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We're Not Going to the Academy Awards Tonight

We were planning to go - our invitation still sits on the desk in the "to be answered" pile. I guess I had better move it. 

I love going to the awards. Some people who go regularly, find it a bore or pretend they do. I guess some people think it is  cool not to admit that one finds anything exciting. But I do find it exciting. I love all the industry events we go to - since we're pretty selective and don't go to many.  I like the ones that the media is not invited into (though they hover outside the doors, ready to burst into attack mode when the doors open at the end). No-camera parties are vastly different from filmed events.

The last big party I went to before we went to Wales included in its guest list these people [as listed in Variety]:

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Warren Beatty, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Mike Myers, Billy Crystal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Drew Barrymore,  Jeffrey Katzenberg, Herbert F. Solow, Garry Marshall, Emily Mortimer, Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu, Hans Zimmer, Benicio Del Toro, Janice Pennington, Ashton Kutcher and Estella Warren, etc.

I had a great time. I love Hollywood parties (the elegant, dignified, black tie, moderate-drinking, no-drugs kind which are the only ones I go to). I love big cities, I love concerts, events, galas, the Academy Awards, and I love the kinds of conversations, power, laughter, etc. that go with them.  But there is something I love even more about these events: Gratitude. One of the main attributes almost all these people above - and many more of our friends - is appreciation. They genuinely appreciate people's efforts.  They genuinely appreciate people. I remember writing about this to one of our friends, an actor (a household name whose face was once said (bizarrely) by a prominent magazine to be more recognisable around the world than Jesus):

"I didn't see you at the Hollywood Film Festival Awards Ceremony and Dinner on Monday night - did you go? Harold Michaelson was receiving an award. It may be corny but I have to say that I had such an elevation of appreciation in my heart for this lovely experience.  It is easy to take it for granted if you go to enough of them - and grumble about traffic and late hours. And perhaps it is fashionable to do so.

But if you look at it with appreciative eyes - one cannot help but express what you expressed in your last email  - what a blessed life we lead! I mean, how many people on Planet Earth get to spend time in such aesthetic and other delights - from the beautiful women and their dresses and the handsome elegant men in their evening dress - to the dinner which was so artistically presented (and was delicious besides) - to the astounding flower arrangements on the table - in the company of the some of the most talented people in the world?  Producers, camera people, song writers, composers, directors, actors, art directors, etc.  The great legendary films of our time - and some before our time - were all created by these amazing people.

And how many people on planet earth get to hear Billy Crystal when he is not constrained by television cameras or a script?! He was so completely off the wall - we couldn't stop laughing. He did a debate between Rob Reiner and Arnold Schwartzenegger (who were both there) as two candidates running for governor.

It wasn't the glittering string of attendees that was the attraction - it was the feeling of appreciation in the room - the sense of great loyalty and friendship and private cohesiveness - that was like a special moment in a family's life. Just a good, good ambience.  One LA newspaper article said -"How did they get these people to show up just to honour someone - when there would be no press there? And then went on to answer its own question - with this very sentiment.

They went to honor the people whom they appreciate - art directors, camera guys, people behind the scenes as well as in front of it, because they genuinely appreciate what these guys (male and female) do to make the movies they star in, look good. In any case, one of the qualities I like most about Hollywood, is something that no outsider ever sees (and every outsider stupidly thinks does not exist): an appreciative enthusiasm for what life has to offer and what people do for each other.

Of course the business offers so much more than awards ceremonies. But if we can delight in and be thankful for these joyful and satisfying moments - how much more can we be grateful for when we look around the world at large?"

I've had a lot of joy at Academy Award ceremonies - but I have also had the kind of fun on Oscar night that is hard to describe - like sitting on the bed with an actress friend with whom I was spending a weekend long ago, wearing pyjamas, eating cold chicken and caviar and sour cream -  and drinking champagne, watching our friends on the screen and  keeling over with laughter about nothing, really. We've had fun at small private parties where screenwriters & directors wager their best guesses against actors and producers in each category or sometimes, cast against crew in a good-natured contest as we watch the ceremonies on screens throughout the hose.

Tonight, my husband and I are in a cabin in the dark woods, trying to finish our books. We'll stop to watch the familiar ceremony and wish our friends and colleagues well. I feel a tinge of regret that we're not going.  But not as much as I would have felt before I went to Wales, where, as I explained in another email "my circle of interests gradually changed from which art director will win  the Academy Award and which lawyer we have to see next to when Martin the porter will get his golden pheasants to raise and when the Welsh Choir will hold its practice in the local chapel so we can go listen and cry.

And now the daffodils are just coming out and the days are like days from childhood - the air is too clean and sparkling and the white  clouds billow over these emerald hills and the whole place is just too beautiful to grasp sometimes."

The point is to find joy everywhere. It will be interesting to see if that sentiment holds fast tonight, in the dark and isolated woods of the frozen Northwest. Somehow, I think it will.

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You touched on the most

You touched on the most important human gesture, Gratitude -- toward others and most importantly the kind of Gratitude that appreciates our own personal self identity.

Without an authentic sense of gratitude towards ourselves it is impossible to be grateful of others actions towards us.

Of the Mind, Body and Spirit connection the one that determines the health of the other two is the connection with the Spirit. We must be grateful toward the Spirit, even when we don't understand what it is telling us, but if we cultivate a genuine gesture of Gratitude towards the Spirit, then everything else seems to fall into place.

I really appreciated your timely post and your introduction of Gratitude today as I was not feeling very special about myself these last few weeks -- in fact these last several years. A good friend told me about being grateful to myself first and then I read your post today.

Is this the Spirits way to point one in the direction of a new synergy with the Mind, Body and Spirit that is healthy, productive and creative?

Love to hear your thoughts on this and also whether or not you have seen or sensed the spirit of Gratitude within the creative intelligencia persona -- the inner self that one gets a hint of what is going on inside an individual?

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I think that the more genuine self-knowledge one has, the more gratitude one has. Self-knowledge, meaning an awareness of what one really feels and thinks despite all indications (from friends, self, background, training, religion) to the contrary. I think that this knowledge is gained not through excessive introspection but by doing something - plugging into something outside oneself. So yes, I see gratitude within the creative person all the time. Saw it proliferate at the Academy Awards tonight. You may like to explore www.gratefulness.org There is some lovely material there. I hope you feel better about yourself - from the little exposure I have had to your thinking, you seem to be a generous person and that's something to be both proud of and grateful for. ~H

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If all that I pass on to my three boys is the experience of knowing and employment of Gratitude then I believe, that I will have done a good job. Also, how lovely to be in a cabin with your husband finishing your books...it sounds like you have a multitude to be grateful for! m

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From what I have read of

From what I have read of your family, it sounds like you have already done a good job.

Regarding the Academy Awards, it's astonishing how people feel they have a right to comment about an incredibly complex industry in which they have never worked, a society they have never experienced and a town in which they have never lived.

The ignorance is staggering.

I have experienced more gratitude and kindness and loyalty and hard work as a Hollywood insider than I have in any other world, including the convent and can only repeat what I said in another post (http://www.redroom.com/blog/harrison-solow/out-town-visitor) and what I said in response to another writer on the Red Room:

"Hollywood can be all the things that people say it is (though they never say anything about the [much larger proportion of ] marvellous, magical, kind, large-souled things, largely because they haven't bothered to find out) but so can be other enclosed worlds. The worst, the very worst environment for pettiness, viciousness, ignorance, general unkindness, shortsightedness, genuine shocking stupidity and gross amorality is academia.

Read The Chronicle of Higher Education... I know. And I've just written a book about it..."


You're the mother of those boys, Mary, which means they can hardly fail to turn out spectacularly. And teaching them not to assume that they know things they don't is probably one of the lessons for which they will be most grateful to you in later life. Humility is a big part of gratitude. Love your thoughts as always.

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Interesting read as always

Interesting read as always Harrison and thank you for the lovely sentiments - they mean oceans to me. I persuaded my husband to leave Academia to come to live in Ireland, something he occasionally regrets... I must get him to read your thoughts! m

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There are things and people to regret about leaving academia (things, mostly) but I have never regretted leaving the proliferation of vices that attends what should be wide and deep engagement with the best minds in one's field. Having said that, I have had enormous intellectual and social joy in the various universities in which I have worked as a professor, studied as an undergrad and grad student and to which I have been appended as Writer in Residence and director of academic institutes. I have had incomparable companions, friends and colleagues. But the fruits of myopia are ugly and repressive - and all in all, the proportion of vice to virtue in academic institutions these days is just too great. This is not just me - do read the Chronicle of Higher Education, if you find this hard to believe. I have collected 70+ articles just from that periodical (and many more from others) in the last 18 months on the pain, disillusionment and anger so many good academics are experiencing in their institutions as a result of ill treatment. I cannot say whether your husband is better off - everyone's experience is different. But I know I am. And just for the record - I am on the Board of NCIS - the National Coalition of Independent Scholars - an organisation your husband might like to explore.

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Days of Childhood


Anytime one can re-capture the "days of childhood" I'd say "Go for it."

From your insider's  perspective of  celebrity life, people are refreshingly warm and authentic, which is quite a contrast to a widespread perception (stereotype?) of us outsiders in the midwest that they typically are an out-of-touch, inauthentic, self-absorped elite who cultivate and project a certain role or image (as "actors" are prone to do) more readily than any kind of genuine self.  Maybe that stereotype fits the "wanna-be's" only, and the people you describe have obviously "made it" and thus have greater inclination and freedom to be themselves.