Since my most recent short film, S(J03), is about a guy who finds aesthetic pleasure and takes solace in ironing, I thought I'd surf up some relevant ironing links, to see if I'm crazy (or if I, and other people, are crazy):

  • The Pleasure of Ironing a Fine Cotton Shirt by Roy Earnshaw, published in a 1987 Land's End catalog, no-nonsense, with a bit of downhome, Garrison Keillor-y romanticism:
    I plug in the iron, check the water level, turn the setting to ó what else ó cotton. Then pause for a few moments to let it get hot.

    The room where I iron is a barren one. No furniture, just the ironing board. A "room we haven't figured out what to do with yet," having just recently bought this house...

    ...The finches in the back room start to peep as first light looks in the windows. Time for me to go.

  • The rise of Ironing John by David McKie, in The Guardian, a goofy sports story sports a literary lede:
    How pleasant to sit on a cold December day in a warm and welcoming room, listening to the servants going about their work: the washing machine roaring and whirring and at moments of excitement even advancing a little across the floor; the dishwasher clunking and clanking and buzzing to show it has finished; the fridge, though a less demonstrative creature, positively purring with pleasure...

    And yet in the midst of all this automated activity there still sits the obdurate, unreconstructed iron, as incapable now as it was in the 19th century of getting on with its business unless compelled and propelled. So many old chores have been swept away: this one remains.And remains, I had always supposed, predominantly for women...
    Yet that isn't so any more. Over the past 12 months, it appears, the young men of Britain have developed a taste for ironing.

  • Pressing Matters by Maggie Alderson, in the Sydney Morning Herald, colloquial, Australian:
    I love ironing. About once a year. That's about how often I actually get round to it. The rest of the time the pile of it grows in a corner of my spare bedroom like the European Butter Mountain. But crease-y, rather than greasy.
  • Channel 4 announces extreme ironing documentary, press release from the Extreme Ironing Bureau, the dry sarcasm British TV wears you down with:
    With stunning locations and beautifully turned out athletes, this film follows the fortunes of ìStarchî, ìPower Cordî, ìIron Matronî and ìSafety Settingî as they struggle with their delicates and make battle against the highly organised German and Austrian ironists.

    Extreme ironing was invented in Britain, but, like football and cricket, it already seems that Johnny Foreigner is better than us.

  • Practice Areas: Consumer Products, sales information for PR firm CRT, track record and attitude? Why go anywhere else?:
    We cut our teeth helping build great brands like Advil, CorningWare, Robitussin and Eskimo Pie. Hey, if we can get a bowling ball on Letterman and a new iron on CNN, there's not much we can't do.
  • Iron your worries away! by Kailah Eglington, on her personal site, Kailah's Korner, life-affirming and inspirational messages to help you catch your dreams:
    Next, I randomly split the ironing into two piles - the "Yes" pile and the "No" pile, then put on a relaxing CD. I start ironing the "No" pile. As I begin to iron, I visualise that the trousers or shirt that I'm ironing is a worry over which I have no control. As each wrinkle is smoothed out, I see that particular worry becoming less and less important. I have no control over it, so as the wrinkles get ironed, I gradually let the worry go.

  • Video Quartet, Christian Marclay,

    Last night I heard the artist Christian Marclay talk about Video Quartet, his enchanting, mind-boggling music/film work at Paula Cooper Gallery. It's a 13-minute musical composition of nearly 600 separate film clips, on four simultaneous channels, projected onto a 40'-long screen. It was commissioned by a friend, Benjamin Weil, a curator at SFMOMA, where it was shown last summer to wide acclaim. [Naturally, Jason Kottke wrote about it then; so did] Rather than parrot or try to outdo other reviews, or gush about my own experience (I've now seen Quartet ten+ times), I think it's worthwhile to look at how Marclay actually made the piece.

    Video Quartet owes its existence to the recent emergence of real desktop editing software, and the artist's highly unconventional use of it. Amazingly, Marclay learned and used Final Cut Pro: "I sat in front of a computer for almost a full year," he said. With the concept and an abstracted narrative structure in mind and starting with the films he knew, Marclay gathered scenes with music, performance, or sounds. He made bins for various categories (e.g., piano playing, singing, gongs, violins, tapdancing), hand-building a database of clips to work from.

    Then he started constructing passages or scenes and built "bridges" between them. (One thing he said he'd wished he'd done differently: start at the beginning and build it sequentially. Hey, no complaints from me.) Along the way, Marclay would search out additional films and pull from them "the right combination of music and image." (Musical strike two for Richard Gere: Marclay wanted to use Gere playing trumpet from The Cotton Club, but the combo just didn't work.)

    But how can you edit four video+audio channels in FCP, which plays multiple audio channels, (but only one video channel) at a time? By ear, apparently. He'd layer the four video+audio channels, set sound levels, and then adjust the timing of edits by outputting tiny animated versions, side by side. The result is exquisitely composed sound throughout, with absorbing images choreographed across four screens, flecked with just a touch of visual chance.

    Knowing the basics of Marclay's method adds a layer of complexity to Quartet, a layer that deepens with even a little hands-on experience in Final Cut. The last time I watched it, I began seeing the clips on a timeline, picturing a. What had seemed impossible or magic before was now revealing itself as a complex creation, the product of arduous, inspired effort.

    January 24, 2003

    Old Europe

    Bill Mauldin Cartoon, image:
    "Them buttons wuz shot off when I took this town, sir." (image:

    GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin dies the day Donald Rumsfeld apologizes for setting the value of drafted soldiers at zero ("no value, no advantage, really").

    Then, Rumsfeld zeroes out "Old Europe," (i.e., France, Germany, the 75% of the population which doesn't want war), which sets off a firestorm of criticism.

    When I began Souvenir November 2001 a year ago, it was an attempt to underline a feeling of unity--of empathetic understanding, painfully-earned through suffering, destruction, sacrifice--that I sensed was on the wane even then. By making a movie of a New Yorker visiting a battlefield in France, seeking to learn from a war in which one in ten British men were killed (draftees, except for all the volunteers); where French, British and German soldiers died in horrific numbers, for no justifiable strategic or military purpose; where freshly dedicated WWI memorials served as shelter and vantage points in WWII assaults; where the psychological weight of the violence can still be felt, eighty years later; I imagined it could somehow be a sign, a marker, something even slightly useful for recovering and progressing from the September 11th attacks. As the chasm between the US and the civilized world widens, though, I sometimes feel like a naive, idealistic idiot.

    Then I read, of all people, Brian Eno's comments in Time, and figure I'm not entirely alone in seeing a better way: "There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?"

    Hugh and Tina at the Golden Globes. image: eonline.comThe truth is, she never loved you. Not if you're a suck-up columnist for a foreign paper, that is. Tina Brown writes from her glass house, The Times of, um, London, En-ge-land (still a foreign country, but just barely): "One small perk of my new existence, for instance, is not having to go to Hollywood for the Golden Globe Awards...Waiting for valet parking to surface, you...stand in line with the stars of a thousand TV sitcoms you have never watched and wait for very small talents to climb into very big cars."

    Bonus pick-up line (from Hugh Grant): " 'I donít know about you,' Hugh Grant commented to me one year, 'but underneath this tux I am sweating like a wolf.'"

    One small perk of my existence: reading TB at The Times, cuz Salon now makes you watch Mercedes ads. photo:

    Act I: Setup

  • Chicago is being called "an attempt to revive the movie musical," a genre which has been woefully ignored by Hollywood since Moulin Rouge and South Park.
  • It apparently won a bunch of awards at the Golden Globes last week, and now lemming journalists are herding it to the cliff of Oscar plausibility.
  • Despite a general trepidation/disapproval of the genre (See exceptions here), I'm writing an Animated Musical.

    Act II: Action
    I went to see Chicago last night at the Ziegfeld (now a Pepsi theater, so no small sacrifice)

    Act III: Resolution
    IT SUCKED. Catherine Zeta-Jones' (aka, my phone pimp) was alive, and Queen Latifah had one good song (ok, great). But the film was emotionally and flat. Feeling nothing, not caring what happens to any character, and not getting any sense at all from the film of where we were in the story, I almost left several times.

    Embarassingly, it was media hype of Richard Gere's earnestly-studied tapdancing that kept me there, until I realized I may have already missed it (I hadn't, and it wasn't worth it). After the surprising turns by Ewan MacGregor, Nicole Kidman and Jim Broadbent in Moulin Rouge, the bar has been raised; "Wow! [Insert unlikely star name here] is singing!" just isn't enough anymore. [Of course, Woody Allen proved it wasn't enough before, either.]

    Lastly, the editing. If Moulin Rouge's occasional 100-120 cpm (cuts per minute) were too much for some people, at least they held up as a creative choice. Some of Chicago's musical numbers reached at least 70-80 cpm, but to disjointed, not frenetic effect. A barrage of nearly indecipherable cuts might fit an orgiastic mob dance scene, but rapidfire cuts of two women dancing on stage seems just like a cheap attempt to liven things up (or, more likely, feeble cover for an actress's less-than-sharp dancing).

  • Charlotte Higgins writes about art (theater, mostly) as a "powerful force for peace" during the Vietnam War and wonders if it can happen now:

    We don't know everything about the Iraq situation; in fact, judging from the past, one of the few certainties is that we are being deceived. And yet to amass facts about the past is to find a framework from which to assess the present, and the future. And, now, surely this is what really matters.

    And so does art: I am the last person to doubt the transforming nature of drama, or the power of theatre as protest. But what I want, now, this moment, is not plays, not poems, not mythology, not art - but facts.

    Higgins' hook was "US Revisited," screenings and discussions of Peter Brook's 1966 play, US, which set off a firestorm of debate over British indifference to Vietnam. Another Guardian article quotes Brook:
    To use a play to fight a war is taking a taxi to the Marne...We recognised that no finished, formed work of art about Vietnam existed: we knew you can't go to an author, give him a sum of money and say, 'We order from you, as from a shop, the following masterpiece about Vietnam.' So either one does nothing or one says, 'Let's begin.'
    In his memoirs, Kissinger credits US and similar works for hastening the end of the conflict, which ended just nine years later, in 1975.

    January 23, 2003

    Get Your War Protest On

    Whatever's wrong with San Francisco, you gotta admit: they know how to throw a protest. Check out Tenny Press's gallery of protest signs from last weekend [via MSNBC's Jan Herman, aka The Juice]

    January 23, 2003

    Quick Sundance Notes

    Suzanne Bier's Open Hearts

    From's excellent Sundance coverage comes the story of the screening of Open Hearts, by Danish director and Dogme groupie Susanne Bier:
    In the middle of this witty, winning Dogme 95-sanctioned melodrama about infidelity and mourning, the Park City projectionist accidentally screened the film in the wrong order: after the mistake was determined, the audience voted passionately to continue watching and piece together the narrative in their heads. One happy viewer was rumored to comment, "It's just like watching Memento." [One hopeful filmmaker was rumored to comment, "Then offer me what you should've paid Chris Nolan, dude."]

    Buffalo on the Montana Plains, Albert Bierstadt
    from the Collection of Ted Turner

    Just two things about emerging filmmaker Richard Linklater's short film, Live from Shiva's Dancefloor, about that megalomaniacal kook from that double-decker tour bus movie: If you want to put buffalo on Ground Zero, check with that far more impressive megalomaniac, Ted Turner; he's got the biggest herd of in the world.

    Buffalo Commons, image:

    According to the National Bison Association, you'd probably max out at a rather sparse 2.2 head/acre, or 35 buffalo total, on the 16-acre WTC site. Not quite the inspiring herds we've been promised. Not that returning land to the wild is too far-fetched: the Buffalo Commons concept has been floating around the Great Plains since at least 1987.

    In any case, if you're gonna go there, try Michael Ableman's farm idea, which he floated last month in the NY Times

    Ted Turner bonus quote: "Just because you don't hear him doesn't mean he isn't screaming," says author Richard Hack.

    Anne Truitt,
    Installation view, Anne Truitt, Danese Gallery (

    Two shows of evocative new work by unrepentant minimalists are on 57th street at the moment, a moment when a pair of artists over 80 demonstrate the power and relevance of the minimalist mode, as well as the potential benefits of being in it for the long haul.

  • Agnes Martin is showing luminous new paintings at PaceWildenstein, (who doesn't have a freakin' website, hello, 2003).

  • Anne Truitt is showing several square column sculptures which give form and physical presence to color at Danese Gallery. [See installation views on]

  • Richter 858 Cover Also at Slate Joshua Clover writes a clever essay (very or too, depending on if those are exhibition posters or actual paintings on your wall) about Richter 858, a luxuriantly produced ode-- in book form, with specially commissioned poems and a CD (of Richtermusik, I guess) -- to a suite of Gerhard Richter squeegee paintings. Retailing at $125 and co-published by SFMOMA (who have been promised the paintings from an anonymous donor), Richter 858 is a "classic fetish item, beautiful enough that everyone might want it but priced beyond the reach of the great unfunded." And that's not the worst of it.

    Clover reveals that 858's editor, David Breskin, is an SFMOMA Trustee and "almost certainly" the donor of the paintings, facts which--despite a year of SEC reforms and disclosure scandals--go unmentioned in the book. "Whatever a given Richter painting, or a particular poem, might be about, Richter 858 is about checkbooks and culture--that is, it's a book perfect for decadent modernism, where the art of consumption has replaced the art of production; it's a book, finally, about collecting, that individualist art overseen by the twin muses 'Dollars' and 'Indulge.'"

    "Dollar": Last time I checked, what a Richter painting's about, is $400,000 - 1 million, depending on the size and the date. A suite of eight, then, is about, well, you do the math. By making the paintings a "fractional and promised gift" to the museum, our benefactor (let's call him "DB") gives a percentage of the title each year for a fixed term ( ex. 10%/year, 10 years), until they belong 100% to the museum. Why do this, O Muse?. "DB" spreads a large tax deduction out over several years, which is useful if his gifts exceed 30% of his adjusted gross income. "Indulge": "DB" is able to keep the art for a period of time each year in proportion to his percentage ownership.

    But there's another muse's fingerprints on this one. 858's not a catalog, it's an experience Compared to the essay- and information-packed Richter exhibition catalog written by "The Brain," (aka, former MoMA curator Robert Storr), Richter 858's multimedia melange is a work of the Heart.

    "Heart": SFMOMA says Breskin was "compelled by these works" to create this book. Talking about the project and his interactions with Richter, Breskin's giddiness ("As a sequence, these hung together and swung in a musical sense," "I wanted to create an alternative way of engaging with pictures.") sounds less like a trustee and more like a groupie.

    Trust me, that's what some of the most passionate collectors are, art groupies. Going to concerts (openings), getting backstage (in the studio), obsessing over some lyric (work) and asking arcane questions that betray how powerfully a it inhabits your mind. Groupie? Check out Breskin's 2-day interview with the Richter of 1987 rock-n-roll, Bono, for Rolling Stone. Breskin seems like the kind of guy--indulgent, clearly, but in a necessary way--who's trying to live an art-centered life, not just an "art-owning" one. And by placing the Richters at SFMOMA, "DB" seems like the kind of donor who believes that indulgent art experience should always be available to the public (but who agonizes over letting the paintings go too soon).

    And besides, 858's 30% off at Amazon. A serious collector looks for a discount.

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

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

    comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
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