Not Following the Script

Well, it was a weekend of an unexpected character. Fantastic outside, but I did not see as much of it as I’d have liked. I was working on a script, you see. It needed to be worked on immediately and at the last minute because the work of turning it into the final product that will get seen started this weekend, and so I wanted to make as many comments and suggestions as I could before it was too late. It’s science – don’t worry. Also, it is rare to get to work on something that I know will get made (most things get shelved and never see the light of day), so that was sort of fun. I won’t tell you what it is (sorry) since I’m not actually a writer on the project, but I got the chance to look at the whole thing and make a lot of comments and suggestions, rephrasings, alternative lines, and so forth. All in a good cause. I think it will be out next year.

Yes, I know. “I was working on a script…” Sounds rather like I’ve finally caved in and succumbed to living in Los Angeles completely, working on a script like everyone else in this town seems to be. You guessed it was only a matter of time, what with my being surrounded everywhere by people working in the Entertainment Industry. Well, of course if you’ve been reading here with any regularity you’d know that I’ve done a lot of such dabbling before, although the difference is (as I’ve said before) that I know for sure that this one will see the light of day. And you know my reasons (besides the fact that it’s fun and you get to meet a different type of person): it’s all in the cause of getting more science and better images of scientists out there to the general public. All the same, one sometimes does step back a bit and notice that sometimes I’m sitting in a Hollywood (or near-Hollywood) café with a printout of a screenplay, script, or a theatre play making edits, and I look around me and everybody else is too. (I’m not complaining at all – some of my very good friends are in that line of work.)

You see, all of us working on scripts and so forth a bit of a flip from what I normally see: Me scribbling equations and drawing diagrams as part of my physics research or teaching, surrounded in the café by people scribbling on scripts and discussing motivation and whether they’ll get a trailer or not on their upcoming shoot. (For the record, I’ve not had a trailer on a shoot. So I’ve got a milestone or two to pass before I can be accused of having totally having succumbed, ok?!) I should point out here that there are several cafes and several parts of town that don’t have wall to wall people working in tv and film. It only seems like that if you hang out in Hollywood a lot, as I choose to do – it is near much of the stuff I like.

So after a whole Saturday (it felt like) of being indoors scribbling and commenting and moving things around and then sending comments on by email, Sunday (after a morning Runyon hike among the routinely Fabulous people – I swear I was close to the only person without a canine accessory – and my dash around the Hollywood farmer’s market for supplies) I went to one of my favourite cafés in the Hollywood area in order to work on something else for a change: Reviewing a grant application. Yay. Oh well, it was a bit of physics-flavoured work to do among all the script writing and so forth I’d usually see going on around me in this café.

I got my coffee and sat for a while and two people next to me, a man and a woman, immediately caught my eye. Then they caught my ear. They were talking about…. wait.. no… can it be?…. Yes, they were talking about mathematics! I listened some more, in case it was a cruel trick (like they might have been writing a script), but no, it was clear that they were actually mathematicians – in retrospect, they had a certain look, bearing and speech pattern that was familiar, but out of context in this cafe – They were My People! I listened some more, unable to stop myself. They were discussing the teaching of mathematics, and high school and so forth.

I could not stop myself. Normally I would not do this, but the occasion had to be marked, and I had to know. I waited for a lull in the conversation and then raised my hand (figured if they were teachers they’d have radar for that sort of thing, and it would be a bit funnier an opening than the others I’d lined up). It worked. I asked if they were teachers. No, they were graduate students. UCLA. One in topology (graph theory) and the other in population dynamics in mathematical biology. After we got past the usual awkward moment where people ask if I’m a student (must be the yak’s milk I bathe in every morning) we bonded a bit over this and that, talked about people and places we knew in common and so forth. They listened politely to my babble about Princeton and its relation to New York and Philadelphia (one of them is thinking of applying there for a job) and we also spoke about what our respective research was about. I probably went on too excitedly about quarks and confinement and the like, but they did ask…)

Anyway, it was a very nice reversal indeed to sit in this (or similar) café in Hollywood and hear excited chatter about mathematics and academia around me instead of the more common Industry conversations…

-cvj

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