Forty for Forty – #20. One Thing I Love Today

Editor’s Note:   As I make the run to my 40th Birthday on June 6, 2012 – I’ve set a little challenge to myself. 40 posts that say something about my life – past, present or future. Today is purely about the here-and-now, with a hopeful look ahead to good tidings to come.

I’ve been an ardent follower of writer Drew McWeeny for over a decade now.

I first discovered him when he wrote under the pen name, Moriarty, for the Internet pop-culture blog, Ain’t It Cool News. While that site’s heavyweight Harry Knowles got most of the pub, Moriarty was the throbbing heart keeping that site flourishing day after day. While you can find dozens of scribes doing his day job – sifting through the Hollywood trade news to ladle out the latest hip film and television happenings – Moriarty elevated the task to an art form. He has a great conversational style that just invites you to settle in to his booth and join the dialogue and I instantly took to his pieces. It also helped that he is a true writer – which on a site that sometimes peddles to raving lunatic fan boys – became something of an oasis. I went there to learn what was coming down the pike – often years later – but Moriarty managed to rise above the din of all that big fat geek meddling and actually craft a compelling narrative. I read Moriarty because I wanted to know all the cool news that was coming next and I trusted him whole-heartedly to give me his honest take. In short, he felt like an old friend the moment I “met” him.

If you ask anyone “What should I do if I want to be a writer?”, the answer is always the same. Read a lot. Write a lot.

I agree with that.

So many of my opinions are shaped by looking at all the angles until I have exactly the right sum of information to draw my own conclusions. You get that insight by reading a ton. I also think it’s imperative to tap into your voice. Write the way you think and then re-read it and correct the flow so that anyone who strolls by can follow along. The greatest compliment I’ve ever received – and it’s come a couple of times in my life from random people – is that they “hear” me when they read my writing. That’s all I ever hope for. I don’t aspire to craft the Great American Novel – I just like good conversation – and when I sit down to write something, I’m really just spit-balling in hopes it sparks a nerve, trips a thought, and compels you to reply. And I think everyone has that in them. You just have to loosen the self-imposed muzzle and trust yourself.

So, when I read McWeeny, I feel good because I feel like I’m cut from the same cloth. He’s real. He’s genuine. He’s honest. And he lives to share – inviting us in and letting us meet his friends and family all while taking us into the back lots and editing bays of Hollywood. It’s a warm, welcoming invitation into what is so often viewed as a cool, cutthroat industry. I trust him implicitly as my tour guide. So, when I say – read a lot – I also mean you should read those whom you aspire to be. It’s good to have heroes. You’ll learn a great deal from them as you teach yourself exactly who you really are.

A few years back – in his Ain’t It Cool Days – Moriarty used to write a daily feature titled ‘One Thing I Love Today‘. In it, he would find some piece of breaking news or a random viral video or a feel good human interest story – something that cut through all the chatter of a busy work day and just invited him to slow down for a spell – to take pause and just enjoy the wonder of a moment. Once he grabbed hold, he let us take a peek. I looked forward to each post – and while they didn’t come every single day – there were enough of them to give you little delectable morsels that made the grind of a hustling, bustling work week more palatable. Each piece always started the same.

One Thing I Love Today… is Moriarty’s latest entry in his Film Nerd 2.0 series at his new digs, Re-embracing his birth name, Drew McWeeny, Moriarty took his act on the road a few years ago – leaving Ain’t It Cool News behind for this start-up site that offers much more exposure to things beyond simple genre movies and TV. Think of it as a kick-ass indie Entertainment Weekly and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Since then, Drew has added to his usual movie reviews, previews, interviews and set visits with a number of recurring columns. One of my favorites is his series, Film Nerd. It’s not what you expect.

See – Drew, like me, is Dad to two young children. His boy, Toshi (6), is close to my son Colin’s age (8). His other son Alan (3) is much younger than my daughter Aria (6) – but the span of time between siblings is similar. Having had kids roughly around the same time Andi and I entered these uncharted personal waters of parenthood, I’ve counted so many similarities between what we’ve experienced and what he has. And now that his children are getting to that age where as a parent, you begin to share so many of those passions you covet, I sense in Drew a kindred spirit. After all, that was one of my foremost reasons for fathering kids in the first place – beyond that whole pesky innate need to keep our species alive and kicking.

So, about a year ago, Drew launched this series titled Film Nerd, where he selects a series of movies that he plans to expose his sons to in the coming year. Each time they watch a flick, he follows it up with a post detailing the whole experience – how they responded, where they laughed, what made them cry, the moments when they shrieked “Play It Again!!!“, that sort of thing. All those treasured memories that forge the glue that binds parent and child. And while we can’t possibly feel every ounce of these little victories, we sip enough of the elixir to marvel at a parent doing the right thing. When so much of our media is dominated my men and women behaving badly, it’s thrilling to see one taking the high road and raise a couple of kids right – celebrating their joys (and sorrows) and treasuring all in equal measure.

Simply put – Drew is one of the great ones.

Today he may have published his masterpiece. Sometime in the last week or two, he sat his boys down for a screening of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘. As a former film critic in college, here comes my shocking confession. I’ve never seen it!!! I aim to remedy that immediately – certainly after reading Drew’s piece.

Each of his posts have been special but this one hit that rarefied air – the lofty heights we all aspire to reach when we gaze upon our reflection and promise ourselves to be the best we can ever possibly be. See, Drew was raised in the South and as he mentions in his piece, he grew up in an age when racial intolerance was still an ugly blot on every day life. Yes – of course – it still exists but as Drew points out in his tale; that way of backwards thinking may be sucking its dying breath. There are just way too many kids growing up today with a healthy sense of complete acceptance of all people for those old dastardly manners to push their way into the conversation much longer.

Drew underscores that while sharing his kids’ experiences – and I echo the same. My children, like his, are being raised in a home where those barriers have NEVER existed. Drew and his wife come from two totally different backgrounds (his wife is from Argentina). Despite that fact that Colin and Aria can probably trace all of their ancestors back to the Mayflower, they are growing up among parents who have friends (and family) from all walks of life and orientations. And the same goes for my friends and their kids. And friends of friends. And so on. And so on. Together – all of these great parents are raising children whose thoughts never gravitate to any superficial differences. If anything, they revel in the unique natures that their peers bring to the table.

Drew’s piece prompted me to write this one. My words are a pale share of his… but I hope my spotlight shines brightly. He’s a great writer who without knowing it (or me) challenges me to be better at my game.

Today he raised the bar.

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