Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Friday, January 21, 2005
Republicans Dance While The World Burns



George W. Bush and Laura dance at the Patriot Ball



An Iraqi girl screams after her parents are killed when American soldiers fired on their car when it failed to stop, despite warning shots, in Tal Afar, Iraq. The military is investigating the incident.


We deserve everything we get.
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Thursday, January 20, 2005
Here Lies America

A moment of silence, out of respect for the dead.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005
DIY Or Die, Assholes

A conversation overheard while leaving an introductory class on screenwriting:

College Guy #1: So you wanna do some screenwriting?

College Guy #2: Yeah, I've done some before... I mean, not using the standard format or anything, but I don't think that matters much anyway...

CG #1: Nah, I don't think so either...

CG #2: I don't know much about the technical stuff, but I don't really need to, I'll just leave that to the pros.

CG #1: Yeah, just focus on the creative part and get the award.

(both laugh)

Fools. Idiots. You've failed before you've even begun.

There's an assumption made here, and no matter which option you choose, these guys are fucked. The first possibility is that the Hollywood/"Indie" writer-director is a viable possibility, in which case dismissing standard screenplay format is an instant failure. No screenplay, no matter how brilliant, will even make it past the unpaid-intern reader if it isn't in Courier and correct, standard format. A petty point, but that's just the rule of the land.

And if we assume that instant absorption into the world of Sundance competition and studio screenings and award ceremonies isn't guaranteed -- necessitating we make our own first films -- then the dismissal of knowing "the technical stuff" is not merely a creative failure, but I would argue the independent filmmaker's equivalent of a moral failure as well. The statement suggests that its speaker has utterly missed the point, is going about things in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, has no concept of what's actually involved in making a film, and is still looking for someone else to do the hard bits.

Ain't nobody going to make your film but you, so you'd best know how to do it if you ever want to see it playing somplace other than inside your head.

This was the single most frustrating thing working at the Co-op: people came in who expected us to lead them through a simple procedure: 1) instantly recognize their overwhelming creative genius and instantly align ourselves with them and their interests; 2) take their ideas and form them into beautiful, perfect films, giving them complete creative control without asking them to do any hard work; 3) put their perfect films in front of the Right People, who would then whisk them away to lives of glamour, artistic adoration, and their rightful place in the pantheon of Great Directors.

I mean, if you asked them, obviously that's not what they'd say they wanted... but that's really what they wanted. And when we're brand new, we all have those little fantasies -- they feel good, and they give us the balls to think we could actually do this big, impossible thing that nobody thinks we can do. But eventually the delusional phase has to pass, and we have to start looking at what the deal really is -- long, hard, unglamorous work for very little obvious benefit and no guarantee of success or recognition ever -- and decide if we still want to do it. Those of us who've decided we do have zero fucking patience for the delusional folks.

I'm sick of people who send their first goddamn crappy film into Sundance. The hard truth is, everybody's first film sucks... you hopefully love it anyway, since it's your baby, but that doesn't mean you can't see that it's an ugly, deformed, crippled baby that can't cope with life in the outside world. I'm sick of people who assume others -- those of us who've spent years acquiring skills and experience -- are going to put aside our own work in favor of theirs. Fuck your film: you want it made, you make it. Sure, exceptions are possible -- filmmakers pin their hopes on that one oh-so-tantilizing chance in a million with a fervor exceeded only by lottery players -- but I'm telling you, Jack, when I say it's unlikely, I'm talking being-struck-by-lightning unlikely.

And more than anything else, I'm sick of people who come into this looking for fame and money and recognition. Filmmaking is an artform, like painting or writing or dance -- if you manage to make a living, and you get some critical acknowledgement and a few awards, that's obviously incredibly good and bully for you, but does your average painter or writer or dancer do what they do for that reason alone? They do it because they must, in spite of the frustration and poverty and dead, unproductive months and years; filmmakers have to be the same. The big trade-off in the expansion of film into an artform for everybody is that not everybody is going to be able to rely on Hollywood to provide a standard by which to measure their success. What about artistic success? What about living a life doing work you enjoy and which has meaning for you? Huh? Why's it always have to be about motherfucking Sundance? Screw Sundance! Seriously! We'd all be better off if it didn't exist... Sundance fucking pisses me off, it's the bane of successful sub-indie filmmakers everywhere.

It's time for a new model, a new set of assumptions, a rejection of what's come before -- which is no longer relevant -- and the construction of something that can actually have useful meaning for us now. And leaving the hard work to other people is NOT going to part of it. That's so bourgeois-pampered-white-kid it makes me puke.

PS: The title of this post is ripped from a documentary film of the same name (well, minus the "assholes" part) about the necessity of doing one's own shit in any artistic or creative endeavor.
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Monday, January 17, 2005
Stick

Josh gave it to Shaw, who gave it to me. (At least, I assume it was me he was referring to.)

Right, let's see...

1. What is the total amount of music files on your computer?

The computer I currently work on contains zero music files... it's an old machine, and really not up to the job. The computer I was using until recently, however, had hundreds of ripped tracks on it. Probably a good 10 gigs worth.

2. The cd you last bought is:

- "Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See" by Jim White

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

- "Not Dark Yet," Bob Dylan

It sounds best with snow.

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:

- "Retrovertigo," Mr. Bungle

My favorite song by my favorite band. The title particularly has resonance; the idea of feeling oneself falling backwards, disoriented, though time is one I can always relate to, right now particularly. That isn't exactly what the song is about, but it's good anyway.

- "Street of Shame," Foetus

A cartoonish thing that sums up my religious sentiments rather well.

- "The Coconut Song," Harry Nilsson

I could not get enough of this one when I was six. And yes, I know it was in Reservoir Dogs. I'm trying to repress that memory.

- "Maple Leaf Rag," Scott Joplin

I grew up listening to my dad play this, which is one of a small handful of completely good memories I have of the man. I intend to learn to play it myself one day.

- "Motherfucker" by Ben Siler

As cold as it is here, I've been singing this one a lot lately.

Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

Ummmm... Denny and Mat, and I guess Dave, even though anyone who reads Dave's blog already knows what his taste in music is. But they all have blogs and any of them could surprise me.

Regular posting will resume very soon, I'm sure. It's just taking me a while to get my bearings... you know how it is.
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Sunday, January 16, 2005
Hello, Vermont

Whoooooo... yeah, okay, sure. Vermont. Marlboro. Hi, howya doin'?

Yes, I feel considerably better today, thanks for asking. Still a little woozy, a bit weak, had a rough couple of nights and I am admittedly a bit more disoriented than I might normally be... but then again, this is such a strange experience, maybe I only think I'd be less disoriented. I'll spare you the gruesome details of my misadventure with the fish, but suffice to say I haven't been that ill since I had a run-in with an egg-and-bacon croissant purchased from a sandwich shop at the Leicester Square tube station a few days before my 24th birthday. The upshot is that I'm a little behind in my unpacking, and doubly so since, when I arrived yesterday, the previous occupants of my room had not yet removed their belongings. Fortunately, sick as I was, even a bare mattress on the floor of an empty dorm room felt as welcoming as mother's arms; I was in no condition to be picky.

Nothing has changed here. Nothing. And yet, everything has changed. I took a drive through Brattleboro yesterday, and was astonished to find that everything was essentially just as I'd left it, with only a few positive-looking additions on the main drag. Mocha Joe's is still there (there are even two of them now), Brown and Roberts Hardware is still there, Sam's is still there (not the wholesale club), even the Save The Corporations From Themselves shop is still there. (I was sure that one couldn't last.) Rap City is gone, replaced by one of two bike shops, but Underground (admittedly having moved several times, and who knows how often since I was last here) is still there. Sarkis Market, sadly, seems to be gone. Oh well.

The campus is weirder still. At first glance it doesn't look much different -- a few new buildings, but no massive changes. I should've twigged how much things might've really changed from Marlboro North (my dorm)... massive remodeling has been done on the first floor. I, however, am living in one of the upstairs rooms, basically untouched in the intervening seven years. Randy, if you're reading this, I'm in your old room... nice to be put somewhere with some good memories.

Once on campus and wandering around a little, other subtle differences became apparent. A vague sense absence clicked into place when I realized the old maintenance building was gone; the dining hall is exactly the same, but better equipped. And then there's the library... apart from the addition of the science wing, it looks the same from the outside. Then I went in, and discovered that the maps in my memory are not even remotely relevant anymore. It's so clean, so spacious, so nice. I have no clue where anything is -- it took me ten minutes to find the new computer lab (though it's damn impressive), but they do forunately have handy maps at the enormous check-out counter.

I need information. I don't know how the college phone system works, I don't know how my internet connection works, I don't know anyone (although I've gotten a few looks of "do I recognize you?" from random staffers), but then again, I didn't really come back looking to make any close new friendships. I'm here to finish up old business, tie up loose ends, get a foothold someplace outside Memphis, and anything else that happens is just gravy. It would be nice to have someone to talk to, though.

Other random notes from the journey: Friday night (before the fish), lost in Schenectady, New York, I was startled to see a car with a DeSoto Co., Mississippi license plate driving in front of me. What are the chances?

The fish incident was especially unfortunate in that, already having an aloof attitude towards fish (I'm very picky about anything that comes out of the ocean), getting a bad bit of haddock really didn't encourage me to add more fish to my diet. Frankly, I don't think I'll be able to look at fish again for quite a while... I'm getting queasy just thinking about fish. Ugh.

Thanks to my beloved mother for her post; it's not half bad, maybe she should start a blog of her own. I will strongly encourage her to come visit before my time here is up, if for no other reason than for her to experience the way I feel being a lone liberal in blood-red DeSoto County. You can't walk twenty feet here without running across some anti-Bush slogan... ahh, my people.
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