On Notebooks and Media

I’m a big fan of NPR’s Linda Holmes — perhaps best known for hosting POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR and the author of EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER and FLYING SOLO — so, unsurprisingly, I quite enjoyed these musings extolling the virtues of physical notebooks.

I’ve been using notebooks most of my life. While I’ve jotted down almost all of my writerly drafts — including this post — via Scrivener.app for at least a decade, I use notebooks to err, well, note certain thoughts I have on what I’m watching or playing or reading or hearing.

I usually have two notebooks going at once (specifically Field Notes notebooks as I find Moleskines to feel too precious): one that lives in what we colloquially call the ‘media room’ — most people would name it as a dining room, but it’s where we watch tv/films and play games more often than eat. The other I carry from place to place, so I don’t have to run to my computer to jot a musing down and then get distracted, or it’s used while I’m out reading in the wild.

Additionally, I’m one of those folks for whom physically penning something gives it greater permanence in my mind, as opposed to word-vomiting into a digital word processor. I label the works on the front once I’ve wrapped it up and can transcribe the notes for easier searching. It’s a workflow that I’ve found to be positive for me.

One qualm I have about Holmes’s post?

“I kid you not, white out — AKA liquid paper — which we used to use in the olden days to cover mistakes made in pen. They make it in the form of tape now, so you don’t have to paint it on like nail polish and blow on it.”

I assume this was a bit of convenient underscoring, as I doubt that Holmes was unaware that correction tape predates liquid paper. It was frequently used by those who utilized typewriters, which I certainly did for many years — despite having a computer and WordPerfect as a youth — because it was far more tactile and memorable and put me in a different headspace. (In fact, a friend just gifted me a typewriter recently, which will live side-by-side with my departed grandmother’s typewriter.)


(Criterion/Kanopy/VOD/Vudu/YouTube)? Robert Downey, Sr. passed away this week at the age of 85. While his son is mostly known for more accessible fare, Downey Sr. was an anarchic indie filmmaker, and there’s no better example of his cinematic skills than PUTNEY SWOPE.

PUTNEY SWOPE is a nihilistic indictment of Madison Avenue, American capitalism and everything it’s created (including filmmaking and anti-American capitalist revolutionaries), while also being damn funny and inventively shot. The faux-commercials it features are perhaps only rivaled by ROBOCOP (1987) or the best of Adult Swim. For instance:

I need to note that this is an incredibly insensitive film in ways I haven’t quite managed to personally reconcile — after all, it’s a film written and directed by a middle-aged white man about a Black man breaking the system — but it is also endlessly fascinating.


(HBO MAX/VOD) I watch BROADCAST NEWS about every five years, and every time my appreciation for it grows. I love how adults are posited more like immature teens, but still have to tackle serious issues like balancing their career and their personal desires; I love how the newsroom was brutally portrayed; I marvel at the unsure balancing of the love triangle; Jane Craig’s character is still a breath of fresh air, and how Holly Hunter absolutely nails her very distinct blend of determination, confidence, and anxiety; oh, how stellar the camerawork is, and the exactly attention paid to each edit.

My most recent viewing was by far the most special. Not only did I nab tickets to see it at TCM Fest 2017 so I finally managed to see it on a big screen — and with a bigger audience than my traditional audience of one — not only did Ben Mankiewicz lead a discussion with director James L. Brooks about the film, but co-star Albert Brooks was the surprise guest! Given how reluctant Brooks is to join in anything that comes close to an interview event, I was stunned to see him join James L. Brooks on stage, and I couldn’t have been happier to see -and- hear these two giants of dramatic and romantic comedy discuss this magnificent work.

I’d like to recommend Caroline Seide’s relatively recent article on BROADCAST NEWS — it’s part of her AV Club series ‘When Romance Met Comedy’ — as it’s a finely detailed examination as to why the film works so well, why it resonated then, and why it still holds up.