27 August 2010

The Longo story

Robert Longo was shit in 1981. Trendy stupid shit, and transparently moronic at that. Oh yes, existential angst, or something, expressed by contorted bodies, one after other after the other after the other.

The passage of time has only made his work seem even shallower, the perfect decor for the apartment in American Psycho, the kind of art that stockbrokers and PR boyz love and sell to each other in a massive and apparently unending circle jerk.

As dated a relic, you would hope, as matte black Braun kitchen appliances, white unstructured jackets and synth-pop.

But no.

The bastard gets hired for some astounding amount of money to rip himself off for an ad campaign.

My idealistic high school English teacher used to tell us that time would filter out the junk and leave only the worthwhile.

Maybe my teacher was wrong.

Debbie Harry by Brad Elterman

Paris, Texas

This time, when he came home late at night, drunk, she wasn’t worried about him, or jealous, she was just enraged. She accused him of holding her captive by making her have a baby. She told him that she dreamed about escaping. That was all she dreamed about: escape. She saw herself at night running naked down a highway, running across fields, running down riverbeds, always running. And always, just when she was about to get away, he’d be there. He would stop her somehow. He would just appear and stop her. And when she told him these dreams, he believed them. He knew she had to be stopped or she’d leave him forever. So he tied a cow bell to her ankle so he could hear her at night if she tried to get out of bed. But she learned how to muffle the bell by stuffing a sock into it, and inching her way out of the bed and into the night. He caught her one night when the sock fell out and he heard her trying to run to the highway. He caught her and dragged her back to the trailer, and tied her to the stove with his belt.

Paris, Texas script by Sam Shepard


26 August 2010


“I defy any pretty girl who is rocketed to stardom in a sex nymphette role to stay on a level path. Lolita  exposed me to temptations no girl of that age should undergo. From the time I was about 16, I’d go totally wacko, totally crazy, for about three months at a time, then go into such deep depressions that I wouldn’t even leave the house to go to the grocery store.

I hate the spotlight, I hate people looking at me, I don’t like strangers asking me questions. I like to be left alone. I enjoy my security, my safeness with a private life. I was once on a television show, a talk show. My brother had just died two days before that. The interviewer opens his show by saying - and now I was 16 years old - he said, ‘Did your brother kill himself because you played Lolita?’ I didn’t say a thing. I got up and I walked off. I couldn’t even dignify that. I had no words. That’s typical of the reason that I can’t be a movie star. I never could.

Am I going to be Lolita when I’m 50? Much as I appreciated Lolita in her day, I’d like to leave her now.”

-Sue Lyon, after her early retirement from films (photo via Chicago Sun-Times, 1962)

More hipster crit

image via

“While the 1950s hipster of the Beat Generation was represented as a countercultural iconoclast who defied consumerist norms of middle class culture, the millennial hipster increasingly came to be represented as an über-consumer of trends and as a new, and rather gullible, target market who consumes cool, rather than creating it.”


25 August 2010

David Stockman via Matt Taibbi

From Matt Taibbi's blog:

Stockman was once the arch-priest of supply-side economics, but he's had a conversion over the years. In a piece blasting the legacy of Republican economic policy entitled "The Four Deformations of the Apocalypse" Stockman essentially argues that Reaganomics evolved into a policy that fused the worst aspects of the traditional economic strategies of both the right and the left:
Republicans used to believe that prosperity depended upon the regular balancing of accounts — in government, in international trade, on the ledgers of central banks and in the financial affairs of private households and businesses, too. But the new catechism, as practiced by Republican policymakers for decades now, has amounted to little more than money printing and deficit finance — vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes... This approach has not simply made a mockery of traditional party ideals. It has also led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy.
The line about "Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes" is a truth that is both brutally accurate and unfortunately a little too subtle for the Tea Partiers and disaffected Republicans who ought naturally to be struck by it with the most violence. Stockman here is on to a basic truth about the direction in which the economy has evolved in the last decades: a seemingly endless campaign of reckless borrowing and money-printing, undertaken with the aim of propping up an Atlas class whose prosperity under Randian/Greenspanian dogma must be guaranteed at all costs. This goes far beyond the original supply-side thinking of cutting taxes to give the employer class an incentive to create jobs. Instead, this is a welfare state on crack, indulging in massive public borrowing to fuel what Stockman calls the "vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector." He goes on:
Here, Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation. As a result, the combined assets of conventional banks and the so-called shadow banking system (including investment banks and finance companies) grew from a mere $500 billion in 1970 to $30 trillion by September 2008.
But the trillion-dollar conglomerates that inhabit this new financial world are not free enterprises. They are rather wards of the state, extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives. They could never have survived, much less thrived, if their deposits had not been government-guaranteed and if they hadn’t been able to obtain virtually free money from the Fed’s discount window to cover their bad bets.

Gene Tierney in Tobacco Road

Too Much Johnson

Not possible, is it?

The Misfits

Your brain on computers

Cellphones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections, let people relieve the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation.
The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.
Ms. Bates, for example, might be clearer-headed if she went for a run outside, away from her devices, research suggests

24 August 2010

Kurosawa on scriptwriting

Still from Yojimbo, via
‘A good structure for a screenplay is that of the symphony, with its three or four movements and differing tempos. Or one can use the Noh play  with its three-part structure: jo (introduction), ha (destruction) and kyu (haste). If you devote yourself fully to Noh and gain something good from this, it will emerge naturally in your films. The Noh is a truly unique art form that exists nowhere else in the world. I think the Kabuki, which imitates it, is a sterile flower. But in a screenplay, I think the symphonic structure is the easiest for the people of today to understand.’

‘I‘ve forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new. I couldn’t do it out of nothing. For this reason, since the time I was a young man I have always kept a notebook handy when I read a book. I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script, these are what I read. Somewhere they always provide me with a point of breakthrough. Even for single lines of dialogue I have taken hints from these notebooks. So what I want to say is, don’t read books while lying down in bed.’

‘Characters in a film have their own existence. The filmmaker has no freedom. If he insists on his authority and is allowed to manipulate his characters like puppets, the film loses its vitality.’

‘Those who say an assistant director’s job doesn’t allow him any free time for writing are just cowards. Perhaps you can write only one page a day, but if you do it every day, at the end of the year you’ll have 365 pages of script. I began in this spirit, with a target of one page a day. There was nothing I could do about the nights I had to work till dawn, but when I had time to sleep, even after crawling into bed I would turn out two or three pages. Oddly enough, when I put my mind to writing, it came more easily than I had thought it would, and I wrote quite a few scripts.’

23 August 2010

Chateau Tim

In a Lonely Place

“I was born when she kissed me.  I died when she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”

        ‘In A Lonely Place’ - Humphrey Bogart & Gloria Grahame

The Young Lions

As Lt. Christian Diestl, Marlon Brando lights Mai Britt's cigarette in The Young Lions.
A mere 13 years after the end of the war, our most charismatic actor starred as a reluctant Nazi. He ends up badly, in dying in a crucifix position on barbed wire.
Poor Montgomery Clift -- in his tailspin -- couldn't manage to hold his end up as the reluctant Jew to balance it all out.
In the novel, the Diestl character is a definite bad guy, or rather, an average man who becomes more and more corrupt.
We always had a hard-on for German glamour over here. Especially Jewish Hollywood.
Speilberg couldn't help himself. Tarantino couldn't. Even Polanski couldn't help himself.
We love men in uniforms, especially Nazi ones.
(Miss Britt became Mrs. Sammy Davis, Jr.)

Monday inspiration, from Muhammed Ali

"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."
(Yeah, it's that kind of Monday. When you stoop so low as to look for some kind of kick from sports quotes. I'm that far down. But, It kinda works for me.)

18 August 2010

Poetry in Motion III Things That Fall, the video

This is what I was able to do in a week. I had to work the day job, too, having blown all my vacation time. Out of the six entries, it took second prize. The ranking was determined by audience vote. Kestrel Burley did a great job of jumping in and running with the character. Joe Roessler composed the music; one of my regrets is that I did not have enough time to work more of his music into the piece.

I'd thought about going with a non-narrative approach. But I've seen enough nonlinear movies to know that it has to be very emotionally driven or people simply sit back, scratch their heads and feel stupid. This is not a bad thing in itself, but I wanted to hook the audience directly. I decided to work with a story. After chewing on the poem long enough to determine a theme, I wrote a single-character script with simple locations to improve my chances of finishing the piece on time. I also wanted to keep the feel of the poem, its sense of poise mixed with doubt.

The piece is a mixed bag. I see some obvious flaws -- all my responsibility. That said, I'm glad I took the risk, and I learned many lessons.

On to the next one. I promise it will not be delicate, solitary, or filled with a sense of regret and potential. It will be loud, proud, rude, and crude with blood on its hands and a howl on its lips.

Poetry in Motion II: More poetry

Some of the other poets were out of the slam poetry school -- great performers, big on stage, very emotional. Out of the six, one of my favorites was this one, by Susie Q. Smith.

Incidentally, the video's a good illustration of a sort of default approach to working with poetry on film. A voice under of the poem, plus images that relate to or expand (or which could contradict) the movement of the poem itself.

Susie Q. Smith is a wonderful performer of her work as well; you should see her live if you get a chance.

Poetry in Motion I: the Poem

This is the poem that was randomly assigned to me, written by Cindy Marvel. She is also an accomplished juggler.

Things That Fall

Exploring the pattern of things that fall
Through airy heights to footloose earth
Of catches made and objects lost
Throws forgotten or wildly tossed--
I think back to the hands that threw
In ancient times fluoresced with dew
From jesters--troubadours of kings--
To the ceremony of linking rings;
So loving earth and ridge and sky
I hold a ball
--let it fly.

It leaps and crashes, curves around
And snakes its way from hand to hand
And rolls through caves to learn the ground
And bubbles over this sphere of land.
And when the arc flips out of sight
And little stays to mark the flight
Will I stay in love’s enthrall
With things that hover--
things that fall?

14 August 2010

My new anthem

My new anthem. Solid advice doled out by two middle-aged fellows, set to a hard rock beat. So confusing in a way.
Still, you gotta work.

13 August 2010

Sketch: Poetry in Motion

I made this as a shakeout trip to prepare for the Poetry in Motion event. I wanted to explore for myself what a nonlinear, non-narrative film might look like. I audited a remarkable course with Stan Brakhage a while back, and I've looked at a lot of avant garde cinema. But, just as reading novels isn't much of a qualification for writing one, I discovered that looking at those films was not much help. The range of vocabulary and emotion is good; you know what can be done, but when wrestling with the problem itself, it's not much use.

So, how do you write a poem with a camera? I figured I wanted to put some strong images together, in a sequence and see what underlying meaning you could make out of them.

The danger, here, is to fall into the cheap surrealism of music videos.

I don't think this succeeds either on its own terms or in a broader sense, but there's something there that I'd like to dig into. If one could sustain a longer series of dream images that would add up to a more complete experience, that would be worth conjuring with.

Sasha, who's the woman in the river, was incredibly brave. The water in the river is fed by glaciers and is shockingly cold even in late summer. It's always astonishing and moving how people are willing to help.

And, naturally, nearly everyone who looks at it tries to construct a narrative or a story -- we seem compelled to, and uneasy when we can't.

Anyway, not a bad weekend's work.

12 August 2010

Color Photos 1906

From Germany and Austria. I can see, now, that the Teutons colonized my imagination as a child. If you asked me what a fairy tale landscape would look like, these pictures capture it.

The whole series is remarkable and dream-like, and includes Naples, Florence and other points south as well.



Dachau, 1906

From Inivitation to a Beheading

"...in the end the logical thing would be to give up and I would give up if I were laboring for a reader existing today,
but as there is in the world not a single human who can speak my language;
or more simply, not a single human who can speak;

or, even more simply, not a single human;
I must think only of myself, of that force which urges me to express myself…
I am chained to this tale like a cup to a drinking fountain,
and will not rise till I have said what I want."

06 August 2010

Missouri, meth, movies

I was raised in a family that was pretty much evenly split between Evangelical Christians and a meth cartel in the Saint Francois Mountains, on the Missouri side of the Ozarks. In the county where I was born, they discovered 76 Meth labs in 2004. In the county just north they found 259. This does not mean that Saint Francois is any better than Madison, but rather that Madison is on the Ozark Plateau and is mostly wide open space, where as my people are in the mountains where you aren’t going to find anything that means to be hidden. At any rate, in the same statistical year, Missouri had more known labs than any other state by more than a thousand, the runner up being Iowa (2,788 vs. 1,300)

image and text via

05 August 2010

"We always pass each other silently. . . .

Via tvlanddryspell

A letter from Moscow


Graffiti = globalization

Roman Graffiti via

Italy, in the face of things modern, seems to have lost touch with itself, defacing the abundant beauties which almost every town holds, the centro perhaps almost intact, but the surrounding areas encrusted with squalid ill-thought modern buildings, highways, and further out American-style suburban sprawl eating into the country-side. Within the centro the tackiness of our globalized world has intruded in the form of the usual corporate branding logos and the now near-universal graffiti, here defacing a heritage of extraordinary architecture and urban design. This is not the desolate world of the Bronx, circa 1978 or so, when graffiti represented a flush of creative life in the face of urban death, but rather now a knee-jerk genuflection of gangsta alienation whether in Toulouse, Madrid, Copenhagen, Moscow or Rome. The periferia’s have invaded, bringing with them their tracings of gangland aesthetics. The past is utterly disrespected, but its erstwhile replacement has none of the cultural weight which gives the old its heft. Instead a unity of universal ignorance washes over everything, a Simpsonite dog-piss assertion of “I own this,” however wrong and false, sprayed on a wall built 500 or 1800 years ago, by Michaelangelo or Giulio Cesare. The alienated scrawl reeks of the New York of crack-heads but incorporated by Nike, the globalized claim “just do it – this is mine” writ large and in a dull uniformity lacking all originality. A McDonalds of the mind blankets the landscape, its fraudulent branding of individual personhood enriching the spray-paint makers and reducing the local to cartoon universality. In keeping with the source, the way is often littered with needles and discarded condoms.

 Jon Jost, via

Screenwriter John Milius on Apocalypse Now

04 August 2010

Poetry in Motion: I'm in

I've been invited to participate in Poetry in Motion as a filmmaker. That means, I'll get a poem at midnight this Friday, and I have a week to make a movie that will be due the following Friday. This will be shown in competition with the other work on that Saturday.

Let me know if you want to help out.

The dangers are many. Few things are less poetic than someone sweating earnestly to achieve "poetry" on film. I read poetry voluntarily, with pleasure. I like a few movies that have been called "poetic". But, to paraphrase Goebbels, when I hear the word poetic, I want to reach for my revolver.

Here are some more details from the official Facebook page:

The other participants are:

Johnny Morehouse
Tara Rynders
Matt Talarico and Ben Garst
Lindsay Stephen and Matthew Perino
Alex Sharp-Cole

August 8 at 7:30pm - August 14 at 11:00pm
Location    Mercury Cafe, Packing House Center for the Arts, Bindery | space

More Info   
This year’s Fast Forward Fringe film program presents three art-packed events in downtown Denver spun around our debut filmmaking contest, “Poetry In Motion” where a handful of local filmmakers and poets are joining forces to create new films over the course of a week:

Sunday 8 August, 2010 7:30pm $5 donation
Mercury Café Poetry Slam
...2199 California St, Denver, CO 80205

Night uno of Poetry in Motion will most assuredly be compared to watching a koala catch on fire, run around, and then explode. Against the backdrop of the Mercury Café’s nationally renowned poetry slam, meet our Poetry In Motion filmmakers and poets, who will headline as the featured talent for the night. See and hear their distinct works and meet the courageous participants, along with a slew of other mind-blowing local acts. Libations will be present, as will creative energy, silliness, side stitches, bad ankles, dancing, perfect lighting for your complexion, and we are sure you will fall in love.

BUY TICKETS: $5 donation at the door

Wednesday 11 August, 2010 7pm $10
Packing House Center for the Arts
835 E 50th Ave, Denver, Co 80216

A night of performance, poetry and panel that will be the rough equivalent of talking to a drunk nobleman. The night will feature readings from Mike McGee, music from Ian Cooke, performance by Tara Rynders, and the art of Ravi Zupa, with panel guests also including Junior Burke (novelist, dramatist, songwriter), Joan Bruemmer (Band of Toughs), Sandra Gabrych (Colorado Film School) and Patrick Mueller (Control Group Productions). We anticipate so many “Ah-ha” moments that you will be peeing in your neighbor’s drink while they smile and laugh and tell you they are too happy to care!

BUY TICKETS: https://www.ticketturtle.com/index.php?show=17309

Saturday 14 August, 2010 7pm $10
Bindery | Space
770 22nd St. Denver, CO 80205

This night is IT. After a week of picking, culling, developing, tweaking, filming, etcetera-ing, you will finally learn the identity of your real father! Oh, wait, no that is another thing, a thing that we are not doing. Ah, here it is, the screening party and the big reveal of the winning filmmaker-poet pair. Come out and see all the finished films with pre-show performance from singer-songwriter Alex Sharp-Cole, performance by world-class juggler Cindy Marvell and live painting by Kamla Presswalla and Tony Achilles, and boogie your drawers off to the sweet, sweet tunes of DJ Ginger Perry.

BUY TICKETS: https://www.ticketturtle.com/index.php?show=17310

Advance tickets:

03 August 2010

A message from the Provo IRA

Jane Treays, documentarian

"I know! I'm a bit of a tortured soul and I go and meet tortured souls so we're probably not everybody's cup of tea. But I think at the end of it, everything I do is made with love and is about love in its many different forms and perversions."


Street life

Photo by Leon Levistein

02 August 2010

Clayton Cubitt

Photo by Clayton Cubitt


Desiree Dolron

Photo by Desiree Dolron

Money, but no jobs

"Productivity tells the story. Increases in the productivity of American workers are supposed to go hand in hand with improvements in their standard of living. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work. That’s how the economic pie expands, and we’re all supposed to have a fair share of that expansion.
"Corporations have now said the hell with that. Economists believe the nation may have emerged, technically, from the recession early in the summer of 2009. As Professor Sum writes in a new study for the labor market center, this period of economic recovery “has seen the most lopsided gains in corporate profits relative to real wages and salaries in our history.”
Worker productivity has increased dramatically, but the workers themselves have seen no gains from their increased production. It has all gone to corporate profits. This is unprecedented in the postwar years, and it is wrong.
"Having taken everything for themselves, the corporations are so awash in cash they don’t know what to do with it all. Citing a recent article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Professor Sum noted that in July cash at the nation’s nonfinancial corporations stood at $1.84 trillion, a 27 percent increase over early 2007. Moody’s has pointed out that as a percent of total company assets, cash has reached a level not seen in the past half-century.
"Executives are delighted with this ill-gotten bonanza. Charles D. McLane Jr. is the chief financial officer of Alcoa, which recently experienced a turnaround in profits and a 22 percent increase in revenue. As The Times reported this week, Mr. McLane assured investors that his company was in no hurry to bring back 37,000 workers who were let go since 2008. The plan is to minimize rehires wherever possible, he said, adding, “We’re not only holding head-count levels, but are also driving restructuring this quarter that will result in further reductions.”
"There can be no robust recovery as long as corporations are intent on keeping idle workers sidelined and squeezing the pay of those on the job"

01 August 2010


Mike Sinclair

Photo by Mike Sinclair