August 2002 Archives

On the road: On the sea, actually. I guess it's reassuring to get complaints about this site, at least when they're about the recent paucity of postings. We're in Hawaii, a conference/vacation at an
insane resort. Like Ben Stiller's Mel in Flirting With Disaster, we're not not "B&B people." Somewhat unsurprisingly, we're not "Take-a-monorail-to-swim-with-the-dolphins-before-the-authentic-luau-Resort people," either. [Here is a live webcam. I can attest that it looks just like that right now.] While we're actually sleeping at a slightly lower-key part of the complex, the conference (and the wireless networks) are all at the veritable Ka'aba of leisure.

Anyway, there's much writing to be done, but screen technology being what it is, that'd mean staying indoors most of the time, so we'll see. So if you're upset at the infrequency of my posts, this week may be a good time to browse the archives, explore the projects, look up some references to films or artists, or to get away from the computer altogether and kill a little time outside. Mahalo

Souvenirs from Utah: (NOTE: These are some finds from a weekend in Utah. Not related to any current film project, they're bonuses, the equivalent of a tub of CoolWhip for the bowl of fruit salad that is the rest of the site.)

  • ("Chase and be chaste."), an online personals site for (hot) single members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who are thick as fiddlers around these here parts.
  • ("not legal in BC Canada. . .but - not illegal ?"): "A polygamy plural relationship website for women seeking a 'Sisterwife.'" Best piece of advice, especially for those polygamy-minded newbies out there: "Don't mail letters to a polygamy site from the computer at your work place. You will be caught."
  • "Modest Bridal, Modest Proms, Modest Prices": For after your successful foray onto one of the preceding sites. On a billboard near Provo.

  • Souvenir updates from the road: Spoke with some folks in Austin, and submitted Souvenir (November 2001) to the festival. As you can discover by surfing through the Souvenir-related links at left, the film is a sytnhesis of scripted narrative and documentary language; Austin is very adamant about it's "NO DOCUMENTARIES" requirement, which I can respect, but which I think has to be considered in a contemporary context. After talking to a couple of people in the short film selection office, they sounded persuaded; their requirements would not exclude the film. So, off it went.

    I also signed up as a betatester for Withoutabox's electronic press kit application. So far, it's not bad, but I can't yet feel/see the benefits. If I were a festival programmer with piles of Priority Mail packs all around me, I could see some advantage, though. We'll see.

    In the mean time, I've had some good breakthroughs in group (Oh, wait, that was Scott Evil.), in writing the script for Souvenir, the feature-length ensemble into which Souvenir (November 2001) will be interwoven. We're going away soon for a solid week offline, and I expect to finish a draft then. Ideally, I'll post it then.

    One memory-related anecdote: After five years away, I visited a storage space I keep in Philadelphia. It was like running into a college-era friend, in a way; he's changed, but you still recognize him, and (fortunately for you both) you're not embarassed by him. Contents of this inadvertent time capsule include:

  • MBA detritus (Carefully boxed and preserved Wharton desk tchochkes, hard-earned, which seemed so precious pale in comparison to other manifestations of the experience.)
  • Early collected art (Good guess on that Brice Marden. Whod'a thought? Besides Dia, I mean.)
  • junk (five deodorants and some lotions, a bathroom cabinet hastily emptied and not restored a season later, as expected. Funny how things turn out.)
  • Surprisingly transparent evidence of who I was (brainy-yet-idealistic attempts to understand and make the future: Wittgenstein, Teilhard de Chardin; happy/goofy posse pictures from benefits, beaches and living rooms)
    It was an unexpected chance to mark-to-market (something I would've said with self-conscious pride then. Of course, I also wanted to name some dogs LIFO and FIFO, but with the French pronunciation, "Leefo."), to see how who I am now measures up to who I was then (and who I expected/hoped to be). It was reassuring to know that, despite some volatility and the current trends in the market, I have no need to take huge writeoffs or restate earnings.

  • A pair of COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF are having problems with their PowerPoint presentations, berating an INTERN. They proceed and address the troops.

    Where is MRS Company?

    CARLA and JANE look around sheepishly and raise their hands.

    COMMANDER Right. You will lead the all-important Operation Human Shield. Take the Burrito Guy with you.

    Where is MBA Company?

    Several rows of MEN in polo shirts (tastefully embroidered with the logos of their companies or Burning Tree C.C.) and Tasmanian gabardine khakis raise their hands.

    Right, you are Operation Get Behind The Housewives.

    Listen to a reading of this scene (mp3 via

    A lot of weblog-related stuff. I've been working on a website project for a Museum friend of mine, which feels good and potentially very interesting. With some new projects emerging (total=5, for those playing at home), the armchair IA in me thinks's a bit unwieldy these days. Look for a redesign soon. Also, I've been exploring Movable Type (Can I write that on my Blogger Pro server?), which I set up on another server,
    [There's nothing there that isn't here; far less, in fact. Though it was originally the main way for people to find me, has long since taken over the vanity Google searches. As a result, is now like some increasingly invisible sculpture in Central Park, which makes the web equivalent of the Balto statue: frequently visited, and sporting an explanatory plaque and--most importantly-- a movie tie-in.]

    Serendipitous mis-click: From Evhead, I accidentally clicked on Heath Row's weblog, and I'm glad I did. It's called Media Diet, but Heath's clearly eating for two. At least. One delicacy: Andy McCaskey, Sr.'s weblog, Topic. Mr. McCaskey's 86 years old, and writes what he knows. His seems to be the case of a lived life, well worth examining. (Heath compares him to Paul Harvey or Garrison Keillor; I wouldn't. Harvey's authentic but annoyingly glib. Keillor's phony and just annoying. McCaskey's both authentic and thoughtful.)

    August 11, 2002


    Returning from the bathroom where he brushed his teeth using his new toothpaste, Arm & Hammer P.M. ("Fights Nighttime Mouth!"), a MAN leans over to kiss his WIFE goodnight.

    Do you like my minty fresh breath?

    You HAVE no breath.

    Even though a friend at Vanity Fair is so sick of hearing about him she puts her hands over her ears and starts screaming "la la la la la la" when I mention his name, I've been listening to Robert Evans read his book, The Kid Stays in the Picture. It's a grating riot. And I will see the movie, which I think will be overkill, but I've seen clips where they have done some interesting-concept animation of still photos. That's something I've been kicking around with for a few years. Never mind. You can listen to a brief excerpt of the audiobook here. Buy it if you wish. (But if you're on Wes Anderson's Christmas list, you already got it; it briefly replaced muffin baskets and surfwax as the Hollywood Christmas Gift of Choice in 2000.)

    Driving around DC this morning: When we bought our car, (a 1985 Mercedes 300CD coupe, like people's moms used to drive to the club), it was a tossup between that one and the Volvo 240 wagon (also from the late 80's). Dodged the bullet on that one. What do I mean? Listening to NPR while driving a Volvo and listening to NPR while driving a Volvo ironically look pretty much the same from here.

    A remarkably obtuse article in the NY Observer about an art world lawsuit in which the famous "'white' painter" "debunks" the prices and value of his (and, by extension, all contemporary) art. Who is the artist, you ask? Surely you've heard of "David Ryman?" You think so? Yeah, in fact, he's one of your favorite artists (or so you tell people at cocktail parties)? Well, read on. You're clearly the target audience.

    Recap: Ryman was sued for one of two paintings by two London dealers who had paid another dealer for the work ($150,000 for two 8" x 8" "early" paintings in 1996) but never received it. Turns out the third dealer's check to Ryman for the second work bounced, and the dealer disappeared. The two were actually suing for the work itself, but the judge said they could only try and get their money back. (They were actually awarded $105,000, including interest.) Their lawyer was Richard Golub.

    During the course of his questioning, Mr. Golub noted that one of Mr. Rymanís paintings was about to go on the block at a major auction house with a sales estimate of $2 million to $2.5 million. Mr. Ryman seemed to bristle at this.

    "I donít have anything to do with the price," the artist said. "The prices are too high, I think, but Ióyou know."

    "Did you ever complain to anybody to bring the prices down?" Mr. Golub asked.

    "I wouldnít pay that for it myself," Mr. Ryman said.

    "Did you ever refuse getting a check from a gallery before?" Mr. Golub continued. "Did you ever send a check back because you said they were paying you too much?"

    "No," answered Mr. Ryman.

    "I didnít think so," Mr. Golub replied.

    Mr. Ryman had made one of the strangest admissions in recent memory. At any given time, some curmudgeon is always railing against the world of contemporary art, claiming that his kids could do a better job than the guys cutting cows in half and throwing white paint on blank canvasesóand here was Mr. Ryman admitting, under oath, that his paintings sold for too much money.

    In the interest full disclosure, "At any given time" should be "just about every week in the Observer," and "some curmudgeon" should be "Hilton Kramer" or "Mario Naves," the most reactionary Grumpy Old Men in the art critic world. It's frankly inexplicable that a paper as engaging (and seemingly smart) as the Observer can be so willfully retrograde and ignorant about art and the art world.
    1) Artists don't receive any of the proceeds from auction sales, and many "bristle" at the sales as well as the prices.
    2) Dealers receive 30-50% of a work's sale price (more for primary market, less for secondary). For a cut like that, an artist should expect the dealer to do the work of a transaction (market, cultivate, run interference, negotiate, collect, document, promote).
    3) The mechanisms for setting the price of contemporary art may not be totally transparent or liquid (just the opposite), but they're not unknown or unknowable: dealers, curators, museums, collectors, auctions.
    4) The artist's name is Robert Ryman.

    Writing and music rights: Agnes Varda's Gleaners and I is on Sundance again. [It's been released on DVD now, too.] While I've mentioned the, video-to-film transfer pleasure aspect of seeing it on TV, it's weird to see how similar some of shots in Souvenir November 2001 are to her movie. I'd been influenced even more than I knew.

    Attribute some similarity to shooting in roughly the same places: overcast and rainy French autoroutes, rural side roads, fallow fields, smalltown streets. Her success in "gleaning" people (on the street, in a field) became our solution when we lost all the actors we'd lined up; we started meeting and interviewing people wherever we could find them. And I no doubt took on one of her themes as well, if unconsciously: like The Gleaners, Souvenir is a road movie, a search, but one whose target isn't clear at first. The New Yorker in Souvenir only begins to recognize what he's actually looking for after he's engrossed in the search. And as Varda makes poignantly clear, the search is what's important. Unlike Varda, however, I do not write and perform my own rap voiceover. Of course, if it costs too much to clear our music clips, I may have to...

    This weekend, after seeing Full Frontal, we discussed the dialogue at length. My (grew-up-on-the-stage) wife spotted a lot of weak improv, or weakly directed improv--actors left to figure it out for themselves and, more often than not, not pulling it off. Besotted Soderbergher that I am (nothing like three DVD commentaries in the last two weeks to make you feel like you know the director.), I'd argued that surely Soderbergh knew what's up; he's shooting a script that's written to sound like this. It's all artificial, after all. Get it?

    Rather than address the fact that I was just wrong [Fine. I'll address it. has an excerpt of the script which differs notably from the scene in the movie. The actors seem to have recreated and expanded on the type of conversation written in the script. A FoxNews interview with Blair Underwood settles on "workshop" as the best way to describe the film.], I'd rather deflect the whole issue toward something "serious." Here's Joel Klein in a New Yorker column about Hilary Clinton's strong showing at that Democratic meeting in NYC last week:

    But political deftness and ease of delivery were not the most impressive things about the Senator's turn: Clinton was the only speaker who didn't make an advance text available to the press. Apparently, she winged it. A day later, in response to a call to the Senator's office requesting a copy of the speech, a press aide said, "Sorry, but it's still being transcribed."

    Don't contrast this with the seemingly adlibbed (and immediate Moment of Zen) George Bush comment I mentioned yesterday. Contrast it with the most distracting thing about listening to Bush read his speeches, the way he always pauses at what seem to be linebreaks on his index cards. It's almost like listening to Christopher Reeves on a respirator or to a lighthouse keeper who's conditioned to pause every five seconds, whether the foghorn's on or not. I mentioned this several months ago to a friend with very close ties to the Bush speechwriters, but I haven't been detained yet. All the same, I couldn't find any articles online talking about this Cageian Bushism. Am I the only one who hears this bomb's tic?

    Did a few walkthroughs this weekend on the story & structure of this project. It's a crime story (whether it's a "based on a true story" story or "any similarity to real persons is entirely coincidental" story depends on how we proceed with the rights. I'll discuss this subject in some detail later, as I did with Lolita: The foreword Nabokov appended to his novel nominally sets Humbert Humbert up as an unreliable (and hence, seemingly unsympathetic) narrator. here is an article about various similarities between Nabokov's and Alfred Hitchcock's use of unreliable narrators and other devices attributed to the influence of 19th century literature.

  • The Princess Bride: a slightly post-modern version (it was the 80's, after all) of the classic "once upon a time" storytelling frame, with Peter Falk. William Goldman actually wrote The Princess Bride as if he had remembered his own grandfather reading "just the good parts" of an otherwise unremarkable tale to him. Check out, a fan site named after the fictitious "original" author.
  • Interview with the Vampire: Interview-driven flashbacks. Christian Slater's journalist provides a skeptical-yet-vulnerable entree to Louis' story. Works well when your characters don't age. Ever.
  • Cannibal! The Musical: This is a courtroom musical drama comedy, where an enterprising young reporter sweet-talks Alferd Packer/Trey Parker to tell his tale. Voted "Movie Most Like A Mormon Roadshow" by me. [A brief article about roadshows. A representative roadshow script.]

  • as reported in the New York Times

    Before starting his game yesterday, Mr. Bush, his driver in his left gloved hand, took time to condemn an overnight suicide bombing of a bus in Israel that killed at least nine. "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers," Mr. Bush said on the first green of Cape Arundel, at 6:15 a.m. "Thank you. Now watch this drive."

    Without the slightest pause, Mr. Bush turned to his game ó and hit his first ball into the rough.

    John must have his comment settings at +5 or something, because his mass emails are rare-yet-always-awesome. Since he works for the media giant that made both LOTR II and Austin Powers, he was vague/suspicious of Leonard Nimoy's Hobbit "music video". I dug around online (well, I just Googled "'leonard nimoy' and hobbit", really). The first result is "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" on this site. [note: site appears to be in Elvish.]

    I missed's first birthday last week. I meant to call and offer my congratulations, but, you know how it is. Like my almost-a-year-old nephew, I can't believe how big it's gotten. And like that kid scurrying endlessly across the floor, outruns my understanding of how to get it to behave. Since mid-May, I've been looking for relevant ways to organize a weblog, especially one (like that doesn't follow headlines. (I have to embrace the fact that nothing I link to will ever make it to the top of Blogdex.)

    This morning, I spent some time at Ftrain, an say it's a weblog is to praise my and others' sites by association and shame us by comparison. I'd read entries and essays on over the years, of course, but this morning was the first time I'd really noticed its organization/IA. Paul Ford links each entry into Story (for "narratives, oddments, parodies, dialogues, short plays") and/or Theory ("amateur explorations into understanding how language works with (and against) digital technology.") While I didn't notice the Story structure at first, it quickly went from affected to effective to engrossing. And I'm not even scratching the surface.

    In this essay (the latest), I clicked on "I remember my grandfather" (because I'm making a movie about remembering; because I have to come up with a memory by today for my craft-y cousin to put in a scrapbook for my grandmother; because I, too, remember my grandfather). [It's clock-ticking structure made me think of this entry. Everything's still all about me, apparently.] But as Ford notes, this elegy "is part of A Tent in the Arctic," his title for "the story of [his] life, in dribs and drabs."

    Post-posting, I kept on reading. On Making Sense of This Site, Ford explains the structure and navigation, pushing me into the dark ("The thing is, whether a section is inline or independent, it is still a child of its parent node. So the last two links both point to children of this current node, the node you're reading."), which only lasts a while before reaching the light ("For Ftrain, there's one ìdefaultî hierarchy, but thousands of possible ìmapsî of content."). And a blinding light it is:

    The primary goal of, the goal which all other goals serve, is to make the site fully conscious and self-aware by 2051. Conservative estimates place computer power as equaling brainpower by then, and after 10,000 nodes (200 a year for 50 years), there should be enough inside the site for it to come to its own conclusions. I will return to this topic at a future date.

    I'm looking forward to it.

    On the plane this week, I made myself laugh (and my wife nervous) by coming up with the pitch way too quickly and unabashedly for a half-rewritten script I'm...rewriting: It's like Monster's Ball meets Memento. It pales in comparison to "Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate" and "Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman," though. (Too many of these log lines, and I'll screw my movie/director index up.)

    Reading this article (from Ftrain, like everything else today, I guess) is like watching Errol Morris' First Person, wherein an interviewee is established as utterly normal/a genius in the first half of the show, and then is allowed to show how that utter normality is belied/that genius is applied in fantastic, frightening, or wildly misguided ways in the second half.

    Let me offer unqualified praise for the editorial acuity of Artforum's links recommendations.
    Two quotes from Calvin Tomkins' good Richard Serra article in the New Yorker:

    According to Richard Serra:
    Abstraction gives you something different (from figuration). It puts the spectator in a different relationship to his emotions. I think abstraction has been able to deliver an aspect of human experience that figuration has not--and it's still in its infancy. Abstract art has been going on for a century, which is nothing.

    About Richard Serra's usually high degree of professionalism and realistic approach to commission negotiations (from his longtime European dealer, Alexander von Berswordt): When he calls someone a motherf***er, that doesn't help, of course. But he rarely does that without a reason.

    The reviews of Full Frontal are coming in, and it's not sounding good. Here's a broad cross-section from the global media: New York Press ("Even a bad Steven Soderbergh movie is worth seeing, and Full Frontal is worth seeing."); New Yorker ("...perhaps the most naÔvely awful movie I've seen from the hand of a major director."); the New York Observer("...reminds me how new movies like Full Frontal bring out all the Old Hollywood in me. Still, I liked seeing all the major stars." [Andrew Sarris, apparently channeling a 13-year old girl]); and The New York Times (Quoting Soderbergh's own footnote back at him: "'This is exactly the kind of onanistic, self-referential game-playing the author insisted would be absent from this book. So is this.' And so is Full Frontal." "Full Frontal is rated R. It includes much swearing, two scenes of sexuality and the violent dismemberment of narrative continuity.")

    Is this just typical overheated advance hype giving way to inevitably unmet expectations? I'm skeptical. With Full Frontal, there's a specific kind of advance hype, "Making Of " hype. Soderbergh is "getting back to his indie roots"; an 18-day bootstrap production with DV; Julia Roberts driving herself and doing her own makeup (!!). It included a tech-heavy feature on and a hothouse "production diary" website.

    Generating & satisfying interest in "how'd they do that?" is a tried & true buzz tactic at a film's release, or when it's released on DVD (where studios are learning how to cash in with war story-filled commentary tracks and carefully selected outtakes). Full Frontal. Stolen Summer. Goldeneye. Is it inevitable that heavy pre-film process promotion will yield a sucky film?

    But no one's shown how to successfully capitalize on the meta- aspects of filmmaking in the early stages of the cycle. The interest is clearly there, at least for films with pre-identified fan bases (e.g., franchises, name directors, star vehicles); sites like The, Harry Knowles' AICN, and Kevin Smith's View Askew, as well as the remora-like programming of E! et al attest to that. Even as visionary newcomers seek the right balance between process and product, when studios show us how they make the sausage, the result (so far) is pretty unappetizing.

    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
    greg [at] greg [dot ] org

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from August 2002, in reverse chronological order

    Older: July 2002

    Newer September 2002

    recent projects, &c.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

    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

    "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.

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

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