Wednesday, September 29, 2010

smart links

---Wired's 7 essential skills:

"There are more writing opportunities than ever, but they require skills that Strunk and White never dreamed of. This course will teach you how to Photoshop images to create a narrative, edit a 20-second YouTube video, compress your thoughts into 140 characters (or clarify them into a PowerPoint presentation that won’t put your audience to sleep), write a wiki entry that encourages other people to edit and adapt it, and ensure your work goes viral, turning readers into vectors for your ideas.Technical skills, however, are not enough. Writing successfully requires knowing how to attract niche audiences with depth and detail. To demonstrate this, we’ll contrast The New York Times Magazine’s profile of Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera with the accompanying Web video of the nearly 1,300 pitches Rivera threw during the 2009 baseball season.

The role of the writer is also changing. In the age of objectivity, writers kept their personalities out of their work. But now, the author’s identity is paramount; readers have to believe you offer a unique—and trustworthy—perspective. Tone and personality are once again central to writing, not something to be smoothed and scrubbed. We’ll study the work of The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, who built a blog empire with an informal voice that makes readers feel as if they are accessing his unvarnished thoughts; New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin, who encourages reader loyalty by posting long passages from the emails that they send him; and director Kevin Smith, who recounts sex with his wife in lascivious detail to keep his 1.7 million Twitter followers hitting Refresh.

Writing today also means mastering metatext, the cues and context that determine how, where, and if your words get read. We’ll learn that winning links depends on appealing to the unique tastes of different social networks. Each link will help you attract your most influential audience—the algorithms that determine where your story ends up in Google’s search results. As we optimize our writing for this cyborg readership, we’ll also learn the new tenets of writing well: Be conspicuous, be entertaining, and leave space for others to talk."

---Maria Popova's "Journalism in the Age of Data"

---Milton Glaser's "Ten Things I Have Learned"

---celebrity awkwardness: Katherine Heigl and Chris Noth

---Jeffrey Sconce examines Disney's imperialist ideology:

"In How to Read Donald Duck (1971), Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart examined how Disney comic books export imperialist ideology to the children of Latin America. As befitting a Marxist analysis of a lowly comic title aimed at kids, much of their discussion focuses on curious displacements and troubling absences (like the fact that there are very few direct relatives in the Disney-verse, only endless cousins, nephews, uncles, etc.) One feature of Duckland, however, is less than subtle in promoting First World dominion over the developing nations: Scrooge McDuck, already the richest of all ducks, remains relentless in his pursuit to own everything of value in the entire world (apparently so that he might covert all his wealth to cash to stock his decadent ski-vault). Often, McDuck's greed is the impulse that kicks off an adventure for Donald, Huey, Dewy, and Louie, sending them to some remote and more "primitive" part of the globe in search of diamonds, gold, oil, and other valuable commodities. As Dorfman and Mattelart point out, these stories often take the form of McDuck simply swindling the local population, buying up rare and precious resources from the "natives" who have no idea how much these items are actually worthy."

---Spike Jonze's new short I'm Here

---Mayhill Fowler discusses why she had to leave The Huffington Post:

"The dignity pay confers upon work. I think this about sums it up. So let this be a warning to you, citizen journalism enthusiasts. In the end, what you are doing really is enhancing somebody else’s bottom line. And think for a minute what it means when you throw yourself into working for a place, as I did, without first walking into the company’s human resources office to sign some paperwork that legally binds you and your employee to a relationship. In my book Notes from a Clueless Journalist, which not too many have read (I may have been a bit ahead of the curve on publishing only for Kindle and cell phone), I go into the consequences here in a much darker way. I’m not going to repeat any of that now, because in some sense what happened to me post-Bittergate and the way in which The Huffington Post did not have my back was a unique situation. Although, now that I think about it, the scenario would make a movie: citizen journalist gets a great story, but the poohbahs for whom she is writing don’t know her from Eve and can’t decide, first, whether to believe her or not, and then, second, as things get complicated whether, because of conflicting loyalties, to support her. It is very much a story about class and hierarchy and relationship, about bias and trust and instinct—and maybe only a Tom Wolfe could write it."

---Malcolm Gladwell's "Why the revolution will not be tweeted" and some dissenting views

---24 trailers

---Stanley Kubrick considers his life and work

---Stan Vanderbeek's The Cinema Delimina (thanks to Mike Everleth)

---scenes from China (including anti-suicide nets)

---"Nothing else needs to be said"

---The Browser's Facebook links:

"The defining idea of the coming era is actually the loss of an idea we never had to worry about losing before. It is the decay of belief in the specialness of being human.

Decay in the belief in self is driven not by technology, but by the culture of technologists, especially the recent designs of antihuman software like Facebook, which almost everyone is suddenly living their lives through. Such designs suggest that information is a free-standing substance, independent of human experience or perspective. As a result, the role of each human shifts from being a "special" entity to being a component of an emerging global computer.

This shift has palpable consequences. For one thing, power accrues to the proprietors of the central nodes on the global computer. There are various types of central nodes, including the servers of Silicon Valley companies devoted to searching or social-networking, computers that empower impenetrable high finance (like hedge funds and high-frequency trading), and state-security computers. Those who are not themselves close to a central node find their own cognition gradually turning into a commodity. Someone who used to be able to sell commercial illustrations now must give them away, for instance, so that a third party can make money from advertising. Students turn to Wikipedia, and often don't notice that the acceptance of a single, collective version of reality has the effect of eroding their personhood."

---smart dance moves: The Charleston and Donna Loren (thanks to @cinebeats)

---Catherine Grant (@filmstudiesff) supplies the night of the living links

---Best for Film's guide for film journalists

---@CraigatPorlock examines Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

---Trevor Hogg's David Fincher profile and an interview

---lastly, Johnny Knoxville looks for the positive in Detroit

Friday, September 24, 2010

manly links

---manly ads

---Colin Firth in The King's Speech trailer

---Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From

---the Louise Brooks bob

---The Walking Dead behind the scenes

---Alice Marwick's dissertation entitled "Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Self-Branding in Web 2.0":

"Micro-celebrity is an emerging online practice that involves creating a persona, sharing personal information about oneself with others, performing intimate connections to create the illusion of friendship or closeness, acknowledging an audience and viewing them as fans, and using strategic reveal of information to increase or maintain this audience. In other words, the micro-celebrity practitioner thinks of him or herself as having a fan base, and works strategically to entertain and increase this audience. Regardless of how many people are actually watching the micro-celebrity, he or she positions him or herself as something to be watched. Contemporary American popular culture ascribes immensely high status to celebrities, but the fragmentation of mass culture has created ever-increasing concentric circles of tabloid fixtures, reality stars, and subcultural heroes who are familiar to far fewer people than pop star Madonna or actor Brad Pitt. Combined with the popularity of social media, the twin processes of celebrification and fragmentation have transformed celebrity into set of practices, self-presentation techniques and subjectivities that spread across social graphs as they are learned from other individuals (Marwick and boyd 2011). Social media‘s accessibility has transformed celebrity from something a person is to something a person does, and exists on a continuum rather than as a singular quality."

---anatomy of a scene from Enter the Void

---every Paris Review interview with literary icons, such as William Faulkner:


Do you mean the writer should be completely ruthless?


The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.

---Mark Romanek discusses Never Let Me Go

---Kafka and the terrorist tweet

---manly menstruation

---the future of the book?

"Movie passes two-hour mark, unfinished, not over yet. Whimper, moan, grimace. Wriggle, writhe, squirm. Seethe, growl, rage. Eat own fist, pray for death, love the rushing sense of imminent darkness. Scream, topple forward, have to be carried out of cinema. Reach life crisis, form resolution, ask editor for paid year's leave to go travelling. Editor stands up, shakes head, silently mouths the word: "No". Nod, turn, return to work. Personal growth, spiritual journeys, emotional enrichment? Not as easy as 1-2-3."

---Jay Rosen's advice for new journalists

---Matt Zoller Seitz interviews Oliver Stone:

Well, I was just about to ask you if you think we are, in fact, the modern version of empire. And if so, are we in decline?

Of course we are. It's evident, self-evident. Self-evident because we can't keep this up. The dollar is at the stretching point. I mean, it's an interesting con game that we have with the world, because they're still buying the U.S. treasuries and they believe in the dollar. They will for awhile, because something will happen eventually. Because we're completely borrowing, on borrowed time. We don't have any ability to control our own spending and our own deficits. So where do we go from here? Do we have an education system that can create a good base? We are a hardworking people. We have much manufacturing, contrary to what the myth is. We do a lot of things. We have a great economy. But if we have 47 percent of our corporate profits going to finance companies, something is definitely wrong.

So I don't know that it can be reversed. If there was a Roosevelt, you could argue yeah, you have a Depression. You could reverse course.

What role does the media play in all of this?

Blinding. They don't help. The problem with media is they're trying to make money. And I don't blame them. They're trying to make a profit. But they simply think about today.

It's the tyranny of now. Any long-term point of view is very difficult to get across."

---Robert considers one of my favorite directors--Alfonso Cuaron

---dark pattern evil web designs

---Anthony Kaufman's "Five Fiscally Minded Films About Our Road to Economic Ruin"

---GZA, RZA, and Bill Murray in Coffee & Cigarettes

---Lorrie Moore appreciates The Wire

---lastly, Julianne Moore clearly needs to get a grip

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Overpopulation and Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

In comparison to his previous 2001 novel The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is much more politically streamlined. Franzen posited the novel's basic dilemma in his minimalist video (or anti-video) promoting the work: most of our environmental and social problems really stem from one problem--overpopulation. People have difficulty considering ways to stop the population growth, however, because then we would have to restrain our much beloved American liberties. From his novelist's perspective, Franzen acknowledges that it is important to have children, to learn about oneself through the relationships between generations, and so on. But looking through the lens of the overpopulation issue, it would be better if people stopped "breeding" because increasingly the earth cannot handle the environmental strain of thousands of new people being born every hour. Franzen's aesthetic hints at a paradox: on one level it would be better if his characters did not exist at all.

In Freedom, the chief person conscious of this problem is Walter Berglund, the father of the central family in the novel. Every time Walter editorialized about overpopulation, I kept wondering how much Franzen shares his views. For instance, Walter first brings up his concerns while talking with Lalitha and Katz on page 219:

"You remember Aristotle and the different kinds of causes? Efficient and formal and final? Well, nest-predation by crows and feral cats is an efficient cause of the warbler's decline. And fragmentation is a formal cause of that. But what's the final cause? The final cause is the root of pretty much every problem we have. The final cause is too many damn people on the planet. It's especially clear when we go to South America. Yes, per capita consumption is rising. Yes, the Chinese are illegally vacuuming up resources down there. But the real problem is population pressure. Six kids per family versus one point five. People are desperate to feed the children that the pope in his infinite wisdom makes them have, and so they trash the environment."

Walter is just warming up:

"In America alone . . . the population's going to rise by fifty percent in the next four decades. Think about how crowded the exurbs are already, think about the traffic and the sprawl and the environmental degradation and the dependence on foreign oil. And then add fifty percent. And that's just America, which can theoretically sustain a larger population. And then think about global carbon emissions, and genocide and famine in Africa, and the radicalized dead-end underclass in the Arab world, and overfishing of the oceans, illegal Israeli settlements, the Han Chinese overrunning Tibet, a hundred million poor people in nuclear Pakistan: there's hardly a problem in the world that wouldn't be solved or at least tremendously alleviated by having fewer people. And yet . . . we're going to add another billion by 2050. In other words, we're going to add the equivalent of the world's entire population when you and I were putting our pennies in UNICEF boxes. Any little things we might do now to try to save some nature and preserve some kind of quality of life are going to get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, because people can change their consumption habits--it takes time and effort, but it can be done--but if the population keeps on increasing, nothing else we do is going to matter. And yet nobody is talking about the problem publicly. It's the elephant in the room, and it's killing us" (219-20).

Walter and Lalitha attempt to start up a nationwide campaign designed to encourage the young to think of "having babies" as an "embarrassment" (221), but meanwhile Walter has problems with his wife Patty's depression and his Republican son Joey not sharing his ideological concerns. Later, as he talks to Patty, Walter's concerns about his work spill over to the same larger agenda:

"I meant that world population and energy consumption are going to have to fall drastically at some point. We're way past sustainable even now. Once the collapse comes, there's going to be a window of opportunity for ecosystems to recover, but only if there's any nature left. So the big question is how much of the planet gets destroyed before the collapse. Do we completely use it up, and cut down every tree and sterilize every ocean, and then collapse? Or are there going to be some unwrecked strongholds that survive" (323)?

Eventually, Walter's worries about the increasing environmental damage due to overpopulation starts to weigh on him like a grim clock ticking, every minute adding on more problems to a world largely ignorant of and/or distracted from what's going on:

"To pass the time, Walter did mental tallies of what had gone wrong in the world in the hours since he'd awakened in the Days Inn. New population gain: 60,000. New acres of American sprawl: 1,000. Birds killed by domestic and feral cats in the United States: 500,000. Barrels of oil burned worldwide: 12,000,000. Metric tons of carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere: 11,000,000. Sharks murdered for their fins and left floating finless in the water: 150,000 . . . The tallies, which he recalculated as the hour grew even later, brought him a strangely spiteful satisfaction" (342-3).

One gets the impression that Walter is possibly a fanatical crackpot, his fixation on these issues distorted by his depression and his marital problems. Finally (and I'm trying to not play the spoiler here), Walter loses control during a speech, and shouts out to an angry audience:


The crowd subdues Walter, and he comes to regret the use of the word "cancer" as being counter-productive, but I think he has a point. Now that Oprah Winfrey has put aside her differences with Franzen and chosen Freedom as her new selection for her book club, I wonder how much the novel's political concerns will find a voice in the media. The narrator of Freedom seems doubtful of that happening, because, as Katz, another character in the novel says, "the whole point of capitalism is the restless growth of capital" and "Capitalism can't handle talking about limits" (361). Toward the end of the novel,

"There was plenty of tweeting on Twitter, but the chirping and fluttering world of nature, which Walter had invoked as if people were still supposed to care about it, was one anxiety too many" (546).

Related links:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

fashion links

---the Threadless story

---Ferguson's "Everything Is a Remix"

---Molly Young considers the allure(?) of immersive retail

---Blade Runner: Hades landscape (thanks to @stevensantos)

---Brambilla's Dante-esque "Civilization"

---Rohmer's cinema of the elbow:

"This lean, which always leaves one elbow out, is the perfect stance to take while having a private conversation in public or in an outdoor space where seating is not available; it also gives the leaner the casual air of a Caravaggio model, and makes them look vaguely saintly even while they contemplate unsaintly possibilities.

The Rohmer lean is exclusively the domain of men, and is usually deployed while talking to women, who lean back, but never to the side. It is because these women always lean back (as if to present themselves, and thus dominate a scene) that the Rohmer men have evolved this sideways lean, which allows them to stand at a right angle to the women and not be leaned back at (and therefore beaten in the lean-off of the sexes). What many Rohmer women seek is a man who will face them head-on, and what many of Rohmer's men are looking for is a girl to lean sideways at a right angle to; to be in close company and yet able to casually gaze as if from a distance."

---McDonald's and "I was lovin' it"

---what to do if there's a devil in your elevator:

"And what if you have evidence that a demon is sharing the elevator with you?
Do you believe in the paranormal?
Me neither.
But what if it happened?
If you’ve got, so to speak, the devil inside the elevator, press the call button. Call Otis. You’re trying to make this fun, I can understand that. But I’ve never heard of anything like this.
Okay, what if one of your fellow passengers bites you?
Smack the person across the face.
What if you don’t know who it was because it happened when the lights were out?
That’s probably the toughest question I’ve been asked. What to do if someone bites you inside an elevator. But to be serious, that button actually connects you directly ... [You] press the button, you’re connected to security instantly. Within an instant. They can get the doors open and release the passengers within an instant. Today’s technology is so modern that the risks within an elevator are really minimal. It can’t happen, that’s the point I’m trying to make."

---the fashion apocalypse

---an Easy A featurette

---the best ad placement fail ever (thanks to @nickbilton)

---Anne Thompson interviews Aronofsky concerning Black Swan and Natalie Portman's thoughts about the film.

---capturing the atom bomb on film

---Erich Kuerston celebrates Michael Weldon:

". . . no one was better at conveying the lurid trashy glory of the unseen cinema than Michael Weldon. Psychotronic became my big brother, my bible, my source book, my security blanket. I still have my original copy--bought with money begged from mom--and the page edges are black with my endless thumbing.

Half neo-Godardian half plain-spoken genuine dude, no posing. The man's been in two punk bands. His dad fought in World War Two. His life was saved by rock and roll. He still writes but it seems to be more along the lines of pop culture criticism as in this editorial essay I found online:

"Some people have been complaining about pop songs being used as commercials since the 70s. I always loved The Beach Boys’ “Fun Fun Fun,” especially for the brilliant falsetto harmony ending and Sly And The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In the Summertime.” And the intro of Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” (featuring the drumming of Soupy Sales son) has become the new “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (or the 2001, Elvis intro theme) of TV ads. Key parts of all three are now being used for cruise ship TV spots. Music from an LSD casualty, a coke casualty, and a long time heroin addict to attract mostly retired couples to take overpriced vacations on ocean polluting ships that a record number of people have been puking their guts out on. Brilliant! (Psychotronic #38)"

---A. O. Scott appreciates Donnie Darko

---Jean-Paul Belmondo

---R. Colin Tait's "Unified Theory of Beard Acting"

---the Zuckerberg interview and 6 reasons to steer clear of Facebook

---the awkwardness of Fred Astaire in blackface

---Steven Martin just joined Twitter: @SteveMartinToGo

---"purchasing habits of Generation Y" Tavi's influential fashion blog:

[from the New Yorker profile]: "Tavi recently hired a publicist, Dana Meyerson, a Chicago woman who other clients include the rappers Diplo and Rah Digga. Meyerson is working on a plan to sell advertising on her blog. `It seemed like the obvious next step,' Meyerson told me. Tavi assembled a list of the design houses she likes--Marc Jacobs, Prada, Celine, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Chanel--and Meyerson has begun contacting them to propose advertising deals: running banner ads on Tavi's blog . . . Rates for such collaborative advertising projects vary, but bloggers can be paid up to four thousand dollars for posting about a product once, while photography bloggers , like Jak & Jil's Tommy Ton, can command freelance fees of up to twenty thousand dollars a day."

---when Herzog rescued Phoenix

---lastly, a compendium of narrow escapes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Have yourself a fashionable apocalypse: Resident Evil: Afterlife

(with apologies to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")

Have yourself a fashionable apocalypse
May your days be bleak
And if infected zombies rule the world
You can at least dress chic.

Have yourself
A fashionable apocalypse
May your bad guys sneer
And if they seem to have wandered
over from The Matrix,
They have, or somewhere near.

In the new Resident Evil: Afterlife
The fourth video game flick in a row,
Alice infiltrates the evil
Umbrella Corp. compound
Under Tokyo.

With swords, replicants, and witty quips
Like "Is that any way to treat a lady?"
Alice mows down innumerable jackbooted goons
In slow motion, hardly getting sweaty.

Later, she flies into the
City of Angels swarming
With crowds of the undead--
What a mess!
Isn't that the definition of zombies--
They don't know how to dress?

There Alice crashlands amidst
A ragtag team of survivors
Seeking safety on an Arcadia ship.
Doesn't she know that
This idea was from
The superior Children of Men ripped?

Doesn't Alice realize
that the apocalypic genre
Has gotten tired
Like westerns, rom-coms,
Musicals, and noir?

Doesn't she ever get weary,
Doesn't she recall,
That in every other scene,
She's always escaping
From a fireball?

Have yourself a fashionable apocalypse
May your days be bleak
And when you throw those ninja stars,
Always do so to a techno-beat.

Related links:

Jovovich plans for a fifth crowd-sourced Resident Evil

Glenn Kenny's thoughts

interview with director Paul W. S. Anderson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

future links

---lost Detroit and abandoned coal towns

---futuristic home computing (lots of stroking on mirrors)

---John Grisham's crap jobs:

"I was 17 years old that summer, and I learned a lot, most of which cannot be repeated in polite company. One Friday night I accompanied my new friends on the asphalt crew to a honky-tonk to celebrate the end of a hard week. When a fight broke out and I heard gunfire, I ran to the restroom, locked the door and crawled out a window. I stayed in the woods for an hour while the police hauled away rednecks. As I hitchhiked home, I realized I was not cut out for construction and got serious about college.

My career sputtered along until retail caught my attention; it was indoors, clean and air-conditioned. I applied for a job at a Sears store in a mall. The only opening was in men’s underwear. It was humiliating. I tried to quit, but I was given a raise. Evidently, the position was difficult to fill. I asked to be transferred to toys, then to appliances. My bosses said no and gave me another raise.

I became abrupt with customers. Sears has the nicest customers in the world, but I didn’t care. I was rude and surly and I was occasionally watched by spies hired by the company to pose as shoppers. One asked to try on a pair of boxers. I said no, that it was obvious they were much too small for his rather ample rear end. I handed him an extra-large pair. I got written up. I asked for lawn care. They said no, but this time they didn’t offer me a raise. I finally quit."

---Ed Howard and Jason Bellamy discuss Lawrence of Arabia

---"Everything You See Is Future Trash," an interview with Robin Nagle:

THE BELIEVER: You’ve said that “garbage is very scary to us culturally, and it is also… one of the single most fascinating things you could ever study.” And, at least back when you started, garbage was a “cognitive problem” that you didn’t fully understand. Why do you think most people, at least overtly, don’t react to garbage with such a complicated fascination?

ROBIN NAGLE: It’s a complicated answer because it points in so many directions at one time. Garbage is generally overlooked because we create so much of it so casually and so constantly that it’s a little bit like paying attention to, I don’t know, to your spit, or something else you just don’t think about. You—we—get to take it for granted that, yeah, we’re going to create it, and, yeah, somebody’s going to take care of it, take it away. It’s also very intimate. There’s very little we do in twenty-four hours except sleeping, and not always even sleeping, when we don’t create some form of trash. Even just now, waiting for you, I pulled out a Kleenex and I blew my nose and I threw it out, in not even fifteen seconds. There’s a little intimate gesture that I don’t think about, you don’t think about, and yet there’s a remnant, there’s a piece of debris, there’s a trace.

There’s a scholar at Stanford, his name is Bill Rathje. He wrote a book called Rubbish!and he’s an archaeologist of contemporary household waste. He trained classically at Harvard as a traditional archaeologist and did work among the ancient Mayan ruins. He says garbage is a highly visible problem that we choose to make invisible.

BLVR: You, and William Rathje also, see it as also a cognitive problem.

RN: Well, it’s cognitive in that exact way: that it is quite highly visible, and constant, and invisibilized. So from the perspective of an anthropologist, or a psychologist, or someone trying to understand humanness: What is that thing? What is that mental process where we invisibilize something that’s present all the time?

The other cognitive problem is: Why have we developed, or, rather, why have we found ourselves implicated in a system that not only generates so much trash, but relies upon the accelerating production of waste for its own perpetuation? Why is that OK?

And a third cognitive problem is: Every single thing you see is future trash. Everything. So we are surrounded by ephemera, but we can’t acknowledge that, because it’s kind of scary, because I think ultimately it points to our own temporariness, to thoughts that we’re all going to die."

---remembering Rosemary's Baby

---Rosen's advice for future journalists

---Jonathan Franzen and the fragmentation of postmodern life:

“You could also make the case that we are way past the heyday of the novel. There is no question that as peoples’ lives get broken up into ever tinier, useless, electronic bits, the whole notion of sitting down to lose oneself in an imaginary world becomes more and more untenable."

---from Franzen's new novel Freedom (not a link, but anyway):

"This was what was keeping me awake at night," Walter said. "This fragmentation. Because it's the same problem everywhere. It's like the internet, or cable TV--there's never any center, there's no communal agreement, there's just a trillion little bits of distracting noise. We can never sit down and have any kind of sustained conversation, it's all just cheap trash and shitty development. All the real things, the authentic things, the honest things are dying off. Intellectually and culturally, we just bounce around like random billiard balls, reacting to the latest random stimulus."

---Pee-Wee Herman's PSA

---the future of the internet, the future of computers, and virtual goods marketing

---John Cleese's theories about creativity

---future cities

---our current depression and the United States of inequality

---Zittrain's "Reputation Bankruptcy":

"Imagine entering a café in Paris with one’s personal digital assistant or mobile phone, and being able to query: “Is there anyone on my buddy list within 100 yards? Are any of the ten closest friends of my ten closest friends within 100 yards?” Although this may sound fanciful, it could quickly become mainstream. With reputation systems already advising us on what to buy, why not have them also help us make the first cut on whom to meet, to date, to befriend? These are not difficult services to offer, and there are precursors today. These systems can indicate who has not offered evidence that he or she is safe to meet—as is currently solicited by some online dating sites—or it may use Amazon-style matching to tell us which of the strangers who have just entered the café is a good match for people who have the kinds of friends we do. People can rate their interactions with each other (and change their votes later, so they can show their companion a thumbs-up at the time of the meeting and tell the truth later on), and those ratings will inform future suggested acquaintances. With enough people adopting the system, the act of entering a café can be different from one person to the next: for some, the patrons may shrink away, burying their heads deeper in their books and newspapers. For others, the entire café may perk up upon entrance, not knowing who it is but having a lead that this is someone worth knowing. Those who do not participate in the scheme at all will be as suspect as brand new buyers or sellers on eBay.

Increasingly, difficult-to-shed indicators of our identity will be recorded and captured as we go about our daily lives and enter into routine transactions— our fingerprints may be used to log in to our computers or verify our bank accounts, our photo may be snapped and tagged many times a day, or our license plate may be tracked as people judge our driving habits. The more our identity is associated with our daily actions, the greater opportunities others will have to offer judgments about those actions. A government-run system like the one Strahilevitz recommends for assessing driving is the easy case. If the state is the record keeper, it is possible to structure the system so that citizens can know the basis of their ratings—where (if not by whom) various thumbs-down clicks came from—and the state can give a chance for drivers to offer an explanation or excuse, or to follow up. The state’s formula for meting out fines or other penalties to poor drivers would be known (“three strikes and you’re out,” for whatever other problems it has, is an eminently transparent scheme), and it could be adjusted through accountable processes, just as legislatures already determine what constitutes an illegal act, and what range of punishment it should earn."

---the 40 best Sesame Street guest spots

---Stanley Kubrick's photographs

---the Inception Inception

---lastly, the fun of being Kate Moss in an airport and Lauryn Hill's answer to fame

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Machete don't text": 11 reasons why Robert Rodriguez's Machete is the sweetest film thus far this year

Why is Machete the sweetest film thus far this year?

1) Because it speaks for the working man, Latino or otherwise. Machete is an exploitation film that agitates against the exploitation of the working class.

2) Because, in comparison to so many Orlando Bloom-ish photoshopped pretty boy leading men, Danny Trejo makes for a delightfully unlikely craggy, grungy, laid back, his-shirt-tale-hanging-out hero. He's such a gentleman, he doesn't even take advantage of Jessica Alba's character when she drunkenly asks him to join her in bed.

3) Because writer/director Robert Rodriguez keeps paying affectionate tribute to Quentin Tarantino and his tendency to loot 1970s schlock cinema. In reference to Pulp Fiction, Rodriguez includes an important briefcase and a climactic fight with a Samurai sword. Also, the comically exaggerated killing of Machete's family (to set up his revenge) reminded me of Kill Bill.

4) Because Rodriguez teases the viewer with a desire to see Don Johnson's eyes, which remain masked by shades until near the end of the film. I kept being weirdly reminded of Johnson's first movie, A Boy and His Dog (1975).

5) Because it attempts to resurrect the acting career of Lindsay Lohan. In her first scene, her character's father (played by Jeff Fahey) blasts his way into a meth lab, killing numerous thugs to help save his daughter from her drug-induced stupor. Later, when she wears a nun's habit, she wields a machine gun with aplomb. Like a Dirty Harry Mother Teresa, Lohan is both redeemed and empowered.

6) Because, in comparison to the scraped-with-a-Brillo-pad mindless bloodletting of Piranha 3-D, Machete concerns a real issue--illegal immigration--that grounds all of the exploitative raunch and gore in something like real emotion. As one bodyguard says, "We let the Mexican park our cars. Why don't we let him into our country?"

7) Because Robert De Niro gets to play a variation on the Charles Palantine politician character in Taxi Driver. In his role as anti-immigration advocate Senator McLaughlin, De Niro reminded me of the main character in Bob Roberts, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney's little mishap with a shotgun while hunting. In our gun-obsessed country, trigger-happy Senator McLaughlin scarcely seems like an exaggeration.

8) Because the film is full of discussions and insert shots of things like intestines, corkscrews, and skull scrapers that you know will be delightfully employed in the next fight scene.

9) Because when Jessica Alba's character ICE agent Sartana fixes Machete a Mexican dinner to the sound of cheesy Latino music, I felt like I was visiting my favorite Mexican restaurant.

10) Because Cheech Marin plays a hilarious Catholic priest with lines like "I absolve you for all of your sins. Now get the fuck out." I also liked his crucifix made up of surveillance monitors (a symbol for our times).

11) Lastly, because Machete leads the revolution against too much oppressive technology in our lives. As he says, "Machete don't text." When given the choice between a gun and a machete, he prefers to wield the working class sword every time.

Related links:

Erik Hayden's thoughts about Machete
the worst movie ever made?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

links of doom

---visions of the apocalypse in movies and literature

---The Walking Dead trailer

---the coming famine:

"says Julian Cribb, a veteran science journalist from Australia, `The era of cheap, abundant food is over.'

Like many other experts, he argues that we have passed the peak of oil production, and it’s all downhill from now on. He then presents evidence that we have passed the peaks for water, fertilizer and land, and that we will all soon be made painfully aware that we have passed it for food, as wealthy nations experience shortages and rising prices, and poorer ones starve.

Much of “The Coming Famine” builds an argument that we’ve jumped off a cliff and that global chaos — a tidal wave of people fleeing their own countries for wherever they can find food — is all but guaranteed."

---the Inside Job trailer

---10 years of unemployment and permanent war

---targeting Target

---the top 50 music videos of the 1990s

---Jared Hess and the title sequence of Napoleon Dynamite

---Anne Thompson's and Jack Mathew's thoughts on the changing landscape of movie coverage:

"AT: The negative of the current online movie beast is that the quality of the discourse has coarsened. While Jonathan Franzen can afford to cut off his computer and sit in a quiet room, the rest of us are reading, ingesting and posting faster, shorter and with more frequency, for less money, cutting corners, trying to beat the competition, and fashioning headlines with celeb names, “controversy” or “exclusive” to build traffic. There is little awareness, I find, of many of the rules of conflict of interest and journalism ethics that were pounded into journalists as they moved up the ranks.I’d like to think that discerning readers will seek out sites with authority and cred and writers and critics more likely to steer them right. The danger is that seeking access to junkets leads to easy promo filler (and ad quotes) over meaningful independent scrutiny. On the other hand, critic site Pajiba, which prides itself on snarky reviews, seems to be thriving. In this fragmented universe, it’s not about the many seeking truth from the one. Now, each person seeks multiple sources who they trust. You get what you want, if not what you need.

JM: I wonder what Pauline Kael would have thought of all this. The late New Yorker magazine critic was the Gertrude Stein of movie culture, the go-to guru for up-and-coming critics who craved her approbation and—for those whose work she liked—her friendship and freely given advice. Her eyes would glaze over if she were around to sample the work of unknown critics now rising like so many dandelions on the Internet landscape. I’m not saying there isn’t talent out there—as Roger Ebert has had time to verify, there is—but she’d balk at the amount of chaff she’d have to brush aside to get to the wheat.

AT: Safe to say, in sum: Nobody writes like Kael, or commands the attention that she once did, or has the impact on the culture that she once had. The two critics at the New York Times and The New Yorker respectively hold some sway, but finally the most powerful critic in America is a populist who established his fame on television’s ‘At the Movies’—Roger Ebert. Because he lost his balcony perch when he lost his voice to cancer, he now communicates with more film fans than ever before, not only via the Chicago Sun-Times but online, on his blog and on Twitter, where he has 220,000 followers and counting. It’s the new order."

---Robert De Niro explains method acting to Elmo

---@CriterionRefs considers Bob le flambeur

---Dancing at the Movies (thanks to @hindmezaina)

---essays about Google from William Gibson and others:

"Cyberspace, not so long ago, was a specific elsewhere, one we visited periodically, peering into it from the familiar physical world. Now cyberspace has everted. Turned itself inside out. Colonized the physical. Making Google a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world. This is the sort of thing that empires and nation-states did, before. But empires and nation-states weren’t organs of global human perception. They had their many eyes, certainly, but they didn’t constitute a single multiplex eye for the entire human species.

Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison design is a perennial metaphor in discussions of digital surveillance and data mining, but it doesn’t really suit an entity like Google. Bentham’s all-seeing eye looks down from a central viewpoint, the gaze of a Victorian warder. In Google, we are at once the surveilled and the individual retinal cells of the surveillant, however many millions of us, constantly if unconsciously participatory. We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state, one that handily says no to China. Or yes, depending on profit considerations and strategy. But we do not participate in Google on that level. We’re citizens, but without rights."

---Alfred Hitchcock's lecture

---Machete's Danny Trejo interview

---Scott Rosenberg's "In Defense of Links" part one and two and three

---Gene Deitch animation

---lastly, waiting for Godard, by Matt Zoller Seitz:

"If more filmmakers were as "eccentric" and "difficult" as Godard and Malick, there would be a lot more art in movies and a lot less naked shilling. Or at the very least, movies would be less predictable, less deserving of being called "product."

And what about you, reader? Right now you're probably reading this with two or three other windows open on your computer screen and your cellphone on. When a new e-mail or phone call or text message comes in, maybe you hear a little noise, a "ding," like the bell that made Pavlov's dog's ears perk up. And you look to see who's trying to reach you and what it's about. Maybe you answer immediately, maybe you wait, but you always pay attention because you feel like you're missing out on something, and on some level you're terrified that the world's going to stop turning if you're not on top of it all. Godard could not care less. The world keeps turning. I bet he's sitting in a park right now, reading Le Monde and smoking his fourth cigar of the day."