Why “a writer writes, always?”

I have had a few people ask me about my tag line.  I got it from the 1987 movie, ““Throw Momma From the Train.” Billy Crystal’s character, “Larry Donner,” is a writer and professor teaching a creative writing class.  The movie clip  below shows the classroom scene where “Larry” says one of my favorite lines.  I often wonder if my professors were feeling the same way as Larry Donner did in this scene.  “Remember, a writer writes…always.”



Les Miserables’ Activism

While reading Victoria Eubank’s first few chapters in her book, “Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age,” especially the segments on the YWCA study, I couldn’t help but think about one of my favorite musicals, “Le Miserables.” Talk about your activism—the characters in that play runs the gamut of privilege, poverty, and persecution. It’s perfect for the topic of Activism and I’ll explain why.




The story started out as a book by Victor Hugo, and is arguably one of the greatest novels written in the 19th century. The story begins with prisoner 24601, Jean Val Jean. He was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s family, who were very poor and starving. He was convicted and sent to prison. Because of his numerous attempts at escaping, his sentence was prolonged and he was sent to work in the galleys as a prisoner slave for the French government.

Val Jean is finally released from prison 19 years later. He is turned away for lodging and work because of the yellow card he carries deaming him an ex-convict. He becomes bitter and angry, and is about to become a thief once again when the generosity of a kind priest, changes his life. He works his way up the ranks of society and becomes a successful businessman and government official.

The character of Val Jean and his lot in life made me think about Eubank’s book, notably her study of YWCA women and her group, “Women at the YWCA Making Social Movement,” or WYMSM. Jean Val Jean has a strong sense of fairness and liberty. He sees the flaws in the system but wants to make it work for the greater good. He strives to be a kind and  good leader, and offers help to others like the kind priest once did for him.

The women at the YWCA are similar in that vein. They were apprehensive at first about their open forum on hunger, but once it began it empowered them and made them want to learn and do more. They wanted to make a change and help others, just like Val Jean.

To continue with another group of characters in “Le’ Mis…” lets take a look at those handsome young men from the French resistance. Namely Marius and his friends, who believe the government in France needs an overhaul. These young men, mostly students, from privileged families are angry at the way the French government treats those less fortunate. Much like Eubanks herself. Although, Eubanks gets to live, the young men in the book aren’t as lucky. They lead a revolt and build a barricade in the center of Paris. They try to start a revolution but are quickly outnumbered and are killed by French soldiers. All except Marius that is, who is gravely wounded. Val Jean saves Marius and in turn, he later helps ValJean. It doesn’t hurt that he’s in love with Jean Val jean’s adopted daughter, Cosette.

Ok, so the people in Hugo’s world didn’t have to think about digital technology as we do now, but the fight is still the same in many ways. The “magical thinking” the young men had ultimately leads to their downfall. It doesn’t seem to change anything in the system, which means their deaths were for not. The great divide between privilege and poverty, and the digital age is a dilemma, one that a group of revolutionists with grand ideas can’t change, not alone anyway. But it’s nice to know people like Eubanks are actively striving to make the world a better place. She is someone who understands “magical thinking,” and is trying to find the practical and real answer.

“Once Upon an Intellectual Property…”

“Once Upon A Time…When I was a little girl I wanted to be Cinderella.  But I had a wicked mother, two brothers and a sister who said I was foolish, and dashed all my hopes and dreams…“

Ha, actually, that’s not really true.  I just wanted to start my blog with a fairytale.  The part about being Cinderella was fact though.  Here’s the thing, I couldn’t be just any Cinderella, and there were a few to choose from.

Leslie Warren was Cinderella in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical version, and she sang and danced and looked sheepishly in the eyes of the handsome prince, who also sang and danced.

Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella


But, she wasn’t quite the one I wanted to be like.There was the Grimm’s fairytale of Cinderella, which had her going to more than one party and wearing several different types of shoes. ‘Lame,’ is what I thought about that version.

Grimm's Cinderella

Grimm’s Cinderella


NO.  The version of Cinderella I had to be was THE one and only Disney’s “Cinderella.”

Disney's Cinderella

Disney’s Cinderella


I sang the song, “A dream is a wish your heart makes…,” so many times my mother threatened to tape my mouth shut. (Hmm, maybe she was wicked after all).  I just loved the movie, and I was led to believe this version of “Cinderella” was the real deal, maybe by my wicked mother, that it was the one and only and all the others were weak copies.

I’ve grown and am now a student of EMAC, I have come to the realization that Disney has cornered the market on Intellectual Property through copyright.  In our reading for this week, Braithwaite and Drahos state in their book “Information Feudalism”(2002), that the threat to the motion picture and publishing industries was not so much to protect the entire industry as to individual players who did not want to lose their position of dominance (Braithwaite & Drahos, 2002).

I understand copyright. I’m a writer and don’t want anyone else stealing my words, but hold on—didn’t Disney borrow/steal from someone to make their version of “Cinderella?”  It seems rather narrow for them to think they can cry copyright infringements on a story that has been around for hundreds of years. I mean Grimm’s Cinderella came out circa 1812, which was 89 years before Walt Disney was even born.  Had the Brother’s Grimm claimed copyright protection I wonder how successful Disney would be today?

On Disney’s website they have a folder that stipulates their copyright rules, entitled Disney Anti-Piracy, and the rules are very clear.

I recently watched a movie on YouTube called, “Twisted.”

(Warning: This video includes adult language and situations.  Also, if you go about 15:00 mins. into the video, they sing a song and even mention Intellectual Property!)

It’s a spoof or parody by TeamStarKid on the Disney characters made popular in “Aladdin.” Need I remind anyone the story of Aladdin has been around for centuries.  The video has been on YouTube for some time. So I wondered why this particular show seemed to go unnoticed by Disney.  Why hadn’t some Disney power-that-be pulled the plug? I discovered there is something called the Parody Law  which says it’s okay to imitate a character from an original work.  What?  I won’t go into all the details, but Fair Use gives someone permission to parody Disney’s characters.  So it’s okay to make fun of Disney, just don’t use any of their characters as your own.

Back to “Once Upon a Time…”

Actually not mine–but Disney’s, and their new drama on ABC television.  It looks as though Disney can go ahead and change up the life and times of their own characters.  For example Hook is a good guy, Peter Pan is evil, and “new” characters with whom we’ve known  since childhood, i.e. Rumplestiltskin (also a Grimm story), are now a part of Disney’s fables.

So it’s all right for Disney to change-up their characters. That’s cool, kudos to Disney, but shouldn’t we all get that kind of creative license?  After all, isn’t pretty much everything remediated now-a-days?  I’m just sayin’.