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 . . .

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...