business news in context, analysis with attitude

This seems like a good moment to thank the folks at the Network of Executive Women (NEW) Denver chapter for all their hospitality when they recently hosted me for a presentation entitled "From Thelma & Louise to Zero Dark Thirty: Women, Business & Business Lessons from the Movies."

One of the things that I've always been impressed about with NEW is the supportive atmosphere they create for people who attend their sessions, no matter what level they happen to occupy in their organizations. And that came across in spades at the NEW Denver event … from the companies that put money behind this important initiative to the obvious mentoring relationships that seem to exist there.

And, they had a wonderful idea for an ice-breaker going into the presentation. When people got there, they had to write down on a sticky note - and attach it to their badges - the answer to the following question: "In the movie of your life, who would you want to play you?"

That's a really interesting proposition, because it tells you a lot about someone's self-image and/or priorities if they choose Meryl Streep vs. Angelina Jolie, Julie Andrews vs. Jennifer Lawrence, or Julia Roberts vs. Tea Leoni. (Yes! There was a Tea Leoni in the group.)

So thanks to the board of the local chapter - one of NEW's newest, if I understand correctly - for bringing me along for the ride. It was a great time.

I just finished reading a terrific book entitled "Mad As Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies," by Dave Itzkoff.

Now, I'm reasonably sure that a "making of" book about a movie that came out in 1976 won't be considered kind of scintillating reading by everyone. But because I was a film major at Loyola Marymount University in 1976, not to mention serving as the campus newspaper's movie critic, I had a strong connection to the events described in the book. Network, after all, is one of the most prescient movies ever made, with writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Sidney Lumet accurately creating a satiric masterpiece that correctly foresaw so many of the changes that have taken place in the television industry and the news business.

If you've never seen Network, you should - it erupts with well-placed and well-measured literary bile, as Chayefsky uses his story and unforgettable characters - played by William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, and, memorably in two short but extraordinary performances, Beatrice Straight and Ned Beatty - to give voice to his concerns about a world run amok, a society in which the upper five percent gives little quarter to anyone else, and in which the disenfranchised are seeking a prophet - any prophet - to tell them what to do and what to believe.

The book does an excellent job of chronicling the development and making of Network - it isn't the most imaginative writing, but it doesn't need to be. The story speaks for itself.

I mentioned my "connection" to the events in the book, and there are two moments that are indelibly imprinted on my memory.

One was being invited, with numerous other film students, to go to an advance screening of Network on the old MGM lot in Culver City, which was followed up by a panel discussion with Lumet, Chayefsky, Dunaway and Finch. Heady stuff, if you're a 21 year old film students.

And then, several years later, I remember being in Central Park in New York on a Sunday morning and seeing Chayefsky walking across the park. He was wearing a tan trench coat, was carrying the Sunday New York Times, and seemed to be thinking about weighty ideas (though, to be fair, he may have been deciding where to eat breakfast). And I remember thinking to myself (still starting out in my writing career) that this is what a writer looks like.

Again, "Mad As Hell" won't be for everyone. But…if nothing else, go revisit the movie … and bask in the presence of film genius.

As I eagerly await the early May publication of the next Spenser novel by Ace Atkins (who, as has been well chronicled here, has taken up the mantle for the late Robert B. Parker), I note that Putnam, the publisher, and the Parker estate seem to be making a change in authors for the Jesse Stone series.

Up until now, Michael Brandman - who has collaborated with Tom Selleck on the Jesse Stone movies - has been writing the post-Parker novels. As I've mentioned here before, Brandman does not seem to be a natural novelist, and so they've chosen a replacement for the replacement - Reed Farrel Coleman, a writer with whom I am not familiar, but who is an Edgar nominee, has written a whole bunch of novels, and would seem to be better qualified.

I note that Coleman already has a series of mysteries featuring a former police detective turned wine shop owner named Moe Praeger … and this sound so promising that I've already downloaded one and eagerly await seeing what he'll do with Jesse Stone, beginning in September with "Blind Spot."

In the meantime, it's less than three weeks until the new Spenser. "Cheap Shot."


I have two beers to recommend to you this week … the Venice American Amber Ale, from the Venice Beach Beer Company, which is a really nice amber with touches of caramel … and the Primo Island Lager, from Hawaii, which just great when the sun is up, the beach is nearby and the last thing on your mind is work.


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