I just read this great rant by a movie industry bigwig, screenwriter of "A History of Violence." It's entertaining it's extreme honesty and openness about the craft of screenwriting, and it's funny, and it's called "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script." I recommend reading it if you are any sort of creative person.
One of the best ideas is this: Read more>>>
Well, as you've probably noticed, especially if you read this blog on the actual website rather than a feedreader, I have rennovated this blog site extensively. This involved switching to new software, from a 5-year-old Moveable Type installation (the last free version) to Drupal. (my content management system of choice - I've now built or worked on about 10 different Drupal sites and am getting pretty adept at it.) This is just in time for this, my one-thousandth blog entry since starting this blog in April 2004.
What this new system does that is really cool: it's not just a place for my blog entries but it also brings together content of mine from several different sites and services - my photos from Flickr, my book reviews from Goodreads, my videos from Vimeo, my tweets from Twitter and my bookmarks from Delicious.
There are still some things to adjust and tweak here. But as I was building this new site and thinking about how long I've been blogging, Read more>>>
Earlier this week Greta and I went to see the new climate change film The Age of Stupid. It's a documentary with a speculative fiction frame around it, and that's what I want to talk about, the form, rather than the content of the film. I've blogged before several times about climate change. You know where I stand on that. Read more>>>
I just, stupidly enough, wasted about 15 minutes trying to figure out what happened with Kanye West. Something he did made even the president of the United States call him a jackass? Hmm. I finally figured it out (amazing how the entertainment media will always assume you know the background, as opposed to real news that is constantly re-explaining everything as if nobody has any more than a 3rd-grade education) and then found a great post by Mike Hale on his New York Times blog where he really summed the whole phenomenon (not just of what Kanye did but more importantly why it's such a big deal) up nicely:
...just the latest manifestation of our addiction to artificial drama, which has grown stronger as the stuff has become more plentiful and cheap, and the shamelessness with which the media now picks at the scabs of any sort of conflict in order to boost ratings.
My friend Ryn brought to my attention a very interesting and worthwhile article about the tendencies for social divisions to be duplicated online, concentrating specifically on the class divisions between MySpace and Facebook.
I think I have some doubts about some of the author's conclusions, but without seeing her actual numbers and methods, having only the anecdotal examples she gave, I can't argue and will give her the benefit of the doubt that her data supports her points. Certainly, I don't doubt and fully believe the most general points, that
1) different social networking communities are populated by different demographics and are self-segregated, somewhat.
2) technology will not automatically solve the separations and prejudices that exist in the "real" world.
The really interesting thing, to me, is that this has been happening for awhile - these kind of debates and debunkings of popular hype about "new media" were going on starting 14 or 15 years ago when the Web first started taking off, with a flood of rhetoric about the "digital 'revolution'" and the liberatory potential of technology. People were questioning this along various lines, including class and race based analyses. I'd recommend a great anthology called
"Resisting the Virtual Life" and a little later there was a great book
called "Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents".
A professor of mine at CalArts told me back in 1996 how excited everyone (well, artists and activists, at least) was in the early 70s about the radical and democratic potential of video, but things didn't really pan out how they hoped, so she was a little skeptical about the same sort of talk regarding the web. Basically people have always been scared of, hopeful for, hyping, and debunking new technologies, probably since the wheel and fire, certainly on into film, TV, radio, home computers, etc. I'm glad that some are bringin' the noise on this round, but it's helpful to remember that it's a continuous loop.... and a continuous fight, to make sure that the pernicious effects of any new technology are minimized and the beneficial ones are amplified and widespread...
Wired Magazine reports that we're all writing more, because of the internet. I've thought about that before. It's quite remarkable, but easy to forget. I've always been someone who writes, not just in school, but for a long time that was rare. Now it's not.
Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.
To me that makes me think, wow, what a bleak life, to never write. So it really is great that people are encouraged to construct paragraphs now - even if the paragraphs are cluelessness comments like
you really want to clean up the border??? put down the water bottles and grab a shovel and rake...Ive got a ranch in three points that needs serious help...but you dont care about my property do you????
In less than 24 hours I've read 2 articles, one in the Times and one a book review by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker, about people who do "stunts" in order to raise awareness or disseminate knowledge about climate change. It's a trend where various writers and activists and others do some symbolic act, like a Thoreau-esque thing such as living for a year without electricity, or an attention-getting feat like walking across the country, and hence get people to think about this stuff and pay attention in a different way.
Kolbert rightly points out that a lot of the motivation for this is that few people want to be clobbered with yet another doom-and-gloom scenario that makes them feel like they're bad people for driving or buying plastic bottles. As the New York Times article concludes of the folks Greta Browne meets on her cross-country climate walk,
In the end, Ms. Browne said, she thinks that most people are sympathetic and want to do something
Last night I went to see District 9, the new semi-sleeper science fiction action film that movie industry wonks are salivating over for its relatively cheap budget and efficient production. I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed.
In short, I really like the concept, and I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so. But then, the film turned into a nerve-wracking, over-the-top action flick that had me clawing the upholstry off the armrests and wishing I'd brought some valium. It ramped up to a fever pitch to the point where for the last 40 minutes or so it was nonstop explosions, gunfire, bodies bursting into splashes of red goo, robots and aliens ripping things apart, and lots of screaming and yelling. Basically, it became pretty much just like every other Hollywood summer action blockbuster. Oh but it only cost $30 million to make! hurrah!
I went to see it because the premise was interesting. It was clearly an allegory about racism, xenophobia, and immigration, along with a healthy dose of criticism about privatization of public spheres, arms dealing, and multinational capitalist corporatism. But it went from biting social criticism to largely gratuitous and pointless ultra-violence. The story could have easily been told without 90% of the death and gore that was graphically displayed, singeing the eyeballs of viewers and inducing PTSD for days to come.
Can't a story be science fiction without also being a "thriller" or "horror"? Can't we just explore ideas without pumping ourselves full of adrenalin with guts and things blowing up?
I guess the secret bright side is this: all the teenagers and other immature moviegoers who actually LIKE that sort of crapola might also be encouraged by the film to think about some of the social issues it brings up. Like is it okay to treat differently people that don't look like us? Or is everyone entitled to basic decency? If middle-american dork-boys can be persuaded to feel that even the gnarly greenish insectoid creatures in the movie deserve to not be abused and oppressed, maybe that will be an important step forward for human rights.
I feel like Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social networking has definitely sapped my energy and will to blog as much as I used to. These cyberplaces trick your mind into feeling like you've expressed yourself in a much more meaningful way than you really have. For people who never had a blog and couldn't be bothered to have one, much less don't partake in other forms of writing, The little "status update" blank might feel like a tremendously liberating opportunity to speak your mind to the world and/or your friends and/or your adoring fans. Just a little, open-ended text-box, telling you to blurt your barbaric yawp out, no matter what it is or how banal or profound it might be. Just keep it short or your friends' attention will wander to somewhere else, that other browser tab they have open or the rest of that youtube video about squirrels snuggling with cats.
Yes, in a sense it's a great development, encouraging people to communicate and start little conversations with friends and family at any time of the day, no matter how spread over the whole world they are.
But for me it tends to use up precious energy that I could have spent writing a blog post or even a private journal entry, in a more thoughtful, careful, creative and discerning way. It accelerates life even further, making one feel like you don't have the right to sit and slowly compose and extended text, that you should instead just say it now, fast, and move on.
Of course the blog entries don't have to be extended essays. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that's what I should be doing and if I can't then I shouldnt blog at all. I am going to endeavor to do less of that kind of thinking. A blog entry can be any length, and much more under my control than my facebook "wall".
I just spent a few minutes intending to find a relevant and entertainingly ironic photo that i might have on my flickr account that i could use to cleverly illustrate this blog entry. But in the process, i got distracted trying to decide if there was a browser tab I could close. I have about 15 open, some of which are pages i've been wanting to read for as long as 5 months ago but have never taken the time. Eventually i gave up and came back here. forget the picture.
This is enough.
Last week a film critic in the Arizona Daily Star wrote about me for his weekly series of profiles on Tucson filmmakers. It was a nice little article, even though it contained many minor factual errors and creatively constructed "quotes" - this is normal for journalism, so I'm not upset about that, since none of the inaccuracies were serious or slanderous.
I've received several compliments and positive new contacts are being made as a result, but one unfortunate, though amusing, side-effect is a trickle of the usual, fanatically hateful anti-immigrant people who always explode into fits of spitting rage whenever anything about the border appears in the news and doesn't match their level of prejudiced right-wing fervor. Here're a few samples, cut-and-pasted verbatim for you amusement:
Subject: Tell the other side!
Date: August 10, 2009 12:01:57 AM CDT
THE ILLEGALS MAKING 300+ NEW PATHS THROUGH OUR BEAUTIFUL DESERT, TRAMPING DOWN THE FLORA, INSECTS, KILLING THE WILDLIFE, POLLUTING THE ENVIRONMENT WITH THEIR GARBAGE, FECES; COWS & OTHER ANIMALS EATING THE PLASTIC AND DYING HORRIBLE DEATHS, DEFECATING OUTSIDE AND ALL THE POLLUTION, DISEASE THAT BRINGS, NOT TO MENTION THE DISEASES THEY THEMSELVES CARRY, OR THE TERRORISTS THEY ALLOW TO SNEAK IN AMONGST THEM OR THE VIOLENT CRIMINALS AND CHILD MOLESTERS THAT ATTACK AMERICANS & OUR CHILDREN. ILLEGALS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO CUT OFF A LIVE CALF'S LEG AND EAT IT WHILE THE BABY BLEEDS TO DEATH, THEY CAUSE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF DAMAGE TO RANCHERS' TROUGHS, PIPES, ETC. YOU MAY WISH TO TELL HIM THAT THEY CAUSE MORE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS ANY DAY THAN THE BP - WHO ARE TRYING TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION!
The amazing thing is that these wackos take the time to somehow find an email address online for me but they can't take the time to properly use their Caps Lock key on their keyboard. Here's another that at least doesn't "yell" as much:
Subject: FOR STEEV HISE: About your article on some movie you are making about The Wall on our border!
Date: August 9, 2009 2:18:17 AM CDT
I live about an hour from the border. People in my state are being murdered every day by illegals. The rate of child molestation is unreal! Phoenix is now the kidnapping center of the country and AZ the car theft capitol of the world! All because of illegal aliens!And tons of illegals are involved in drugs and drug smuggling!
Your movie appears to be lop-sided. Perhaps you would like to interview my two friends whose children were murdered by illegal aliens from Mexico and tell them how you consider it more important for illegals to be able to sneak into our country and we should not be protecting ourselves. I worked for several years with illegal aliens and met murderers, rapists, child molesters (at least 16% to 80% sneaking through now were violent criminals before ever coming here). Perhaps you would like to speak to some mothers of children who were molested by illegals. Have you ever seen a cow die from eating plastic left by these illegals (and by the way, don't call them "immigrants" - my parents were immigrants and it is an insult to every person who has ever come here legally to use this respected word which has just ONE meaning in immigration law and that is for people who come legally - otherwise the correct immigration term is "illegal alien". Every person who is not an American citizen is an "alien" and you will never ever hear a legal ALIEN complain about being called one. Only those who wish to intimidate you into using the respected word so they can manipulate one's mind will try to change the conversation and the words one uses.
An immigrant waits on line for years, complying with the necessary things they go through (background checks, health checks) to protect Americans and themselves). The word must never be used for people who spit on our laws. They have trampled down hundreds of new paths, killing flora and small animals/insects in their way. I have heard it will take thousands of years for the desert to come back if ever. Also, a rancher friend of mine told me illegals will slaughter his cattle live to cut off a leg and eat it while the animals (usually a baby calf) will lie there bleeding to death. You are another misguided soul.Every time you hear of another illegal murdering, raping, molesting, robbing an American - know you have helped do this. You should be ashamed of yourself! The media is supposed to show an unbiased view, but then you don't seem to know what that means.
Well, I hope I don't have to wait "on line for years" downloading this kind of ludicrously inaccurate bull.
(Oh, and speaking of bull - maybe, if it were true about all the cattle dying because of undocumented migrants, this would be a great solution to the problem of ranching, which has been destroying the environment of the West for over a century. Can we get more of those evil, hungry "illegals" to come and eat the legs off our cows? Please? )