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J. Michael Straczynski: the Julius Schwartz Lecture Series

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  • #31
    Originally posted by Jan View Post
    They had signs not to record but they didn't mention not recording in the auditorium...so I did. <g> I think it turned out okay but I haven't listened to the entire **almost 3 hours** of it yet.

    Yes, they made a point that they were filming it for a DVD that will be sold to help finance the future lectures.

    Jan
    just got home...
    Jan,

    I hope you were able to ask a question during the Q&A. I look forward to your recap of the event.

    After hearing about the person who had a very circuitous way of asking, "What is your favorite food", I am convinced that I would need to prepare and rehearse a question before hand. Of course that would not guarantee that my mind would not turn to jelly and my tongue would not be mercilessly tied.

    If I were to ask a question it would be something like this:
    Joe, I am Dan Dassow. It is my pleasure to finally meet you in person after all these years. What did you learn about directing from Clint Eastwood and what have been your most memorable experiences as a result of Changeling?
    I would be tempted to substitute, Snow White, in place of Changeling, but not in front of a large group of people.

    Dan Dassow

    Comment


    • #32
      I felt sort of sorry for 'burger boy' but it was pointed out to me that he deliberately used a term that JMS had expressed a distaste for so my opinion changed to thinking that he was probably an attention-seeker.

      As for questions...everybody knows I've asked JMS a zillion questions both online and at appearances but it's probably only in the last year or so that my throat doesn't get tight when asking a verbal question. And, yes, I do tend to rehearse it a bit.

      Jan
      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

      Comment


      • #33
        MIT report

        Renata has kindly given me permission to link to the photos she took of the MIT lecture. Thanks, Renata, they're really great! And now onto the actual full report I promised. Fair warning, this is long!

        If you’ve gotten your copy of Part 1 of the Asked & Answered series, you’re aware that I’ve been diagnosed as insane (past, present & future; here, there and everywhere) in a leather jacket and fedora. This explains why I got up at 3:30 in the morning to catch a flight to Boston on Friday. Sadly, the jacket and fedora didn’t fit into the satchel I was using as luggage but the trip up to Boston from Orlando was otherwise just about perfect as was the hotel that let me check in even before check-out time.

        Fast-forward to Friday afternoon and the cab ride to MIT was less idyllic with a grouchy, near-deaf driver who didn’t know where he was going but refused to look at the campus map or directions I’d brought with me. After making him turn off the meter I finally recognized the configuration of some buildings and had him let me out. Thankfully, I was right (Thanks MIT map person!)

        I found my way to the ticket-taking table at Building 10, Room 205 and the nice young men took my ticket, equipped me with a bright pink wristband (blip bracelet?) and directed me to a line around the corner. I noticed some young people bearing suspiciously familiar signs arrive just after me. I quickly found Renata from RASTB5M so I cut into the line with her and we had a nice visit while we waited. We noticed those same young people hanging signs around the building. White on black. “Maternis, Paternis”, “Obey”, Psi Corps logos. Hmmm.... We saw one of them looking for a place to put an “Obey” sign up and suggested that the perfect place would be among the “no recording” and “there won’t be an autograph session” signs lining the hall. She took our suggestion. Another young man was seen with “Remember Byron” signs. Hmmm...again.

        The doors were supposed to open at 6:00 PM but they ran late. We were allowed in about 6:15 PM and Renata and I sat in the front row so she could take pictures and I could record (yes, I know the sign said not to but it wasn’t part of the ‘don’ts’ listed at the beginning of the program). It looked to me like the auditorium was about two thirds full. WorkerCaste from JMSnews came up and said Hello just before the start of the lecture. The program started promptly with a young man introducing Henry Jenkins, head of the Comparative Media program and he in turn introducing JMS. The applause was loud and long.

        The theme of his talk was that it’s important to do what scares you, to break out of your comfort zone if you’re ever to achieve what you want with your life. You should never listen to the people who counsel you not to try because, while they may want to protect you from failure, they’re also protecting themselves because, if you follow your dreams *and achieve them*, then they’ll have to confront themselves and their own lives and think of the things that they didn’t do and why they didn’t do them. He told stories of how he overcame his fear of public speaking and how he stood up to a bullying teacher while in college. Toward the end he recapped his career to date as a journalist, then TV writer for 20 years and suddenly a screenwriter working with the A-list producers and directors and actors.

        The final story of the formal talk was that following a cemetary visit, he decided as a child that he had to live forever. Being just a kid, he decided that the way to do that would be to go into space, that if he could get off the planet he’d achieve that. Stage one of the rocket was his work for ten years as a journalist and working for national publications but eventually he started falling back toward the ground. Stage two was working in television for twenty years which carried him up from animation to Babylon 5 and Crusade and Jeremiah but since Jeremiah was such a nightmare he started feeling the pull back down. So finally, being in the 50-year-old vicinity, he though he might have one more stage in him but was unsure whether it would work. Maybe the rocket wouldn’t ignite this time. But it did with “Changeling” and he held on for all he was worth and now he can see the curve of the earth and he’s weightless “and it’s a damned good place to be”.

        That was the end of his lecture which took about thirty minutes. Next was the Q&A with Henry Jenkins who had 2 or 3 pages of questions. Here I have to agree with a blogger I’ve read who talked about the evening. It seemed like Mr. Jenkins wanted to talk about analyzing JMS’s body of work but there was a disconnect because that isn’t JMS’s style at all. He tells stories. So Jenkins would ask a question and JMS would use it as a jumping off point for a related story but he didn’t indulge in any deep analysis of his work. As JMS says, there’s trying to dance and there’s just dancing. I’m not sure how Mr. Jenkins felt about that.

        One funny bit was that Mr. Jenkins tends to start all of his questions with “So...” and at one point JMS challenged him not to use that word any more charging him a dollar for each time. I don’t know what happened to the bucks at the end but Mr. Jenkins left his wallet on the table for the balance of the session. One questioner later on even ended up adding a buck to the take.

        Of course, no report would be complete without mentioning that at one point JMS had us all singing the theme song from Gilligan’s Island. Really.

        One question pertained to the expansion of the original series to Crusade and the movies of the week. JMS responded that on one level it was a fun thing to do but in retrospect he should have refused to do any of them, even Crusade, that it was his own fear of failure that caused him to want to prove that it wasn’t just a one-time success, and want to hold onto the familiar. It was after the Lost Tales DVD that he looked at it all and asked if they’d added to the work or subtracted and concluded that they subtracted and he refuses to do any more until and unless it’s possible for him to do the series justice in a big-budget feature film.

        One thing that JMS is particularly enjoying is not concentrating on any particular form, going from drama to “World War Z” with zombies and he goes where the fun is.

        I realized during the evening that I actually (almost, kinda, sorta) disagree with JMS’s description of himself as a writer. Obviously that’s the profession that gets entered on his tax return but I don’t think that’s all he is. What I think JMS is, is a Storyteller. There’s no doubt that he loves words and language and slamming them together on paper for different effects and explosions but...I’ve also come to the conclusion that he simply exudes stories as naturally as he breathes. I don’t know that the black marks on paper are really necessary. Maybe this is splitting hairs since he often uses the words interchangeably.

        Which realization led to my question for him that evening which was “It’s obvious that you’ve touched many people’s lives through your work but you couldn’t have known that as a little boy so what was it that made telling stories so important to you?” (At least that was the way it was supposed to come out. I don’t know that it did.) What he said was that doesn’t know how to not tell stories, that it was something he started doing early on. He fell in love with words and stories due in large part to his constantly being uprooted as a kid to move around the country. He could close a book in the Matewan, NJ library and find the same book, same cover in the Texas library and keep reading. It was the books and words and stories that gave him continuity as a child.

        There were some good questions from the audience looking for advice on writing or (as I recall) filmmaking and several people thanking him for his influence on their lives. One likened the evening to meeting God (JMS: If I were god I’d have a deeper voice and more hair. And I’d be British.) and then there was “burger boy” and one other just in love with the sound of his own voice. One artist was looking for tips to success as a comic artist. All in all, it was a *really* nice session, I thought. Probably among the best I've been to.

        Jan
        "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

        Comment


        • #34
          Originally posted by Jan View Post
          ... I realized during the evening that I actually (almost, kinda, sorta) disagree with JMSÆs description of himself as a writer. Obviously thatÆs the profession that gets entered on his tax return but I donÆt think thatÆs all he is. What I think JMS is, is a Storyteller. ThereÆs no doubt that he loves words and language and slamming them together on paper for different effects and explosions but...IÆve also come to the conclusion that he simply exudes stories as naturally as he breathes. I donÆt know that the black marks on paper are really necessary. Maybe this is splitting hairs since he often uses the words interchangeably. ...

          Jan
          Jan, although I have not had the pleasure of hearing Joe in person, I've had the opportunity to interact with him on line and experience Joe's talks vicariously. I think of him more as a story teller than simply a writer, much like Isaac Asimov, Garrison Keeler or Mark Twain.

          Here is another review of JoeÆs talk.

          http://thetowerdrawsnearer.blogspot....raczynski.html

          Saturday, May 23, 2009
          Joseph Michael Straczynski

          So I am home now, I'm a little disappointed in the lecture though. I feel like there should have been some infinite wisdom that Joe had that I don't that would have somehow changed my perspective. ...
          Dan Dassow

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by Dan Dassow View Post
            Here is another review of JoeÆs talk.

            http://thetowerdrawsnearer.blogspot....raczynski.html
            OMG, I do believe that that blog is written by the one dubbed 'burger boy'. If every thought that passes through his head comes out his mouth (and keyboard) the way it appears, I don't think he's got to fear success all that much.

            Jan
            "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

            Comment


            • #36
              Thnaks to Renata for the pictures. It helps those of us that couldn't be there visualize the event.
              What a wonderful world you live in. -
              Yeah, well, the rent is cheap, the pay is decent and I get to make my own hours.

              Comment


              • #37
                http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge...f-media-at-MIT

                Cambridge Chronicle
                'Babylon 5' creator speaks about failure, future of media at MIT
                By Jeanne Amy
                Wicked Local Cambridge
                Posted May 25, 2009 @ 08:51 AM
                Last update May 25, 2009 @ 08:54 AM

                Cambridge ù Middle-aged, irreverent, innovative and bold, J. Michael Straczynski is no joke, even though he doesn't hesitate to make a few. ...

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by Jan View Post
                  One question pertained to the expansion of the original series to Crusade and the movies of the week. JMS responded that on one level it was a fun thing to do but in retrospect he should have refused to do any of them, even Crusade, that it was his own fear of failure that caused him to want to prove that it wasnÆt just a one-time success, and want to hold onto the familiar. It was after the Lost Tales DVD that he looked at it all and asked if theyÆd added to the work or subtracted and concluded that they subtracted and he refuses to do any more until and unless itÆs possible for him to do the series justice in a big-budget feature film.
                  Oh crap, now I HAVE TO respond at rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated.
                  Mac Breck (KoshN)
                  ------------------
                  Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                  JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                  Babylon 5 is the football.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    I am back from my travels and wanted to put in a quick word here. It was great to meet Jan and Renata, albeit briefly. This was the first time I had heard JMS speak in person and it was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed his talk and all the Q&A immensely. As usual, Jan has provided a very thorough report, but since she threatened me if I didn't do one myself, I'll undertake that task and, hopefully, remain on her good side. It will just have to wait a little bit, though, since work does tend to get in the way.
                    "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Now, WorkerCaste...If you go telling people about my dire threats they won't think I'm just the sweetest person on the planet anymore. That would never do, you know...

                      It was nice to meet you, too.

                      Jan
                      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Jan View Post
                        Now, WorkerCaste...If you go telling people about my dire threats they won't think I'm just the sweetest person on the planet anymore. That would never do, you know
                        Ummm. Overall I've found this to be a good environment and a valuable experience. I've learned a lot while I've been here. It's a calm, pleasant environment. I don't think I have ever seen anyone get upset here.

                        [looks over shoulder]

                        "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          I do believe my feelings are hurt. <sob>

                          Now then...when did you say your report would be ready, dear? <taps foot>


                          Jan
                          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            I would never want to hurt your feelings, Jan. I hold you in the highest esteem.

                            Neither would I want to incur your wrath, so here goes for my first-ever report.

                            My wife and I arrived fairly early in the day, had lunch, and then walked over to the campus in order to find the venue. It turned out to be surprisingly easy, and feeling confident we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area on foot. Dinner service ended up being a trifle slow, so we ended up arriving at the hall somewhat later than originally planned. That gave me less time to speak with Jan, but didnÆt hurt the seating too much since the hall was only about two-thirds full. Even had we been in the back of the hall, we wouldnÆt have suffered much since, as advertised, the proceedings were projected onto large screens. My only complaint as far as the facilities were concerned would be with sound quality. I have some experience with doing sound, and this event could have used a lot of work.

                            Contrary to JMSÆs assertions, I found him to be a very good, very entertaining speaker. He may not be comfortable doing it, but he does it well, especially when, as Jan pointed out, he is telling stories. Truly a storyteller.

                            If youÆre not failing, youÆre not doing it right. Do what scares you. Most people live inside a box representing their comfort zone û often without even realizing it. You need to move outside of the box. A fear of failure can not only keep you from starting something, it can keep you from finishing it. These are the bullet points I got from JMSÆs talk. Being a storyteller, he wove these themes in and around a number of personal anecdotes giving them more depth and meaning. It also made the points more memorable. I was familiar with a number of the anecdotes because I had read them in his collected posts, or because I had read them in script books, interviews or convention reports. That didnÆt detract from hearing them straight from the source. There were some anecdotes that were completely new to me. JMS spoke of a professor who told him he would never be a writer. JMS then proceeded to mail copies of every published piece to the professor until the day he died û at which point JMS gave him one last copy in the grave staked by a pencil.

                            The weakest part of the three-part presentation was, in my opinion, the Q&A with the moderator. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the styles of Mr. Jenkins and JMS didnÆt seem to mesh really well. I think Mr. Jenkins could have gotten the depth he seemed to be looking for if he had approached it a little differently. In many respects, the third part, the audience Q&A, was stronger than the moderator Q&A.

                            There were a couple of questions from the audience that were cringe worthy. The aforementioned ôburger boyö and a woman whoÆs never-ending question pertained to an inability to finish her story û the irony was not lost an any present. One thing you must give them û the exhibited no fear of failure and refused to be deterred by those who disagreed with their approach.

                            Like Jan, I was surprised by JMSÆs statement that Crusade was a mistake. While he thought it had many good points, he felt that it was an effort on his part to stay with something safe. Perhaps thatÆs his example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason making the work flawed.

                            I could go on relaying specific stories, but I know I wouldnÆt do them justice and this report is already quite lengthy. On the whole I get the feeling that a lot was said that I should remember, but I have already forgotten a lot. Oh, for JanÆs recorder!
                            "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Very nice, WC, thanks. You're off the hook now. See, that wasn't so very hard, was it?

                              As a reminder for anybody who missed them, Renata's photos are here.

                              Jan
                              "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Despite the signs indicating otherwise, it looks like jms signed at least one person's Babylon 5 DVDs.

                                Denver Post reprint of the article posted previously
                                http://www.doverpost.com/entertainme...f-media-at-MIT


                                J. Michael Straczynski signs the Babylon 5 DVDs of Kathryn Hamilton, an aspiring novelist from Medford.

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