Hello Friday: Milan Stitt and The Fiercest Nerds On The Block

My two favorite moments with Milan Stitt, the head of the CMU Dramatic Writing Program:

milanstitt200Milan: Is you’re favorite color orange?

Me: Yes.

Milan: That’s what I thought. A woman’s favorite color is always what looks best on her. Mine is blue.

Then he winked. Milan winked a lot. I would wink a lot, too, if I was as good at it as he was. He always looked like your kindly grandfather when he did it. I look like I have a medical condition.

AND my other favorite moment:

Milan: You’re late. You now have a B in this class, and if you’re late again you get a C, and if you’re late again you fail.

The second conversation happened two days after 9-11. And I was never late to class again. I consider that the day I started learning discipline.

Milan basically kicked my ass into becoming a good writer. He had moments of ego-crushing flip-of-a-switch meanness. He used to be a priest. And maybe his mother literally dropped dead when he came out to her — we were never quite sure if that story was true. He chewed Nicorette gum in class to get through to his next cigarette. He rarely, rarely acknowledged his mistakes, and I don’t have a clear memory of him ever saying “I’m sorry.” He was completely ridiculous. He was one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. He loved Spain.

I think he might have loved us, his students, but found us rather tiresome. Being an editor now, I could see how teaching undeveloped writers could get old after awhile. There are only 5 to 10 real problems in writing. And only two of them or insurmountable: tin ear and inability to take and apply criticism.

Milan was my favorite teacher in the history of ever — though I would never have admitted that to my program mates at the time. I guess I can admit it now, though.

I’m so sad that he’s dead. I mean when you’re in the business of creating character, how many real-life characters do you get to meet?

But enough about Milan or I’m going to start crying for the umpteenth time since I found out that he passed away yesterday morning. Our best comments from the last week after the jump:


Re: Fierce Anticipation March 6-8, in which Ryan Dixon celebrates the return of the Shamrock Shake to McDonalds across the nation — save the NYC metro area.

Jersey Joe: I must say it’s obvious the McDonald’s suits do not take a few seconds to Google “Shamrock Shake” and “New York”. There are literally dozens of websites begging for this item to be added to the menu at NYC restaurants. They voted it down — are they kidding? You’re sitting on a cash cow! I guess you have no desire to make a profit when the economy is in the toilet. If the people of the NYC Metro have no interest in this wonderfully, refreshing item, then why are there thousands of customers begging for it? Fine, settle for selling your “Except in NY Metro” higher priced items and continue to ignore what your customers are demanding.


re: Fierce in Seattle, in which Kelli Bielema talks about living in the The Most Wired City in America, Seattle

cdsmith: At first half-glance of your blogum entry, I thought I read “Most WEIRD city in America”…and I didn’t even blink…

And Kelli’s reply: Here’s the most weird cities in the world: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/worlds-top-10-wei…
Sadly, I have been to but only a few. Trip to Weirdsville, anyone?


re: Enough Already, in which Jordan Weeks blasts a proposed regulation which would force doctors to perform abortions, even if they have moral reservations.

Nate from “Deep Into Sports”: Forcing someone to perform any act to which they have a moral objection is against the very principles of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This is a horrible extension of governmental power. Like so many other pieces of Washington legislation, the overall bill combines too many different subsections under a single guise (to be fair, they are more logically connected than some such legislation since they all have to do with abortion). I have a hard time believing that the majority of the population, no matter what they feel about abortion overall, thinks it’s right to force doctors to perform an act to which they morally object. There are other doctors out there who have no problem with abortion. But some small minority in Congress who does believe government has such a right realized their one chance to get this through was to piggyback it on all the other abortion legislation. One can only hope conscientious objectors take it to the Supreme Court and the regulation is overturned, lest such government overreach extends further into other areas beyond these doctors.


re: Musings on the Amusing, in which comedian Jessica Glassberg talks about the difficulties of planning a wedding when you’re not a wedding-planning kind of girl. Apparently taking a stage and trying to make a bunch of people you don’t know laugh is much easier.


[Ed. Note: Though I had to choose one comment, there is so much good advice in the comments of this article, whether you’re planning a small wedding, a huge affair, or an elopement. Totally recommend hitting up this post if you’re planning any kind of wedding right now — especially in in Los Angeles]

evi: wedding deals and bargains?? i have a million!!! 1) look at dresses on-line, then go try some on in a store, then go buy the dress you like ON -LINE for a lot less than in the store. yes, you pay postage, and yes you might have to have the dress altered, but you save a lot of green this way. i bought my dress for 500$, which is really cheap as these things go. 2) decide what you do NOT want to cut corners on, such as photography, video, food, or whatever is important to you. then you can think about the things that are not important, like goofy wedding favors, party decorations, and stuff like that.


re: Secret Life of a Nerd Girl, in which Gudrun Cram-Drach talks about dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) after moving from California to Maine.

Kelli from “Fierce in Seattle”: For a time I wanted to go to bed at 6:30 or 7:00 every night. After talking to my therapist as well as my MD, I got some answers. I was not officially diagnosed with SAD, but I did get my Vitamin D tested about 6 months ago. My level was UNDETECTABLE Not good! Moving from SoCal to Seattle was a definite funk for my weather mojo. After getting on a D prescription of 50,000 units a week that I took for 12 weeks, I am back on track & take 4,000 daily. I didn’t need to get the SAD light, but I do feel if I forget a couple of doses that I am in slumptown. It’s been a lifesaver for me, really.