August 2006 Archives

You could make a really good-looking movie right now for ten grand, if you have an idea. That’s the trick. I was watching Alphaville this weekend, and I’d love to do like a ten-minute version of Alphaville here in Manhattan. It’s so easy now. I don’t know what the ultimate result of that will be—whether you’ll see a sort of a film version of iTunes, where you can access things that have been made independently by people...

But then the question is—whose vetting process is this, and who are these people? ...

I don’t know where the middle point is—“I can’t find anyone to vouch for the legitimacy of this thing that somebody’s asking me to download”—and access that’s being controlled by a bunch of people who, it’s possible, if you met, you’d actually hate.

- Steven Soderbergh shooting the breeze with Scott Indrisek in the August issue of The Believer and on the Wholpin DVD, vol. 2 [via greencine]

Related: Carson Daly-backed Online Video Site* Launches [fishbowlny]

* funded by Half Nelson producer Jamie Patricof, btw

You know, someday, I'll go to Artforum's homepage, and those sidebar links to the Chris Marker photographs of May Day protestors in France ["In this new series, he re-presents the present as, effectively, already past," or as they say in French, la plus ca change...] and the Gary Indiana piece about Richard Linklater [aka, "the Dostoevsky of movie dialogue," which may be a slam disguised as a compliment] will be gone.

It's unlikely, but hey, it could happen!

August 30, 2006

AEI'm So Confused

Six years drinking at the open bar of power is enough to get anyone a little woozy, so it should be no surprise that the shots fired at MoMA from the right by two pundits from the American Enterprise Institute were so sloppy and off the mark.

In their Wall Street Journal oped, ["Creative Accounting: MoMA's Economic Impact Study"] the two think [sic] tankers, Kevin Hassett and Phillip Swagel not only question a recent MoMA-sponsored study that claims the Museum will have a $2 billion economic impact on the NY city/state economy over three years, they attempt, apparently, to discredit the charitable tax deduction system that underpins the entire nonprofit sphere [cultural, charitable, and otherwise], they seek to peel off cultural institutions from any type of economic consideration at all by deriding the very attempt to translate into financial or political spheres the "soft" value of "culture and enlightenment" [which, when "unsentimental," "hard-boiled economists like [them]," say it, is not a compliment].

Fortunately, for Culture, at least, their case is so wilfully misleading, illogical, and shot through with flawed comparisons and assumptions, that it's still several minutes away from being called even "soft-boiled." It's glaringly wrong enough to make you wonder what the econ-major interns are doing at Journal and the AEI, because they're definitely not factchecking articles for publication.

A week after finally seeing it, I’m having a hard time starting to write about Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s wonderfully crafted, intelligent, slice-of-basehead-life feature, Half Nelson. One thing’s for sure, though: I won’t be able to sustain the same insouciant, faux-decadent abandon in my dance floor renditions of "White Lines" anymore.

In fact, the movie’s warping my whole funk karaoke world. After the groggy, solitary silence of the opening scene, where he finds himself right where he blacked out-- on the floor of his dingy living room, in front of his glasstop coffee table—Dan Dunne’s first words are Pointer Sisters lyrics.

Not coincidentally, they’re probably everyone Child of Television’s first Pointer Sisters lyrics, too: “Onetwothree four. five. sixseveneight nine. ten. eleven. twelve.” In an incisive, throwaway performance sung into the rearview mirror, these vintage Sesame Street lyrics, which have also been remixed into a minor underground techno hit, ground the main character, date the filmmakers, and implicate a large segment of the audience in equal parts.

But despite the presence of an over-educated White Man in The Ghetto, Half Nelson is no more a glib Williamsburg hipster parable than it is a treacly Stand And Deliver homily. Ryan Gosling’s performance is as nuanced and assured as Fleck’s direction and his and Boden’s screenplay. And the whole film feels as real and raw as a documentary, but with a narrative that unfolds--Boden is credited with editing--with offhand meticulousness

Andrij Parekh keeps his jittery handheld camera close, impossibly intrusive for a verite doc, but intrusively perfect for a verite doc style, and the actors' gestures, expressions, and reactions almost always deliver. [Or just as likely, Boden finds the exact instinctive or unconscious elements of their performances to fit together.] Shareeka Epps has been scoring a lot of great reviews for her performance as Drey, the thoughtful, conflicted student torn between her two surrogate father figures, but the more I think back, the more impressed I am with Anthony Mackie's Frank, who has more emotional and intellectual complexity than any movie drug dealer I can think of.

As I watched Dunne's entirely plausible addiction unspool, I began to warily question if I should care. Is he an unredeemable loser? Should I go ahead and invest my sympathy, only to be duped, manipulated or let down later? Was I going to be confronted with some formulaic rationalization for his addiction, one that's not afforded the black characters whose susceptibility to the lure of drugs--poverty, no opportunity, no education, The Man, etc.--are so thoroughly played out in movies and TV?

It was an oblique-then-devastating trip, but Fleck and Boden anticipated and delivered on this backstory, too, and in a way that telescopes Half Nelson into a non-didactic, intergenerational historical/political critique. But it works, because the filmmakers never lose touch with their film's emotional core, which is Dunne's development.

This is such a well-realized film, I'm tempted to say it's hard to believe it's a first film. But then, I can't really imagine this thoroughly conceived-yet-modest film coming from anyone BUT a young filmmaker. If it's like anyone at all, it's a more restrained Cassavetes. And Boden and Fleck's multiple, shared credits seem to belie a Cassavetian work method.

There's a great making of story to be told, though; this small, micro-budget film has twelve producers [including a friend, Hunter Gray]. It seems like just yesterday when I wrote about and spoke with the two Ryans about Gowanus, Brooklyn, their Sundance-winning short film version of Dunne's story, and the script was apparently workshopped at Sundance's summer Lab before that. If it weren't such a rare success, I'd say Half Nelson was a throwback/textbook example of indie film production. Whatever it is, though, it's definitely worth a trip to the theater.

Half Nelson opened in wider release this past weekend []


I remember reading some analysis of mob phonetapping transcripts, and the gangsters were constantly preoccupied with how closely they ressembled movie Mafiosi like The Godfather. The authenticity of Coppola's creation had usurped the once-authentic originals who had inspired him and Puzo in the first place, putting a new cart before the horsehead before the cart.

That chicken/egg fiction/reality feedback loop comes to mind every time I see a photo-op in the 24-like [1] set of the National Counterterrorism Center, located between an elementary school and Tyson's Corner, the DC area's biggest malls.

gwb_nctc_exit.jpg image: reuters/k lamarque via yahoo[While the AP dutifully/quaintly, described the NCTC as being in "an undisclosed location in the Northern Virginia suburbs" in 2004 when their photographer somehow managed to score a preview tour of the "spy agency look," the war on terror is apparently going well enough that White House operatives let a Reuters photographer shoot the address of the building during GWB's pep talk/press event there last week.]

It's great because from where I sit, the place only looks like that because someone decided they needed an authoritative, authentic-looking counterterrorism nerve center visual, a backdrop, as it were. Keyhole, the geo-information systems folks, smugly tout the prominent appearance of their software ["Notice anything familiar about the program shown on the large central display screen below?"] as if it were the ultimate promotional product placement [which, of course, it is for the Homeland Security Industrial Complex.]

The pure mediacentric function of the NCTC is highlighted by what's missing--barricades, crowds-as-wallpaper, a dias--as much as what's there--only boom mikes and a presidential rug to liven up those on-angle shots. And if there's no wardrobe coordinator in the White House, then Bush must just know intuitively to wear brown or risk getting lost against the high-tech greys and the navy suited entourage.

It all makes me wonder how many more permanent Sforzian Backdrops there are out there. Besides, of course, the White House Press Office, assuming it's still safe to reopen after the elections.

[1] I say 24 because other people say that. I don't watch 24, so to me, NCTC looks like CSI LV HQ.
images:, reuters via yahoo

David Foster Wallace loves himself some footnotes, even when he's writing for the New York Times. So I allowed myself a flash of curious anticipation, even though I knew that when that linky glow showed up on Ralph Lauren's name [1], it was almost certainly not DFW-ian, just the automated product of the's Times Topics feature.

Someday, maybe someone will write for the website, and trip up our robotic expectations with his own selection of Times archive links and comments thereon.

[1] Of the Times Topicked names in Wallace's Roger Federer article, the first three--Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, and Roger Federer himself--all preceded the first footnote, and so went by completely unnoticed. After Ralph came Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and Lleyton Hewitt.


For a couple of months now, I've been really pre-occupied by this discussion of the color white and its association with modernism. It's between Olafur Eliasson, curator Daniel Birnbaum, and Mark Wigley, the dean of Columbia's architecture school and author of White Walls, Designer Dresses: The Fashioning of Modern Architecture, and it's in the latest exhibition catalogue of Olafur's work [which was maddeningly unavailable in the US for a long time, except at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. It's a stunning, eye-opening book, no pun intended.]

DB: How did modern architecture become white?

MW: Well it only became really white after the mid-century.

DB: It was not in Stuttgart? [at the Weissenhof siedlung, an architectural showcase/manifesto featuring work by Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and other pioneering modernist architects]

MW: No. The polemical exhibition of modern buildings in 1927 had a kind of off-white. It takes a long time to become white white, like that of a Richard Meier building today which is completely unlike the white of classic modern architecture. The pioneering buildings had more like an eggshell color, so there is a way in which modern architecture whitens over time. One could argue that it does so as a reaction to the black-and-white photographs. The eggshell color looks white in black-and-white photos and all of the other colors on the buildings, green, brown, and so on, tend to go very dark. So a first result of the photographs is that you don't realize that there are many colors. One of the main points of the White Walls book was to say that modern architecture was not white but multi-colored. In that system of many colors, white was playing a crucial role as a kind of reference point. So of course I was interested in the ideological construction of the idea of white as a default frame of reference. The famous black-and-white photographs make white famous, and then the buildings try to look more like the photographs and become really white and all the other colors are removed. So that somebody can make a building that is really super white today and people would think that it is modern.

OE: You mean the photograph representing the actual spaces?

MW: Yes. If you look at the photographs of the Weissenhofsiedlung exhibition houses they look absolutely white but Mies van der Rohe's building was a kind of pink. [emphasis added]

Our lives are constantly surrounded by unseen streams ...numerous, invisible rivers composed of love, power, success, pain ...all that we detest and desire. Some we navigate with ease, some we seek forever ...and some are simply whirlpools, spinning us into oblivion.

In conjunction with the release of their newest album [sic], "River of Crime," and in anticipation of their MoMA screening/retrospective in October, pioneering NYC art punk tech band The Residents have launched a video contest, er, a "community art project."

Create a video to accompany the 1:30 audio track they provide, and send it in. The Residents and MoMA curator Barbara London will pick 20 to upload to YouTube, and from there onto a MoMA screening and exhibition on the museum's site.

I've had a MoMA screening myself; I highly recommend them.

See details and downloads for the River of Crime Community Art Project [ via e-flux]
Inspired by 1940's true crime radio dramas, "River of Crime," was released in May as two blank CD-R discs that you fill up with secret downloads []

No more walking, watch three movies at once, and "You don't have to carry a passport, because a friendly computer already knows more about you than you do."

1975 commercial - Braniff Airways - The Supersonic Future

Usually, they're slightly off-kilter but harmless fans, who seem to believe that if they can only get their pitch to their favorite director, they'll make beautiful music together.

Turns out Wes Anderson has fans like that, too, only their names are Steely and Dan:

So the question, Mr. Anderson, remains: what is to be done? As we have done with previous clients, we have taken the liberty of creating two alternative strategies that we believe will insure success - in this case, success for you and your little company of players. Each of us – Donald and Walter - has composed a TITLE SONG which could serve as a powerful organizing element and a rallying cry for you and Owen and Jason and the others, lest you lose your way and fall into the same old traps.
that's pure awesome on a stick.


A scene from Livin' Strong:

LANCE: Yeah, me too. Hey, Matt.

MATT: What now, amigo?

LANCE: How many buttons you gonna leave unbuttoned?

MATT: Well, my friend. I’m fixin’ to go four deep tonight. Give the ladies a little taste.

August 8, 2006

The In 'N Out Mobile


Inspired by Jason's recent cross-country burger-thon, I'm in the middle of a back-to-back In 'N Out/Shake Shack smackdown attack myself. [Tomorrow's the 'Shack.]

What would make the taste test a lot easier: an In 'N Out Mobile Unit. Whaddya know, there is such a thing, and it was spotted last week among the other vehicular rarities at the 2006 Banks Gearhead Invitational car show. Stunning. I'm no Mister Hoopty, but I consider myself a car nut, and yet I'd never heard of such a ride.

I confess, I'm already leery of the test, though; at two visits in Las Vegas, the In 'N Out fries were a lot spongier and less flavorful than I remembered. And even if they would drive this far, the In 'N Out Mobile would be of no help; they don't serve fries, only chips. Very strange.

Image: 2006 Banks Gearhead Invitational [postive ape index via hooptyrides]
"The “Minimum Charge” of $2,350.00 entitles you to 2 hours of service time": In 'N Out Burger Mobile Unit Agreement [pdf,]
Shake Shack vs In 'N Out Smackdown [kottke]

August 2, 2006



[ via mathowie]

reminds me of this:

in a good way.

August 2, 2006

Sforza In Da House!


John McKinnon reports in the Wall Street Journal that the White House Press Room is getting a studio-sized makeover, including direct feed video capability and a video wall [as seen here at U2's Zoo TV tour]:

"Both the planned video capabilities and Mr. Snow's hiring appear to be part of a subtle but sweeping effort by administration officials to deliver their message directly to the public, particularly through video."
Meanwhile, Newsweek is reporting [tree, forest, sound] that the renovation schedule was extended from one month to at least nine, and that the press is murmuring to itself that they may not ever get back into the White House at all.

Nothing like a sweeping administration effort to disempower and disintermediate the press to generate...hardly any reporting, criticism, or discussion at all so far.

White House Pressroom Gets A Makeover [wsj]
Extreme Makeover: The Briefing Room Edition [newsweek]

Much like the 24-hour interview-a-thon itself, Claire Bishop's report from the Serpentine Pavilion starts out hilariously--my original title for this post was to be "LOLOLOL"--and ends with unexpected substance and insight. Whether her declaration is the first, I don't care, but Bishop nails it when she tags "the incessant production of talks and symposia" as "the new performance art. Authenticity, presence, consciousness raising—all of the attributes of '70s performance—now attach themselves to discussion. In this environment, it would seem that Obrist and Koolhaas are the new Ulay and Abramovic."

This had me laughing out loud:

Like trying to watch all five Cremaster films in one go, there eventually came a breakthrough when the experience was no longer painful. Mine arrived when I realized that our interviewers were suffering, too. Koolhaas's opening gambit to laidback design legend Ron Arad couldn't conceal his resignation: "I have always felt sympathy and respect for you, but never the inclination to talk to you. Now I have to ask you questions."
Speech Bubble []
Previously: On watching Cremaster 1-5. In order.
Serpentine Eats Its Tail
Unrealized Projects, an agency, a book, a NYT article

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 2006, in reverse chronological order

Older: July 2006

Newer September 2006

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