Friday, October 31, 2003

Trick or Treat

I arrived exactly one week before Halloween, and my father weaned me on Universal horror movies.

Halloween is my favorite holiday.

Who wouldn't want to run wild with your school chums, unsupervised by adults, dressed as your favorite super hero or a ghost, knocking on neighborhood doors, demanding candy, and getting it? Later years, college parties that involved sneaking surreptiously into the Cal drama department's costume warehouse to find the best disguise. Halloween is the best.

Sadly, it ain't what it used to be. Only the Simpsons seem to keep up the tradition of the Halloween special. AMC is the only station that can be counted on to have a horror marathon. Fewer and fewer kids show up at the door every year. Pumpkins are overpriced and seem to go moldy so much faster. I'm too old to dress up and knock on doors. And too much candy makes my teeth hurt. But I haven't given up.

Let's bring back Halloween. Parents, dress 'em up and take your kids out. Neighbors, decorate your home and have lots of candy on hand. Sitcom makers, have a Halloween special and don't show it two weeks after Halloween. TV Stations, show Dracula and Frankenstein. Read a scary story aloud.

You too, can help.

If we all pitch in, we can save Halloween.

Feel the Power

Stanford Law Professor, Lawrence Lessig, writing for Wired, sings the praises of grassroots blogs and their potential influence in the upcoming presidential election.

Speaking in particular of the Dean campaign, Lessig states, "Enter the blog, a space where people gab. As implemented by most campaigns, it is a place where candidates gab down to the people.

"But when done right, as the Howard Dean campaign apparently is doing, the blog is a tool for building community. The trick is to turn the audience into the speaker. A well-structured blog inspires both reading and writing. And by getting the audience to type, candidates get the audience committed. Engagement replaces reception, which in turn leads to real space action. The life of the Dean campaign on the Internet is not really life on the Internet. It's the activity in real space that the Internet inspires.

"None of this works unless the blog community is authentic. And that requires that members feel they own their gabbing space. A managed community works about as well as a managed economy. So the challenge is to find a way to build community without the community feeling built."

Today the ecosystem, tomorrow the world.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Futurballa Writes Like a Guy

I've come across this little gem from Bookblog in a couple of places lately, including About Last Night and All Facts and Opinions.

Just copy and paste a sample of your writing into the Genie, tell it if it is fiction, nonfiction, or a blog entry, and click submit. The Genie will tell you if the writer is a male or female.

Good fun had by all.

Click here to play.
Stalking Atrios

Crooked Timber chimes in on the Donald Luskin suing Atrios affair. Let's see Perle threatens to sue Sy Hersch, Fox (O'Reilly) try to sue Franken, and now Luskin goes after Atrios. Is this a trend?

How many courts can thin skinned conservatives get laughed out of?

42 (Sorry, but that is always the answer).

Be sure to read Andrew Northrup's comments. Classic!

Kevin Drum comes to Atrios' defense as well.

And Atrios has kindly posted a list of blogs commenting on this bit of inanity.

A very entertaining Michael Blowhard shares his thoughts on noisy movie patrons and geezers who narrate the Kama Sutra. Read it here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Time to vote

Here are a some worthy reads from this weeks new blog showcase:

ink from the squid: investing in the future


[Update: Because of some late entries, I've changed my votes.]
Are you a linker or a thinker?

That's the question that Aaron Haspel asks at God of the Machine.

Aaron argues for thinkers, "Now we non-portal types don't rightly cotton to this. I can't speak for Cowen, but I read the blogs I do precisely because they offer the author, and the author alone; "too much," Steven Den Beste possibly excepted, is never enough. Blogs are amusing because they are personal. The "cream" of a blog always means more to the regular reader, who knows the author's foibles and obsessions, than the skimmer who happens by only for that. By Cowen's logic book-readers would restrict themselves to anthologies, and music-listeners to greatest hits. Cowen himself writes an entertaining blog where he ignores his own advice. "

Bloggers do seem to enjoy ruminating on blogging, and this blogger is no exception. I'm still fairly new to blogging, but have made a bit of a commitment, at least to myself, to post something everyday, Monday to Friday, unless I'm out of town. I hope that my blog is more of a thinking blog than a portal blog, but I do find that I may not have something to say every day, that even interests me, much less a wider audience. Links can be a way to share my interests and promote bloggers I respect and enjoy. Nothing wrong with an "Elsewhere" posting, but not a daily dose of elsewhere and nothing but. At the end of the day, I blog to share my interests, my thoughts, and perhaps a bit of myself. Generating hits is a goal, but not an end in itself.

Usually it is another blogger's post that gets me to thinking on a subject. The result, as in this case, is to join the party and chime in with my thoughts on the subject. Personally I don't read portal blogs very much. When I make my daily round of blogs, I look for opinions. Whether it be culture or politics I want to gain some insight not just into what the author thinks, but why he thinks it.

And now, Rocky, some bad poetry.

Some days I link,
some days I think.
Even when I think I link.
And so I think,
then link...
Then think some more.


[Update: George Wallace comments]

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Political Compass

I come out somewhere in between the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela on the political spectrum.

Click here to take the test.
Blowhard on Books

Thought provoking post on the future of book publishing by Michael Blowhard. Give a young person a book, preferably fiction, for Christmas and let's hope that Michael is overly pessimistic.

Read the whole thing here.
Hoops Time

Baseball ended sadly in the division playoffs for yours truly, when both The Giants and The A's got knocked out, but hope springs eternal in a young man's heart (or should I say, hoops spring eternal? [ed. sorry]).

I pretty much divide the year into baseball season and basketball season, and whatever bit of time is in between is some sort of nebulous dreamstate. It should be a season of wierdness and loathing, with all eyes on Kobe and LeBron.

Here is the SF Chron's David Steele with his season preview.

Hold your hats boys, it's going to be one hell of a ride.

Monday, October 27, 2003

You can run...

The Sun newspaper quoted a source at the school as saying: "By the time the afternoon lessons began, there was no hiding what they had done."

A prank gone wrong. Indeed.

The headline of this AP piece looks more like an Onion headline.

Bush blames rise in Iraq violence on U.S. success

And what is it with the Onion lately. I thought that satire involved exaggeration. Seems like they are just reporting the news.

Some recent headlines at the satirical weekly include...
Muscleman Put in Charge of World's Fifth Largest Economy
CIA-Leak Scapegoat Still At Large

Just looks like the evening news to me.

[update: should thank friend and coworker Tom for pointing these Onion headlines out]
Thanks to TT and/or OGIC

Futurballa has been added to the Sites to See at About Last Night. Thanks Terry and OGIC.
What, my art?

Today's Bleat has some interesting things to say about accessibility in art while comparing The Rite of Spring to Night on Bare Mountain, following a viewing of Fantasia.

This got me to thinking about the whole subject of accessibility. Why is it that as soon as something can be understood by the masses it gets the middle or lowbrow tag? While there is certainly much great art that requires work on the part of the viewer, and rightly so, if something can be understood on a more visceral level should it be classified as somehow a lesser achievement.

Lileks describes the experience of hearing Night on Bare Mountain, "'Night on Bare Mountain' - now, that's different. It's less adventurous than 'Rite,' less experimental, more literal and kitschily dramatic. And hence more popular. I don't say that with rolled eyes: of course, the masses love it. They would. No, it's more popular for a reason. If you played 'Rite' for someone in a culture with a completely different musical tradition, it would probably baffle them: what the hell? But play them 'Night' and they'd get it right away: this is scary music. Is it about dragons? If so they are very powerful dragons. Many people die, I think. But it's not just disorder and evil - it's disorder presented in the orderly terms of tonal music. It makes sense. It even has a plot. Plus - and this just occurred to me - it clearly exists in a world in which there is an opposite force to the events we're hearing described. We know what is going on in 'Night' is wrong without being told; you just sense it. 'Rite' has no such moral framework. It's not amoral as much as pre-moral, and in a way that's worse. You don't even have the terms to describe why things are wrong."

I'd be interested in compiling a list of contemporary middlebrow entertainments that could still be considered Art (with a big A). Shakespeare was certainly written to entertain a broad audience, but the language has placed it solidly in the highbrow arena for modern audiences. This is actually true of many classics, that in their own time they may have been intended for a wider audience, but today are the domain of the literati. Does that mean that much of our contemporary popular art will be elevated in the future? There is the middlebrow that is firmly planted in the middle, the Ventriliquists, impersonators, comedy teams etc that have been discussed earlier. But there is also the popular literature that perhaps today is seen as a bit too middlebrow for the Universities to teach or serious critics to give attention. I'm referring to things like books by John Irving and Michael Chabon, musical theater, Coppola or Scorsese movies. Definitely popular entertainments, but of a quality that future generations may look at them differently.

Nominations are welcome.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Note to my readers

Just thought it would be prudent to let my regular readers know that the mood and subject matters of Futurballa will not be changing. This will remain a blog that showcases photography, art, cinema, literature, culture (low, middle and highbrow), technology and a dose of my brand of politics and humor.

My joining with the League of Liberals is something I do proudly, but this is not becoming any more of a political blog than it was before. Politics have always had their place on Futurballa, but person can't live by politics alone. As a past winner of the Truth Laid Bear New Blog Showcase, I felt it important to "give back", and support other bloggers who take a left of center stance. The league is doing a great job in doing just that.

If you share my views politcally, please click through to the League and check out some of the fine bloggers that they offer. But if you come here for other subjects, keep coming back. There will still be plenty of semi-educated musings by an ill informed culture lover. Moi.

Robin Hood

One of the prezzies I managed to score for my birthday was the beautifully restored, exemplary packaged, DVD edition of the 1938 version of The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. I had commented on this film briefly before (here) in response to Terry Teachout's discussion of Swashbucklers (here). Now that I have my own grubby little mittens on this fine DVD box, I can give a bit more of a personal assessment.

Teachout had this to say in reference to a showing of the film at the Film Forum, "Anyway, Generation Z was out in force and we all had a terrific time, except for a few dried-up spoilsports who kept turning around in their seats and shushing the fathers who were telling their children all about Robin Hood. Sure, I like a quiet theater, but to expect a dead hush at a Labor Day matinee of The Adventures of Robin Hood is just plain silly. Me, I didn't mind the background chatter one little bit. The newly restored Technicolor print was delicious-looking (no red is quite so red as Technicolor red), Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score was more thrilling than ever, and - glory of glories - they even showed a cartoon, Chuck Jones' "Rabbit Hood," a Bugs Bunny in which Errol Flynn makes a cameo appearance. I can't remember the last time I went to a matinee screening of an old-fashioned swashbuckler complete with cartoon. Probably not since I was a kid, and I had at least as much fun last Monday as I used to have watching Saturday-afternoon Audie Murphy double features at the Malone Theater in Sikeston, Missouri. The only thing missing was a newsreel.

"Was it art? No. Do I care? No. Man cannot live by art alone. He needs a little popcorn from time to time, and the occasional Bugs Bunny cartoon to go with it. Which is how I spent my Labor Day, thank you very much. "

I think Terry makes many of the salient points about the restored version. The technicolor is more vibrant than I can every remember. After years of faded prints on Saturday matinees it is a joy to see the color as it was originally intended. The score is indeed thrilling. The addition of a Looney Tunes short before the film, completes the experience, and the DVD includes a choice of two, the above mentioned Bugs Bunny and a Daffy Duck version of the legend. The Bugs Bunny is the better and more classic of the two. I part company only slightly with Terry on his use of the word "silly". Though he obviously means it fondly, I would hate the reader to think that this film is somehow not worth your time. It is good fun in a way that we are rarely allowed to have it in our era.

The DVD package, as I've stated, is excellent. Along with the beautiful restoration and the two animated shorts, there is a plethora of extras that are actually worth watching. Feature length commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer. A Warner documentary with Leonard Maltin. A collection of Errol Flynn trailers. Documentaries on Robin Hood in history and in the movies. Errol Flynn home movies. More vintage short features, and more. I often find myself ignoring the extras on these overloaded "special editions", but these are truly extras worth having and add to the movie watching experience.

Let's hope that move classics of Hollywood's golden age receive similar treatment in the future.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Christmas Shopping?

What can I say. Just had to share. Click here.

[Link via Altercation]
I was just going to make espresso

At first I was wondering why we needed a remake of Dawn of the Dead, but now I understand. Mall life has changed in America. Now we have espresso shops and Victoria's Secret. Does that mean that remakes of Mallrats and Fast Times at Ridgemont High are around the corner.

Via this interview at Salon, we find that Viggo Mortensen is quite the rennaisance man. Poetry readings in Venice, jamming with Buckethead, co-founder of independant publisher Perceval Press and photographer. His latest book, Miyelo, features his photographs of Lakota Indians performing the ghost dance. Looks like some interesting work.
It's my Birthday

Fair and Balanced, fairly balanced, and at times, slightly unbalanced... this little futurist is 45 today!


Thursday, October 23, 2003

No Go

Crooked Timber on how product names can get Lost in Translation. I've heard that the Chevy Nova was a flop in Latin America. Who would want to buy a car that doesn't go?
Mmmmmm, donuts!

Via Atrios.

Reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles when Sherrif Bart holds the gun to his own head.
Blame Clinton

From the Onion...

Limbaugh Says Drug Addiction A Remnant Of Clinton Administration
WEST PALM BEACH, FL- Frankly discussing his addiction to painkillers, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience Monday that his abuse of OxyContin was a "remnant of the anything-goes ideology of the Clinton Administration." "Friends, all I can say is 'I told you so,'" said Limbaugh, from an undisclosed drug-treatment facility. "Were it not for Bill Clinton's loose policies on drug offenders and his rampant immorality, I would not have found myself in this predicament." Limbaugh added that he's staying at a rehab center created by the tax-and-spend liberals.

It's getting tougher to tell the satire from the news without a scorecard.
Living in a Karaoke World

Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols Svengali, abandons ProTools and embraces "chip" music. Hacking old Game Boys to forge "a new kind of folk music for the digital age".

He writes, "Chip music is made using processors from the antediluvian 8-bit past. (Pro Tools, by contrast, starts at 24 bits.) The genre's seminal moment occurred three years ago when Role Model (real name: Johan Kotlinski) created a custom Game Boy cartridge called Little Sound DJ - LSDJ for short - that takes over the palmtop's internal synthesizer and turns the device into a musical workstation capable of playing sequences and arpeggios, but not chords."

McLaren goes on to further describe Chip music, "The essence of chip music is in reverse engineering an electronic interface - whether it's a Game Boy or a computer's sound chip - and subverting its original design. Chip music can be made using run-of-the-mill equipment, like a Casio keyboard, but first the insides must be scrambled. The lo-fi sound of the White Stripes and their ilk has a certain aesthetic kinship with chip music, but it's less tech-centric and not nearly as subversive. Kraftwerk might be the grandfathers of chip music - like today's reversible engineers, they invented many of their instruments. As for programs like Pro Tools, chip musicians don't think they're really creative. The sound isn't generated by circuitry, and you can't alter it by twisting a knob."

Low tech, minimalist technique to create what in the end is rich sounds is not new. The experiments of Fripp and Eno a' la No Pussyfooting used little more than a reel to reel tape machine and a single guitar to create highly textured sounds. It is good to see the "game boy generation" finding a new vocabulary to break the rules and who better to promote them than Malcolm McLaren, who helped to create the youth style of the late 70's while redefining rock 'n roll.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Here I am in Camp Grenada

Returning briefly to an earlier posting on the subject first posed by Michael Blowhard and later picked up by Terry Teachout of lost performance art forms, a couple more cross my mind.

The novelty song album. To a large extent this was carried on by Wierd Al Yankovitch, but it reached its height in the sixties with Alan Sherman. There was a time when I, as a young lad, practically wore the grooves off of My Son the Folksinger and My Son the Celebrity.

Another related form is the comedy album. Remember when comedy albums were a big deal? Some of my favorites were Bill Cosby's Why is there air?, Robert Klein's Child of the 50's, and George Carlin's Class Clown. Of course in my college years, Firesign Theater played with my head.
Rush Sings Kumbayah

Michelangelo Signorile at the New York Press takes a bit of delight in the thought of Rush Limbaugh being treated for his addictions by hippies, new age mystics, and feminazis.

He notes, "But after researching the place that Limbaugh reportedly checked into for drug treatment, I'm convinced that if the treatment is successful, he could be transformed into a being that is barely recognizable. In this case, that can only be a good thing. After all, if Limbaugh has been on synthetic heroin for years, foaming at the mouth and railing against liberals, a detoxed Limbaugh might be defanged as well. (Makes you wonder what Ann Coulter is on, eh?) That's not to mention that the treatment center that sources told the New York Post he's entered is, for him, the belly of the beast."

Rather you read it in its entirety than I quote it here, but the brochure of the Sierra Tucson facility where Rush is believed to be holed up includes "psychodynamic role-playing and yoga" to "adventure therapy," "Climbing Wall," "the desert experience" and "equine-assisted therapy". Ah, to be a fly on the wall.

Read the whole thing here.
Video Killed the Radio Star... Indeed

This could have been the death of MTV before it even began. Or is it the latest LOTR Trailer? Click here.

[Thanks to George for the link]

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

What about Jugglers?

Terry Teachout continues his "middlebrow" musings in response to the Blowhards posting on types of performers you don't see much anymore on TV. The list includes ventriloquists (Edgar Bergen, Senor Wences), Impersonators (Rich Little, Vaughn Meader, David Frye) and Comedy Teams (Martin & Lewis).

I would add Jugglers, Clowns (remember when Emmett Kelly was a celebrity), Popular Classical Singers (think Marnie Nixon), and Flamenco Dancers. All staples of Ed Sullivans past, but you would be hard pressed to find any of these on a mainstream TV show (with the exception of PBS).
The Meme Spreads

Well sort of.

Salon features an article on why GenXers have such an appetite for reading and writing about their kids. Could it be a case of spreading lilexia.

Monday, October 20, 2003

I'm Baaaack!

I have returned from a sojourn in Los Angeles with a few delightful tidbits to share. First and most importantly... You can still get the best corned beef in California on Farifax Avenue. (Hey, a guys gotta have his priorities.)

Thursday evening our cast of assorted misfits, ragamuffins, fools, futurists, and better halves dined at Miceli's Restaurant, which features some of the best pizza on the West Coast (our New York cast member, Harry, certified it as such), along with singing waitpersons in a family atmosphere. Miceli's was a favorite destination for my family when I was but a tiny futurist, and it is still family owned and has maintained a high standard.

Friday brought us to the real excuse for our trip. Our group went to the Pantages Theater in Hollywood to see Mel Brooks' The Producers with Jason Alexander and Martin Short. George of Fool in the Forest, will certainly be chiming in with his own review shortly, but I will add my two cents now.

A delight, would be the first thing that comes to mind. It is an evening of broad comedy in the Mel Brooks tradition. Perhaps the time of Mel's sort of comedy has passed but at the height of his prowess he gave us a couple of the best comedies in the history of cinema. Of course I'm referring to Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, but before those high points he created The Producers, which may not have made the splash of the other two films, but is every bit as funny.

The movie is now a musical play. The story has only been tweaked slightly to accommodate live performance and to make it a bit less dated. Gone, sadly are the concierge at Liebkind's building (would have required an extra set for one joke) and gone is Dick Shawn's character Lorenzo Saint DuBois ("but my friends call me LSD"). Would have been too dated, but Shawn stole the movie to a large extent and we lose his song "Love Power".

Jason Alexander and Martin Short did a great job in the roles and obviously made a study of the rhythms and intonations in the original film. I rewatched the movie last night and when Zero Mostel laments his "cardboard belt", or Gene Wilder gets "hysterical, wet and in pain", it is obvious that the cast of the stage version used the film as a template.

It is broad humor with no sense of irony, but it works on its own terms. And if you manage to see it, watch for Ulla. A fairly minor character in the original movie, but a show stealer in the stage version.

Finally on Saturday, my band of miscreants did some museum excursions. A trip to the Getty was a pleasure. We were between major exhibitions besides a small showing of renaissance drawings titled Michelangelo to Vasari that was well worth seeing. Unfortunately we were a bit early to see the exhibit of Julia Margaret Cameron, which opens October 21st. We also spent a fair bit of time roaming amidst the wonderful collection of European Paintings at the museum. If you find yourself in LA, the Getty is a must. A wonderful collection in a fabulous facility perched atop a hill above the Sepulveda Pass, a fabulous gift to art lovers.

From the Getty we headed a bit further down Sepulveda to The Skriball Museum, which is currently featuring an excellent exhibit entitled "The Photograph and the American Dream, 1840-1940". Also recommended if you find yourself in Southern California between now and January 4th.

A wonderful time had by all. Thanks to our host, George (Le Fool) and his wife Gail for arranging this field trip.


Update: As expected, George has posted his more detailed and literate review of The Producers. Read it here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

QT Redux

Popping back in from hiatus just to give a quick update on the Tarantino discussion.

Alex(ei) adds his comments to our discussion on the merits of Quentin Tarantino and Kill Bill. Read his assessment here.

Aaron Haspel's posting can be found here.

For my earlier comments on Tarantino, click here, here, and here.

[Update] Nate at Polytropos adds his comments here, and Aaron Haspel continues the discussion here, and I'm staying out of the Gregg Easterbrook discussion. That would open up a whole other can 'o worms.
Be Right Back

Taking a few days off from Blogging and Work (not necessarily in that order), but I'll be back on Monday with a review and tales of my adventures.

Not Here

This is hilarious. The genius of Mr. Harry Shearer (He of Derek Smalls and many Simpson's voices fame). Listen here (Real Player). Link via Kausfiles. Caveat: Satire is not gloating!

Continuing in the humorous vein, Josh Marshall offers up John Fund's Gilligan's Island defense of Iraq.

Via BlogCritics, the UK Guardian's list of the 100 Greatest Novels. Generally I like lists, they're fun and give us all the opportunity to get our panties in a wad about what was left out or what was on top. And at least this is novels, so Citizen Kane won't be on top. I think you all know I love Kane, but it just always seems to be on top of lists. I'd be interested in hearing nominees for best novel not listed. Off the top of my head and a quick text search, I was surprised to find that Nathaniel West's "The Day of the Locust" is conspicuous by it's absence.

[Update: Friend Bridget nominates "Atlas Shrugged" as conspicuously missing.]

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Philosophy, Irony and The Undead

Friend George passes this link from Crooked Timber on the Philosophy of The Undead. I had actually been ruminating on the Undead this morning, so the coincidence screamed out for linkage.

The title of the piece, God is Undead, is unfortunately contradicted by the definition as stated, "We define 'the undead' as that class of corporeal beings who at some point were living creatures, have died, and have come back such that they are not presently 'at rest.' This would include supernatural beings such as zombies, vampires, mummies, and other reanimated corpses." The corporeality of God is a subject for another time, but in traditional Judaic and by extension Christian definitions, God is not corporeal, but Jesus, he who is risen, would qualify as Undead.

Vampires, mummies, zombies et. al. have always fascinated me and their philosophical significance has been the subject of many great novels and films, from Mary Shelley to George Romero. But it was Romero that I was thinking about this morning.

Actually my mind had wandered onto the subject of great movies that have ironic endings. The classic of course being Citizen Kane (ohhh... it was the sled), but Night of the Living Dead is way up on my list (damn, after surviving all of the Zombies, they shoot the black guy). More nominees are welcome, and perhaps we can come up with a definitive list one of these days.

Question: Is a Golem Undead? Being created out of clay and being imbued with life by its creator, it has never truly been corporeal or had a life to return from. It's a slippery slope when you start thinking about these things.
Michiko Kon: Still Lifes

Moving classical photography in different directions, the Japanese artist Michiko Kon uses traditional technique to photograph non-traditional subject matter. Often using objects such as fish parts, salmon roe, old shoes, and mannequin limbs to create gothic still lifes that are disturbing and engaging. I saw an exhibition of her work a couple of years ago at the San Jose Museum of Art and have had the program on my office bulletin board ever since.

Her work seems to exude decay. The Black and White images have a shallow depth of field, sometimes murky and with a lot of contrast. Not much falls in the middle grays, her backgrounds are shadowy and often obscure. The eye is drawn to her carefully composed subjects. Her color work is more reminiscent of a technicolor Hammer Horror Flick than of a Weston still life. Her work, while sometimes shocking, can be oddly meditative.

Click here for an article with slideshow (Click on Preview Exhibition) from Aperture.

And here for an article on the San Jose exhibition from the SJ Metro.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Geek Film Making

Aaron Haspel takes on the subject of Kill Bill in particular and Quentin Tarantino in general, and is somewhat less generous than myself.

He writes, "If your local video parlor is anything like mine, it is staffed by film junkies who pride themselves on knowing the good bits of every movie. They can quote at length from more movies than you and I will ever see and are at sea if you ask them what any of those movies is actually about. They are all writing screenplays. If a major studio ever greenlights one the result may resemble Kill Bill."

I have no argument with his assessment of Tarantino, he is a maker of genre films and is often derivative to the extreme, but I would say that the very reasons Aaron dismisses Tarantino as a "video clerk auteur" are some of the reasons I enjoy Tarantino. His elevation of Low Brow to High Style is oddly endearing. Quentin is the geeky guy you hung out with, or possibly were in college, he is the ultimate video clerk. He is a geek film maker who makes movies for film geeks.

His talent is not in plotting, he is not a visual stylist as a director, and Roger Avery may deserve credit for some of the best dialog in Pulp Fiction. But as I've argued before his talent is as a story teller and a structuralist. Many of the great stories are twice told tales. Tarantino tells them in new ways, playing with the structure, putting them into a different vernacular. Not to make too close a comparison, but many artists have painted the Madonna, and many of my favorite Beatles songs could be labeled pastiche.

Read Aaron's article here.
Same Bat Time...

Tom Tomorrow outdoes himself today. Read This Modern World.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Kill Bill Killed

Managed to make it to see Kill Bill yesterday. I had already responded to David Edelstein's review and made some comments on Tarantino's oeuvre here. So I'll just add a few notes on the movie itself.

It is a gore fest. I haven't seen so much gore in a film since Peter Jackson's Dead-Alive (aka Braindead), and that's saying something. The dialog is silly, but silly in the way that imported martial arts movies always were. Tarantino even starts the film off with the "Filmed in ShawScope" clip, an obvious homage to the Shaw Brothers films of the '70s. What the movie has that sets it apart from being merely a genre flick is an amazing sense of style. It may be a case of style over substance, but in this instance I'd have to say that style trumps substance.

Tarantino is so obviously in love with the genre that he never devolves into parody. It is his passion that the audience is swept away with, not his smartness. And the audience was swept away. Usually I don't like seeing action movies in the theater when they first come out. Often it is crowded, noisy and full of obnoxious teens that can't keep their mouths shut (do I sound properly curmudgeonly?), but in this case it actually added to the experience to have some young males cheering the carnage. It is definitely a film meant to be seen by, or at least with, some callow youths.

A final update to the previous posting. I was making some comparisons between Welles and Tarantino, that in retrospect, I would like to amend. I think Welles was the greater artist and certainly more influential in the long term. The point and comparison I wanted to make was that they both had that boy wonder thing that is so hard for any artist to live up to. And they both changed the language of film making and story telling by breaking standard conventions of narrative. Welles went beyond that and changed the visual language as well.

Last and unrelated notes. I got to the theater just before the movie started, but managed to catch the Return of the King trailer, which I had seen online. It impressed me for its stateliness and pacing viewed on my computer. It blew me away on a big screen. That was followed by the new Matrix trailer (two trailers in a row with Hugo Weaving, and lots of Hugo Weavings at that), which looks like it has overcome the middle film weaknesses of Reloaded. I have high hopes that the Matrix trilogy will be concluded on a high note. And finally, just before the ShawScope graphic, a delightful animation of Bob and Doug McKenzie in moose form, asking the audience to shhhhhhhhh.... eh!

Friday, October 10, 2003

But You Blew My Mind

Taking up the guantlet from a gent that has a soft spot for Mother of Pearl as a nominee for "one of the best Roxy Music songs ever" (certainly an excellent nominee), I will seek to make a meme of it and even turn it into, heaven forbid, a list.

Best Roxy Music Album: The First Two (Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure)
Best Album Cover: Country Life
Best Cameo by Jerry Hall: Siren
Most Overrated Song: Love is the Drug
Best Ferry Album: Let's Stick Together
Best Ferry Album Title: Bride Stripped Bare
Best Eno Album: Here Come the Warm Jets
Best Eno Lyric: Baby's on Fire (runner up: Backwater)
Best Eno Song Title: Kurt's Rejoinder
Best Eno Song Title that is acutally an anagram: King's Lead Hat
Best Roxy Song: Scroll Down....

In Every Dream Home a Heartache
In every dream home a heartache
And every step I take
Takes me further from heaven
Is there a heaven?
I`d like to think so
Standards of living
They're rising daily
But home oh sweet home
It's only a saying
From bell push to faucet
In smart town apartment
The cottage is pretty
The main house a palace
Penthouse perfection
But what goes on
What to do there
Better pray there
Open plan living
Bungalow ranch style
All of its comforts
Seem so essential
I bought you mail order
My plain wrapper baby
Your skin is like vinyl
The perfect companion
You float my new pool
De luxe and delightful
Inflatable doll
My role is to serve you
Disposable darling
Can't throw you away now
Immortal and life size
My breath is inside you
I'll dress you up daily
And keep you till death sighs
Inflatable doll
Lover ungrateful
I blew up your body
But you blew my mind
Oh Those Heartaches
Dreamhome Heartaches
E.G. Music Ltd c 1973

As they say...

Crooked Timber provides this lexicon of cliche, which makes a worthy companion to Aaron Haspel's Blogger's Lexicon (originally via the Fool).
Up in Smoke

Operation Pipe Dreams? These people really have no sense of irony, do they?

Free Tommy!

As empty experiences it's one of the best

Slate's David Edelstein, in his review of Kill Bill volume 1, manages to quote Woody Allen on the subject of sex without love in describing Tarantino's 4th movie. It is probably one of those Men/Women things, but guys in general don't have a problem with "empty". My basic attitude is, hot chicks who kick ass with great fights and cool weapons but not in a silly Charlie's Angels way but in a Kung Fu fighting Hong Kong way rock. That's why we liked Xena, well that and the lesbian subtext. I've heard one reviewer describe Kill Bill as the black knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail extended for 90 minutes. Not a problem.

It is hard to believe that this is only Tarantino's fourth film, especially considering how influential he has been. After Pulp Fiction came out, every hack in Hollywood and even some talented auteurs were imitating the hip dialog, the fanboy self awareness, and the non-linear plotting. Quentin as both a writer and a director went a long way towards creating a new cinematic language, every bit as influential as Welles was with Citizen Kane. Whether he goes the route that Orson went in doing his best work early on and then spending the rest of his life trying to live up to his "boy wonder" status, only time will tell. Peter Bogdanovitch is certainly a director who patterned himself after Welles and also managed to fail to live up to the promise of his earlier works. Four films is not enough to judge by, but while Jackie Brown did not get the recognition that Pulp Fiction or Resevoir Dogs did, it is highly underrated and well worth viewing.

I plan on seeing Kill Bill tonight and will reserve final judgment, but Tarantino up until now, has managed to deliver on his promise. Let's hope that he can continue.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Scary Stuff

As much as I don't want to focus on party politics in this space, I continue to come across postings that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This posting from Calpundit is absolutely a must read! Some of my best friends are reasonable, moderate, conservatives, but these people in Texas are just plain scary.

I will be the first to admit that Democrats can say stupid things, or react in anger to a loss (as happened by some following the recall results), and that there is a (powerless) lunatic fringe on the left, but this is the party leadership, and that scares me.

Now, I promise to get back to talking about books and art and pretty pictures and stuff.
Oh Really!

Al Franken and the Fox/O'Reilly dustup has been one of my pet subjects here at Futurballa (when I'm not ranting about the recall, which is thankfully over, or giving my semi-educated opinions on photography and art). So you can imagine my delight when I heard that Bill O had a major meltdown on NPR's Fresh Air.

Of course I went to NPR's web site and listened to the whole 40 minutes. The meltdown doesn't really happen until the last few minutes, but it was building throughout, so I recommend you listen to the whole thing.

Ever curious, I tuned into the "No Spin Zone" last night to hear what Bill had to say. He actually played a fair bit of his rant and claims to have made the entire broadcast available on his web site. Somehow in his world he gave Terry Gross a well deserved what for. Sorry Bill, in my world, you just made a fool of yourself.

Over at the cabal shares their take on Bill's appearance and gives a bit of the Al Franken interview that preceded Bill's visit to Fresh Air. Al tells the funniest Gene Simmons story. "I Kick Your Ass."

Over at ESPN's Page 2, Hunter S. Thompson bites the hand that feeds him, ho ho! Read the whole thing here.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Cue Mr. Sebastion

Let me tell you 'bout my best friend. Somewhere in the vicinity of 27 years ago, during a dress rehearsal for a University production (I forget the play, but he would surely remember), one of us spied the other with a copy of T.S. Eliot's collected poetry (another detail of which I am now uncertain). We proceeded to regale all within earshot with a stereophonic, dramatic reading of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". We have been best of friends ever since.

In recent months we have both taken on blogging. I had registered the name Futurballa many months ago, but had not taken the leap into actual posting. He began to blog under the name A Fool in the Forest, (a motley fool he), on subjects wide ranging. Law (his profession) occasionally finds it's way into the Fool, though it receives more focus at his legal blog, Declarations and Exclusions. He shines in his assessments of Poetry and Literature, and often adds his voice to the political debate. I, for better or worse, took the bait and began to actually post to Futurballa.

Today, this fine Fool, shares some of his disgust with the state of Politics in America. He and I are often at opposite ends of the political discussion, but his constant emphasis on civility in all arenas is always refreshing. Chum George may be a bit of an anachronism in this area, but what a better world it would be if we all were.

To coin a phrase, read the whole thing here.
Show me the Money

Here is Kevin Drum on what to do next. I'm in full agreement. While I am not at all a happy camper with last nights results (in terms of the Governor's race, I'm pleased with the defeat of prop 54), it is important that we move forward with a progressive agenda and don't get mired in endless recall battles.

I saw Phil Angelides, the State Treasurer, interviewed last night and he was eloquent in setting out a plan. It comes down to holding Arnold's feet to the fire and standing tough for a progressive agenda. Arnold has promised to repeal the car tax (-4bil), expand education (+?bil), not cut police or fire service, not raise taxes, and somehow balance the budget by cutting waste in a state where 90% of expenditures in the budget are mandated by the voters. Democrats need to work with Arnold where we can find common ground, but not lose sight of their beliefs.

California is like a drunk just coming off of a binge, and she's about to wake up with the mother of all hangovers. But, I can tell you from experience, a hangover can be a learning experience.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Have these people no shame?

Via Tom Tomorrow, we read that notorious anti gay crusader, Fred Phelps, wants to erect a statue to Matthew Shephard that would be most offensive. To read the whole thing click here.

And here are a few choice chapters from Leviticus that I'll betcha Fred doesn't keep.

10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
11 they shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.
12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

And the list goes on...

Diane Arbus Reevaluated

In light of the new exhibit of Diane Arbus' work that is beginning it's tour at SFMoma currently, Slate's Jim Lewis takes a fresh look at her work.

Lewis makes some excellent points about Arbus. Her work has become overly familiar and in this time of Jerry Springer has lost much of its immediacy and shock. I remember first discovering Arbus in High School, when the freak show quality of her work was new and we still lived in a society where drag queens, downs children, and Jewish giants did generate a response.

Where I might disagree is with Lewis' assessment of her use of a Rolleiflex and the strictures that such a camera brings...

"Whether by convention or because of the habits of human vision, most pictures are rectangular - either portrait or landscape; but cameras like the Rolleiflex make square negatives, which tend to feel boxy and unnatural, an effect heightened by Arbus' tendency to shoot her subjects head on. It's a particularly unnerving way to make portraits, since it tends to leave the subject stranded in a picture field that bears no real relationship to the proportions of the human body. Moreover, the lenses on large-format cameras tend to be slower; natural light is often not enough to produce a good exposure. Arbus herself used a big bright flash, which produced deep shadows and a slightly garish shine on fleshy highlights. Again, the wide-angle lens she favored requires that the photographer be right up against her subjects - in some cases she seems to be jamming the camera in their faces - and it flares slightly at the edges, a fisheye effect that almost imperceptibly distorts the final image."

In my opinion, many of these aspects of working with a Twin Lens Reflex and 120 film are what make her work interesting. I would tend to take the same paragraph and put it in a positive context when it comes to Arbus' work. But that is a minor difference and comes more from the fact that I'm fond of the medium format. All in all it is an excellent piece that by no means dismisses the importance of Arbus, but takes a fresh look at her work with a 21st century eye.

The is also a slideshow of 11 pieces available.

Read the whole thing here.
There's no joy in Oaktown

Bay Area Baseball is a cruel mistress.


Casey At The Bat
by Ernest L. Thayer

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, "if only Casey could but get a whack at that.
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake;
and the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake.

So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.

And when the dust had lifted,
and men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

it pounded through on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat;
for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
there was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.

Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey.

"Strike one!" the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.

"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand,
and it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity, great Casey's visage shone,
he stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on.

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew,
but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, the teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds, with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,

but there is no joy in Mudville --
mighty Casey has struck out.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Angostura Bitters & Photo Collage

Many a blogger take a perverse pleasure in some of the odder hits they find in their site meter from Google. As odd as the searches may be, it is often odder that people actually click through. I myself have had a few gems. Some of the best include:

penis blog average size "at least "
"robert heinlein" Friday pornography
exceding guest expectations

and the ever popular...
PB&J in the end .mp3

But what has amazed me the most is the number of relevant hits I get, that actually relate to something I wrote about. Hopefully I've even been of help to one or two Googlers. My two favorites that I frequently get some hits on are The Bunuel Martini and Hockney's Pearblossom Highway.

Read the original posts, here and here.
Random Thoughts and Recommendations

"Mongo just pawn in game of life"
Could Mel Brook's make Blazing Saddles today? Profuse use of the N-Word (spoken by white people), rape jokes, and cruelty to animals. I think Mel would have a hard time doing this today, but gosh it's a funny movie.

The Gropenator
Watched Arnie's interview with Brokaw last night. His strategy seems to be to admit the general, deny the specifics, and promise that all will become clear if the voters will just wait until after the election. His campaign theme seems to be "Trust Me, I'm Arnold". Salon goes into more details here (subscription or day pass required).

Group f/64
KQED, the local PBS station aired a documentary last night called "The Roots of California Photography: The Monterey Legacy". Focusing mainly on the Weston Family and Ansel Adams, it was a pleasure from beginning to end. It is an older film from around 2000, narrated by Jack Lemmon, so I'm not sure if it is getting a wider distribution at this time, but by all means, check your local PBS listings. And if you purchase things on my recommendations, you can get it here from the University of California at Santa Cruz Extension (Click Here to Buy).

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Roy Mauled by Tiger

I know there is a joke here, but in the interest of good taste I will refrain.

Click here

Friday, October 03, 2003


Leaving aside Bruce Springsteen for the moment, Eric Alterman in his Nation column pays tribute to the passing of three great musicians this past year.

Joe Strummer
Warren Zevon
Johnny Cash

Read the whole thing here.

Faux News Sucks! ...We have the proof

Kevin Drum provides empirical proof that Fox fails if you are looking for "real news, fair and balanced," as they are fond of saying.

It seems that people who rely on Faux News as their major source of (mis)information re the Iraq war have a greater percentage of misconceptions than the rest of the population.

And what outlets have done the best job of informing their readers/listeners? The winner is PBS/NPR followed by Print Media.

Librul Media 1
Fox 0

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Early Adopters Always Get Punished

Michael Blowhard laments the pains of bad timing in tech purchases in this posting. He begins, "Do you have any knack for buying electronics? I seem to have an anti-knack myself. A typical experience: two weeks ago I bought a GameCube for $150. Seems to work fine, a little cheaper than the other videogame systems, patting myself on the back (in some relief) for a purchase well done, etc ... A week later, Nintendo reduced the price by $50. I could have used those 50 bucks."

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. As a technologist, I am often among early adopters in purchasing "cutting edge" technology. But, alas, the early adopter is always punished. Inevitably you will pay more for less and often be subjected to dealing with bugs and immature technology for your trouble. I was discussing this very fact with a colleague yesterday in reference to certain operating systems, that are released to the public before they are truly stable, and the reward that the early adopters receive for being unpaid beta testers? They are charged full price for the first major upgrade.

Michael continues, "Complicating matters is the fact that I rather enjoy doing the research -- arranging consultations with friends and acquaintances, riffling through consumer magazines, chatting with the guys at the store, making lists, endlessly websurfing. Especially endlessly websurfing ... My usual, and probably wise, pattern is to research an item exhaustively for several weeks, and then decide to put its purchase for a couple of years. I do this (and announce it to The Wife) feeling as though I’ve really accomplished something." But Michael goes on to say that it is only at the time of purchase that he gets into trouble.

Well Michael, this is the fate of all of us who love technological gadgets and toys. The fact is whenever you buy something you can count on the fact that within a short amount of time a better, faster, cheaper, bigger/smaller, newer, more powerful, shinier model will be just around the corner. That, my friend, is the nature of the beast in this society.

Look at the speed of development in just a couple of new technologies. The best example is DVD. It is the fastest growing phenomenon in the history of technology. The first players were in the $500 range. I bought my first player, after much research (and yes Michael, the research is the best part), a couple of years ago for $250. I just bought a new Panasonic DVD player with progressive scan (a high end feature not long ago), Dolby and DTS decoding, plays MP3s and burned mix CDs, displays JPEGS of homemade DVDs (ahhh the return of the boring vacation slideshow). And what did this technological marvel cost? $69 after $20 mail-in rebate.

The second area that is developing at the speed of light is digital photography. I paid around $750 for a 2 megapixel Olympus 2020Z about 2 years ago. Today that almost buys you the Digital Rebel, 6 megapixel SLR ($899 for the body, $999 with the lens). For the same price you have a pretty nice 4 or 5 megapixel camera from Canon, Nikon or Fuji, for example. For half the price you have a great 3 megapixel point and shoot. And this hasn't stopped yet.

My point? Simply that there is never a right time to purchase these things until they are no longer cutting edge. DVD is ubiquitous. They are as common as VCRs ever were and just as cheap. No reason to wait with a DVD player. Digital Cameras are still in that period where a lot of change and development is going on and prices will fall while quality rises. If you don't want that sinking feeling of having spent your hard earned money only to see something better come out the next week, wait. Or you can take the head in the sand approach that I find works so well. Do your research, get the best thing you can afford at the moment, and then don't look at the ads, don't read reviews, don't torture yourself. Live with what you bought, enjoy it for a year or two, and then upgrade when the technology has caught up with your wish list and your pocket book.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Elsewhere in Politics

In light of the Wilson/Plame affair, Eric Alterman revisits the 16 words and finds 160,000, as well as a few choice words for Robert Novak. Click here.

The left side of the blogosphere is all over the Rush Limbaugh story (link via the Horse). It is a case where schadenfreude seems justified. Note to ESPN, this is the guy who told someone who sounded like they might be African American, "take that bone out of your nose". What did you really expect?

Wander over to This Modern World, no permalinks, just too many good postings. Referring to the Fox commentator's attempts to spin the Wilson story back to the dems, Tom writes, "Meanwhile, on Hannity & Colmes, Hannity is chastising Democrats because they did not show this level of outrage when Kathleen Willey's personal information was released. Given the quote above, this transparent attempt to change the subject and downplay the seriousness of this issue can only lead one to conclude that Hannity is objectively pro-treason." Hmmm, releasing information on someone who is spreading malicious stories about sex, or breaking federal law and endangering the life of a covert operative along with her contacts and assets. Sorry Sean, no matter how much you dislike Clinton, it's not the same thing.

Go Giants!
Chabon's Brain

Michael Chabon, author of Wonder Boys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, has a great web site,, that lets a visitor browse around the writer's brain.

Clicking on the link, A Yiddish Pale Fire, you are treated to an essay on European Jewry that begins, "Probably the saddest book that I own is a copy of Say It In Yiddish, edited by Uriel and Beatrice Weinreich, and published by Dover. I got it new, in 1993, but the book was originally brought out in 1958. It's part of a series, according to the back cover, with which I'm otherwise unfamiliar, the Dover "Say It" books. I've never seen Say It In Swahili, Say It In Hindi, or Say It In Serbo-Croatian, nor have I ever been to any of the countries where one of them might come in handy. As for the country in which I'd do well to have a copy of Say It In Yiddish in my pocket, naturally I've never been there either. I don't believe that anyone has."

And linking from Obcure Bits, Michael offers us a Recipe for Life and asks the question, "are novel's Golems?"

Click on The Joe Kavalier of Western PA to meet the inspiration for the novel, James Steranko, a real escapist turned comic book artist.

It's a fun site that is worth browsing around for a while, offering insight and quirk. Chabon is also very generous in reprinting many essays that have appeared elsewhere in print magazines.