Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
"Most undergraduates don’t realize that there is a shrinking percentage of positions in the humanities that offer job security, benefits, and a livable salary (though it is generally much lower than salaries in other fields requiring as many years of training). They don’t know that you probably will have to accept living almost anywhere, and that you must also go through a six-year probationary period at the end of which you may be fired for any number of reasons and find yourself exiled from the profession. They seem to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect…and, as a result, they don’t make any fallback plans until it is too late…The completion of graduate school seems impossibly far away, so their concerns are mostly focused on the present…."
"A side effect of the securitization of real estate was the commoditization and standardization of place. Banks were only willing to underwrite what they knew, and what they were confident could be traded in large commodities. They didn't know much--Leinberger identifies only "nineteen standard real estate product types" Wall Street is willing to deal with. That covers everything: home, office, retail and industrial. The list was liable to change at any moment as some types became overbuilt and were replaced with other, formerly nonviable ones. If your project didn't conform to the one of the nineteen types, "you either did not get financing, or if you did, it was far more expensive."This is how every place began to look like every place else. The landscape became liquid. As Tom Wolfe described the exurbs of Atlanta in A Man in Full, "The only way you could tell you are leaving one community and entering another is when the franchise chains start repeating."
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Actually, my idea of boredom has little to do with wealthy surroundings. It’s about a certain mindset. Perfect boredom is the enjoyment of the moment of stasis that comes between slowing down and speeding up – like sitting at a traffic light for a particularly long time. It’s at the cusp of action, because however enjoyable it may be, boredom is really not a long-term aspiration. It’s for an afternoon before a sociable evening. It marks that point in a holiday when you’ve shrugged off all the concerns of work and home, explored the hotel and got used to the swimming pool, and everything has become totally familiar. ‘I’m bored’ just pops into your mind one morning as you’re laying your towel over the sunlounger before breakfast, and then you think ‘How lovely.’ It’s about the stillness and familiarity of that precise moment before the inevitable anxiety about packing up and heading back to God-knows-what."
---what beer would Jesus drink?
---neuromarketing Campbell's Soup
---rock 'n roll links
---Howard and Bellamy converse about Altman's Nashville:"EH: What I love about Altman's approach to this subject is how thoroughly he strips away those illusions about celebrity, how completely he tears down the ideas about glamor and happiness and "extraordinary" lives—and not in a trashy behind-the-scenes tabloid way, either, but with a casual acknowledgement that celebrities are merely human. When Delbert (Ned Beatty) realizes thatElliott Gould is "somebody," he falls all over himself apologizing for not treating him better; Del hadn't actually been rude to Gould when he thought he was just some guy, but he hadn't given him the red carpet treatment either. He's apologizing for not treating Gould like a king, and Gould mumbles an embarrassed demurral: "I'm just like anybody else." And that's the point. That's the point, also, of Barbara Jean's breakdown, and of the scene where she sits in a darkened hospital room with Barnett, painting her toenails and getting angry at the radio when Connie comes on. It's an intimate scene, stripped down, far away from the bustle of the Grand Ole Opry and the constant celebrity buzz that usually surrounds Barbara Jean even in the hospital. Instead, it's simply a human moment, a moment of disconnection between a depressed wife and a callous husband, a moment of prosaic activity. When she's not on stage—and often, even when she is—Barbara Jean is just like anybody else. That's arguably what sets her apart from the other performers in the film, like Haven and Connie, who are constantly at least trying to maintain a persona."
Friday, February 19, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
In John Brunner's 1968 science fiction novel exploring an over-populated future, "muckers" become a common problem. Biologically fed up with the pressure of competing for food, space, and privacy, people routinely go berserk and start killing everyone around them until they are killed or subdued. Given the recent tendency of people, especially Americans, to act similarly (although they usually shoot themselves before the police can apprehend them), I find myself thinking back to Brunner's prediction.
I also thought of muckers when watching the otherwise forgettable Luc Besson-produced action thriller From Paris with Love. Besson has been responsible from some excellent films, notably The Fifth Element and Leon, but he appears to have long since settled into writing or producing stylish B-movies like District 13 or Angel-A. I enjoyed the first two Transporter films, but not so much the third (although Dennis Cozzalio liked it). Besson has flair and style, although one wonders about his increasing tendency to cynically cater to the prejudices of American male audience members.
With From Paris with Love, that cynicism is outright disturbing. After a lengthy opening sequence that's basically an ad for a Cadillac Escalade, we learn that James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers with a fey mustache) reports to the CIA undercover as he works as a personal aide for an Ambassador at the Embassy in Paris. He has a beautiful girlfriend Caroline (Kasia Smutniak) who likes to model fashionable clothes and fix rooftop dinners looking out on the Parisian skyline, but here's the rub: the CIA wants James to partner with a special agent named Charlie Wax (John Travolta) and assist him with indiscriminately massacring legions of Chinese drug traffickers and other suspicious-looking people for much of the rest of the movie. Gradually, we learn that Wax has a terrorist ring in mind, but mostly he just shoots up a Chinese restaurant and various underworld lairs when he isn't blowing up various cars with a bazooka or whatever. In the course of the movie, the more conscientious Reece learns to shoot people in turn, until he too attains trigger-happy bliss.
Now, I understand the need for action in a film, but in From Paris with Love, any real pretext for a reason to shoot anyone vanishes as soon as Wax appears, and we are continually exhorted to think of his gun-slinging, cursing, chortling, hair-piece-free character as cool. In fact, at one point two men hand Wax a paper bag with some Royales with Cheese (Quarter Pounders from McDonalds) to sadly remind us of how far Travolta has fallen since his glory days as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. Vincent wouldn't need to shoot scores of nameless drug traffickers to feel cool, but apparently now Travolta does. I don't even want to think about how Besson's story hints at French contempt for belligerent cowboy American foreign policy.
I wonder how much upcoming muckers get their ideas from the cheerful consequence-free slaughters of films like From Paris with Love?
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
"In simplistic terms: Right is more positive, left more negative. Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so. The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left. The top is dominant over the bottom. The foreground is stronger than the background. Symmetrical compositions seem at rest. Diagonals in a composition seem to "move" in the direction of the sharpest angle they form, even though of course they may not move at all. Therefore, a composition could lead us into a background that becomes dominant over a foreground. Tilt shots of course put everything on a diagonal, implying the world is out of balance. I have the impression that more tilts are down to the right than to the left, perhaps suggesting the characters are sliding perilously into their futures. Left tilts to me suggest helplessness, sadness, resignation. Few tilts feel positive. Movement is dominant over things that are still. A POV above a character's eyeline reduces him; below the eyeline, enhances him. Extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns; low angles make them into gods. Brighter areas tend to be dominant over darker areas, but far from always: Within the context, you can seek the "dominant contrast," which is the area we are drawn toward. Sometimes it will be darker, further back, lower, and so on. It can be as effective to go against intrinsic weightings as to follow them."