First Sally Logo

Have spent most of yesterday and today writing, researching, annotating the AM script. As discussed before, it's based partly on a real-life crime story, so it's critical from a CYA standpoint to document the sources of characters, facts, events, and evidence in the publically available record. It's a rather laborious process, but fortunately, I've kept a fairly comprehensive file of source material for the last 2+ years. Obviously, I didn't imagine using it for a movie--much less an animated musical--until very recently. And to those with deep misgivings about an animated musical based on a true-crime story, bad Star Treks, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Citizen Kane, I say, welcome to my world.

In addition, I've been working on updated press kits, press screening copies of the movie, prouction stills, mailing lists, bios, PR ideas, and other planning for the MoMA Documentary Fortnight premiere. The Museum's releasing the full list of films to be screened this week. Stay tuned. And if you have any ideas or comments on PR/press, please chime in.



Untitled (Two Windows), 2002, Toba Khedoori

Drawing Now: 8 Propositions at MoMAQNS, for Toba Khedoori, Chris Ofili, Russell Crotty, Paul Noble, Kai Althoff [Roberta Smith's NYTimes review; Walter Robinson's artnet review] [There's a Toba Khedoori show at David Zwirner right now, too.]

Lazlo Moholy Nagy Color Photographs at Andrea Rosen Gallery: They look like they were made yesterday, not in the '30's/'40's. (Actually they were. Moholy Nagy's estate had them printed for the first time ever. Liz Deschenes did the printing. They're amazing and exquisite.)

Staged/Unstaged at Riva Gallery: for (Souvenir cinematographer) Jonah Freeman's entrancing new video work and a funny video piece by Maria Alos. Curated by Lauri Firstenberg. Chris Ofili and his crew climbed 11 flights of stairs for the sweaty opening.

The (S) Files Bienal at El Museo del Barrio: It opens tonight, but I figure if there's a little portrait of me by Maria Alos in the show, it must me good.

Shmoology at M3 Projects in Dumbo: Curated by Bill Previdi, who's 3 for 3 on shows he's done that I've seen. Go now. Ends this weekend.

Uta Barth at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: for the photographs of the spaces between--sometimes between the camera and the background, this time between the branches out the artist's window.

Karen Kitchel at Cornell deWitt Gallery: for crisp, precise, beautiful paintings of grass.

Martin Creed at Maurizio Cattelan's Wrong Gallery: for something to talk about, since a lot of people are talking about it. [Same Walter Robinson review as above, just scroll down.]

koolhaas-prada-book.jpg

Rem Koolhaas's Projects for Prada, Part 1, underneath a table-like sculpture by Wade Guyton

From the NY Post:

Firefighters had to rescue shoppers from a stuck elevator in the super-trendy Prada store in SoHo the other day. A mother and her two young daughters were celebrating one of the girls' birthdays at the Rem Koolhas [sic]-designed boutique at around 4 p.m. when they entered the high-tech, round glass elevator. The thick double doors jammed, trapping them inside for an hour and a half with a mannequin dressed in a see-through plastic raincoat. Since Koolhas neglected to include an escape hatch, the FDNY used a power saw to cut a hole in the steel roof big enough for a ladder. The store was closed for 45 minutes while sparks flew and onlookers gawked from the sidewalk. The apologetic manager presented the liberated shoppers with free cosmetics.

Prada representatives have not responded to requests for confirmation/information, and store employees have been asked not to comment.

For more of Koolhaas's views on current trends in retail, check his two most recent publications: The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping and Projects for Prada Part 1. stay tuned. [I particularly recommend the Prada book.]


Thinking about Koolhaas' Delirious New York again. This 1978 book, billed as a "retroactive manifesto," tells the story of Simeon deWitt, Governeur Morris and John Rutherford, who boldly mapped out the Manhattan Grid in 1811. "...Each block is now alone like an island, fundamentally on its own. Manhattan turns into a dry archipelago of blocks." The grid set the terms for Manhattan's future and foreordained--according to Koolhaas--NYC's vertical development (ie., the skyscraper). Apex Art had an interesting exhibit in 2000, "Block," which featured Austrian architecture students' responses to what Koolhaas called "Manhattanism."

My street was barely a twinkle in deWitt & Co's eyes then. In fact, the two buildings above both date from the 1920's, when Park Avenue got its first real upgrade (from putting the NY Central railroad below grade. It's the train to New Haven, you know). But like the rest of Manhattan, it's character is inexorably derived to the grid. But not in the way Koolhaas thought. It's the street, not the block, that's really wonderful. On approach my street's most interesting feature is the forest-dense trees that fill the space between the blocks.

John Cage was interested in the spaces between, whether between sounds or between notes or text on a page. It's one of the reasons I wanted to use Cage's music in Souvenir (November 2001). And Gustavo Bonevardi, a creator of Towers of Light (a project which played a role in my writing Souvenir and which has an indirect reference in the movie) said of it: "...in effect, we're not rebuilding the towers themselves, but the void between them."

babe.jpgTook a whirlwind trip to the Yale School of Architecture to see an exhibition (mostly) of the theoretical works of the Rotterdam architecture firm, MVRDV. Ivory tower academics? Nope. They actually build. A lot. And Yale dean Robert Stern rightly praises "their belief that invention grows out of knowledge is refreshing in a profession too often mired in fashion."

Through projects like Metacity/Datatown to Pig City to the 3D City Ballet, the firm's just-the-facts analytical approach to the problems of urban density have yield results that are inventive, increasingly sophisticated, and, yes, beautiful. It's fitting that the exhibit's in New Haven; after all, what is Connecticut, but a classically American "approach to the problems of urban density"? MVRDV's never met a sprawl it didn't want to render obsolete. Their "more-in-less-space-is-more" love of the city can be attributed in part to their early tenure with Rem Delirious New York Koolhaas (they were over him before he was ever kool). But it's also the hardearned appreciation of space that comes from living in a country which, according to Nature's logic, should be entirely underwater.

MVRDV's most-discussed theoretical project is Pig City, their turns-out-to-be-explosively-controversial proposal to concentrate Holland's massive (and land-intensive) pork industry into self-contained skyscrapers. The Dutch architecture site Archined has many heated comments about Pig City's moral/ethical implications.

Although Winy Maas (the M in MVRDV) told me about it in May, I didn't write about it here, but Pig City (and the firm) got caught up in the political upheaval and violence that shocked the Dutch last Spring. Pim Fortuyn had appropriated Pig City into his right-ist party's platform. The dam on the lagoon broke when Fortuyn was assassinated by an leftist (and animal rights activist), and Winy & Co. were faced with unexpected censorship and death threats.

America's probably a vapid, welcome respite for these guys. While a suburbanite couple in the gallery with me today sniffed, the guestbook was full of celebratory comments. Winy's gonna have groupies, too; he's taking the Eli's through the (s)paces next Spring, studying the urban mechanisms of New York.

All nice, but they also enjoy America's greatest reward for the contemporary architect, the adulation of Hollywood celebrities. Architecture writer David Sokol, reports in Metropolis (three times!) that "MVRDV, in case you haven't heard, is actor Brad Pitt's favorite architecture firm." Actually, no, I hadn't heard, so I looked it up. According to The Pitt Center, MVRDV are only Pitt's third favorite architects (after Gehry and that damn Koolhaas, FYI). Brad say's they're #3, I say they're #1. Write that down.

"Great web philosopher" David Weinberger weblogged several talks at PopTech 2002, which had the theme of Artificial Worlds. From his posts, it sounded like a lot of thought-provoking fun. But what's in it for me you ask? (Me meaning me, of course, not you.) Some speakers addressed stuff that matters to the Animated Musical (which now has a future-based flashback-to-the-present structure, as noodled over here):

  • Ray Kurzweil spoke about the future (of computing), where human brain power and computing power intersect in 2029 (he didn't give a date, so keep your calendars open).
    Bonus Weinberger question: "I said last summer I stood in a wheatfield that 100M stalks of wheat. If we take left-leaning is on and right-leaning as off, for 5 minutes, that wheatfield completely represented Casear's brain state when he was stabbed. So, I asked, it seems to me that hw-sw is entirely the wrong paradigm for the brain, intelligence, consciousness. (Unfortunately, I chose not to draw the explicit connection, in order to save time, and thus sounded like a lunatic.) "

  • Alvy Ray Smith, co-foundar of Pixar, presented the case against digital actors. Acting is founded in consciousness, and would be impossible to model/program without conscious computers. [And even if computers achieved consciousness, how many do you have to make to get one Emily Watson? -ed.] Oh, and Pixar's still at least two orders of magnitude away from modelling real humans satisfactorily.

    Bonus outside reading assignment: Dr. Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness

  • Warren Spector, game god, said games are "part of the real world." Games as a story-telling medium, or a story-facilitating medium, really, with the explosion of continuous multiplayer games.
    Bonus video game-as-research:The Sims, duh, and Grand Theft Auto 3 ("reprehensible" but "revolutionary").

  • October 21, 2002

    Pseudonyms

    Not being a rabid fan of Hunter S Thompson, Jerry Seinfeld, Beck, Leno, or their literary agents, I somehow missed the original brouhaha about Asterisk, the pranksterish pseudonym of some reasonably well-known writer/comedic person (rumors have/had it to be either Thompson himself or Jerry Seinfeld).

    A rant-filled fax sent--seemingly from HST--to HST's agent complained that some Asterisk was ripping HST off, but it turns out the fax itself was from Asterisk in the style of HST. Anyway, now 3AM Magazine has an interview with the as-yet-unidentified Asterisk. The Beck connection? A Spike Magazine reader named Andreas Gursky [thunk! Um, Spike, I think you dropped something.] pointed out a Fimoculous anecdote where Beck asked Seinfeld who Asterisk is during a taping of Jay Leno.

    As a media circle jerk, it's a bit tiresome, but because The Animated Musical has some pseudonymous characters in it, the idea's been on my mind. Recently, a greg.org reader and very respected editor [thunk!] suggested I employ a pseudonym to write on topics other than my film projects. With the advent of online communication, pseudonyms aren't just for Deep Throat anymore. In a world of complete Googlability, compartmentalizing one's thoughts/activities/output is probably not all bad. But after you've admitted you liked Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I figure there's nothing left to hide.

    While some people have emailed about the Animated Musical (specifically, how long the As-Yet-Unannounced thing'll go on), more than a few have pointed out that a string of bad-to-middlin-but-with-a-couple-of-classic film references is an unlikely/inauspicious beginning for a great movie. One kind reader suggested I should "write what [I] know, rather than cut and paste a bunch of other peoples ideas."

    I have angsted a bit over describing the script indirectly like this, but I'm gonna stick with it for a while, at least until I'm satisfied with it creatively and I have some more substantial business/development/legal traction for the project. But then I read an excerpt of a letter from Abraham Lincoln in John Perry Barlow's recently circulated Pox Americana. My script is based on the catalogs of movies I referenced in the same way South Park: The Movie was based on Abraham Lincoln's letter.


    Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - - and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after you have given him so much as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us' but he will say to you 'be silent; I see it, if you don't.'

    Read Sen. Robert Byrd's Oct. 3 speech, which included this excerpt. Listen to it on MP3.

    Other highly relevant research/source material, Bruce Schneier's canonical Applied Cryptography. Last month in The Atlantic, Charles Mann wrote an interesting, disturbing article on Homeland Security, starring Schneier.

    punch-drunk love poster
    I'm watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture right now, and it's blowing me away. It's the first movie, the one with the original crew, the bald chick, and V'Ger, a cloud-like alien vessel with the Voyager space probe at its core. Anyway, wide swaths of the movie are a nearly psychedelic trance, which I never remembered. There's an incredible 10+ minute abstract FX sequence of the Enterprise entering the vessel. It's similar to Jeremy Blake's digital work and the passages he did for Punch-Drunk Love. Or, it's as abstract, at least. A very unexpected place for such a confluence.
    Syd Mead's rendition of V'Ger

    [The visual effects on STTMP were originally led by Richard Taylor, then Douglas Trumbull took over after overruns in the chaotic production's budget. So far, I think the V'Ger sequence was John Dykstra's and Trumbull's realization of Syd Mead's concepts. An interview with Taylor survives for now in Google's cache: page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Charles Barbee wrote about lighting and shooting the V'Ger Flyover, including accounts of 10-pass in-camera composited shots and finding just the right "glare angle." Syd Mead discusses creating V'Ger.]

    While I mentioned before that elements of the Star Trek IV story inspired the latest script for the AYUAM, it turns out that several ideas from this Star Trek worked in as well. I'm not unaware that these are considered two of the lamest Star Trek films made ("The V'Ger flyby was interminable."). Combine this with the fact that I don't like musicals, and I find myself deeply engaged in something I should be hating, but instead, I'm loving it. Can someone explain this to me?

    taxidriver_still.jpg

    "The city belongs to the hoodlums, the pimps, and the hookers. Bickle starts hoping that 'some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.'" [via]

    Tourists marveled at the multicolored glass skyscraper, but also gawked as evidence technicians took measurements and snapped photographs of the crime scene... "They might have cleaned up some of Times Square," said Jason Fallon, who picks up trash for the Times Square Business Improvement District. "But when I get to work at 6 in the morning, it's still all pimps and hookers and hoodlums."
    - "Old Times Square Surfaces in Brawl on Eighth Avenue", NY Times

    Gangs Of New York gets new release date, Dec. 20 (Miramax prexy Weinstein blinks: "The Souvenir November 2001 debut on the 19th made us nervous.")

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    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.

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