Thursday, November 29, 2007


As long as I'm hyping up Obama, here is a liberal slam of Bill and hence, Hillary.


"Every sentient being knew that the October 2002 vote was a vote for war. And on that critical battle – the only one that ever really mattered – both Clintons lined up with Longshanks."

This is true. And so did I.

The thing is...even though I know it's stylish to critique the neoconservatives, were they really wrong? I'm actually quite serious about this. I know American aggressiveness is ugly. I know it makes us less popular in the world. I know utilizing the military the way we did in Iraq is a turn-off. I see how it makes us look like a country with ambitions for power and empire and basically hubristic assholes. Believe it or not, I understand all that...and yet...look at the world today. Look at North and South Korea. There is a single historical difference between the two countries. In one, our military intervened to support a weak central government from being overrun by a retarded military dictatorship. Granted, North Korea still poses a threat to the world...and maybe our military being on the border has exacerbated it (although let's be honest here - it's just a kooky dude in power over there)...but South Korea is one of the most developed and exciting countries in Asia. I've been there. It's fucking awesome. And I'm sorry if it hurts everyone's feelings to say that the reason it's awesome is because the US military provided a bulwark against Communism way back in the 1950s, even though in hindsight maybe containment and our fears about a world Communist takeover were exaggerated.

Japan? Germany (east vs. west)? Come on folks, can we be honest here. The US military provided stability in specific countries post WW2 and those countries developed into world economic powerhouses. I understand Iraq was/is different. I get it. I know they didn't start a war with us. I know all the arguments against invasion. I understand the critique of the Bush Administration's handling of the war. I know many of our best and brightest minds think Iraq is the single worst US Foreign Policy move in our history (although for the best and brightest, I doubt they are that saavy about US history...Mexican American War, Spanish American War, WW1. Come on, when you think about it Iraq is hardly the first dumb war.)

Point being...we've learned from Iraq and will continue to learn. If we stick around and help usher in relative stability there in 25 years will Iraq look like South Korea? I sure as hell hope so. And frankly, I don't see why it is totally out of the question. Could it descend into hell on earth? Sure. But then, pray tell, what was it before the US invasion?

But one thing is for sure, the US won't be getting involved in another Iraq. It's been too hard and too divisive and we're over it. It just isn't worth it. And maybe our disinterest in foreign lands will help give rise to the next threat to democracy (who woulda thunk Islamic Fundamentalism would be more than a shit stain on our trousers in the 1960s-1970s?) but we'll just play catch up...again...and figure out our role in things.

I'm drunk.

This guy is good and if I were a betting man, would wager on him as the next President.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Westside Intelligence Report

One of the cool things about moving is finding all the new local spots. I've made a few thus far...

1. Furaibo - Excellent. Phil calls it Japanese Tapas. It's basically a mix of Japanese and Korean bites. Sapporo is $10.50 for a big pitcher and you can order snacks, beer, and sake. Not too expensive. Fun atmosphere because you are seated close to lots of other people. The type of place you end up chatting with the folks around and getting more drunk than expected. We went on a Thurs nite at 9:30 and had to wait for a table.

2. Rae's Diner - also excellent. Cheap, greasy, diner off Pico. One of those old timey Americana style places where they probably film a lot of commercials. The good was good, tho, and I should I find myself awake in the early AM with time to kill or nursing a hangover, it's the first place I'll drop by.

3. Omelet Parlour - On Main St. Nice interior and looks like it would be great, but I don't know if it's because I don't like omelette's or the way they tend to get made in restaurants, but I found the food pretty mediocre, especially for how overpriced it is. One of the neat things is that the omelette's are half price between 6am and 7am, but I don't see how I'll ever be able to take advantage unless I've been up all night. The coffee, however, was unbelievably good.

4. [Place Where I Watched Monday Night Football Last Night] - Sucked my ass. There was a dart league that showed up and played darts while a bunch of other sausages watched Monday Night Football. There was a happy hour with half off appetizers and beers, and the bill for two was only $30 for 4 beers, 2 apps, and a burger. Not bad, now that I think about it. But the food was gross, will make you fat, and there was exactly one female in the bar the entire night and she was married and in the dart league, if that gives you any sense of what we're talking about.

5. Renee's - I work there. I practically live there. I like the ambiance. The lunch menu is better than the dinner menu. Regular price, the drinks are a total rip. $14 + tip for a Budweiser and Nob Creek. Not like the old broadway bar $5 deal for a shot of whisky and beer, eh? Waitresses are consistently cute although I don't ever make progress with them. Decent place all around.

5. Bay Cities Deli - best place on earth.

6. Wild Oats Grocery Store - weird place. I got a lot to buy supplies for our office and it's so close, I end up getting lunch there a lot. And breakfast. They have great blueberry muffins. The deli is okay. Overpriced and not very good and bad service. The meatball hoagie is not bad. The soup menu is okay. Once they had a green vegetable soup that was awesome. The rest of the time, split pea is okay, chicken noodle is too spicy, the red vegetable soup is gross. The best item is the LaBrea sourdough bread crunchy toast things which I love for their subtle Parmesan flavoring.

7. Panera - Fairly priced and all around decent. Bad coffee, but I never get it because we made coffee in the office that tastes better. Secret: Sparklett's water and Peet's Grounds. Good combo. Panera has a good deal on the everything bagel with cream cheese and tomato - only costs $2.50 and is a good breakfast. They have these new egg souffle things that are good, but a bit overpriced. Chocolate croissants and the rest of the pastries are fine, average overall.

To Be Continued.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bad Day To Miss

Well, I missed what was probably the Forty Niners best offensive game of the season and missed the mighty New England almost get beat by the Eagles. That game appears to be like the end of the second round of Rocky IV when Rocky clocks Drago and the announcer goes beserk, "He's hit! The Russian is hit!"
Men And Work

It used to be, before women entered all arenas of the workplace, that any man who could hold a conversation could get a middle class job at a corporation and hold onto it for life. He didn't have to work too hard, excel at his job, or do much other than what was asked of him - sell wigits, process orders, whatever. He could get away with chatting up sports, just be one of the guys, go home, raise his family and that was that.

Back then, over qualified women were teachers and nurses and secretaries.

Now those average performing men can't get work because they are booted out of their jobs by more high performing women. Is this good? Sure. It proffers all the benefits of capitalism and competition - women who excel can move ahead. Corporations are better off because they have better, higher performing workers. The glass ceiling for women are for the most part removed. Competent women snag jobs from less competent people - men and other women.

So all these great jobs women are holding aren't created out of the ether. They are all jobs once held by men - arguably men of less competence. What happened to all these guys? I suspect they are middle class men, who raise families and help out around the house. I suspect they are probably all around decent fellows whose wives bring home the bacon. They retire early or get pushed out for younger folks who work better with computers.

Smart women, who once would become great public school teachers or nurses, now work it whatever they choose. I suspect this is a large reason why both the healthcare and education sectors of our economy are suffering to this day. Because historically, both sectors were benefiting from having a cheap supply of overqualified labor - women.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Wire

This show is so good I can't believe it exists. I'm barely awake at work today because I couldn't stop watching episodes last night. They accomplish what any sane person in the industry would say can't be achieved on television. It is smart, humanizing, enormous and small at the same time. Joyous and sans flash. Wikipedia entry on it is really good and long.


Simon has stated that he originally set out to create a police drama loosely based on the experiences of his writing partner and former homicide detective, Ed Burns. Burns, when working on protracted investigations of violent drug dealers using surveillance technology, had often faced frustration with the bureaucracy of the police department, which Simon equated with his own ordeals as a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Writing against the background of current events, including institutionalized corporate crime at Enron and institutional dysfunction in the Catholic Church, the show became "more of a treatise about institutions and individuals than a straight cop show."

I'm only in season 1, but I can't stop thinking about it. The scope of what HBO is doing with it's shows goes way beyond what can be accomplished in Cinema. I'm not the first to say it, but they are writing 19th century novels...

UPDATE: And then there's the New Yorker article on the show. I haven't read yet, but I just printed it for the plane ride.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stats on Terrorism

Interesting little article on terrorism.

Even though the conclusion seems to be: we worry too much about terrorism, I still hate those bastards.
Hollywood Blacklist

A writer-producer is brought up in front of a WGA Disciplinary Committee to prove he wasn't working. What a goofy world we inhabit...

a) Imagine going to a disciplinary committee to prove you were in fact, not doing your job.

"I have proof here sir - on my computer server - that I spent the hours 10am-noon perusing the internet and writing personal emails and not, as you claim, re-writing the dialog as I was being paid to do."

b) In Hollywood, it is a social faux pas to rat on writer's participating in Communist activities...a worldwide movement who can claim more deaths to it's credit than the Nazis (when you combine Stalin's purges, Mao's Cultural Revolution, and Cambodia's Killing Fields) and yet one SHOULD rat on writer's who write during a strike designed to bump up residual payments. Hmmmmm.

c) And I basically agree with it.
Add It To The List

I've decided today that at some point in my life I'd like to come up with a game show idea.

My Current List:

1. Write a great action spy movie
2. Open a deli
3. Invent a board game
4. Invent a game show idea

Before adding too many more, I should probably start checking them off.
No Country

Been talking a lot about this movie lately and will likely re-watch it in the theater. Bill Simmons backs me up about being confused by the ending.

Bears (+5.5) over SEAHAWKS
I know, I know ... Rex on the road. But if this Seattle team has proven anything over the past few years of the Holmgren Era, it's this: Just when you think you can count on them to cover a game, they'll shoot 200 mph of air into your head like Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men." And you won't see it coming, either. All of the sudden, there's just a hole in your head.

(By the way, if somebody has a good explanation for the last 25 minutes of that movie, I'd love to hear it. Everyone at my theater applauded when it was over, like something special had just happened. Meanwhile, I was sitting there going, "Wait, it's over? What the hell just happened?" Without spoiling it, from the moment we see a hotel pool for the first time, the wheels come off so fast that it's like Norv Turner took over for the Coen Brothers. So frustrating. If you see one movie this year, go see "Michael Clayton," George Clooney's movie about a second-year NFL receiver who kills more than 200,000 fantasy teams. Just kidding. It's fantastic.)

I don't agree with extremity of the Norv Tuner bit. I think they were going for something, but I think it got mixed up philosophically...stated here.

A bullshit, kiss ass review of Lumet and The Devil Knows You're Dead.

Let me say this: Lumet has some great movies - Network and Q & A. Some very good movies - Dog Day, Serpico, 12 Angry Men. He's a famous movie director, wrote a book, is old and still working. But it wouldn't surprise me if DKYD is the worst movie I see this year. It felt 6 hrs long. Interminable is what I said when I walked out the theater.

Let me say this about Lumet and forgive me for being harsh and maybe wrong. But I suspect, by looking at his body of work, the man is all technique and no soul. There is a place for it, when he has great source material, ie Network. But you also risk TDKYD.

Ps- Marisa Tomei is still ridiculously hot. How can Lumet believe she would be married to Philip Hoffman in this movie? Come on.
Strike Rumors

Buzz on the street is back channels are talking again. Now the street prediction is it'll be resolved by Christmas.

Cooler heads are prevailing. I think everyone on both sides thought about it and realized how big the ramifications of a long term strike would be and thought to themselves: this is not good. Really not good.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Your Inner European is Russian!

Mysterious and exotic.
You've got a great balance of danger and allure.
Are the Studios Committing Suicide?

Assume the writer's strike lasts for way longer than anyone wants - say 6 months. Is that enough time for crafty producers with access to money to start making material exclusive for the internet? Will audiences start to watch new material on the internet as a primarily source vs. a promotion? Will cell phone downloads become of sufficient quality that audiences will start paying to watch stuff on download?

From the creative standpoint, it's going to be the same story. Good ideas, well executed will be watched. The creative process will change very little, I imagine. It'll still be about story, performance, set pieces, humor, etc, etc.

What if the studios miss out on this game? What if different media companies get smarter, figure out a profit model, and woo the talent and creatives away from the studios. What do the studios offer to creatives? A system to monetize their talent through relationships with advertisers, theater chains, and dvd rentals/sales. It is a fairly good system.

But what happens when someone else offers a competing business model for creatives? What if it works better and makes more money? The studios are left with a library of old material, which is incredibly valuable, but what about the new material?

This is how the studios could be punished. The writer's are already being punished by losing wages and the consequent uncertainty afterwards...will they get hired again? Will the gains (if there are any) on residuals outweigh the lost wages?

Strikes very rarely benefit either side - they are a lose-lose proposal. This is coming from my dad who is a labor lawyer and represents unions and has seen strikes before. Couple that with the uncertainty of the internet impact on the movie and tv business and none of this bodes well...for anyone...except the competition.

Interesting takes...Bonds was used. The minute he starts to suck is when the steroid probe gets serious.

The lesson for kids: while you're on top you can get away with anything, but when you come down there's a comeuppance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Just Proves It

Like most blacks, I believe my economic prospects will be worse than my parents and that individual failings contribute more to lack of economic progress than racial prejudice.

I just wish I started lower on the economic ladder - then I'd have more opportunity to exceed parental expectations.
Solidarity With Strikers

Assistants and gays
can strike with the writers!
Bring Me the Head of Osama Bin Laden

A theory on what's going on in Pakistan.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But as I said before, we've finally got some momentum on this WOT and it's time to take advantage. If Musharraf can strike a death blow (Seinfeld movie reference) to AQ, give the man a medal!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This Is What the World's Come To

Today at lunch, a retarded guy made fun of me.

At Wild Oats, a mentally handicapped guy works as a bagger. I brought up my lunch selection, a piece of pizza, pasta salad, and an apple. He gazed at the pizza and shouted, "What kind of pizza did you get?"

"Mushroom and goat cheese."

He looked at me like I was retarded and rolled his eyes.

"Goat cheese?" (this is where he was making fun of me)

"You don't like it?"

"I like pepperoni and regular cheese." (him thinking: you retard)

"I like pepperoni too." (me: defensive)

"But goat cheese..."

"Have you ever tried it?"

"I like regular cheese."

"Well there's regular cheese on a goat cheese pizza too."


"Have you tried goat cheese." (me: going on the attack)


"You should, it's good."

Him = skeptical.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is It Time To Grow Up?

Wow. Just getting into Andrew Sullivan's cover story in the Atlantic this week about "Why Obama Matters."

The entire article is about getting past the Baby Boomer generation's cold civil war between those who served and those who didn't in Vietnam. Our internal politics, he argues, have been hamstrung by this issue since the 1960s culture wars and reignited when the Baby Boomers came to power in the Bill Clinton era. Our entire political culture - to this day - is shaped by it. And the Hilary Clinton-Rudy Guiliani race anticipated by big media will be the latest manifestation of it.

Obama, he argues, offers a truce.

I'm only halfway through, but it offers something more to my generation: A wake up call to adulthood. I commented on this blog awhile back about seeing Obama on Jon Stewart and thinking, "Gee, he looks and walks like my friend," as opposed to seeing Hilary or Rudy or GW or Al Gore who feel like my parents. Obama is my generation even if technically, he's on the very end of the Boomer generation.

One of these days, it will be time to pass the torch from the Boomer's to their children. The question is: when? Should Obama somehow surge it would be an indication this transition is coming sooner rather than later. Are we ready?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Harris Savides

Who the fuck is this guy? I've been obsessed with his work since I saw American Gangster two weeks ago. The guy shot Zodiac, the best HD work to date, and also shot Gus Van Sant's 16mm triology - Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days. (can you say long take?) He also shot Birth, a film I've yet to see, but by all word of mouth accounts is a brilliant exercise in cinematography. It's as if, out of nowhere, a force has emerged. This guy is like the Robert Towne of cinematography and perhaps if I were now in my formative stages of watching films I might want to become a DP.

He uses tone masterfully. They should have a collection of his work.

All one can do with people like this is bow politely and hope they continue to work.
Writer's Strike

Let me start by saying "I Support the Writers." I say this because one day I hope to be a member of the WGA and because in my humble opinion, the writer's are the most under-appreciated element of the film business. By no means am I the only one to hold this fact, you hear it down here in LA almost every day...everyone seems to fundamentally side with the writer's except for the fat cat studio executives (and all the resentful TV crews who are out of work).

But fundamentally, this is an emotional and self-serving position (like most positions).

The question could be better framed: is the writer's strike wise? What do the writer's stand to gain vs. what do they stand to lose?

This is where the disconnect comes in. The writer's are seeking a "step-deal" as far as I can understand, a deal whereby they get a piece of the big internet action if it ever happens. Michael Eisner is saying - fine, go strike Apple Ipod downloads, don't strike against us. We're not making any dough. And for the moment, I think he's right. But the writer's are wagging their fingers and saying, don't try to pull that shit with us - that's what you did last time and we ended up getting screwed on DVD residuals.

So this is a revenge fuck. Okay. Let's just call it what it the question is: is it smart?

I don't know. But I'm surprised to see how much solidarity is being expressed at the moment. I think the studios know the solidarity will fade (it always does) and the less certain and unstable the writer's get the more pressure from within the guild will rise to resolve the thing. The studios should just do nothing to aggravate the writer's and eventually they'll crack.

I apologize in advance...but I'm going to talk about Iraq. I do this because I find it fascinating what people opt to support vs. not support. Obama and many liberals (and most of Hollywood) talks about not supporting the Iraq war because it's a dumb war. But explain to me how the Iraq war is any dumber a proposition than the writer's strike?

I can see the goal in Iraq - create a model of democratic stability in the Middle East, ensure Saddam had no WMDs, teach the world "don't fuck with us" or we'll fuck your shit up. Those are the lessons. In order. Granted, they didn't work all that smoothly and as a consequence many folks jumped ship and started calling it a dumb war, a war of thievery or vanity, or foolishness.

Now why do these things not apply to the writer's strike? Isn't it a vain, greedy, stupid maneuver by the writer's to go after money that doesn't yet exist? Isn't the idea behind it right, but the timing and execution questionable?

And despite private reservations I'm sure many writer's hold about the strike, they are sticking with it because it matters in the long run and they're on the right side of history. I agree with them. But how come people don't have the same attitude towards Iraq? Similar principles apply. Maybe Iraq wasn't the best timing or perfectly executed, but what makes one jump to the other side and not support the project in entirety, in essence, breaking the picket line and not supporting your country.

Am I crazy?
Exact Same Experience

The exact same thing happened to me when I signed up for LinkedIn.

I got freaked out. I think it must take my gmail contacts and do some cross reference. But I got high school people with whom I don't have much contact. Very odd.
Toilet Seat Up or Down?

A game theory analysis.
Funding Our Own Destruction

Why is this not an issue in the Presidential election? It is patently obvious we need to wean ourselves off foreign oil. We don't need to do it all at once, but we need to move in that direction, together.

"In short, we are delivering a $700 billion (at least, as prices are still rising) to the following nations: Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela. The implications are profound, and an orchestrated response by us is years away."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

TV on Your Computer

My new apartment has faster internet than my old apartment. I can watch 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights on the computer and blow them up to full screen and as far as I can tell, it's basically TV quality. I watched both before going to bed last night.

The remaining problem is the advertisement (not plural) in between the acts. It shrinks the screen and I needed to get up each time and refresh the larger/full screen option. Also, the screen saver goes on, which I suppose I could turn off, but whatever.

All we need is a remote. And boom, it's all combined.
Is It Crazy to Get Excited?

Maliki calls section violence over.
New Great Era?

Are we experiencing the beginning of a new great era of American movies? Just this fall, we're looking at the Assassination of Jesse James (which I haven't seen yet, but hear is amazing), Into the Wild, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, American Gangster, Darjeeling Limited...

...combined, this is a pretty fine list of films to be discussing. Maybe there isn't a stand out movie like a Chinatown, Godfather 1 or 2, Network, Badlands, Jaws, McCabe, Taxi Driver, or Star Wars...but great movies, I think, come out of a community attitude towards movies where filmmakers are encouraged and feel competition with one another to top in artistic quality (not just box office) and studios/executives provide the right kind of environment for these kind of movies to be made.

Economic uncertainty contributed to the 70s era of American filmmaking. Maybe this writer's strike and issues related to new media can spawn an interesting period of filmmaking.
Lack of Trust, Lack of Understanding

It's pretty obvious. No one wants to watch a dumb action movie about America doing ill in the world. And that's how these movies are being marketed - but not on purpose.

The attempt to market Lions for Lambs, The Kingdom, and Rendition is to pose them as smart, world weary, action films that "show both sides," and how America has gone to extraordinary and troublesome measures to ensure our own safety and economic prosperity. They strive to show the underlying hypocrisy of our values vs. our actions. It views America as a capitalistic monolith out of anyone's control. Or at least that's my impression.

Why does no one want to watch these movies? Because at their core is lazy thinking. It's freshman in college, I've just read one book on the Middle East and realized - gee god, we had something to do the the mooj and the shah and the Saudi Royals. All of this chaos might be our own fault, which is crystallized perfectly by the Iraq war.

I am the intended demographic and I don't even want to see the movies. I will because I'm a student of movies and want to see my future competition and the writer of two of the movies is a friend of a friend. But as a lover of action movies and foreign policy enthusiast, I can't get excited about these things. I already got past freshman year in college and don't see these movies as smart. I see them as naive and cheap and lazy. And I don't think they'll be fun, shoot 'em action movies that I love like Die Hard and Predator.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

When Film Touches Philosophy

I was fortunate to catch a preview screening of No Country For Old Men last night. Film school teaches you to talk about film from a technical, craftmenship standpoint. One learns how to talk about performance, film stock, lighting, visual design, camera use, scene, character, structure and so forth...

...but some films are able to achieve a different level of relevance which renders the technical elements moot. Or at least pushes them into the background and makes them seem trite (I feel like there is a better word I should use).

No Country is one of those films. It is a movie which puts men into a philosophical position/question. What do you do when you're outmatched by malevolent/nihilistic forces? How does one react? How would men in prior times reacted? Is there something new and worse today? Something worse? What is the point of struggling against forces so powerful, evil, and inevitable? What is a man to do?

The movie is about powerful forces the characters don't understand. A cowboy comes across a drug deal gone wrong and finds 2 million dollars. He steals the money which unleashes a hunt for him. Both sides come after him with incredible resources which he alternatively runs away from and fights using his wits and skills. Also on the trail, sort of, is a sheriff who is always one step behind and quite clearly does not want to deal with the malevolence. He is outmatched. The bad guys have more resources, more weapons, better training, and more will.

I didn't like the end. I didn't like the philosophy. The movie posed great philosophical/ethical/moral questions and provided no answers. I will read the book.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Getting Ugly

More great strike coverage at Deadline Hollywood Daily. Not looking good at all.

A question for me: What happens if my job is gone? No one is hiring right now...
On Iraq

Andrew Sullivan has been blogging about mistakingly supporting the Iraq war and his request for forgiveness.

How do I feel on this matter, since I too, supported the war. Well, let's see...had I known the outcome/results, the "where-we-are-now" - yes, I probably would not have supported the war...for one simple reason: it's been too hard. Too hard because Iraqi society chose to make it too hard, because Bush/Cheney did a poor political job of managing the war, because half of America and most of the world never wanted to see the war succeed in the first place, because it cost too damn much, and because it's just been a colossel pain in the ass. If I knew what I knew now, I probably would have argued that it would be the right/moral thing to do, but in a complex and uncertain world simply not worth the cost/risk in money and human life.

Of course, this is a little bit like saying - had I known google would be worth 600 a share right now, shit yeah, I would've bought it at 200 three years ago. In short, it's a totally bullshit statement.

What matters is that I did support the war. And I still support many of the choices made by the army and our politicians. I do not support Congress pulling funding and I don't support the President calling it a lost cause and bringing all the troops home. What good does it do to go back and self flagellate about making mistakes? Sure, I look back at a lot of things I did during my life and, I shouldn't have done that. But what does it prove?

I don't support torture and am embarassed by the Abu Gharib scandel. But I don't constantly write about it, nor do I feel a particular glee in saying..."see the US is just as bad as everyone else." We should punish the people involved. We shouldn't torture. And I am open to listening to a debate about what constitutes torture vs. coersive interrogation, but frankly am not going to be too passionate about it because I simply don't know all that much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Could Get Used to This

Moving into a new apartment with roommates requires adapting to their previous policies. One of the policies is a house cleaner coming every 2 weeks. I've never had a house cleaner. Thinking back, my parents had a house cleaner come once in awhile, but she didn't clean my room. That, I was forced to do myself. In hindsight it seems rather odd and frankly, hypocritical.

I've never quite earned enough money whereby I could honestly say to myself - my time is more valuable than whatever you pay a house cleaner.

But coming home this evening to a made bed and vacuumed rug. Well, I could get get used to it is all I'm saying.
Tactics in Iraq

An analysis of British vs. American tactics...but more importantly, the ability to adjust those tactics.

"But crucially, many of the American shortcomings were "software defects" — deficiencies in doctrine, lack of relevant experience, a lack of institutional memory in "colonial police" type operations — which the hard experience of several combat tours eventually fixed. Once the "software" had been fixed, the expensive kinetic warfare systems were already there to back it up. The old Americans strengths of firepower, logistics, technology and money — once allied to an effective political campaign — suddenly became astonishingly effective. On the other hand the British weaknesses where much harder and more expensive to remedy. When the JAM and other Shi’ite militias responded to British political initiatives with sheer violence and mayhem, the British, lacking the means to protect their Iraqi partners, found their strategy collapsing about their ears. Their interpreters were driven into hiding; the inadequately protected pro-British leaders were liquidated or tortured and British operation was too small to recruit forces from outside the power of militia intimidation. Finally the British troops themselves were confined to an ever-shrinking perimeter, reduced to relying on desperate measures to eke out a last-minute victory."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Strike Blogging

Nikki Finke has great strike coverage on her blog. I wish I was in NY striking

If you scoll down on the pictures, you'll see why.
Something Larger Going On?

I've been following the writers strike. Everyone is predicting a long one. If it doesn't get resolved quickly - and it shows no signs of it - the TV season will be completely cancelled. After that, there are even fewer incentives to get the thing resolved.

But beyond those little details, something larger and more pervasive seems to be happening...and I'm such a newcomer to this, I'm just barely beginning to understand it. Hollywood used to run like a company town. Everyone knew each other through a network and to get anywhere, you had to know people who knew people and so forth. In the past, strikes pitted producers against writers and although these two were at odds over who would get paid what, the two sides were of the same Hollywood ilk...they all were movie people who wanted to make movies and loved making movies and were just coming at it from different angles.

But something larger seems to be at stake today. It is a combination of the historical and the new. Historically, it is the same Hollywood story of the writers getting the financial shaft...the latest incarnation was a horrible deal they negotiated over DVD revenues. It is occuring at a time when multinational corporations have completely taken over the movie business and they operate like a tiny, vanity element of a huge company. What is a studio mogul today? They are a hot shot VP of a giant corporation. That's it. They answer to someone above them who answers to someone above him who answers to a board who answers to the share holders. And then there's the internet and what happened to the music industry. I'm not an expert, but my understanding is people stopped buying CDs and got free music and itunes instead. Labels lost TONS of money and I'm sure had to massively scale back and restructure. What happens when the same thing happens to Hollywood? When customers can watch a new, HD quality movie on a home projector for $1, what happens to movie theaters? What happens to development companies? What happens to marketers? What happens to writers/actors/directors/producers? Who gets paid what? How will deals be structured? How will movies get made?

We live in interesting times.
1.8 Miles

There are issues with my new apartment. The showerhead is rather low (did midgets live here before me?). My window faces other apartments, so with lights on at night, people will see me walking around nude. I don't have a parking spot, but spots on the street are plentiful, the carpet needs cleaning...

However, my drive to work took five minutes. My odometer read 40.0 miles when I started and 41.8 miles when I got to work.

'Nuff said.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

American Gangster

A fine movie. The best lighting and costumes I've seen in a studio film since...since I can remember. Seriously. Tremendous lighting. Incredible opening scene. Solid performances, writing, directing, all around...just a well crafted movie. Not as epic as Scarface...didn't get a performance like Pacino possessed by a demon. But what can you say - you go out to make a great movie and sometimes magic happens. Nothing magic here, just fine, professional work.

And to be fair, there wasn't a montage set to cheesy 80s pop with Denzel leading a parade of actors. I dare anyone to watch that midpoint moment in Scarface today and not laugh. If there were cinema cops, they would confiscate all copies of that movie and remove the scene.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

USC Faculty Retreat Memo

The process of moving forces you to confront all the garbage you've collected. I came across one interesting memo that SPO put together a couple years ago about filmmaking at USC. I actually thought it was quite smart and from what I hear, some of the items were recently implemented.

To: Film Production Faculty

From: Student Production Office

We were asked by (name:deleted) to compile a memo outlining, from the student perspective, problems with the Cinema School and potential solutions.


Mentorships develop over time through classes and SAships at the Cinema School. There is not, however, a formal mentorship program with individualized attention paid to a students career plan both during and after USC. We believe students would benefit from having faculty mentors that last throughout their tenure at USC.

Jobs are the most worrisome aspect of a film education. The Career seminar hosted by the Dean’s office and Student Industry Relations was a big step in the right direction for relieving anxieties and providing guidance about finding work outside of school. Our understanding is that the scope of the Student Industry Relations office is primarily geared towards career opportunities after school. At SPO we are often sent job opportunities for smaller projects for students still in school. Currently, our only resources are job binders and the posting boards. We think students would benefit from an online job and internship posting board with live job leads. We could limit access to such a website by making it open to those who’ve logged into the CNTV Community Website.

Additionally, we feel students would benefit from more accessible resume help and finding jobs. As it is, we make appointments with Student Industry Relations and it takes awhile to get an appointment. More dedicated staff or trained student workers would be useful to students.

With the abundance of film festivals and other new options for getting short movies seen and networking with other young filmmakers, many students feel at a loss. A more active and open door availability and guidance would again, be useful for students.


DVD burning capabilities. The cost for burning DVDs at Zemeckis is excessive and cumbersome because students pay for labor they could do themselves. Our post facilities should have a few dedicated DVD burning machines hooked up to the network. Students are required to make numerous reels, from scholarship applications to 546 applications to getting copies to actors. With the affordability of such technology, the school should certainly have such capability both in Zemeckis Post and Lucas Post.

Finding on-Campus Locations. (name: deleted) has expressed concern with the willingness of on-campus locations to allow students to shoot. Students have trouble finding locations around campus because many locations have been “burned” by former students. We do not have a proposed solution to this problem other than promoting a culture of thanking and double-checking with locations to ensure the shoots did no damage. We believe in general, that future students should not be punished for the poor etiquette a single student or group of students. As it stands now, students who do damage to locations are not held to proper account. The cost is borne by future students who are not allowed to access to those “burned” locations.

Perceived Bureaucratic hurdles to getting films made. We recognize the reasons for getting permits (which is always cumbersome with Film LA), getting insurance certificates, student certifications, greenlight meetings, safety meetings, studio teacher confirmations, and so forth. Viewed collectively, however, the processes and varying time frames (4-7 days for insurance, 48 hours for permits, scheduling meetings, etc) makes the filmmaking process very slow and cumbersome. Combined with tight deadlines, elements get overlooked, both creative and practical. Ironically, we can often trace rule violations back to issues of timing, related to the cumbersome process of trying to follow ALL the rules.

Accuracy on Rights and Permissions. In film festivals and other short film venues we see films that are constantly “breaking” USC rules with respect to getting music rights in perpetuity and getting permissions to display products. There is leeway on using real world products in films, as are there limited festival rights available for music. Are the strict USC polices of benefit? As students, we would like to have clear, logical rules that are consistent with the rest of the industry, so we are not put at a competitive disadvantage.

Internet Distribution. We recognize the uncertainty for all parties regarding distributing short films over the internet. It is clear, however, that the internet has become very useful for short filmmakers to get their work noticed. It is also clear, that distribution via the internet is happening and happening fast. We don’t know the solution, but ultimately as a community, we should look toward the internet distribution as an opportunity, not as a danger or a burden.

Access to Equipment. Currently, access to equipment is based upon production numbers and production numbers are class specific. There are numerous reasons for students legitimately needing access to equipment and facilities, i.e. a production number, when their class production numbers no longer apply. Instances of such would be cutting reels, renting classrooms, shooting on campus, shooting pick ups for video projects, getting student discounts from vendors (we are still students), and so forth. As long as work is for educational purposes, students should always have access to student privileges. A possible solution is to make production numbers available to student specific, as opposed to class specific.


Communication. Students receive information for a wide variety of events, jobs, and classes at the last minute. We suggest making a master calendar for the entire cinema school, one that is easily accessible online and in public, on which all deadlines and events are be posted. Such a calendar should be easy to post on, at it will only be useful if the faculty, Production Offices, SAs, and various other groups put information on it.

Film Production Costs. Tuition is expensive, but the additional costs of producing films that fall upon students are often enormous and untenable. Excessive debt restricts choices after film school. There is an attitude of “go big or go home” that permeates many thesis productions, the results of which are questionable. We are unsure how to solve this problem collectively, but we believe some of these costs bleed into the next issue: Safety.

Safety. As a result of excessive cost, safety is one of the first elements to be neglected. Additionally, there are safety concerns with the number of hours students work, putting themselves in danger both on set and while driving from sleep deprivation – again, an issue related to cost (it is generally cheaper to get things done in a single day).

We believe this is the root of many safety issues are twofold: a “kicking ass” cultural attitude that emphasizes working excessive hours because it demonstrates commitment to a career in filmmaking and it cheapens the cost of productions that operate on limited funds.

Adding to these cultural elements are practical realities that serve as multipliers to safety concerns. From day one, there is a cultural disconnect between class expectations, physical production expectations, and industry expectations. For example, on the first 507 project, students are expected to make an in-camera movie on the first weekend. It is impossible for students to learn all the physical production rules, much less go through the processes of permitting, renting props, finding actors, or getting studio teachers, yet they go about conceiving of projects with these built in production hurdles and come into SPO, disappointed to hear all the steps they need to take.

Students are also inundated with information during the safety meeting of rule after rule related to larger productions, most of which are irrelevant to the 507 assignments. Add this to the filmmaking “rules” that are taught in early 507 classes, crossing the line, continuity, etc., one cannot expect the students to “follow” all the rules. Guess which ones get neglected?

The result is a system in which students start off from the very beginning making choices about which rules to follow and which to break. This attitude permeates through later productions when following safety precaution become much more important, on 546 and even 508.

We believe the root of the safety concerns result from three interrelated cultural and practical realities of making films at USC. The excessive and unaffordable costs of some film productions, a pervasive “kicking ass” attitude stressing that working excessive hours demonstrates a commitment to filmmaking (when in fact, such attitude is used practically as free labor), and lastly a system of rules too complex to easily follow, leading to students selecting certain rules to follow at their own discretion.

How to resolve each any every one of these problems is not clear. We were asked to compile a list of student concerns, some of which we found have easy practical solutions, while others we recognize, do not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

30 Rock Rules and I'm Willing to Wait Out Tina Fey's Marriage Before Tying the Knot Myself

30 Rock wasn't on last night. But that doesn't mean I can't watch last week's episode again on! The genius of last week wasn't in the Baldwin bit with Tracy - although it was a TV acting tour de force. The genius lies in the Liz Lemon-Carrie Fisher main storyline.

Lemon: I got into this business to change people's minds.

Baldwin: No, you got into this business because you're funny and weird and socially retarded and because it pays a lot money.

Point, Baldwin.

UPDATE: How does Baldwin get his voice to sound like that? Seriously, listening to his scenes when you're blogging and the show is playing in the's awesome. I'm such a fan boy.
Seinfeld Rips Larry King

This is a bit odd to watch as Larry King talks to Seinfeld about Bee Movie. In reference to Seinfeld, Larry says:

"You decided to quit. They didn't cancel you?"

Check Seinfeld's reaction.

"You aren't aware of this?"

And then Seinfeld goes off...kinda loses it a little bit. He actually says, "Do you know who I am?" It's hard to like someone who says things like that. But Seinfeld is like, "75 million people watched the final episode."

Finally, he lightens up a little bit and jokes, "can we get a resume for me up here?"

All in all a very odd exchange.

If someone had asked 6-8 months ago what my ideal first job out of film school would be...I would've said staff writer on TV, hired to do a re-write on a script, or some type of writer's assistant position for tv or a feature writer. Had that magically worked out, I'd probably be out of a job come Monday.
I Want One of These

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Seize the Momentum

Now is the time to hammer it home...bring people together, act fair and generous with our former enemies, try to capitalize on the good news and get everyone we can to gang up on Al Queda everywhere and bring them down. In Iraq, Bin Laden last week essentially admitted defeat and mistakes and pleaded with mooj everywhere to assist his fighters who are getting their ass kicked by Iraqis teaming up with US troops.

In Pakistan, the army committed to entering the tribal regions and ridding them of the Taliban and AQ elements which use it as a rest and relief from Afghanistan. Bhutto is demanding the resignation of Pakistani Army and Intelligence officers with AQ sympathies.

We haven't had this much momentum in our favor on the WOT since 2002 in Afghanistan and early 2004 when Saddam was captured. Both of those opportunities were 2002 we held back and trusted Afghanis to do the dirtiest work (as we are trusting the Paki army to do now)...and in 2004 we got cocky in Iraq and didn't forsee the ethnic tensions that AQ exploited.

I'm sure the situation in Iraq is still delicate, but there seems to be signs that all groups are tired of the violence and willing to work together in some capacity, especially to fight AQ. The US troops are not necessarily welcome or loved, but viewed as fair and necessary (and useful b/c if the locals rat out AQ, the US troops are ready to pounce).

I say we keep up the relentless pressure and try to bring as many partners as possible on board.

Blows J Stewart of the water if you ask me.
Al Queda Defeated

I can't think of a dumber subject to get excited about given the last couple of years, but an Iraqi tribal leader is saying Al Queda is defeated in Iraq.

Judging by the overall quiet on Iraq from the MSM of late, it seems that things are going well. But I'd have to be a total idiot to get too excited about the situation, given past proclamations of victory or progress.

In other news, Pakistan seems to be having troube in the tribal region. Soldiers are deserting and the fighting is rough. That's what you get for empowering nutjobs.
Is It Too Hard?

The Alan Loeb interview in the previous entry is on my mind...

He talks about writing in Hollywood and how it's too hard. I like how he discusses it. For him, it wasn't an issue of questioning his own talent. He knew he was good. But he couldn't make a living. He couldn't get paid. His specs wouldn't sell. He said he should've given up in 2002/2004 when his agent dropped him and he hit his mid/late 30s and it was clear the career was going nowhere. He decided not to give up because of fear and laziness (of doing something else) and ended up getting lucky. But all signs for him pointed to changing careers and making money in some other field.

What can possibly justify working hard for 6-10 years with uncertain benefit? You can't make a living writing good spec scripts. Why should a talented person stick with writing specs? That same talented person could go do something much easier, like sell real estate, operate a small business, work with computers, be a teacher, whatever...and make a decent living and be happy. Instead, they opt to struggle, be broke, and depend on others in case of financial emergency. It makes it especially stupid/impossible if one has a family. Why shoud it be so hard?

Pundits sometimes talk about how our political system generates crappy candidates because only ambitious, shallow, cynical, manipulative types could possibly navigate through election after election to rise to the top. Does this also apply to writing (and more broadly, Hollywood?) What type of people are willing to take the enormous financial risk and uncertainty to work creatively? Are they the most talented? Do they generate the most interesting and commercial work?

From an economic standpoint, the entertainment industry is run like the jewel business...enormous amount of money is made on perceived value...the same script can one day sell for 1 mil, the next day be worth's all hit and miss. This creates a ton of uncertainty. Most businesses don't work this way, most purchase products from vendors at a predictable price and then craft into another product with more value and then sell that product. Grocery stores buy food from farmers and then retail it at a higher cost. Simple, predictable, easy.

I don't even know where I'm going with this. I guess I'm thinking of applying for a managerial job at a grocery store.