National was practically empty; faint scent Cinnabon and National Guardsmen with AK-47's. No free NYTimes (b/c they weren't delivered to the airport today, apparently). Absolutely no delays taking off or landing, even into LaGuardia. Our flight's approach was across Brooklyn, not up the Hudson, which offered a wide (but not straight down) view of downtown Manhattan. Everybody on the plane was staring or craning to see. [ shots of Manhattan from a private plane]

October 4, 2001

My video equipment's out on

My video equipment's out on loan for a music video, and I've been location scouting in DC for the last few days and haven't been able to work on the movie at all. For cheap thrills, I'm flying out of National Airport this afternoon (good old Delta Shuttle), and will report any happenings of note.

September 28, 2001

Worlds collide, or at least

Worlds collide, or at least intertwine:On the bus this afternoon going up Bowery, I overheard three early 50's women, daytrippers, talking about the WTC. Apparently, this was their first trip into the city since the 11th. "I just wanted to be a part of it," one confided, perhaps without realizing just what she's said. As immediate danger and fear and tragedy recede in CNN's rearview mirror, people are starting to seem apprehensive that their own experience may not have been sufficiently grave enough, weighty enough, historical enough.


Are we all required to have a sufficient answer to the question, "Where were you when...?" Most of the world was in front of a screen, watching, but ultimately, not yet directly involved. Mediated experience has become the norm; unmediated, personal experience is discounted and dismissed. The documentary film pioneer Albert Maysles once said, "The more you move them, the less they want to be moved, and the more they want to see movement on the screen."


He said that after a screening of Salesman at the Film Forum in New York, (it was 12/1/1997, according to my Palm, where I feverishly graffiti'd my notes) Maysles spoke long and well; it was almost magical. He said how real life is so full of stories, why, just that morning on the bus, he'd witnessed a scene--some characters, people interacting--if only he'd had his camera with him...


This guy [note: scroll down to the second entry], Hugo Perez, was apparently also in the audience and was also inspired by the bus story (so much so that he made a short film called "Albert Maysles Rides the Bus"). Perez includes this quote from Maysles, which goes to the very heart of what I'm working toward with my film:


"Most people never get the chance to have themselves truly represented and thereís nothing that they'd rather do than have people. . . somebody, and in the odd circumstance a filmmaker so much the better, pay attention to who they really are, to give them that recognition. It becomes a sacred duty."

How different from the prevailing mode of representation, the one that these women came into the city to "be a part" of.

September 25, 2001

This article from the NY

This article from the NY Times about Verizon looking into how to preserve voice mail messages from people who died reminded me of this extended article from the Washington Post this summer, which I'd saved:


"Once, many months after my father had died, we had an electrical storm that knocked out the power in my house," writes Lisa Valentine of Reston in an e-mail. "The answering machine in my room was blinking furiously when the power finally went back on. I hit the 'play' button and heard my father's voice:

" 'Lisa, it's Dad, give me a call.'

"Needless to say, I kind of freaked out until I realized the tape was playing old messages that I thought had been erased forever.

"It was nice to hear from my dad again. But he didn't leave a number where I could reach him."


[NYT by Jayson Blair. WP by Joel Garreau]

The Sundance Channel currently has a "Cinema Verite" month, including this documentary history, "Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment," by the National Film Board of Canada (gotta love those Canadians). Finally, I found this page on Sundance's site with information on the whole series and some relevant links. Time to call the web usability experts.

ANNALS OF AVIATION/ Malcolm Gladwell/ SAFETY IN THE SKIES/ How far can airline security go?
LETTER FROM WASHINGTON/ Nicholas Lemann/ THE OPTIONS/ After the morning of September 11th, the Presidency changed, too.
DEPT. OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Joe Klein/ CLOSEWORK/ Why we couldn't see what was right in front of us.
LIFE AND LETTERS/ Louis Menand/ HOLDEN AT FIFTY/ "The Catcher in the Rye" and what it spawned.
DISPATCHES/ Jon Lee Anderson/ A LION'S DEATH/ The assassination of the Taliban's most important Afghan opponent.

September 23, 2001

More poems, this time from

More poems, this time from W. H. Auden, whose work also turned up with noted frequency. These lines, set a few blocks from my house, could have been written last week, not in 1940:


The unmentionable odour of death/Offends the September night.

Here is the poem itself, and Eric McHenry's article on Slate about Auden and poetry during difficult times.

September 22, 2001

The script: Some people have

The script: Some people have asked if Iíll post the script here, and I feel a little odd to tell them there really isnít one at this point. Itís not really a matter of saying, ìItís a documentary; there IS no script,î because plenty of documentary films are scripted, or staged, or laid out before theyíre shot. When I worked on a documentary for Japanese public television right after graduating from college, I got self-righteously indignant before interviewing an expert when the director told me I needed to get him to say something very specific. ìIsnít that dishonest? Itíd be more ërealí to let him decide what he says, and we'll just capture it,î I protested. Of course, I quickly found out that the reason we were even considering interviewing him was because heíd expressed exactly that view in an article somewhere. Earlier, a researcher had found this expert and scripted him in. (Writing this, Iím reminded of the Simpsons episode were Bart became annoyingly famous for saying, ìI didnít do it.î He's a guest on Conan, who tells him, "Just do the line." Same thing.)


Anyway, two years ago, when I conceived this project, I had the general idea of telling the stories of my grandfathersí lives. The standard elements of that production were obvious, if critically unexamined: interviews with them, their family members and friends; ìtoursî of important places in their lives, family photos and memorabilia, historical documents and footage, etc. Journal writing and family history are strong principles of the Mormon tradition and teaching where my grandparents live, so it should be easy to pull the raw material together, I automatically thought. In fact, the project itself could be explained rather nicely within that context. The narrative structure was originally, then, chronological biography. Interesting, perhaps, but also understandable when it sat on the back burner for a couple of years. Making an episode of A&E Biography (still) doesnít interest me.

Not that my grandfathersí lives arenít a great story. Thereís just a difference between the documented life and the examined life. I hadnít been prepared or in the state of mind to examine their lives or to delve into their examinations of their own lives. As many journalsóMormon and otherwiseóand weblogs attest, itís not enough to just make an account of what you did or where you went, what you bought, who you met. At the other end of the spectrum, reflexive analysis of what you think or feel or intend can be just as unsatisfying and specious, especially at the time, and especially if itís done for ìposterityî (a family history [note: that link is a 1976 church mag article.]) or public consumption (Biography).


So. The project came back to the fore after I had developed some questions I wanted to examine and answer for myself. The most immediate medium for exploring these questions is my family, my grandparentsí lives and experience. Some of these questions have already been referred to in this log; others I plan on NOT posting, because I feel they could potentially obscure the experience of making and watching the movie. And in some cases, I still donít know the questions, much less the answers. Itís an iterative process, which is extremely well suited to digital video and, I hope, to weblogs as well.

September 19, 2001

"The Smoke of Thought": For

"The Smoke of Thought": For the third night in a row, at around 10PM, the wind shifted, and the faint but unignorable smell of burning reached the upper east side. Searching on Google for "smoke" and "smell" brought up two interesting poets: AE Housman and Philip Larkin. I've seen Larkin quoted several times in the past week. Here's an excerpt from Housman's "A Shropshire Lad":



Today while I am master still,
And flesh and soul, now both are strong,
Shall hale the sullen slaves along,

Before this fire of sense decay,
This smoke of thought blow clean away,
And leave with ancient night alone
The steadfast and enduring bone.



Larkin's poem, "The Building", contains a description of people in a hospital waiting room that could just as easily apply to New Yorkers lately: "They're quiet. To realise/This new thing held in common makes them quiet..."

For the record, I hardly ever read poetry and know basically nothing of poets or poetry. I guess I considered it superfluous--irrelevant, even--to the practical, "real" world I saw. Sometimes it steps up to the plate, though, and nails that same reality more cleanly than 150 hours of continuous media ever could. Economy of expression.

Like other friends who regularly add to their websites, I've been reticent to post during the week. From the standpoint of this site, it was a fairly easy decision; this journal is meant to document a film project I re-started in July. From a personal standpoint, it's been more difficult. After the quest to find out whether people you know are alright or not, the events of the last few days gave me pause, causing me to question the value or importance or priority of the things that occupied my time and attention. An architect friend wrote of being told architects weren't needed right now; Fran Liebowitz just mentioned on NPR that she's a "luxury item," unneeded in a situation like this. How needed is a documentary about farmers and rural small businessmen? Finally, the reality of the last few days made the question of posting moot; any idea of watching my footage was displaced by watching the news. Any attempt to think about the film was thwarted by thoughts of more immediate surroundings, people, and things.


That said, architecture, writing, filmmaking, art--these are inextricable elements of the culture and civilization we live in; the desire to participate in this culture, to contribute to it, to create something that will connect with others and extend/live beyond us doesn't change in a day. In the Times this week, more than one image of the rescue operation reminded me of the work of photographer, Andreas Gursky. The ephemeral work of Gabriel Orozco also came to mind, specifically this photo of the NY skyline. [Note: read the review linked there, too. interesting] The types of activities that may momentarily seem superfluous may also be the ones that gauge the health of the civilization we enjoy and (now) defend.


The primacy of family, friendships, inter-human relationships also survived the events this week. Exploring these ties and what shapes and forms personal relationships take both subject and object of the film project I'm working on. If anything, the experience of searching out friends and colleagues, of responding to messages and emails from concerned people around the world, and the unexpected generosity and awareness New Yorkers show each other on the streets all steel my resolve to continue the film project. Stay tuned, and thank you again for your concern, feedback, interest and questions.

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

recent projects, &c.


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


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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

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Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

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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

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"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.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

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