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Saturday, November 09, 2002

LA Weekly's Ella Taylor on Todd Haynes and surrendering to melodrama
Haynes' screenplay has Moore, Quaid and Haysbert delivering their lines in the stilted, declamatory style of the '50s -- you can't help but look beyond it and complete the thought with your own ideas and emotions. "The challenge for the actors is that the text demands they commit to the language in a very direct way," says Haynes. "It's all on the surface in a way that we're not accustomed to in our naturalistic codes of acting, where there's an attempt to distress the words and the surface of the composition, and that's what we think is real, those are the codes of reality." Melodrama's formalism, says Haynes, makes it so much richer and more telling than the current embodiment of the women's film -- the television movie, with its facile psychologizing and compulsory redemption.

7:30 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

Yes, it's just another list

UK critics & filmmakers pick top films of last 25 years
1. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
2. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
3. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
4. GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
5. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
6. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
7. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
8. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994)
9. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)
10. Once Upon A Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1983)
10. Yi yi (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang, 1999)
I liked some of the scenes added in Apocalypse Now Redux, but the plantation sequence really slowed things down. This is one of my favorites for sure, along with Blue Velvet and Blade Runner (though Alien was the first "dark future" SF film and is arguably more important I think).

Other than that I didn't get through Fanny and Alexander or Yi Yi. I don't feel conversant enough in film technique anymore to be a "critic" -- just don't pay that much attention to the art form now.

There are definitely films I would substitute instead of something like Once Upon a Time in America or Chung King Express. Like The Sweet Hereafter, Memento, The Ballad of Narayama, Witness, JFK, Ran, Sex, Lies and Videotape, there are so many. Two film related to Murnau's Nosferatu: Herzog's remake and Shadow of the Vampire, a very interesting meditation the role of the artist in society -- in the guise of a dramatization/fantasy of the making of the original.

What about Dead Ringers, Existenz, Brazil, The Silence of the Lambs. . .

3:12 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

SeatGURU has a seat-by-seat review of planes on major airlines [u]
Do you have a long flight coming up and want a quiet, comfortable seat?

Could you really use some extra leg room?

Do you keep getting stuck in a seat that doesn't recline?
Neat idea, especially for you frequent flyers.

2:42 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

FlakMagazine makes former CNN movie reviewer Paul Tatara sound like fun to read -- and he is. Here's a list of his work there.
Now that they've had a couple of years to process its indignities, most people accept that "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" stunk like a rotting Bantha carcass. So it's nice to report that "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" is a considerable improvement, even though it features several laughable courtship scenes and lots of wooden expository dialogue. Until he pulls an entertaining, highly unexpected move near the end of the picture, even Yoda seems vaguely uninterested.


Luckily, a lengthy, digital-rific finale all but guarantees that most viewers will exit the theater in a state of adrenalized forgetfulness.

There are, of course, several technologically dazzling set pieces, including an early one involving careering airborne traffic that's more of an amusement park ride than an actual scene. But much of the second act is spent on Anakin and Amidala coming to terms with their feelings for one another.

Unfortunately, given Lucas' proven knack for lousy dialogue, you can't help but snicker at the two lovebirds. Special mention has to go to Anakin's head-scratching segue between complaining about beach sand and marveling at Amidala's silky-smooth complexion. For a couple of terrifying seconds, it seems like he might start singing. [link]

3:22 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

Friday, November 08, 2002

Interesting article on hoarders [u]
...new research is finding that hoarding, a syndrome far more common than once believed, is most often the result of long-untreated mental illness that has nothing to do with the stock market crash of 1929. To deal with the [Seattle]'s toughest hoarding cases, a unique, multiagency task force has been created.

Often reclusive, hoarders spend years compulsively cramming their homes so full that stoves and toilets become unusable, and passage is limited to "trails" snaking through piles of newspapers, junk mail and fast food containers. It's usually not until rats take up residence and roofs begin to sag that city officials can gain access. And even then it can take years of legal maneuvers and up to $50,000 for a "dig-out" to remove tons of materials and make the homes safe again.

But because treatment for the syndrome is nearly non-existent here, the hoarding cycle often begins again once housing inspectors and public health workers leave. And neighbors are the ones who endure the eyesores and smells of homes that have become potential fire hazards.

"These people sink into this because they are isolated and without family, and they are often quietly dying without anyone on the outside caring," said Jordan Royer of the city's Department of Neighborhoods, who is heading the task force. "We are seeing it at every income level and every neighborhood."

3:08 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

This Saturday Whitley Strieber talks with Remote Viewer extraordinaire Joseph McMoneagle about his new book The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy

The firedocs site looks interesting too.

My first reading (back in the early 90s, in a different edition) on the subject was Jim Schnabel's
Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America's Psychic Spies
, which was apparently at least partially CIA disinfo, according to one of the amazon reviewers.

David A Morehouse's Psychic Warrior was a good read, as I remember. Not the last word on the subject of course.

Jim Marrs' book Psi Spies might be good, just based on his other work.

McMoneagle was the star of StarGate, though, and his books are probably the most reliable.

3:01 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

And from A & L Daily, 2 pieces that explore the importance of the search for knowledge and truth, beyond the artificial separation of science, spirituality and art

A review of Jenny Uglow's new book on the dreamy 18th century scientific "amateurs" called The Lunar Men, for their habit of meeting at the full moon.
In the final third of the 18th century, in Birmingham, England, of all places, in the middle of a region long known for its potteries, metal works and refineries, a handful of friends with lively, wide-ranging minds formed a philosophical and scientific association. While Samuel Johnson lounged in fashionable London cafeĀ»s, trading quips and drinking tea with members of The Club, the Lunar Society's founders simply met once a month to discuss chemistry, geology and metallurgy, to carry on experiments, to exchange ideas and daydreams. Along the way, the group slowly "changed the world." They invented and promoted the steam engine, discovered oxygen and digitalis, soda water and laughing gas, speculated fearlessly about fossils and the earth's strata, categorized plants and identified minerals, built gigantic factories, dug canals, and wrote best-selling poems against slavery, as well as epics inspired by Linnaeus, tracts on education and a novel for children that went through 140 editions in 90 years.

And Emily Eakins' appreciation of Poe's poem "Eureka," which predicted the Big Bang theory of the universe's creation.
The language is vague and convoluted, and some details are wrong (Poe had no concept of relativity, and it makes no sense today to speak of the universe exploding into "previously vacant space"), but here, unmistakably, is a crude description of the Big Bang, a theory that didn't find mainstream approval until the 1960's.

This wasn't Poe's only uncanny display of prescience. He also came up with the idea that the universe was expanding (and might eventually collapse), a notion that the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann ferreted out of Einstein's equations in 1922. Einstein initially pooh-poohed the idea, and it wasn't widely accepted until the 1930's, after Edwin Hubble gleaned some hard data from the velocities of far-flung galaxies.

Black holes? Poe envisioned something like those, too. And he was the first person on record to solve the Olbers Paradox, which had dogged astronomers since Kepler: the mystery of why the sky is dark at night. If the universe was infinite, as 19th-century astronomers believed, there should be an infinite number of stars as well, plenty, in other words, to illuminate the sky at all times. Poe understood why this in fact was not the case: the universe is finite in time and space (and light from some stars has not yet reached the Milky Way).

1:05 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

It looks like Arts & Letters Daily is back from the dead

Don't know how, though The Chronicle of Higher Education seems like the patron.

12:49 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

Thursday, November 07, 2002

In case you haven't heard:

The first chapter of Kevin Mitnick's new book (missing in all but 300 review galley copies) has appeared online at a Yahoo discussion group, his girlfriend's blog and here as a download

2:31 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

Vending centers -- automated convenience stores -- debut in DC

1:44 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

The new Todd Haynes film Far from Heaven sounds good

I just hope Portland -- where he and home boy Gus van Sant have recently relocated to -- doesn't become hip now. I'm thinking of moving there sometime.

I liked Safe and Velvet Goldmine, and the Sirk feel he goes for in the new film could be appealing. I can see how he might end up in that mode after seeing VG. He wrote the main role for Julianne Moore.

This may be Dennis Haysbert's year too -- he plays the President on 24 and is Moore's confidante in Heaven when she discovers her husband's closeted homosexuality.

1:01 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

"Oh the pain, the pain. . . "

R.I.P. Dr Smith (Jonathan Harris)

6:07 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

Monday, November 04, 2002

Review of the new posthumous autobiography of Sam Fuller [Travelling Shoes/Me-Zine]
Although some of this book (completed by his widow, Christa Lang Fuller, and a friend, Jerome Henry Rudes) sounds politely homogenized, Fuller's trademark frankness generally gives his stories a no-nonsense kick. ("Instead of money, they wanted to be paid in Jaguar skins," he says about Brazilians who seemed to find him Hemingwayesque. "I told them to go to hell.") And the best legacy to be found here is his frequent, passionate, oracular advice about directing. "Mr. Fuller," an actor once said to him, "Sergeant Zack only has four or five pages of lines in a 90-page script, yet he's on camera most of the time. There's got to be other stuff to say, right?"

"No, my boy," Fuller says he replied. "The other stuff's called acting."

7:05 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

Escaping Criticism

I'd love to see the trompe l'oeil exhibit at the National Gallery

11:15 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

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1:12 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

An interview with Gary Cobain of Future Sounds of London from Disquiet, which sends out an irregular but useful email newsletter on new ambient/experimental electronic music
I'm interested in trying to make one of those records that I go round to my friends' houses and they're all really proud of, you know? And those records wouldn't be played on radio right now. Nobody would play [the Rolling Stones'] "2000 Light Years from Home" on the radio right now. but that's such a great song. [The Beatles'] "Tomorrow Never Knows" would not be a single, but it's so amazing, and generation after generation of people have found that track. And then you go deeper, Hariprasad Chaurasia -- a flute raga [player] from India -- that's a single, because it revolutionizes my soul, and that's what a single is to me. So, don't tell me how and when I can use an orchestra, because I'm just trying to make great music, and I've got no appreciation of people putting these rules on me, and I'm just trying to make music that celebrates the potential of the human consciousness, if you like. That's what I've always tried to do.

1:05 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Neat piece on Bob Newhart, whose Twain Prize for American Humor gala will be broadcast on PBS on the 13th [Undernews]
He is probably the only stand-up comedian ever to launch a million-dollar comedy routine without first playing a nightclub, and he did so with a unique persona quintessentially of his time. His famous 1960 recording, "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart," was a shrill but hilarious scream of despair from the white-collar Everyman suffocating in the gray-flannel conformity of the Eisenhower era. It was also a herald of cultural change.

Aging baby boomers have fostered the fiction that nothing much was happening in America in the 1950s, he says, "but I thought a lot was happening. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, comedy made an abrupt right turn. It wasn't just me. There was Shelley [Berman], Lenny [Bruce] and Mort [Sahl] and Mike Nichols and Elaine May . . . all pretty far out. And way out in the stratosphere there was Jonathan Winters."

There was a growing cerebral vein, in fact, in the entire mass culture. Dave Brubeck was wowing college campuses with jazz influenced by Bach fugues. Dave Garroway and Jack Paar turned the "Today" and "Tonight" shows into thoughtful and provocative television talk shows despite a healthy undercurrent of wackiness. The emerging campaign of John F. Kennedy was putting the sort of glamorous and sophisticated face on politics that Audrey Hepburn was putting on movies.
What the hell happened to sophistication and wit in American culture, I'd like to know. . .

1:35 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

Paul Krassner on Lenny Bruce and the 1st Amendment [Undernews]
Bruce was a comedic pioneer who only wanted to exercise the same freedom to communicate without compromise on stage that he had in his living room. What's shocking about "The Trials of Lenny Bruce" is not his utterances so much as the contrast between what he got arrested for and what is now taken for granted by the audiences of talented performers such as George Carlin, Margaret Cho and Chris Rock, and in the critical reception of such taboo-breaking cable-TV series as "Sex and the City" and "Six Feet Under." Today, Robin Williams freely pantomimes cunnilingus, and the cable-TV series "South Park" proudly presents a sponsored, highly scatological episode about priestly child abuse. Bruce realized that prosecutors and judges were more interested in the advancement of their own careers than in his free-speech rights. In fact, wrote Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice, "Three lawyers in Kuh's bureau, appalled at Bruce being set up ... begged Kuh to hear Bruce for himself, and then decide whether Bruce ought to be busted. Kuh ... refused, adding, 'Stay out of this unless you want to be switched to the rackets bureau.' " And, according to one attorney, "After the trial of Bruce was over, I had a call from Judge Creel, who ... said Judge Phipps also wanted to acquit Bruce but that [Chief] Judge Murtagh threatened to assign him to traffic court for the rest of his term if he did." In a documentary about Hogan, the New York district attorney, former Asst. Dist. Atty. Vincent Cuccia confessed: "[Bruce] was prosecuted because of his words. He didn't harm anybody, he didn't commit an assault, he didn't steal, he didn't engage in any conduct which directly harmed someone else. So therefore he was punished first and foremost because of the words that he used. It's wrong to prosecute anybody because of his ideas. It was the only thing I did in Hogan's office that I'm really ashamed of. We drove him into poverty and used the law to kill him."

1:18 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

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