Thursday, December 22, 2005

And They Keep Pulling Me Right Back In

To blogging, that is. As I listen to On the Road on my trip up north via Fresno, I think to myself, a rest from blogging will do me some good. I need to think, get away from the computer, come about some ideas. Do more thinking, less writing, more reflection, less busy-work. The time is to think larger, get philosophical, not detailed and nuanced, which is what the day to day effort of writing ideas and screenplays and blog entries come down to. But alas, I couldn't last, I am sucked back to the computer to write about a movie I find offensive and dastardly, and that movie is the Squid and the Whale.

It harkens back to college and my dual with another member of my college class who championed Kicking and Screaming. It was a cult hit amongst the pretentious English majors who spoke of Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace in the dining hall. I was on the outskirts of this particular group, by association. My two closest friends were a part of this alt-group as my alt-group consistented of soccer jocks. It is healthy, I think, for friendship circles to be concentric, reflecting different personalities and tastes, and the timing factor, that we often under-recognize when it comes to how we end up hanging with who we do.

Anyhow, Kicking and Screaming was this big indie, intellectual flick, so clever in it's east coast snobby, bookiness. It made my California sensibility puke - I championed Office Space, they, Kicking and Screaming. I found it to be shit and reflective of this angry-intellectualism, uninterested in truth or self-deprecation, utterly serious about oneself and ironic about everything else. Drunk and stoned on mostly mixed drinks, framed posters of foreign films, dabbling in poetry and prose on the side. Name dropping Foucault and Nas in the same sentence, this type of thing.

It was in film school that I kept this covenent, that Kicking and Screaming was shit and anyone who championed it was nothing but a phony. If someone talked about the film admirably, I'd make a little side note about the individual - yeah, they're cool, but in they end, they're a little bit full of shit.

As I grow older, I feel I should become more tolerant, and I have. I lessoned my stance on Kicking and Screaming as trusted movie comrades have given it minor props. I wasn't about to trade in years of trust building and movie taste similarities over one lousy film that I admittedly haven't seen in a long time. After all, I'm not a fanatic. Plus, maybe it was I who was being a little ridiculous about the whole thing. Maybe I was just secretly jealous of the David Foster Wallace crowd cause I could never sit through Infinite Jest. Maybe I was being too hard on Kicking and Screaming and needed some Foucault. Maybe that's why I'm not a happier person or why I don't get more chicks!

It is with this newfounded optimism that I looked at what was playing in Marin while I would be home. Ahhh, the art theater has the Squid and the Whale and The Passenger. Now that sounds like a good double feature. I mention my plan to my dad who wanted to see the Squid and the Whale because he read it was good. My father has taken up seeing and reading a lot more about films since I entered film school. He has very good taste.

But my father won't sit through two movies, nor will he go 2 for 1, as I like to cheat and he does not. So we go just to The Squid and the Whale.

Ten minutes in, I hate the movie. And I realize why I hate the movie, and this'll sound odd, because I don't hear this criticism very often except by unsophisticated film viewers - philistines, if you will - because I don't like the ideology of the filmmaker. I don't like the way the filmmaker views the world. I don't have an issue so much with the writing, the dialog, or even the plain-jane filmmaking style (although as a director, this guy has nothing to offer, he's really just a writer who points a camera at actors). His view on human beings suck. His characters aren't sympathetic. Everyone is an asshole and completely unaware of it. It is not as if they are selfish, single minded characters, who inadvertently happen to treat others like shit. They are jerks for the sake of being jerks. They are loveless, and humorlessness about themselves. The movie simply laughs at others, that is the only humor of it. They are sad, depressing, and irritable. Jeff Daniels is so pompous, it's almost insufferable to see how he talks to people. And it's not funny. J. Peterman, on Seinfeld, is pompous and funny. Daniels is not. His older son is a phony, and treats others like shit so they'll feel as low as he does about himself. He is not a genius, like George Costanza, whose own miserable actions make everyone feel better about themselves. I would argue George Costanza is a great healing character of out time, because he makes us not feel so bad about the ugly side of ourselves. This kid in the movie is a more able and dastardly George. He lacks George's complete ineptiness, which is what makes him loveable.

Laura Linney is a slutty, miserable, cunt. The youngest son, is the most sympathetic and the most fucked up, rubbing sperm all over everything.

This is a real cynical look on human nature, a sad, miserable take on the human soul, cloaked in booky intellectual faux realisim. I used to write off the east coast - that's right, the entire thing, because of movies like this. But thankfully, I watched some more Sopranos last night, and damn, mama, thank the lord for that one of the most intense scenes of the series, Chris and Adrianna talk about how they might get out of the life and Christopher looks at her straight and says, "I can finally write my memoirs." My lord, it's genius. Now that's love for ya, love for a character, love for all of humanity in all it's petty, egocentric, tragic-comic, greatness.

Noah Baumbach doesn't understand it. As for me, I will cleanse my soul with the Wild Bunch on DVD. Ahh, yes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


At the beginning, I thought, maybe this will be a good popcorn movie. I liked LOR enough and the cast is pretty good, it's three hours, maybe he had something to say.

Ohhh Lawrd, I was wrong. I found it pretty tough to watch. Scenes drag on pointlessly. Naomi Watts is a good actress, but all she does is give meaningful looks the whole film. Adrian Brody I barely noticed. Jack Black is the best part of the film, for me, just because I liked the idea of his character, not even how it's ultimately put together, just the concept of this guy who'll do anything to get what he wants.

It took forever to see King Kong with all these stupid obstacles of getting to the Island (all of sudden they get a communication that Jack Black is a wanted man, as if they couldn't tell from the cops coming at the harbor) and cheese-dick acting, which could've been a style if Jackson had any sense of irony.

Once we get to the island there are a few good sequences. I liked when the few survivors are getting attacked by insects. I don't really buy Kong turning into Jackie Chan against the T-Rex's and swinging around doing Judo moves.

As I mentioned before, I like Jack Black continuing on with his stupid insistence of making a movie, against everyone, and yet people don't really mutiny against him, they just sort of let him keep going....which I find true and charming.

But alas, I wish I had something more grand to say about the film and why it is so bad, but I don't. I wish I had my money and time back.
A Moment

I'd like to take a moment to discuss my favorite article of clothing. It was a gift, from Alice and Kevin, directly from the DMZ. And yes, you guessed it, it is a white and red DMZ hat. For those who have not seen such a hat before, to clear up any confusion, it also has, in small letter running along the side of the brim: Demilitarized Zone. Often people mistake the hat as some new rap musician or some hip hat from the DMV to promote it's image. It is none of those, it is simply THE DMZ, as in the 38th parallel between North and South Korea which 100,000 armed troops stare straight ahead at one another, ready to go to war at any moment, in a location that is technically still "at war," but under a cease-fire.

I love the hat because it makes no sense to have a hat for the DMZ. Therein lies it's brilliance. Normally, hats connote something one roots for or supports, like say a sports team. Sometimes it is brand one likes, Lacoste or some skater brand. Sometimes it is a style, like a trucker hat, and sometimes, for older men, it is just something to block the sun.

But what are you to make of a hat that says DMZ? It perplexes politically minded individuals, who look at it and say, "Is that the DMZ, as in THE DMZ?" They don't really know what to say. Some laugh. Some find it brilliant. Others shrug and figure I must be some sort of problem to society. But in the end, it just is, in all of it's wonderful self contained glory, and isn't that really the way we all should be?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Miami Vice Madness

All the key grips are quitting, there are gunfights around set, Colin Farrell checks into rehab. Sounds awesome to me! Maybe it'll be his Apocalypse Now.

UPDATE: Here's script review, south american drug dealers, hot chicks, aryan nation nutbags - who are we kidding, it's going to be unreal.
Utterly Fascinating

The NY Times has a long article about webcam child pornography.

There are several levels on which I find this fascinating. My first instinct is horror. 1,500 people out there watching this 13 year old kid taking his shirt off and paying him for it. Where do we get all these perverts? I say this as I stare at my new isight on my imac and say to myself, gee, just take off my shirt right here and someone will pay me? Then I read this kid has netted in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years." Too bad I'm too old for the perverts.

Film students are prone to having exceptionally puerile conversations about what they would do to get their first movie made. These conversations usually end up involving sex with someone undesirable, and film students eagerly admit to being willing prostitutes. Anyone who resists or holds out is seen as some sort of film pariah, unwilling to do what it takes to make it in this business, or worse, someone who is moralistic.

Anyhow, given that child molestation and pornography, is the worst crime imaginable in the eyes of society (rumor has it even prisoners hate child molesters), my outrage is hard to overcome. But if you think about it, who is being harmed by a teenager masturbating in their bedroom? Let's be honest, this behaviour is probably happening anyway, the only difference is the camera is on them and the world can be watching. I suppose this is wrong, but come on, is it that wrong or just sort of sick?

Now I've freely admitted that if I were a dictator, I would punish gross crimes like cannibalism and serial killing, etc, way worse than more understandable crimes like bank robbery and regular ole murder out of jealousy or rage. In this land, kiddie's dancing in front of their isight cameras would be illegal and those watching would be forced to live in Saudi Arabia. But alas, there is no widespread political movement trying to instate me as dictator of the United States. Given that, I assume the masses prefer our rule of law to my form of punishing annoying and disgusting people severely. And our rule of law, rightly, shies away from punishing crimes because we find them gross or disgusting. So what do we do about 13 year old boys dancing around in their rooms, naked, to Madonna, and are getting paid more than mommy and daddy?

Is this really wrong? They are consenting to having their images published across the web and if you ask me, amply compensated. We can always argue that "they are kids." But if that's the case, why are willing in some states to put kids on death row?

And since there are so many perverts watching live kiddie porn webcams, I wonder what is preferable: these perverts watching kiddie porn or out on the playground molesting people?

Naomi Wolf argues that regular-ole pornography causes men to be less aggressive towards regular ole women, because "why would men risk rejection for a normal looking girl when they can get a super hot porno-chick telling them how mighty their sexual performance is?"

Early opponents of pornography argued porno cause men to get all hot and bothered and want to go around raping woman and cause extra violence in society. These studies, like a lot of early sexuality studies, were performed on prisoners who were probably not the best sample group because a) they are more predisposed to violence already and b) the conditions in which they live do not mimic normal society. A similar study argued that half of all men were gay or disposed to gay sexual acts because they did the study on prisoners, who of course, are only around other men. In any case, there is no evidence of increased sexual violence based upon pornography, so those early reactionary premonitions by man-hating feminists like Catherine MacKinnon never proved true.

So the question is: will the proliferation of child pornography lead to more sexual molestation?

If you believe in what Wolf argues, the incentives for a pederast to go home and watch boys on the internet far outweigh the risks of hanging around the playground trying to pick up kids on the monkey bars, which carries not only the risk of rejection, but an additional risk of arrest and future maltreatment by your peers in prison.

Parents, of course, are probably red with rage about the possibility of their kids naked images out on the internet. Parents also fear their teenage daughters slutting themselves out at parties, yet we all know this happens - not all girls, but certainly some of them. The point is, parents are deeply biased when it comes to discussing matters of their own children's sexuality.

So where does that leave us? Nowhere I guess. But the second aspect of this set up I find fascinating is that these kids are getting paid directly by the perverts. I find it much nicer that the kiddies are making money from their own pornography and that they are cutting out the middle men because a) middle men in general are lame and b) I imagine the middle men in child pornography are particularly awful individuals who deserve to not only be arrested if caugh performing their job, but also to be squeezed out of their profession by newer technology.

Anyhow, this seems to be a possible economic model for music and film distribution, directing for the creator to the consumer.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Making Money Making Movies

The time has come to start thinking about it. I'm going to have continuing blog posts as I find information online. Here is some online information from about sales agents. They sell your movie for a 25% cut.

Some numbers on the most profitable and least profitable movies of all time.

I watch Heat about once a year. I saw it in the theaters when it came out, around 1995 or so and liked it quite a bit. One summer, I had two VCRs hooked up together at my house and so I dubbed a bunch of videos, one of them was Heat. Since then, I've watched it here and there on a shitty video copy about once a year. Last night, after a 552 screening, I came home and felt like watching something and I turned it on. I finished it this morning.

The general consensus within film school about Heat is that it is, in Soo Hugh's words, "a beautiful, flawed film." People like it. A couple people love it. But most everyone feels it necessary to point out the flaws. I think a couple common issues are with the Natalie Portman character, the fact that Jon Voigt seems to know everything out of thin air, and with the driver character/grill man, who has a few little scenes and then a small part in the bank robbery in the end.

There is little I can say in response to the flaws of the film. Like anything you love, there isn't anything I'd change about it, including the flaws. After script analysis, I tend to try to figure out some simple structural notes about films while watching...when the end of the 1st act occurred, when the end of the second act occurs, what is the theme? what is the main tension? Heat is tough, because it is both an ensamble piece, but also a crime drama. So the main tension is clearly about Vinent's pursuit of Neil and whether he can capture him. But there are so many other characters, in some sense, it is more about whether Vincent's crew can take down Neil's crew.

The first act tension is locked rather late into the movie - when the cops spy on the crew from the Chinese Restaurant. The end of the second act is when Vincent declares that Neil is gone, and goes to the hotel to find Natalie Portman and her attempted suicide. The third act is the shortest, but is all about whether Neil and Vincent will change, and become "regular type guys."

What I love about the film, beyond the best action sequence ever put to celluloid, and some fantastic dialog, is the theme - the entire movie is thematically about male and female relationships. It is incredibly cold, as Michael Mann is wont to be, but cold, as a description, I think falls a bit short. It is more fundamentally tragic.

A solid critique of film would be about the DeNiro-Eddy story, because it is rather quick how he decides, "it wouldn't be worth going anywhere anymore without you." Their's isn't a love story where you see the passion between the two characters, but rather a story of enormous lonliness. The restaurant scene, where everyone is coupled, except Neil, is what prompts him to call isn't that he's fallen in love, it's that he is tired of being alone. Neil's house, devoid of furniture, is the physical representation of his heart/soul - completely empty. He explanation that he is "alone, not lonely," seems like a reasonable explanation, pointing to how diciplined, but unneedy he is. But upon reflection, being alone is even more tragic, as alone connotes a permanant state, whereas lonely is a temporary state to be cured by meeting someone. Neil and Vincent are and will remain, ALONE.

The movie has always been a 5 for me, but it's creeping up into my top 20, maybe even top 10 of all time. I've watched it more times than nearly any other film, except perhaps Pulp Fiction or Chinatown.

Of all the living filmmakers, Scorcese is widely considered to be the best. There are obviously others, Altman, Spielberg, Coppola, Allen, but none of them hold the public esteem the way Scorcese does.

But if you asked me to take pick Michael Mann or Scorcese in a one-on-one, no holds barred, film-off, well, I'd take Michael Mann any day...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Elections in Iraq

The NY Times and the Arab News both seem to favor the consensus, that the Iraqi Parlimentary elections are a big sucess. 70% of the nation turned out to vote, which includes a large part of the Sunni population, who had boycotted earlier elections.

The prevailing thought is that the Sunni protest of earlier elections was more about fear of being killed, than opposing democratic elections.

There were reportedly few attacks, an indication that insurgent groups are weakening or dividing, as recent reports about that the Iraqi insurgency is having large internal problems between the Iraqi nationalists and the supporters of Zarqawi's network, Al Queda in Mesopotamia.

Are these elections regrettable? Are they a false facade of democracy? Is Saddam Hussein preferable?

I wonder what Dean, Huffington, think. Do they read the news coverage and say to themselves, "Shit." Do they secretly long for Iraq to remain a quagmire?

UPDATE: Apparently some time last week Baathist insurgents got a promise from Zarqawi not to step up attacks for the election. The reason: they don't see fighting America and voting as mutually exclusive. They'll try to win at the ballot box and on the battlefield.
Listening To Others

It's very important to listen to others point of view. I thinking in particular, Iran's President, who claims the holocaust was a myth.

Now, if only the US didn't support Israel, I swear, our problems would just go away.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


You know that feeling when you get something to work? Something you've been toiling with? Well, it feels good. I cut a split screen dinner scene and made a bunch of adjustments and I think it's pretty damn cool. My favorite moment was discovered completely on accident, as I was adding in different takes and a leftover bit of an unused take was at the end of the timeline. I was watching the end of the scene and it abruptly cuts to a close up of a particular character, on accident of course, and all of a sudden I realized what an important moment I just discovered. The character has a realization about another character at the end of scene that was never scripted, but comes into play later in the movie.

More importantly, however, it reflects my POV, that we, as people have an effect on the people around us by the passion and honesty of our opinions and outlook, that we change and influence one another - not in a major, sudden way, but in small moments, when we finally come to see another person's outlook on the world. These moments, well, they are the shit.

Supposedly the Academy is about the search for truth....but when you have incentives to study "truths" that have specific interests in mind, I have a feeling the Truth becomes an afterthought. I'd say $20 million is quite an incentive.

These guys are the part of the problem.

Last night I dreamt that I was watching myself and I had bad posture and skinny arms.
Sprawl Is Good

Sounds like an interesting book. Sprawl is an ancient problem, not one unique to Los Angeles. And it can be good.

Frankly, I like little area I live in off of Sunset. I make a point of frequenting places to eat within walking distance, just because it's nice to be part of a neighborhood, even if the hipster people working at the places I go don't like me too much. I sometimes walk in wearing a sweat suit, looking like Big Pussy from the Sopranos, and the tattoo and pierced homophiliac crowd thinks I'm tacky because I'm not wearing something used and/or artistic. I'm more popular at Eat Well than at Prasadam, who charges me an arm and a leg for coffee.

But I still like the area and feel more a part of a city neighborhood than I ever did living on Nob Hill (although, there was a time in SF when a whole bunch of my friends lived up and down California Street towards Polk and we hung around the neighborhood quite a bit).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Good Lord

Here is my nominee for the best blog post of year, someone who echoes my sentiments exactly on Howard Stern. Amazing.
Breaking it Down

Watched some Seinfeld today. A brief script breakdown:

1st Sequence: We set up three story lines - A waitress flirts with George, Elaine has a new boyfriend visiting from England, Bana offers Jerry a suit he can't wear anymore.

*Purpose: sets up three separate story lines.

2nd Sequence: A fourth story line added: Kramer got rid of his fridge and vows to only eat fresh food. Complications develop for the three main stories: Jerry gets the suit, but Bana wants a free dinner in exchange; George sacks up and gets a date with the waitress, Elaine British boyfriend is a jerk.

*Purpose: Complicates each of the three main stories with obstacles, and introduces 4th sub story.

2nd half of 2nd sequence: George discovers waitress has a boyfriend, Jerry hypothesizes she's faking it. Kramer is loving his fresh food plan. George and Kramer hatch plan to discover if waitress is lying. Bana and Jerry go for dinner, but Bana only order soup and "saves" dinner for later on. Elaine and Jerry debrief on dinner and wait for her jerk boyfriend, who borrows money from Jerry.

George is now awkward around waitress at his favorite coffee shop, Bana stops by and Jerry tries again to get credit for the meal.

*Purpose: Evaluate each situation and narrows the conflicts

3rd Sequence: Kramer needs food for his new girlfriend, so he asks to borrow from Jerry. Jerry resolves the suit issue by giving it to Elaine's boyfriend. Bana decides he wants suit back. George forces Jerry and Elaine to eat at alternative diner, which doesn't work, so he resolves to get the waitress fired. Elaine wants to get rid of boyfriend.

Finale scene: Jerry and Elaine eat at diner and learn the waitress is leaving on her own accord, George continues to try to get her fired, which pisses off the manager. Elaine's boyfriend has a job opportunity because of new suit and might stay in the US. Elaine sicks Bana on her boyfriend.

*Purpose: New plan of action to resolve conflicts and all plans come together.

Coda: George eats alone at alt-diner.
Interesting Thoughts on Tookie

From Donald Sensing.

If we were to "save Tookie" it would be for our souls, not his. Interesting outlook.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thank You Melissa

Melissa graciously offered accompany Phil and I to watch Brokeback Mountain, to provide a buffer, so as to avoid the obvious awkwardness after, god forbid, we enjoyed the film.

The three of us, with Manuel in tow, opted to check out the hippest spot in town at 11:10pm yesterday evening at the Grove, the fascist city center of LA. As we walked up and snickered about gay people, with our children's tickets in hand, we discovered, much to my surprise that the 11:10 Monday evening show was sold out. Dammit. That meant the front row or splitting up.

The movie begins. It is slow. Or patient.

The movie ends. I am impressed with how "big" it is. Phil is not. He yells at me, "then you liked the English Patient!"

Offended, I defend my position, "A film should be recognized for going for something huge. That doesn't make it a good movie."

Melissa is angry. She liked the movie.

Manuel's only comment, "Two guys next to me were holding hands."

There are a couple of supurb scenes. Heath Ledger's character, Innis (although I must admit I thought it was Anus for awhile at the beginning), is awesome. He reminded me of Call from Lonesome Dove, a quiet, rageful, decent man, who has no capacity for family and barely any for love. I still don't care for Jake Gyllenhal.

The film spans decades and there are always problems with doing something like that, ie Heath Ledgers daughter ends up being roughly his own age, and I guess it's a testament to how un-great the movie is, when I thinking in terms of Heath and Jake, even though I'm supposed to be wrapped up in the story.

My biggest problem with the movie is the first act. I don't buy the two guys falling in love. People will accuse me of homophobia, and they might well be right, because yes, I am probably a harder critic on believing two cowboys falling in love, as opposed to a dude falling for a hot chick. But that's part of the appeal of film, this idea of falling in love, completely out of control and against all convention. And I believe it CAN be done, but it just wasn't done well enough in this film. The sequence it pales in comparison to is sequence in the desert in Crouching Tiger.

The rest of the movie plays, although a lot of big, emotional scenes come out of nowhere, things happen years down the line that should have occurred earlier. But these are minor things....

My favorite scene is towards the end between Jake and Heath when they confront each other over their "failed" ability to live a life together. I think it was shot spectacularly. In fact, the whole movie was shot well, often you are in big close ups, seeing only the brim of a cowboy, hiding Heath's eyes, or back over shots, complete backs of characters. Wonderful.

The great press this movie is receiving can be explained in a couple of ways, 1) There is such a dearth of good films out there, that this appears really good. 2) Critics think the filmmakers have taken a big risk, so they want to let stuff slide 3) Critics think others will like the film, so they are jumping on the bandwagon.

If Syriana or Brokeback or Good Night and Good Luck get nominated and/or win best picture, this will be a mighy weak year for movies.
Rough Cut

Am not looking forward to screening a rough cut of my short film this evening. It's probably the shabbiest thing I've ever shown to a class, but the lazy-ass class is meeting and no one has anything to I'll bring in what I have and maybe get a suggestion or two.

One forgets how long it can take to edit simple sequences, if you've done a lot of takes. For some reason, I thought having relatively few cuts in certain scenes would make the movie easy to cut...but this one is taking a shitpile of time. It'll likely be a 20 minute movie in the end.

It's not a good sign how uninspired I am right now with the film. I'm sick of it. I think a lot of sucks, there are a few good moments, but good moments are useless if the timing of the rest of the damn thing isn't right.

I'll give myself a month to clean it up best I can and see what I can come up with.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

That's Two Times

I've been watching Sopranos for writing inspiration and distraction and there were two references touched me personally.

A reference to Marin County in a season 5 episode when Carmela's father has a bday and her mother is concerned with how her "decent Italian" friends will perceive Tony. Well, her decent Italian friend is a pompous douche and used to live in Marin County. Hmmm. All right, one dig at Marin is acceptable, especially in light of John Walker Lindh and the general reputation. It's almost even flattering to get a mention.

BUT in another season 5 episode, Meadow and her boyfriend are at a beach bonfire and one of their friends says, "I've figure out what to do with my life."

"Join the CIA to fight the war on terror?"

"No, go to film school."

Those mutherfuckers. Whoever came up with those ideas for the show, if they are the same person, is frightingly similar to me. Goddamn it. Is there a doppledanger who has part of my mind? Who could come up with those references other than me? This is freaking me out a little bit for a couple reasons.

a) The decent Italian spent years in the foreign service. I know that there is a cadre of people who work for the foreign service that end up living in Marin for one reason or another. I'm not sure exactly why, but we had family friends growing up who did so. There are also a couple of CIA operatives who live in Tiburon, including Joe Wilson, the guy outed by the Bush admin. His kids went to my high school. But who knows this stuff other than me? It's such a specific detail to a specific place at a specific time. I suppose other people could make the connection, but who would incorporate it? Especially to a New Jersey show. Goddamn it.

b) The CIA war on terror or film school is an odd connnection, I think, but one that is right up my alley. I don't know anyone else who thinks along those lines.

c) Not to mention the obscure use of Tim Daly (an actor I like who was in Wings and Diner) as a TV writer who uses a reference to Pulp Fiction when Chris comes over to beat him up.

d) Also not to mention Vinnie Del Pino from Doogie Howser.

Goddmmit, someone on the Sopranos writing staff is downloading items swirling around in my head. I find this utterly annoying.

And to test the major prediction about how the Sopranos will end....TONY will die. At it's heart, this show will have a tragic ending. The question is who will kill him? Options: Carmela, Johnny Sack, Christopher, the Feds, and get this...AJ. The show is steeped in freudian psychology and what is more fundamentally freudian than the Oedipus complex. Season 5 has spent a lot of time devoted to developing AJ as a troubled teenager.

I can almost guarantee that NO ONE else sees why AJ could possibly, at this point, be involved with his father's death. But read it here first, folks, and we'll see whether the Sopranos is stealing my thoughts....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Memri TV

An organization devoted to translating Arabic media to English. Now that's something non-movie making, that I'd be interested in.
Porn Opportunities

An LA Times feature on a young enterprising post-MFA student making a name for himself as an alt-porn director.

Is this where an artistic revolution will be?

A scathing op-ed in the Arab News about the importance of upcoming Iraqi elections and why they are receiving so little coverage in both the Arab and Western Media.

Arab media fears a successful Iraq because it poses a threat to their autocratic regimes. The Western media fears an Iraqi success because it'll prove Bush and Blair right.

The writer is spot on.

I had an interesting talk the other day with a very smart Egyptian filmmaker studying at USC this semester. He's made a couple feature films and is incredibly knowledgeable about the Middle East. He's even met with Karen Hughes, who visisted Egypt to find ways to improve the US image abroad.

He claims, rightly I think, that the reason there is so much hatred of America and Israel across the region is because dictatorial governments in the Middle East peddle the message that the US and Israel are the problem to distract citizens from the failures of their own regimes.

He is upset that the US government supports Mubarak, in Egypt, who in his view, has ruined the country.

At the same time, he does not support the Iraq invasion. He said to me, "I know the Iraqi people, and they need a Saddam, they cannot have a democratic society."

He also expressed disgust at the entire country of Saudi Arabia, whose history, he says, begins and will end with the discovery of oil. They preach an intolerant version of Islam, making women wear humiliating head scarves with only slits for their eyes.

All in all, he knows a lot, and I liked talking with him. But I asked him, "You say the problem with the Middle East is the dictators, so in Iraq right now, we're getting rid of the worst dictator of them all, and you don't support it. It doesn't make sense. How can you argue both?"

He says, "It won't work in Iraq."

Even if the odds are 25-75 that it'll work in Iraq, is the gamble worth it? If there's a huge pot in poker and you've only got a flush draw, and it only costs you a little bit more to see the river, it's worth the bet.

And the pot IS huge. If Iraq works, Egyptians will see it and want democracy too. So will Iranians, so will Syrians, and so will the Palestinians.
Watch Out

I was on a set early this AM and one of actors was concerned that Guvnor Arnold was going to make an announcement today on whether to grant clemancy to "Tookie" Williams. He seemed concerned that some type of rioting would break out in South Central Los Angeles (where we are) if clemancy was not granted.

I highly doubt it. I didn't live in LA in 1992, so it's tough to compare, but living in this city today, it's hard to imagine racial riots breaking out. I have trouble imagining the riots happening even 10 years ago.

I suppose this is partially foolish, given the nature of surprises, see New Orleans and 9/11...but I live here, and well, my instinct is this city isn't near a breaking point, nor do most people care about Tookie.

But further, and perhaps this is a reflection of my growing conservatism, but why would the residents of South Central Los Angeles be upset about a gang leader being executed? If anyone should be in favor of his execution, it ought to be this community, the community that has suffered the most from the street gangs and crack dealers that Tookie was instrumental in making. Further, it is his insistence upon his innocence and the racism of the system that is drives his plea for clemancy, not a plea for mercy and forgiveness from his victims. His writing of children's books to encourage young men away from gang life is commendable, but his refusal to give information about his former Crip life reveals a steadfast committment to a moral code inconsistent with the values of a good citizen.

On a personal level, this case is a wash for me...I'm uncomfortable with capital punishment on any level, although after 9/11, I must admit, OBL deserves to die for punishment alone, regardless of how many children's books he may write.

I also find it rather gross, the movement to "Save Tookie," as if the system has wronged him in one way or another. What drives the passion of liberals to focus upon "Tookie," of all people? Is it because he is friends with Snoop Dogg? Does society win by granting him clemancy? Will Tookie's clemancy assuage feelings of guilt we have towards an African American community that past generations of Americans mistreated?

Am I being a dick? Am I a bloodthirty conservative just itching to see a big field negro executed?

George Bush as George Washington

Now that's a bold statement.

I agree with the sentiment that we could use a little Tom Paine but come on, George Washington????

I remember I wrote way back when that when I voted for Kerry I was slightly worried that 50 years from now I'd have to admit to my grandkids that I didn't vote for GW when they are attending GW Bush high school and he's remembered up there with Lincoln and Washington...that is, if Iraq works and the Middle East transforms into a democratic region.

I'm sure there were a lot intellectuals who opposed Lincoln instigating the Civil War and the founding fathers instigating the Revolution. No one remembers them now, except as embarassing footnotes to history...

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Question For Our Age

Nestled in news coverage the last couple days has been the case in Florida with the college professor accused of financially and intellectually supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad - a group with a similar ideology to Hamas, but smaller, who operate out of Syria and conduct operations in the West Bank and Gaza. They were an off-shoot of Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Anyhow, the issue is this professor raised money for the group and has been intellectually supporting the terrorist movement in favor of liberating Palestine.

He was jailed and prosecuted as part of the Patriot Act and just this week aquitted of all charges.

Is this a good thing? The article says that the jurors concluded:

"There was no murder weapon. There was no fingerprint. This is about a guy who raised money for a group, and that group went out and committed acts of violence, and they thanked him for giving them the money," said another lawyer involved in terrorism cases who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is close to the government team in the Al-Arian case. "That is different than shooting someone in the head with a pistol."

And, yes, from a legal standpoint, they are correct. He did not pull any trigger and he has a right to free speech to say whatever he wants.

But is it right that someone ought to be able to raise money through charities to finance terror? I don't think so. And I don't buy into the argument that well, maybe he didn't know about it. Well, maybe he did...and further, does it matter? A drunk driver doesn't intend to kill someone, but if they do, it's their responsibility. If you raise money for an organization that uses that money to finance suicide bombings, I think you bear some responsibility.

This boils down to the question after 9/11: Is terrorism primarily a law enforcement issue or is it primarily a war? I think viewing terrorism through the lens of law enforcement (which is what we did prior to 9/11) failed. It empowered terrorists, because they saw how they would be arrested and eventually released. Nearly every single terrorist leader was in jail at one time or another in a particular country, Zawahri, Zarqawi, KSM, etc. All were released and become much bigger, more powerful, and a greater threat. Many are arrested and let go because of a failure of evidence, and so forth. The cost to society: mayham, destruction, death.

So should we cheer for this success of the justice system, this diss to the Patriot Act? If terrorism is an issue for law enforcement, would we rather see 10 guilty terrorists go free than one innocent terrorist go to jail? Can we try to answer that question honestly, incorporating the moral implications, without wondering whether it fits into our political affilitations?

Many "civic minded" people argue against holding terrorists as enemy combantants. They argue, these people are not accused of any crime. But again, is this the right metric? By time the dots are connected, evidence collected, and prosecuted, two things happen (at least in this case) a) Palestinian suicide bombers attack Israeli citizens, financed by guys like the professor and b) it takes a long time and the justice system grows tired of hearing about a case from years ago.

In a war, we can hold enemy combatants until they surrender and cease hostilities. We are fighting a war against Islamic Fundamentalism and terrorists and terrorist financiers will be allowed to go free when they surrender and stop fighting. Until then, I see no incentive for bringing charges or letting them go.

UPDATE: Per the comment, indeed, one cannot be considered guilty of a crime if the act they perpetrated wasn't criminal when he/she did it...but that still brings us back to the heart of the matter, of whether Islamic Terrorism is best dealth with as a criminal matter? I'm not sure how to handle a situation such as this one, although it seems reasonable to me that a man, like a system, ought to be able to change his/its way after world events. That is, he could renounce allegience to PIJ, after learning the consequences of their actions. I really don't know.

There's a neat function I just discovered on my new IMac. There's a little remote that comes with the computer and one can press menu and get music, movies, photos, or DVD options to pop up. I select the movies and am able to see any trailer for any upcoming movie. I just watched Brokeback Mountain, Memoirs of a Geisha (which I'm a little embarassed to admit, looks awesome), and Munich (which I've already seen 3 times and think is going to be the best picture of the year based upon the trailer alone).

The viewer is pretty good, it takes up the whole screen, and had a few halts, but overall, impressive.

It's also funny to see a database of icons for all the movies in current release - 54. Is that the magic number? The magic number of movies that can be out at one time. 54 for slots for all the world...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

This Could Be an Onion Headline

But it's not.
Driving Me Mad

Editing on Final Cut is coming along slowly...although, I must admit I have made a good deal of progress. I shot this film horribly, not planning out how it'll edit together. For the scenes I actually did plan, it's coming out well. It's just the scene I deleted 3/4 of my footage that is impossible to cut right, coupled with my retarded 3 wall shoot plan for my pro designed apartment and all I shot was the back of the main characters head. It should be interesting. Goddamit, man.

I need to watch a movie about terrorists and drink alcohol.

Good Answer to Online Dating Question

One of the questions on online dating survey's is "If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?" (Or so I hear...)

I find this a hard question to answer (hypothetically, of course, cause I've never filled out one of THOSE survey's), because truth be known, it's right where I am. I mean, sure I'd like to be in Hawaii or Moscow or something...if I wanted to sound cool or I was like Thomas Crowne....but that shit ain't the truth because actually, I'm pretty happy living where I live and learning how to make movies.

I wish my room was a little bigger and I had more money to decorate my house nicer and I wish I had a badass digital camera and deck....but other than that, maybe a cool girlfriend and more time to listen to music, read, and play sports....

BUT, all that has changed in the past couple days, because there is indeed somewhere else I'd rather the courtroom watching Saddam Hussein acting like a madman. Shit, it sounds like the most entertaining live event of our lifetimes. Beats the hell out of the OJ trial if you ask me.

Does anyone else think it might be a just a tad bit cool to be an Iraqi right now, in the process of creating their own form of government? It's sort of like the opportunity of being the founding fathers....I know that makes me seem crazy...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Script Analysis of Misery

1.Question: Whose story is it? Explain why this is the central character. What does he or she want? What does he or she need? Explain how this distinction helps reveal this as primarily a subjective or primarily an objective drama. Answer: Misery is Paul Sheldon’s story. He is the central character because his decisions drive the drama of the story. Paul’s “want” is to become a real writer again and get away from the “Misery” business. Paul’s “need” is to survive Annie Wilkes. While the story has both subjective and objective dramatic moments, it is primarily an objective drama because the need is survival and most of the tension of the film surrounds whether Paul will be able to survive.

2.Question: What is the point of attack? Why? Answer: The scene when Annie shaves Paul and reveals she was following Paul during the blizzard and watching him prior to blizzard. This is the first hint to the audience of trouble and is the “distant thunder” of what will become the main tension, Paul escaping from Annie.

3.Question: What is the main tension? When does it begin? Answer: The main tension is whether Paul will be able to escape from Annie. It begins when Annie discovers that Paul has killed Misery and that she hasn't really called his publisher and no one is going to rescue him, “If I die, you die.”

4.Question: What is the midpoint? Why? Answer: The midpoint of the story is when Paul is physically unable to get out of the house and races back to the bedroom. This is the scene with parallel action, as Annie drives home while Paul races back to bed. The reason this is the midpoint is because it narrows the focus of the main tension. Paul will not be able to physically escape from Annie. Instead, he will need to outsmart her.

5.Question: What is the culmination? When does it occur? Why is that the culmination? Answer: The culmination is when Paul is hobbled by Annie with the sledgehammer. It occurs at the end of the second act and is the moment when Paul has lost all hope. This ends the main tension. Paul is not going to escape from Annie.

6.Question: What is the twist in the third act? Why? Answer: The twist of the third act is when Buster is shot in the back. It is a twist because it is a justifiable surprise that ends our new hope introduced in the third act that Buster will save Paul.

7.Question: What is the resolution? Why? Answer: The resolution is when Paul delivers his new book to his publisher, which satisfies his main want, to become a “real” writer again.

8.Question: Identify one sequence and break it down: when does it being and when does it end? Whose sequence is it? What is the sequence tension? Is there an event around which the sequence is shaped? Answer: Sequence #7: Fight to the death
a. The sequence begins when Annie shows Paul the gun and he realizes he is going to have to kill her to escape.
b. The sequence ends when Annie clubs his legs. He fails to kill her.
c. Whose sequence: Paul
d. Sequence tension: Will Paul kill Annie with the knife and escape?
e. Event: Paul takes the kitchen knife

9. Question: Give an example of planting and payoff. Answer: An example of planting and payoff is the single match, which Paul uses to light his cigarette. It is planted early on in the story as a ritual he performs after finishing a book. The payoff is later in the story when Annie brings him his ritual materials that he will use to destroy the final chapter of “Misery’s Return” and fight his way free.

10.Question: Cite a scene which is primarily for revealing character rather than moving the story or plot forward. Answer: A scene which is primarily for revealing character is the “pig” scene, in which we discover Annie has a pet pig named Misery. This scene does not reveal any plot information, but is strictly about Annie’s character, demonstrating her obsession by naming her pig Misery and her ignorance by referring to Leonardo DaVinci as “that dago.”

11.Question: Cite one instance of mystery, surprise, and suspense. Answer:
a. Mystery – When Paul discovers Annie’s “memory lane” book, we are reading clipped articles about Annie’s past and trying to figure out what she has done in the past.
b. Suspense – When Paul picks the lock and is able to get out of his room and search around the house. The suspense is due to the parallel action as Annie makes her way home.
c. Surprise – When Annie shoots Buster, it comes to our surprise as an audience.

12.Question: Give two examples of the use of elements of the future. Answer:
a. We learn Paul has killed off Misery in his newest Misery book in an early scene with Lauren Bacall. When Annie gets the new Misery book, our anticipation of Annie discovering Misery’s death is heightened.
b. When Lauren Bacall calls Buster and asks him about Paul, it advertises a future event: will Buster find Paul?

13.Question: Give one example of a special use of a costume and a special use of a prop. Answer:
a. Costume: Paul’s arm sling. Paul initially needs the arm sling to recover, but goes on to use it to hide the knife. He also wears it longer than he needs to in order to feign injury.
b. Prop: The typewriter. It is used both as a tool for writing and a weapon in Paul’s final effort to escape.

14.Question: Give one example of scenes of preparation and aftermath. Answer:
a. Scene of Aftermath: After the suspenseful scene when Paul has picked the lock and Annie comes home, the aftermath is the scene when Annie gets Paul his pain pills at his request and takes him back to bed. This is for the audience to wind down and digest the suspense that just occurred.
b. Scene of Preparation – When Paul fills a piece of paper with the pill powder, the audience knows we are preparing for a future event, his attempt to put her to sleep.
The Little Things That Make You Feel Good

Way back at the end of last semester, I pitched this documentary idea that was a little bit messy, but essentially had to do with Muslims living in Los Angeles, hoping to focus on people with more radical points of view. I was hoping to interview a terrorist.

To the risk-adverse film school, it was not a project they wanted to sponsor for the 546 projects. Maybe they were right, I didn't have a super clear idea of what the story would ultimately become, but anyhow, I thought the topic had possibility and I would've definately had a POV different from any other documentaries on the subject....humor mixed with indignation mixed with trying to get laid mixed with spying.

Just the other day I was in SPO talking with two people who worked on a documentary this semester and so I was chatting about their experience, and they seemed to have had a decent time. Then towards the end they were both like, "But we were hoping your idea got picked." These were two people I didn't know, didn't even know they were at the pitch, didn't even know they knew who I was and so I was flattered. One of them recounted their favorite part of the pitch tape, which incidentally was the same part my documentary professor called, "ethically suspect."

Anyhow, for an idea that made me feel like a little bit of a failure (as all non-chosen 546 projects make the author feel), it was a little uplifting to think that someone else who didn't have any reason to like the idea and the pitch, remembered it.
Good News

Well, it appears Iran may be only months away from acquiring a bomb. Finally, a world with more military balance. Happy, happy, joy, joy.
Cross Roads Arabia

Looks like another blog for me to follow.

Yeah, the DNC chairman calls Iraq unwinnable. That's good. Real good. What a douche.

Dean Democrats fetishize the Iraq as Vietnam narrative....and what does that mean for people across the world. Are we to be more proud of leaving Vietnam than going there in the first place?

I like so many of the Soprano characters, it's hard to say "my favorite" or whatever. I guess I find Meadow and AJ the most boring, or Gloria Aprillo, or Janice, although she provides entertaining situations.

But Paulie is another one I find frigging hilarious. When Tony B., or Steve Buschemi, gets a generous offer by his Korean boss to go into business and is really excited about it, Paulie's only bit of advice, "Remember Pearl Harbor."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And That's Where I Come In

A merging of values within Hollywood. It's the blogosphere calling for it, not the studios...yet. But they'll start, as they need to make dough.

This goes way down to even the film school level, which are essentially a training ground for studios, especially the big ones, USC, UCLA, NYU, AFI, and Columbia. When I was interviewing for NYU and was asked to pitch a movie idea, I started pitching a spy movie about a Pakistani intelligence officer with terrorist ties. Now, the movie pitch sucked, I can't deny that, but one of the comments by the interviewers stuck with me.

"Don't you think it's kind of obvious to make the bad-guy a Muslim terrorist?"

Well, yeaaah.

So now I'm at USC.
Grade Inflation

It looks like Harvard isn't the only institution with undue grade inflation.

Note: I started writing this review earlier this week and never was inspired to finish. That should tell you something about how I feel about the film.

I should start off with saying that I enjoyed watching the film, that is, I didn't cringe, I was rapt with attention, and interested in the characters. I also liked all the locations and enjoyed watching the movement back and forth between DC, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Beruit. I don't know where they shot everything, but it was fun to see the landscapes.

And let that be my segway to pointing out the flaws of the film...

The most bullying an assole thing I can say is that this was a poor-man's Michael Mann film, or even a Michael Mann rip off. The Insider was much better.

I also felt this was supposed to be an intelligent film, and it was, if the extent of understanding about international affairs is reading the New York Times. They cited the 1952 Iranian election as a "home grown" democratic movement, implying of course, the US-engineered coup that led to the Shah and then, 30 years later, the Ayatollah's. These are fair connections to make if you a) want to ignore the cold war and b) ignore the fact that the Iranian government seized British oil company property and c) the coup was a British design for retribution for seizing a British company which Truman would not support, and Eisenhower eventually did.

But enough....please be aware I will ruin the plot....which is basically five or so overlapping stories.

The story that bugged me the most was the one of the to become suicide bomber. The story is that he is a Pakistani immigrant laborer who gets laid off from an oil company after a merger, cannot find work, and falls under the spell of a radical Islamic preacher. Convenient, and how Americans would often like to view suicide bombers, as typically unemployed, poor young men without prospects. It makes sense to us - can't find a job, so he finds purpose somewhere else - and actually is relying on the old Marxist critique of capitalism, that class distinctions are what drive division and history. The problem is, and this doesn't bug me in some films, but it did in this one, is that this scenario is highly inaccurate. Most suicide bombers are not poor immigrant laborers.

I had other things to say, but have lost the energy.

But overall, to me, this is a helpless vision of the world, and is the best example of why I don't think the American Left has anything useful to say about American foreign policy other than let's blame Christopher Plummer's brandy drinking ass. And you wonder why Democrats lose elections?

We look at George Bush and scoff - how can he possibly be our president. We can look no further than to watch Syriana and ask yourself - whose vision would you vote for - the one articulated by Gaghan in Syriana or the one expressed by GW in his speech to the naval academy a couple weeks ago. It doesn't take a genuis.
I Know What He Feels Like

This guy has the same problem as me...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Rewatching the Sopranos

Since about 1996, movies have been on a steady decline. The early 1990s were probably the richest era of American filmmaking since the 1970s symbolized by the achievements of Tarantino, the Coen brothers, and early Miramax. Even the studios benefitted from the competition from the American independent movement, churning out great pictures like Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, and Heat. This was also an era when we saw the rising excitement of another national cinema as we had seen with German, French, and Hong Kong, cinema in the past. This time it was a group of Danish filmmakers who started the Dogme movement and seemed momentarily successful with early Dogme films, the Celebration and the Idiots.

But since 1996 or so, after Fargo, it seems movies have been on a steady decline. Of course, there have been occassional stand out successes in films like the Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Sideways, but on the whole, it's been clear to pretty much everyone, everywhere, movies have been going downhill.

People talk about increased competition from video games and dvd, which is used to explain the downturn in box office...however, it doesn't satisfactorily explain the low-quality of films. If films as good as Wonder Boys were being released each month and no was going to them, the competition argument might prove true. However, we are not seeing such quality going unnoticed, rather, it is the opposite, we are noticing the poor quality, as evidenced by the undue critical celebration given to such crap as American Beauty, Syriana, and the Aviator.

On the other hand, there has been a shining star in this dearth of quality movies, and that is HBO. The flagship show of this renewed Golden era of (this time cable) television is the Sopranos. I am rewatching season five and all I can say is, fucking-a, this is a good show. It's amazing to see the achievement of a guy like David Chase, someone with essentially no "creator" credits prior to the Sopranos make such a juggernaut, despite working his whole life in the industry.

Perhaps my favorite character in the show is Johnny Sack. I love it when he's on screen. I'd never heard of Vincent Curatola, before, and still don't know where the fuck he came from as an actor. He's a badass, though. A worthy adversary.

One of my favorite Johnny Sack moments from an episode I just watched is when Tony suggests a power-sharing argeement between Johnny Sack, Little Carmine, and a retired old boss after Big Carmine dies. Johnny Sack gets pissed off and yells at Tony:

"What is this, the fucking UN!"

You know I'd love that.
I Hope Mark Harris is Right

One thing that has really stuck with me from my first 546 class was when Mark Harris said that the two lowpoints of movie making were the first cut and the first dailies.

I am experiencing the latter right now. I suck. I should quit and sell insurance.
Critique of Bush's Speech

Zbigniew Brzezinski writes an article in the Washington Post discussing Bush's comparison of Islamic Fascism to Communism as being weak and misleading. Brzezinski should know - he's the one who pitted the two against each other in Afghanistan.

He makes the most valid criticism of the neoconservative vision of American foreign policy...essentially, that we are making too much of Al Queda, and propping them up into more than they are and that suicide bombers are primarily motivated by US troop presense in the Middle East. This is in contrast to the neocons who think Islamo facists are empowered by perceived US weakness in the region, that we will cut and run because we fear bloodshed.

Ironically, they are both probably right. The terror masters are encouraged by the US leaving Beruit, not responding to the Cole, etc, but individual suicide bombers are probably most motivated by the humiliation of having foreign troops in their land.

I guess the question is, who is more important to stop. I think the terror masters...because it is them who can orchestrate the largest attacks.
Tookie, Our Hero

Interesting LA Times article advocating the death penalty for Stan "Tookie" Williams, the co-founder of the crips, reformed children's book author, nobel peace prize nominee on death row, awaiting clemancy from Guvnor Arnold.

The first I heard on this case is my friend was working on a documentary to "Save Tookie." He got to hang out with Snoop Dogg, who is an old friend of Tookie.

I checked out the advocacy site for Tookie upon hearing about his case.

I looked at the site to find out what the guy had done. I couldn't find it anywhere, all the info was about how he writes books and how the prosecution was racist, etc. Then, I finally found something squirreled away about how he was the co-founder of the Crips. Yipes!

I must say, I agree with a lot of the sentiment in the LA Times article, that the important thing for Tookie is to take responsibility and apologize to the victims, rather than insist upon his innocence and the racism of the system. I mean the guy started the crips for crissake, causing society more untold harm and misery than we can probably imagine.

There is a larger issue about justice as retribution or rehabilitation...although he's done some good things while in jail, it does not exactly seem clear that he is rehabilitated....and another issue with the legitimacy of capital punishment in general.

We shall see....

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Good Quote

"Over the years, these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence: the Israeli presence on the West Bank, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we’re not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We’re facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers — and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response."


It reads well, I wonder if he said it well.

I also read on a hawkish blog that "I get tired of liberals acting like hawks are war-mongers. The reason we're hawks is because we think it is the best way to avoid war." It was in response to the surprise expressed by some media folks that Nixon apparently fretted over all out nuclear war. No silly, didn't Nixon want all out nuclear war? I thought that was his foreign policy.
Texas on TV

University of Texas looks damn good. USC-Texas. Yum.
You Know You're Stable When...

You earn a free meal from a food establishment you frequent. Today, I earned a free sandwich meal from Vons. I felt proud. I have never earned a free sandwich meal before. It makes me feel a part of the community, that I have contributed enough to earn a free sandwich.

Now one of my secret lunch take-out spots in the Silverlake/Los Feliz area is no longer secret. The entire worldwide web knows the Vons deli on Sunset and Virgil is good. Several years ago Vons made a point of sprucing up their deli's. One of my fantasy career's is to own a deli at some point. Make some films, open a deli, then run for some local political office. I think that sounds good.

Anyhow, Vons deli sandwiches are tasty and reasonable. You can get a six inch for 4.99 or a twelve inch for 8.99. I've never ordered the twelve inch. The six inch is satisfying. There is a lot of meat in the sandwich.

I usually order the Primo Italian. It is on Italian rustic bread, garlic spread, olive spread, salami, ham, pepperochini, lettuce, and provolone cheese. I love olive spread on sandwiches.

They have a whole series of eight or nine specialty sanchwiches. The steak with grilled onions looks good.

If you order a sandwich, you can swipe your Vons card get credit for a sandwich. After you purchase seven sandwiches, you earn a free one. I like this because it does not require carrying around a little punch card that you always forget to hand the person. If you have a Vons card, it does it for you.

I usually get the meal with the sandwich. The meal costs $1 more and you can get a big soda and a bag of chips.

I often get a Vons sandwich before my Saturday shift at SPO to eat while I work. I get the meal because I figure I'll spend $1.25 at the vending machine anyway to get a drink at some point, so I save a quarter and get a free bag of chips.

My main complaint with the meal is the quality and selection of chip varieties. They only offer Doritos, plain Lays, and Cheetos in a medium/small bag. I get the Doritos. I wish they just had Salt and Vinegar, it does't seem unreasonable, especially if they already have the regular Lays.

The people who work at the counter are reasonable. I prefer to get a bottled 20 oz soda in lieu of the fountain drink, because I don't like to drink the soda right away and I prefer to keep the carbination. Luckily for me, the fountain drink has a history of being broken, so the counter folks have become accustomed to swapping out with the 20 oz bottles and they let get one if I so request, even if the soda machine works. If I am getting a sandwich and plan on eating it right away, however, I will get a fountain drink because I like the ice.

The counter people do not strike me as sandwich affectionados like myself. I have a similar when I talk with non-filmmaker friends about movies. They like movies, but don't care about them as much as I do. The Vons deli folks are not sandwich fanatics like the employees at Lucca's or Molanari, the two best Italian deli's in San Francisco.

But what impresses me is their training. Each Primo Italian is prepared exactly the same way by a series of different employees. They get the exact right ratio of pepperochini to olive spread to meat. Part of this is due to the system, whereby they have carefully allocated meat and cheese sizes/amounts to be prepared. Still, there is a tendency to try to add some personal flair to each sandwich being created. At Lucca on Chestnut in San Fran, each sandwich they prepare has it's own personality....but that is a family deli operated by masters. Vons has created a system where the sandwich is very good and trained a whole bunch of people to be able to make it identical. Vons is to capitalism as Lucca's is to feudalism.

I obviously like the sandwich, but I would like to tell a short story to emphasize how good the sandwich is: Two weeks ago, on my Saturday shift at SPO I was eating the sandwich and a fat guy came up to me and said, "Where did you get that, it looks like a damn good sandwich?"

On another tangent, there is also a Starbucks kiosk in the Vons in which one can win free coffee. I have only ordered two Starbucks in the time it took me to earn a free sandwich, but I think it is worth noting for films shoots and other such things when a lot of coffee is purchased.

Friday, December 02, 2005


So I know deleting my footage is my own stupid fault, but I really wish I could blame apple.

One can simply hit a little lever on the DV tape to ensure it doesn't get taped over. Rec to save. Damn mama.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

And While I'm at It

Let's call a spade a spade. The ipod is the biggest bambozzle on the American public since, well, in a long time. This little piece of shit devise is a goddamn fashion accessory. Who needs to be listening to podcast and music and crap all the time?

We had walkmans before and discman's with radios. It all does the same shit, basically, yet all of sudden all this ipod crap. What a load of bs.