Ben, Jen, Kevin on the set of Jersey Girls

On his illustrious entertainment portal Movie Poop Shoot, Kevin Smith is publishing a weekly production diary of Jersey Girls, his latest, which he calls "hands-down, the best movie we've ever made." The dates are a little ambiguous. The Week One entry is dated July 12, and the Week Two entry isn't exactly dated, but the original schedule had the 11-week shoot wrapping on November 1, er, tomorrow. It's got Ben Affleck and Jen Lopez in it, who also star in the unofficial off-the-set production diary, E! Online. Bonus: There's a big show tunes musical number in it.

Since the eerie gap in this online production diary overlaps perfectly with the lag on Full Frontal (where it was Week 3 for two+ months), my theory is Miramax had some kind of summer web embargo, or fired their sysadmin and couldn't do updates, or something.

pentagon pre-9/11 aerial view, with memorial site marked by a red star

In the 45 minutes between reading about it in the Washington Post and seeing the competition exhibition itself at the National Building Museum, I had designed a memorial for the Pentagon in my head. In fact, I debated going home to document it before seeing the 70+ designs--6 finalists and 60-something "semi-finalists" from both amateurs and professionals--submitted to the competition sponsor, the US Army Corps of Engineers. (See submissions of the six finalists at the competition website.) After making a movie that uses precisely this subject to explore how people--and places--deal with horrible events, I felt compelled. I still feel compelled, but for different reasons.

In the Post article, Benjamin Forgey laments that while (Viet Nam Memorial designer) Maya Lin's influence is "mightily felt here" in the competitors' attempts at "direct, highly charged personal encounter that Lin made possible with her dark, reflective wall," "there were no Maya Lins in the competition. I found just the opposite: there were far too many Lins. The Viet Nam Memorial's combination of heavily programmed "experience" and minimalist form has become the default setting for memorials, at least in the US.

Among these best designs, the vocabulary of contemporary art is widely used without hesitation or fear of high-brow backlash. One semi-finalist Rogers Marvel, rather beautifully and ingeniously uses the form of James Turrell's Roden Crater, incorporating the Pentagon's cornice and planes flying overhead en route to National Airport in ways that subvert the artist's sought-after serene sublimity. Other semi-finalists quote or Tadao Ando's churches with remarkable literalism. Lin's memorial itself is mimicked as well, with names or photos carved on highly polished or translucent panels.

The Post article didn't prepare me for the large number of entries that marked the approximate flight path of AA77 and oriented themselves to the "point of impact." My own memorial design was to address this overlooked (I thought) but crucial element of the attack. But while no design incorporated it like I would (i.e., "meaningfully"), I soon found out why it featured so obviously in so many entries; the path and the point of impact are marked prominently and clearly on the location plan that was part of the competition materials. While supposedly claiming no specific program, the Pentagon's own documents actually "told" many people what to include in their design.

A final observation on the competition finalists: The program for remembering every person killed has clearly reached some kind of conceptual endgame, to the overall detriment of the resulting memorial. Terry Riley, MoMA's curator of architecture and one of eleven jurors in this competition, once said that the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing--a monumental arch with 75,000 names on its surfaces-- was the first major example of a memorial to individuals lost in battle. Before that, memorials were to generals or battles, but not lowly soldiers. Inspired by this Memorial, Lin brought this powerfully inclusive idea into her design. But at least since Oklahoma City, memorializing each individual individually has become the norm. An overwhelming percentage of the designs called for 184 somethings: benches, pools, stone markers, glowing human-height columns, wind-chime-like reeds, trees. One finalist includes 184 "life recorders," individual "black boxes"; another proposes 184 "memorial units." Indeed, without dismissing the losses of these people and their families, such individually totemic shrines have become the devalued currency of tragedy, drowning out the significance of an event which means much more than the sum of the lives lost, and limiting the memorial's audience unnecessarily.

I'm going to go ahead and make some sketches anyway.

I spent a couple of hours this morning thinking about the Pentagon Memorial, and I made a design in response to those selected by the jury for the Army Corps or Engineers Competition. Click here to see it.

To be honest, my original idea embodied the somewhat escapist idea that we could go back to the time before the attacks, that we could undo what had happened. I wondered, "What if, somehow, Flight 77 veered at the last minute and resumed its original course, heading uneventfully toward Los Angeles?" I found that, instead of escapism, my response had to painfully acknowledge that, while briefly entertaining such thoughts is a natural human response, we must inevitably confront what happened and deal with the losses and changes in our world.

To some degree, my design is also a response to Benjamin Forgey's wistful comment in the Post: "Still, I'd like to recognize the Pentagon memorial at a distance, to reflect on it as an identifiable part of Washintgon's symbolic landscape." It's a comment I can understand well.

The memorial in Thiepval was designed to dominate the surrounding landscape, built as it is on a promontory with key strategic value to both sides in the Battle of the Somme. Also, Forgey understands Washington well; this place is nothing if not a symbolic landscape, and for every tourist who pulls up to a memorial, thousands of people drive right on by. A memorial that doesn't take them--or the millions of others who experienced the attacks on television--into account drastically limits its own impact.

Click here to read a compilation of my weblog entries about of memorials.

October 29, 2002

These bus shelter posters

These bus shelter posters in London seem so fake, it's shocking to read the text: "CCTV and Metropolitan Police on busses are just two ways we're making your journey more secure/Busses are getting better/Mayor of London. Police and CCTV on a bus? I saw that movie in 1994; didn't seem very secure to me...

I was looking on Indiewire for the official MoMA Documentary Fortnight screening schedule announcement, so this headline made me flinch: "'Failed Artist' Allen Talks Up European Film". Fortunately, it's not about me or my "European film," it's Woody, who disingenuously (but accurately, especially lately) calls himself "very, very mediocre."

It's a phenomenon I'm well aware of, because I've done it myself. Even when I was growing up in North Carolina, my accent was never that strong; it certainly isn't as strong as it is when I'm asking people in the South for something. Then, my accent deepens a bit, and I turn into Jethro Clampett before my traveling companions' bemused eyes, a good old boy just trying not to get screwed at the rural gas station.

But I'm not the President of the United States. Bush very self-consciously hicks up his accent sometimes, for some reason(s) known to him. It should be researched, analyzed, and reported, but my theory is he does it only when he's campaigning among the partisan faithful in certain states where he thinks Curiously Folksy George'll play better (IA, NM, CO recently).

Want to try it out? Listen to this news conference with Chinese President Jiang Zemin from C-SPAN. Bush is in Crawford, but as soon as the mention of "the Texas" is through, Bush goes nearly accent-free.
Now try this campaign speech in Alamogordo, New Mexico from NPR (the Bush story starts at 2:00), which is the strongest accent I've heard yet. [Note: NPR changed the stream. Now no audio/video of this stump speech seems to exist on the web. Why is that? It could be quite useful to hear politicians' "entirely for local consumption" speeches repeated verbatim in multiple locations. "Sher am glad to be here in ... Springfield with y'all")

According to obviously not unbiased but nevertheless generally credible sources, Spike Jonze & Charlie Kaufman's new film Adaptation is getting effusive response from preview audiences.

We saw the trailer for Adaptation; before the opening of Punch-Drunk Love, right after writing about the film's just-launched weblog at Brimming with excitement for the film, anticipation building, the trailer made me want to run screaming from the theater. It was the worst trailer for a supposedly good movie since The Shawshank Redemption, which was almost buried by it's horrible trailer.

the jerk who just took two parking spots

< New Yorker Crankiness >: I hate amateur parallel parking, like the guy out my window this very minute, who just parked half a car-length from the sign and half a car-length from the next car. He even spent a few moments pulling up, backing up, focusing on getting straight and close to the curb, yet remained oblivious to his taking two spots. Even though Trent Lott wouldn't approve, you could still fit a couple of Smart Cars in there. < /NYC>

Chowhound. I've been trying to remember this site, after hearing it on WNYC a few months ago. It's the culinary findings of unnervingly energetic food fan Jim Leff, and it just turned up again on The Next Big Thing.

Cremaster 2 still, Matthew Barney Production Still, Cremaster 2, 1999 Matthew Barney (photo: Peter Strietman)

Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle, pound for pound, the most comprehensive Barney Book ever. (You won't wonder why there's no free shipping.)

PBR Round 2 pic

The best line from the awards ceremony at the PBR World Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas: "Well, retirin' your best friend's like shootin' your best horse."

So I'm watching the PBR Bud Light Cup World Finals, and there's a camera guy in the ring, all decked out like he's, well, like he's going to the biggest bullriding rodeo event of the year, thank you very much, and he's got a Glidecam, just like we used in France.

I know of at least one place where you can get Vitamin Water in Paris:

I forget the name, but it's a clean little deli on Rue Danielle Casanova, just north (and just east) of Place du Marche Saint-Honore (that's where the Commes des Garcons Perfume Shop is).

image of Isabella Blow in Yoshiki Hishinuma, by bill cunningham, via nyt 2002

"To be contemporaine de tout le monde--that is the keenest and most secret satisfaction that fashion can offer a woman."
- The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin

Apparent egalitarianism is the great appeal of the Street Fashion concept, especially in New York, and especially in the street photos of Bill Cunningham in the NYTimes. If you just be yourself --and that self is someone who's got a bit of the trend radar that puts you in cargo pants about six weeks before it shows up in Cunningham's Sunday street collages-- your embroidered jeans-wearing booty may just surprise you by turning up in the paper. Bill never put your name under your photo, not even if yours is recognizable; credit goes to the man with the camera, and your just appearing is reward enough.

But when someone like Isabella Blow --who's got "Muse" printed on her carte de visite --walks down the street, it's the street fashion equivalent of George Bush making a speech in a national park: the setting says "See, I < heart > nature," but be surprised if the clearcutters wait till FoxNews cuts back to the studio before revving up their chainsaws. Blow's not on just anyone on any street any time. She's a Muse. In Paris. During The Shows. Walking (or wafting, in this case) amidst photographers, designers, editors, stylists, and groupies. Fashion industry types. Just like her.

One of the designers Blow muses for is Jean-Paul Gaultier, who I once sat next to on the Concorde [that was totally uncalled for, I know]. Nice guy. And a brilliant miner of both the street-as-walkway and the street-as-runway. The Mixture, a new culture site with an old-school appreciation of editing, is streaming Gaultier's latest show in its entirety. It's worth watching.

Benjamin called the flaneur "a spy for the capitalists, on assignment in the realm of consumers." If so, in the lead of France's fashion industry (an "occult science of industrial fluctuations" if ever there was one. The Arcades Project is like a can of Pringles: once it's open, you can't stop at just one.) is just where Gaultier belongs.

France's fashion week definitely has an industrial air, with trade associations, official this and that, and weighty government sanction. It's like the Expositions Universelles that made Paris the center of the 19th century world, where innovations were unveiled: things like "electricity" ("The City of Lights") and "Photography," which debuted there in 1855. Benjamin again, on the group that re-defined the term, avant-garde:

The Saint Simonians, who envision the industrialization of the earth, take up the idea of world exhibitions...[They] anticipated the development of the global economy, but not the class struggle...World exhibitions glorify the exchange value of the commodity.

Nice work, if you can get it. Nobody knows better than Benjamin that the image and (the street) reality have a very complicated (business) relationship. When Bill Cunningham takes Isabella Blow's picture on the street in Paris, we have to know that the image is manufactured, constructed in a myriad of ways, some obvious and some not, by all parties involved. (Isabella, even the panhandling woman in my neighborhood changes into her garbage bag before starting work.)

And I found the same issues face the filmmaker, even/especially the documentary filmmaker. To what extent do you just "let something happen" and you "happen" to film it? To what extent to you "make something happen," or stage it? Can't stage it? Wouldn't be prudent? Wouldn't have street cred? Well, how about if you just go to the spots where you know what you want to shoot is gonna happen? Then, you can just "happen" to film it. It all involves choices; editing before, during, and after the fact; having an eye (and a camera), and deciding what to do with it. All things being equal, then, some things just look better. And that can make all the difference.

The Age of Street Fashion [nyt]

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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.

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recent projects, &c.

eBay Test Listings
Mar 2015 —
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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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