Friday, April 30, 2004

Film Notes...

- John C. Riley calls it quits over Lar Von Trier’s killing of a donkey in his newest film.

- Cult film Donnie Darko is getting a re-release in May with 20 minutes of additional footage. This is a movie that cost $4.5 million to make and had a total US gross of $514,545 so I don’t see a demand for a theatrical re-release - but who knows?

- Godfrey Chelshire praises Crimson Gold by way of criticizing Lost in Translation and extolling the form and content virtues of Antonioni's films.

- Pigs & Battleships (MuseMalade) tells us why he has changed from NetFlix to GreenCine. [They also have a fine film blog.]

- A.O. Scott previews the TriBeCa Film Festival.

- If only Trump could do this...

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Land Grabbing East & West $$$

In two places across America this week valuable private land is being theatened by new laws that benefit greedy developers.

Florida's constitution allows governments to take your land for a public purpose, such as a road or school, as long as you receive a fair price.

But legislation — which could be approved this week — would allow a city or county to take an individual’s land, with fair compensation, and sell it to a private developer for a shopping center or office building.

"This bill is a shocking grant of wholesale power to counties to condemn very large amounts of property just to assemble it for private development," said Dana Berliner, senior attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm.

Frank Schnidman, a professor of community and economic development at Florida Atlantic University and an expert in land planning, agreed.

"They basically want to loosen up the definition of public purpose so land can be taken for development," he said.

[House Bill 1203, which just passed in Colorado] will severely limit the ability of local governments in Colorado to preserve precious open space for future generations. This amendment was specifically drafted to prevent the town of Telluride from acquiring and preserving an area known as the Valley Floor.

[This is] a blow to Telluride officials and local Valley Floor conservation groups, who have worked for years preparing to condemn 570 acres of undeveloped land on the town's western approach as open space.

The passage of the bill was an example of "the best public policy money can buy - and that's what happened here," [Telluride's statehouse representative from the Colorado Municipal League Sam] Mamet said.

"This is just one more illustration of the legislature's voracious appetite for meddling in the affairs of local communities when they have no business doing that," he added. "The phrase 'local control' just rings hollow."

A photo of the Telluride Valley Floor (taken by me) is here.


In Florida the government is now allowed to take private land while in Colorado the State has just won a ruling that takes away the local government's authority over valuable land.

What's ironic is that despite the fact that each law deals with different control issues in both cases it is the developers who win and the locals who lose.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Words words and more words...

At a site called A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia you will learn that:

- The only countries in the world with one syllable in their names are CHAD, FRANCE, GREECE, LAOS, and SPAIN. [Wales is a principality and Guam is a military installation so they don't count].

- MONDAY is the only day of the week that has an anagram, DYNAMO.

- SWIMS has 180-degree rotational symmetry. [Rotate it upside down].

- PIKES PEAK is spelled without an apostrophe by law.

- The earliest known appearance of the word HELLO in print is in a letter written by Thomas Edison dated August 15, 1877. It is an alteration of the much older word 'HOLLO'.

- WACO and WARE are the only U. S. radio station call letters that exactly spelled the cities in which they were located (Waco, Texas, and Ware, Massachusetts)

- In all of Shakespeare's plays and poetry, excluding Roman numerals, only one word begins with X. The word is XANTHIPPE (the wife of Socrates). It is found in The Taming of the Shrew.

- In the 1611 King James Bible the word 'God' appears 4,444 times, 'Lord' appears 7,836 times and 'Jesus' appears 973 times [the name 'David' appears 1085 times].

A list of pangrams [sentences containing all the letters of the alphabet] yields these wacky sentences.
- Baroque? Hell, just mix a dozen wacky pi fonts & you've got it.
- Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward.
- Wavy Jake's fat zebra had Mexican pig liquor

There is also a whole page of palindromes.


It is way more than anyone can handle in one visit so bookmark it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Best Westerns...

Images Journal has a list of what they consider are the 30 Greatest Westerns. There is an accompanying essay on each film.

Here's ten notable ones I'm glad they have included:

Ox-Bow Incident (1942) - A dark Western by William Wellman - not popular in it's day but good.
My Darling Clementine (1946) - Beautiful Western by John Ford about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday legend.
Pursued (1947) - A noir Western by Raoul Walsh with Robert Mitchum.
Red River (1948) - Howard Hawks proving he could direct any genre well - Yeeehaaaa!
Johnny Guitar (1954) - Nicholas Ray's 1950's melodrama Western with Joan Crawford.
The Man From Laramie (1955) - One of five great tough Westerns made by Anthony Mann starring Jimmy Stewart.
The Searchers (1956) - Ford's revenge Western - very American.
Ride the High Country (1962) - Peckinpah before he got violent but with the same themes of the perishing west.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) - Ford at the end of his career - still vital.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) - Sergio Leone playing with widescreen cinema.

They truly don't make 'em like they used to. Actually they don't make 'em much at all any more.
Net Escape...

- Neave is a blog of the future. Or what blogs look like in flash. There you will find Inspiration [good music], cool photos and games! [Flash]

- Nice ass finger. [Work safe I assure you].

- Roth Time is MOMA's flash exhibit of Dieter Roth's art and it is one of the better exhibits of art on the net. So fresh, so clean. [Flash]

- Submit a photo and a short essay to A Pictures Worth: a community photoblog.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Festival of Books Reflections II...

Before I left on day one I headed for the trees and ended up in a poetry collective tent.

I pick up a black covered book titled 'Blood Sugar' and start talking with the author Sue Gaetzman who tells me her life story. It’s a harrowing story and from it she created a work of poetry, which she performs on stage. Other than the fact that my fingerprints are now all over the book I decide that at the very least I should buy her book. This is life. This is art. This is real independent publishing.

Day Two begins and I bike up to the festival again. This time I find a better place to park the bike and walk in.

I head up to a panel discussion and in the process walk by a huge line for Sandra Cisneros. I talk to a couple friends in line.

I then head over to a panel called 'Music: Hearing it on Paper'. The panel is made up of Geoffrey O'Brien, Todd Boyd and Craig Werner.
O’Brien talks about how people develop their own reality with music.
Boyd talks about the writer’s challenge of articulating the organic (music) into the formal (writing). He quotes Rakim, Miles Davis and Jay-Z ad nauseum and says quite matter-of-factly that black music is central to all pop music. The crowd loves him.
Graig Werner talks (fast) about the social /cultural history of music. He mentions Curtis Mayfield a lot.

All agree that writing about music is not easy and say that a writer - or critic's job - is to give people access to information. Other than that opinions are so subjective that they rarely bother with rating the music they like.

After this I head back to the poetry tent.
The poetry readings on this day are much better; particularly, James Ragan who memorizes his own poetry and verbalizes it with real authority and August Kleinzahler who has an insouciant and humorous delivery and Susan Kinsolving who has a gift with words.

This day is just as sunny, just as hot and the crowds seem bigger.

I hand out fliers and neatly position them on the table in the poetry reading area. You don't fully realize the amount of work that goes into creating a flier and handing it out than when you see someone throw it out.

Today I planned better by finding cheap eats that are a perminant part of UCLA. I also keep well hydrated.

After a while I come back to the poetry tent where there is a long line and lo and behold it's Sandra Cisneros again doing her second signing of the day.

Next I head for a panel called 'Writing LA'. This is an enjoyable panel with Pico Iyer, Carolyn See and David Ulin. Each of the authors finds time to bash the East Coast publishing world as well as sing the praises of Los Angeles.

'Car lights coming up over the hill, the smell of sage in the air, the cool nights with no bugs...'

Pico Iyer has a romantic view of LA because - in his view - it is always reinventing itself. It has a tabula rosa quality from which people create their own LA that is just as legitimate as the other. And it is because of this that LA is has an identity crisis unlike other cities like New York or Paris.

David Ulin shucks off East Coast acceptance and allows that literary art forms should always be expanding into other fields. Not only should we include Raymond Chandler and Hollywood screenwriters but what about musicians like Exene Cervenka?

Carolene See has a way of starting way off subject and coming back to the point. How she was a 'Chinese wife' walking five steps behind her husband and now is a divorced 'engared woman writing in Topanga Canyon'. Actually she's pretty funny.

All agree that New York would probably not have a book panel discussion about it's identity. And all agree that LA is the 'theme park of the apocalypse' and also that there are two LA's; the imagined one based on Hollywood and the real one which is much more lively, much more culturally diverse.
Late afternoon and I'm sun bleached. I run into my friends Lee and Jasmin who I always manage to see at this festival. Soon to be proud parents.

'Okay', I say, 'enough'. Having spent too much money and received too much sun I'm ready to get on the bike and head home and start reading and writing.
Festival of Books Reflections...

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is one of the largest most well attended book festivals in the country. Every major (and minor) publisher and bookseller in the region has a booth and hundreds of authors are there for panels, book signings and readings.

It can be viewed as a book lovers heaven. Although it is a bit too crowded to actually read a book. This is where people talk books, buy books and market books.

Due to the 10's of thousands who attend getting there has it's own pitfalls. Namely the traffic to and from the UCLA campus - where it is held - can be a nightmare. That is why I bicycle in, pass all the waiting motorists and park wherever I want.

But I'm not just at the festival for fun.

I have made a flier for my father's poetry book and I am determined to take it around and 'sell' the book to bookstores. But it's not easy. I'm not much of a guerrilla marketer.

In the meantime I am indeed just another book lover. And like everyone else I wander around from booth to booth and plan which panels I want to see and which authors I want to meet.

I go in search of Young Hall to attend a panel on independent publishing. On the way a woman hands me a free book. I think this is the way that Catch 22 was marketed in the beginning. This book is titled Wild Animus. I read the first two paragraphs. This is no Catch 22. I thrown it in my backpack.

After the panel, which I missed. I go over the the Hi De Ho Comic store tent and get Michael Chabon to sign a poster of his comic The Escapist.
I tell him I’ve read all of his books including the early ones.
He gives me that 'sure you have' look and smile.
I know I'm lying. He knows I’m lying. He knows I know he knows...

I go to the mountain book tent and find books on hiking trails.
Suddenly I’m thirsty.
There is a guy selling lemonade for $4.00. Forget that. I’ll stick with water. That's only $3.00.
Then I realize I need food.
Everything is overpriced and not well cooked.
It's busy, prices go up, service goes down.
I buy a $7.00 burrito.

I next stand in line for a good 30 minutes to get Ray Bradbury to sign The Martian Chronicles.
Then they tell us that we have to buy a book from the booth sponsoring the event [Vagabond Books] if we want his autograph.
What a crock.
Oh, and he's not signing paperbacks. Oh really, does Ray know this?
A woman tells me that she has an extra certificate/receipt that I can use. I'm thankful. I don't want to have to spend an additional $25 for a book I already have.
When I get to the front I feel like I have beaten the system. I tell Ray I can't believe he would allow these perfidious booksellers to use him for sales purposes.
No, I don't. But I think it.
Instead I tell Ray that I read The Martian Chronicles when I was suppose to be learning Spanish in 8th grade Spanish class. He asks how old I was at that time. I say 12 or 13. He tells me that's when he started writing stories for The Martian Chronicles.

Okay, that was fun. What next?

It's sunny. It's hot. It's crowded.

I’m supposed to meet my friend Diane in front of Royce Hall. But I am a bit late and I am unable to find her in this sprawl. I look over and catch a glimpse of Ariana Huffington walking by talking on a cell phone. A couple of people are following her to get a photo.

I next decide to go over and hang out for a while at the poetry tent.
How ironic that you have to pass the emergency tent before you get to the poetry tent. Is it some kind of sign?

The crowds are more nominal here but the shade is good and there are chairs to sit on.
I listen to some of the poetry. Not bad.
Although if I hear another poet use the term 'raven hair' I'll scream.

Next I go back into the crowds and take some photos with my digital camera.
I try to get candid photos of people who don't know they are being photographed.

Here's one I took of a woman with raven hair.

I next head over to a progressive book tent and see Robert Scheer and son Christopher selling and signing there book about Bush's five biggest lies. Scheer is in good spirits and less shrill than he usually is on the radio. I hand him one of the fliers for my dad's poetry book and point out that my dad has some anti-war poetry worth reading. Scheer finds it amusing that he is pushing his son's writing and I am pushing my dad's writing. Both worthy causes.

Late afternoon. The day just gets hotter. I have bag fulls of brochures and literature. My backpack is overstuffed and getting heavy.

The crowds seem to be thinning out a bit. Time to get out of the sun and drink water.

More later...

Friday, April 23, 2004

Amis says...

This weekend in Los Angeles is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and all kinds of authors have come to talk about writing. [Yes, I live in Los Angeles].

Martin Amis had a lot to say this past week and The Los Angeles Times recorded some it.

[I've excerpted the article with some headings of my own].

About England with regards to the recent bad critical reception of his latest novel Yellow Dog:
"[It is because of] Britain's current egalitarian push [which is] a deep reaction to what was, until the '70s and '80s, a firmly class-based society. Everybody's trying to be utterly average and utterly unexceptional. No one's meant to stick out. You hear about people turning down knighthoods and OBEs, (Orders of the British Empire) And a tremendous interest in celebrity has somehow allied itself with this. They delight in creating completely ersatz celebrities, through reality TV shows - with enormous ill feeling directed at the less popular members of each show, almost a lynching mood. It's all in parallel with national decline."

About Masculinity and Islam:
"It's my theory that masculinity is the key to the Islamic problem. The men are the ones who feel the humiliation of political impotence, are told that they are lions and princes and vastly superior to women. [But with their lack of power and wealth], they can't look their women in the face. There's no healthy release of sexuality. So no wonder you crash an airplane into the World Trade Center so you can get [sex] in the afterlife."

About America's religious piety and religion in general:
Have we ever had a faith-based administration before?" he asks disapprovingly.
"The story of mankind is the story of learning to get by without God. I'm with [Joseph] Conrad, who said, take it whichever way you like it, but religion is a tawdry, human construction that poisons all our most intimate thoughts about the living and the dead. In other words, attack religion from the high ground: You're irreligious not because you're a bustling cynic but because you actually have your own spiritual universe."

About 'levelism' and the general mediocrity wrought by critics:
I think levelism has started to flatten literature. It's already flattened poetry. There are other reasons for that - the speed of contemporary life. A poem is not only trying to slow time down; it stops the clock. It says, 'Let's examine this moment.' When I get to Uruguay, I see I can start reading poetry again."
He calls the urban West a "post-poetic culture," one that's increasingly incapable of introspection. It's not a dumbing down; it's a numbing down. So having gotten poetry out of the way, the culture will now move on to the literary novel. The literary novel slows things down too."

love those brit authors...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Favorite movies list...

The April June issue of Senses of Cinema is available online. It includes all kinds of fine film articles including in depth pieces on Theo Angelopoulos' Ulysses' Gaze, Gaspar Noe's Irreversible and Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation.

They also have a bunch of new top ten all time film lists including mine, which I submitted two months ago.
Here is the list:

(in chronological order)
Sherlock, Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
The Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1928)
Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944)
La Belle et la bête (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger, 1964)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
Nostalghia (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983)

When pressed to list only ten films it is not easy. And, no doubt, this list changes a lot.

I have some further comments on the films but you'll have to visit the site to read them.

Matthew Clayfield of Esoteric Rabbit also has a list of his ten favorites.

Go enjoy Senses of Cinema.
Movie Hoax...

One of the better movie promotion web sites out there right now is for the forthcoming movie Godsend. But it is set up like a real cloning institute and apparently has been fooling people who both oppose and are curious about the nature of cloning humans.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Cannes lineup...

The 2004 Cannes Film Festival lineup has been announced. Below are the list of films and my initial reactions.

I've added further observations now that I have time to sit at the computer and type them in.

In Competition:

"2046," directed Wong Kar-wai
Yeah! Due to the fact that this teams the same people who have worked in and on Kar-wai's last few films I pretty much expect more of the same.

"Clean," directed Olivier Assayas
All right! Olivier has managed to reinvent himself a couple of times. I believe this is

"Comme Une Image," directed Agnes Jaoui
Show me!

"The Motorcycle Diaries" (Diarios de Motocicleta), directed by Walter Salles
Let's see it! Based on Che Guevara's motorcycle journey's when he was young.

"Die Fetten Jahre Sind Vorbei," directed by Hans Weingartner
Have no clue!

"Exils," directed by Tony Gatlif
More gypsies!

"Fahrenheit 9/11," directed by Michael Moore
Liberal propaganda! I'm curious to see this in light on what we have learned about 9/11 in the past month - most of which will probably not be in this film.

"Innocence," directed by Oshii Mamoru
Okay! This is a Janpanese animated film.

"Woman Is the Future Of Man," directed by Hong Sang-soo
Not sure! Apparently this Korean film is about two men looking for a mutual old girlfriend.

"La Nina Santa," directed by Lucrecia Martel
Big yeah! This Argentinian director's last film La Ci?naga was an open ended drama about decadence. The critics may love this.

"Le Conseguenze dell'amore," directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Not sure!

"Nobody Knows," directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Love this guy! This film is based on a true story of four siblings abandoned by their mother. He is the director of Marborosi and After Life two films with reflective themes.

"Old Boy," directed by Park Chan-wook
Okay, ready! This Korean film is based on a Japanese comic book and has been all the rage in Korea since late last year.

"Shrek 2," directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
What! Okay so mainstream movies with innovative animation deserve credit.

"The Ladykillers," directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Huh! This should not be in competition.

"The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," directed by Stephen Hopkins
Hmmmm? The title pretty much says it all. Could be good. The fact that Geoffrey Rush plays Sellers makes this worth a look.

"Tropical Malady," directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
awesome! This Thai director's films deal a lot with the subjectivity of truth. His first film 'Mysterious Object at Noon' is a very fascinating film. This new film is supposed to be based on a sci-fi story.

"Zivot je Cudo," directed by Emir Kusturica
I'm there! Every time Emir enters a film at Cannes he wins a major award.

To be honest, I'm even more excited about the films in Un Certain Regard where the films are always a bit more edgy, challenging and interesting. Plus, in that section there are new films by Youssef Chahine, Benoit Jacquot, Abbas Kiarostami and Ousmane Sembene. Oh yeah, and a new film from Jean Luc Godard.
The president of the jury this year is Quentin Tarantino, which means Wong Kar-wai will most likely take home some kind of prize.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is web encyclopedia that not only has a whole bunch of information but is interactive as well.

They have a few interesting features including letting readers edit any page on the site. You can also go to a recent changes page to see what pages have recently been editing.

Their film pages are good but could use some editing and suggestions.
For instance, they say almost nothing about Robert Bresson except that he "was a French film director and master of minimalism," which isn't really accurate. And their post on Michelangelo Antonioni is woefully brief. However, they do say a lot about Stan Brakhage and it seems accurate.

Here is their film directors list page many of which can use some copy. [I may start editing some of these if I have time.]

One cool feature too is their random page. You click on it once and it takes you to a page full of information about something.

I tried it and found info on Canada in 1872
A second try brought up the definition of 'brood' as it related to honeybees.

Try it out here.

Or just go to the site and have fun.
Film notes...

Good news for Buster Keaton fans. The Douris Corp., which holds rights to the classic motion pictures starring and directed by Buster Keaton, has struck an agreement with Paris-based MK2 to digitally restore Douris' Keaton films for digital theatrical release in select cities.

The titles to be restored include "Our Hospitality," "The Navigator," "Sherlock, Jr.," "Go West," "Seven Chances" and "Battling Butler."


IndieWire has a good article on a few filmmakers who are self distributing their films. Not an easy task in the art film world.

"The current crop of self-distributing filmmakers is zeroing in on target niche markets to develop audiences for their films. Charming and articulate, the filmmakers of "Robot Stories," "Maestro," "The Gatekeeper," and "Superstar in a Housedress" are presenting their works to their own specialized communities and reeling in additional viewers using extraordinary marketing efforts."


"I am legless in the film. My legs are crystal legs, full of beer."

So says Isabella Rossellini to the Guardian who talks a little bit about her roll in Guy Madden's latest wacky film The Saddest Music in the World.
Enviromental concerns...





Let's see, I bicycle to work five days a week, I drive [a Honda] once or twice a week, I almost never fly, I don't eat much meat and I recycle - yet I took the My Footprints Quiz and got a pretty lousy result.

Take the quiz and see what they say about you.

Monday, April 19, 2004

US Government secrets...

The Los Angeles Times fresh off of winning numerous Pulitzer Prizes has begun a multiple series of articles that are bound to be in the running for next year's Pultizers.

The articles deal with a woman who tried to find out about the death of her father from the crash of a B-52 in 1948. The US Military kept the whole affair secretive yet 50 years later it seems that the military lied.

The first part begins:

In a box delivered by rolling handcart on the morning of Feb. 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court received 40 copies of a petition so unusual a clerk decided he couldn't accept it for filing. First, though, he turned through its pages.

In a preliminary statement, he read these words: Three widows stood before this court in 1952. Their husbands had died in the crash of an Air Force plane. The lower courts had awarded them compensation. But the United States was bent on overturning their judgments, and — to accomplish this — it committed a fraud not only upon the widows but upon this Court.

The second part begins with the headline: A Daughter Discovers What Really Happened

with the tag line: At last, the Internet reveals how [her father] died. Why had it been kept secret? Because the government wanted the legal right to be more secretive.

Good read.
Iraq now...

Rahul Mahajan over at Empire Notes has been blogging from Bagdad for the past 10 days and will be until April 25th.

He has a lot of observations of the good, the bad and the ugly in Iraq today.

...the police are far too few in number and more lightly-armed than the average Iraqi. In Saddam's day, you obeyed the traffic laws because of fear of any entanglement with the police. Now, nobody does. The police are afraid to arrest actual criminals -- it's too easy for the criminals to retaliate. There is essentially no prosecution of crime, from petty theft to kidnapping and murder, and so criminals act with complete license. Far from a force able to control a country's internal affairs, the United States has created a force that cannot even control the average Iraqi motorist. This is a persistent complaint from Iraqis of all walks of life.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Paintings we'd never hang...

Bert Christensen has a good cyberhome gallery of art. We'd actually hang this stuff.

But particularly notable is his gallery of bad art.

The site is inspired by the Boston Museum of Bad Art.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Favorite Books...

Jessa over at Bookslut was asked to submit her top ten favorite books of all time.

Besides Jessa the lists include such people as Roger Ebert and...well I didn't recognize any other names. But the lists are good.

It got me thinking about my favorite books but I have to admit that making a ten best list is pretty tough. There are just too many great books to make a definitive list. However, just for fun here are eleven of my favorite books that I would recommend to anyone.

1) West With the Night - Markham
This dazzling autobiography is about a woman pilot in Africa during the 1930’s. The story of her life is remarkable enough but the manner in which it is writing leaves one breathless. In a letter to Maxwell Perkins Hemingway wrote about Markham: '...she has written well, so marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words.... She can write rings around all of us.'

2) The Right Stuff - Wolfe
Nonfiction always seemed to be reserved for unexciting fact-filled history books. I read fiction for excitement – then I picked up this book and realized that non-fiction can be at least as good if not better than fiction.

3) One Hundred Years of Solitude - Marquez
What can I say about this that hasn't already been said? It's brilliant. [I read the translated edition. I can only imagine what it is like in it's original language].

4) House Made of Dawn - Momaday
Written by a Native American and winner of the Pulitzer Prize this novel was one of the first that turned me on to complex narrative structures. Plus, it is beautifully written. I occassionally pick it up just to read a passage or two as I would with poetry.

5) The Way of All Flesh - Butler (read a chunk of the book on this link)
The story is good enough but the language and the way it is written is amazing. I have rarely come across a book so well written except by perhaps by someone such as Henry James.

6) The Gnostic Gospels - Pagels
This book clued me into the fact that not only were there many other gospels written in the first century AD than the four we know but that the Bible is just as much a work of political and social propaganda as it is a religious text.

7) Henderson the Rain King - Bellow
A fun read about a man who deals with his midlife crisis by taking a trip to Africa. I suppose because it is a little bit politically incorrect it is not taught much in college anymore. Still, what a book.

8) The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Wilder
This tremendously well written short novel about the concepts of predestination and free will was one of the first books I remember reading that had a real intellectual edge.

9) The Discovery and Conquest of New Spain - Diaz
I had an assignment in Latin American History class in which I could choose which book I wanted to read so I decided why not read the longest most famous book about Cortez and the conquest? It's a remarkable and surprisingly good read.

10) The Sun Also Rises - Hemingway
This was a favorite of mine in college. I love the dialogue, the pace and the style. I went through a Hemingway phase and read it twice one summer.

11) The Mosquito Coast - Theroux
I was living in Ocean City Maryland. There was little to do except work, drink and sleep. I would sit on the beach and read at every opportunity and this book was an amazing escape; so fresh, so angry so engaging.

I'm not sure I would read these again or that I would even enjoy them as much but as I did at the time I read them. But I recall they were all enlightening, significant and tough to put down.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Film Blogs and such...

- Cinecon (aka Rightwing Film Geek) has some observations and personal reflections about Lars Von Trier and Jorgen Leth’s The Five Obstructions.

- Film Brain has good news for those who want to see Jean Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinema.

- The Wellington Film Society has a full schedule of films they show each year and there web site has a lot of good blurbs on some of the best movies ever made.

- DVDBeaver has a great page on old foreign film posters. They all look great and can be downloaded. When you get to the site click on posters tab – there is no direct link.

Here’s a great one.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Bunnies do horror...

Someone had to do this.

The Exorcist in 30 Seconds
(and re-enacted by bunnies).


What next? The Godfather?
Film Snobbery Part 2.5...

I was going to write a piece on how to lure your mainstream film snob friends to the art house to watch and appreciate the avant-garde but I feel I must address a couple comments and e-mails about my last post on film snobbery.

The first comment was about the demand for foreign films. Basically if mainstream moviegoers are satisfied with Hollywood movies then most likely they won't want to 'broaden there horizons' to watch movies ourside the mainstream. This is absolutely true but there is no reason to not at least try to tweak your mainstream friend's curiosity just a bit and get them to occassionally include a foreign film in their entertainment diet. I certainly don't expect mainstream viewers to give up going to the multiplex and start frequenting the art house. This is a gradual process.

I next received one e-mail and a comment about the nature of subtitles. Both mentioned the fact that there are some people who simply will not submit themselves to 'reading a movie'. I'll concede that if you come upon resistance to subtitles it will be difficult to get someone into the art house movie theatre.

My advice is this; tell them that they most likely have already seen and enjoyed movies with subtitles. There are a few Hollywood movies that have some subtitles such as Dances with Wolves and Kill Bill and one major blockbuster called The Passion of the Christ has nothing but subtitles - most of which are from the bible! In short, people will watch movies with subtitles depending on the circumstances.

The best example mentioned in a comment (howl) below was Hong Kong films. How quickly I have forgotten these films! When I first moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990's Hong Kong films were all the rage. John Woo had just released Hard Boiled, Peking Opera Blues was hailed as the 'Citizen Kane of Hong Kong movies' and Jackie Chan - who was relatively unknown to Americans - was jumping all over the place in movies such as Super Cop: Police Story III. People who had rarely or never seen foreign films were flocking to these films and it was quite exciting.

I'm not sure that many converts were won over to the foreign film world; most were there for the kick-ass action that seemed to be lacking in Hollywood action movies. However, these movies were replete with subtitles and the only comments I remember hearing were that the subtitles were often badly translated and/or unintentionally funny. But few - if any - had a difficult time reading them or keeping up with them.

In fact, I would actually worry about the state of education in this country if someone were unable to keep up with or read subtitles. In such a case the issue would be illiteracy because as far as I'm concerned reading subtitles in not hard to do.

As someone who has watched hundreds of foreign films I can tell you that after a short while subtitles become so simple to read that it is easy to forget they are there. So it seems to me that subtitles are merely an excuse that people use to not see new and different work - because they sure have no problem when they choose to go see a film with them.

So the advice is to lure your friends to films in which subtitles are not that big of a deal. If they are new to foreign films then a Hong Kong film or a Bollywood film would be better than a movie that is subtitle heavy like Ridicule or a film by Eric Rohmer.

Remember, foreign films are not just overstuffed period dramas with a lot of talk. There are all types of movies made in other parts of the world. Many of which are just as - if not more - exciting than Hollywood. You're job is to make you mainstream friends understand that.

Next: how to get mainstream friends to watch and appreciate avant-garde and experimental films.
Films about Music...

Jeremy Drysdale - who wrote this movie you've probably never heard of - has a list in the Independent of what he considers are the 10 best films about music.

1. 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE - Michael Winterbottom, 2001
2. CABARET - Bob Fosse, 1972
3. THE BLUES BROTHERS - John Landis, 1980
4. TOMMY - Ken Russell, 1975
5. HIGH FIDELITY - Stephen Frears, 2000
6. THIS IS SPINAL TAP - Rob Reiner, 1983
7. MOULIN ROUGE - Baz Lurhmann, 2001
8. BACKBEAT - Iain Softley, 1993
9. THE GREAT ROCK'N'ROLL SWINDLE - Julien Temple, 1979
10. HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH - John Cameron Mitchell, 2001

A decidely modern list but it's a start.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Ill Logic...

- Lesson #1: Don’t promise freedom and then pull it out from under the people you claim to liberate.

The US closure of an irregularly published newspaper with just 5,000 readers seemed a tiny moment in the struggle for stability in Iraq. But the March 28 move to close Al Hawza, controlled by militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, now looks like the edge of a violent storm.
The closure provided a pretext for Sadr to call out thousands of supporters for daily protests in Baghdad and helped him win sympathy from many previously skeptical Iraqis who felt he was being unfairly muzzled.

- The actions by al-Sadr are inexcusable but this paper did not need to be closed down. This just gives the militants an excuse. Maybe they would have found a reason to fight us anyway but why leave them an opening?

- You say you want pollution? Bush's [anti]environmental policies will give us plenty. This thorough and long article by Bruce Barcott in the NY Times is pretty scary.

The Monroe plant, which is operated by Detroit Edison, is one of the nation's top polluters. Its coal-fired generators emit more mercury, a toxic chemical, than any other power plant in the state. Until recently, power plants like the one in Monroe were governed by N.S.R. regulations, which required the plant's owners to install new pollution-control devices if they made any significant improvements to the plant. Those regulations now exist in name only; they were effectively eliminated by a series of rule changes that the Bush administration made out of the public eye in 2002 and 2003.

From there is goes into Bush's environmental record. Print it out and save for the future so you can show your skeptical Republican friends just how much the Bush Administration has set us back.

- It looks like Justice Antonin Scalia has a tough time with the First Amendment.

First Amendment experts on Thursday questioned the legal basis for a deputy U.S. marshal — apparently acting on the orders of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — to confiscate and erase recordings made by two reporters invited to hear the justice speak at a high school gym.

The experts questioned not only Scalia's practice of barring recordings of remarks made in public, but also whether the seizure may have violated a federal law intended to shield journalists from having notes or records confiscated by officials.

Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Film Snobbery Part II...

In my first post on film snobbery I tried to show what was obvious; film snobs are not hanging out at the art houses instead they are more likely to be mainstream moviegoers who refuse to accept the fact that there is a flourishing cinema beyond contemporary Hollywood.

Now I'll talk about how to pull in your mainstream film snob friends and get them to the art houses and to the many special screenings of cool films outside of the multiplex.

The first thing to understand is that your roll is that of a teacher but that you alone cannot lead your friends to the cinematic promise land. They have to find it themselves. However, it is your job to point them in a particular direction that will take them on different paths out of the mainstream.

The second thing is to not alienate your mainstream friends by making snide remarks about Steven Spielberg, Penny Marshall or Bruce Willis. If you look down at their taste then you yourself will become a film snob. The idea is to be inclusive. Let them know that if they like Tony Scott they may actually like Wong Kar-Wai a bit better.

Plus, it is important to understand that while some directors are better than other directors in terms of pure aesthetics or from a philosophical position that doesn't mean their films are always good. [I'll almost always take Michelangelo Antonioni over Ron Howard but let's be honest Apollo 13 is a better movie than Zabriskie Point. And while Andrei Tarkovsky is head and shoulders over Oliver Stone there are some days I'd rather see Salvador than Stalker].

And this leads to the third point; don't alienate your friends by taking them to complex art films that could possibly turn them off forever such as Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad. Most likely they are not ready for that kind of experience yet. Coax them instead with films such as Run Lola Run or Shall We Dance or The Girl on the Bridge - unless they hate the French in which case your challenge will be more difficult.

[It can't hurt to take them to an old foreign film like Rashomon either].

Next you can go one of two ways: old Hollywood or late 1960's early 70's Hollywood.

I say old Hollywood first because chances are they have seen some of the 70's stuff. Take them to old Hollywood movies such as Only Angels Have Wings, My Darling Clementine or Laura and let them discover the beauty of 1930's and 1940's Hollywood when scripts were dense, characters well developed, story lines were complete and the melding of form and content was often seamless.

If they go and don't like the films then you can't say you didn't try. But chances are they will enjoy them and they will be ready to have their minds expanded a bit more.

Next go for a silent film. But make sure it is on the big screen and (with the exception of Sunrise) with a live musical accompaniment. I would suggest a comedy such as Sherlock Jr by Buster Keaton or Safety Last by Harold Lloyd because many people have a tough time seeing a mouth moving with no sound coming out. Plus, silent comedies are highly enjoyable. Another reason to choose a silent comedy is because the acting in many silent dramas can be very histrionic and unintentionally funny to those unfamiliar.

But silent films can be great. Just last year I went to a Douglas Fairbanks picture at the Academy titled The Black Pirate and the place was packed. The film had unintentional high camp value, the live score was amazing and the crowd loved it. These kinds of experiences you absolutely cannot get in the multiplex or at home so be on the lookout for cool silent films in your neighborhood.

Okay, if you get this far with your mainstream friends then you can let them know that they are no longer part of the mainstream crowd. They are well on their way. Celebrate by going out for a night of drinks topped of by a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Next: How to get your mainstream friends to avant-garde and experimental films.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


Voters in Inglewood turn away Wal-Mart

I have to say this suprised me. This is good news. Not because it tells Wal-Mart to just go away (which would be nice) but because it tells Wal-Mart that they cannot obtain building permits without a public hearing or environmental impact studies and - more to the point - that they cannot thwart local control of an area.

Wal-Mart is a big bad corporation and while they certainly give us nice inexpensive (and cheap) goods they also have a juggernaut mentality. It would be nice if this vote made them think twice before they get their bulldozers revved up again.

But I suppose that's just wishful thinking. Still it gives one hope.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Really far in the Future DVD release...

A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) by the fabulous duo Michael Powell & Emeric Pressberger is to be released on DVD.
This is great news.
However, according to Amazon US it won't be out until...2025!

Apparently they offer a discount if you order this DVD one decade early so you have 11 years to take advantage.

UPDATE: Word on high is that Amazon has fixed this. (Thanks to my vigilance, of course).

Monday, April 05, 2004

Film Snobbery...

I usually welcome it when someone calls me a film snob because that means to me that they think I have taste. But truth be told I'm no film snob. I mean, yes, I do often talk about the aspect ratio of a film or what film stock it was shot in or what lens was used to shoot a particular scene but that's all just a matter of my thirst for knowledge.

Traditionally, one would say that film snobbery derives from those who only like obscure films and disdain mainstream films. But true film snobbery is a term more inclined to be the definition of mainstream Hollywood filmgoers rather than the art house crowd. The reason is because many mainstream filmgoers only watch the latest Hollywood movies and believe that only mainstream movies are worth watching.

But, of course, there are so many other kinds of films that many mainstream filmgoers won't watch including foreign language (from as many countries as you can name), experimental, independent, cult as well as silent and older films from every decade before any of us were born. Therefore, film snobbery may exist with non-mainstream filmgoers but the variety of movies that are not mainstream is of such a great number that if you are open to them (plus the occasional blockbuster) then you are not a snob - just open minded.

I have any number of friends, colleagues and acquaintances who would never sit down to watch a black and white film, an Iranian film or the latest Godard film - much less an experimental film like Michael Snow's Wavelength. And while sometimes I chalk someone's dislike or indifference of these films to merely a matter of taste I always have to ask why. And the answer I get is often something like, 'well it's boring' or 'that's not too entertaining' or 'I don't get it.' When I challenge them on these points they don't go into much depth.

I can remember a few years ago a colleague told me that he didn't like Abbas Kiarostami's film Through the Olive Trees because it was 'pretentious'. I pressed him on this and he felt that Kiarostami was trying to be cool by using long single takes and mixing up the narrative to confuse us. I then said, 'wow, you really need to get out and see different kinds of movies more often because Kiarostami is doing the kind of thing that has been prevalent in cinema for oh... about 50 years.'

Had I told the person that they were just being naïve (or ridiculous) then I guess I could be considered the snob. But I tried to take the reasonable approach and expand their cinematic world a bit. Maybe I was being presumptuous. Nonetheless, it got me thinking that film snobbery is not necessarily about liking obscure films or not liking obscure films but rather about having a narrow view of the history of cinema and coming to conclusions that are nowhere in the realm of reality. In other words, what I call 'arrogant ignorance'.

It is true that a good many art-house filmgoers dislike completely mainstream films but can you blame them? On numerous occasions most blockbuster movies are not much liked by anybody (think Hulk or Fifty First Dates) yet people keep going to them. And therein lies the problem because people just won't stop going to bad mainstream films. One reason is definitely because the marketing machines of Hollywood are so pervasive, robust and effective that most filmgoers feel that they cannot miss the latest blockbuster even if they know it won't be much good.

A lot of this derives too from the need of most filmgoers to see movies that they are comfortable with. [It should be noted that most people go to movies with expectations rather than with an open mind. And when you have to pay $10.00 it sort of makes sense.]

The biggest problem in my mind is that Hollywood has set the standard for what a film is supposed to be; romantic, sexy, action adventure, comedy, thriller entertainment. Yet if you think about it the narrative structure of a Hollywood movie has not been improved upon for 70 years. The standard was set in the 1930's and other than a most delectable side road in the late 1960's early 1970's the only change has been bigger explosions and more outstanding special effects. That's it. The addition of things like sex or more violence often add nothing to the film.

And what's worse, due to the standard that Hollywood has set, most filmgoers - rather than being a victim of the system - begin to feed it and believe that the Hollywood aesthetic is the highest level that movies can achieve. Hence, art/foreign/indie film directors are really just frustrated outsiders who want nothing more than to be hired by Hollywood and go mainstream.

But part of the reason many mainstream filmgoers don't watch films outside of the mainstream is because they are somewhat unaware of what is out there. The question is are they willfully unaware? I can remember an acquaintance of mine once scoffed when I told her that the Japanese have made some of the best films in the history of cinema. It was like I was telling her that the prize in a crackerjack box was greater than a Zales' diamond. I knew right then that I had met a real film snob.

And you too can find film snobs all around. The next time you are at a crowded multiplex look around; most likely you will be surrounded by a bunch of them.

- Next: How to make your mainstream film snob friends into art house mavens.

Friday, April 02, 2004

9/11 Info Continues...

Democracy Now has an good interview with former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds about the information that the Bush administration had before 9/11.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about this claim that both President Bush has made and Condoleezza Rice has made saying that they had no information about an imminent domestic threat involving airplanes?

SIBEL EDMONDS: Well, Amy, for the past two years I have testified several times before the Department of Justice Inspector General, for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a few months ago I testified behind closed doors for the 9-11 Commission, and as I stated before, to just come out and say -- and state that we had no specific information whatsoever, that would be an outrageous lie.

Another article from the Evening Standard carries this forward by quoting Edmonds:

"There was general information about the timeframe, about methods to be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts or terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities - with skyscrapers. (...) This is not hearsay. These things are documented."


Meanwhile the New York Times has an article that Bush aides are blocking Clinton's papers from the 9/11 panel. Apparently ' three-quarters of the nearly 11,000 pages of files the former president was ready to offer the commission had been withheld by the Bush administration.'
A little bit country...

Emily over at It Comes in Pints found a site of "The Best of the Worst Country-Western Song Titles"

Some of the titles include:

You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd

She Made Toothpicks Out Of The Timber Of My Heart

I Don't Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling

I Wanna Whip Your Cow

You Done Tore Out My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat

You're The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly

(and an old favorite)
He's been drunk since his wife's gone punk
Ill Logic...

This is really depressing .

Antidepressant use way up in U.S. kids

Pre-school children are the fastest-growing group of patients in the United States getting antidepressant medication, with use nearly doubling between 1998 and 2002, according to a report issued on Friday.
Among children under age 5, the number of girls being prescribed an antidepressant doubled and the number of boys went up by 64 percent, the group reported.

Actually the more I think about it the more it makes me angry. This is an example of parents being so protective of their children that they try to keep them from emotions that are anything other than giddy.

Yes, sometimes kids are sad or angry but that's human. Yet, I'm sorry, the concept or kids under 5 being suicidal is just looney. For the most part kids are pretty content. Perhaps parents are projecting their own problems on their kids.

Among the kids who need these drugs I wonder how many of these kids rarely leave the couch or the television?

Somethings got to change.