In "Living Here, But Registered There," the Times celebrates all the "New Yorkers" with out-of-state plates. Harry is the story's cowering Officer Krupke, on a lonely crusade against these scofflaws who clog our alternate street parking and--and don't pay the $15 city tax and-- From where I'm standing (off the curb, naturally), a New Jersey plate means you don't know how to drive in the city; when you finally stop (in the crosswalk), I'll still look down at your license plate before making dismissive eye contact.

2003, it seems, will not be the year that other gang gets lauded in the press: New Yorkers who register their cars here, even though they keep them somewhere else. And you better not be in my spot when I get back.

Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002,

Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002,

Dollhouse, Interior views, Yinka Shonibare
for the Norton Christmas Project 2002

In lieu of Christmas cards, the art collector Peter Norton and his family began sending out specially commissioned works. [Inspired by the Nortons' example, we began commissioning artist editions--albeit at a much smaller scale--to send to family and friends as a commemmoration of various births and anniversaries.]

In 2002, the British/Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare created a toy Victorian rowhouse, outfitted with his trademark Dutch batik fabrics, a photo of his own, and, for good measure, a Fragonard in the bedroom. Shonibare exhibited a sculptural installation based on Fragonard in 2001 and was in Documenta 11 last year.

Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000, Norton Family Christmas Project, 2000,
Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000 for the Norton Family Christmas Project 2000, image:

For the 2000 Project, Jap-pop artist Takashi Murakami made a Wink doll, which contains a happy little CD in its base. Read about it on Alan Yen's ToyboxDX. And in 1996, Norton asked Brian Eno to publish an updated edition of Oblique Strategies, his highly sought after collection of question and idea cards, originally made in collaboration with the late Peter Schmidt. Gregory Taylor's OS site includes Norton's description of the Project and soliciting Eno's participation.

My favorite Strategy (as I attempt to write and edit in public): "Give the game away."

January 2, 2003


Yeah, I love my Christmas Powerbook setup and our iPod (which we're planning to jack into our 1985 Mercedes' original stereo (which, unsurprisingly, doesn't have a factory interface for mp3 players), and as soon as Final Cut Pro3 arrives ( 5:03 A.M. ALEXANDRIA, VA, US OUT FOR DELIVERY), I'll start crash editing S(J03).

In the mean time, should I interpret the use of Torx screws as anything other than kneejerk anti-duopolism (philips/flathead :: wintel)? We scoured NASA Goddard yesterday and couldn't find a Torx screwdriver small enough. "Designed to install youself," indeed. If your name's Greg Torx.

director Alexander Payne. image:, photo: Claudette Barius/New Line ProductionsA couple of weeks ago, I called About Schmidt the Thinking Person's My Fat, Greek Wedding and linked both back to the 1955 Academy Award sweeper Marty. Now, after giving it some thought, Vogue's Sarah Kerr notes an "odd coincidence" in a Slate discussion of the films of 2002: "Did you know that Payne is of Greek extraction and that in his boyhood his father owned a Greek restaurant in Omaha? Ring a bell with another movie this year?"

[Listen to Payne talking about Omaha on Studio 360.]
[MoMA's Film Department will honor Payne with its 2nd Work In Progress Award in February.]

January 1, 2003

Rollin' With My Homi

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over Triboro Bridge, so many, I had not thought the MLA had undone so many. - apologies to T. S. Eliot
The MLA Convention was in town, "but now they're gone." (apologies to Blue Oyster Cult.) Thankfully, the Observer did the painful hanging out for you, capturing the employment angst that haunts the event.

So why do 1,000 or so fresh lit crit PhD's ("talking loudly about post-docs and Homi Bhabha") think they're not gonna get one of the dwindling number of tenure-track university departments? Is it that the jobs are dwindling? Their knowledge and skills are at odds with the market? No, this year it's the publishers. Academic publishing channels are disappearing, but universities' stubbornly rely on said publication for faculty hiring. But oddly, the publishers only want to books that sell, by celebrity thinkers, a French concept the US thankfully hasn't really embraced (Non-thinking celebrities only, please. Desole, Mr. Penn.)

According to the big names at MLA, films are a potential solution. And they don't mean hosting one panel on "The Hollywood Musical, 1970-2002". MLA Jefe Stephen Greenblatt consulted on Shakespeare in Love. And special guest star/historian (and "haute couture communist") Natalie Zemon Davis shared writing credit on Le Retour de Martin Guerre, so that's two. I see no one's taking credit for Sommersby, though. Hmm.

Well, the MLA convention itself is overflowing with ideas, analysis, papers, panels, content. It's the most microsegmented idea bazaar around. The index does sound like a pitch meeting: "Guns and Barbies," "The Bible & Toni Morrison," " Talkin' Funny III" (Sequel. Good. I see Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. Go on.), "Theorizing Beowulf: The Cognitive-Economic-Postcolonial Beowulf" (Okay...), "Cash Bar and Dinner Arranged by the Joseph Conrad Society of America" (Cash bar? He did Apocalypse Now and it's cash bar??).

Impenetrable monologues, job envy and economic disparity? Sounds like the perfect NY writers party. And the reaction of naive MLA'ers reveals it to be so:

"You get the sense that everyoneís in on some big secret that youíre not a part of," said Ms. Vlagopoulos.
"Or that theyíre all playing a practical joke on you," added Ms. Sobelle.
. Well, womyn, it's called Mafia, and you're dead.

As for publishing, well, that one's got me stumped. It's not like there's an easy-to-use, economical model for publishing that facilitates discussion and dialogue. I'd love to be proved wrong, but for all their content and desperation to get the word out, it looks like not one person blogged the MLA.

Sifting and digitizing footage for S(J03) until the batteries in my camera ran out, when I watched two DVD's back to back, XXX and Don't Look Now. At a stretch, I can say XXX is research for the Animated Musical. Nicolas Roeg's 1973 thriller, though, is a concentrated course in editing in general and intercutting in particular.

Julie Chrystie in Don't Look Now

When I cited the seduction scene in Out of Sight as inspiration for intercutting scenes 1 and 2 in Souvenir, a couple of readers suggested seeing the similar Donald Sutherland/Julie Chrystie love scene in Don't Look Now, "one of the subtlest, most affecting erotic sequences in the history of cinema." Similar? Apparently, in the Out of Sight DVD commentary,Soderbergh cops to copying this scene; frankly, I think he improved on it.

Roeg's a cinematographer-turned-director, and it shows. Venice looks awesome in the dark (blown out sunlight at the end of a long alley) and the light (endless boats crossing shimmering canals). And Roeg never met a mirror or semi-transparent surface he didn't like (or shoot); when the unsettling Scottish sisters confront Christie's grieving mother in the ladies' room, there are so many reflections you wonder where the camera was.

The love scene is unexpectedly intense (think twice before watching this one with the in-laws), and not just because I went into the movie thinking Julie Chrystie was the one in The Belle of Amherst. The intercutting is quite effective and interestingly different from Out of Sight. The differences between Roeg's and Soderbergh's scenes are both consistent and convenient. Don't Look Now: impassioned married sex between people who know each other well is intercut with the aftermath, stolid scenes of getting dressed for dinner. The sex is guaranteed, just part of the fabric of life. Out of Sight: Self-conscious flirtation between pursuer and pursued is intercut with the payoff, uncertainty banished and anticipation building to a striptease and one hot night in the sack.

Roeg packs his film with foreboding cuts; pay attention, because everything seems intentional or freighted with meaning. Handheld camerawork (a church accident and late-night chase along a canal, in particular) crops up unexpectedly and with great emotional effect. Some of the love scene cuts are a bit obvious, though; a shot of Julie Chrystie rolling over cuts to a shot of her turning around and putting on lipstick, and there's a silly pelvic thrust as Sutherland puts on his pants. Even if it feels a little heavy-handed or self-indulgent sometimes, Roeg's is an expressive style of filmmaking that's largely dropped from sight these days.

Except, of course, for the "exciting faux-documentary style of Bloody Sunday; the feverish intercutting in Adaptation, Chicago, The Hours, Solaris, even The Two Towers!" which Slate's David Edelstein points out...

December 29, 2002

On Fame. Not Fame, Fame.

Kevin Spacey and John Cusack in a movie I won't name.

If you thought the best thing in this Guardian story about Kevin Spacey's popularity in London is the phrase "pashmina intelligentsia," you're too easily pleased:

On one occasion, the actress Sienna Miller was sitting next to Spacey at a bar. She had just seen The Usual Suspects and was excited to find herself close to one of the film's stars.

Approaching him she said: 'I just wanted to say I can't believe I'm sitting in a bar drinking champagne next to Kevin Bacon.' 'Spacey,' said Kevin. 'Yeah, it is, isn't it?' said Miller.

Which reminds me, I saw a part of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil the other night on TV, and I realized its similarities to Adaptation haven't been mentioned anywhere. [Of course, my mentioning them here isn't going to help me get ahead at Spacey's online film company, Triggerstreet. What the hey, here goes.]
  • Both are adapted from very popular books, which were in turn adapted from magazine articles (Okay, Midnight just seemed like a 400-page Vanity Fair article.)
  • The writer, desperately inserts himself into the story. Hilarity ensues. We then experience a melange of fiction, fact, imagination and multiple levels of reality. (Okay, Charlie Kaufman was upfront about it. To a fault. John Berendt's been much cagier. No pun intended.)
  • John Cusack is in both films. But he's much better in Adaptation (Okay, I'm guessing, but he can't have a worse role than he did in Midnight, etc.)
  • And most significantly, Midnight director Clint Eastwood is Adaptation director Spike Jonze's father. (Okay, I made that one up, but I had to finish big.)

  • December 28, 2002

    S(J03): Tape Logging Complete

    Just finished logging in the third and final tape for S(J03), and I'm pretty relieved/excited. At first, three hours of footage for a 5-minute film seemed daunting, like we'd never be able to cull it down, but after watching it all, it's won't be a problem. That makes it sound like there's only 5 minutes of usable footage in the whole day, which is not the case at all. With a lot of long takes and exploring, there is more extraneous stuff; it's just that there are some shots which are so clearly good, you can flag them right away.

    When we shot the ironing scenes at the hotel, for example, we went start-to-finish on three shirts. (Ironing? Huh? Read the script.) By the third shirt, Patrick, the cinematographer, had really gotten a feel for it; his intimacy and comfort with the camera come through as he shot the entire shirt in one continuous take.

    As soon as I get the Powerbook set up for editing, I'm off. Detailed logging means I'll probably only capture about 20 minutes of video, which is very manageable.

    December 27, 2002

    The Best Boxing Day, EVER

    New New Yorker Jason Kottke made my Boxing Day by including on his weblog's "not recommended at all" list. It's right under Gawker (who I'd come to imagine as a top, so that's unsurprising). Thanks, Jason! (And unless you're just a single clone hitting reload, welcome, all Kottkeians, to

    View from the window at Le Gras, 1826, Joseph Nicephore NiepceView from the window at Le Gras, 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
    image: Ransom Center, UT Austin

    Or specifically, the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin:
    1) to see the world's first photograph, a view out his window taken by a Frenchman, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, in 1826. Jim Lewis writes about it on Slate.
    2) to read the unpublished manuscript of Minstral Island, a futuristic musical by Thomas Pynchon and Kirkpatrick Sale, which they recently acquired. [Fill out your research application before you go. Oh, and get Pynchon's written permission if you want to make a copy. I'm sure he's listed.]

    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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