Category:writing

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.

LIVE@WTC DESIGN PRESS CON. PIX ETC 2 FOLLOW

In the Casino resaurant, not the slightest impedance at all to getting in, no drop in temperature perceptible to his skin, Slothrop sits down at a table where somebody has left last Tuesday's London Times. Hmmm. Hasn't seen one of them in a while....Leafing through, dum, dum de-doo, yeah, the War's still on, Allies closing in east and west on Berlin, powdered eggs still going one and three a dozen, "Fallen Officers," MacGregory, Mucker-Maffick, Whitestreet, Personal Tributes...Meet Me in St Louis showing at the Empire Cinema (recalls doing the penis-in- the-popcorn-box routine there with one Madelyn, who was less than-- ) --

Tantivy. Oh shit no, no wait--

"True charm...humblemindedness...strength of character...fundamental Christian cleanness and goodness...We all loved Oliver...his courage, kindness of heart and unfailing good humour were an inspiration to all of us...died bravely in battle leading a gallant attempt to rescue members of his unit, who were pinned down by German artillery..." And signed by his most devoted comrade in arms, Theodore Bloat. Major Theodore Bloat now--

Staring out the window, staring at nothing, gripping a table knife so hard maybe some bones of his hand will break. It happens sometimes to lepers. Failure of feedback to the brain--no way to know how fiercely they may be making a fist. You know these lepers. Well--

Ten minutes later, back up in his room, he's lying face-down on the bed, feeling empty. Can't cry. Can't do anything.

They did it it. Took his friend out to some deathtrap, probably let him fake an "honourable" death...and then just closed up his file...

It will occur to him later that maybe the whole story was a lie. They could've planted it easy enough in that London Times, couldn't they? Left the paper for Slothrop to find? But by the time he figures that one out, there'll be no turning around.
- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow p. 293

So I'm reading Gravity's Rainbow, small, resonant details of which, I freely acknowledge, find their way into the animated musical screenplay. But when I mention Anthony Lane's writing about Cannes one day and read this bit of Pynchon (set in Nice. !) the next, please understand --please, just don't sneer-- if Lewis's post the next day about Cannes and the grisly fate of first-time filmmakers weirds me out just a little.

Not that I've been expecting a full-blown review for Souvenir in the New Yorker...but, maybe a smart little bit in Talk of the Town...

Marie Kreutz (FRANKA POTENTE) tries to understand why a French news story has upset Jason Bourne (MATT DAMON).

Post-script: A reader pointed out that using the mass media to send messages to the troubled protagonist is a plot point in The Bourne Identity as well. So what are you saying? That stealing ideas from Pynchon, the best I can hope for is to be Robert Ludlum? Or that I'm (un)consciously campaigning to have Matt Damon play me in the movie?

Harrison Ford in a tuxedo Meryl Streep, Yale grad

Film critic Anthony Lane is writing the diary at Slate. So far, it's been torrid accounts of the perils of writing. It's pretty suspenseful stuff, journaling as a pitch/plea for giving Lane the Charlie Kaufman Treatment. (Kaufman wrote the screenplay adaptation of Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief, which became Adaptation, starring Ms Meryl Streep as Ms Orlean.) Vivid imagery, action movie material, even. Tuesday, rewrite day, for instance:

"If this [my Tuesday as a New Yorker writer] were an Indiana Jones movie, I would merely have proceeded to the next plank in the creaking, swaying rope bridge over a ravine. Below me, the crocodiles gape. One more pace, twice as fraught, will bring me to the fact-checking department, into whose miasmic maw writers far stronger than I have disappeared, their cries fading into the dark. Pray God that I come out alive.

(There's much more of this in the book, Nobody's Perfect: Selected Writings from the New Yorker. We should have breakfast about it. London? Fine. Tea.) I enjoy Lane's writing. A favorite is his 1997 report from Cannes [Yeah, I got the book, hardcover. When you've been throwing out the paperback version every week, what can you do? Just buy it!]:
...at Cannes, unlike anywhere else, the act of waiting justifies what you are waiting for, and deepens your need to get there. I wandered around town for two full days in a tuxedo, feeling like the world's most underused gigolo, for no other reason than to smooth my path into screenings of films from which I would normally run a mile.

Hmmm. Get me Richard Gere on the phone...

Richard Gere on the phone

October 7, 2002

Readin', Ritin'

Took a couple of short breaks from writing the as-yet unannounced animated musical (henceforth, AYUAM), just to read the paper:

  • David Kehr's profile of Paul Thomas Anderson. "[In Punch-Drunk Love, Emily] Watson plays one of the many guardian angel figures who populate Mr. Anderson's films: those caregivers who seem to appear out of nowhere and offer protection and redemption." Should all of one's movies be about similar things? Or have readily identifiable common themes or threads? Or is that just Mr Kehr's job to write about those things? [Other P-DL and PTA links: NYT's NYFF review; Cigarettes & Coffee, a gold standard for independent director fansites; greg.org posts from May on Magnolia and P-DL #1 and #2. After all, it is all about me...]

  • Stephen Holden writes inconclusively about the "latest" attempt to revive the movie musical. His thesis, that it's an "international salvage operation" (he cites Francois Ozon, Lars von Trier, and Baz Luhrman), forces him to ignore South Park, still the greatest modern musical for my movie (or DVD) dollar. I'll come back to this later.

  • An interesting account by John Rockwell on Tom Tykwer's new film Heaven, which was based on an unfinalized script from the late Krzysztof Kieslowski and his collaborator, Krzysztof Piesiewicz.

    K&K's process: "Mr. Piesiewicz would propose an idea, he said, and then he and Kieslowski would collaborate on a short-story-like prose version of the eventual script. Then Mr. Piesiewicz would write the screenplay, with ample input from Kieslowski." Heaven was in the short story stage. Kieslowski's films have topped my list of influences and inspirations for a loong time. (search the site for Kieslowski, or go to the complete movie index for references. And I met Tykwer in 1999 when he was in the US for the run of Run Lola Run. Nice guy. very low key, very smart, and pretty old for a new director, something I don't think anymore, obviously. Bonus: The article includes a handy pronunciation guide for all three men's names. Clip it and put it in your wallet for party talk.

  • Frank Rich proclaims New York the real capital of America and uneqivocally slams Washington, DC in every possible way. Setting aside whatever truth the article may contain, it strikes me (an adopted New Yorker who happens to be in our other home, Washington, DC as I type this) as pretty gratuitous, self-serving, and unnecessary. New York shouldn't need this kind of boosterish bluster, just like it shouldn't need those stupid Chicago-did-it-first-but-we'll-do-it-third-anyway painted cows or whatever. Washington, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of company town that would have painted elephants and donkeys, art whose lame name betrays precisely what's missing around here: Post) and museums' chronic ignoring of said art scene.

    I don't say "plucky" as a pejorative; they're all examples of people who do something about it rather than just bemoan the gap. It seems to me, an arriviste, no doubt, that there's a little bit of conflation going on. Whatever good happens art-wise, at the Hirshhorn or the Corcoran, there is still only one professional gallery of any real relevance to artists who care about emerging (Fusebox, if you don't know). I can't see (or don't know? Please. Prove me wrong.) any other place for a DC artist to emerge to. It's a long road from a good first/second gallery show (where stuff gets seen, written about, sold) to the Hirshhorn, and right now, that road doesn't run anywhere near DC.

  • The way I read this NY Times article, Joseph Epstein is secretly hoping his advice is wrong. "As the author of 14 books, with a 15th to be published next spring..." he writes, "...don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs." [via camworld]

    Send as-yet unpublished manuscripts; self-published books; slim volumes of verse; literary or creative labors-of-love of all kinds, whether yours or not, to:

    Prof. Joseph Epstein (author, most recently, of "Snobbery")
    Northwestern University
    English Department
    University Hall 215
    1897 Sheridan Rd
    Evanston, IL 60208-2240


    "Damn you!" campaign results (source:
    Google Adwords)




    Findings:

  • The low number of searches/impressions for Varda and Maysles was surprising, as was the high rate (2x) of Wes Anderson searches vs PT Anderson and Soderbergh. And this was a week when PT Anderson had a movie debuting at Cannes. It could be that the high quality of search results for Soderbergh and PT Anderson (both of which lead with eponymous and actively updated fansites, Soderbergh.net and PTAnderson.com, respectively) may lead to faster search "resolution" than for Wes.
  • The ads were generally effective, with clickthrough rates falling within--and in some cases, on the high end of-- ranges reported for online ads.
  • It is heartening to see that the two directors who inspired me most have the highest clickthrough rates. The "greg.org factor" is a subjective ranking of "most inspirational," I guess. To date, both Varda and Soderbergh have three explicit mentions/discussions on the site. Varda was an inspiration to get going, and Soderbergh was critical to getting through production and editing. Maysles is hugely important, too, but frankly, more for the documentary project that launched the site than for Souvenir. The Magnificent Andersons are inspiring more for their ability to pursue and realize their singular visions at such an early stage in their careers. (Some people call that ability "final cut," like in Guardian interview with Paul Thomas Anderson aboutMagnolia.) (Oh, and we called straight-on, centered, camera angles "Andersons" after Full Frontal, which has it's own behind-the-cameras website. (Although it's not in real time; the film's sliding release date means that "Week 3" lasts for months on the site.) Interesting to you? Interesting to me.

  • The greg.org "Damn you!" ad campaign on Google is just about half-over, and the results are rather interesting. (The launch is mentioned in this post.)


    The campaign appears on searches for the names of directors who inspired/influenced me, either stylistically or professionally (or both). Since all these directors have turned up here during the making of Souvenir November 2001, I figured ads using their names wouldn't be gratuituous, but relevant. In addition, I figured someone who searches for a director's name (especially one of these directors) would be a nice audience for the site and the movie; they're presumably interested not only in independent film, but in the filmmaking process, too. And if we share interest in these directors specifically, well... Here's an example of the ads:


    Damn you, Wes Anderson!
    You made me want to make a movie,
    so I did. click to read about it.
    greg.org

    I spent $10 for each name/ad combination, which, bought about 7-800 impressions (at the retail $15CPM). With this spending cap, the duration of each ad was determined by the frequency of Google searches for each director's name. Next: results data and analysis for the campaign.

    Poetry using Google Adwords: One more non-traditional (at least by contemporary standards) medium for creative expression (besides ebay and amazon reviews, which I mentioned last week.) The difference with adwords, of course, is that it costs you money ($15/thousand views these days). This guy did it in April. I did it in February. 2001.


    There are two creative elements of an ad on google, of course: the ad itself, and the keywords it appears on. To drive a little traffic to my site (and to amuse myself, really) I set an ad to appear on searches for "haiku." It wasn't that the site that has anything to do with haiku, it was Google's adword format--which had launched at the end of 2000--which clearly resembled haiku:


    Invite visitors
    to my cluster of sites
    through keyword purchase

    While editing this post, I found an interesting article from the Online Journalism Review on the emergence of text ads.

    Previous 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

    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

    about this archive

    Category: writing

    recent projects, &c.


    pm_social_medium_recent_proj_160x124.jpg
    Social Medium:
    artists writing, 2000-2015
    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
    ed. by Jennifer Liese
    buy, $28

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

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

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

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

    therealhennessy_tweet_sidebar.jpg
    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
    about

    sop_red_gregorg.jpg
    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

    weeksville_echo_sidebar.jpg
    "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.


    drp_04_gregorg_sidebar.jpg
    Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
    background | making of
    "Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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

    archives