November 2002 Archives

November 29, 2002

Dateline - Kauai

Doing the family thing in Hawaii for a while. implications:

  • I wrote a script on the plane, a new short tentatively titled Souvenir January 2003, which'll be a one-day shoot when I'm at Sundance.
  • (No, that's not an early indication of anything, but I figure it's high time to go anyway. And besides, the snow prospects in January are already pretty good.)
  • The third act of the Animated Musical gets attention in the mornings, 5-7:00, thanks to jet lag. Made real progress on one of the characters, who makes his crucial appearance at the end. It's very interesting, in a Hayao Miyazaki demon boar (Princess Mononoke)/bathhouse demon (Spirited Away) animation tour-de-force kind of way. Miyazaki portal,
    Tatari, Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki,
    Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki, image

  • Reading Scorsese on Scorsese collected interviews published in the wake of Last Temptation of Christ, the scandal for which sets too much of the editorial tone of the book. Also in the queue: Thucydides (as soon as I finish Gravity's Rainbow). That reading list not pretentious-sounding enough for you? Wait till I do the animated musical version of Finnegan's Wake.
  • Gauging which north shore hike to go on, my wife said, "That's like walking from Columbia to Times Square and back," which amused the locals.
  • Posting will be a little spotty for a few days.

  • Poetry was the reportage or weblogging medium of choice for the British in WWI. "Anthem for Doomed Youth" is an exhibit of 12 WWI poets at the Imperial War Museum in London. [Alan Riding wrote about it in today's NY Times.]

    From Siegfried Sassoon's "Prelude: The Troops":

    DIM, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
    Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
    Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
    And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
    Haggard and hopeless...

    November 26, 2002



    November 26, 2002



    [off the bus] It dawned on me the narrative structure of Twelve Monkeys may be the closest to the Animated Musical, closer than Citizen Kane and other flashback-movies. There's a similar post-apocalyptic element in the story, too, but no crazy characters. Of course, Twelve Monkeys without the questionable mental stability is like Top Gun without the latent homoeroticism: i.e., not much. Check out David Morgan's extensive on-set and post-production interviews with Terry Gilliam & Co.

    La Jetee, production still, 1962, Chris Marker La JetČe, 1962, Chris Marker
    If you head toward Twelve Monkeys, you have to keep going to La JetČe, Chris Marker's seminal New Wave sci-fi short which is the jumping off point for Janet & David Peoples' script. The post-apocalyptic story explores the essence of memory, time, and our ability to attain transcendance. While they're not influences per se (I haven't actually seen La JetČe yet...), they're clearly antecedents. I think I need to look into this a bit more...
    video still, 1997, Guy Richards Smit, Team Gallery Video Still, 1997, Guy Richards Smit, Team Gallery

    Just got back from a screening of Guy Richards Smit's video works at MoMA Gramercy. Guy's been making funny Fassbinder-esque musical-esque shorts. He also showed a trailer from his current work in progress, an imaginary Sartres sequel, Nausea 2. Very smart, entertaining stuff. Small worlds being, well, small, Nausea 2 co-stars Rebecca Chamberlain, who stars in Souvenir November 2001. (She sings, which isn't surprising, because she's a performer, and she's quite good.) And I was also surprised to see Souvenir's DP, Jonah Freeman turned up on a boat in one of Guy's earlier works. Hey, sailor!

    A very promising gig for those interested in the editorial and creative process: James Danziger, former 20th-century photography dealer and current editor of the cool culture zine The Mixture, is speaking December 3 at the Apple Store in Soho as part of their "Made on a Mac" series. We're in Hawaii on the 3rd, so I hope someone will patch me in via mobile. Anyone want to burn through your Cingular minutes for me?

    And apparently never coming to a theater near you, if you live in the USA, that is: 11' 09"01, the compilation of short films related to September 11. I wrote about the Toronto screening in September. Now in Salon, Sarah Coleman writes about a recent screening of the film at Columbia. Coleman: "By not listening to what the rest of the world has to say about [Sept. 11], Americans run the risk of isolating themselves in a cocoon of self-righteousness and arrogance."

    A negative example of precisely one of my main motives for making Souvenir November 2001, which follows characters from a city that's habitually open to the world at a time when it seemed like America could suddenly relate to a suddenly sympathetic world. When we could transcend a chronic exceptionalism and connect, realize that terrible things have happened before, and that we can learn from the horrors and tragedies that others have gone through. I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that the only way to read and process and remember September 11th is as a sympathy-shaped cudgel a self-righteous US swings to clear a path for itself.

    The last couple of days have been pretty productive, and I've managed to get out the second complete draft of the As-Yet Unannounced Animated Musical (AYUAM or AM for short) script. It's probably even less fun to read about an unannounced than it is to write cagily about it. Sorry. Here on the weblog, I've been trying to come up with thematically consistent and entertaining links and clues over the last few weeks, creating a scattershot mosaic of references that, if pieced together, should amply prepare you/pump you up for the actual story. In fact, though, I count on the short attention span-weblog format to keep the dots unconnected. (For better or worse, I don't have an army of decoding gamer/readers, a la that secret A.I. promotion a couple of years ago).

    Where it stands: The story, plot and action are all in place and pretty tight. The present/future/flashback narrative structure makes sense, too. At least as much as it's gonna. In addition to our (anti-)hero (it's based in part on a true-crime story, remember), there are 3-4 other major characters, depending on how you count. Of these, I'm still only fully satisfied with the characterization of two of them. The other three are close, but not done. It's a combination of action/reaction, dialogue, and how they change/reveal themselves over the course of the story.
    Global issues:

  • Dialogue overall needs some attention, but that'll be the case until we finish shooting, I imagine. There are still some artifacts from when everything that happened got explained. There is still some dialogue that I can tell will be acted away, too (i.e., made unnecessary by the actor's performance).
  • Pacing I feel like I need to take a pass through the whole thing, finetuning the pacing, and imagining how the music will fit in. This will be the the last step to get it in good enough shape to take it to the songwriters. And I expect the whole thing will change/improve once the songs come in.
    [For an example of how a script can change by bringin' in the big musical guns, check out this draft of South Park, which predates some of Marc Shaiman's contributions.]

    "Mormon cinema on a mission for profits", an article that causes me a crisis of faith, frankly. Like to know more? Check out, a good old-fashioned portal, with Mormons I knew/knew about (Aaron Eckhart, Neil LaBute, Walter Kirn) and Mormons I didn't know about (Tom Hanks, Matthew Modine). No obligation, and no one will visit your home.

  • Tert–n Chungdrag Dorje, alias Steven Seagal "The Action Lama"

    "This is part of an unrelenting campaign to disparage Mr. Seagal and reads like a bad screenplay."

    -- A disciple/attorney of Hollywood Buddhist and (how'd we miss that miraculous birth?) reincarnated lama Steven Seagal denies His Holiness was behind threats against an LA Times reporter. Lama Seagal is in a strictly-business dispute with some Mafia-linked partners.

    "...mostly he talked about his buddhist practice, 'penis moments' re: bilbao..."
    NY Times architecture critic (and Hollywood-style Buddhist) Herbert Muschamp apparently parodies himself at a recent Columbia Univ. Architourism conference.

    "They are astoundingly innovative, creative and exciting."

    -- Roland Betts, LMDC, praising the new round of designs he commissioned from star-architects for rebuilding the WTC site. Apparently, the LMDC's parent entity, the Port Authority, is proceeding independently and looks forward to "combining the best elements of the seven design teams" with the plans it's developing on its own.

    November 21, 2002

    A Scene from Smoke

    9. INT: EVENING. THE BROOKLYN CIGAR CO. [search for "9" on the page]


    AUGGIE (Harvey Keitel)
    Sometimes it feels like my hobby is my real job, and my job is just a way to support my hobby. ...

    Screenplays for You, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. [thanks to Lightning Field]

    Commercial production house Zooma Zooma is hosting The Reel Truth [Quicktime], a hi-larious, sodium pentathol-laced short film, set on the set of a commercial. My favorite scene is the one with the MBA client in it:


    Accompanied by the ass-kissing PRODUCER, the suit-wearing BRAND MANAGER visits the set to consult with the DIRECTOR.

    Can I look through the camera?

    Of course, of course. It's a little known fact that some of the world's best cinematography is the result of input from arrogant, pinheaded business school grads like yourself.

    Oh, Naturally. (pause)
    I think we should go tighter. I don't really know why, or even what I'm talking about, but this is my sole creative act this year, aside from choosing the color of my minivan.

    This just confirms the genius of my original idea: What if we make the business school grad the director? My brilliance dazzles even me sometimes... [via BoingBoing and this Jim Griffin]

    Followup: According to AdAge, director Tim Hamilton made the short as a sequel to Truth in Advertising, for an awards show. And if you have to ask his nationality, well...

    My cheap-ass copy of Gravity's Rainbow It's not quite like whipping out your copy of Lolita at the playground, but it sometimes feels weird to read Gravity's Rainbow "in public." Can't say if it's the book itself, which is rather unsettling and is shot through with Strangelove-ian absurdity; my used paperback copy (which I sought out for instant authenticity, as if I pulled it off that cinderblock bookcase I apparently had in apparent grad school); the conspicuous tape job (I was clearly the first person to crack the spine. Documenta packing tape ROCKS, by the way.); or general marginalization anxiety (Anthony Lane, quoting and reviewing Mason & Dixon: "'What we were doing out in that Country was brave, scientifick beyond my understanding, and ultimately meaningless.' He sounds like a reader of Thomas Pynchon.").

    1. In the middle of a crowded contemporary art auction at Christie's. (Just during the lulls, the Bleckners and the Basquiats).

    2. At Singin' In The Rain, which I found to be kind of corny. Or is it just me? Wendy Wasserstein loves it and claims it's not "cloying or campy." In some moments, the saturated colors and weightlessness prefigure Jacques Demy's Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I like much more (and which turns out to be anything but weightless).

    The Comden & Green "Moses Supposes" song is pretty good, though, possibly because it tries even a little to fit into the story. And I came away really admiring the long, near-stationary takes during the musical/dance numbers, the "master-master", if you will. It's the diametric opposite of Moulin Rouge (110+ edits/min in songs). I'd like to reference/adapt this in the Animated Musical, and I think it can work well, as more than just historical homage.

    Long choreographed shots of musical scenes live on in the auteur-y crane/steadicam shots directors show off with (cf., The Shining, Touch of Evil, The Player, Goodfellas, Boogie Nights, Bonfire of the Vanities even).

    The Search, 2002, by Noam Sher

    Video games have turned this symbol of technological virtuosity, literally, into child's play: first-person shooters are long, unedited takes by definition. Machinima takes advantage of the game "camera" to turn a programmable/alterable game engine into a virtual movie studio. Somewhere in between Scorcese, Anderson Lara Croft is my story, Singin' in the Rain meets Quake III.

    "Mistral Island Manuscript acquired by Univ. of Texas"
    According to this report from last week, Pynchon collaborated with Kirkpatrick Sale in 1958 to create a musical set decades in the future, where IBM controls the world. Sale gave "Luddite" its contemporary meaning and "wrote extensively on the political, economic, sociological, and environmental impacts of technology."

    I'm backing quietly out of the room...

    Pynchon and animation: "Except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it's hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual, though it doesn't sound so bad if you broaden the labeling to, say, 'people who read and think.'" (from "Is it OK to be a Luddite? in the NYTimes.)
    And Pynchon and comic books: Charles Bock's loong, engaging ArtKrush rumination on Tolstoy, Great Art, and growing from the X-Men to, yes, Gravity's Rainbow.)

    And some (non-Pynchonian) animation links: Toon Shader, a software tool for bringing hand-drawn cel animation and computer animation together, created by Michael Arias, a CG Guru who works with Hayao Miyazaki, called the greatest animation artist ever (people at the Mouse think so, too, you know).

    A Village Voice article by Anthony Kaufman about cinematographer Ellen Kuras' ability to make beautiful DV.

    November 18, 2002

    On Illegal Art

    Superstar still, 1987, Todd Haynes
    Superstar, 1987, Todd Haynes

    Last night we (finally) saw Todd Haynes' Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story last night. After years of being snubbed by the clerks at Kim's Video when I'd ask for it, and half-hearted attempts to get a bootleg copy from someone or other, we just walked over to Anthology and there it was, showing as part of Illegal Art!.

    (The first time I went to Kim's, a Suit workin' for the Mouse but livin' in Chinatown and yearning for street cred, I cannily asked if Bladerunner wasn't in the Ridley Scott section. The scornful reply: "Noo, the Douglas Trumbull section.")

    Anyway, Superstar turned out to be both better and worse than I imagined. Definitely worthy of its reputation, it's a canny film; it's a little eerie how well the Barbie doll concept works. The bootleg copy they showed, though, sucked. If only there were a medium you could copy without generational degradation... [If you don't have connections to the video underground either, you can watch Superstar in even lower-res online.]

    Giant Steps, 2001, Michal Levy Giant Steps, stills, 2001, Michal Levy

    Other films screened with Superstar, all using unauthorized/illegal footage or music in some way. For my money, the best ones were not about appropriation per se; Michal Levy's Giant Steps, for example, is a fun, beautiful CG interpretation of John Coltrane's canonical (and surely impossible to clear) recording.

    A slightly unrelated note: Apparently, my new haircut is something of a proto-mullet, not unlike Todd Haynes'.

    Image from Aspen 5+6, 1967, Sol Lewitt Serial Project #1, 1966, Sol Lewitt, from Aspen 5+6

    Unbelieveable. The entire collection of Aspen: The Magazine in a Box, is now online. It's the magazine equivalent of Kieslowski's Dekalog: almost completely unknown, yet highly respected and influential within its narrow audience.

    In a fit of John Cage admiration, I tracked down and bought Aspen 5+6 several years ago. In addition to some floppy little records with Cage and Morton Feldman on it, there's a reel of 8mm film with works by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Robert Rauschenberg, and others; documents of Sol Lewitt's seminal 1966 1967 exhibit at the Dwan Gallery in LA, Serial Project #1, and a little Tony Smith sculpture you can make yourself.

    Not owning a record player or an 8mm projector, my edition of Aspen has been more a glassined, bubblewrapped holy relic than anything else. Until now. The Moholy-Nagy film is full of glare, shadows and light reflecting off of machinery, as if Jeremy Blake and Paul Thomas Anderson were the same person. Check it out. Thanks, UBU (and thanks, Fimoculous for the link.)

    Talked to MoMA today to finalize the exhibition format for Souvenir November 2001. A film transfer would be really lush and sexy. Yesterday, I saw a video projected version of a short I'd seen at the New Directors/New Films series last spring. The difference in the image, particularly in the color intensity, was marked. A film transfer would also be a couple grand, and given that I still feel a slight itch to finetune the sound (and/or music) a bit, it's money I'd rather save for when the movie is triple-locked and padlocked locked.

    Been working on advance press, doing selective flogging, and talking to a couple of publicists. We're preparing a mailing to go out to the collective lists of the crew, which includes most NY media, all the art media (Jonah, the DP has been getting a lot of attention lately for his own fine art photography and video work), and a bunch of dawgs, to use the vernacular.

    Something's working. I was introduced to someone (with a much higher Q-rating than mine) who promptly asked, "You have a website? about a movie? Is that you?" First time that's happened.

    Walking through midtown today, I was surprised to come across three people firing up old school (ie., on the street)r than tobacco among the traditional smoker exiles. Was it a coincidence that they were each in front of a company whose chief product is idea generation?

    Went to the contemporary art auctions Wed./Thurs. at Christie's. If there's a pop coming to that bubble, it wasn't yet. Crowds were, well, crowded, and bidding was consistently active.

    I definitely don't collect to make money. Making money'd entail selling, and the idea of parting with a work just confounds me. Still, watching an auction can be like repeatedly clicking Reload on your E*Trade account; in your head, you mark your own taste to market. When a Flavin and some Donald Judd sculptures did very well, for example, the Italian woman next to me whipped out her mobile phone and rattled off the results. << Si, como nostro. como nostro >>, she repeated excitedly. Molto buono, indeed.

    my favorite: an amazing, early Judd desk and chairs, in Mahogany.  $300,000 Desk & Chairs, 1988, Donald Judd, sold at Christie's Nov. 14, 2002 (image: Christie's)

    So how'd my taste do? Pretty good, I have to say. Strong, smart pieces by artists whose work I really enjoy--Donald Judd, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Olafur Eliasson, Hiroshi Sugimoto--did well; the prices seemed right, not overheated, like some others (Gursky, Demand, Murakami). One downside: it hurts to see work rise beyond your reach (note to self: close that the five-picture deal...) It's almost enough to make you wish the bubble'd pop.

    BusinessWeek's pic of Jack Grubman In June, I wrote about an extraordinary instance of reporting the morning the Worldcom fraud story broke. CNBC's Mike Huckman ambushed Salomon analyst Jack Grubman (until then "The Most Powerful Man In The Telecom Industry") outside his townhouse. Grubman was shaken and disoriented; you could see him struggling to respond to something other than a softball question.
    But you could also see then and there Grubman's realization that the world he imagined to be well within his control would soon start falling down, and there was nothing he could do about it. You couldn't write this stuff. (Well, I couldn't. Tennessee Williams, maybe...)

    If Grubman's tragedy follows the ancient structure, (and so far it does), this week features the amoibaion or lyric dialogue, what we now call "e-mail." Slate condenses all the salient lines from this episode, where Grubman asks Sanford Weill (his boss's boss's boss's boss) for help getting the Grubman twins into pre-school in exchange for, well, aye, there's the rub. In his e-mail, Grubman gloats: "[AT&T Chairman Michael] Armstrong never knew that we both (Sandy and I) played him like a fiddle." (Note to Jack: Your Rome's burning, dude.)

    If there are too many allusions in this posting, it's because I can't figure out if this is a biblical, Greek, Roman, Shakespearean or fable-like drama. But maybe it doesn't matter; the end is likely the same. I do know how the second verse of the nursery rhyme goes: Take the keys and lock 'em up.

    Listen to director Harry Shearer (he's the voices in your head, you know) and another independent filmmaker talk about getting people interested in their films and getting their films into theaters [10.5 min.]. From WNYC's On The Media (via Romenesko's MediaNews).

    In a NY Times article by Tony Smith: Harley-riding "hackers" clear Sao Paulo's roads for motorcades, score photos with the VIP's they escort. These police escorts are officially called "outriders," but they call themselves batadores, (hackers, after the Brazilian pioneers who cut roads through the jungle), and they apparently leave their royal, diplomatic, and rock star charges in awe. The Empress of Japan insisted on taking a picture with them; Elton John sent an emissary to one batadore's funeral

    The Pitch: It's The Bodyguard meets Black Orpheus. International and Conveniently-Multiracial Pop Star on tour in Brazil falls in love with a swaggering bike cop in her motorcade. Get Hazelden on the phone; I need to talk to Mariah Carey...

    Ewan McGregor in a car, from fansite Ewan, up close. Image:

    The Guardian has an interesting interview with Ewan McGregor who talks about singing, about directing his first short, and about working with directors. There's audio as well, in case you're into the accent.

    Ewanspotting, an awe-inducing McGregor fansite confirms a trend: names derived from the first/big movie. Ex. Being Charlie Kaufman and Paul Thomas Anderson's Cigarettes & Coffee (named after his first short).


    Welcome to Special Edition of answers, where I provide information you thought you'd find on my weblog but didn't. Until now:

    Q "Herbert Muschamp" +Showgirls
    Honestly this had me stumped for most of the day. Then, at the bottom of this NY Post Page Six column (I was reading about my friend's new publishing job, I swear.), I found a short article about "Just as I Expected, These Plans Suck," a parody of the NY Times architecture critic's writings on the WTC.

    The opening line: "Striding down the row of design proposals for the WTC site, balefully eyeing each inert mien and artificially enhanced plan, I was reminded of the scene in Showgirls where the choreographer grimly surveys his topless charges." The original press mention was in the LA Times; also, check out Michael Sorkin's wickedly telling tabulation of recurring themes and pet architects in Muschamp's columns. I'm working to get a copy of the actual parody. When I do, I'll let you know, so stay tuned.

    [Frankly, I've always seen Muschamp's looong Times articles as a Fountainhead-size-novel-in-progress, which (if Sorkin's analysis holds true) is about the madcap theoretical adventures of three architects--Rem, Diller, and Scofidio--as they turn Manhattan into a giant museum/store.]

    Pentagon Memorial Ramp, a response by Greg Allen
    Proposed Pentagon Memorial Ramp, Greg Allen

    Thanks to a very talented friend--no stranger to the question of memorials--who can sketch in 3-D modelling programs the way I can...crank out a Powerpoint deck or a term sheet, I guess, I have some new depictions of the Pentagon Memorial design I created as a response to the finalists chosen by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Competition Jury. See all the entries about memorials here. It's a subject that interests me so much, I made a movie about it.

    November 12, 2002

    Oh, Canada!

    Working on the Animated Musical, which is humming right along, thanks. There's a whole Canada thing in the script, which keeps me on edge a bit. Some puppet-wielding treehuggers may blame South Park for depleting Canada's natural comedy resources, but I'm sorry. When I stare into the deep comedic wells of the whole Canada Concept, I get as giddy as a moose-stepping Republican in the Arctic. Bumperstickers flash before my eyes: Faster, Fat Cat! Drill! Drill! and Fill up my SUV--with cheap laughs!. Ahem.

    Twas ever thus, at least as far back as Steve Martin's 1974 debut TV special, "The Funnier Side of Eastern Canada":
    Some guy John's Canada parody of Apple's "Switch" Ad? Funny.
    The Molson "I AM Canadian" ad it dovetails so well with? Funny.
    CBC's Larry Sanders-like series, The Newsroom? Not just funny, but Canada Funny (think "Minnesota Nice").
    Suck's early-and-often Canada-bashing? Very Funny.
    South Park? Dude.

    "I can do things the traditional Hollywood route. I don't have to try the new, unproven Internet."
    - Screenwriter Pamela Kay, leaving the new crop of screenwriting communities behind in Matthew Mirapaul's NY Times article, "Aspiring Screenwriters Turn to Web for Encouragement"

    What I hate to see/hear in historical documentaries: the expert interviewee's super-affected use of the third person present tense. Listen to a twee example (about 2 minutes in) from NPR's story of the song, Dixie. Obviously, I enjoyed soaking in the smug displeasure 2blowhards' lengthy rant about tedious PBS documentaries.

    Movie Reviewers I'm Reading (for wildly different reasons): Flick Filosopher offers engaging, pretension-free, reviews and recommendations for movies and dvds. Just the ticket when you're looking for film-as-unabashed-entertainment. (She didn't like Thin Red Line, but her putting Buckaroo Banzai at #1 more than makes up for such a lapse.)

    Zabriskie Point album cover from

    When anguish in a world of insufferable fools is your game, though, check out the voluminous and uncomfortably revealing user comments of one Mr Noel Bailey on IMDb. It's lonely at the top of Mr Bailey's bleak world, as he points out (Again! You people!) in a comment on the ur-sequel, 2010: "2001: A Space Odyssey as I suggested some time back is able to be understood and appreciated by marginally less than 5% of the world's population. The chances are therefore, that you didn't make it..accept that!"

    Lonely and tough, even when he saw Zabriskie Point in theaters as an impressionable 24-year old: "[ZP] may be shy of 'masterpiece' status (mind you, who amongst is solely qualified to make THAT call?) but it is probably now, THE defining film of 70's culture. A time when acid trips, communal living, even just plain old fashioned 'love' were not that easy a choice to live with!"

    What with all my easy-to-live-with acid trips, my film's "lonely solo piano" background music, and my "new, unproven Internet," I guess I should find me a place well-nigh the bottom of that 95%.

    In the Casino resaurant, not the slightest impedance at all to getting in, no drop in temperature perceptible to his skin, Slothrop sits down at a table where somebody has left last Tuesday's London Times. Hmmm. Hasn't seen one of them in a while....Leafing through, dum, dum de-doo, yeah, the War's still on, Allies closing in east and west on Berlin, powdered eggs still going one and three a dozen, "Fallen Officers," MacGregory, Mucker-Maffick, Whitestreet, Personal Tributes...Meet Me in St Louis showing at the Empire Cinema (recalls doing the penis-in- the-popcorn-box routine there with one Madelyn, who was less than-- ) --

    Tantivy. Oh shit no, no wait--

    "True charm...humblemindedness...strength of character...fundamental Christian cleanness and goodness...We all loved Oliver...his courage, kindness of heart and unfailing good humour were an inspiration to all of us...died bravely in battle leading a gallant attempt to rescue members of his unit, who were pinned down by German artillery..." And signed by his most devoted comrade in arms, Theodore Bloat. Major Theodore Bloat now--

    Staring out the window, staring at nothing, gripping a table knife so hard maybe some bones of his hand will break. It happens sometimes to lepers. Failure of feedback to the brain--no way to know how fiercely they may be making a fist. You know these lepers. Well--

    Ten minutes later, back up in his room, he's lying face-down on the bed, feeling empty. Can't cry. Can't do anything.

    They did it it. Took his friend out to some deathtrap, probably let him fake an "honourable" death...and then just closed up his file...

    It will occur to him later that maybe the whole story was a lie. They could've planted it easy enough in that London Times, couldn't they? Left the paper for Slothrop to find? But by the time he figures that one out, there'll be no turning around.
    - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow p. 293

    So I'm reading Gravity's Rainbow, small, resonant details of which, I freely acknowledge, find their way into the animated musical screenplay. But when I mention Anthony Lane's writing about Cannes one day and read this bit of Pynchon (set in Nice. !) the next, please understand --please, just don't sneer-- if Lewis's post the next day about Cannes and the grisly fate of first-time filmmakers weirds me out just a little.

    Not that I've been expecting a full-blown review for Souvenir in the New Yorker...but, maybe a smart little bit in Talk of the Town...

    Marie Kreutz (FRANKA POTENTE) tries to understand why a French news story has upset Jason Bourne (MATT DAMON).

    Post-script: A reader pointed out that using the mass media to send messages to the troubled protagonist is a plot point in The Bourne Identity as well. So what are you saying? That stealing ideas from Pynchon, the best I can hope for is to be Robert Ludlum? Or that I'm (un)consciously campaigning to have Matt Damon play me in the movie?

    In case that doesn't narrow it down enough:
    Dublog, which has, among many other interesting things, this link about astronauts' photographs or earth. Bears out what Thoreau said, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.
    Purse Lip Square Jaw, a lot of interesting IA, A (architecture, that is), and culture. (thanks for the heads up, Peter)
    Movie Poop Shoot, Kevin Smith's worthy vehicle for online empire.

    The travails of the writer, indeed. While I type away in semi-obscurity on a screenplay for a musical cartoon, and while Anthony Lane (not Lewis, as a few readers pointed out. They just look so much alike, though...) puts aside his Mont Blanc to wrestle with publicists for Harry Potter tickets, there are people who not only write and publish, they contribute significantly to the expansion of human knowledge and our understanding of the universe.

    Beginnings of a neutron star burst, NASA animation Beginnings of a Neutron Star Burst, NASA Animation Still

    One example from today's issue of Nature: "Gravitationally redshifted absorption lines in the X-ray burst spectra of a neutron star," by Drs Jean Cottam, Fritz Paerels, and Mariano Mendez. (The NASA News page is a little more colloquial: "Exotic Innards of a Neutron Star Revealed in a Series of Explosions". See the final draft of the paper on astro-ph, the Napster of Astrophysics.)

    Don't ask me to explain it to you. When one's wife is a high-energy astrophysicist, gravitationally redshifted absorption lines are just one more of the mysteries of women you hope to understand, some day. I do know, however, that she is made of rather exotic matter.

    For a price, the small army of researchers and Jeopardy contestant manque's at Google Answers will answer your questions, things you just can't find with Google the search engine.

    In my site logs, I see your queries that bring you here. When what you're searching for doesn't immediately appear, sometimes it's the search engine. but sometime it's you. I'd certainly hope it's not me. Along with fresh breath, customer satisfaction is a priority in my life. So I'm introducing answers, the information you thought you'd find on my weblog but didn't. Until now. Let's begin:

    Q "Why is Agnes Varda called 'The Grandmother of the Nouvelle Vague'?"
    A Because she tells you to, and you should generally do what great filmmakers tell you to do. From an Indiewire interview: "...because my first feature I made in '54, five years before the New Wave, and I already had the freedom and the principles that they had. I hadn't met with the Cahiers du Cinema. I never had any training. I wasn't a cinebuff like they were. I wasn't a film critic. So, they called me the Grandmother, because I started it, almost."

    Q "Matthew Barney Cremaster screening in Washington"
    A It was Oct.31 and Nov. 1 at the Hirshhorn. You missed it, dude. Try London until Nov. 14, Paris, alongside the exhibit until Jan. 5. [I saw it, though, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt]

    Q "Greg's Western Wear Online"
    A Greg's Western Wear is a Central Florida western wear empire dedicated to "making wester wear shopping fun."

    Q "How much do producers spend making movies?"
    A John Lee's The Producer's Business Handbook is a very useful reference for new or aspiring producers.
    A The guys at Cyan Pictures clearly know how to spend money smartly, and it looks like they spent $42.5K on their nearly completed short film. I've spent a little more than half that on my short, Souvenir.
    A How much you got?

    Q "In which films are the clocks stuck at 4.20?" [from Yahoo UK, winner of the 2002 most proper search engine grammar prize]
    A Huh. Uncharacteristically for an obscure topic related to smoking pot, there's a looooong, excruciatingly detailed discursis about 420 on Phish's site.
    The rumor that the clocks in Pulp Fiction are all set to 4:20 is easily refuted. Only one is, apparently. (According to disinfo, Tarantino took his revenge on these baked rumormongers by killing each of the potsmokers in his next movie, Jackie Brown, at 4:20.
    Anyway, disinfo also mentions a 4:20 clock appearance in Ingmar Bergman's The Magician.

    Q All Quiet on the Western Front symbols
    A I'll answer your questions, but I won't do your homework for you. Watch the movie yourself. I hear there's a book, too.

    Harrison Ford in a tuxedo Meryl Streep, Yale grad

    Film critic Anthony Lane is writing the diary at Slate. So far, it's been torrid accounts of the perils of writing. It's pretty suspenseful stuff, journaling as a pitch/plea for giving Lane the Charlie Kaufman Treatment. (Kaufman wrote the screenplay adaptation of Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief, which became Adaptation, starring Ms Meryl Streep as Ms Orlean.) Vivid imagery, action movie material, even. Tuesday, rewrite day, for instance:

    "If this [my Tuesday as a New Yorker writer] were an Indiana Jones movie, I would merely have proceeded to the next plank in the creaking, swaying rope bridge over a ravine. Below me, the crocodiles gape. One more pace, twice as fraught, will bring me to the fact-checking department, into whose miasmic maw writers far stronger than I have disappeared, their cries fading into the dark. Pray God that I come out alive.

    (There's much more of this in the book, Nobody's Perfect: Selected Writings from the New Yorker. We should have breakfast about it. London? Fine. Tea.) I enjoy Lane's writing. A favorite is his 1997 report from Cannes [Yeah, I got the book, hardcover. When you've been throwing out the paperback version every week, what can you do? Just buy it!]: Cannes, unlike anywhere else, the act of waiting justifies what you are waiting for, and deepens your need to get there. I wandered around town for two full days in a tuxedo, feeling like the world's most underused gigolo, for no other reason than to smooth my path into screenings of films from which I would normally run a mile.

    Hmmm. Get me Richard Gere on the phone...

    Richard Gere on the phone

    Three clothing-optionalists and one writer on the set of Starship Troopers
    On the set of Starship Troopers: DP Jost Vocano,
    director Paul Verhoeven, star Casper Van Dien, writer Ed Neumeier

    Yesterday's NY Times Magazine is a veritable toolbox (and I use that word deliberately) for film, all you want to know, and more. First, what you want to know: There's the Cinderella-story of indie director Joe Carnahan's tremendous success on the Bel-Air Circuit, where Narc, his ignored-at-Sundance cop flick became the favorite film of (among others) Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford.

    And the more: The "How to..." section provides expert opinion on potentially tricky subjects, all in a neat little package. Here's a quote from Paul Verhoeven's How to Shoot a Nude Scene:

    When I did Starship Troopers, the cast was balking about going through with a group shower scene. So I took off all my clothes. And my director of photography did also. It worked, because everybody started laughing, and then they got naked. And we didn't hear anymore complaints.

    You can read reviews of Verhoeven's piece at CNdb, the Celebrity Nudity Database.

    November 4, 2002

    Some Quotes and Links

    "Asbury's book is a tribute to the magical power of naming: long stretches of 'Gangs [of New York]' are taken up by lists of gangs and villains and even fire engines, and, like the lists of ships in the Iliad, they are essential to the effect...We read of Daybreak Boys, Buckoos, Hookers, Swamp Angels, Slaughter Housers, Short Tails, Patsy Conroys, and the Border Gang, of Chichesters, Roach Guards, Plug Uglies, and Shirt Tails, and we melt."
    -- Adam Gopnik discussing Herbert Asbury's cult-fave 1928 book in the New Yorker

    "What you really are afraid of is that you're competing against somebody who is rich and irrational. I mean, it used to be a given, a saying in the industry: Don't ever bid against Rupert Murdoch for anything Rupert wants, because if you win you lose. You will have paid way too much."
    -- media mogul John Malone, in an interview with Ken Auletta at

    "Just as Italians don't translate Johnny Cash as 'Giovanni Soldi,' and we don't take Federico Fellini and rename him 'Freddy Cats,' so the term Arte Povera has to stand unchanged and unexplained."
    -- Blake Gopnik, brother, writing (entertainingly but incorrectly) about the Hirshhorn Gallery's latest show in the Washington Post

    "Then sometimes you're given the chance to make a memory for someone, give them a pleasant moment to remember, which is the greatest thing you can ever do. Keep the Oscar and all that."
    -- Rod Steiger, Oscar winner, on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five on IFC

    "We're a little tired of the thin-skinned whining, which is much of what we get from north of the border...
    -- Pat Buchanan, defending his comment about "Soviet Canuckistan" on the CBC's As It Happens [Pat's about 12:00 into the stream.]


    Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet is on. [Dig that vintage website. Can you imagine anyone--besides me--putting so much text on a film site?] It's been a while since I've seen it; remembering how good it is. It was from more innocent days, just before Leonardo DiCaprio became Leo. It has a gang of excellent performances: John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora, Paul Rudd, Dash Mihok, Miriam Margolyes... but it's Luhrmann's ecstatic vision that conquers all. One thing I didn't anticipate, though: the degree to which audience perceptions and expectations can change over time. Romeo + Juliet's like freakin' Ozu compared to Moulin Rouge.

    Sometimes I get fed up with the course of human events abroad and I wonder if it isn't better to just forget all that annoying international conflict for a while and just pay attention to what's going on at home. You know, focus on what's nearby. In my town. My community. My neighborhood. After all, it worked 30 years ago when my neighborhood was Sesame Street. There's even a guy who makes short films about the people that he meets when he's walking down the street; it's called Neighborhood Films. New York's not really known as a get-to-know-your-neighbor kind of town, but hey, I'll give it a shot. I walk around the block.

    Pakistan House, 8E65 India House, 3E64 The Pakistan U.N. Mission and Indian Consulate, off Fifth Avenue, adjoining lots on the same block

    Who are the people in my neighborhood? No one who's gonna take my mind off things. Within a block there's India and Pakistan, for example. In back-to-back Beaux-Arts townhouses. Can't figure out which country bought first, but these two trigger-happy nuclear rivals have essentially replicated their sub-continental situation. Except they're sharing their backyard fence peaceably, while enduring the same Upper East Side hardships we all face: dire shortages of video rental stores and cabs. (Wouldn't you know, the Kashmiris still figure in somehow?)

    Temple Emmanuel, 5&amp;65th Palestine UN Observer Mission, Park&amp;65th Temple Emmanuel and The Palestine Observer to the UN, just down the street

    Continuing around the corner of Fifth Avenue, it's Temple Emmanuel, the "power synagogue," as one friend put it. A nephew of a rabbi there, he also said, "it's a great congregation if you're looking for an apartment." And just east of this Jewish holy site is the Permanent Observer to the United Nations for Palestine, complete with high-profile security. How's this one working out? Well, you can see the Jersey barriers around the synagogue, and Palestine's whole block was in lock-down for months after September 11th. No cars allowed, and residents only past the sidewalk checkpoints. Nearly drove 212, the eurotrash clubhouse/restaurant out of business. Hmm. Sounds like they've managed to replicate their home setup pretty closely, too. Just without the killing.

    Giving up on giving up on the world's problems for a while, I try instead to make some sense of it all. And? It's all about location. Real estate, it all boils down to real estate. While it fuels bloody feuds around the world, the worst we have to deal with is the co-op board interview or getting the Landmarks Commission to approve your fiberglass cornice. What doesn't differ between my neighborhood and the world: it's all about having a good broker.

    Whatever else it may be,
    Jackass is possibly the purest cinema experience ever. It is undiluted, unadulterated and unambiguous. It will make you run. You certainly don't need me to tell you, though, if you should run toward or away from the theater; whatever your pre-existing inclination, you will do well to follow it. Jackass will not mislead you.

    Hustled out to Queens to get press screening tapes of Souvenir (November 2001) to MoMA's Film Department. Falling a little behind on delivering the printed press kits; it's going to be a working weekend.

    Brick Kilns, Clay Bluffs 1900 Miles above St. Louis, George Catlin, 1832
    Brick Kilns," Clay Bluffs 1900 Miles above St. Louis, George Catlin, 1832

    Painter/enthnographer/showman/lawyer George Catlin saw and captured a moment in culture and time--the rapidly changing/disappearing society of over 50 American Indian tribes on the cusp of westward expansion. The largest exhibit of Catlin's work in 100 years is currently at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery. Sanford Schwartz, in the NY Review of Books, describes the paintings wonderfully, but he doesn't quite get a handle on Catlin himself. It's work, though, with an honesty and immediacy, a pretty relevant, contemporary feeling.

    The Circus, Verne Dawson, 2001 The Circus, Verne Dawson, 2001

    Contemporary artist Verne Dawson's work is very much of this time. While apparently set in an idyllic pre-historic past (23,800 B.C. is the date in some Dawson's titles), they sometimes include anachronistic civilization/technologies that can induce Planet Of The Apes-style post-apocalyptic pangs. Stylistically similar yet separated by over 160 years, both bodies of work feel very much of their own times.

    Far From Heaven Still, Todd Haynes, 2002 Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes, 2002

    Todd Haynes has accomplished something similar with his latest film, Far From Heaven. He didn't simply approximate the look of Douglas Sirk's 1950's melodramas; he inhabited the entire aesthetic and moral structure of the genre to create a thoroughly original film. In Geoffrey O'Brien's Artforum article, Haynes forefronts the utter intentionality of moviemaking. "Everything about film is always artificial. You can come to something far more surprisingly real by acknowledging how much of a construct it is first. It always feels so much more false to me when you set out to be real."

    November 2, 2002

    On on Memorials

    After posting my review and response to the Pentagon Memorial Competition, I realized that in addition to writing "about making films, about art," I have written quite a bit about memorials. So I collected those weblog entries in one spot. Click here to read them. The entries include:

  • discussions of efforts to rebuild the WTC and downtown Manhattan
  • WTC memorials, including the Tribute in Light
  • other memorials, such as the Vietnam Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial
  • stories from shooting Souvenir (November 2001), my movie about WWI memorials, and
  • the experiences that inspired the film.

    Please let me know what you think. Thanks to the many people who have already done so. I greatly value your points of view.

  • Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

    comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
    greg [at] greg [dot ] org

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from November 2002, in reverse chronological order

    Older: October 2002

    Newer December 2002

    recent projects, &c.

    Social Medium:
    artists writing, 2000-2015
    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
    ed. by Jennifer Liese
    buy, $28

    Madoff Provenance Project in
    'Tell Me What I Mean' at
    To__Bridges__, The Bronx
    11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
    show | beginnings

    Chop Shop
    at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
    curated by Magda Sawon
    1-7 March 2016

    eBay Test Listings
    Armory – ABMB 2015
    about | proposte monocrome, rose

    It Narratives, incl.
    Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
    Franklin Street Works, Stamford
    Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
    about | link

    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

    Standard Operating Procedure
    about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

    CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
    Canal Zone Richard Prince
    YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
    Decision, plus the Court's
    Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
    about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

    "Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
    Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
    about, brochure | installation shots

    HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
    Printed Matter, NYC
    Summer 2012
    panel &c.

    Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
    background | making of
    "Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

    Canal Zone Richard
    Prince YES RASTA:
    Selected Court Documents
    from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
    about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99