Thoughts on the Light

At dawn and dusk, L.A. glows. There is this haze that fractures the light, scattering it in such a way that on many days the city almost has no shadows. The daylight is the most broad it can possibly be. Ever since I figured out this reverberant trick of L.A. light, the city has felt peculiar, dreamlike. I wish I was a photographer capable of catching that.

Where I live, in Santa Monica, there are mornings where a low-clinging fog bank cuts the desert light, rounding the corners of everything with a fuzziness. In moments like these, the Santa Monica mountains to the north appear as clear and dark as a church pew. And I know that at the foot of those mountains, in Malibu perhaps, someone is looking down the coast toward where I live, unable to see me, lost in the airlight.

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What’s New in Hollywood

Rarely is very much new.

Of the 45 films Warner Brothers released in 1940, 15 of them were remakes including Bette Davis’ The Letter and Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk. Remakes, reboots and sequels have always been a big part of what is produced.

Is Hollywood producing more reboots and remakes than before? Possibly, maybe, slightly.
Are large audiences as willing to spend their money on an unknown story? Apparently not.

What might be new are the “properties” that get spun-off into movies now. Battleship, for instance.  Have you heard my pitch for Hungry Hungry Hippos: The 3D Experience?

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Hello To All That

Today, I reread this essay by Didion called “Goodbye To All That.” I read it first in High School, with the guys I would eventually live with in New York, at around the time when I first knew I would eventually live in New York.

“Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve, for that is how those years appear to me now, in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves and old-fashioned trick shots—the Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street. But most particularly I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.”

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That Jeff Buckley Movie Thing

This one hurts. It’s not that they’re making a Jeff Buckley movie, nor that they’re making two – but it’s that one of them is the movie I always imagined.

In 2002, David Browne’s dual biography of Tim Buckley and Jeff Buckley “Dream Brother” was published and I’ve daydreamed about the dual biopic ever since. The book looks to be the inspiration of this:

I used to marvel at Jeff’s mom, Mary Guibert, repeatedly turning down life rights to producers, and rejecting scripts. I guessed that the reason was a mother’s protective instinct to erase the long shadow of drug abuse that haunted both Buckleys.

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The Problem With Electric Cars

crossposted from This Place Is Different.

The problem with electric cars is they’re ugly. Or impossibly expensive.

The reason why every fourth car in my neighborhood is a Prius? Consider the competition: The Volt, while nice looking, is like twenty thousand dollars more. The Nissan Leaf, no matter how cool the technology sounds, it looks like a broken toe crossed with an old couch.

For our second car, I’d like an electric, but why, God, are there so few electric cars that don’t look like crap? I want an electric coupe. How hard is that?! I want two doors, I want little. I hate hauling around three empty seats in my car when I drive.

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We’re On To Something

A few years ago I wrote a 10 minute play with Chris from my old improv group that The Dare Project in NYC was kind enough to produce. Our play was about a video game character who is sick of being the unappreciated villain, so she decides to go “game jumping” in order to become a hero. Because it was a 10 minute play, we set our play primarily in a group therapy session where she is talked back to her senses by other video game baddies.

While writing it, we explored about how fun it would be to bust her free, to expand her journey out into other game worlds, but the 10 minute limit kept us on target for a tidy finish. I bring this up because Disney is releasing this:

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Miramax Should Flood Broadway

The recent Tony wins for the stage version of Once got me thinking again about my old musical TV programming ideas. I chatted about it with a music & movie aficionado J. Bolotsky who also had a bunch of great ideas — some of these could be pretty good as stand-alone stage plays:

Velvet Goldmine: the musical. Substitute some of the derivative works for the real songs by Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, and David Bowie (who are conspicuously missing from the soundtrack). Add more Marc Bolan.

Wonderful Tonight, a new musical based on the memoir by mod scene model Pattie Boyd about her MOST INSANE love triangle as the wife of best friends George Harrison and Eric Clapton, both of whom wrote #1 songs for Pattie. Rights would cost a bazillion dollars.

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A Clinton-Gore Buddy Story

I saw a few news items…

New York Magazine:  “After the 2000 campaign, the Clinton-Gore relationship plummeted into a downward spiral. On Gore’s side, there was a bedrock belief that, as one of his friends puts it, “if Clinton hadn’t been impeached, Al Gore would be president and the world would be a different place.” And on Clinton’s side, there was certainty that had Gore been even a modestly competent campaigner, the impeachment wouldn’t have mattered—a view the Clinton people (and Clinton himself) liberally spread around. By the time Clinton and Gore left the White House, each was nurturing such grave resentments that they were no longer speaking.”

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Jeffrey Wright is (Almost) Too Old

It happened when I saw Jeffrey Wright in the play Topdog/Underdog. That night, in my head, I cast Wright as Crispus Attucks in the script I decided to start writing. My story became a “people’s history” of the inciting event in the American Revolution: “The Boston Massacre.” Great title.

When British troops opened fire on a crowd of Bostonians in 1770, a former slave-turned-whaler-turned political activist, was the first man killed. His name: Crispus Attucks. Total badass. Our hero was part of the same terrorist caucus as Paul Revere. The two were buds in the North End. One was an outsider because his father was French (the universal enemy in the late 1700s) the other was an outsider because he was part African American and part Native American.

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“Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”


Time to turn back and descend the stair…

A nice image in that line. Which, since reading A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, has made me think of Treppenwitz. Literally, ‘the wisdom of the stairs’. The striking reply that crosses one’s mind belatedly when already leaving, on the stairs.

Though, I’ve always preferred Cynthia Ozick’s version of the word: Treppenworte. The words one didn’t have the strength or ripeness to say when those words were necessary for one’s dignity or survival.

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Hyperdistribution Theory

Mark Pesce, a media professor at the University of Sydney, lectures on his “Hyperdistribution Theory.” The theory is predicated on a few assumptions: the internet’s revolutionizing effect on content distribution has transformed how advertising must relate to content, and also how viewers react to advertisers.

Traditional advertising is increasingly losing its effectiveness. One marketing trade publication said that television advertising is only one-third as effective as it was in 1990. Only 14% of people say they trust it, and only 16% are even watching the ad. So television advertising as it has existed is not sustainable.

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Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini

When Rome fell and libraries were burned, all the works of Epicurean poet Lucretius nearly disappeared. It’s understandable that the Church would go after Lucretius, as he excoriated religion. His master work was called “On The Nature of Things.”

The Dark Ages snuffed out the book, and with it, most details of Epicuranism – the view that the universe is atomic, made of matter, and our behavior should be based on the idea that fear destroys, and that a balance of knowledge and humility is the key to happiness (though you can’t get enough of both).

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The Heart of Catch-22

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling over her objections. “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about—a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did he ever create pain? … Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! [to warn us of danger] Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn’t He? … What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. …”

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All The Shah’s Men – The Movie

In 2006, I thought George Clooney should make an Iranian CIA movie, adapting the book All The Shah’s Men, but he did Argo instead.

After watching Syriana again, I poked around into the book All The Shah’s Men, and then I wrote a long blog post right here in this space all about how the rights to the book All The Shah’s Men really should be optioned and developed with Sam Rockwell in the lead as CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt, the badass Jamshid Hashempour as Mohammed Mossadeq, Danny Pudi as Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, and either George Clooney or Stephen Gaghan directing.

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Tech and Self

Fun art installation idea about how technology can obfuscate one’s projection of self:

Cinemagram makes moving gifs of a few frames. There’s this feature where you can edit out a portion of the gif and overlay a static shot that “fills in” the deleted area. The right side of this window, for instance:

What if you can do the same thing but with a video feed? So instead of a gif of the guy walking, there could be a live video stream of a street corner?

Some artist hangs a smartphone-scannable QR code on telephone poles at street corners.

And that URL is a video feed of a nearby surveillance camera – a camera with a bird’s eye view of that corner. Live. Traffic visible in the street in the background.

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Ira Glass and David Foster Wallace

I immediately thought of itsasickness when I read this:

“Almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting”
– David Foster Wallace, ‘The Pale King’

Similarly,

– Ira Glass on the art of the interview:
“Most people aren’t great storytellers in general, but if you stumble on the thing that really means something to them, you’ll get a great story out of them. This is one of the insights of therapy, actually. If you read all the early Freud stuff—you know how when he stumbles onto the central issue with his patients, suddenly stories flood out of them in pure narrative, with these incredible poetic images? That’s what happens when you’re working out in your head something that isn’t totally resolved and then you speak about it. It comes out as narrative.”

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Departures Magazine: “The Coolest New Website on the Internet”

This was nice of them to say:

The Coolest New Website on the Internet
By Eric Klinenberg, Sep-2010

The creators of the networking site itsasickness.com are betting our obsessions will be the Internet’s next big thing. Behind the scenes at Departures’ photo shoot, the three founders—including actor Alan Cumming—discuss their own “sicknesses” and why our fixations are what make us most interesting.

“This is how we use the Internet already—we just don’t admit how wonderfully weird and funny it is,” says Barnaby Harris, referring to his new website, itsasickness.com, a portal for anyone who’s obsessed with something and wants to “geek out” about it online. “We encourage people to acknowledge their sickness,” Harris says, “and help them see that other people have it, too.”

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Slavoj Žižek on WikiLeaks

Every lefty’s favorite Slovak philosopher looks into the WikiLeaks story and knocks it out of the park.

First he dissects The Dark Knight movie in a way that basically seconds the general thesis of my Wild West script about media and theatre:

The Joker wants to disclose the truth beneath the mask, convinced that this will destroy the social order. What shall we call him? A terrorist? The Dark Knight is effectively a new version of those classic westerns Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which show that, in order to civilise the Wild West, the lie has to be elevated into truth: civilisation, in other words, must be grounded on a lie. The film [The Dark Knight] has been extraordinarily popular. The question is why, at this precise moment, is there this renewed need for a lie to maintain the social system?

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Against Ambient Awareness

“Our suffering comes from the fact that we are attached to the outer form that something assumes in a given instant rather than the movable conversation that stands behind it. Keeping up with what is occurring rather than lagging and getting caught in things that no longer exist, is one of the the great disciplines of life.” ~David Whyte, The Three Marriages

What Sick Is

There are TV shows about illness.
Those shows are about addicts with addictions.
Those shows are about the imbalanced with obsessive disorders.
Those other shows’ treatment of their subject matter ranges from clinical diagnosis to freakshow exploitation.

itsasickness celebrates interesting people – the most interested people in the world: the sick.

When I met my wife, it struck me that she was the most interesting person I had ever met in my life.  In our first conversation that night she geeked out about her obsessions.  At the time they were Django Reinhardt, her friend Frankie Manning, poet John Donne, the chemistry of nutrition and more.  I geeked out about my then-current obsessions which were the math of classical Indian ragas, politics, film, Salinger.  We talked all night and into the morning. I would have married her that very day.

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