Hollywood Shadows: A Cure for Blocked Screenwriters
The writer was in despair. For a year and a half, he had been trying to write a script that he owed to a studio, and had been unable to produce anything. Finally, he started seeing a therapist. The therapist, Barry Michels, told him to close his eyes and focus on the things he was grateful for. The first time he did this, in the therapist’s office, there was a long silence. “What about your dog?” Michels asked. “O.K. I’m grateful for my dog,” the writer said after a while. “The sun?” “Fine, the sun,” the writer said. “I’m grateful for sun. Sometimes.”
Michels also told the writer to get an egg timer. Following Michels’s instructions, every day he set it for one minute, knelt in front of his computer in a posture of prayer, and begged the universe to help him write the worst sentence ever written. When the timer dinged, he would start typing. He told Michels that the exercise was stupid, pointless, and embarrassing, and it didn’t work. Michels told him to keep doing it.
A few weeks later, the writer was startled from his sleep by a voice: it sounded like a woman talking at a dinner party. He went to his computer, which was on a folding table in a corner of the room, and began to write a scene. Six weeks later, he had a hundred-and-sixty-five-page script. Six months after that, the script was shot, and when the movie came out the writer won an Academy Award.
By Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker
Indian Point Blank: How Worried Should We Be About the Nuclear Plant Up the River? (2003)
By now, Indian Point 3 has collected six hundred and twenty-four tons of spent uranium, and Indian Point 2 has amassed eight hundred and eight tons. Although the fuel is of no use in generating electricity, it is still highly radioactive and produces a great deal of heat, which is why it must always be kept submerged. Two years ago, after much prodding from groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, the N.R.C. released a study looking at the risks of a spent-fuel fire. While the commission concluded that the risk of such a fire was low—the fuel would have to be left out of water for several hours—it acknowledged that the consequences “could be comparable to those for a severe reactor accident.”
By Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
Story’s End: Grief and Writing a Mother’s Death
It was my mother who had long ago planted in me the habit of writing things down in order to understand them. When I was five, she gave me a red corduroy-covered notebook for Christmas. I sat in my floral nightgown turning the blank pages, puzzled.
“What do I do with it?” I wanted to know.
“You write down things that happened to you that day.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Because maybe they’re interesting and you want to remember them.”
“What would I write?”
“Well, you’d write something like ‘Today I saw a woman with purple hair crossing Montague Street.’ ”
By Meghan O’Rourke, The New Yorker
How the Internet Gets Inside Us
Call them the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves. The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened … The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment.
By Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology
The writer-director forwarded his resignation to more than twenty Scientologist friends, including Anne Archer, John Travolta, and Sky Dayton, the founder of EarthLink. “I felt if I sent it to my friends they’d be as horrified as I was, and they’d ask questions as well,” he says. “That turned out to be largely not the case. They were horrified that I’d send a letter like that.”
By Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker
The Great Afghan Bank Heist
Poring over stacks of documents, investigators at the American Embassy in Kabul have pinpointed dozens of instances in which Kabul Bank executives may have bribed Afghan officials, including a successful bid to hold the contract to process the salaries that the government pays its employees each month—approximately seventy-five million dollars. Access to the salaries would give bank officials an opportunity to earn millions of dollars in interest in the course of a single year.
“The troubles at Kabul Bank stand as a parable for the sometimes malign effect that the influx of billions of foreign dollars has had on this impoverished country since 2001. While the Western money spent has done a great deal to create a modern economy, much of it has been captured by a tiny minority of well-connected Afghan businessmen and politicians, and much of it illegitimately. The loss of seven hundred million dollars or more at Kabul Bank represents a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, which stands at only about twelve billion dollars.”
-By Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker
Show the Monster: Guillermo del Toro’s Quest To Get Amazing Creatures Onscreen
The size of the collection was disconcerting; it was as if the 40-Year-Old Virgin had been handed a three-million-dollar decorating budget. Del Toro owned more than five thousand comic books and several puppets of Nosferatu. On a shelf, a posed plastic figurine of Leatherface, from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” battled Edward Scissorhands. A life-size statue of Boris Karloff, in the guise of Frankenstein’s Creature, lurked in a corner of the dining room. At one point, del Toro issued the apt warning, “This is the room where I keep most of my aliens.”
By Daniel Zalewski, The New Yorker