Let’s Make a Video

I bought a copy of Adobe Premiere Elements (just $80 with rebate) because I had an idea for a video to Spiraling’s “The Future” (Please buy the album now). The song is about all the things we were promised about the future that still have yet to be delivered. Initially I thought I was going to have to cut amongst several old sci-fi serials on file at the Prelinger Archives[1], but I found one video that had everything I need. Fittingly, it was from New York’s 1964 World’s Fair, perhaps the single saddest and least accurate depiction of the future man has yet devised. Here’s my video.

On a related note, as we approach 2010, we will once again pass through a threshold of science fiction movie disappointment (we haven’t even made it to Jupiter!) much the way we did when we passed 2001. The next scheduled Disappointment Threshold for me will be when we reach 2015, the year of Back to the Future II, and we won’t even have hoverboards to show for it.

1.) I have previously plumbed the depths of the Prelinger to make a video for Jeff Buckley’s “Be Your Husband.”

Disorganized Post #327

Reading New York Magazine‘s cover article on Demetri Martin, this passage struck me:

“He’s that kind of person who’s always standing a little bit outside, with an awkwardness that’s born out of self-knowledge and a truly analytical point of view. People like that tend to be snobs, but a few gentle souls have the ability to be both self-analytical and really nice. Most analytical types are above it all. Demetri’s more to the side of it all.”

I hope people think the same thing about me, because that’s who I feel like. He and I also share an enjoyment of anagrams.

“there’s a part in If I where Martin talks about how, when he looks at signs on the street, the letters seem to rearrange themselves before his eyes, Mobil transforming magically into Limbo. He’s learned to believe that “there’s a parallel world right in front of us that’s revealed with a small shift in perspective.”

More new things I’ve written at OK Communicator:
Debbie Does America
It Came from Netflix: Emperor of the North

It’s Still a Wonderful Life

It’s interesting to watch It’s a Wonderful Life through the lens of the current economic crisis. Watching the run on the Bailey Building and Loan, and listening to George explain how bank loans work, I’m struck by how far finance as an industry has come, with so many labyrinthine variations on illiquid funds, debt, stocks, speculation, etc. A modern version might go something like this:

“You act like I’ve got the money back in the safe. But it’s in Joe’s house, and he’s mortgaged to the hilt because although he only makes $80,000 a year he wants people to think he makes $100,000, and he wants the jet ski and the Hummer and so you loaned him the money because you were in the same frat and why not? They’re just numbers, ink on a page. Everybody fudges the numbers, even Joe!”

And the scene where Potter tries to buy George out. It’s become the American Dream.

You wouldn’t mind living in the nicest house in town, buying your wife a lot of fine clothes, a couple of business trips to New York a year, maybe once in a while Europe. You wouldn’t mind that, would you, George?

I think most of Wall Street sold out to Potter at birth. It’s pretty much the goal of most Americans. But it shouldn’t be; and that’s actually one of the lessons of the movie that people miss.

The movie is trying to tell us that the stuff we think of as “important” – building big things, living the good life, fame, fortune – is so far, far less important than helping people and holding it down in your own corner of the world, wherever that may be.

One of the things Camille Paglia[1] talks a lot about is elevating the trades. We’ve become so materialistic that we assume that anyone who makes less than $30,000 or who doesn’t work in an office is automatically a second class citizen. We’ve got to find some way to be happy with who we are and what we do. Because it seems like no one is.

1.) Who by the way, clearly has a big crush on Sarah Palin, so I take her less seriously than I used to.

The Death of Niche Cable

I think it started with MTV’s The Real World. That was when MTV realized that it could make more money with shows that have a clear demographic than it could with just random videos all day long. This inevitably led to our current state of affairs wherein actual music videos on MTV are as scarce as hookers in Times Square. MTV is even saying goodbye to TRL, the last outpost of daytime video programming on MTV.

I’ve noticed an alarming number of cable channels finding greater profits in programming that violates the channel’s name and mandate.

VH1 was quick to follow, eventually packing its schedule with reality shows and instant nostalgia programs. The name VH1, for those who don’t remember, once stood for “video hits.” Like its big sister MTV did with M2, so VH1 begat VH1 Classic, tasking it with doing the chores VH1 was too busy making money to bother with, namely, playing video hits.

Next up, Bravo. Once a channel dedicated to actorly pursuits like Inside the Actor’s Studio (itself now a show featuring stars rather than actors), Bravo now boasts a schedule packed to the gills with reality shows of questionable relevance to its original charter of focusing on film, drama, and the performing arts. It should be noted that Bravo’s Canadian twin, Bravo!, never made this transition.

More recently, AMC, a channel whose name once stood for “American Movie Classics,” launched in 2007 its first original drama series, Mad Men. At least they’ve violated their namesake with a really good show.

The lesson here is that there may not be any money in niche programming, and as soon as there is, the niche is the first thing that dies. I’m once again reminded of that Eric Hoffer quotation, “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” Maybe that’s a natural consequence of the old business adage: “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

The Up Series

At Amy’s behest, I recently completed watching all 7 installments of Michael Apted’s Up series. It’s a novel use of film. It started in 1964 with interviews of various young British kids, and then repeated the process every 7 years. The next installment is due in 2011.

To be able to watch someone grow up and find their way through life, to see how they change and yet don’t, is fascinating. In a way it’s a precursor to reality TV shows, but only on the surface. The Up series is a sociological document, not voyeuristic crap. It’s available on Netflix, and most of the installments are on the free instant streaming service. Check it out.

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking a ton of pictures and not linking to them, so here are some recent highlights:

Crying Hello Kitty
Waldorf-Astoria lobby
hat man
The Unisphere and Towers
round the corner from my place
McCarren Park Pool
Catholic Jazz band
saint on a boat
holy pole
Jewish Elvis
Jackson Pollock closeup

Escape to Los Angeles

Here is the run-down on last week’s trip:

Tuesday – Landed, went up to this house where my cousin David‘s girlfriend was house-sitting. Turns out the house belongs to Hyde from That 70’s Show, and it used to belong to Chuck Berry. I touched a guitar signed by Chuck Berry! And I played bass by a hot tub in which I’m sure Mr. Berry committed felonies numerous and varied.

Wednesday – Went to the House of Blues to see two guitarists of whom I’ve been a big fan of since 9th grade but I’ve never seen them play live: Paul Gilbert and Richie Kotzen. And I was surrounded by LA guitar nerds, the ones who love to cross their arms and pontificate about who rules and who sucks. I’m glad I don’t live near them.

Thursday – David and I went to Amoeba Records to find my mom a Leonard Cohen DVD (she asked for it specifically because that’s how cool she is). Then we watched I Am Legend on David’s Blu-Ray hi-def wide-screen T-V and afterward we freaked out on Lost, ’cause it finally got back to Locke’s storyline.

Friday – I took the bus and walked all over town because I forgot that my Arkansas driver’s license expired in March. I let it because I figured, hey, when am I going to need to drive a car in NYC, right? Oops. Rental car agencies frown on expired licenses. I’ll get that taken care of next week, though. Anyway, I walked up La Brea, where I passed Jason Lee and his wife looking at furniture. I then had lunch at Barney’s Beanery where I sat a few booths over from Jason Schwartzman. After that I met up with my friend Meredith and we saw a really terrible band somewhere.

Saturday – Here’s a fun story. Some years ago my friend Randall gave me a CD by an Austrian guitarist named Alex Machacek (pronounced “MOCK-a-check”), and I became a big fan. He’s as underground as it gets, so few guitarists even know about him. To anyone else, he’s just another jazz-rock-fusion guitarist in LA, but to me he’s on a higher plane from pretty much every other guitar player I know. I’ve talked with him a few times via email and MySpace, and so last week I sent him a message asking him if he had any shows going on. He said he didn’t, but I was welcome to come over for coffee and hang out. So I did. He made me a couple fantastic cups of espresso and we talked about music and guitarists, and he gave me a guitar lesson. The whole thing really made me realize the dichotomy that is Los Angeles: most people freak out over meeting famous people, when perhaps they should be freaking out over truly phenomenal people – artists who do things few can, who push the boundaries of their craft, who represent the pinnacle of what can be achieved in a given medium. For musicians, Alex Machacek is such an individual. I uploaded one of his tunes to Muxtape, so check it out there. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Muxtape yet, so take a look at them, too. I have another playlist uploaded here.

That night, David and I went to see the LA Galaxy play the New York Red Bulls. I sat with the Riot Squad, the officially sanctioned corner of the stadium populated entirely by authentic football hooligans. Good times, even though the Galaxy lost. I told no one I was from NYC. For once it was better to say I’m from Arkansas.

Sunday – We went to see Rush in Irvine. I realize of course, as someone who is occasionally paid to write about rock music, that I am almost obligated to say that Rush sucks and progressive rock is a pox on the face of authentic rock and roll, but to that I say quite simply: Bite Me. If you can’t enjoy the refined Canadian flavor of Awesome that is Rush, then you can’t enjoy anything in life without wondering if someone is going to think you’re uncool.

Monday – Flew home. Took all day. Special note to Virgin Airlines: the little TVs in the seats are nice but $7 to see a movie on a tiny screen with headphones? $8 for airline food? No sale.
At least give me a bag of peanuts or something!

Here are some other photographic highlights from the trip:

Pink’s Hot Dogs are apparently spectacular
Billy Bob at Guitar Center?
Giant Magnatone amp on Sunset
The biggest Indiana Jones poster ever
99 Cent Store window display
Very old candy
Old Simpsons promo statues
Vintage Film editing console
Vintage Coca-Cola machine
German Muppets
The 50’s live on…
…in Culver City
Refurbishing LAX

3-Day Weekend, Netflix, Kangaroos

Coming out of the sickness, I’ve opted to stay indoors all weekend. I only left once, on Saturday to go to the post office. Mostly I’ve been devoting my time to Netflix on-demand movies. Yes, I finally signed up yesterday. My queue is now full of obscure 80’s movies, Billy Wilder films, and European cinema. The first disc in line is a film that I’ve been wanting to see again since I was a child. I couldn’t remember the title, so I just started Googling and it turns out that the movie is called Dot and the Kangaroo. It was a mixture of live-action and cartoon; it’s about a young girl who gets lost in the woods and is taken in by a kindly kangaroo who lost her joey. I remember watching it more than once on HBO, but I haven’t seen it since.

The Watch Instantly service is something I highly recommend. I haven’t had any drops or lags in the streaming process, and the picture quality is really nice. Here’s what I’ve watched this weekend:

Dark Days – A documentary about some homeless people who lived in the train tunnels near Penn Station back in 2000. It’s amazing to see how they lived and what they accomplished (cooked meals, showers, electricity) by starting with literally nothing. I later discovered that the film was shot by one of the people who lived down there. They got the camera and film as charitable donations. It’s an astounding achievement. And DJ Shadow donated some extended versions of his tunes for the soundtrack. Lauren recommended this film to me, and after riding home Friday night looking out the back of the last subway car, I knew I had to see what life would be like to live under New York City.

Koyaanisqatsi – A hypnotic montage of modern life in 1982. Music by Philip Glass. Some parts were a little irritating and heavy-handed, but overall it serves its purpose by getting you to question the ways in which we’ve shaped our world.

Bedazzled – The original 1967 film, not the sub-par remake! If you like British comedy, you need to get to know Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as a duo. Bits of their TV show, Not Only But Also, as well as their stage show, Beyond the Fringe, are available on YouTube, so seek them out. This one is my favorite. This is really the only great movie they made together, as Peter Cook was reluctant to go into film. But Cook plays the devil so well – with wit, deviousness and humanity. Here’s a clip. Oh, and Dudley Moore composed the music score. What an insanely talented coupling those two were.

Cool Hand Luke – Best. Prison. Movie. Ever. Previously I thought The Shawshank Redemption was tops. Now it’s a close second.

Barry Lyndon – Apparently the most sane film Stanley Kubrick ever made. It’s 3 hours long, but once you get swept up in it, you hardly notice – assuming, of course, that you’re the type of person who can get swept up in 18th century European drama. It’s beautifully made; shot mostly with natural light, it has a very painterly look to it.

Creativity Forged in a Fevered Mind

I’m sick again. Something flu-esque, I think. Anyway, I stayed home again today, and in my sleepless bed-ridden state I tried to find thoughts with which to amuse myself. I started to make up silly band names using only references from the film Blazing Saddles. Here are the highlights:

Lilly von Schtupp and the Schnitzengrubens
Sheriff Bart and Do What He Say
The Waco Kid and the Dazzling Urbanites
Hedley Lamarr and the Phoney Baloney Jobs
Sheriff Taggart and the Kansas City F*ggots
Governor Le Petomane and the Indignant Harumphs
Olson Johnson and Want Don’t Want the Irish
Mongo and the Bean Scene[1]
Candygram for Mongo
A Laurel and Hearty Handshake
Vatican Stampede
The French Mistake

1.) I picture this group as made up of cast members from a failed Sid and Marty Krofft pilot of the same name. And maybe the characters all went on to have parts in The Banana Splits or H.R. Pufnstuf.

I Wish to Register a Complaint

As I’ve traveled to places where my Internet connection is less than strong, I’ve noticed what a marvelous thing YouTube is when compared to nbc.com or the recently launched thedailyshow.com. YouTube allows you to see how much of the video has loaded, so if you’re on a slow connection, you can pause the video and come back to it when you see that it has loaded. For whatever reason, this is not how the videos at nbc.com and thedailyshow.com work. And it’s endlessly irritating. I’m trying to catch up on Heroes and The Daily Show and I’m constantly stymied by a buffering process that gives me no indication of when the video will resume. Get it right, people!

Movie Gallery on the Ropes?

Movie Gallery called me yesterday offering a free rental. Apparently they’re working hard to keep up with the advent of the Netflix and Blockbuster DVD-by-mail business models. I hope it’s working for them; I went there last night and while I was there, every other person who came in was there for their free rental, too. I have to wonder if the video store isn’t going the way of the music store. I don’t generally rent movies as a habit, mainly because I tend not to enjoy watching movies by myself. If I’m alone with nothing to do I’m usually playing guitar, keyboard or reading a book.

By the way, all of Movie Gallery’s pre-viewed DVDs are on sale at 50% off. I bought Pan’s Labrynth, Good Night and Good Luck, Children of Men, and Talladega Nights all for less than $7.50 each. I also rented The Painted Veil, which was thoroughly enjoyable.