertwee Doctor battle wits with the Roger Delgado Master. And hearing that music reminds me of that moment, that amazing revelation that the Master had indeed survived to fight another day. Oh, by the way, spoiler alert.

Another that always affects me, although not in such a visceral way, is James Newton Howard’s Promised Land. The film, little seen, came out in 1988 and starred Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan. I was living in L.A. at the time and saw the film in a theater on Van Nuys Boulevard, and when it was over, I walked directly across the street to a record store and immediately bought the cassette. There’s something soothing about the music for me. I associate it, I think, with that period of my life, when the world seemed wide open with possibilities and whenever I hear those first notes of "The Plymouth Waltz," I immediately feel just a bit more calm and centered. There’s almost a physical sensation of tension dropping away from me when I listen to the CD. It’s a powerful testament to the amazing ability of music to affect my mood. I think I’ll go turn it on right now.