April 2003 Archives

Michael Brandon as Jerry, image: nt-online.org
Guardian's Michael Billington's got one that begins: "Reviewing an already acclaimed show is a bit like arriving sober at a party where everyone else is drunk." Here's a giddy Telegraph profile of Tom Morris, who put on the show at London's Battersea Arts Centre. Comedian/bookwriter/director Stewart Lee's site has dozens more.

As one who is writing an Animated Musical on a counterintuitive, quite contemporary subject, I, for one, hail our new operatic overlords.
JSTO opened tonight at the Lyttleton, National Theatre

April 30, 2003


[Boston Globe, via Travelers Diagram, et al]

''The President looks in the mirror and speaks
His shirts are clean but his country reeks
Unpaid bills
Afghanistan hills.''

These pointedly political lyrics to ''Bombs Away,'' a song on The Police's 1980 album ''Zenyatta Mondatta,'' were penned by the New Wave band's drummer Stewart Copeland, who knew exactly what he was talking about. Born in 1952 and raised in the Middle East, Stewart is the son of Miles Copeland, a notorious American CIA agent. According to a report on the Saddam Hussein-CIA connection issued earlier this month by United Press International, in the early 1960s Miles Copeland was frequently in contact with the future Iraqi president, who'd been smuggled into Cairo with CIA assistance after his failed assassination attempt on Iraq's prime minister.

Read Richard Sale's UPI story.
Read Miles Copeland's 1974 "humintel classic," Without Cloak or Dagger: The Truth About the New Espionage.
Decipher another line from "Bombs Away," courtesy the Sting, etc. lyrics archive: "The general only wants to teach France to dance"
Buy the CD (In the off chance this wasn't the first CD you bought when you started replacing your tape collection)

Mini-Europe theme park, with the Atomium in the background, image: frieze.comNot when you've got Mini-Europe, anyway. As Mark Morris writes in the latest issue of Frieze, the park of meticulous scale models of landmarks--selected by art historians to celebrate "[European] Union in diversity"--seems to bore kids, tire adults, and frighten away hipsters: "The place is really best suited to architects, designers and literati, just the sort of people who wouldn't be caught dead in a mini-anything (save, perhaps, for a car)."

It's apparently unintended saving grace: in the background of any photo you try to take at Mini-Europe is the massive molecule-next-door, AndrČ Waterkeyn's 1958 Atomium (which, unless you read Travelers Diagram, or are a frequenter of Belgian theme parks--emphasis on the "freq", you didn't realize was still standing).

For some reason (Morris actually goes into it at some length), there are few things more unnervingly photogenic than having a 1.5x10^12-scale iron molecule in the shot. Put this in a movie? Hell, I'm gonna write a whole script!

That could be the sub-title of this site, really. I made Souvenir (November 2001), in part, to ask what could New York be like in 80 years, after the generation of us who experienced the attacks are all gone. How would the as-yet unborn people then and there remember us here and now? I should clarify: us=those who experienced (ie, died, survived, rescued, ran, watched, etc.). And already, in less than two years, here and now is becoming then and there.

Now, (tens of? hundreds of?) thousands of designs for the WTC Memorial will start pouring in, invariably affected by the intervening events, mourning, healing, revenge, renewal, bitterness, anger, loss, politics, war, protest, obfuscation, certainties and uncertainties. Although Rules have been set, but not in stone: submitters should feel free to "go where their imaginations, where their mourning needs to take them." On the LMDC's registration information site, the only surprise is that they're not accepting Paypal.

WWI itself changed the memorial game. For the first time, it was not just the generals and heros, but the average soldier--the individual, not an abstracted symbol--was to be memorialized and remembered. Metal dogtags were a standardized response to the sheer numbers of the Missing in WWI. Like the Thiepval Memorial, the object of two New Yorkers' search in S(N01), the WTC Memorial will also serve as a grave-by-proxy for the hundreds whose remains were never identified.

Due in part to an overly individual-centric reading of the Viet Nam Memorial's personal/collective experience, the focus of memorial designs in Oklahoma City and the Pentagon is almost wholly on the lost individual and "achieving closure." And now, the individual is designing the memorial. Maybe if designing is such an effective way to meet our memorializing needs, we should just set up a perpetual workshop on the site. Of course, what would that look like to people 80 years from now?

my street today, with tons of pear blossoms floating around

There are so many pear tree blossoms blowing around outside, it's only a matter of time before the Last Unicorn comes scampering down my street, with Jack following behind, spouting ridiculous dialogue.

Daisy Cutter, detail, John Powers, image:irobase.com

See Landscape Escape a group show at the Crosby street
SlingShotProject. Of special note: John Powers' headscratchingly beautiful sculpture, Daisy Cutter (above); Raphael Renaud's paintings of Marseilles, Cairo, Sao Paulo (which reminded me a bit of RIchter's late 60's Townscapes); and John Cliett's memorable (literally) photos of deMaria's Lightning Field. Read an incredible interview at Cabinet about taking them. Unfortunately, the show closed Sunday.

Mommy, Robert Melee, image: artnet.com
See artist Robert Melee's incredible performance, This is for you, starring a diverse troupe of dancers made up like the main subject of Melee's video, photographs, and installation works, Mommy. Mommy is played (to frequently disturbing effect) by the artist's mother. It's at Judson Memorial Church on Wash. Sq., at 8pm. Tonight. So you missed that one, too. And the Costume Institute Ball's over...

OK, here's one you still have time for. Check out the addition to my Amazon lists, Books I've Read by Tycoons I've Known [with props to Monkey Disaster's Lists-As-Entertainment program]

Dear Diary: To be filed under "T for That's New Yorkers for ya": Setting: The M4 Limited. Dramatis Personae: the commuting population of Manhattan, and a male writer of a certain age, wearing an insouciantly knotted ascot, who appears to have recently traveled to France. The population throws off dozens of make-your-day anecdotes, which the straphanging scribe strains to sample.

Writer [thinking out loud]: "Oh-la-la, this is great material! Certainement, I could get
3,000 words out of this, pas de problËme !"

An elegantly dressed Melodie Bryant, seated at the writer's crotch retorts: "3,000 words? Where you from, pal? Take it from me, the Times never runs anything over 150."

There was a sudden silence from the passengers, and then applause.

The sunny Hearst intern who witnessed the incident later emailed her phonecam pictures of the crestfallen writer to Gawker.

April 27, 2003

I Like Sites We Like

  • Daily Script is an excellent-looking archive of html/pdf screenplays. I'm reading the Three Kings shooting script.
  • I got Daily Script from the Guardian film section's Sites We Like, an excellent mix of the entertaining and useful, the mainstream and obscure.
  • Marc Forster's first film, Everything Put Together, is on Sundance right now, but I can't watch it right now. With a tremendous DV transfer, it looks great while it bleeds all hope for suburban humanity from your system. Monster's Ball's a veritable The Sound of Music by comparison. Read a good Indiewire interview with Forster.

  • The Only Real Cancun picture I could include, knowing my wife and mother read this site, image:therealcancun.com
    "Who wants to star in The Real Cancun 2?" image: therealcancun.com

    As a maker of documentary-looking films, I was a reluctant fan of New Line's The Real Cancun once I figured out what it was. Now that I've read Joel Stein's hi-larious review in New Line's corporate sibling pub, Time, I'm now a fan of entertainment synergy, too. The real Real Cancun sounds even better than the film itself:
    ...[the film's 16 thrown-together non-actors] indirectly deliver the requisite moral lesson of a teen comedy: casual sex, even for loutish frat boys, is a pain. "In our house, the girls got all hurt if we brought another girl home," says Matt, 20, an Arizona State student. "They acted like we were a big family, but we'd only known each other for a few days."
    "There were things that the producers told me I couldn't do," says Casey, 25, a Miami model. "There was one point where I hooked up with Trishelle from The Real World Las Vegas [who was there for MTV], and the producer said I wasn't allowed to hang out with her because she's under contract for other things."

    And unlike documentarians, the producers, who have to work with MTV in their day jobs, felt it prudent to edit out the more controversial scenes, such as the one in which the twins have an angry, cursing fight with rapper Snoop Dogg in his post-concert trailer after, they say, he tried to get amorous with them...says twin Nicole, "Celebs like him are just average normal people. But he's more of a slut than the average person"
    "I'd rather be known for this instead of being smart or something," says [other twin, Roxanne]. "There's a million people who are smart. There's only 16 of us who were in Cancun together."

    Maybe this year, Roxanne. [Even Lawrence Van Der Gelder's entirely point-missing NYT review is entertaining.]

    Club Iguana is the Westin Puerto Rico's program for kids, age 4-12, image:westinriomar.com A new kid in town is competing with Club Iguana at The Westin Rio Mar Beach's Club, image:westinriomar.com
    "At Club Iguana kids get to have all the fun! Every day, we welcome Westin's young guests age 4 to 12 with activities planned especially for them."

    Sensing that Westin missed a lucrative opportunity, Brown & Root, the operators of the 16-and over Camp Delta on Guantanamo, Cuba (just a short military flight from Rio Mar, PR!), have created Camp Iguana, specially designed for kids ages 13-15. While it's admittedly no Westin, if the extreme loyalty of Camp Delta's clientele is any gauge (read my October review), Camp Iguana's operators, Brown and Root, are sure to have a sensation on their hands. When Camp Iguana's normally tight-lipped staff talk about their program, they do so in metaphors that pay homage to Cuba's two national sports, baseball and repression:

    [Camp Counselor] Richard Myers: "They may be juveniles, but they're not on a little-league team anywhere, they're on a major league team, and it's a terrorist team. And they're in Guantanamo for a very good reason -- for our safety, for your safety."

    [Camp Director] Donald Rumsfeld: "And this constant refrain of 'the juveniles,' as though there's a hundred children in there -- these are not children ... There are plenty of people who have been killed by people who were still in their teens."

    Like so many other Caribbean hideaways, Camp Iguana is almost unknown in the US, but Europeans are sure excited about it. So how can your juvenile get a spot? Well, it may sound unfair, but like so much in life, scoring a spot in Camp Iguana depends on attending the right madrassas. Call for reservations.

    I told this, the newest Worst Joke In The World, last night at dinner, which turned out to be an inadvertent prelude to a Night Of Canadian Hilarity.

    Talked about the AM script, which has several Canadian settings and elements, and is, obviously hilarious. Talked about South Park, too.
    Read this funny, slight Timothy Noah piece in Slate about "the novelty of seeing the words "danger" and "Toronto" in the same sentence."
    Saw the kooky Mayor of Toronto on The Daily Show. He reminded me of Robert Novak doing a bad Ed Koch.
    But the surprise was a midnight screening of the first contemporary film to deal with the Torontonian Threat, a film I only recently learned was about the US staging a phony war against Canada, a film you might even call the 300-pound gorilla of Blame Canada Movies,Canadian Bacon.

    It was largely funny, intermittently hilarious, but it had some really slack moments, too. Like Orgazmo, Gangs of New York or The Cremaster Cycle, Canadian Bacon feels made by a supreme creator, someone who can't/won't take (or doesn't get) any suggestions or advice. They're all unconventional concepts coming from auteurs with unassailable-seeming points of view, which may inhibit people from giving suggestions. Maybe the auteurs, having convinced themselves that no one else could understand their vision, closed themselves off to outside perspectives. Whatever, in any case, all thesemovies had tremendous promise, moments of greatness and unnecessary flaws.

    Perhaps one IMDb user said it best: "Of course, only somebody like Roger Moore could make this movie."

    April 25, 2003

    Nude Scenes At BYU

    Originally titled, "One reason I decided to become a filmmaker: Nude scenes at BYU"

    Cinema Paradiso, dir. Giuseppe Tornatore, 1989, image:splicedonline.com Alfredo taking out the bad parts in Cinema Paradiso, which had more than 50 minutes cut for its original release. Image:splicedonline.com
    You know how, in Cinema Paradiso, the priest would sit, bell in hand, and pre-screen that week's film? And when an indecent scene came along (in post-war Sicily, all it took was a kiss), he'd ring the bell with great seriousness, and a sighing Alfredo'd insert a scrap of paper into the reel to mark the print for "temporary" censorship? And how Alfredo never really got around to putting those racy scenes back into the movies before returning them? And how Toto watched the whole thing, and how those censored and powerful film clips helped make cinema Toto's lifelong passion/profession?

    That was my job in college (the scene-cutting, not the bell-ringing). During my last two years at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, I was a manager of the International Cinema, an on-campus foreign film program that screened recent and classic films under the auspices of the College of Humanities. [The program's still running. Apr 7-12, the last days of their winter schedule, they screened Chris Marker's excellent 2000 Tarkovsky documentary, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich; when I was there, we showed The Sacrifice.]
    Prof. Don Marshall was the advisor/programmer. He had the best job in Provo, although no one else realized it; he'd spend his breaks roaming film festivals and arthouses, spotting new films he could conceivably bring to a conservative religious campus. His own tastes probably ran to Wajda, since Man of Iron and some other one were among the very few prints he'd actually bought (or finagled from his friends at New Yorker Films and other exotic distributors) for the program. Since he'd seen the pictures, and knew roughly what'd fly, nudity- and language-wise, he could sometimes quote reel and scene what needed to go. If he had unclear notes or the vaguest recollection, we'd screen the movie, Cinema Paradiso-style on Monday, and he'd tell me and/or the projectionist what had to go. We'd then be expected to cut the scenes and be sure to mark them with tape on the edge so we could replace the threatening genitalia, too-graphic sex, or too-foul dialogue before shipping the print back.


    As for what had to be cut, it was pretty much what I just listed. Nudity per se was not automatically censored, though. The IC is part of the curriculum, not just entertainment, and so it was assumed by the institution (the School, not the Church; there IS a difference) that the seriousness of the students and the artistic merit of the films were best-served by a lighter touch. Damn, hell, even shit might stay in. Long shots of Manon bathing at her spring were fine, but closeups must go. Nipples and breasts, were examined [sic, heh] case by case. A flash of genitalia? preferably not. A lingering, prolonged, or too-recognizable view of genitalia? Cut it [sic]. Sex, only if it's subdued, but usually not, thanks. Butts, for the most part, could stay.

    [It's worth noting that the Varsity Theater in the student union, which showed mainstream first-run (or close to it) movies had a zero-tolerance policy on all of the above. I remember seeing Top Gun there, and in a shower scene, the projectionist laid down thin black tape to cover the merest hint of buttcheek. This wasn't done frame by frame, though, but vertically. Three guys'd be standing in the shower, when all of a sudden a huge black band would obliterate one of them (except for his arm or something). They'd also bring all language to a G-rating by taping over the optical soundtrack, resulting in bursts of complete silence where cursing and adult comments once existed. Occasionally, these practices would clear the "Risque Miss Piggy greeting cards banned from BYU bookstore" bar and make it into USAToday. After a run-in with Steven Spielberg (who demanded Schindler's List be screened unchanged), and more importantly, the proliferation of multiplexes in Utah Valley, Varsity Theater went dark. Now it's the home of the IC.]

    My deep, dark secret, though: I only rarely took out everything Dr. Marshall directed. Only if, during the run of the show, someone complained about being exposed to a breast or a coupling of some kind, would I go back and take out a few more frames. For language, I'd almost always leave it in, unless it was something that would clearly give offense. For the most part, then, the films ran unaltered, and if Dr. Marshall or someone in the department heard a pained plea now and then, they knew that they'd been sensitive to peoples' highly sensitive sensitivities.

    International Cinema was a haven; by quietly refusing to pre-emptively sanitize these films, I defined myself against Standards bearers who'd just as soon have you learn a hymn in Spanish, if all you wanted is some language practice, right? This steady stream of incredible movies was like a pool in the desert, culture-wise. From learning at 17, when a roommate dragged me to Ermanno Olmi's quietly momentous Tree of the Wooden Clogs, that films don't have to be flashy and have a happy ending, to scouting out Imamura Shohei's 1989 Black Rain, at the barely opened Angelika on a road trip. International Cinema set me up for a lifelong love of cinema. Then, during my last year, Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies & Videotape broke at Sundance next door (so near but yet so far). I brazenly saw it (the title alone was enough to guarantee it'd never screen on campus), and I became one of the million or so people who followed in his wake. Films were no longer made by middle-aged Italians or grizzled Russians, but by the guys driving the Festival vans.

    [In the mid-to-late 90's, I heard through the grapevine that a handful of zealots began a campaign against IC and the smut it poisoned the Lord's Campus with; people "from the community" (i.e., not related to BYU, except by common religion) would attend the films, write up detailed lists of incidents of offensiveness, and demand to the Dean or someone in the Church hierarchy that the program be stopped. Apparently, it nearly drove Dr. Marshall to close it down and retire. It's still going, but he did eventually retire.]

    All this came back to me when I wandered across Brian Flemming's extremely compelling post on the escalating legal battle between the major studios and the DGA on one side and some Utah-based movie editing companies on the other. Clean Flicks, ClearPlay and others use various arguably legal means to enable consumers to mute, skip, or edit out nudity and/or language from DVD's they watch at home. Brian picks apart the tortured arguments of the DGA and several directors named in the legal action, including Soderbergh and Spielberg.

    The assumption that everyone in BYU's Utah Valley is Mormon was so solid, my not-Mormon San Diegan roommate devised a fool-proof way of shutting people up in movies: he'd turn to me and say, "Greg, I'd really like to join your church, but I can't the people are just too rude." As someone who wielded a splicer in the service of that audience, and as an impressionable four-year resident of that community, let me argue the worth of slightly fitted movies; a little Emmanuelle BČart goes a long way. If I hadn't seen a partially denuded version of Manon des Sources, I may never have known to see La Belle Noiseuse (which more than made up for the scenes I cut in Provo).

    To my fellow [sic] directors and their zealous DGA/MPAA spokespeople who are heckbent on dictating how everyone watches their films, I say: shizz, guys you need to flippin' lighten up a bit. You sound much too much like the self-righteous, oh-so-sure-of-themselves zealots who tried to shut down International Cinema.

    If I just heard right, Matthew Barney will be interviewed by Leonard Lopate on WNYC at 12pm.

    [1pm update: hmm.]

    The entire Cremaster Cycle is showing at Film Forum, starting Friday. Seeing it all will involve multiple tickets and rearranging your life.

    April 24, 2003


    It depends on how you count. If you group desks+chairs together with vases+cuneiform+manuscripts, we are now seeing the second wave of looting in Iraq. Still to come: US-imposed mass privatization of the Iraqi infrastructure/patrimony opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment, but I digress. [And just sounded alarmingly like a lobster-puppet-wielding globalization protester for a minute, there. Just one of those fluctuations in The Matrix.]

    Anyway, the second wave: journalists and soldiers, or Our Troops, as they're known on TV.

  • There's the guy from Fox who had 12 undeclared paintings from Saddam's palaces "embedded in his luggage." He's being charged with felonies, even though he planned to give "one to his employer." Oh, and he got fired. See a tiny picture, or the Getty press conference photos. TSG has the complaint and a photo.
  • And Jules Crittenden declared (and had confiscated by Customs) another palace painting, but didn't get charged with anything. A Customs official said the painting wasn't worth enough to trigger any penalty. (The Fox dude should've flown back through Boston.)
  • And remember how the LA Times reported that 3rd Infantry found $656 million in a bunch of sheds last week? Well, at least six soldiers are under investigation for lifting/hiding either $12.3m, $13.1m, or $900k from the stash. FWIW, the LAT guy, David Zucchino, is owning this story, with a detailed tally of how and where the sealed aluminum boxes--each with $4mm in sealed $100k bricks of $100's--and bricks went missing.

    US soldiers liberating the Benjamins in Baghdad.  Rick Loomis for the LAT, image: latimes.com
    For the benefit of those whose last shock-and-awe came from applying buy-and-hold to dot-com-stocks, this US soldier is holding up a $100K brick. image: Rick Loomis, latimes.com

    [Rule #1 of Three Kings: There should only be three of you. Rule #2 of Three Kings: You can say "don't tell anyone about Three Kings," but, hell-o, every one of you and your bosses has seen it. WTF]

  • April 23, 2003

    Speaking of Trains...

    The Amtrak I took from DC to NYC this afternoon hit a person on the tracks, just north of the North Philadelphia station. While it took them nearly half an hour to inform us, it was immediately apparent to those of us in the first car that the person had died. Nearly two hours later, another northbound train stopped alongside, and TV news helicopters hovered overhead as all 2-300 of us climbed aboard.

    Many people began trading our respective fragments of information. They'd seen a knot of policemen on the tracks, but had heard only there was "an obstruction" and a "mechanical problem"; while we'd been told immediately that the train had hit "a tresspasser," later overheard to have been a "suicide," but we never saw any sign of the accident. Finally, once the second train was underway, a conductor announced there had been "a fatality."

    In awkward cell phone conversations, we all tried to explain our delay, conflicted over sounding either too callously selfish or too fascinated.
    [update: The Inquirer mentions the suicide in "Accident, derailment delay SEPTA riders."]

    "Our armies," [British Lt General Stanley Maude] declared [on 9 March, 1916], "do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors, but as liberators." Within three years, 10,000 had died in a national Iraqi uprising against the British rulers, who gassed and bombed the insurgents.
    -- Seumas Milne in the Guardian

    Harper's published The Proclamation of Baghdad (circa 1916) in the May 2003 issue, but, remarkably, I can't find the complete text anywhere online. So I transcribed it and put it alongside GW Bush's unsettlingly similar televised address to the Iraqi people from 10 April 2003. [Thanks, Roger & Harper's for bibliographic information]

    Read the Proclamations of Baghdad here.

    And I hereby proclaim these proclamations to be the launch of greg.org Features.

    I swear, I wrote this on the train, before seeing Jason's latest post. If only I'd waited till I got home, perhaps I'd just switch to Movable Type/TypePad and forget the whole thing:

    Sometimes, my posts get a bit long. (Usually, I notice this when a reader--invariably not from The New Yorker--asks if I'm auditioning for The New Yorker.)

    Sometimes, actual interviewing, research, reporting will yield far more information than will fit in a post.

    Sometimes, there may actually be a lot to tell.

    Sometimes, a topic or theme stretches across several posts, and it makes sense to group them together.

    Sometimes, I'll start with a simple link, and before you or I realize it, I've got an 800-word...something.

    It used to bug me when such too-long posts would break up the flow of greg.org. Fortunately, this era of renaming your problems away offers the solution: now, on greg.org, a too-long post is not a bug, it's a Feature.

    April 22, 2003


    Through "interviews with US intelligence officials and nuclear experts," MSNBC has created an info-packed, interactive map of Israel's WMD programs and locations, only according to Common Dreams, it's not actually reachable through the MSNBC site. [via robotwisdom]

    April 21, 2003

    Movie and Art Roundup

    I'm in the last minute throes of editing the AM screenplay before dropping it off for a serious reading. Here are some movie and artsite suggestions to occupy you. A little "Look over there!" handwaving, so you won't notice a slight drop in posting in front of you.

  • A Mighty Wind is pretty damn good. But just as the line is very fine between driving an 80's Volvo and driving an 80's Volvo ironically, the distinction between a folk music reunion concert parody and a PBS fundraising drive is almost imperceptible. (two words: bladder management).
  • We saw the poster for it at the movie theater and dismissed it 'cuz I'd never heard about it, but reading the story behind The Real Cancun made me, um, free my mind. 1) it's made by Real World creators Bunim/Murray, which is about as much credibility as you can hope for in the reality genre, and 2) the reason I'd never heard of it is because they shot it a month ago and finished editing last week. It opens Friday. I'm sure it's already out on DVD, though, somehow.

    Some fine art weblogs have come my way:

  • artnotes, by one Ariana French, who comments on a steady stream of interesting artists and happenings, and
  • Esthet, a Tokyo-oriented, photo-oriented weblog. Esthet's Lil is inspired by a photography collector I also admire, Thomas Walther. Walther has an first-ratecollection of work by famous artists and photographers, but his eye also wanders to anonymous, "artless" snapshots, which more than earn a place alongside the "great" photographers' works. There was an exhibition at the Met, and a book, which rocks. [thanks, Jason and Tyler]
  • PQ+ a photo and poetry and speaking out site by photographer and artworlder Paul Khan. Here he is visiting Takashi Murakami's Hiroppon studio in Brooklyn, for example.

  • Danny O'Brien quotes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle: "What happens to libraries? they burn," a pretty nihilistic-sounding comment if it's taken to be a comment on Iraqi libraries burning.

    And Cory Doctorow points to a librarian's-eye critique of blithe, "oh, just reprint it all" dismissals of burning by people who "should know better."

    But so far, all I can actually find about this "quote" from Brewster Kahle, is this ancient (1996!) Slate article on the looming, Borges-ian threat of a web archive, i.e., never being able to forget anything, ever. According to the oh-so-long-ago peace, love and cyber-utopian understanding paradise that was 1996, this kind of (admittedly traumatic) institutional slate-wiping is necessary "to rid yourself of the past so you can go forward.''

    Perhaps the rhetoric's just a bit, er, overheated. It was 1996, after all. But now that we've actually had a good, old-fashioned library-burnin' or two, are we prepared to entertain the possibility that an ahistoricist, culture-be-damned imperialism may actually be boldly revolutionary and forward-thinking? Just playin' Rumsfeld's advocate here...

    4/22 Update/Clarification/Retraction: If your main goal is just email *volume*, you probably can't do better than to unintentionally sound like you're slamming/questioning netgods Brewster Kahle and Danny O'Brien. If, however, you actually *care* what people think, and you also happen to be a longtime worshipper/groupie of said gods, you should quickly add context when it's provided.

    More later, (gotta drop the car off for service) but start by checking Danny's original interview with Kahle, and the original quote, which is much better than the abbreviated version (and not just because it calls a spade a spade on the Bush library burning issue).

    April 20, 2003

    On Selling The Bible

    A sweet Sarah Schmidt NYT article on the Hamberechts, a Williamsburg husband-wife team seeking converts to their cause: a Bible illustrated verse-by-verse by artists. As Gawker proves, in a shock'n awesome display of Powerpoint skillz, hipsters-only will do, if artists are few. Check out the Bible-in-progress at Flaming Fire, or the Hamberechts' other site, God Magazine. Being in Williamsburg and Christian, there's also a band involved somehow.

    Visionaire Bible: it looks like God, but it's PURE Mammon, baby, image: ica.org.ukProblem: So you want a (non-hipster) Bible, but when you hear "Madonna and Child," the first thing that pops into your mind isn't, "Raphael," but "Oh, she's got a children's book coming out."
    You have two options:
    Pocket Canons, cheap, stylin' little hip-pocket books of the KJV (the greatest hits, really) with cool covers and forewords by actual, thinking writers. Praise the Lord.

    Visionaire 28: The Bible, which, at (at least) Ł99, means rendering a helluva lot of Caesars for the gospel according to Mario (Testino) and Wolfgang (Tillmans). (Warning from an owner: You may worship Philippe Starck, but, at the final judgment, he's gonna pay for making the plastic Bible case covered with navels--navels which collect 100x more lint than your own. Repent ye, Philippe, repent ye.)

    But if it's bible pushers you're interested in, there are only two (well, technically three) people to see:

  • The Maysles brothers, whose amazing 1969 fly-on-the-wall documentary, Salesman got me into this filmmaking business in the first place (I saw in my marketing class as Wharton.), and
  • Flannery O'Connor, whose short stories of amputee-wooing bible salesmen ("Good Country People"), and novels about stuffed-monkey-worshippin' phony preachers ("Wise Blood" -- John Huston did the movie.) once awakened/warped my fragile, little North Carolina mind.

  • Sue Ellicott writes in the Washington Post about how the British Museum (known, before last week, for having "the greatest collection of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq") mobilized during wartime. They quickly programmed lectures, gallery talks, and panels to meet the sudden surge in visitor interest in Assyrian and Mesopotamian art and culture.

    And speaking of the British Museum: In the NYT, John Tierney looks at the Looting Formerly Known As Capitalism, Thank You, specifically, Lord Elgin's "buying" the Parthenon frieze, which, inconveniently for present-day archeologist ideologues, saved it from destruction by the Turks. Or someone. I'm still waiting for Jeff Jarvis to slam France for not giving the Louvre back to Egypt. Or to the Pope.

    April 18, 2003


    The NYTimes' man in Baghdad, John F. Burns, talks to Newshour about the shakedowns and threats from his Iraqi Information Ministry handlers in the last days of the regime. Apparently, they were not all as funny as al-Sahhaf.

    [4/19 update: In Sunday's Times, Burns hits for the fence with a looong article on the thuggish nature of Saddam's whole crew.

    April 18, 2003


    Arts Journal has an extensive round-up of coverage of the Iraqi National Museum and libraries looting/burning (Including LAT's Christopher Knight's view of Bush admin. views of art/culture, which coincides with my own.It doesn't include Pfaffenblog's extensive discussion of possible pre-war collector lobbying at the Pentagon.) [via MAN]

    Frankly, I've been surprised by the rather glib indignation of some peoples' reactions to this issue (and I don't mean Rumsfeld's; his dismissiveness is entirelyto be expected.) If you'd suggested--two years, a year, even two months ago-- that cuneiform diaries would become a poisonously partisan issue, you'd have been laughed out of whatever chatroom you'd wandered into. (If you'd said it in any more substantial forum, you'd've been hauled off in a padded wagon.)

    But here we all are, screaming across the barricades, trying to spin a cultural tragedy (which has a primarily long-term impact on capital C Civilization, but almost no serious direct effect on any individual human alive) into instantaneous political pointscoring (which is designed to serve, above all, the ego and immediate wants of the person spinning). It's like listening to ImClone derivatives daytraders arguing over the state of basic science research.

    This is probably a fence-sitter between greg.org and bloghdad.com: A Guardian interview with Jack Shaheen, who's spent 20+ years studying Hollywood's depiction of Arabs. His massive survey, Reel Bad Arabs, came out in the US in 2001, but is just reaching the UK. In his analysis of over 900 films, he finds negative stereotyping to a degree that'd now be unthinkable for other groups (unless, of course, they're making mad bank off their own stereotypes, a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

    And everyone complained Lucas was mindlessly stereotyping JEWS.  Hugh Griffith and Watto, image:jitterbug.com And people criticized Lucas for his crafty Jewish traders? (Or was it his Inscrutable Asians? Or his...) Ben-Hur's Arab Friend was played by Hugh Griffith, left, image: jitterbug.com

    But seriously, setting aside David Russell's Three Kings (which Shaheen adised on, btw), if the best you can hope for from Hollywood's is the Ben-Hur treatment--where the Arab sheikh is a Brit (named Hugh Griffith) dipped in a tub of bronzer--you know there's a problem. Of course, the Jews got stuck with Charlton Heston, so it's lose-lose for everyone...

    April 17, 2003

    On Soul Searching

    For his article in Wired, "Inside the Soul of the Web," Michael Malone spent 24 (cumulative) hours watching the randomly selected stream of Google searches that is broadcast in the company's offices. If it's not really informative, it's inevitably interesting--and sometimes moving. (thanks, Jason)

    Jennifer 8. Lee did essentially the same story last November, for the NY Times. [who seem to be monetizing their once fee-avoiding deeplinks. But, as Google helpfully points out, the article is here, for free.] We recall that the scroll is called LiveQuery, the map is called GeoDisplay, and Google has eerie, almost predictive power (PredictivePower?).

    Almost. "That is a paradox of a Google log: it does not capture social phenomena per se, but merely the shadows they cast across the Internet.
    'The most interesting part is why,' said Amit Patel, who has been a member of the logs team. 'You can't interpret it unless you know what else is going on in the world.'"

    So unless you knew it was a question on Millionaire the night before, a quiz show which aired consecutively in five time zones, the meaning of five spikes in the frequency of "carol brady maiden name" searches would be lost on you.

    16-19th century waffle irons, from the collection of Andre Breton, image: calmelscohen.com
    16-19th c. waffle irons, from the collection of Andre Breton

    "'Monsieur, you are a traitor, a traitor to France, and a philistine!' The last word was spat out in a venomous ball of phlegm. Then, without so much as an 'en garde', I felt the stab of a cigarette holder in my stomach. Never, ever pick a fight with a surrealist." When that advice comes from someone named Fiachra Gibbons, one does well to follow it. Gibbons attended the hi-larious-but-melancholy dissolution-by-auction of Surrealist artist AndrČ Breton. And he shows that Americans still have a lot to learn from cranky old Frenchmen ("Your money for the stinking corpse of a poet that you didn't dare become!") about hating Jacques Chirac.

    Then there's this Google-confounding quote from a Danny Leigh interview: "Schumacher: Kubrick, Von Trier and the late Russian visionary Andrei Tarkovsky." Looks like surrealism is alive and well and cruising Colin Farrell.

    My second short film, Souvenir (January 2003), features a man who carefully irons his shirt before spending the day at a rural dry cleaners.

    Here are two ironing-related websites:

  • Extreme Ironing: "April 10, 2003/ A new extreme ironing altitude record has been set by the Yety Team - 5,440m on the Everest Icefall...After a little ironing with the Indian Army we headed up the ice fall."
  • The dullest blog in the world: "Walking past the ironing board April 1/ I left the room and walked past the ironing board which I had left up in order to do some ironing. When I came back into the room I walked past the ironing board once again./133 comments"

    Until my film actually screens somewhere, I'm not at all sure where it falls in relation to these points on the online ironing continuum.

  • In an article in the Village Voice, Kate Mattingly gives new details of a disturbing casualty in the US government's campaign for Homeland Security: the increasing difficulty and expense of securing visas for international artists and performers is keeping more of them out of the US and causing arts organizers to give up scheduling non-US programming.

    Here's the visa application process under the Dept. of Homeland Security:
    New background checks >> bigger backlogs >> longer/impossible turnaround times >> fallback to once-optional, prohibitively expensive Premium Processing Fees >> non-profits sunk by $1,000/petition fees originally meant for the tech industry >> artists may not get approved anyway>> dance, music, art, film, theater organizations give up programming international talent.

    An example cited in the article: Visa applications for an 11-engagement BAM Next Wave Festival cost $29,304, compared to $600 in peaceable 1988, with the possibility that some artists are still denied visas.

    One of the first to pay the cultural price of harshened visa policies was last year's New York Film Festival. As I posted then, Abbas Kiarostami was prevented from attending his film's US premier, and the Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki decided to boycott in solidarity. ("If the present government of the United States of America does not want an Iranian, they will hardly have any use for a Finn, either. We do not even have the oil.")

    When the photographer Thomas Struth spoke to a small group of collectors and curators in February, he wondered aloud about the possibility of the highly influential people who participate in the art world--collectors, trustees, sponsors, artists--working in concert to prevent the war in Iraq. Private opinion over the war was probably too divided for such an effort to be made, though.

    But creating an effective and affordable way for internationally recognized artists and performers to visit the United States and contribute to our own cultural production seems like a cause worth working the phones for.

    John Frankenheimer and Robert deNiro on location for Ronin, image: dga.org

    According to the little-known Osmosis Theory of Writing, while trying to write a tight, sharp, crime thriller, you should watch a tight, sharp crime thriller, like, say, Ronin (directed by John Frankenheimer, screenplay by David Mamet on JD Zeik's story). It helps if it's got insane chase scenes over roads you used to travel regularly (Paris, Nice, La Turbie). If you do this, the doors will fly open, and your screenwriting muse will spray you with inspiration, like so much shrapnel in a waterfront ambush.

    That's the theory, anyway.

    Your screenwriting kit should include: Ronin (with the Frankenheimer's commentary) and his 1962 classic, The Manchurian Candidate, on DVD, and Frankenheimer interviews at The Onion AV Club and Movie Express.

    April 14, 2003



    The AP report on CNN details the contents of Saddam's "shagadelic" safehouse.

    On the day when I'm meeting a producer of Austin Powers for lunch, all my websites are converging.

    AP photographer John Moore creates an image worthy of Thomas Struth, image: aftonblade.se
    In a nod to Thomas Struth, AP's John Moore took this picture of US Army Lt Eric Hooper checking out the art in Saddam's shagpad. image: AP, via aftonblade.se

    [Update: The Guardian's Jonathan Jones looks at what can be learned from "the hysterical aesthetic, the hyperpornography of power and violence" of Saddam's "art" collection.

    The paintings were made in the mid-80's by "Fantasy Artist Extraordinaire," The NY-based Rowena, who sold one to a Japanese collector years ago for $20,000. She insisted to the NY Daily News that her newer work "is much better." Here's an online gallery. Oh, yeah, apples and oranges. Still, the Daily News wins with their headline, "Shag-dad art is mine!" (Thanks, BoingBoing!)]

    Partly in preparation for the impending release of
    T3, partly because I've been describing my Animated Musical as "Terminator meets West Side Story," we watched T and T2 back-to-back last night. Pertinent findings: 1) That's a lot more Linda Hamilton than the average human constitution is prepared for, and 2) my worries about having taken too much inspiration from films I hadn't seen for 19 and 12 years, respectively, were unfounded.

    And besides, at the end of the Terminator DVD, there's an unusual credit, "acknowledging the works of Harlan Ellison," which prompted me to IMDb to see what's up. Turns out Cameron bragged on the set about "stealing the idea for the movie from a couple of episodes of Outer Limits." As Cory "BoingBoing Doctorow points out in his countdown of the greatest sci-fi lawsuits ever, Ellison figured it out, too, since the similarities are rather glaring. So he sued Cameron. Several times. And he took out big ads in Variety slamming Cameron for the, um, homage. The verdict: don' t piss off a guy who cooks up indestructible killing machines for a living.

    Another unheralded precedent, for SkyNet is the little-seen Colossus: The Forbin Project, a bleak 1970 film by Joseph Sargent about the disasters that ensue from turning global defense over to a supercomputer. It's probably not worth getting a laserdisc player for, but I'm looking forward to seeing it.

    In the spirit of Gawker, two datapoints make a trend. And when both of those datapoints come from Gawker itself, well, it doesn't get any trendier than that. So what's the scoop, you ask? Self-Indulgent, Dishonest Idiots and Starbucks.

    Nick Denton tells the tale of having the mock-televangelical tax protestor Rev. Billy explode in his face at a friends' happening. The Rev's favorite stunt is setting up his pulpit in Starbucks and preaching against some corporate something-or-other. He's clearly mastered the TV preacher's self-righteous hubris, but based on his behavior the other night, seems to be reading from some abridged Bible, one without all that pesky "Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers, etc" crap. Well, when someone snaps a picture of him with walking out of an Office Depot with a box of Turbotax, we'll see if he can crumble as abjectly as Jimmy Swaggart.

    What the overly referential Reverend Billy is to televangelism, Fischerspooner is to pop/rock stars. They staged their first guerilla performance in Starbucks in 1998. Carl Swanson reports from their latest concert in the NYT, and now there's a ga-ga Gawker review.

    Like Rev. Billy, though, FS mocks only a few traits of manufactured rock stars (bad performances, lack of talent, diva behavior), while wholeheartedly embracing others. You know how, in Glitter, Billie/Mariah totally disses the guy who gave her her break and she...ahem. You can't reference Glitter and hope for any credibility, not even in relation to Fischerspooner.

    There's a 2+ year gap in the meteoric rise of FS, at least as it's told to/by Swanson. Written out of that history faster than Little Richard is Gavin Brown, the art dealer with the "honor" of being the first person to actually let them perform. It was thanks to some ad hoc performances during a 1999 Rikrit Tiravanija exhibit, and a later series of nightly shows in the gallery, that Fischerspooner got any attention at all. Brown helped them put out their first CD and organized some actual (i.e., non-Starbucks) concerts. Just before their UK record deal was announced, Brown got ditched for Deitch; Fischerspooner has been trying to fail upwards ever since.

    Of course, if this Launch-a-Pathetic-Media-Grab-In-a-Starbucks movement continues, regular folks'll learn to avoid the chain in droves, turning it into a niche-y, little Macchiatos for Masochists. Fortunately, like many other best-viewed-at-a-distance trends, you can follow along painlessly at Gawker.

    Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum of Its Treasure, John F. Burns in the NYT.
    Mosul descends into chaos as even museum is looted, Luke Harding in the Guardian.

    When I said yesterday that the US administration had no interest or care for art, this isn't what I meant. Honestly, this is as unconscionable as the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Taliban, which UNESCO's director general, Koichiro Matsuura called "a cold and calculated 'crime against culture'".

    Taliban destruction of the world's largest Buddha statue, image:rawa.org Every other March, a country taken over by fundamentalists gets its priceless cultural heritage destroyed on CNN.

    [Update: In the 4/15 Washingon Post, Philip Kennicott discusses the destruction of the museum and the fate of Ali, the 12-year old double amputee survivor of a US rocket attack. Referring to Prospero, he asks us what someone should ask Rumsfeld, et al, "This thing of darkness, do you acknowledge it yours?"]

    In his Bloghdad column on Slate [love the name, Will!], William Saletan scores a direct hit on the "soft bigotry" of Bush's complimenting the Iraqi people as "gifted." "He doesn't mean exceptional. He means ethnic." For Bush, it turns out, "gifted" and "talented," are traits shared by many fine non-white races, God bless'em.

    It's funny how things change; when I was growing up in North Carolina, "gifted and talented" meant "white." To comply "with all deliberate speed" to the Supreme Court's 1955 Brown vs. Board of Education order to integrate schools, the GT program opened, not equal and technically not separate, on the grounds of Ligon Middle School on the other side of Raleigh, just in time for my 6th grade year, in 1979. Our history teacher instructed us, on the day the one black GT student was absent: "Lord, just don't call them colored."

    Talk about motivated seller. The Wash. Post's Jonathan Finer went to an open house at Tariq Aziz' place in Baghdad, and like any good open house visitor, he judges the owner's taste in books, movies, and bathroom reading. It's gotta be heartening for Graydon Carter to learn that there were "dozens of Vanity Fair magazines" next to the DVD's ("It's not just for Oklahoman divorcees anymore!").

    For your total Tariq Lifestlye shopping convenience, I've formatted the inventory --including a few of Tariq's favorite scents--into Amazon Lists:

  • From the Library of Tariq Aziz
  • "Tariq, what are you doing in there?" Master bathroom reading
  • Tariq Aziz's Movies to Front For a Tyrant By
  • Rollin' on Baghdad: Step out like Tariq Aziz

    A western perspective: the non-Tariq Aziz, Non-Expert, calls Drakkar Noir "the scent of choice for scoring at homecoming dances and JV volleyball games."

  • WNYC is my media default setting. I know several artists who live by WNYC; they have it playing in their studios all day. If they still do this, I don't know; but I find myself turning off wall-to-wall war discussion more frequently, whether out of distraction, exhaustion, or resignation.

    Oddly, that's just the opposite of what I did during/after September 11th. For days, weeks, WNYC was this incredible lifeline, an important source of solace, community; I almost never turned it off. Divisions over the war run deep, and positions seem to be calcifying. With the microsegmentation/balkanization of media sources, war coverage itself has become a point of contention. Rather than bringing people together, media--even the media I generally agree with--ends up reinforcing the differences.

    Cheney in Bunker, by Kira Od, image:wnyc.orgFor more than a week now, WNYC has been soliciting art from its listeners, by its listeners, art made in response to the war. Submissions to date number nearly 100, and can be seen online. It's a sobering collection, in ways I don't think are intentional.

    It's protest art, almost without exception. (I remember host Brian Lehrer's intermittent pleas for art from supporters of the war/troops/president, which didn't materialize, apparently.) The exhibit reveals not just overarching bitterness, but an almost pathetic sense of powerlessness. In the tone and content, the raw anger, and in some cases, the sheer obviousness, there's a subtext of impotent rage. Art, at least this art, seems like the resort of people who tried other means of protest and found them wanting.

    In her Oscar speech, Nicole Kidman weakly reassured us that "art is important." It's certainly important to its creators. And yeah, it's important in the whole "what it means to be human" sense. But the absence of pro-war art has less to do with WNYC's political demographics, and everything to do with deep conservative suspicion of the role of "art" itself. The administration in power/culture in ascendance right now views art, not patriotism, as the last refuge of the scoundrel. And that unsettles me almost as much as the threat of perpetual war.

    DVD Talk's Gil Jawetz takes a great, informative look at the development of the opening credits for Panic Room. David Fincher's credits are almost always events in themselves, and apparently Panic Room is no different. Jawetz makes the connection to Saul Bass's North by Northwest credits, to which I'd add Bass's opening for West Side Story, another tour de force montage of NYC skylines.

    You can buy Panic Room on DVD, but only if you've already bought Fight Club. It's one of the first mega-DVD's, stuffed with real, not astroturfy extra content. Of course, there's also the single-disc edition. Also, Fincher fans should already be flocking to screenwriter/director Roger Avary's weblog. Avary gives near-daily reports from the lunchtable as he works on the script for Lords of Dogtown. [thanks, hella amusing Gothamist]

    the great IIM reporting the takeover of Shea Stadium, image:rushlimbaugh.com
    When Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience the Iraqi Info Min (turns out he's a Democrat, who knew?) had just claimed to have invaded the US and taken over Shea, then Yankee Stadium ("because it was snowing, and they knew the opener'd been cancelled and the stadium would be empty"), one listener called CBS to excoriate them for ignoring this vital piece of news, and another scolded Rush for foolishly leaking "a GO signal" to the Iraqi sleeper cells in NYC. You can laugh now, but these folks are probably more likely to vote than the five people sitting nearest to you right now.

    Listen to the clip of Rush Limbaugh. [Did I really just write that? Thanks a lot, Monkey Disaster.]

    For those who aren't familiar with Phoenix (the US city I've most heard Baghdad compared to on NPR), the Webby-nominated Cockeyed.com has published the Baghdad City Size Comparison.

    With the ribbon-cutting for the American Express office still weeks away, and Halliburton's contract to build out the Iraqi ATM network caught up in the whole Cirrus vs. Carte-Bleu Smartchip debate, you may want to take some Iraqi dinars with you before you go. Wired reports on the popularity of Sadaam Dinars on eBay.

    Did I say popularity? I meant bubble. "How much is a Pokemon worth today? Or a Nasdaq index? Yes, there is a Saddam Dinar bubble," confesses collectible currency dealer George Lindgren. But maybe your dotcom experience has enabled you to ride a bubble just right. Go ahead. Otherwise, for now, just take USD.

    Last evening, 7:30, heading to a tour a friend gave a museum group of her art collection, I was momentarily freaked out by the light.

    At first, I figured it's how streetlights turn on before it gets dark, but no. The sky was mottled, completely overcast, a bright, diffused, grey>>faint plum lightbox. It was that post-sundown interlude cinematographers call magic hour, except you never hear about "cloudy magic hour." For some reason, the light was cold, and every streetscape detail had a hardcut crispness.

    Then, I turned into my Korean deli, of the narrow middle-of-the-block variety, and was freaked out again. Was it the contrast with the strange outside light? Something wasn't right. So I asked, and, sure enough, they'd packed the ceiling with new fixtures, all filled with full-spectrum fluorescent tubes. $20 each, the owner proudly boasted. It was like shopping in a Gursky photo. I walked back out--with enhanced calcium absorption powers, apparently--into the separate-but-equally intense twilight.

    [Read an ASC's interview with Thin Red Line DP John Toll. "Because this is a Terrence Malick film, a lot people will just assume that we sat around waiting for magic hour, but we simply didn't have the luxury of doing that... We had a 180-page script...Yes, there are magic-hour shots in the film, but only because we had to shoot until it got dark!]

    Lord Bless This Defender of Freedom Figurine, M-16 included, image:collectiblestoday.com
    For those who are put off by the Lord Bless This Defender of Freedom Figurine from The Bradford Group's Hamilton Collection, be of good cheer.

    When the Power that made and preserved us a (free, capitalist) nation, He surely knew someone--even the original Precious Moments, created by His servant, Samuel Butcher-- would still minister to the non-M-16-toting, teardrop-eyed, religious, children-in-military-uniforms figurine market. (And if the Good Lord had wanted the PM figurine to be $19.95, like the Hamilton figurine, instead of $35.00, He wouldn't have created brand equity. What are you, a Godless communist?)

    I'm proud to be an American-Army Figurine, image: preciousmoments.com

    Visit the Precious Moments Chapel--which includes a PM-style copy of the Sistine Chapel--in Carthage, Missouri. Or visit the investor relations page of Enesco (NYSE: ENC, the manufacturer of Precious Moments.

    You may have noticed I've been kind of quiet on the "about making films" front lately. Even if the number of Bloghdad.com posts seems to indicate otherwise, It's not because of the war. I've been writing, rewriting, actually, on the fourth draft of the Animated Musical script. Looking back to November, when I finished the second draft, I have to say I'm very pleased with the progress:

    A couple of major characters needed to be more fully developed. A couple of ways I did this: wrote down brief descriptions, including some backstory, for each character as I saw them; and read the script through for each character, to see how they actually appear. Reconcile the two embodiments of the character. One other thing I put forward in my mind was actors; I imagine actors being asked to play this or that character, and write characters that they'd want to take on. [cf. Julianne Moore interviews and, yes, In The Actor's Studio.]

    What remains right now is a complete front-to-back read for pacing, timing and flow, to see how tension builds, how the story unfolds, how expectations are set and met (or not).

    The big showdown ending, for lack of a better term, had troubled me for a long time. I knew what should happen, how it should end, but not necessarily how to get to the resolution I had in mind. The incidents it's partly based on didn't have a decisive ending, so I couldn't just turn to real life for the solution. And besides, it has to be believable, coherent, and it wasn't, for a long time.

    Here's how I (think I) fixed/finished it: To see how the action unfolds, I wrote out the entire third act in one-line elements. Those just-the-facts elements were mostly actions/reactions, or statements, or realizations, but usually not specific dialogue, details, or shots. These no-nonsense, flourish-free elements became the structure and flow of the story; it's easy to keep track of one-line elements, to move them around, add or delete them, thereby pinning down the sequence of things and making it much easier to lay down the details, dialogue, etc.

    more to come...

    April 8, 2003


    Abu, Aladdin's little friend, conscripted by the Moroccan king, image:ape-o-naut.orgPaul Ford (you know, Ftrain?) snares An Interview With The Dolphin (the US Navy's mine-hunting, AWOL-going dolphin, that is).

    If I knew Flash, I'd make Moroccan Minesweeper.

    TMN: There are 2000 mine-sweeping monkeys that have been promised to the Iraqis by Morocco.

    Takoma: See, thatís something people say, they go, ëa monkey could do this job.í Iím telling you something. You go to those minefields when they release those monkeys. You ever pour cherry Kool-Aid into a whaleís blowhole?

    TMN: No.

    Takoma: Thatís what those monkeys are going to look like in that minefield. Just puffs of red mist. Chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, boom, poof. It takes brains to do this job, and flippers.

    [on TMN. image:ape-o-naut.org]

    April 8, 2003


    Or Shell-Shock and Awe, as the Voice's Joy Press calls it in an interesting article about the history of military psychiatry, and the evolution from WWI's "shell-shock" to Vietnam's PTSD. A lot of it is drawn from Ben Shephard's book, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century [which the Voice excerpts].

    April 8, 2003


    From Bloggy, where Barry, too, wrestles with the ratio of art and war posts:

  • "Ballad of Revolt" was composed in 1942 by Harald SĘverud, a Norwegian musician fed up with the Nazi occupation. The song became an anthem for the peaceful resistance forces I mentioned earlier. You can listen to the piece in mp3.
  • Discussion and links from Barbara Pollack's Village Voice essay about the history of protest art. Related: an earlier post about Gran Fury and AIDS protest

  • April 8, 2003


    Slate's Timothy Noah rounds up some public relations experts to explain the increasingly reality-challenged statements of/give advice to Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. Meanwhile, In the SF Chron, Ashraf Khalil comments on a live FoxNews interview with US troops in one of Sadaam's palaces, juxtaposed with a live rooftop statement from al-Sahhaf denying that there were any US soldiers in Baghdad. [Khalil bonus: the translator apparently struggles and ad-libs to accurately capture all the color of al-Sahhaf's statements.]

    As bloghdadded earlier, the NYT's John F. Burns was ahead of this news curve; here's how he closed his April 3 report from the streets of Baghad Read carefully. You don't have to argue over the definition of "cakewalk" to see that, in PR terms, al-Sahhaf is not actually lying (well, except for the whole "bitterly defeated" part) :

    At Kut, [al-Sahhaf] said, the Americans had been "bitterly defeated." At Hilla, too.

    "We're giving them a real lesson today," he burbled. " `Heavy' doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted."

    As for reports that American troops were nearing the airport at Baghdad, he chuckled. "The Americans aren't even 100 miles from Baghdad," he said.

    I say, credibility straining, obfuscation, and trying to put a pretty face on ugly events is SOP for an Information Minister, even if his title is "White House Press Secretary." Mike McCurry empathizes, ""I'm sure the poor guy has to do this because someone's going to shoot him if he doesn't. At least I never had that problem." That sighing sound you hear may be a sadly envious Ari Fleischer.

    Update: Slate rounds third with a lengthy list of al-Sahhaf profiles and fascinating speculations.

    Matrix Reloaded, image: warnerbros, wired.com

    Insanely great article by Steve Silberman in Wired on John Gaeta and the CG--no, virtual cinematography--they developed for the Wachowskis' Matrix sequels.

    They created ESC, a "CG skunkworks company" for (at least) one fight scene, where Neo kung fu wire-dance fights with 100+ Agent Smiths. To shoot it, they created the world's largest motion capture studio, ran the flying wire fighters through "hundreds of takes" per day, scanned Keanu and Hugo's heads with 5 HD cameras capturing 1Gb/sec of raw image data (400k/frame? Sounds reasonable, come to think of it...), and mapped the real world onto laser-measured wireframes. Short explanation: they created the Matrix. Oh, and they did it all in secret, using The Burly Man (taken from Barton Fink's doomed wrestling picture script)as their working title.

    What this means for moviemaking is that once a scene is captured, filmmakers can fly the virtual camera through thousands of "takes" of the original performance - and from any angle they want, zooming in for a close-up, dollying back for the wide shot, or launching into the sky. Virtual cinematography.
    I want one. I want one for my Animated Musical, where an intricately choreographed dance number could be viewed in one continuous, Fred Astaire-style take, and/or edited, with views from multiple animation-world "cameras." It'd be great for editing, and you could make your own versions with the DVD.

    Some related postings:
    Matrix, The, video game/film convergence and
    CDDb: Carson Daly Database
    Gerry, the video game-like movie
    Chicago sucked, and Moulin Rouge-y editing can't help
    Machinima and the (d)evolution of dazzling Steadicam
    my tech/low-tech dilemma and an inadvertent slam on Gaeta, via his What Dreams May Come

    [Thanks, Boingboing. Image: Warner bros, via wired.com ]

    Don't quite know where to categorize this post...probably between "Hey, that was my idea," and "Maybe if you'd mentioned it or moved on it..." David Edelstein looks at
    David O. Russell's 1999 GW1 movie, Three Kings through 2003 GW2 eyes:

    Again and again, he uses color, sound and surreal interpolations to break through the viewer's movie-fed, CNN-filtered, rock-'n'-roll-fueled dissociation. With its jarring mixture of tones, "Three Kings" was not a box-office blockbuster. But it looks more and more like a classic.
    What timing.A year ago, I met David when he came to NYC for a MoMA film dept. award. Since hanging out with him again in Feb., I've been thinking of the prescience of Three Kings. On his screen, Russell mapped the moral complexity on both sides in a very humanistic way, even as the twin towers of Sadaam's evil and UN/US righteousness dominated the other, television screens.

    In addition to the outrage of the US not supporting Iraqi uprisings in '91 (which is acid-etched in 3K), Russell's opposed to the current, um, incursion. But what also jerks his chain is the appropriation of 3K's "blown out, grainy, kinetic, CNNish" look and feel by the Go Army recruitment campaign.

    I'll root around and post some audio/video of DOR talking about Three Kings. Stay tuned. [In the mean time, try the DVD's great commentary tracks.]

    April 6, 2003


    Meg Laughlin's Sabbathy report from Camp Bushmaster, Iraq, in the Miami Herald [via IP]:

    "Army chaplain offers baptisms, baths"
    In this dry desert world near Najaf, where the Army V Corps combat support system sprawls across miles of scabrous dust, there's an oasis of sorts: a 500-gallon pool of pristine, cool water.

    It belongs to Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston, who sees the water shortage, which has kept thousands of filthy soldiers from bathing for weeks, as an opportunity.

    ''It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized,'' he said.

    And agree they do. Every day, soldiers take the plunge for the Lord and come up clean for the first time in weeks.

    Camp Bushmaster??

    April 5, 2003

    Baltimore Is Burning

    Iraqi troops aren't puttin' up a good enough fight for you? Your teams didn't make it into the Final Four? Your need to engage, even vicariously, in tales of the life-consuming urge to win is going unmet? Read Anna Ditkoff's under-the-skirts, behind-the-scenes look at the Miss Gay Maryland pageant. [via Romenesko's Obscure Store]

    [Doing sultry, smoky ballads instead of the more common, flashy, diva dance numbers] is a risky gamble, and in the four times that Jenkins has gone to Miss Maryland he has never placed higher than fourth. "In a contest, it's about the crown, it's about the name, it's about the recognition, it's about all these things that some of these insecure girls really, really have to have. And they're willing to do anything for it," Jenkins says. "For me, if I win, I win. If I don't, I don't, but you'll remember me. You will remember my name."
    Drag competitions, drill team championships, Westminster, rhythmic gymnastics, ice skating, track, cricket, baseball-- I better stop there for now. Jennie Livingston's amazing 1990 documentary about Harlem drag balls, Paris is Burning, is currently only available on VHS.

    Dean Falvy turns to Huig de Groot--aka Hugo Grotius, the Dutch inventor, essentially, of international law, who died in 1645--for a very useful, not-at-all-polemical discussion of legal and other implications of the US invasion of Iraq. The only point of view which is flattened is the one where our world has changed so utterly that "old" ways and ideas are useless on their face.

    [Cocktail party tip: it's pronounced GRO-shus, like bodacious, not GRO-tee-us, like grody. Now go impress your friends.]

    After a suspenseful first day, and a numbingly boring second day, my stint as a potential juror ended immediately after call time on the third day, when answering a quick roll call (to catch the latecomers on their "last" day) won me an early discharge.

    As a result, I'm getting my courtroom thrills elsewhere:

  • I started reading Hollywood on Trial, the screenwriter Gordon Kahn's report from the receiving end of the HUAC inquisition and the studio betrayal, so when some too-smart prosecutor quizzed me with, "So what are you reading?" I could answer, "A book about people getting judged unjustly for what they read and wrote." It turns out to be a remarkably raw, bitter, story.
  • 255 years ago today, according to the remarkable Proceedings of the Old Bailey, a Mary Evans was tried for stealing a linen sheet from a Frances Divine:
    Frances Divine. The prisoner came and desired me to let her have a lodging, which I did, she lay in my house one night; the next morning she took a sheet from the bed; I saw her with it, and charged her with taking it; she would not come back, but went away with it, and I never saw her till I took her up, to-morrow will be a fortnight.

    Prisoner's defence.

    This woman is great with my husband, and keeps him from me, and she could have no claw against me, so she has laid this sheet to my charge. It is all spight.


    [thanks to fellow ex-fish Adam's great v-2]

  • April 5, 2003


    The substitution of the term "incursion" for "invasion" has a controversial history, one that goes generally forgotten or ignored by most present-day users. In what became known as the Incursion Address, Richard Nixon infamously announced, "This is not an invasion of Cambodia." That's his story, and he instructed his staff to stick with it. Four days later, students at Kent State, protesting the "incursion" labelled their own actions an incursion, and four of them were shot by National Guard troops.

    Since that time, the term has been most commonly applied--as a strident voice points out, and as any NY Times reader or NPR listener can note--to Israeli actions in Lebanon and, more recently, the Occupied Territories. Hmm. Seems like pretty heavy baggage to lug into Baghdad with you.

    If you've mastered the not-so-subtle nuances of "liberation vs. overthrow," take a look at "incursion vs. invasion." In a revealing but thoroughly unscientific snapshot of Google News (results 1-10, sorted by relevance), "incursion Baghdad" returns 9 US media sources and 1 UK paper quoting the Centcom spokesman. "Invasion Baghdad," on the other hand, brings up 8 foreign news sources (including Reuters UK) and two US stories: one quotes an American human shield, and one from the Times titled, "Food, Too, Can Be a Weapon of the War in Iraq".

    Update: Check out Geoffrey Nunberg's article on "war-speak" in Sunday's NYT and Andy Bowers' pre-emptive war glossary on Slate.

    One of the most vividly written reports from anywhere in the war, John F. Burns' account of daily Baghdad life in the NYTimes:

    On the same street where the driver was pulled over this morning, a man who owns a boutique selling expensive perfumes to the Iraqi elite ó a man dependent on the custom of people grown rich and powerful under the nearly 24-year-old rule of Mr. Hussein, and thus a man whose fortunes could be about to tank ó was busy washing his open-top Japanese jeep, with red flashes on the side to mark him as a man with zip. Car washed, he took the hose to the plants flanking his boutique's doorway.

    The Peace Pledge Union Project has a good overview of Norway's highly successful use of nonviolent tactics to resist and stymie the Nazi occupation. Resistance began almost immediately after the occupation; actions were rapidly disseminated via 300+ underground newspaper/chain letters ("type 20 copies and give them to people you know") and through professional associations, unions, and social clubs.

    When Germany tried to usurp these institutions, they'd dissolve via mass resignations (and the occasional accidental archive fire), only to reconstitute as an underground network. "A British military historian, interviewing German generals after the war, was told that they'd found nonviolent resistance much harder to deal with than armed and violent opposition."

    Historians have worked hard to discover and record in great detail the military facts of war. The hidden history of civilian lives in wartime needs the same scrupulous telling. Damage done by and to civilians caught up in war's horrors is a warning to their leaders against embarking on war at all. The positive actions of civilians who choose to act nonviolently in the face of war's violence are a model for what might well be the only way to abolish war once and for all.
    Reading I'm reminded of: Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, by Ashutosh Varshney. "Strong associational forms of civic engagement, such as integrated business organizations, trade unions, political parties, and professional associations, are able to control outbreaks of ethnic violence, Varshney shows. Vigorous and communally integrated associational life can serve as an agent of peace by restraining those, including powerful politicians, who would polarize Hindus and Muslims along communal lines." [A New Scientist interview with Varshney.]

    Rick McGinnis writes about it on his Movieblog, jumping off from Renee Graham's Boston Globe article, article,"Casting aspersions on the future of movie musicals."

    Something's coming, but is it something good? Since Chicago, it's been Code Orange for movie musicals, I guess, and no one quite knows what the appropriate response is. The speculation (remake West Side Story with J-Lo and Ben) can barely keep up with reality (Vin Diesel's up for the "hard edge" remake of Guys and Dolls) for shock and awe. [Note about G&D: Vin Diesel putting himself up for Marlon Brando's role sounds like brand management to me. Vin's attempt to be "taken seriously" by adding "Brando" attributes to his own thing (or thick, in this case) offering. He doesn't want to sing, any more than he wants to gain 200 pounds and take eight Tahitian maid/wives. He wants people to mention "Diesel" and "Brando" in the same sentence. Looks like he's got a way to go, too.]

    Today, McGinnis suggests, 8 Mile is a better model for musicals to follow than (played out) Broadway. He envisions musicals "based realistically on the sort of talents that have been cultivated since movie actors stopped taking voice and movement classes and started going to the gym." Someone can't sing? Dub'em like WSS. Can't dance? Edit the hell out of them. Hm. Vin Diesel may have a chance after all.

    For the second month in a row, Artforum is looking back at the 80's. Douglas Crimp talks with surviving members of Gran Fury, the art collective which grew out of ACTUP and the early days of the AIDS crisis. Other participants included: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Todd Haynes, and Tim Rollins. [update: these guys were in Group Material, a different collective. My bad. Thanks, Andrea.]

    Gran Fury members at the 1990 Venice Bienale, image:artforum.com
    Gran Fury with The Pope and The Penis at the 1990 Venice Bienale, image:artforum.com L to R: John Lindell, Donald Moffett, Mark Simpson, Marlene McCarty, and Loring McAlpin.

    Some relevant excerpts:

    Tom Kalin: We went from being wheat-pasting hooligans to suddenly having real resources and opportunities and a platform from which to speak. This brought about a crisis of conscience in discussing how to articulate the group because the stakes had been raised...

    Loring McAlpin: We also had a long discussion about whether we should be in the Venice Biennale at all. We had wanted to hang banners in the street, remember? And they said, 'No, you can't do that.' And there was a moment when we wondered whether it was enough for us to just be inside an art institution, but we decided it was a public enough venue to merit doing it...

    Marlene McCarty: I want to go to bat for Venice. We cannot forget how much press came out of that piece, which was far more public than a billboard would have been. That work got AIDS on the cover of Express.

    Robert Vazquez: But we're being disingenuous when we say that we planned to send a huge photograph of an erection to Venice, intended as a provocation to the Pope, and worried that no one would notice. We knew very well what we were doing...

    Donald Moffett: What I hear now is a rhetorical neglect coming out of the White House that is very similar to where we were fifteen years ago...

    That legacy (the Gran Fury Collection at the NY Public Library) is an educational resource for another generation. After all, we didn't come out of nowhere. We dragged the history of this kind of art into the '80s and the early '90s. And it will be reinvented again..

    April 2, 2003


    Who else is embedded? Pentagon Public Affairs handlers. "Indeed, one of the CPIC's most vital roles is to discourage "rogue" journalists from venturing into dangerous areas by providing the information they might otherwise attempt to get on their own." (in PR Week)

    "Eleana Benadorís Agency Keeps the Right-Wing Lecture Economy Going", in today's NY Observer (picture with artfully draped scarf included).

    [From the older, wiser The Morning News]

    April 2, 2003


    Once in a while, I'm standing here, doing something. And I think, "What in the world am I doing here?" It's a big surprise.
    -- A Confession (May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times), from Hart Seely's piece on Slate, "The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld,"
    ... Let me have no friends or companions But a wine-flask and a book, That I may avoid all association With the deceitful denizens of the world. If I lift my skirt above the dust of the world I shall tower above all in total independence, Like a lofty cypress...
    -- excerpted from The Ghazals of Hafiz, works of the great 14th century Persian poet, translated by A.J Alston.

    Etaples anti-war grafitti, image:bbc.co.ukFrom a BBC report: Protestors spray painted anti-war grafitti at Etaples in Northern France, the largest British WWI memorial cemetery in the country.

    What it said (in order of increasing shock and awe) "Sadaam will win and spill your blood," "Death to Yankees (swastika included)," "Bush, Blair to the TPI [International Court of Justice]," "Rosbeefs [what the French call Brits when they hear 'frog'] Go Home," and "Disinterr your trash, it contaminates our soil." The French are suitably pissed, as are the British. [thanks, Buzz.]

    ""Had the public been able to see live coverage from the [first world war] trenches, I wonder for how long the governments of Asquith and Lloyd George could have maintained the war effort. Imagine the carnage of the Somme on Sky and BBC News 24."
    -- Jack Straw, British Foreign Minister in the the Guardian. Read the full text. Remember that nothing remotely Somme-like has been seen on western TV.

    See the Silent Cities site for the Etaples Military Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which administers Etaple (and Thiepval, the memorial at the Somme which was the object of Souvenir (November 2001)).

    The Believer cover, image:believermag.comThe sacrifice I inadvertently made on my first day of jury duty: not being the first (in my widest possible blogroll, anyway) to post about reading The Believer. Felix Salmon beat me to it. Not that Dave Eggers' and Heidi Julavits' ultrasoft-launched book review magazine went unnoticed in the various jury waiting areas during my day-long voir dire. (Sodomy case. Never got interviewed before they filled the jury. Dodged that depressing, 2-week bullet.) One benchmate stared at the title for a while, smirked knowingly, and ultimately asked if I was playing the religious zealot card (my term, not his) to get out of serving. (Heh. As if religious zealotry isn't considered a requirement for working in the justice system these days?) But a Hamish Bowlesly dressed guy later on outed himself as a magazine whore by recognizing it and asking how it was.

    (Actually he edits an "uptown lifestyle magazine, your honor," and betrayed no interest in the "life(style) of the mind" The Believer's preaching. It was more a pathetically reflexive need to prove he knew what's new&cool. He had his reward. And don't get all "judge not, let ye be judged" on me; I know from pathetically reflexive need. Also, he was carrying the bag of choice among potential jurors seeking Immediate Dismissal For Classist Tendencies from scrappy defense lawyers, Louis Vuitton. And he was definitely not alone.)

    As a jury duty timekiller, The Believer is, frankly, too written to really work. Not poorly or over-written, just written. First, the articles are long. Too long. Second, the sentences are long, too. Not as long as the articles, obviously (well, obvious to fans of G–del, Escher, Bach). But close. Unless you can tune out completely the suspenseful drama of the jury selection process unfolding around you--suspense that directly involves you--it's just not possible to really read a single (agonized-over, paragraph-length) sentence.

    It all feels so important. (I'm talking about the articles, now, FWIW.) When Felix dismisses the Rushdie-interviews-Gilliam piece as "straight from the pages of Interview," I say "and a good thing, too." The woman next to me was "reading" Lucky, so the Gilliam interview was a welcome bit of split-the-difference. It was breezy and easy, even when it probed the wholly unnecessary topic of Rushdie's body cavity searches.

    Badlands, dir. Terrence Malick, image: cinemateket.orgUltimately, I am The Believer-- in the justice system, that is. I can't bring myself to not care about this annoying juror process. The Believer wants more than my (or your) consumerist magazine-flipping, and I can't afford to commit mentally to its oh-so-important-feeling teachings while I'm supposed to do some tiny thing for the system of rights John Ashcroft and George Bush are so aggressively seeking to dismantle.

    That said, I did enjoy Jim Shepard's article using Terrence Malick's movie Badlands as a lens on the sociopathy of that timeless American icon, the Laconic Cowboy With A Gun. Is it irony that when Jim talks about Martin Sheen he means Donald Rumsfeld? Of all magazine teams, this is the one who knows.

    Update: Speaking of irony, the Believers must be pleased with the resemblance their magazine's design (colors, line art, author portraits) bears with Barnes & Noble branded merchandise (t-shirts, totes, mugs, etc.). Even if McSweeney's and The Believer never find their ways on that behemoth's shelves, I find it impossible to believe none of their creators has ducked into a B&N bathroom at least once in his travels.

    April 1, 2003

    chinatown report:

    if u THINK the 42N cookies r2 xpensiv, ck 2 c if they r EROTIC b4 buying. If they R, u cant share W/ jury pals.

    u no how A&E has law & order marathon? Voir dire=the L&O DVD Extras marathon.

    Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

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

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from April 2003, in reverse chronological order

    Older: March 2003

    Newer May 2003

    recent projects, &c.

    Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
    about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

    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