A Birthday Reply

Dear Madame “Sand” (LOL!):

I try to think less and less about them now: they are becoming depressing. However, I do thank you for your birthday note. Yep, another “joyeux anniversaire pour moi.”

[Photo by me, September 2020.]

Mon dieu as you also say. The years are going by too quickly. We were invited last weekend to a birthday lunch cooked by a longtime – over 20 years now, in fact – Danish girlfriend (and her English husband). She made me an amazing chocolate cake:

[Photo by me, September 2020.]

The Danes do sweets like no one else. I always remember also that some years ago she had cornered me and joked about my books: “I’m not one of these women am I?” You are not either, by the way, just to set the record straight. Even if you are, I’m not admitting it. Your husband would kill me. LOL!

And congratulations are in order for you! You were supposed to be writing… and instead we can see what you two have been up to amidst the France lockdown. I guess we know now too that he is definitely the father. LOL!

We are well… still. The virus cases are rising here in Britain after a couple of months of the Government telling people to go to the pubs and restaurants and spend money. (“Meals for half price!”) Now that people have been going out and spending money for a month or two in pubs and restaurants as they were asked to, the Government is screaming: “The cases are suddenly skyrocketing! No social gatherings of more than 6 people from Monday! It’s all the fault of you meddling kids not social distancing!”

Give us all f-cking strength. What the hell did they think would happen once people started going out in numbers? But we’re all sick – no pun intended – of this virus, so let’s talk about something else. You must have seen this. All Twitter is abuzz…

There will be, essentially, OFFICIAL “diversity” targets for filmmakers for the Academy Awards. If you don’t “hit” them, your film does NOT get considered for “best picture” nomination or some such. The Academy details to begin with:

[Screen capture of Oscars.com.]

There are lots of ways to “hit” the “target.” So this does not seem to mean that “Jane Austen” novels cannot necessarily be reproduced on screens basically as she wrote the books in “1813.” (Adaptations of her particular books, centering on women, would probably just make the cut.) However, you cannot also but get a whiff of a scent that the Academy has decided that such films may have a tougher time being nominated than in the past.

Naturally social media is full of arguing about race and the wrongs and rights of this sort of thing. I think that mostly misses the point. We tend to forget now that the Academy – a trade association – was started by Louis B. Mayer to try to keep unions sidelined in the American film industry. It has always been close to a monopoly. (Try to have a U.S. film career separate from “the Academy.” Yeh, good luck with that.)

With this latest Academy pronouncement everyone has apparently also forgotten that for over a century the U.S. Justice Department has not looked too kindly upon what it considers anti-competitive business practices among business competitors. Last year, we recall, they had warned the Academy over an effort to freeze Netflix (and other streaming services) productions out of the Academy Awards. This was reported in Variety:

According to a letter obtained by Variety, the chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, wrote to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson on March 21 [2019] to express concerns that new rules would be written “in a way that tends to suppress competition.”

“In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns,” Delrahim wrote…

“…if the Academy adopts a new rule to exclude certain types of films, such as films distributed via online streaming services, from eligibility for the Oscars, and that exclusion tends to diminish the excluded films’ sales, that rule could therefore violate Section 1 [of the Sherman Act].”

So it would seem that as with trying to sideline streamers the Academy deciding BEFOREHAND that a film will NOT be nominated for an Oscar due to a “lack” of “diversity,” and that Academy “ruling” possibly then diminishing sales for such a film, may lead the U.S. Justice Department once again to have an, urr, antitrust opinion.

Why should we as writers care about that anyway? I don’t actually. Films make bazillions regardless.

But we are also where this all starts: films are made from what we write. (Although by the time we are noticed, we may well be dead.) We labor alone at our desks, our experiences and our imaginations filling pages and creating books – hoping maybe even that one may well someday be considered “film-able” by someone and make us (or our estate) some money…

…and we little people get beat up from every direction:

“We demand you write diverse characters!”

Uh, okay:

[An excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone. Copyright 2014.]

“How dare you write a Sikh!? What do you know about her!? Her voice!?…”

Uh, she was my dear friend and I adored her, you moron. And I knew her a lot better than you. So f-ck off.

Best of luck again to you and your new husband. Congrats on the baby once more. Stay safe and healthy as you soon bring a new life into this ridiculous world.

R.

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