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Scott Lax Blog

Remembering Henry Gibson

The great actor Henry Gibson died a couple of days ago. I worked with him on THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED. Henry was funny, gracious, kind and extraordinarily talented.

On my late mom's birthday, Henry gave her a giant silk flower, the kind he used on "Laugh In." He presented it to her, then he, Martin Mull, Fred Willard, and a few family members sang Happy Birthday to Mom by the Chagrin falls. It was a joyful moment.

On days off of filming, Henry would go to antique shops around Cleveland to buy gifts. He gave me an old plate. Both Mom's giant five-foot flower, and the plate, are in my office.

I once drove Martin Mull, Fred Willard, and Henry back to their hotel. Never have I laughed so hard behind the wheel of a car. Those three were firing one-liners at each other, and Henry... well, he kept up with Fred and Martin - no small task. (I tried a few lines and dropped out...it was like trying to play on a pro football team; I caught one or two out of luck, then got crushed.)

What a gentle soul he was, too, and yet, how deeply he could delve into the human condition, to play everything from wise men to fools; from a befuddled judge on "Boston Legal" to a stern school board president and lawyer in THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED. And so much more.

Henry wrote a note to me in my book, which I asked all the actors to sign. He wrote, "For Scott - Life begets life. Your friend, Henry." He truly lived, and loved, and created.

My sincerest sympathy goes out to his family. We have all lost a giant of the acting world, and most of all, a wonderful man. May he rest in peace. Read More 

Devolving Social and Political Manners Bodes Ill for Writing. What You Can Do.

There's a new and alarming lack of civility in the country: in congress, awards shows, at so-called "Town Hall" rallies and marches, which have taken racial slurs and hate-speech to levels not seen in this country since... I don't know when, really.

Does this devolution in public behavior translate to writing? Yes. Read cleveland.com, or any number of comments sections in any number of the nation's remaining newspapers. Thoughtful (usually) articles are followed by comments, the seeming majority of which are teaming with anonymous vitriolic and hateful language.

Editors foolishly allow this. An editor of a major American daily paper sheepishly told me over lunch that it's because they need "the clicks"; they need to show advertisers that people are reading (and spewing on) their Web sites. Quality no longer counts. Only clicks; only dollars. He knows it's wrong, but his bosses demand it.

It's sad and pathetic, and it's growing. All the more reason for those of us who love language and believe in civility and honest criticism instead of rage to resist this trend.

We have a president who is civil and decent and forceful without invoking hate speech. As writers, we can join his example.  Read More 

Weighing in on Food Writing

To make a terrible pun, I think it's time I weighed in on food writing.

There's a lot of it. It's everywhere. Writing about food - tweeting about it, blogging about it, feature writing about it, writing cookbooks, you name it: if you can eat it, you can write about it. A few million of our fellow writers are doing just that. And they have the pictures of their platings to prove it.

Honey bees are disappearing at alarming rates from around the world, which would seem to warrant more attention than bacon, cupcakes and everything else we learned was bad for us, but that the hipster culture now embraces with a fervor I haven’t seen since the Beatles landed at Idlewild Airport. And who am I to ignore a trend of that stature?

Good food writing needs to be good writing, not just writing about good food. The reason people like Michael Ruhlman get book deals and have popular blogs and go on TV to judge food contests is because people like Michael Ruhlman are good writers. Michael’s current – and perhaps it will be very long running – subjects are food, chefs, restaurants, and cooking. He’s adeptly crafted and connected two things: writing and food. Make no mistake: Michael is a devoted writer; he’s not just a cook and eater. He has written about a lot of subjects, and done so well enough to have an excellent career as an author.

I think it’s fine that there are so many blogs and articles about food. But if you’re serious about being published beyond a blog, you need to learn to write well. “Yum…cupcakes!” and “Yay…bacon!” and “…mmm…pig’s ear” aren’t going to get you book deals. Writing is very hard work, and takes practice, the same as being a great chef takes practice.

Learn to write first. Know your subject and try to write about it in ways that haven’t been done before. And while you’re at it, hipster friends, it wouldn’t kill you to eat an apple, carrot or a handful of almonds to go along with your bacon-wrapped cupcake drenched in duck fat and dipped in a bowl of sea salt and fennel.

Oh, and I highly recommend “Julie & Julia.” It’s a terrific movie, and a good example of food and excellent writing blending beautifully.

Bon appetit, and happy writing.  Read More