Monday, January 19, 2004

I hate kicking a guy when he's down, but I don't mind it if he's a rapist

Good for McDonalds. I wonder how McCafe is doing up in NoCal.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Last night I talked with my SAT Math Tutor trainer after training. He informed me of some industry news...the top end private SAT Trainers charge from $250 and up to $710 per HOUR of SAT training. That's more than high end lawyers, as far as I know. Wow! Of course, that is such a select market, it probably has virtually nil effect on anyone other than the elite few, but it points to the obvious problem with SAT testing favoring wealthier students over poorer ones (as it always has to various degrees). The private tutoring industry just highlights the point.

What concerns me, however, beyond the unfairness (life's unfair, so what) is what the test tests. It tests Aptitude, and some will argue poorly. But the questions we should ask is: Aptitude for WHAT? In doing this training, we mechanize the process of taking the SAT. The best way to succeed at the test is to mechanically be able to follow different rules for different situations, applying rote techniques to specific problems. It's breaking down problems into specific tasks - preparing us to be members of assembly lines, or rather, managing assembly lines - applying some rules to wigit production 1 and other rules to wigit production 2.

It seems to me a boring world in which we've valued the ability to follow specific rules for specific situations, irrespective of creativity, spontaneity, or other types of reasoning, ie spacial, etc not tested on the SAT. It's actually quite sad in some respects.

But then again, it's only test.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Here's a great Larry David article. In my production class today we talked about influences...Larry David was one of mine. Seinfeld got me interested in entertainment and comedy. Curb is an awesome, respectable move...most people become more conservative and safe when successful, Larry became more edgy and thrifty. Awesome.

Friday, January 09, 2004


Spicy Pork and Eggplant - Yummy, easy, cheap Chinese dish

3 Japanese Eggplants
2 TBL Chili Garlic Sauce - Red Bottle, Lee Kum Yi *key
2 TBL Thin Soy Sauce
2 TBL Chinese Red Wine Vinegar (sub Vinegar)
2 TBL Rice Cooking Wine (sub White Wine)
1 TBL Suger
2/3 Cup cold water
1 TBL Oil (Veggie and Peanut)
1/4 Cup of sliced Pork
1 TBL Oil
2 TBL garlic
2 TBL ginger

Make sauce: chili sauce, soy, red wine, rice wine, suger, water
Make Eggplant: Fry Eggplant in oil 'til soft. Remove.
Make Pork: In same pan fry pork with ginger and garlic 'til cooked
When finished: Add in sauce and eggplant. Stew for a bit
The thing about Howard Dean is that pre-9/11 this guy was exactly what I was looking for in a candidate. I voted for Nader as a protest vote against Gore for running such a shitty campaign, and well, being such a bore. I couldn't even consider the possibility of voting for Bush, who at the time, represented the dual problem I had with the Republican party: coziness to the Christian Right and avatar of big reckless business. So the alternative was Nader. In hindsight, I regret associating with the far left who to me, is becoming irrelevant as a political force so long as it is anti-this and anti-that without having any alternative answers to the biggest issue of the day: Islamic terrorism.

These days I'm struggling. Dean doesn't do it for me because of his positions on Iraq. I think he's wrong. Clark, for now, is my candidate becasuse I like his positions on Al Queda (attacking Bush from the right and on his competency). But I have this sneaking suspicion the more I find out about Clark, the less I'm going to like. Maybe he's the anti-Dean, whereas Dean is the anti-Bush, and everything just becomes about being anti-this and anti-that, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place. Then again, CHECK THIS, maybe Clark is cool. "Is that a pledge pin?"

The most annoying thing is that I'm surprised how much I agree with Bush's positions on many things. I think he was right about Iraq, wrong about his handling of the dissent. I think his immigration speech seemed reasonable and appropriate. I think his gay marriage position was a little shaky, but way more middle of the road than I expected.

I do think he's dropped the ball with Osama, though. I want that guy captured dead or alive to bring about some sense of justice to 9/11. Of course, the war on terror will go on, but to me OBL is very important.

I will write more on this and get some links up, but these were thoughts of the day I wanted to get down
Oh, that's what film students do with their free time....

Back in LA, a couple of us watched the English Patient without sound to analyze what the cinematographer was trying to convey. It was actually quite a good exerciese. I was the only one who hadn't seen the movie, I think Elaine influenced me when she dogged the English Patient in Seinfeld.

The thing I noticed was that the once the stage was set, ie, Act I finished, we are introduced to the characters, settings, etc, a lot of "artistic" elements are superceded by moving the story along.

At the beginning we had a lot of matching shots between different story plots, a lot of interesting close ups, shots from behind veils or other obstructions, long-lonely women shots, etc.

Either we got tired on analyzing, or the film did less of it, but the interesting later parts of the movie are either plot reveals or a really cool scenes via production design.

But now that I think about it, that seems logical to me. Once you've exposed the audience to the "look" of the film, you don't really need to reintroduce anything new there....the rest does become a revealing of the story.
Thomas Friedman is doing a 5 part series on WWIII. Here is the first part.

He makes a great point: "The cold war ended the way it did because at some bedrock level we and the Soviets "agreed on what is shameful.""

For this war to end, suicide bombing and hatred must become shameful in the Arab world. Sounds a lot tougher than finding Saddam.

Part II. Part III. Part IV.

Part IV seems to me particularly important. Israel should should stop provoking the won't end Arab hatred, but make it less legitimate.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I reread my 508 script, a 5 minute black and white film and actually found it pretty good today. I'm reinspired after thinking it was the worst piece of shit the other day...yeah, I haven't yet reached a comfort level with my creative works. Anyhow, it's called "The Math Tutor" and I'd pitch it as a mix between Election and Pi about a math tutor who falls for the mother of one of his students. I'll be posting about it a lot this semester, I imagine.
Oops. I wrote my thesis in college about this. The quote I like best is, "Political speeches can't be like episodes of The Simpsons," said David Robertson, a University of Missouri-St. Louis political science professor.

Why not?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

So there's this great commercial for FedEx during playoff football with these two jackasses in the mail room acting Zombie-esque and saying, "If we don't get this package off we're Doomed." "Doomed" "Doomed." Then a lady comes in is like, "No we're not, we have Fedex." Their reaction - "She's brainwashed." "Yes, brainwashed." "We're Doomed." "Yes. Doomed."

Quite amusing, but also how I feel about the world these days. We're about to start 508 - the second semester production class in which we shoot a 5 min movie in 16MM and all everyone says is, "You're Doomed. Doomed" Like it'll be so hard. Here's a quote from my TA, "Hope you’ve all had a relaxing break, cause you’re gonna need it." Here's a quote from my cinematography prof, "I don’t mean to sound threatening or anything, but we’ve had experience in the past where students missed class, and then their film dailies did not turn out well" Here's my sound prof on the syllabus, "Attendance and punctuality are extremely important and are incorporated into your grade. You should consider this class a job. On a film shoot, if you are late, you are docked pay, and if you do not show up, you are fired. On this job, you are paid with your grade."

I can hear them, zombie-esque, "Doomed. Doomed." Why are people like this? I suppose the film people have an excuse because maybe film students are notoriously flakey. Who knows? But the little day to day shit in life is tough. I've been having this insane back and forth with my car insurance company about how much I should pay. It's a ridiculous amount of money. Like most students, I wanted to keep my insurance at home - in SF, where it is considerably cheaper than LA. LA is freaking joke. I couldn't afford to pay LA rates - there's no way a male under 30 could afford car insurance in LA if he had normal coverage and was attending school full time. It's simply impossible. It costs nearly $4000 a year....and I've had 1 accident in 9 years of driving. The only way to do it is to keep a family plan, which I've been off since I started working a couple years ago. I don't think my parents want me back on, so I'm on my own and trying to register at their house. Well, Geico is sort of wise to my gig and are charging me extra money for bullshit related to my mail getting forwarded and it's really pissing me off. Money, money, money. And I don't have time to go through all the hoops to get it back. Plus, I'm not even in a legitimate position to do so. I'm Doomed, Doomed.

I think people get married just to share the burdens of everyday life - I could use a wife to help me out with all this crap - like picking up groceries and dry cleaning at the very least. What I really want, though, is an intern. Preferably a hot girl.

This lady at my work is a freak show, she's about 65 years old and is a total stress ball. The phone starts ringing and she goes crazy trying to make reservations and answering multiple phone calls, thinking we're Doomed. Doomed. Just relax, let the machine get it, or I'll take a message. Learn how to use the technology, then it won't be so hard. It's gotta suck being old, though, and unable and unwilling to learn all this crap that comes second nature to anyone under 30, like using Windows.

I was talking to my friend Sarah on the phone, bitching really, about why just the little shit in life is so fucking hard. I was saying to her that I've gotta be in the 90th percentile of intelligence, capability, emotional stability, physical shape, etc, all the shit they tell you you need, and somehow I'm just barely holding shit together. I'm forgetting parking tickets, late to work, late to my tutoring sessions, misreading and remembering instructions for my film, untrustworthy in the eyes of my car insurance company, incapable of getting a date with an attractive women (boyfriends, boyfriends, boyfriends, what's up with that shit? You're young - be available), I could go on, but it's too depressing.

I don't know how I got here from the FedEx commercial, but I feel like in some sense, the world makes things unnecessarily difficult on people. On a political level, we have issues with health insurance, we can't travel cause we need to rifle through everyone's bags and finger print anyone from the 3rd world. Traffic. Fucking traffic. What's up with that? Which reminds me, how fucking pissed off did my dentist get when I broke an appointment? He doesn't have another for 3 months? What the fuck is that? Hire another dentist, for chrissake. Or maybe I go somewhere else, but it's so annoying to go somewhere else. I just want to be able to have the things I feel as though anyone ought to be able to have, a car with insurance, a dentist appointment, an MFA if I'm willing to work for it without going into tons of freaking debt, a safe and comfortable apartment. Why is this so hard? And we're the richest, most privileged country in the whole world...imagine the rest of the world. I read somewhere, I think it might have been Neal Stephanson, wrote that being born American in the past 30 years is like winning the lottery of human existence. We've got it all, but somehow I'm incapable of getting my shit together. Things just seem harder than they need to be. And people seem to like to make things harder than they need to be. And then they don't feel comfortable with someone who says, relax, "We can use FedEx." It perpetuates the shit. We're Doomed. Doomed.

Monday, January 05, 2004

After seeing Monster, I'm inspired to do some research into intriguing real life events for a film. Of interest in recent news is the SF dog mauling case, in which the convicted lady just got out of jail. I'm just going to start an archive of articles here....not really a publishing, just an archive.

Court TV looks like it has a ton of stories.

Someone's beaten me to the punch

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Watched Monster, a powerful film in which Charlize Theron plays Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer executed in 2002. The film had a special interest to me because it was a friend of a friend's writing and directing debut (Patty Jenkins). Enough has been said about Charlize Theron's transformative can barely recognize her. In addition to Charlize's performance, I found Christina Ricci quite effective playing her young naive lesbian lover. Ironically, I found Ricci quite attractive in this film. I've seen her in films, particularly the Opposite of Sex, in which she is supposed to be sexy and I've never found her all that attractive. In this film, she is quite attractive, which I found odd, being that she was a lesbian and all. Whatever.

This was one of the saddest films I've seen in a long time. You really feel for Charlize and Christina's struggling relationship, with issues of money, sexuality (Charlize is not gay, just looking for love), and well, Charlize's job hooking or robbery/murder. The sadness that permeates the love element is highlighted by the rapes and abuse dished out on Charlize's character. I'm not sure what to make of the end, a deeply cynical voice over, that somehow feels completely appropriate given the shit this women went through.

The major problem I had with the film was the fact the audience is expected to completely empathize with a serial killer. I don't know the real story at all. I imagine this depiction was particulary kind to Wuornos. What's odd is that I normally don't have many problems with fictional depictions of reality. I pretty much subscribe to not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. For some reason, I felt a little manipulated by this aspect of the film. But overall, the sadness that seems embedded in each and every scene and details is quite an accomplishment and I did quite enjoy this film. Better than Boys Don't Cry.
I really like Blair. He is so simple and clear. "Iraq was a test-case." What could be more pithy?
They left out the most important part, Britney must have been WASTED!

Fine. But does he at least get half?
Good for Clark. Sadly, I talked with my friend who saw Clark at Reniasance weekend (new democrat new years thing in South Carolina) and said he was completely unimpressive. Too bad, I like his positions, especially on al Queda.

Other news suggesting Clark is in trouble.
I never knew anyone who had an affair with a professor in college. Maybe now that I'm in grad school, I'll see some more of it.

I always thought it would've been a good EXPERIENCE, as she puts it.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

I don't know what to make of Iran rejecting Libby Dole (link). Of course, it's stupid of them, but I can't help but think the plan to send a partisan delegation was part of an effort to make Iran look stupid. Wshould take the lead and ask the UN for as much help as possible for the humanitarian crisis in Bam. We should be going head over heals to help out the people there, for both political and humanitarian reasons. We NEED to demonstrate to the Middle East our intentions are good - which I think they are. We might fuck up in our application of what we think is good, which creates reasoned debate - and not holy war.

This is one of those moments when you show your true colors. If the Bushies choose spite and give minimal help to Iran citing their rejection of the help, it'll prove alot of his dissenters correct. If the Bushies insist on seeing American help in Bam, through whatever means necessary, it'll demonstrate our good intentions.

I have no doubt if something this terrible happened in the US, many in the Middle East would cheer and praise allah for punishing us. We have much fewer of those types in the US and more importantly, we have the capability of helping those in Bam.
Haven't written in awhile due to a ski trip and my return to LA, but alas, I am back and happy for the new year. Last night I watched a marathon of Curb Your Enthusiam - what fun! In the past I argued that Seinfeld was better citing the great cast and originality of voice, but after last night, I think Curb is equally enjoyable. Maybe it's not worth comparing, however, since Seinfeld was on network TV and Curb is on HBO.

What I wanted to point out, however, was the format. Curb is shot on DV. The production value looks as though I could have made the shows in my intro production class. The other good, new comedy show, of which I've only seen one episode, is Arrested Development on Fox. This too, appears to be shot in DV in documentary-style. One of my film school professors wrote an article about the end of film, citing the use of DV technology in film, specifically The Celebration, a Danish Dogma film shot all in DV. The Celebration was a great film, but not widely popular in the US. Shows like Arrested Development and Curb will do more for the DV revolution than The Celebration, simply because they reach a wide audience.

Whether Larry David knows it or not, he is preparing the audience to be ready and accepting of a more democratic means of telling stories visually. His show will open doors for filmmakers (or should I say, videomakers?) to tell funny stories without the need for enormous production costs. Cool.