28 October 2010


In the very proper prose of Der Speigel, a report about the use of meth in the Nazi army. 
Many of the Wehrmacht's soldiers were high on Pervitin when they went into battle, especially against Poland and France -- in a Blitzkrieg fueled by speed. The German military was supplied with millions of methamphetamine tablets during the first half of 1940. The drugs were part of a plan to help pilots, sailors and infantry troops become capable of superhuman performance. The military leadership liberally dispensed such stimulants, but also alcohol and opiates, as long as it believed drugging and intoxicating troops could help it achieve victory over the Allies. But the Nazis were less than diligent in monitoring side-effects like drug addiction and a decline in moral standards.
After it was first introduced into the market in 1938, Pervitin, a methamphetamine drug newly developed by the Berlin-based Temmler pharmaceutical company, quickly became a top seller among the German civilian population. According to a report in the Klinische Wochenschrift ("Clinical Weekly"), the supposed wonder drug was brought to the attention of Otto Ranke, a military doctor and director of the Institute for General and Defense Physiology at Berlin's Academy of Military Medicine. The effects of amphetamines are similar to those of the adrenaline produced by the body, triggering a heightened state of alert. In most people, the substance increases self-confidence, concentration and the willingness to take risks, while at the same time reducing sensitivity to pain, hunger and thirst, as well as reducing the need for sleep. In September 1939, Ranke tested the drug on 90 university students, and concluded that Pervitin could help the Wehrmacht win the war. At first Pervitin was tested on military drivers who participated in the invasion of Poland. Then, according to criminologist Wolf Kemper, it was "unscrupulously distributed to troops fighting at the front.

As you might suspect, the article fails to mention the benzedrine that came with US soldier's rations, or the 100 grams of vodka the Soviet soldiers received. 

Not to mention that:
On average, every American serviceman in the Vietnam War consumed 30 to 40 amphetamine tablets each year of the conflict.

27 October 2010

Ring of Fire/Johnny Cash

Les Mistons/The Brats by François Truffaut

Cryil Connolly: "A lazy person. . . "

A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he set out, will have condemned himself to second-hand thoughts and to second-rate friends.

Cyril Connolly

22 October 2010

White Rabbit

Dig the crazy psychedelic background.
One of the all time great builds. But I can't help thinking of the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -- the song's gravitational pull is bigger than that but, yes.
Drop the radio in the bathwater.

Patti Smith nach Köln

How much more?

Just forget about what she looks like now, as she hawks her memoirs.
For as long as it counted, about two months, she was the voice of pop desire.

Grinderman/Nick Cave: Get It On

19 October 2010

18 October 2010

Sergey Vinokurov

Sergey Vinokurov, via

". . .or else they'd have no heart. . . "

It was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.

- Cormac McCarthy All The Pretty Horses

Toys for boys


Yeah, dabbling in internet porn.
Because the internet is all porn: political porn, material porn, literary porn. Objects work well. Shiny ones, especially.

The screen renders us stupid and open mouthed. Instead of engaging a page, we lick it up with our eyes, cyber dogs, panting after images of cool to salt our ennui.

Me, too.

16 October 2010

Leif Garrett & Nicolette Sheridan

"She wanted to get dressed for the impromptu photo session, but I would not hear of it. “No way.” So this is the result. I wanted that kind of just-fucked look. Worked out great, I think."

Leif Garrett and Nicolette Sheridan
Brad Elterman , via

Get in the car

From the American masterpiece, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Peckinpah, amor siempre

Jerry Lee Lewis

15 October 2010

20 Scripts in 30 Days: What I learned

 I met my challenge of reading 20 scripts in 30 days. It was more difficult to complete the reading than I expected. The trick of stating a goal in public worked for me. Mid-way through I got tired of reading screenplays exclusively, but shame is an incredibly powerful motivator so I finished, mainly because I'd made a public declaration.

In general, I couldn't believe how good the work was -- not just good for a movie, or good for pop culture, but as good as anything that has come from any art form. Sometimes, you read screenwriters complain about how they don't get enough recognition for their contribution. This is true. Carole Eastman ought to enjoy the same level of fame as an accomplished short story writer does, at the very least. 

I'd say the biggest lesson I learned was this: Form should follow story. Each story wants to be told in its own way, and the form of the tale should follow that imperative.

Most screenwriting books are prescriptive. They assume you want to sell your script to Hollywood, then break dramaturgy down for you and provide a template. Often, they'll claim there are no rules, but then give you a list of them to follow. Once you've read a few of these manuals, you can definitely see the structure at work in a standard Hollywood film, as well, so the how-to books have a certain fidelity to the way mainstream movies are made.

Yet, as I read through actual scripts of produced movies -- many of which are acknowledged masterpieces -- what struck me most was the variety of approaches to storytelling. They all used a broad range of techniques -- flashbacks, narration, changes in point of view, disrupting genre conventions, and so on. But none of the scripts qualifies as non-narrative or avant garde. Each of the writers clearly knows dramaturgy and narrative conventions. They wield a variety of tricks -- in Bergman's case, everything from medieval mystery plays to French bedroom farce. But they put technique to the service of the story. No cookie cutter scripts. (Yes, I realize there are a few book's worth of issues to discuss here, but I'm trying to be brief and bloggy).

Some principles that struck me were how the scripts:
  • Exploit the physical setting for meaning (the So-Cal desert in Five Easy Pieces, the pool table in Eyes Wide Shut, the boots in All Quiet on the Western Front, the swing in Ikiru)
  • Use the principle of contrast
  • Rely on importance of physical objects
  • Offer comic relief.
  • Illustrate necessity of following the author's personal obsessions (Bergman, Huston)
As for the exercise of reading a pile of scripts in a short time, it was mostly helpful. It's good to know as much as you can about a subject, and reading the established works within it can only be useful. I hope that at least some traces were left that will help me as I do my own work.

If I were to do it again, I'd want to use some questionnaire to help me think about the various aspects of the script in a structured way. Overall, a better approach would be to choose one script, break it down to see how all the parts work and then watch the movie afterward. 

Many web sites offer free .pdf versions of scripts; I used many of them as I did my reading. (Finding knowledge is cheap. It's mindless entertainment that costs.)

Any, try:

And, the library was as always a great resource.

Postscript: On the Paltriness of Movies Today

Even though it's a lazy kind of rant, I still can't escape the feeling that movies really have gone downhill. Now, a lot of good movies came out in the 2000s -- Babel, Children of Men, Sexy Beast, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Irreversible to name a few just off the top of my head. And, granted, I read a fair amount of Euro-art house material.


Take a film like Five Easy Pieces, which supposedly fathered the indie film. That movie has more guts, more heart, takes more risks than nearly any recent film I can remember. To move away from the script, the cinematography was brilliant and accomplished, the acting absolutely real and moving. the cinematography, for example, was beautiful and rich and, more importantly, meaningful in a way that some crappy-assed mumblecore video just isn't.

The scale of ambition seems so limited now -- I don't know if that's a function of money or fear or simple lack of ability. But when you look at Huston or Welles, they were clearly aiming for the ages as well as entertaining. Bergman and Kurosawa clearly saw themselves as part of heritage of great drama and literature that they themselves wanted to extend, struggle with and develop farther.

The artistic aim is high -- examining the meaning of life, the nature of heroism, the question of identity, what romantic love amounts to, what makes up a happy life. And they do this using the means of drama and comedy, meaning: they're entertaining in the best sense. Funny, moving, and absorbing, they rip you out of your daily life and suck you into dream time.

Now the aims themselves seem limited. Take a film such as Inception, by Christopher Nolan. His intention as he's said, was to make the ultimate heist film. I guess that's cool.He succeeded in what's really a big engineering feat. But it's impossible to take seriously as any kind of meditation on The Nature of Reality when the insights it offers are about as profound as those of a freshman who's just smoked his first joint. Or when the aesthetics of the movie are about as dreamlike as a trip to a upscale hotel in Santa Monica. So he made a cool heist movie? So what?

Cherry Bomb

The Runaways, live in 1977. Yeah, 1977. (Around 1:46, the camera man gives in to a natural impulse.)

Cherie Currie, photo by Brad Elterman

14 October 2010

Deneuve and Mastroianni in La Cagna


“[At the first audition, Franco Zeffirelli] came into the dressing room and he walked past all the girls, and there were a lot of girls who were sharing the same white dress. You know, we were taking it off to put it on for the next one who goes in. It was like a cattle call. And he came into the dressing room, and he came right over to me, pulled his comb out of his jacket and he put my hair in a middle-parting, and he put me in front of the mirror and he said, ‘What do you think of that?’ I said, ‘I look ridiculous.’

And he said, ‘You don’t understand anything. This is a classic look.’ And he said, ‘That’s how I want you to test, with your hair like that.’ And then he said, ‘How do you think Juliet should be?’ And I said, ‘Long blond hair and blue eyes.’ He said, ‘You understand nothing.’

…[Zeffirelli] said she needs to be like a young girl of fourteen who’s found love for the first time. She has to be a spitfire—full of passion and full of the emotions a fourteen-year-old feels. And just—’So basically Olivia, be yourself,’ you know? And that’s how it was…Franco said, ‘I really don’t want it to be lost in the dialogue. I really want to make it a classic film that appeals to young people in fifty years from today.’ I think the whole vibe of Romeo and Juliet was that they were two beautiful, young people who found love for the first time and were willing to die for it. And that’s something that’s ageless. I mean to this day—I think if Paramount re-released Romeo and Juliet, even in this jaded world of today, I think a lot of people would go see it again on the big screen and be moved all over again.”

-Olivia Hussey (2008)

Going Back to Miami

Wayne Cochran, with a pompadour extraordinaire.

12 October 2010

Betty, by Gerhard Richter

Betty, by Gerhard Richter

"A man loves a thing. . ."

"A man loves a thing, that don't mean its gotta love him back." 
--James Jones, From Here to Eternity, 1952

Boxer Gerald McClellan

Back in his prime, before illness struck. Hang in there through the intro.

08 October 2010


Edward Limonov, a few years back.


Nosebleed, Linocut, via

Art School, The Jam

06 October 2010

Seven seventies women

Every girl in my high school tried to dance just like that. And wore dresses just like her.


 image via
“I have often spoken of what I call the inadequate imagery of today’s civilization. I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out; they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution. When I look at the postcards in tourist shops and the images and advertisements that surround us in magazines or I turn on the television, or if I walk into a travel agency and see those huge posters with that same tedious image of the Grand Canyon on them, I truly feel there is something dangerous emerging here.
     …As a race we have become aware of certain dangers that surround us. We comprehend, for example, that nuclear power is a real danger for mankind, that over-crowding of the planet is the greatest of all. We have understood that the destruction of the environment is another enormous danger. But I truly believe that the lack of adequate imagery is a danger of the same magnitude. It is as serious a defect as being without memory. What have we done to our images? What have we done to our embarrassed landscapes? I have said this before and will repeat it again as long as I am able to talk: if we do not develop adequate images we will die out like dinosaurs. Look at the depiction of Jesus in our iconography, unchanged since the vanilla ice-cream kitsch of the Nazarene school of painting in the late nineteenth century. These images alone are sufficient proof that Christianity is moribund.
    We need images in accordance with our civilization and our innermost conditioning, and this is the reason why I like any film that searches for new images no matter in what direction it moves or what story it tells. One must dig like an archaeologist and search our violated landscape to find anything new. It can sometimes be a struggle to find unprocessed and fresh images.”
-Werner Herzog, via Herzog on Herzog

Fosse directs

France Gall

France Gall sings.

05 October 2010


Swans, lithograph via

Mando Alvarez

Photo by Mando Alvarez

Beat Poetess Tears It Up: High School Confidential

Crushing. So. Badly.


Hands, via

Always carry a notebook

Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.
Will Self

Summer Day

Journée d'été, Arnold Bocklin via

04 October 2010

Stiff Little Fingers

Stiff Little Fingers
Suspect Device on Ulster TV 1978

Sandy, by Jonathan Leder

Sandy from Jacques Magazine on Vimeo.