9.25.15 ‘I am afraid I must step aside’

Funny how fast resolution turns to not having enough time.

Though I actually don’t have enough time. Am trying to keep the blog regular, but I hope I’ll be forgiven for slacking off a bit: It’s Oscar season. But the Oscars don’t happen until February, for Chrissakes, you’re saying. Ah, but you do not live on Journalism Time, in which we have “long leads” for our articles, which means Oscar season starts around the time the Emmys are airing. This flips next February; early March I’ll be pitching my editors for stories about the Emmys, which don’t happen until September. And so it goes.

All of which leads up to explaining that I got to interview Ice Cube today. Ice Cube! Between him and Ice-T, I’ve now got two of the most important musical Ices in my interview log. (Ice-T of course I spoke to years ago for The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion, and he’s hilarious and a delight.) Cube was perfectly nice; Straight Outta Compton (he produced) could be his first time at this Academy Awards rodeo, and he’s understandably a little eager to do the press talk.

But speaking with him made me reflect on how everything gets tempered, everything smooths out with time: Take the edgiest, off-the-wall cultural, social or political thing you can think of now that exists just on the fringes … and give it 20, 30 years. It will be mainstream. This is how this sort of thing works. NWA, Cube’s band and the subject of the movie, were once tough rappers skirting the edge of legality and here they are today: Up for Oscar consideration. Well, the movie about them, anyway.

Also in the eating-up-of-time category (but an area in which I’m sure I’ll get no sympathy) is that I’m seeing a lot of potential Oscar-worthy films, because you often aren’t allowed on the phone with filmmakers unless you’ve seen the thing. This is not a problem per se, but I do wish I was able to watch more of them from the comfort of home. Traveling to see a two-hour movie takes two hours (one each way) in Manhattan, so that’s an afternoon or evening eaten up by a movie, so that you can get a 15 minute chat on the phone.

So what have I seen? Everest, The Danish Girl and Truth. Next week: Carol, Trumbo, Suffragette and Beasts of No Nation. I know it’s Oscar season now because it’s Eddie Redmayne season: I think the last several years of required Oscar viewing have always required me to watch a film he’s in, starting with My Week With Marilyn (2011), then Les Miserables (2012), then a break in 2013, then The Theory of Everything (2013) and now this year The Danish Girl. It’s like the guy only makes films that might have Oscar chances. And nothing against the man in any way, shape or form, but I fail to see exactly how he gets so many flashy lead and supporting roles. I just never buy him in any of it. But because of his choices, I’m extremely familiar with his oeuvre. I’m probably the best-informed non-fan he’s got.

Meanwhile, the regular day job continues apace. Some of my favorite stories from recent days:

Man rescues dogs, rides them around town in a homemade “train”
My favorite part of writing this is that I used the play on words “chew, chew” and someone in the comments section on Facebook noted that it really should be “choo, choo.” Fortunately someone corrected the first person before my head actually exploded
People are dressing their pets up like the pope
Robert De Niro is partially bald to play Bernie Madoff. Nobody appreciates my headline except for me, I think.

Further time was pleasantly eaten up by spending quality time with my longest-held best friend Julia, who I took out for dinner (we trade off on this) and then ice cream. The ice cream parlor was loud and the music silly but we got about two hours to catch up — which is about as good as you can expect when one of us has a kid and we live over an hour apart despite being in the same city. And that one of us keeps jetting around the world for the sake of human rights. (You can figure out which one that is.)

So far so good. And then of course Friday had to come and the agents had to all decide that this was the day to clean out their mailboxes and let me know they weren’t interested in the book. Three polite (if baffingly-worded in one instance) “thanks, but no thanks” emails in the space of as many hours will demoralize even the hardiest of egos. As soon as I see that subject line pop up in my email box it’s like getting smacked in the head by someone you didn’t even know was in the room. With a lead-lined pillow. Hey, I’m doing better: The first ten or so rejections felt more like a surprise hammer.

But what do you do with a rejection that reads:

“Thank you for including me in your agent queries.  I have reviewed it, and
am afraid I must step aside on this proposed book.”

So much packed into such a small space! The first sentence seems to carry with it this undercurrent of “I know you’re sending this incredibly generic query letter to others, and I’m letting you know I know this.” The second makes her sound like a lawyer who has to recuse herself from a case where there’s a conflict of interest. And finally: This ain’t a proposed book. It is a completed book. I’m not asking your permission to write or sell it. I do get that this is probably her own boilerplate reply, and I’m not taking it seriously. But what a strange “no” it was.

On a whim I googled one of the phrases and it is, in fact, boilerplate.

So what do you do with it? You file it away with the others, and you remember that tomorrow is Saturday.

Sunset over Bay Ridge - 2015