Tuesday, December 30, 2008

indie film "crisis"?

via Anne Thompson (Variety), Mark Gill's LA Film Festival address on the proliferation of filmmaking potential, market news, and a shared film-community sense that "The Sky is Falling." 

Read to the end for Gill's hopeful minimalist and pragmatic view of the potential we might salvage from "the carnage."

Monday, December 22, 2008

hodgman. love.

via hodgman (aka "expert"): 

"DECEMBER 22, 1992, NEW YORK: Anthony Robbins publishes the bestselling success manual Awaken the Giant Within, in which he encourages personal and spiritual growth via guided meditation, deep-breathing techniques, firewalking and, most controversially, the ritualistic “molting” of one’s human skin to reveal the gigantic Anthony Robbins clone that lives inside all of us. To date, according to the book, only Robbins himself has been able to achieve this final step."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

best of 2008

a comment posted somewhere in response to the "breaking news" story about a bigfoot capture. my nomination for best comment of 2008: "A dead bear, a gorilla mask, and for who knows why, some intestines laid on top. awesome."

i would post the picture of the "captured" bigfoot, but even in its sad inauthenticity, it's too horrible.

Monday, December 15, 2008

video games (torture)

@ Wired, Clive Thompson argues that we need more (and better) torture in video games as a way of inspiring public debate on torture more generally, that is, beyond the borders of gaming.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

slide #1

sundance film fesitval 2009

the film guide is here. see what's playing at SFF 2009. and here is the calendar version of the film guide featuring what's screening at our venue ("our" being Mike and i, who, along with Kathleen Broyles, comprise the Theater Management team at the Sundance Screening Room).

scroll to the bottom and use "day/date" menu at top and "next" button to move through the days/screening times.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

on sundance 2009 (boycott options)

from The New York Times' Michael Cieply, Sundance Film Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore explains options for festivalgoers who plan to avoid screenings at Park City's Holiday Theater (run by Cinemark). Gilmore is responding to claims that some would-be festivalgoers plan to "boycott" the festival (or at least the 4 out of 14 total SFF Cinemark venues) because of the Cinemark CEO's donation to the LDS-lead campaign for California's Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage. Gilmore says that every film screening at the Holiday will also screen at other festival theaters, and in this way, a patron wanting to see that film will have an opportunity to see it in an alternate venue.

knowing what i know about the logistics of staging the festival, this seems at least one reasonable move, and perhaps one of the only reasonable moves festival leadership might make in light of the timeline (the festival is less than 2 months away). and, as i've said before, Sundance is not the enemy of gay people; queer cinema has found and continues to find a great deal of its momentum via Sundance.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"i'm like ... professional" (intro clip: backstory)

for my documentary on M Dot Strange. learn more at my CCCC's session, where i will screen what i have completed by that time. for now, enjoy a brief teaser -- really, a reassemblage of stuff that M has released on YouTube, stuff i'm trying to employ as a way of telling M's story and stories of self-distribution and 21st Century literacies and whatnot.

so but enjoy:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

robert redford on drilling

Robert Redford has been blogging at The Huffington Post and last night appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show to talk about "quiet" legislation that would open up land in Southern Utah, in and around many National Parks, such as one of my favorites, Arches. i hadn't known much about the move, which Redford calls "cynical." i wouldn't go with "cynical," myself. "devious," to be sure. nevertheless. it's a minor criticism of Mr. Redford's critical prowess. because where he gets it completely is in his understanding of the ironic rhetoric of the legislation. he argues:

Words alone cannot do justice to the beauty of these places, but they do capture the absurdity of the Bush plan. Oil and gas drilling in Desolation Canyon? Industrial development along the meandering Green River? The thought makes one wince.

speaking of clunky rhetoric: a few days ago, i saw a woman getting in to her car at the Sam's Club parking lot. she had a bumper sticker that read "DRILL HERE. DRILL NOW. PAY LESS!" it made me sad. you might say that it hurt my feelings. because, i mean, i can be as Darwinian as the next guy, but come on. there are limits to my greed (i like to think). and is it so easy to declare one's contempt for unspeakable beauty, and, oh, the future? i suppose that when you're driving away, it is.

but so, learning about the obnoxious move to pass drilling legislation that bypasses environmental protections and the National Park Service and the Endangered Species Act and basic human decency (i've seen this before -- upper adminsitration makes Big Ugly Move during Summer months, when faculty are away), i'm sadder.

but so now, to contact my representatives.

Monday, November 24, 2008

on passion

@ however fallible, i see that someone 's been reading about Philipe Petit, which reminds me to once again promote the amazing documentary, Man on Wire, which is currently on a few shortlists for Academy Award contention (so deserving). i'm secure in thinking that all i need do is share this clip (also linked at hf):

Sunday, November 23, 2008

come on!

trailers ... (w/ pre-spectation reflection)

when i watch PSH, i think that i have no business believing that i can or ever will act. that's a pretty dark assessment and it's a lot of negativity to associate with a person i admire, but there you go. "sublime," he is, as an actor.

i am not a serious fan of martial arts films, and war sagas often leave me depressed and at the same time empty, abmivalent. but Wong Kar Wai makes such aesthetically moving films -- they work almost beyond content, and as i watch this trailer, i kind of want to get lost in this film.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

electric car. 2 years off? not.

GM says its "plug in" car will be "ready" in 2 years. GM, the automaker who produced a successful electric car in the 1990s, the same automaker who, according to Chris Paine, "killed" the electric car.

from a New York Times article by Micheline Maynard, we don't hear much about GM's earlier electric car (and its untimely "death"), except for this:

G.M. reportedly spent about $1 billion in the 1990s to develop the EV1, which it dropped after saying it could not make money on the cars. The EV1, which was available only in lease deals, sold for the equivalent of up to $44,000 but cost G.M. about $80,000 apiece to make [...]

... which might have us believe that GM simply pulled the plug (sigh) because of simple corporate economics. it wasn't making any money on the car; it was losing money on the car. but the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? explores the question in a tougher journalistic mood, so i'm promoting it, here (although it's doing fine on its own and enjoys a certain following).

i don't see much criticism of this tentativeness coming from automakers regarding the "availability" of technologies capable of generating an electric or otherwise non-combustible engine car. maybe director Chris Paine will get, (is currently?) after it. we do have the blog, Revenge of the Electric Car, which seems promising. what is not so encouraging is that in the context of talks for govenrmental "salvation" of the Big 3 automakers, what we hear about the combustible engine and oil dependency (foreign or otherwise) is so frequentrly tempered by a sort of grandfatherly "wisdom" that would have us believe that we simply cannot do what we have already done. what i mean to say is that, yes, it's all very complicated. but to portray a timeline for production of a "plug in" car as a long and difficult road (ugh. sorry) seems like a pretty clunky rhetorical trick, the kind of move that is reserved for election politicking. still, documentarian Paine is optimistic and supportive of GM's current moves, with only a tiny hint of (articulated) reservation.

so but until the new electric car movie is made/comes out, enjoy this clip from Chris Paine's 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

sundance 2009

so the opening night film is announced, and it features some of my favorite actors. i wish i could go to the ball, but i work a theater gig all day, every day, during the festival. so, my second wish is that Philip Seymour Hoffman decides to visit our theater instead of making exclusive appearances with Mary and Max. i can't see why he wouldn't. i mean, come on.

Friday, November 14, 2008

dear people planning to boycott SFF 2009,

Sundance is not the enemy of gay people (watch the documentary Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema for evidence). and well obviously Prop 8 didn't pass because of Sundance.

yes, Sundance is in Utah. and yes, the LDS (Mormon) Church, which is centrally located in Utah, does seem to have been quite persuasive in the California vote for Proposition 8. but just as sweeping and derogatory claims about gay people (and their fitness for marriage) are wrong-headed, so too is it rather clunky to plot a boycott of the Sundance Film Festival by virtue of its location in Utah. not everyone in Utah is a member of the Mormon Church (i dare say that many SFF staff and volunteers are not). and well but so as with any religion, there exists a complicated spectrum from absolutism to ambivalence regarding the degrees to which members believe in and adhere to Church dogma. and then beyond the relative "size" of the Church in terms of this complex spectrum of belief and buy-in, pointing at an entire region as a way of categorizing a people is just silly (although i admit that prior to my move here i envisioned bonnets and dour faces and was instead pleasantly surprised to see difference and diversity). so look, Utah's a big state. lots going on. lots, and much of it far beyond the devious orchestration of an LDSified campaign for Proposition 8.

i must also tell you, dear would-be boycotters-who-likely-believe-that-you-are-united-in-a- holy-type-struggle, it is similarly unreasonable to boycott the festival because some SFF films are shown in Cinemark Theaters (only 4 Park City venues out of the 14 total SFF venues, which are located in Park City, Salt Lake City, Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon, and Ogden). True, Cinemark's Chief Executive may indeed have contributed a large sum to the campaign to pass Prop 8, but he did so as a private citizen and not as a representative of Cinemark. but so i'm pretty sure that your plans to boycott Sundance because of location and the donations of one individual are not well reasoned.

think it through. in fact, if you study the films that Sundance routinely supports, you will find that Sundance (the Institute, the Festival) is and has always been remarkably, paradigm-shatteringly supportive of independent queer cinema. i'm just saying.

film update

in case you're following my progress on the documentary . . .

dear future grad student,

i'm flattered that you wrote me to ask about possible grad schools where you can do supercool work like the work you read about in those 2 articles by Geoff Sirc. i too felt a near-religious high when first i encountered Sirc, so i can relate. but perhaps, in your euphoria and guided by your supercool mentor who encouraged you to write me, you presumed an intimacy between us that doesn't exist. and i do regret that in my response to you i felt it necessary to point out that your casual tone ("'sup!") was a tad inappropriate because who wants to be that crankity with a student who's all inspired and gushing and just aching to find someone who can ID and point her toward more of the supercoolness? but then, this morning, i realized: hey! i do some writing. and while it may not approach Sircian levels of joyful, fantod-inducing glee, you might have given me a shout-out. so i guess i'm not only regretting my comments about your tone but also recognizing that i might also have shared some pointers regarding audience consideration and how even though we don't like to admit it (especially if we are. actually. supercool), in the legendary words of Love and Rockets, "people [do!] like to hear their names ... i'm no exception ..." (No New Tale to Tell).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


beyond the obvious rhetorical lessons -- he takes us to school
on pathos and delivery -- i love the passion he brings to the
matter of gay marriage and the passing of Proposition 8.

nostalgia ... passions ...

every now and then i'll get clear on the powerful relationships between past and present, memory and inclination. recently, i found myself inexplicably singing the tune to the "Lite Brite" commercial. sure, it falls into the category of Things I Cannot Love ... this, by virtue of having gone with the ostensibly "catchier" nontraditional spelling that wants to rise to the level of "skillful wordplay," a hideo-marketing technique that inspires all manner of personal affectation (eye tics, palpatations, yelling ...). but so i must have developed my contempt for such attempts at marketing wit post-Lite Brite because i did want me some. but for some reason, my parents wouldn't get it for me, even though "OH GOD how i want to make that sailboat!". once, though, i spent the night w/ Susan Council (the name now striking me as remarkably important and just right; although here, i could wish for the alterna-spelling -- "Counsel," as in "advise and ..."). and but so you know what she had. that's right. and it was Heaven. bliss. her image-form papers were worn, but we still made The Clown. The Sailboat (cue Heavenly Choir).

so but now that i'm a little filmmaker, i see the jingle as prescient and telling and wonderfully sophisticated (for kids in the '70's? "makin' things with light"??!). here:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

cartograms (by Mark Newman)

my sister says it makes her brain hurt, but i like it for its comprehensive representation-value. it's a document containing several models of a different kind of electoral map. see the full document via the link, but to get a sense of what you'll find, the map above "represent[s] the effects of the electoral college by scaling the sizes of states to be proportional to their number of electoral votes." nice.

thanks to Patricia Freitag Ericsson for sharing this on the WPA listserv

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

relief ...

... over Obama's win, but also over the Grant Park crowd's reaction to Obama's nod to McCain. that is to say, thank God they didn't go by way of the McCain crowd when John applauded Obama. i get it. you lost. but classy it up. jeez. you're at the Biltmore. and, um, to the frat boy who shouted over McCain, "Sarah Palin, 2012!" ... um, really?

[deleted fashion critique in favor of joy and relief]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

dear pop culture moment,

stop suggesting that women who wear glasses want to be (like) Sarah Palin. that's just stupid.

Monday, October 27, 2008

sundance 2009 news (kinda sad)

just got word that our projectionist extraordinaire, Brad Jones, will not be with us for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. of course, i hope that this is because he has some fabulous filmmaking and/or editing job that's gotten in the way of his routine presence at the festival as our extremely talented as resourceful projectionist.

one year, Brad and i had to literally kneel down on the floor and hold parts of our then-faltering projector in place during an entire screening. it was a great upper body workout but also exhausting and ridiculous, one of those freakish independent film festival scenarios you hear about. i wouldn't have known what to do, but Brad did. and sure, the solution was makeshift and awkward and physically painful, but it worked.

also, i'll never forget when we were having some Big Time trouble with 1.) 2 angry directors who were not at all pleased with a tiny technical flaw at the start of the screening of their film (no one in the audience noticed, we were later told), and 2.) some patrons who were not going to get in to a screening and made our Theater Managing lives a little bit of hell while we tried to both solve the problem and do some delightful customer service-type-representing-the-Spirit-of-Sundance good works. but so Brad said, calmly but boldly, "[colorful terms] . . . you're the Theater Manager. It's your theater." nice. simple. validating.

also, just after my first little stint doing extra work at the labs (my first work on a film set, ever), Brad came outside and sat down on the grass beside me and asked, "so, how do you like acting in film?" . . . and he seemed to be asking so sincerely, as if to validate my choice rather than to fuel my already existing insecurities about the decision to go there at all (that is, not to question this as something silly and mundane). it was a lovely moment. i will never forget it.

but so this is a lot of homage. it's not like he isn't coming back (he says he is. the absence is just for '09). so but we will miss you in '09, Brad.

reanimating ethos

i'm thinking of using Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women as a general template for reshaping my professional ethos. because the academy needs more diva-type behavior (hear that "ping" noise as you visualize me winking directly at camera).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

hello, method. nice to see you.

sabbatical? fabulous. but i often feel guilty for not writing every day, for not having a more appreciable mass of the book done. and this is odd because it goes against what i have come to discover about my process; it is time-greedy, which is to say that it is organic and that it involves long stretches of not writing, which is not to say that i am not still sort of writing in my mind, or working it out, or rearranging ideas -- some would call this "prewriting," but i think it's all writing. so but the other day i was laying down to take a nap (yes.), and a thing i'd written over a year ago, a term i've borrowed from André Bazin for my working title -- that term "suddenly" welled up into my conscious but sleepy mind with such clarity. like a simple answer ...

"here, bonnie. see? this is why you borrowed that term: it is the lens, the way, if you will allow me the sentimental gesture. you have been following the wrong path. oh, sure, it's a lovely path. useful. may take you places. but here. now. this way."

i KNOW. what a big goofball. but that's how it happened (absent voice of ultra-affected muse). so i have a shift in method. i was always going to go (t)here, but now i know why and how and that it is actually the origin rather than the destination. actually, it's both, which is truly fabulous.

Friday, October 17, 2008

testing (use "full screen" - it's a cell phone film)

metro from bonnie lenore kyburz on Vimeo.

a cell phone film i made in DC on New Years Day (thus, the post-apocalyptic feeling of no bodies). i've just joined vimeo and am working it out. i realize the need to enlarge the frame, so if you really want watch this now, i'd go full screen. i'll continue to use this little film to experiment with sizing things up in the frame. i'm still disappionted at my Kairos publication; it is so tiny! . . . hear Michel Gondry's "tiny", or better yet, watch (the real filmmaker):

(n.b., i love the grainy quality of cell phone films, so it's no accident that my film looks kind of dark and moody and slightly unfocused . . . well, not completely).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


i'm a little embarrassed to admit it and still trying to figure out why this is happening just now, but i'm just now getting around to watching Ric Burns' Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. i'm fairly well wrapped up in it, i must say. about 1/2 way through the 4 hour film at this point, i'll probably say things that have already been said. but so.

Burns does a fantastic job of seeing Warhol as an artist with a history that shaped his art (duh), rather than simply a Fab New Thing who pops onto the scene from out of nowhere and is all about The Now and commercial culture.

i'm amazed at how much i have not known about Andy (jeez w/ my ego!). and although some readings of Warhol's personal history reach a bit to get after what his art is about, it's hard to ignore those readings in light of Andy's long history as a commercial artist and his studies of fine(r) art, all combined with his aching desire for fame as a "real" artist. in Burns' portrayal, Andy finally discovers (after many failed attempts at hanging with Jasper Johns, et al; they rejected him because of his commerical past [come on. that's funny] and because of his gayness, although Johns and Rauschenberg were quietly lovers) . . . so but Andy sees that fame isn't always or necessarily manipulated into being (although . . .) but rather evolves organically as an artist (re)cognizes and deploys in the most straightforward manner his self, his personal history, his ways of seeing and the circumstances that shape them, and etc. , etc.

on that last thought: i make so complicated a claim that i can't begin to rewind and replay it in a more detailed manner, here, now. and surely, the art historians have long disputed the meaning of Warhol's work and its emergence. i'm simply giving my quick impressions on Burns' take (screened through the perspectives of family members, friends, and associates), 1/2-way through my home-screening experience.

so but back to my response to the first 1/2 of Burns' film and picking up on Warhol's art as more than merely snarky commentary on commercialism: even if, say, the soup can and the cow trace to Andy's personal history and a time of deep personal difficulty and struggle and the life-altering emergence of shame (over his looks, marred by a childhood case of St. Vitus Dance), we see also that Andy's refinement of the images were about more than personal memory or projecting from within, as the Abstract Expressionists who'd dominated the just-prior art scene had allegedly (i mean, it's the quick-and-dirty reading of Abstract Expressionism) done. we see that Warhol's processes of refining his iconic images were about craft, experience, and a skilled awareness of how to design a page/frame/object in terms of line, proportion, color, and etc., etc.

so but this is an interesting and exhaustively detailed documentary. i do have questions about some of the hindsighted observations, but i'm nevertheless intrigued and pretty much see this film as necessary viewing. because the one thing we keep hearing from the many voices in the film is that Andy is the most important artist of the post-war period, and although later Rothko is my guy, i have to go there re: Andy, as well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

sundance interludes

as i mentioned a little while back, it's about time to start getting excited about the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. and now, it seems that everyone is tripping over themselves trying to get after the various manifestations of social networking and youtube and whatnot, trying to think about how evolving information flows are affecting election-type political discourses and outcomes and, well, The Future of Life (it's all quite grand). there is a lot of awfully smart stuff out there on such matters, but for my little part, i'm wondering what the festival has in mind for its festival theme as well as its pre-screening Sundance promo films, short clips that carry out the festival theme even as they say things about much more than film (to think about, say, the current political scene. or, actually, i think i'm remembering the year we thought that this is what the short films would do, as Sundance had hired Jib Jab following the success of the Bush/Kerry sing-a-long) and storytelling (although storytelling is high on the list of thematic priorities), and festival life, and etc., etc.

many of us loved the puppets from a few years back; these bits remain among the most popular. here are my 2 favorites from that year (n.b. as a Theater Manager, i always have a question at the ready in the case of what you see in the 2nd clip):

so but i'm looking forward to what they'll design for Sundance 2009.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

repurposing mccain

jessica yu's protagonist

since my PRE/TEXT review of Sundance 2007 is due out soon (and not a moment too late! i kid. thanks, Victor), i have my favorite film of that year's festival on my mind. read about all the buildup, my anticipatory fears, and my stunning reaction in the P/T review, but for now, see the film however wherever whenever you can, and for right now, enjoy:

and a more detailed trailer . . .

fwiw: the stories that moved me most are, first, Mark Pierpont's (slobbering tears and chest noises. full-on dry-heave-type crying), and Mark Salzman's (i usually don't do this, but, omg).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ekphrastic ambition

jeez, but that last post is ambitious. there is way too much going on there. but i want to keep worrying it, so i'll leave it a bit longer. that is, until i take it down again and keep it as a private matter for later use in some other type of publication.

-- bonnie, still working out that public/private persona thing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

ekphrastic affects

it's so obvious it's killing me to watch it. we want to rise above petty campaigning tactics, but they don't. somehow, we need to discover ways of activating affective intensities capable of moving voters without also alientating them or degrading ourselves. because really actually American voters don't simply want their party's winner -- although Burkean identification is proving to be a highly powerful variable (recently, i spoke with a person who claims to be highly rational, a person who has for so long ID'd Republican that he said that he wants to see McCain win, die quickly, and then watch as the world becomes very "exciting." i don't usually do this, but OMG). well, let's say that for many American voters, it's not exclusively about party. not now. but what worries me is that for all her lack of historical, et al knowledge -- which might persuade party-ID'ing Republicans to think carefully about disidentification (at least this time around), Palin proves that she knows what voters desire, and she is giving it to them (ahem).

so i'm thinking about Palin via a theory of desire, which is to say, by way of Spinoza, a theory of joy, which is in a way a theory of affect (i'm playing loose; it's all the rage in politics). that is to say, people want, especially now, to feel that living in America means what it has often wanted to mean, that they can feel their desires and act upon them in ways that seem productive. they want that desiring joy – “the passion one experiences in the transition to an increased power to strive”-- Spinoza’s definition of desire.

what is worrying me is that regardless of the outcome of the election (oboy), all Sarah Palin need do is look like she does (not my version of "pretty" or "sexy," but it's working for many, that iconic sexy librarian thing) -- and so but this is not a great moment for women and power, despite what everyone wants to be saying about this (even my goddess, Christiane Amanpour on The Daily Show wanted to go there and did, a sign that The End is very, very near).
so but i'm thinking that this is about how images argue and how they do so effectively even (especially?) when they radiate their meanings absent contextualizing discourse (despite what the linguists and many rhetoricians say). to be clear and more accurate, let's say that in Governor Palin's case, her image argues absent "rational" contextualizing discourse.

to complicate the question of whether or not images argue absent contextualizing written or verbal discourse, say, an essay that explains their meaning, [or a speech that demonstrates leaderly power-potential] i turn to iconologist WJT Mitchell. Creating distinctions between “pictures” and “images,” Mitchell argues for the somewhat easy comprehension of the rhetoricity of pictures because of how they support or contain images (images relate most essentially, for Mitchell, to icons). with regard to pictures, we might discuss line, angle, lighting, proximity, and other design elements as a way of getting at what an agent is after in the framing of the image(s) within a picture. but, for Mitchell, images are far more dynamic, as they possess the potential to seduce us into consuming and reproducing them; they have the distinctive ability to “go on before us,” (105) [sic] as if they possess some vital force that exceeds an obvious rhetoricity. Mitchell moves us beyond “what can I teach?" and "what do I need to do to prepare myself to teach it?” to wondering about “the question of images and value [that] cannot be settled by arriving at a set of values and then proceeding to the evaluation of images”. Rather, Mitchell argues that “[i]mages are active players in the game of establishing and changing values. They are capable of introducing new values into the world and thus of threatening old ones”(105). images themselves seem to possess agency, for Mitchell, and to divorce that agency from the image by intervening with a verbal rendering of the image’s meaning seems somehow wrong [or at least, ineffective. i mean to recognize that it really doesn't matter what Gov. Palin says or omits or blunders, as long as the image "goes on before us," and this is rather terrifying but also evidence in support of images' rhetorical power]. we might be especially struck by the reductive expectation for an image’s accompanying verbal or written discourse because, here and now, new media technologies (and old ones too, a can of hairspray, a sexy librarian ensemble) enable us to produce not only “pictures” but, with artful or perhaps even chance juxtapositions and playful tensions, “images.”

image pleasure is, to be sure, disorienting and paradoxical. on the one hand, images are impotent because they lay beneath our pedagogical concern -- why worry them at all? so, Sarah Palin's appearance is not worth considering. i'd like to be able to say that this is so, but it is, according to my thinking here, really the only thing that people are considering . . . the image is sufficient. it speaks, in the magical manner of icons that generate cultural worship, ritual, and identification with What Has Been, which is so comforting to so many Americans, especially in the terrifying present. on the other hand, we recognize the widely-resonating power of images -- they are powerful because we place them beneath us, as though to do away with or desacralize them, perhaps fearing their power because of how they reveal our own lack (who's this Palin nobody?). this paradoxical (im)potence underscores the nature of images’ enigmatic power and makes image work important for rhetorical pedagogies. Mitchell explains that:

[f]or better or for worse, human beings establish their collective, historical identity by creating around them a second nature composed of images which do not merely reflect the values consciously intended by their makers, [as with the rhetoricity of pictures] but radiate new forms of value formed in the collective, political unconscious of their beholders. As objects of surplus value, of simultaneous over-and underestimation, [… images] stand at the interface of the most fundamental social conflicts. (106)

in particular, Mitchell sees images in terms of their rhetorical agency; they

are phantasmatic, immaterial entities that, when incarnated into the world, seem to possess agency, aura, a “mind of their own,” which is a projection of a collective desire that is necessarily obscure to those who find themselves […] celebrating around or inside an image. (105-6)

for many, the obscure nature of the mutual desire of images seems to be what pedagogies of the visual (where i can find what i'm calling "image pleasure," although image pleasure exceeds pedagogy) might be after. that is, images “radiate” cultural values and desires[2]; we respond to the desire of the image as we discern a will to engage with and participate with and in images. “Celebrating around or inside an image” seems to suggest unwitting participation (as w/ the golden calf), and here we may find space to imagine image work as an endorsement of an uncritical disposition. this is not the endorsement many of my colleagueas in Rhetoric and Composition bring to image work. regrettably, however, it seems to be working for Governor Palin.

[1] Blair qualifies by calling for a few key design elements (see George for summary or Blair in Visual Rhetoric in a Digital Age.

[2] for several drafts, I had used “articulate” over the more appropriate “radiate”; we have so normalized our ekphrastic hopes and conventional pedagogies.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

i'm like . . . professional (update)

good news. my documentary's subject, M Dot Strange will be taking a train in to meet me in San Francisco while i'm there for MLA. if you've seen We Are the Strange, which is the film that drew my attention to M, you will see that this is kind of funny (psst . . . ice cream train).

i had hoped to be filming this september, but our schedule got complicated when his schedule became complicated due to requests for his presence at various venues internationalé. he's quite in demand, so i'm very lucky that he's agreed to work with me and especially to grant me some time during the holiday season. at all.

and, well, MLA can be fabulous, but there are also certain MLA experiences that are less-than-ideally enchanting. so it will be nice to have an alterative another primary mission for attending. i mean, this year's location, San Francisco, has much to recommend it, not least of which is the presence of the Marc Jacobs store, which is for me more of a fabulous museum than it is a location for actually making actual purchases (a girl can dream, but there are limits . . . maybe. okay, no. there are limits. but then, i mean, there is that whole life's short thing to consider . . .). but so shopping, yeah. but getting something done on the film collaboration front? better.

plus, did i mention The Westin? seriously.

2009 sundance film festival

as usual, i'll try to keep you updated on my 2009 Sundance Film Festival experience. as i write, Victor Vitanza is hard at work preparing my little essay on my Sundance 2007 experience (including some film reviews which are surprisingly still relevant, especially given that Charles Ferguson has released No End In Sight on YouTube, where it will screen until Nov. 4). the piece will appear in PRE/TEXT. other films i reviewed may possibly at this point be found on DVD. don't miss Protagonist, if you get the chance to see it. i had thought it would be laugh-out-loud funny. but i was. seriously. wrong. instead, it was moving beyond words. see it. (and if you need some advance information, read my essay. or, use the link above to read several other reviews from far more established film review-type writers).

but so generally look here for posts on festival preparations, cool films and events, and my own personal take on all things SFF 2009.

n.b. -- honestly, i'm not sure that everyone at Sundance loves that i write publicly about SFF, but so far, there have been no "cease and desist orders." and but i generally love -- and make clear that i love -- the whole hot mess of it.

also n.b. -- i "borrowed" this image from an email that was sent to SFF alumni volunteers; hopefully, this is cool, but if i disappear the image, you'll know that it wasn't. i sort of love its steampunk aesthetic, a vibe i happily find radiating often from Sundance promotional materials.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

miranda july repurposes family videos

her karaoke performance at the labs was so cool i cried on the inside because, i remember thinking knowing -- i will never be that cool (see? the best i have is my clichéd strikethrough). she's wicked skinny in a way that doesn't seem to be associated with drug use or neurotica. her film is enchanting to the point of dental-pain-type neuralgia of the most strangely pleasing variety. she's so clever she hurts my feelings. but so you should look at what she's doing now.

faith in Letterman massively restored

priceless. i encourage you to watch until the end:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

film project update

less is more. brevity in communciation is best. why so difficult to to perform my deep understanding of these concepts? maybe it's that old creaker, the "therapeutic nature of writing," and it's there and it's real and i tap it often. apologies if it grates.

but so anyhow, what brings me back to these concepts? my recent exchange with the subject of my documentary, who is back in communication with me after a very brief and tiny and respectful-of-his-time-and-creative genius-type sensitivity period of silence. so we're developing a cleaner method of proceeding, one that doesn't overwhelm us (i do tend to become nerve-janglingly excited about my film projects, and although that affect feels to me like a tiny jolt of heaven, i realize that it can also be read as simply annoying). so but. yay.

image: yu-cheng chou, "emotions"

Monday, September 22, 2008

tool aesthetics matter

i don't mind saying that i am, for better or worse, p-r-i-t-t-y particular about the tools i use in my work. i am especially happy if they are silver, ecstatic if they are platinum-mirror-type silver.

but so while this item comes with a sort of brushed-silvery finish, it's still awfully nice, my new portable stapler. i use it for auditions because i always forget to staple my headshot to my résumé until i'm on site, where they will sometimes but not always have a stapler for us losers to use. i also encourage my students to purchase some kind of mini-stapler-type item if they want to be the popular kid on the day papers are due (and yes, even though many of us are using google docs, there comes. a time).

so but i'm fairly certain that you can't find a cooler mini stapler than this tiny swingline. i'm happy. it takes so little, really.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

bill maher clip . . . [ranting . . . frustration . . . ]

i appreciate these final thoughts* on the September 12th show, especially after listening to the panel's "debate" in which we heard a lot of lies and just plain childish and unsophisticated argument from the Republican pundit (John Fund) on the panel. at one point, Mahrer told him (loudly) to "SHUT UP." seriously.

and please, national media. stop making Sarah Palin an issue. i'm talking to you, Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood (without actually admitting to being a regular viewer, of course, because i'm an elitist fan of the liberal media. ha) . . . sorry you, with your sad and embarrassing "How YOU Can Get Sarah Palin's Style" (style?!). seriously, show's producers . . . how much fiery hell can you ask your mouthpieces to withstand in the name of job security? oh wait. the economy's so bad, i guess you can just go there and compel them to fabricate a version of liberal sexism (snort) against Palin and fall in line with the Republicans' newly hatched scheme to force upon us this concept of a "backlash," suggesting that the phantom "liberal media" hate on her and to keep and eye on that because, they say, this increases the likelihood that American voters will further (?) embrace her.

it's so desperate and sad and embarrassing and insulting, these arguments.

point to the war. point to the depression (i'm moving past "recession" 'cause, come on . . .). point to civil liberties. point to Palin's absolute ignorance (she has never heard of the Bush Doctrine??? oboy). and don't get me started on what that embarrassing Republican pundit kept insisting about election year debates, that the moderator always *explains* (?!) what the concepts at the heart of the questions are before inviting repsonses, as though the candidates require an explanation; this, by way of suggesting that Charlie Gibson simply "attacked" Palin by asking her to comment on the Bush Doctrine. at this point in the act of spectation, i was writhing about in frustration and ready to go (back) into my default mode, which is to simply watch the E! channel because. well. seriously. i wanted to STRANGLE the panel for failing to point out that the moderator does this (explains the concepts) NOT for the candidate but for the AUDIENCE watching at home!! argh.

(note: you now have my apologies for all the childish caps. see, no one is immune from the childishness that this kind of "discussion" surfaces, which is not to say that i am rarely childish. but. oboy).

and it's all just a mess because this kind of adversarial rhetoric doesn't go anywhere except (in terms of victory) to the status quo.

but so today, i go to campus to watch my colleague, who 3 years ago lost her only son to a cave-diving accident. she will present on the experience of her recent year-long stay in Amman. she went to talk with women living in refugee camps, women who have lost children, fathers, husbands . . . this woman who took her grief and transformed it into a project of bravery and compassion. so really, none of this other stuff matters (except that it still does). i do wish we could see the Obama campaign stay on track with what matters, humanizing the platform by discussing the effects of the past 8 years, the current situation, and the feigned naivete we get from McCain (the economy's "fundamentals" are strong? really?) and avoiding the invitation to stumble over fabricated conceptualizations of elitism (ha!) and sexism (ha!) and racism (seriously?).

okay. breathhhhhe.

* wait for the page to fully load. sorry, i could not find a way to embed the video.

Monday, September 15, 2008

back in the day . . .

. . . i know people don't really say that any more, but it fits. you see, i'm reading some very early scholarship (starting in the late 1930's) from the emerging field of Rhetoric and Composition (well, i don't believe that the authors i'm reading recognized themselves as members of the field, but i see traces moving back to them and will make all of that clear in the book, the very thing about which i am now writing). and so much of what i'm reading is sort of from all over English departments everywhere. i had originally narrowed my research domain so that i'd only be looking at CCC and CE publications, seeing these venues as capable of supporting my claim that the scholarly works i would be reviewing could constitute a kind of valid "history" (of the field's engagement with film), and that argument obtains. still, i've now included Rhetoric Review, and i've found that English Journal is a goldmine for kitschy, old-timey "wisdom" (in the best and most hopeful way, albeit with an occasionally tight bit of moralistic whining and posturing and whatnot).

so but i love reading old scholarly articles aimed at improving students' writing and reading skills and all around appreciation for All Things Worthy (early scholarship *really* goes on about the latter). what i think i love most is that style is an option. a real, true, serious option. i'd even go so far as to say that there is a kind of urgency about style in the scholarly works i'm reading. a competition. i mean, evolving out of the Literary traditions is no small accomplishment, and it's done with traces of its primordial material(s). so. style. some of what i am reading, in its style and lax rhetorical standards (is there a causal relationship here?) is downright h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s, but most all of it is purposeful and seemingly compelled into print by a sense of urgency that we still find in contemporary scholarly texts. actually, they are the same arguments (relatively speaking):

* keep up with the world
* compel our work to radiate beyond an elitist domain
* try the new, even if it scares or seems beneath you
* problematize the high/low binary, especially regarding academic/popular culture
* kill -- or at least problematize -- your idols, esp if they block production (essentially, this is about the hermeneutic/generative binary)

so it's the same series of arguments, but it's done with a greater concern for style and a less-than-ideally emphatic concern for reasons, evidence, qualification, and etc., etc.

in many ways, i want to say that this stylish concern is a symptom or rhetorical manifestation of affect. essentially, it is this -- i'm working on working this out in my book. it's key, central, my attention to affect(s) in discourses on film in the field. still, the book takes up other concepts as it manifests a dialogue between historical discourses and more contemporary theories and practices regarding film in Rhetoric and Composition.

so there's your bookish update. voilà.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

DFW on McCain (via WSJ interview)

i will miss DFW's no bullshit method of discussing the matter . . .

from Christopher John Farley's May 31, 2008 Wall Street Journal interview with David Foster Wallace, on DFW's reworking of a 2000 essay on John McCain into the book, McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope :

WSJ: You write that John McCain, in 2000, had become "the great populist hope of American politics." What parallels do you see between McCain in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008?

Mr. Wallace: There are some similarities—the ability to attract new voters, Independents; the ability to raise serious money in a grassroots way via the Web. But there are also lots of differences, many too obvious to need pointing out. Obama is an orator, for one thing—a rhetorician of the old school. To me, that seems more classically populist than McCain, who's not a good speechmaker and whose great strengths are Q&As and small-group press confabs. But there's a bigger [reason]. The truth—as I see it—is that the previous seven years and four months of the Bush Administration have been such an unmitigated horror show of rapacity, hubris, incompetence, mendacity, corruption, cynicism and contempt for the electorate* that it's very difficult to imagine how a self-identified Republican could try to position himself as a populist.

*(emphasis mine)

DFW -- because it feels important

Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address - May 21, 2005, by David Foster Wallace

it's long but worth your time (your students' time, as well).

"Also because she went around [ . . . ]

[. . . ] calling herself a postmodernist. No matter where you are, you Don't Do This. By convention it's seen as pompous and dumb. She made a big deal of flouting convention, but there was little to love about her convention-flouting; she honestly, it seemed to us, couldn't see far enough past her infatuation with her own crafted cleverness to separate posture from pose, desire from supplication. She wasn't the sort of free spirit you could love: she did what she wanted, but it was neither valuable nor free" (235)*.

and but so in addition we have the obvious-to-the-point-of-redundancy fact that nothing could be more narcissistic than crying one's eyes out over the death of a beloved artist. maybe it was because it was suicide that i am so mucus-splattered and sad.

but so clearly it's more. hideously egocentric, i imagine that i knew David Foster Wallace and he knew me (that teen belief in transcendent communications of the soul). it's a massive cliche, the belief that we "connect" with an artist we admire to the point of imitating/posturing/desiring well beyond simple fandom . . . to the point of rendering the ability to "separate posture from pose, desire from supplication" unavailable for Serious Mental Work.

but so feeding that teenaged longing to connect are the facts. yesterday, i watched and sprouted Big Fat tears of sadness and disbelief over Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's amazing documentary, Wardance, about a Ugandan refugee camp and the children from it who enter The National Singing Competition (we see this, after spending most of the film following the preparation along with the backstories of 3 featured children). the film speaks magically of the transcendent nature of art (and it's so obvious, even from my brief summary, that i won't bore you by going into detail. just think about it). so but now i wake to find this f*cked up news and wonder how a writer as talented as DFW -- a writer who so clearly processed his life experience and unthinkably agile and sharply critical mind through his characters and stories -- finds himself unable to tap that magic . . . and i admit with some feelings of Stupidity that i start to feel sort of vulnerable because hey who doesn't have a dark moment and wonder about offing oneself but comes back from the edge for whatever reason -- fear, pain, passion for a tiny window of Other Things that moves one beyond the pain? and but so DFW was 46. i'm 45. i know. i know. my Big Ugly Ego again but it can't be stopped. i should stop.

i don't know how to write a proper homage. i am sad beyond words.

* from "Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way" (Girl With Curious Hair).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

performative documentary conventions

an update on my current documentary project. maybe, i'm like, . . . (not so very) professional. but i'm okay with writing about the process, and maybe is about documenting my work in film-composition. so.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Obama on O'reilly (hear sucking-in-winds of hope and fear) . . .

not as tragic as it might have been. Obama didn't allow O'Reilly to bully him and even talked reasoned over O's objections and interuptions and all kinds of general rudeness. phew.

O'Reilly's dismissive nature, his smackdown tactics, and (but primarily) his right/wrong demeanor is a serious grossout (that. is the only word. i have).

apparently, O'Reilly is doling out the interview in parts (because if Rupert Murdoch himself brokered the interview, you know someone is desperate for ratings -- and a whiff of validity or respectability or maybe just a glimmer off of Obama's shining star). so here is part one:

note: i probably should not post videos that i have not seen. i need to admit that i could only stomach through 5:45 of this 7:40 video. O'Reilly's desire to compel Obama to use the words "right" and "wrong" smells bad and hurts my feelings. so, you have my apologies if it gets worse or even more objectionable past the 5:45 mark.

No End In Sight

via NY Times: starting Monday, September 8th, Charles Ferguson will release his widely decorated* No End in Sight, on YouTube. No End in Sight is Ferguson's tragically compelling documentary on the buildup to the Iraq war (and the US blunders that made. everything. worse.). the film will screen there until election day, November 4th.

i reviewed the film some time ago, for a piece in PRE/TEXT (that issue is still in "upcoming" mode). but so by now it may seem irelevant to read it there as a way of enticing you to see the film. instead, go watch it on YouTube with my recommendation and this (my) brief review:

if you were like me and put your head between your pillows for the past 8 years, you will find this film useful as it replays the moves that bungled our US ethos via the war, and etc., etc. but even for the very well-informed, this film offers key insights regarding the critical failures shaping the Iraq war and US "miscalculation" regarding the reconstruction of Iraq's military, infrastructure, etc., etc. the great achievement of the film is in many ways found in Ferguson's rhetorical move to employ the particular characters who tell its story, mostly Republicans who had been early on tasked with Iraqi rebuilding efforts. the key players who retell the story of the emerging Iraq war are people who had worked effectively with local Iraqis only to later have their efforts destroyed by ill-informed broad-strokes enacted by emergent power players who aligned more neatly with administratively dominant, simplistic notions of what the war was/is about. so, whereas some viewers may be inclined to resist the film as a product of the phantom "liberal media," Ferguson's staging tactics forestall such simplistic assumptions.

here. watch the trailer:

* the film is the recipient of several notable Best Documentary awards,
including a Sundance 2007 Documentary Special Jury Prize.

insights on creativity

eh. maybe.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

quote/new-agey mantra du jour

i get these things from a variety of sources. this one is good:

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. - Tom Robbins

come on!

things that start w/ "M" . . .

i'm too lazy to tell it again.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"The New Girl" (dialogue perfection)

via Cynthia Littleton (Variety), fr. Mad Men, Season 2, episode 5:

"Get out of here and move forward. This never happened," he tells Peggy, who thinks she might be imagining him at first. "It will shock you how much it never happened."

holy all things brief and to the point, is this the best scene written for television ever?! and Jon Hamm's delivery set me aright (and did a whole *lot* of other things to my own personal self).

nice work, Matt.

assuming W (even) shows up . . .

Saturday, August 30, 2008

hey, a woman! . . . hey. waaaayyyytttaminute . . .

the minute i heard . . .


(ScoobyDoo-type double-take,
w/ scrambling wheely-legs sound effects)
Well, now, that's offensive.

Hooray! A woman VP!
Wow, that McCain has sure
surprised the heckouttame.
Whatta guy!

the McCain camp must have imagined a country of women who are brain-dead . . . but! . . . oh yeah. the McCain camp belongs to the radical Republican Right . . . so, yeah,


(struggling. brain hurts)
Come on!
(a beat)
. . .wait . . .
(an e-vile beat)
. . . I've got it!
Women = brain dead!
(a gleefully e-vile beat)
Hello, promotion!

it's all so embarrassing. and so ridiculous that my friends and i have speculated that it's a strategy sim-puh-ly designed to pull press coverage away from Obama's sparkling rhetorical moment in Denver and that Palin will sooner or later drop out for something or other. investigations into troopergate? too much AquaNet?

ooooohhhh, but, pulling out the AquaNet. now it's on. i'd better stop. besides, as Jim points out at the Blogora, Andrew Sullivan really has said it best.

Friday, August 29, 2008


i finally saw Persepolis (based upon Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel) last night at a campus screening. so much to say, but for a now, a few comments on the film's visual rhetoric:

the visual rhetorical elements are simple and masterful at the same time. like, Marjane's hairline. the hairline is key -- women are required to keep it covered and when it isn't, as when M pulls her scarf just a bit back, she is/the women are challenged and sometimes threatened. so the hairline is key. in the Iran of Satrapi's story, the hairline marks a place on a woman's body where power disputes are foregrounded, where they play out visually and display (or conceal) a woman's identity and her power(lessness).

M's hairline shape-shifts, surfacing her interior state of being within the context of her momentary life situation. when young and in love w/ her life in Iran (including her romantic views of the revolutionary characters she encounters), her hairline appears to mimic the shape of the onion-domed mosques, her widow's peak, the topmost architectural element and her round face similar to the round dome. for example, see the dome of Dome of Masjid al-Nabawi, or "Mosque of the Prophet,"which is a good choice, as M is portrayed as an emerging "prophet."

this trailer provides several examples of the visual rhetoric of Marjane's hairline (the onion-dome version featured at 00:24 - 00:31 and 00:36 - 00:42):

later, when Marjane suffers severe depression, she sits, head-in-hands, on a headstone-shaped chair, her hairline tracing the same 2-humped headstone shape. these moves work at integrating form and content in ways that cleverly articulate how/that our life experiences resonate in/on/through and radiate from our bodies -- we inhabit affectively-oriented bodies as we adapt to our surroundings, however idyllic or horrific. we inhabit our situations fully, holistically, *and* . . . we can use our bodies to alter (certain) scenarios. for example, see this "Eye of the Tiger" sequence for inspiration at overcoming depression (notice the headstone hairline contour as she lays in bed, depressed -- one might also call it a heart, but earlier sequences align the contour more clearly with the gravesite. also, notice here other ways in which hair -- appearance, concealment, revealing --features throughout her resurfacing):

and, . . . FABULOUS from the feminist perspective is when M marries. the visual apparatus used to create the narrative structure shifts from moving animation to a series of static, framed photo album shots, as if to foreground the constructed nature of the conventional rituals of marriage rather than to "animate" them.

so much more . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

beyond words (the book)

i give you a little progress report on the book, for which i have this here fall sabbatical. i'd have gone for a full year's sabbatical, but my institution traditionally grants a full sabbatical at only 80% of the sabbaticaleer's* annual salary, and i could not afford a cut. so, at 100% salary, i get one semester. wish me luck. i will, of course, also apply for some Spring reassigned time in order to extend the project. however, i feel pretty confident about what i'm doing - my plan - and i'm incredibly motivated just now.

so then, working title:

Beyond Words:
Film-Composition's 'Invisible Galleries'**

(note: the remove to dispense image is keeping my affective intensity for film-composition alive as i scan this history, remove to dispense being a film i very much luuuhhhhved making).

i've been patching away at this for a couple of years, sort of ethnographically working out my theses as a filmmaker and writing/reflecting as i go. today, i reviewed earlier versions of my introduction as well as drafts of the proposal i hope to complete soon. both the intros and the proposals seem fairly useful; i won't be deleting much, more like refining. generally, i'm tracing a history of discourses on film in Composition. i am creating a dialogue between these historical discourses and more contemporary discourses and practices.

central to the dialogue are a few key concepts:

1.) most of our historical engagment w/ film has emerged from our hermeneutic traditions (analysis trumps production; here, i have to note that i just came across a 1970 annual "roundup"-type College English piece ("Counciletter: Charting Our Course") within which, in the notes section, we find this:

Canadian Council of Teachers of English
The third annual conference of CCTE will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 19 to 22, 1970 at the Fort Garry Hotel. Along with Canadian scholars and educators, speakers will include former NCTE Executive Secretary, Dr. James Squire. Topics of discussion: film-making and the classroom, children's literature, sensitivity training and the teaching of English, teacher training in film education, drama in the classroom, and mixing media in the classroom. (emphasis mine!!)

but we were still debating taste, how to teach morals, values, taste (did i mention taste?), narrative, and other analytical practices. go figure.

2.) our discourses on film register powerful affective engagements with/distancing from film. that is to say, few are "neutral" in their linguistic attempts to register readings of, pedagogies involving, . . . really, any and everything to do with film. this notion supports work i want to do with contemporary theories of affect. i am especially eager to explore "the primacy of affect in image reception" (Massumi), theories on affect and/vs. emotion, etc.

3.) they seem to connect us to existing academic discourses (i.e., taste, morals, narrative, gender). i see very little in the earlier discourses on film that is ideationally speculative or rhetorically generative (beyond said ties -- so, yes, speculation on how film V teaches narrative strategy X, but not so much on how we might make film Y say Z).

currently, i've done most of my research on early discourses, beginning in the late 1930's and up until 1970. i'll update as i go (and as i can imagine taking breaks to do so or if some Genius New Idea presents itself. wait! they are all Genius ideas. right. remember that).

* we sing and dance and drink mead
** a term i've borrowed from André Bazin

documentary's affects

Re: Durakovo: Village of Fools, which screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival (see SFF synopsis), for which filmmaker Nino Kirtadze won the 2008 Sundance Directing Award in the World Cinema - Documentary category (i had the pleasure of introducing Kirtadze for her film's intro and q & a, and we had a chance to chat a bit about her experience in some screening down time. fascinating). But so i never imagined that my brief review of this or any documentary could create the kind of engaging international exchange as mine has generated (see comments section at the "review" link). In a very general sense, this is simply a (continuing) lesson for me regarding potential readerships for (my) published web texts.

i'm always a little shocked to learn that i have an audience beyond my particular circle of friends, family, and academics. And i am especially delighted to hear from readers beyond that circle, readers who comment, agree, disagree, and in some way perhaps take issue with my comments, coming as they are from my limited perspective. More specifically, though, i'm happy that we're talking about this documentary because i am currently planning a course in documentary filmmaking; i find this recent exchange incredibly telling regarding the always already complicated nature and fluidity of documentary films, the various ways of reading them. i mean, as a rhetorician, it's all the usual suspects -- purpose, audience, context . . . and but then, in a more cultural studies-oriented rhetorical triangle pentad matrix, questions about production and circulation, uptake, and, especially in terms of the international market, questions about translation and experience, allegiances, current affairs, and the various affects that many documentary films work through/over, (re)activate, and provoke.

i am grateful to Vladimir and Marika for engaging with me in this conversation. i encourage you to see the film and join us. below are a few clips, serializing bits of the film. YouTube user, "DAXUREvsPUTIN," who appears to be Georgian, posted several, under the heading "Why Democracy -- Russia's Village of Fools"; i will post the first 2 (with brief comments) .

clip #1. i love seeing Morozov swimming (one lap) and enjoying zucchini (cucumbers?) and the whole morning ritual, all presumable just before we meet Oleg. i find Oleg's arrival and the story that evolves around it it especially moving. as a filmmaker, i can't imagine how honored Kirtadze must have felt for being able to capture that footage. she and i discussed it. it was not planned; she was simply there at the time, the documentarian's good fortune. also, if i recall correctly, Kirtadze said that Oleg later left the village. In my attempts to confirm this memory, i searched for information on Oleg and found at least 3 different livejournal pages from what appear to be his account. i get the following message:


This journal has been suspended.

clip #2. Here, i am especially interested in the attempt at establishing of authority through images -- Morozov proudly shares pictures of himself and his colleagues on the Board of Trustees. We witness/hear a phone call in which a member of Parliament proudly reminds Morozov of the very same pictures. In many ways beyond but including studies in the use of visual rhetoric toward establishing and maintaing authority, the scenes are priceless, if unnerving. Later in this clip, toward the end of the featured meeting, Morozov instructs the people on the kinds of questions they should be asking, given his authority (i.e., "have i understood this correctly?" which obviously leads to a "yes" or "no" answer from the authority figure and then possibly a corrective lecture -- watch until the end for just such a lecture on hierarchical authority vs. democracy). After Morozov offers his corrective advice on the nature of acceptable inquiry, he "invites" more questions. an unbearably tense silence follows until

Mikhail Fedorovich, i'd like to know
what you think - do we really need
western-style democracy in Russia?

(takes a drink of tea,
swirls it around in his mouth,
and, pensively - frustrated? -
rubs his hand over and down his lower face)
Let me speak seriously of my vision of the world . . .

See for yourself the description of his vision; i can't say it any more clearly than Morozov does. but so, . . . tension, anyone? oboy.

This post began as a comment on comments, but i'm certain that i have nothing definitive to say. i'm still talking with Vladimir and Marika, and, for now, i wanted to share this with my more familiar audience, just in case they/you hadn't been aware that we were back on the subject.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

actual message to all faculty (verbatim)

"[c]ome and learn more about how to effectively use Engaged Teaching methods in *your* classroom!"

i hear that they've also recently discovered fire.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

at the grocery store


(visibly upset, squinting at the People magazine cover
and making sure that everyone sees her grand gestures,
which indicate her extreme disapproval)
Tsk, Tsk . . .
harumph . . .
my, my . . .

(quietly watching)

Oh, my, my, my . . .

(leans back from her position as
first in line, stops unloading cart,
and has a look. engages in gestures
similar to LADY IN LINE's)
Well, . . . tsk, tsk . . .

(a long, deep-breathing beat,
smiling hopefully)
Portia's dress is beautiful.

Both ladies look at me in horror.

Really, you should see it.
(i gesture toward the magazine, inviting . . .)
I wish my dress had been
that pretty.

(laughs nervously)

Ii mean, whatever you think of it,
you gotta love that dress.

both ladies finish checking out
(duh, in more ways than one).

stand up straight & let me get a look at you

It's awards show Sunday, so i'm giving Margot. I'm through with the wishfulness and angst and regret, and Margot, more than an...