May 2004 Archives

May 31, 2004

Yet Another NYMDb

Ms. (Katherine) Milkman (Princeton '04), who has a minor in American studies, read 442 stories printed in The New Yorker from Oct. 5, 1992, to Sept. 17, 2001, and built a substantial database. She then constructed a series of rococo mathematical tests to discern, among other things, whether certain fiction editors at the magazine had a specific impact on the type of fiction that was published, the sex of authors and the race of characters...

Among Ms. Milkman's least shocking findings was that characters in New Yorker fiction tend to live in the same places New Yorker readers do, not the United States as a whole...

Ms. Milkman is by all accounts, including her own, a normal college student.

- David Carr, reporting on Ms Milkman's senior thesis in the NY Times

It's my guess that we cling to the harsher bits of the past not just as a warning system to remind us that the next Indian raid or suddenly veering, tower-bound 757 is always waiting but as a passport to connect us to the rest of the world, whose horrors are available each morning and evening on television or in the Times. And the cold moment that returns to mind and sticks there, unbidden, may be preferable to the alternative and much longer blank spaces, whole months and years wiped clear of color or conversation. Like it or not, we geezers are not the curators of this unstable repository of trifling or tragic days but only the screenwriters and directors of the latest revival.
-Roger Angell, "Life in rerun, now playing near you." >The New Yorker, Issue of 2004-06-07

In the magazine header, image:
Issue of 2004-06-07
Posted 2004-05-31

COMMENT/ NEW-TIME RELIGION/ Hendrik Hertzberg on faith in the Presidency.
DEPT. OF EXONERATION/ FACE IN THE CROWD/ Jeffrey Toobin on a televised alibi.
ROME POSTCARD/ ASK PASQUINO/ John Seabrook on how Rome is preparing for Bushís visit.
REÀNACTMENT/ BURR VS. HAMILTON/ Ben McGrath meets the winner of an upcoming duel.
DEPT. OF INVENTION/ INCOMPREHENSIBLE/ Alec Wilkinson rubs brains with dorkbots.

SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Evan Eisenberg/ Bushido: The Way of the Armchair Warrior

PERSONAL HISTORY/ Roger Angell/ Hard Lines/ A good life, with some bad times.

A REPORTER AT LARGE/ Jane Mayer/ The Manipulator/ How Ahmad Chalabi sold the war.

FICTION/ V. S. Naipaul/ "Suckers"

BOOKS/ Jonathan Rosen/ American Master/ How I. B. Singer translated himself into American literature.
THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ Life Work/ Two shows from Agnes Martin.
THE THEATRE/ John Lahr/ Battle of the Exes
An artist in search of his muse in "Sight Unseen."
MUSICAL EVENTS/ Alex Ross/ Pandemonium/ A celebration of Charles Ives.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Cold Comfort/ "The Day After Tomorrow."

PERSONAL HISTORY/ Roger Angell/ The King of the Forest/ Roger recalls his father, Ernest Angell/ Issue of 2000-02-21
PERSONAL HISTORY/ Roger Angell/ Romance/ Car trips in the ninteen-thirties took you to some unexpected places./ Issue of 2003-05-26
[Related: ONLINE ONLY/ David Remnick talks with Roger Angell about his writing and years covering baseball, from the 2003 New Yorker Festival

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky, image:

It seems hard to imagine Tarkovsky doing something so instant, but apparently he took Polaroids all the time. Looking at the few illustrated in the Guardian, though, they're uncommonly beautiful. The director's son provides brief comments, and he's collected several dozen photos into a book.

Instant Light, Tarkovsky Polaroids, from Thames and Hudson (UK)

Apparently, Paul Wolfowitz and I have something in common: our neighborhood Thai restaurant. We're in DC for the weekend, eating at Sala Thai, and he walks in alone, with a newspaper under his arm. Makes a beeline for the bar, where he orders, reads his paper--in far more peace than he's brought on the world--gets his takeout, and leaves.

Related: Al Gore calls for wholesale resignations of the dangerous architects of disgraceful Iraq and terrorism fiascos, including our neighbor, Paul Wolfowitz. Read the transcript, or watch the video.

The similarities between Michael Moore and Mel Gibson, and Farenheit 9/11 and The Passion are worth noting. Let's see: zealots with messiah complexes? Yep. Threat of damnation if film's message isn't heeded? Check. Sensationalistic cineporn tactics to reach beyond true believers? Yep. Special guest star: Satan? Uh-huh. Out to make so much money their directors'll have an easier time passing a camel through the eye of a needle? Check and checkmate.

At The Hot Button, David Poland gets all New York Review of Books on Moore's ass, pointing out, with cool and logic, the inconsistencies and contradictions in the creation myth that's being preached about Farenheit 9/11 and its marketing. It's a great read, and he's right--Moore's inaccurate depiction of the Disney Sanhedrin is distorted and inflammatory.

Likewise, Gibson claimed of biblical accuracy for his film, when in fact, it drew heavily from the ecstatic visions of one 19th century German nuncase. That scholars and serious theologians--and experienced religion reporters pointed those discrepancies out had approximately zero impact on the film's reception.

The Passion looms over F911 in another way: Weinstein and Moore are demanding a King of the Jews' ransom for the right to distribute a film that could hit the box office like The Second Coming.

[via Greencine]

Jake and Dinos Chapman's Hell, detail, image: a 10,000sf warehouse of Momart, the leading art handler/storage company in the UK, burned to the ground yesterday, taking an as-yet unknown number of major Brit Art works with it. The Guardian has some speculative details on what burned, including Jake and Dinos Chapman's massive installation, Hell, but there's still a lot that's not known.

If Charles Saatchi believed in karma, this would be devastating to him right now. But unless he's actively trying to come back as a worm, he doesn't so, never mind. [via MAN]

Update: I've rewritten the title for this post half a dozen times. My initial impulse of shock still stands, but the close second--schadenfreude over Saatchi's misfortune--is untenable. It really is--sorry, Charlie--not about you. Jonathan Jones visits the site an reflects on the ashes of Hell.

Sometimes the part of me that wants to right wins out over the part of me that wants to be loved. It's at times like this when I want people to confirm to me that my movie/script/editing/whatever is not just cheese, but government cheese.

The rest of the time, though, I want what everyone else wants: to be fawned over by people who don't mean what they say. At Hollywoodlog, Shane has compiled an interpretive guide for just such occasions, when you're face-to-face, stripped of the protective layer of politesse offered by a new assistant, poor cell coverage, or that email-gobbling spam filter. [via Defamer]

"There are people who use their blogs to write, like, 'Today I went to the cleaners,'" [aspiring blogger book agent Kate] Lee said.

Besides, I see "Today I went to the cleaners" more as a movie than a book.

In the magazine header, image:
Issue of 2004-05-31
Posted 2004-05-24

COMMENT/ RISK MANAGEMENT/ Elizabeth Kolbert on the 9/11 Commission and whatís keeping us from preparing for terrorist attacks.
HOLLYWOOD POSTCARD/ DOPPELGŸNGERS/ Kevin Conley reports from the stunt-doubles awards show.
INK/ A BOOK IN YOU/ Daniel Radosh on bloggers, book deals, and an aspiring literary agent. [Related: Choire's back from a vacation spent, if this acid is any indication, peddling a book proposal. Welcome home. Suckah.]
ON THE BALLOT/ FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS/ Ben McGrath on the plans for an across-the-board hall-of-fame museum, in Queens.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ SEARCH AND DESTROY/ James Surowiecki on index spammers and Google bombing.

THE POLITICAL SCENE/ The Candidate/ William Finnegan/ How far can Barack Obama go?

OUR FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS/ Sail Away/ Simon Schama/ A voyage on the Queen Mary 2

FICTION/ David Means/ "The Secret Goldfish"

JAZZ/ Gary Giddins/ Stride and Swing/ The enduring appeal of Fats Waller and Glenn Miller.
A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Adam Haslett/ Love Supreme/ Gay nuptials and the making of modern marriage.
THE SKY LINE/ Paul Goldberger/ Down at the Mall/ The new World War II memorial doesnít rise to the occasion.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Outsiders/ "Saved!" and "Baadasssss!"
THE THEATRE/ John Lahr/ Down and Out/ Twenty-seven characters in search of a play.

THE BACK PAGE/ Noah Baumbach/ "The Blockbuster Effect"

FROM THE ARCHIVE/ OUR FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS/ Andy Logan/ Southampton, England, August 4/ A report from aboard the Queen Mary, Issue of 1948-08-24

And Kiarostami said editing was irrelevant. The Observer's Andrew Anthony calls Michael Moore "arguably the most ideological and emotive editor since Sergei Eisenstein," about as high as praise can get for a maker of agitprop. He points to Farenheit 9/11's powerful juxtaposition of criticism and humor, raw and manufactured images and predicts it could make an unprecedented "historic difference."

But Moore, it seems, not only exaggerates or sometimes ignores inconvenient facts, he's insufferably self-aggrandizing and unpopular with more refined movie folk; he has bodyguards and a limo, and sends his kid to private school. To the ideologically pure--the armchair Marxist readership of the Observer, presumably--he's a hypocrite whose buzz-making and popularity are to be barely tolerated.

Hey, I hate Moore as much as the next guy, but it is exactly the unfettered pursuit of unadulterated dogma that got us in this mess (pick your mess; this isn't a bloghdad post). And besides, how seriously can Anthony's Man of The People criticism be taken when it's being made in the lobby of the Majestic?

[via greencine, who's got an excellent collection of Cannes wrapup coverage. ]

It's Real Estate Monday in the blogosphere. The LES's resident WASP, Lockhart Steele puts to rest all those inappropriate discussions about who owns the New York real estate industry with the launch of his new weblog, Curbed. It's the Fleshbot of real estate porn.

Meanwhile, on the producing end, Paul, Javier & co have thrown open the doors on Archinect v2.0. The site's as surprisingly massive as Time Warner Center, only good; as technologically advanced as Terminal 2E at Roissy, only still standing.

And not last or least, Chicagoist launched today, too; since architecture's one of the few cool things going in Chicago [the cows were bad enough, people. HELLO!], they post a lot about architecture and buildings both significant and otherwise.

May 23, 2004

EU's Gone Wild II

Once again, an all-too-candid video camera has caused political turmoil in the EU. An Austrian Socialist member of the European Parliament, Hans-Peter Martin, claims to have shot over 1,500 hours of footage of his fellow delegates abusing (people, whatever you do, don't call it torturing) their extremely generous expense allowances--and worse, talking frankly about it among themselves.

According to this Times report, perks can easily add EU150,000 to their salaries (which widely vary and are set by each member state). The grainy videos have begun airing on German television. They have "awkward camera angles ó midsections, double chins and ceiling shots are common ó but Mr. Martin gets people to talk." Now, of course, many of his colleagues won't shut up about his self-serving pursuit of publicity.

It seems like it was just a year ago when The Road To Europe, which followed the publicity-loving Danish prime minister and caught other EU delegates making candid, inflammatory comments. Check out my interview with TRTE director Christofer Guldbransen for more details.


I feel the same way about Michael Moore's masterful PR march to the Palme d'Or as Patrick Lang, ex-Pentagon Middle East intelligence chief feels about how Cheney & co were utterly duped by the Iranian intelligence agency and their frontman, Ahmed Chalabi:

"[It was] one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence [insert 'buzz-generating' here] operations in history... I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work."

May 23, 2004

The terminal bureaucracy squanders treasure (and, in the case of the state), life in pointless, oft times criminal endeavours, whose true purpose is nothing more than make-work for those employed to demonstrate, in their inactive mass - the power of the institution.

The young, warped by an educational system selling them perpetual adolescence, mistake the battleground for the struggle: they believe that make-work in that one-time area of strife and creation, Hollywood, somehow conveys to them the status of actually working in the Movie Business. It is as if a picnicker at the Gettysburg Memorial Park considered himself a soldier.

David Mamet eviscerates development, "the Dadaist vision of movie-making," in the Guardian

If you combine reading this hi-larious script with a flip through an oily Brad Pitt photo shoot from [throw rock, hit any current title] Magazine, it'll be like watching Troy--only 2.5 hours shorter*, $10.25 cheaper, and ten times funnier:

Beach of Troy, The Next Day

PRIAM: Woot! The Greeks have left! And look! They left such a nice big horsie, too!

PROPHET: Itís an offering to Poseidon for a safe journey home.

PARIS: I say we burn it.

PROPHET: Son, youíve been an idiot and a coward this whole movie. Weíre not about to start listening to you now.

PRIAM: Besides, the Greeks couldnít possibly have an ulterior motive for leaving a giant horse big enough to hide a couple dozen soldiers! Letís bring it back to the city!

Inside the City of Troy

PEOPLE OF TROY: Paaaaaaartay!

PARIS: *mopes*

PEOPLE OF TROY: *get bombed and fall asleep in the gutter*

The Greeks climb out of the horse, affording the ladies in the audience a spectacular view.

WOMEN IN AUDIENCE: *wolf whistle SQUEEEE throw dollar bills at screen*

The Greeks kill all the tanked guards and let the rest of the army in. They set the city on fire, start killing everyone, and panic ensues.

ODYSSEUS: Achilles, where are you going?

ACHILLES: *scales up the palace wall like a ninja*

- excerpted from Troy in 15 Minutes [via boingboing]

* to be honest, I haven't finished it yet.

Take your ironing board to Sierra Bonita, Souvenir (January 2003), as if you'd want to infringe on my copyright

Filling an iron cinematographically, Souvenir (January 2003), as if you'd want to infringe on my copyright

Cue up the Neil Diamond. Like a boatload of immigrant philosophers, chasing in this Continent's divinely appointed promises, the magically aestheticized transcendance of the twin landscapes of Caspar David Friedrichian Nature and Henri Fantin Latourian Domesticity, Extreme Ironing is comin' to America.

I only care because I care enough to have made a movie about ironing, Extremely Sentimental Ironing, you might say, which was set in that Land of Milk and Honey where Asian and Central American immigrants step into the dreams once pursued by Mormon pioneers from Western Europe.

[Note: If all you want is someone to read the Times for you unembellished, watch ,a href="">NY1.]

May 19, 2004

Cannes, do it yourself

kiarostami_five_still.jpgFrom J. Hoberman's halftime report from Cannes comes this description of Abbas Kiarostami's latest film: "[the] remarkably austere Five (after the number of shots) is a DV landscape study that might have been produced by a talented epigone of American minimalist Ernie Gehr."

In Five, the director says, "an entire world is revealed to us. It's a work that approaches poetry, painting. It let me escape from the obligation of narration and of the slavery of mise en scËne." [Kiarostami harshes on editing and praises the real creative action of shooting in an interview with Le Monde. Heady stuff, in French.]

Interesting, because the Gehr comparison aims squarely at art, not cinema; and "talented" or no, don't look up epigone if you're a fan.

Meanwhile, screening in Un Certain Regard is another Kiarostami film, 10 on Ten, his reflections on various elements of filmmaking like camera, screenplay, and locations [let me guess, slavery and obligation?]

It's as if he's trying to find out just how little is required to shoot a viable film. Ten was shot almost entirely with two DV cameras mounted on a taxi cab dash. And the film before that, ABC Africa, was a DV doc shot on a location scouting visit to an AIDS clinic.

Also a hit at Cannes this year is Tarnation, the most famously cheap movie since El Mariachi. Jonathan Caouette reveals his secret (note: that he used iMovie is no secret; it's the hook, yo) in the Guardian: "Making a movie is not as difficult as it is made out to be. Hopefully this will be a catalyst for people who didn't have a voice before to go out and make a movie." Check out the Tarnation weblog at Indiewire, which has launched more excellent weblogs in a month than some would-be empires do in a whole year.

Once you've made your DV film all by yourself, you can distribute it, too. The Times reports on the emerging trend of self-produced and distributed DVDs. The economics are increasingly attractive, especially for a wide array of specialized markets like fans of poetry or mountainboarding. One company not mentioned that should be: the mighty fine-looking small-run packaging system at Jewelboxing, brought to you by the design-savvy Coudal Partners.

In the magazine header, image:
Issue of 2004-05-24
Posted 2004-05-17

AT THE MUSEUMS/ A PICASSO FACE-LIFT/ Calvin Tomkins admires "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon."
THE PICTURES/ WRECKED AGAIN/ Tad Friend considers the cityís prime place in the disaster-film genre.
DRY RUN DEPT./ SH-H-H/ Leo Carey hears a silent movement performed on the piano.
DEPT. OF PREVENTION/ PITCHING RUBBERS/ Ben McGrath on a South African cast of talking prophylactics.
COMMENT/ UNCONVENTIONAL WAR/ Hendrik Hertzberg on the consequences of bending the rules of engagement.

ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Seymour M. Hersh/ The Gray Zone/ The secret Pentagon program at Abu Ghraib.

SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Ian Frazier/ No. Please, No

A REPORTER AT LARGE/ David Grann/ The Squid Hunter/ One manís obsession with a sea monster.

FICTION/ Jhumpa Lahiri/ "Hell-Heaven"

THE WAYWARD PRESS/ Buffalo Tim/ The child is father to the dad.
POP MUSIC/ Sasha Frere-Jones/ Fireworks/ Nellie McKay renews what is old and hurls herself at what is new.
THE SKY LINE/ Paul Goldberger/ High-Tech Bibliophilia/ Rem Koolhaas's new library in Seattle is an ennobling public space.
DANCING/ Joan Acocella/ Sylvia Grows Up/ Mark Morris remakes a ballet.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Creating Monsters/ "Van Helsing" and "Control Room."


But not how you think. I was really getting into my Muschamp- and Koolhaas-weary groove. So when Herbert opened his review of Rem's new Seattle Central Library, with this sentence, I was working up my jaded, righteous indignation: "In more than 30 years of writing about architecture, this is the most exciting new building it has been my honor to review."

But not only is the review NOT annoying, it's excellent, enthralling, even. And the building sounds phenomenal. I AM SO PISSED. The diagram above, for example, shows how OMA transformed the client's activities and requirements into the structure of the building--which it does, and with dramatic, remarkable and usable effect. Damn. Fine stuff.

Disney launched a production weblog for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this week. Let's see if they've learned anything since 2002, when Miramax published a completely artificial "weekly production diary" site for Full Frontal . The gap between between weeks 3 and 4 was like three months.

wps1.jpegUmm... I was excited for the launch of WPS1: Art Radio, the new online audio programming wing of PS1. Launched three weeks ago, WPS1 is daily mp3 streamed programming in three broad categories: awesome, edge music from all over; rare and archival artist recordings from parent/affiliate MoMA's library; and self-produced art-related talk/interview shows. Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

After listening to a dozen or so art talk shows on WPS1, I find them almost unlistenable. Excruciatingly amateurish, painfully ad hoc. Can I say it? I have to. They BLOOOOOWW.

Which really blows, because I'm a fan of PS1. A lot of cool people; in-tune, even daring curators; great artists, great opportunities for new artists; great music, especially in the summer; a very refreshing and energetic institution. I even know a few of the people involved in WPS1 and have been anticipating the launch for months.

May 13, 2004

?: $




It's the most annoying question I kept getting from Lost in Translation fans. Well, now's your chance to find out.

Over at Greencine, David's collecting captions for this pic.

My choices:
"Why'd I write 115 pages if you can win one with a 12-page outline?"
"Let's get your mother to film us later."
"I didn't wash my hands."
"I'm gunning for that MoMA award next year."

But I finally went with, "I've got a can of wine with your name on it back in my suite."

May 12, 2004

Buff and Bumble

Recently, in linking to this site, an otherwise highly accurate Internet publication called me a "film buff." And while I've been known to enjoy a film or two in my time, I have to confess, I'm not buff. Anyone at the gym could tell you that, if I ever made it to the gym anymore.

But the question haunted me: if I'm not a film buff, what am I? When introduced, I say I'm a filmmaker, but sometimes I wonder if that's just a euphemism for dilettante, the way "freelance" is for "unemployed" or "entrepreneur" is for "unemployable."

So I thought I'd run a few personal branding options by my best friend's publicist, Bumble, and see if I could get some free advice. No, as it turned out.

Next idea: just run a few options up the flagpole and see what happens. Work with me here, people.

Producer: No. Besides being simply a means to an end (Like anyone else, what I really want to do is direct.), this is a term used more to get one laid than to get one's movie made. Also, no one knows what it means.

Aspiring filmmaker: No. Besides being technically inaccurate (I've made and am making a series of short films.), "aspiring filmmaker" covers so many people--from Tom Ford to the entire populations of Los Angeles and San Fernando Counties--it's useless as a title.

Short film maker: No. More accurate, to be sure, but too often confused with short filmmaker, which Spike Lee is, and I am not. syn. poor and hopelessly unambitious. While nearly every filmmaker has made short films, very very few short film makers make features.

Documentary filmmaker: No. True, my films so far have been in documentary festivals, but I consider them more documentary-style. syn. hopelessly and eternally poor and dirty, and unpalatably activist. Also, it's the title used for both Ken Burns and Michael Moore.

Documentary-style filmmaker: Yes, if I want to sound like a pretentious over-analytical ass. So, no.

Filmmaker/blogger: bwahahahaha! Would be the response I'd get from 10% of the people who knew what it meant. Back of head turning toward me would be from the other 90%. So, no.

"Filmmaker" or < air quote>Filmmaker< /air quote>: I'm holding this in reserve, in case I commit some horrible crime and get a trashy, condescending New York Magazine article written about me.

I have to admit, I was stumped. There was simply no term for someone who's tried his hand at a couple of documentaries, decides he wants to make more, so he uses his publishing activities to ingratiate himself to entertainment industry players for his own personal gain?

Then just this morning, I was pointed to an article by Mediabistro's Newsfeed that answered my question perfectly.

From here on out, you will refer to me as The Editor of Vanity Fair. answers, where I provide information you thought you'd find on my weblog but didn't. Until now:

Q: "I am lonely."
A: Not, technically, a question. Go watch Lost in Translation 20 more times. Sofia really understands you.

Q: "What movies did the Beatles make together?"
A: Yellow Submarine (1968); Magical Mystery Tour (1967); Reflections On Love (1966); "Beatles, The" (1965) TV Series; Help! (1965); Hard Day's Night, A (1964).

Q: "everyone is making movies"
A: Again, not technically a question. What more proof do you want, besides this entire website?

Q: "tom ford girlfriend pregnant tom ford"
A: Girlfriend, your information is so wrong, I don't know where to start.

In the magazine header, image:
Issue of 2004-05-17
Posted 2004-05-10

COMMENT/ HEARTS AND MINDS/ David Remnick on the failures at Abu Ghraib.
URBAN STUDIES/ CITIES AND SONGS/ Adam Gopnik talks with the visiting urban critic Jane Jacobs.
INK/ ISNíT IT ROMANTIC?/ Rebecca Mead on the pulp author Melanie Craft.
UP TO HERE DEPT./ A KERRY REPUBLICAN/ Eric Konigsberg on a growing crowd of party drifters.
THREADS/ FAMILY BUSINESS/ Lillian Ross meets three generations of haberdashers.

ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Seymour M. Hersh/ Chain of Command/ Why did Abu Ghraib happen?

SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Michael Sacks/ A Leaflet Dropped Over Amy Wellerís House

THE SPORTING SCENE/ Ben McGrath/ Project Knuckleball/ A rare pitch makes a comeback.

LETTER FROM BAGHDAD/ George Packer/ Caught in the Crossfire/ Who will the Iraqi moderates side with?

FICTION/ Andrew Sean Greer/ "The Islanders"

BOOKS/ Louis Menand/ Patriot Games/ The new nativism of Samuel P. Huntington.
THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ Striking Gold/ The final installment of the Metís Byzantium shows.
MUSICAL EVENTS/ Alex Ross/ Ignore the Conductor/ Student composers around New York.
THE THEATRE/ Hilton Als/ Trouble in Mind/ Insanity and insects in "Guinea Pig Solo" and "Bug."
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Heroes/ Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy."

FROM THE ARCHIVE/ WAR AFTER THE WAR/ George Packer/ What Washington doesnít see in Iraq, issue of 2003-11-24:

The Times has an enjoyable story, "
Creepy Space, With Rats, Just $10,000 a Day
" about the recurring popularity among film and TV producers of the few photogenic alleys in Manhattan. But the story doesn't hold up and even misses the point, but not because the $10k location fee turns out to be blustery indie producer hearsay or because it lacks data of production that the Mayor's Film & TV Office could provide with a phone call.

"The dilemma in film and TV in New York City is that writers don't come from New York, but where they come from, there are alleys," said Brooke Kennedy, an executive producer and a director for the Third Watch television drama. "And we don't have that many to choose from."

Chuck Katz, the author of...Manhattan on Film, said the alleys were popular because there is nothing like authenticity.

So alleys are authentic, but the city really doesn't have that many. At least compared to wherever the writers "come from."

Unless they're all palookas from the South Side, the writers come from leafy suburbs; and that loading zone behind the shopping center is not an alley. No, the alleys where writers come from are in the movies and TV shows they saw growing up. From the earliest film noirs to Kojak, Hill Street, and TJ Hooker, alleys are an archetypal literary and cinematic device: the source--sometimes real, of course, but more importantly, imagined--of looming trouble and danger, just out of view, mere steps away, right around the corner.

I very rarely walk out of movies. If someone's gone to the trouble of making a film--and I've gone so far as to decide to see it and pay for a ticket--I'll usually sit it out. Unnervingly, I've walked out of 2/3 as many movies in the last two weeks as in the last 10 years. At this rate, by December, I'll be walking out of more movies than I walk into.

Here are the exceptions (I might add to this list, but even after a 4-hour solo drive, I can't remember any others):
To be honest, I only went out for a few minutes, to chat with the old geezer at the concession stand and regain my composure. We went to opening night in East Hampton, and we were laughing so hard, it was offending the "serious" filmgoers. Can you imagine going to Showgirls and being more offended by something happening in the theater? You can? Then move to East Hampton.

Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil:
Kevin Spacey plays a queen with a thing for criminally minded hoodlums (there's a stretch); John Cusack plays the invisible narrator, invisibly; and the court scene drags on for so long, you should've brought a book, or walk out. Hell, you should--and could--read the book in less time.

Dancer In The Dark
In an impulsive fit of slackness, I left a busy office for a noon showing. Within 15 minutes, I came to my senses, realizing I had a pile of stuff to do and didn't have 3 hours to give over to Bjork and Lar von Trier at that moment. With empty hope, in my wallet, I still carry the emergency raincheck ticket the theater gave me upon my hurried exit. I've since seen this movie many times.

It was fine enough, but I just couldn't care about the guy at all. And I had a splitting headache, a painfully empty stomach, and a harsh free-refill Diet Coke-induced caffeine/nutrasweet buzz going; I shouldn't've gone in the first place.

Laws of Attraction
I know The Thomas Crown Affair. The Thomas Crown Affair was a friend of mine. (if only because I watched it on the plane every week when I was commuting to Paris for a deal). You, Laws of Attraction, are no The Thomas Crown Affair.

Actually, I saw this shameless chickflick for my other site, Daddy Types, at Reel Moms, a morning movie program with a thick-headed name for parents with babies. Parents who don't care what movie they see, they just want to get out of the house.

[Update: I remembered another one. I left Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused early to make a NY Film Festival screening of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue. And because I was painfully Bored and Uninterested. Apparently, D&C became The Breakfast Club of its generation. Damn kids.]

May 7, 2004

Pentagon Fabulous

Everyone gets a nickname, whether friend or evildoin' foe. But Bush has one word that signals his support of someone. Can you guess what it is? (Hint: "really good" is two words.) No, my torture-tortured friends, the word is FABULOUS.

Related: "fabulous First Lady" via lowculture]

May 6, 2004

Law & Artists: SVU

Jon Routson, Bootleg (Nashville) still, image:
In the Times, Roberta Smith combines a righteous review of Jon Routson's "Bootleg" series--video recordings of films Routson attends--with righteous indignation against increasingly draconian copyright legislation (like making possession of a camcorder in a theater a felony).
It does not matter whether you think that Mr. Routson's work is good or bad art; it is quite good enough, in my view. It does matter that the no-camcorder laws may not do much to stem pirating while making it increasingly difficult for artists to do one of the things they do best: comment on the world around them.

Our surroundings are so thoroughly saturated with images and logos, both still and moving, that forbidding artists to use them in their work is like barring 19th-century landscape painters from depicting trees on their canvases. Pop culture is our landscape...

At once stolen and given away, Mr. Routson's works operate somewhere between the manipulated magazine advertising images of the 1980's artist Richard Prince and the keep-the-gift-in-motion aesthetic of 90's artists like Felix Gonzalez-Torres, whose sculptures included large piles of wrapped candy, free for the taking, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, whose first exhibitions consisted of cooking curry and serving it to gallery visitors. [Nice company you keep, Jon. -greg]

Routson's show runs through Saturday at Team Gallery.

Related, Law:
Theaters used nightvision goggles to bust the only man to record (or see) The Alamo (04.15.04)
"If camcorders are illegal, only criminals will have camcorders." (11.21.03)

& Artist:
Jon Routson profile in Baltimore City Paper (with important-sounding quotes from me) (01.21.04)
Jon Routson's edited-for-TV Cremaster 4 and video art bootlegging (08.18.03)

Not to get all Elvis Mitchell on yer ass or anything, but if auction reports were white cotton handkerchiefs, dry, practical, and folded neatly, dutifully, and boringly into the breast pocket of some print media outlet or another, Stuart Waltzer's account of last night's Whitney Picasso sale at Sotheby's is a stunning, showy-but-inutile giant Hermes carre, silkscreened with a riot of intricate patterns, cascading like a technicolor waterfall out of the blazer of some too-tanned-for-January decorator at La Goulue.


Derek Jarman's last feature film, Blue is composed of a poetic/narrative soundtrack and 79 minutes of unexposed color film, which was printed blue. It rocks.

Tonight at Passerby at 8:30, Whitney video curator Chrissie Iles will explain how hard it rocks, and why it's different from changing your TV to "AV INPUT 4" and playing a CD. [You can buy that CD at Amazon, by the way.]


Vladimir Nabokov's son and translator Dmitri has sold his collection of his father's books and memorabilia at auction. The Times has a poignant story about it. Many books contained marginalia from the author himself; most prized were those containing Nabokov's expert and beautiful sketches of butterflies.

A few years ago, Roth Horowitz, a rare book dealer in New York, exhibited part of this collection. I bought a personal paperback copy of Pale Fire, one of the greatest books ever. No butterflies, though.

"Fiachra Gibbons meets Nuri Bilge Ceylan in his apartment in Istanbul to talk about Mehmet Emin Toprak." [via David Hudson, quoted by Greg Allen]

moma_garden_taniguchi.jpeg image: taniguchi & associates, nytimes.comThe Times' Sarah Boxer walks through Taniguchi & Associates' soon-to-be-completed MoMA with Glenn Lowry. The early word is, it's straight.

"...two huge windows, nearly floor to ceiling, face each other at opposite ends of the Sculpture Garden. Both are topped by anodized aluminum canopies. Both rise straight up from the ground level to the sixth floor. And in this case, Mr. Lowry noted, straight really does mean straight. 'We designed it so that the facade has zero-degree deflection. There's no bow.'" Walls, ceilings, joints, mullions, floors, all were designed by T&A to be crisp, rectilinear, minimalist, straight.

But not narrow, Lowry assures. With multiple doors, stairs, escalators and views, the straight new museum will offer a mind-expanding number of alternative experiences of the collection--and, by extension, through the history of art.

Evoking an unintentionally [?] Hitchcockian mental image, Lowry explained, "We don't want people to feel they're on a train." Unless, of course, they're into that sort of thing.

That was my dilemma last night in attending Gothamisty NY Bloggers forum at the Apple store. Like everyone else, I went to drum up traffic for my own weblog.

Sure, some will act like they care about the Freddie Nick vs. Jason feud; a couple of MovableType geeks lobbied Anil to include their pet features in the next release; and of course, Lock & Loaded were funny.

But when the entire audience raised their hands in response to Anil's cry of "bloggaz in da house!" it was obvious we'd all come prepared--just in case we were asked at the last minute-- to fill in and flak our sites to 200 potential linkers. To wit: the blogcard that got shoved into my hand from Rosmania, a sort of Gawker-for-Detroit, whose posts have more circular footnotes than a David Foster Wallace novel.

[via kottke] Peter Kaminski points out that Google set their IPO target at $2,718,281,828, which is the natural log value, "e."

Hi-freakin-larious. Who needs i-bankers to pull valuations out of the air when you've got a Googleplex of phd's who can do it for you?

In the magazine header, image:
Issue of 2004-05-10
Posted 2004-05-03 (and 2004-04-30)

COMMENT/ LOSING: THE VIRUS/ Roger Angell on the slightly wounded pride of the Yankees.
DEPT. OF PREDICTION/ COMPLEX PROCESS/ Ben McGrath on foretelling Presidential outcomes by reading between the lines.
ON THE HUSTINGS/ THE CANDIDATE/ Alec Wilkinson on a onetime longshoreman and retired State Supreme Court judge whoís running for Congress.
DEPT. OF OPINION/ A BOTTLE OF WINE/ Field Maloney spends an afternoon with a master British oenophile.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ TEAM PLAYERS/ James Surowiecki on how the problems that befell the U.S. intelligence community. [Related: Ben Greenman's extended online interview with James Surowiecki.]

ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Seymour M. Hersh/ Torture at Abu Ghraib/ American soldiers brutalized Iraqi detainees. How far up does the blame go? [posted 2004-04-30]

ANNALS OF LAW/ Jeffrey Toobin/ Kerry's Trials/ What the candidate learned as a lawyer.

Adam Gopnik's story, "Last of the Metrozoids: Lessons in art and football,"
about getting the late MoMA curator Kirk Varnedoe to coach his son's football team, is not currently online. If I ever find someone has transcribed it and posted it, say, on a Russian server, I'll probably link to it here.

FICTION/ Ma Jian/ "The Abandoner"

BOOKS/ Hendrik Hertzberg/ Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack."
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Looney Tunes/ "The Saddest Music in the World" and "Mean Girls."
DANCING/ Joan Acocella/ Razzmatazz/ Europe does BAM.
THE THEATRE/ John Lahr/ Puffy and Fluffy/ "A Raisin in the Sun" and a Bollywood lemon.

PROFILES/ Joe Klein/ THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY/ Can a Massachusetts Brahmin become President?

Marlise Simons reports in the Times on celebrations under way all over Spain to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote, the country's "secular bible."

Festivities included a marathon 44-hour mundo hispanico reading, which mirrors nicely my own weeklong marathon reading of the excellent new English translation on an otherwise painful cruise to Mexico.

If your schedule's somewhat limited, try the hilarious fiasco doc of Terry Gilliam's failed DQ movie, Lost in La Mancha. And if that's too long for you, pop on over to First Sally, my production company site, where there's a single image of Quixote and Pancho to stare at for a few seconds.

[via Greencine, which is a kinja of filmblogs all by itself] Brian Flemming posts about Walter Murch's blow-em-away lecture a couple of months ago at the LA Final Cut Pro Users Group. LAFCPUG has a writeup, too, and is selling the DVD of the presentation for $19.95. Well worth it, I'd bet.

From Flemming's notes, Murch covers much the same territory as his book, In the Blink of an Eye, which itself was born from a lecture series.

MMMMWAHAHAHA. Wendy Mitchell demonstrates why she gets the big pro blogger bucks. Like free sample day at the Whole Foods cheese department, she's laid out bites of Elvis Mitchell's ripest metaphors for you to sample with your little review-reading toothpick.

[For those about to knock, we dispute you. Try writing like that yourself. It's like making a sculpture from undercooked pasta; it's not hard, exactly, but you're probably gonna end up with a sticky mess.]

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 May 2004, in reverse chronological order

Older: April 2004

Newer June 2004

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
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
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99