Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I'm George W. Bush and I approved this message...

Watch the video, featuring the always funny, Will Ferrell.

[Link via Josh Marshall]
Noir and Noir Again

Michael Blowhard offers up a primer in Film Noir, or as he calls it Film Noir 101. If you are unfamiliar with the genre or in need of a short refresher course, it is well worth your time.

I would only differ from him in his dismissal of Polanski's Chinatown, which is in a completely different league from the rest of the "neo noir" knockoffs that he mentions, such as L.A. Confidential and Body Heat. And in the category of neo noir, I will admit a soft spot for The Big Easy. But that is mainly for the fantastic soundtrack.

His acknowledgement of Cyber Punk and Graphic Novels by the likes of Frank Miller as being offshoots of Noir is a well taken point, though he glosses over the Noir influences on many of the Nouvelle Vague films of the sixties. And I must bring into question the ordering of his list of notable Noirs. Putting Kubrick's The Killing above Out of the Past, well that seems plain old contrarian to me. And I must also fault him slightly for the sin of omission. While it can be categorized as the first Neo Noir, in that it is a self conscious Noir styling, Orson Welles' Noir, A Touch of Evil is certainly worth a mention (along with Lady From Shanghai). And I might have given an honorable mention to Robert Aldrich's filming of Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly.

Warner Home Video's Film Noir Boxset can be purchased here.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Dead

Filling out the disclosures on our condo last night I was struck by an odd question. After the usual list of questions about earthquake, flood, and hurricane. After disclosing every water stain, chipped tile and crack in the walls. And after informing the prospective buyer of chirping birds, traffic noise, and cat feces. Near the end of the document the question was posed, "has anyone ever died on the premises, to the best of your knowledge".

Now I can get behind asking, has anyone ever died and not been discovered for more than a week on the premises. Or if someone died of a highly contagious disease. But the fact that someone has died by itself should be something that one needs to disclose seems odd to me. Has anyone given birth on the premises? I don't see that question anywhere. Seems like both are normal events that happen to us at least once in each lifetime (depending on your beliefs about reincarnation or being born again, etc.).

I lived in Holland for 11 years, and saw that in other countries it is fairly normal that both birth and death occur in the home. In America we have made an effort to hide both events behind the doors of hospitals. And now, that someone might have peacefully passed away in their sleep, while residing at your address, must be disclosed to warn the unsuspecting purchaser that, wait, don't buy this house, it has been visited by the grim reaper himself, is disturbing to me.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

But What Does Arlo Think?

As linked previously on this blog, the This Land parody at JibJab.com has taken the world by storm. Both Left (here) and Right (there) have embraced it as 'good humor'. But not all lawyers have a sense of humor, and the age old tradition of song parody is wasted on them.

Where have you gone Alan Sherman?

Or in Guthrie's own (alleged) words...
"This song is copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."
Read:This Song Is Our Song.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Photography Almanac

While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see. ~Dorothea Lange

If you are not familiar with the work of Lange, by all means follow this link. She is most famous for her work documenting migrant workers in the depression. In later years she joined with Ansel Adams in photographing the internees at Manzanar and worked with Pirkle Jones to record the changing California landscape.

This is arguably her most famous work.


Migrant Mother

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Game is Afoot

AC Douglas discusses his general distaste for genre fiction and his surprising love of the Sherlock Holmes canon. I am perhaps the wrong person to comment, as I am relatively fond of genre fiction, be it in lit or film. However, I am capable of (in most cases) separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the stuff, and I happily acknowledge that Holmes and Watson are a cut above the pack.

But the question remains, what sets the best apart from the rest? Douglas writes...
The best I can muster as explanation -- and I'm fully cognizant my best is thoroughly inadequate -- is that the Holmes-Watson stories, even though technically detective fiction, each have the quality of being a chapter of a great and heroic if urbane saga; tales told orally around a pre-literate communal campfire which tell of a time when a man's individual actions had comprehensible, direct and immediate effect on his environment and those populating it, without mediation, mitigation or intensification by technologies the workings of which are comprehensible only to experts; a time when one could "learn at a glance to distinguish the history of [a] man, and the trade or profession to which he belongs"; a time when "by a man's fingernails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuffs...a man's calling is plainly revealed."
I think he is on to something here. Genre fiction when it works harks back to the tales of old told over and over around the campfire. In some ways, what is Gilgamesh or Homer but genre fiction. Tales of adventure and derring-do told to excite the masses.

Doyle belongs to the same tradition as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne. His tales are adventures for boys and boys-at-heart. He creates a world so complete that it is possible to immerse one's self completely into it. Burroughs' Tarzan or Mars tales can have a similar fascination. Comic books also can offer a similar pleasure. Perhaps it is the extended canon, where a character or group of characters become so familiar and, dare I say, archetypical.

I am currently hooked on Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. Again, it is the fully realized character, where his life and world become real to us. His life and relationships and personality quirks are as much a part of the stories as the detective stories upon which they hang. The same could be said for Sam Raimi's two Spiderman movies. If it was simply reduced to the action set pieces they would be just another Hollywood spectacle, but it is the character of Spiderman and his hapless alter ego Peter Parker that we return to see.

The best of genre fiction has an epic quality that we can return to time and time again. These are stories that can be told over and over for a lifetime. As a young boy or as an old man, we will return to these stories and they will be familiar and comforting.

In the words of Holmes, "These are much deeper waters than I had thought."

Read A Mystery Elusive Of Solution.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Cuts Like a Knife

Normally I shoot 35mm transparencies, mostly Ektachrome, and scan using a Minolta slide scanner, and then retouch in Photoshop, lastly printing on an Epson 2200. I plan to purchase a digital SLR shortly, but am waiting for Photokina in September to see if Canon makes any new announcements. More than you needed to know.

Not having space for a darkroom, I occasionally take classes at a local junior college, mainly to have access to the schools darkroom facilities. But also I often find being given assignments forces me to attempt subjects and styles that are outside my normal tendencies. My typical subjects are landscape or urban/architectural, but having to do an abstraction or a still life can be an interesting challenge.

Now to digress a bit... I, as I suspect many of you, am not just obsessed with my blogs referrer logs, but will, on occasion, Google my own name. Ego, curiosity, or slacking. All of the above, perhaps.

Yesterday I came across one of my pieces that my college instuctor had posted on the student gallery. Always nice to have someone appreciate your work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

In his own words

SFMoma has kindly left their Ansel Adams at 100 website up. Well worth spending some time watching the Quicktime videos of Adams discussing his work.

Enjoy.
Elsewhere

What sounds like an interesting biography of folk legend, Woody Guthrie. A certain 'wish list' addition.

An entertaining Krugman that asks the question who is the real Arabian Candidate.

What did they expect? Blue Bayou!

Lileks experiences the great equalizer. Waiting for the satellite guy.

Could corporate mergers benefit Hobbits?

Monday, July 19, 2004

You Got Served

It's getting kind of hectic up in this piece.
The Lotus Eaters

Weekend viewing was a bit limited by other committments, but I managed to see Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, and enjoyed it immensely.

It is a bit of an anocronysm in movie-making. In some ways an homage to classic European cinema of the Sixties, and a commentary on the same. Reminiscent of Bertolucci's own Last Tango in Paris, and with hints of Bunuel, Godard and Truffaut. The age old argument of Keaton vs. Chaplin is fought out with appropriate passion, and documentary footage and film clips are seamlessly interspersed.

In addition to the cinephile kool-aid, there is an intriguing story of a young American abroad who becomes (sexually) entangled with a pair of French twins. The story had the feel of an Isherwood tale, though more graphic in its sexuality and updated from between the wars to the Sixties.

The Soundtrack was also excellent.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Great Quotes in Photography (with commentary)

Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

This particular quote hit so close to home. I had taken a hiatus from serious photography for a couple of years, and it was only about 2 years ago that I got the inspiration to resume this particular passion.

I hadn't been in the darkroom for some years and decided to take a college course in black and white photography, as a refresher. Having purchased a new SLR, my last having been destroyed in Europe some time previously, I set out to shoot my first roll for class. A minor darkroom mishap resulted in part of the roll being fogged. Looking through a loupe on a light table I found a few pictures worth salvaging. Among them the wooden door at Mission San Juan Bautista that graces the portal to my website.

A few months ago I returned to the same spot. Thinking to take a color slide of the same object, with the intention of doing a better scan. The shots I got were good enough. If anything, my technical skills had improved. Yet they weren't the same. Even shooting an inanimate object, time of year was different. Surrounding foliage was less lush. Time of day was not quite the same. I was changed.

Even an object, exists in a moment in time. And you can never step in the same river twice.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Randomness

The wife and I are house shopping. Lord help us. Last night we saw something reminiscent of a landfill. Note to home hunters, if the square footage and the price don't seem in line, there is probably a catch.

Teachout shares a delightful Calvin Trillin poem on the subject of changing culinary fashions. As a lover of Coq au Vin and Trout Almandine, I say amen!

The UK Guardian reports on the Dubya that Garry Trudeau knew at Yale. Doesn't sound like he has changed much.

This is funny and bipartisan. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Elsewhere

Mr. Lileks has an interesting retrospective on Mort Drucker and the hey day of Mad Magazine. I read these faithfully as a child. Later moving on to the best years of National Lampoon. Gosh, I was born at a good time. I was young for all of the things that were good to be young for. Pity the kids today. SNL ain't what it used to be.

Bucky is getting his own stamp. Too bad it will be flat and 2 dimensional. Geodesic postage, sounds like something for Star Trek.

A long overdue welcome back to AC Douglas. After a lengthy hiatus ACD has returned to the blogosphere with a new site. Be sure to update your bookmarks. The aptly named Sound and Fury.

Weezy has moved on up for the last time. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Weekend Viewing

Couple of films came our way via Netflix this past weekend that I thought worth sharing.

The Last of Sheila was an early seventies murder mystery / puzzle movie, with an all star - "b" list cast, featuring, James Coburn, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, James Mason, Joan Hackett, and Ian McShane. The basic setup is that Coburn's wife, the aforementioned Sheila, was killed in a hit and run accident one night following a party. Coburn, gamer extraordinaire, invites the party guests to his yacht in the Mediterranean to spend a week playing mind games. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse with some worthwhile twists and turns. But what really ensues is a satire of Hollywood morals and a lot of insider gossip. The script is penned by Steven Sondheim and Anthony Perkins, so it's no wonder they get the Hollywood stuff right.

Trembling Before G-d is a documentary about Hassidic gays coming to terms with their religion and their sexuality. It is a frank portrait of some very damaged people who want to continue believing in their faith and would like to live in the communities of their birth, but are shunned at every turn. One gay man was sent to a therapist who told him to eat figs and to snap himself with a rubberband every time he had thoughts about other men as a way to cure himself.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Getting it Wrong

New York Post front-page scoops.

[via Altercation]
A Spreading Meme

Terry Teachout's Cultural Index
continues to spread. It is even made it to USA Today and crossed over to Political Bloggers. Washington Monthly's own Political Animal, Kevin Drum takes the test.

Now this makes Aaron Haspel's suggestion of cross-correlating interests across participants even more interesting. Do political bloggers choose Election over Ghost World? One would think so. And does anyone besides a hardcore culture blogger care about "The New Yorker under Ross over Shawn?" Hard to imagine.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Fast Foward

In the random thoughts category. The next big SciFi movie claiming to be based on a Philip K. Dick novel. It could be called Fast Foward, and be about a TIVO that doesn't just let you pause Live TV, but also lets you speed ahead.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Futurballa's Very Own Index

Yes the FVOI. A good gimmick usually has legs, so I will put up some of my personal cultural indicators. Column "A" being my personal preference.

1. Marx Brothers or Three Stooges
2. Eno or Ferry
3. Italian Futurism or Russian Futurism
4. Grateful Dead or Phish
5. Edward Weston or Ansel Adams
6. Errol Flynn or Clark Gable
7. Canon or Nikon
8. William Gibson or Neal Stephenson
9. Salon or Slate
10. Godfather 1 or Godfather 2
11. Roadtrips or Flying
12. Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble
13. Nimoy or Shatner
14. Netflix or Blockbuster
15. Beatles or Stones
16. Baseball or Football
17. Lakers or Kings
18. Star Trek or Star Wars
19. Man Ray or Dali
20. Luis Bunuel or Jean Renoir
21. Gilligan or The Skipper
22. Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain
23. Asian Food or Mexican Food (this one is close)
24. San Francisco or Los Angeles
25. Coast or Mountains

Being only about one quarter the culture maven that Terry is, and having real work to do, I will stop there.

Feel free to play along.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Have you taken the TCCI?

Terry Teachout has come up with the Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index, which as lists go, seems to be quite instructive. He seems to lean towards the first choices (aka column "A"). I'm a bit more of a mixed bag myself. Draw your own conclusions.

I've edited down, from the original 100 options, to ones I both know and atually have an opinion about.

1. Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? Kelly
2. The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises? Gatsby
3. Count Basie or Duke Ellington? Ellington
4. Matisse or Picasso? Picasso
5. Yeats or Eliot? Eliot
6. Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? Keaton
7. Flannery O'Connor or John Updike? O'Connor
8. To Have and Have Not or Casablanca? Casablanca
9. Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning? de Kooning
10. The Who or the Stones? Stones
11. Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald? Billie Holiday
12. Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy? Dostoyevsky
13. Hot dogs or hamburgers? Hamburgers
14. Letterman or Leno? Letterman
15. Verdi or Wagner? Verdi
16. Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe? Kelly
17. Bill Monroe or Johnny Cash? Can't choose
18. Robert Mitchum or Marlon Brando? Brando
19. Vermeer or Rembrandt? Vermeer
20. Tchaikovsky or Chopin? Tchaikovsky
21. Red wine or white? Red
22. Noël Coward or Oscar Wilde? Wilde
23. Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity? High Fidelity
24. Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev? Nureyev
25. Constable or Turner? Toss up
26. The Searchers or Rio Bravo? The Searchers -best ever is best ever!
27. Comedy or tragedy? Comedy
28. Fall or spring? Fall
29. Manet or Monet? Manet
30. The Sopranos or The Simpsons? Simpsons
31. Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin and Gershwin? Gershwin
32. Joseph Conrad or Henry James? Conrad
33. Sunset or sunrise? Sunrise
34. Mac or PC? Mac
35. New York or Los Angeles? LA
36. Stax or Motown? Motown
37. Van Gogh or Gauguin? van Gogh
38. Steely Dan or Elvis Costello? Elvis
39. Reading a blog or reading a magazine? Blogs
40. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier? Gielgud
41. Chinatown or Bonnie and Clyde? Chinatown
42. Ghost World or Election? Election
43. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny? Bugs
44. Modernism or postmodernism? Modernism
45. Batman or Spider-Man? Spidey
46. Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams? Emmylou Harris
47. The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show? Dick Van Dyke
48. Out of the Past or Double Indemnity? Double Indemnity
49. The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni? Don Giovanni
50. Blue or green? Green
51. A Midsummer Night's Dream or As You Like It? As You Like It
52. Ballet or opera? Opera
53. Film or live theater? Film
54. Acoustic or electric? Electric
55. North by Northwest or Vertigo? Vertigo
56. The Music Man or Oklahoma? Neither!
57. Sushi, yes or no? No
58. Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee? Williams
59. Diana Krall or Norah Jones? Diana Krall
60. Watercolor or pastel? Watercolor
61. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Smooth
62. Schubert or Mozart? Mozart
63. The Fifties or the Twenties? Fifties
64. Huckleberry Finn or Moby-Dick? Huck
65. Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill? Lincoln
66. Liz Phair or Aimee Mann? Liz Phair
67. Italian or French cooking? Italian
68. Anchovies, yes or no? Yes
69. Short novels or long ones? Long
70. Swing or bebop? Bebop

Update: Terry has challenged me to post my score. It is but 47% in agreement with him, which can be seen as paltry or stellar, depending on your viewpoint.