Why I support the writer’s strike

November 7, 2007 at 4:13 am (news, politics, pop culture) (, , )

_1304774_strike2_300.jpgI intern at a talent management agency so I get to look at the big project books of all the films in production over the next year. The William Morris Agency sends them out so that the guys I work for can scramble to get their best talent in meetings with the casting directors for those films. For the past couple of months while scanning the upcoming flix I noticed that most production companies were busting ass to get as many finished scripts into production “pre-strike”. It seemed a given that this writer’s strike was gonna happen – not to worry though, most of those scripts were formulaic crap starring Channing Tatum or Gerard Butler types or more bloody remakes anyway (Straw Dogs and The Magnificent Seven, for Chrissakes? Is anything holy to those bloodsuckers in LA????!) .

People in New York can be surprisingly whiny about strikes. When the MTA workers striked for a few days people grumbled copiously about everything and the union head was thrown into jail. This should scare the shit out of all of us because were it not for unions and the influence of socialist politics on the workforce in general, we wouldn’t have stuff like overtime, child protection laws, minimum wage, sick leave, etc… Sure, unions can be corrupt, racist and exclusive, however without their collective bargaining power the indifferent market and greedy fat cat capitalists would steamroll all over workers’ rights. Check out the minimum wages and benefits in states that have anti-union policies (Texas, for instance) and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

We might not be talking about blue-collar workers here, when we talk about the writers strike, however writers have been the underdogs of the Hollywood machine since cinema began. Unless they are a hyphanate writer-director-actor or exceptionally successful like Charlie Kaufman and Paddy Chayefsky from a while back, writers are woefully underappreciated and considered unglamourous. Now, they are trying to secure a bigger piece of the digital pie for themselves as films, TV and other scripted entertainment segues into non-traditional screening venues like your iPod or more DVDs. And why shouldn’t they? Directors, producers and talent make the big bucks filming the stuff that these guys and gals pen. If Hollywood is a big shiny mansion then writers are the beams and 2 by 4s that keep it from sinking into the tar pits.

Let the writers have their extra 4 cents in DVD revenue and if I have to watch reality shows for the next year due to the lack of produced material from the strike I’ll gladly tune in to I Love New York 2 or American Idol season 82 in the meantime. Honestly, that’s what I’d probably be watching in the first place.

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I met my friggin idol – David Cronenberg…

November 6, 2007 at 9:51 pm (news, pop culture) (, , , )

cronenberg.jpg…Like a month ago, but I’ve been busy with PhD apps OK? One of the great things about living in New York is that you have access to all sorts of random screenings and appearences that often materialize at a moment’s notice. If I hadn’t been at my internship where we get the daily Variety I would have never known about the Museum of Moving Images screening of Eastern Promises followed by a Q&A with director, the illustrious Cronenberg, and the screenwriter Steve Kloves (Dirty Pretty Things). After missing a panel interview with other idol, Wes Craven, due to a bizarre food poisoning incident and getting the date wrong for an interview with Eli Roth, I had resigned myself to never meeting any more of the directors that I admired (except for Tarantino and Spike Lee ages ago). So, when this glittering opportunity presented itself I jumped and bought a ticket the same day.

Of course, my admiration for Craven and Roth is based on nostalgia and my indiscriminate love for all slasher cinema instead of a deep intellectual connection to their work (except for the Elm Street series which is brilliant). Cronenberg’s films on the other hand have inflamed parts of my brain with their bizarre bodily transformation, gender relations, and existentialist themes. Videodrome and ExistenZ alone ushered me into film school, mind ablaze with questions about the nature of reality, representation and how media changes our subjectivity. Needless to say, I was SO EXCITED.

Eastern Promises didn’t disappoint (see www.cinemattraction.com for a review)- its a grave tale of organized crime, violence and rebirth with fantastic performances by all of the actors. But as the credits rolled my heart pounded. He was coming out on the stage. I expected a somewhat pompousand creepy intellectual droning on about theory and philosophy.. I never expected him to be so funny! Cronenberg spent the next 30 minutes poking fun at his pretentions, answering even the most boring questions earnestly and with enthusiasm, and amusing us with anecdotes about the production. Everyone else brought DVDs and pictures to sign but the only thing I had on me was my new volume of Tales from the Crypt reprints. Cronenberg remarked on how cool the book was and how those comics used to scare the shit out of him when he was a kid. I muttered something about Videodrome being the reason that I study film in school and thanked him. He signed it and I left more enamored than I had been coming in. If you ever need a personal assistant Mr. Cronenberg, I’m your woman!

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File this one under “duh”: Study confirms cats have short memories

August 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm (news)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20070820/sc_livescience/felinememoriesfoundtobefleeting

In a groundbreaking new study scientists have figured out that your cat Fluffy can only remember certain types of information for about 10 minutes at a time. Furthermore, most of that info is body memory instead of visually based. Perhaps this explains why my retarded felines need to be scolded every SINGLE day about scratching my couch to rivets despite the fact that I spray them with water and tap them on the heads (gently) as a deterrant. They just don’t remember that I told them not to.

Or that’s what they want us to think.

It’s just as likely that they know their position in the household is as king and queen and just choose to ignore me. After all, those buggers eat before I do – and often! They know who’s in charge and it ain’t me. I just love the picture Yahoo! put with this article.

wrinkly_cat_big.jpg <——- kitty means business

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Film legend Ingmar Bergman passes away

July 30, 2007 at 7:02 pm (news, pop culture)

The brilliant Swedish director who gave us the indelible image of a shrouded grim reaper playing chess with a forlorn knight, has quietly met his own fate at the age 89. Ingmar Bergman, the winner of four Oscars and director of over 50 films, reportedly passed away in his sleep of natural causes. Although I hear the iconic Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries are often cited as fan favorites, I have always been particularly moved by Through A Glass Darkly, and The Virgin Spring. I have yet to see his later works such as Persona and Fanny and Alexander, but now they shoot to the top of my Netflix. First Vonnegut and now Bergman…the world can’t afford to lose any more great artists.

For an in depth obituary on Bergman http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070730/people_nm/sweden_bergman_dc_5

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Bush thumbs his nose at us, spares “scooter” Libby jail term

July 6, 2007 at 3:08 pm (news)

libby.jpgWhat is happening to our checks and balances? First Bush gets his VP’s crony out of the clink , then Cheney pretty much refuses to comply with an executive order on the handling of national security secrets.

<——— the smirky face of a guy (Libby) who knows his friends in high places will always bail him out

The Washington Post is doing a fabulous series on the Dick Cheney shadow presidency, exploring to what extent the VP has created new powers for himself, abused his position in office, and expanded the definition of torture to strain the Geneva conventions. It is hair-raising stuff but he isn’t exactly being discreet about throwing his weight around. So where is the outrage? Presidents have been impeached for less. Seriously.

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Jerry Falwell passes away, packs shorts and a fan for his trip to the other side

May 16, 2007 at 4:23 pm (news, politics)

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I don’t want to sound insensitive, but when I found out that Jerry Falwell died I said, “Ha!” at my work desk and then immediately felt horrible. I tell myself that no matter how much I disagreed with this man’s beliefs and political convictions, that someone out there who loves him is mourning, and I respect that. Even though his intolerance has probably tangibly made my life worse as a woman of color under the Bush regime.

So be it, as Kurt would say.

In his illustrious tenure as “America’s preacher” and founder of the ever-bogus and hypocritical Moral Majority, Falwell “outed” Tinky Winky of the “Teletubbies” citing his flamboyant purple fur, his crowning triangle and the “purse” he carried – or man bag, as Winky preferred to call it – as proof that the liberal and immoral media was forcing the gay agenda on our impressionable toddlers.

I have to say that the few times that I watched the “Teletubbies”, I found it disturbing for a number of other significant reasons including the gurgling baby head in the sun and the constant stream of gibberish slowly draining my intellect and no doubt hindering the cognitive and linguistic development of many children. If Falwell had questioned the long term, live-in relationship of “Sesame Street’s” Burt and Ernie, perhaps his gay agenda theory would have went over better.

As if the “Teletubbies” unveiling wasn’t enough to secure his legacy, Falwell went on to blame the 9/11 attacks on gays, feminists, pornographers, abortionists and hell, liberals in general – why not? This statement proved to be too controversial even for his holy rolling homies in the White House and the GOP began to distance itself from Falwell and other notable Religious Right extremists.

While I can respect Falwell’s strength in his convictions and genuinely grieve the loss of any decent human being, I am relieved that there is one less person wielding their power and the supposed word of god, to persuade others to strip away my rights. Falwell chose to use his religion divisively and oppressively, in the service of exclusion instead of inclusion. Who will be the one to judge him for that? Perhaps God if s/he indeed exists but more importantly, those of us who are left behind will have to negotiate his far-reaching and malignent influence on reproductive rights (the “partial birth” abortion ban just OKed by the Supreme Court makes no provisions for the mother’s life), and social policies (gay marriage).

Perhaps this is the most fitting epitaph:

“Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America’s anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation’s appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.” -Matt Foreman, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

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Laughing at the French

May 10, 2007 at 5:38 pm (news, politics)

_42894465_sarko_afp203b.jpgLe Hee and La Haw I mutter at my French friends after the election of Nicholas Sarkozy. Despite all the crap Americans have gotten around the world for our village idiot Commander-in-Chief, why is it that so many other nations are electing their own watered down versions of ‘dubya’ to run their affairs?

Granted, right-wing in French politics probably skews more towards Giuliani Republicanism than Pat Buchanan scariness. However, if Sarkozy’s handling of the 2005 riots in the banlieues in which he compared housing project youths to “scum” to be hosed off the streets like garbage (southern sheriffs of the civil rights movement anyone?), instituted a “zero tolerance” martial law and attempted the mass deportation of demonstrators that were actually French citizens – are any indication of his domestic policies then the already put upon immigrants only have Nixon/Giuliani- esque racially motivated “law and order” crackdowns and the expansion of the prison industrial complex to look forward to.

Sarkozy stands to make France into a overworked imitation of America and Britain’s “liberalized” economy, meaning longer workweeks, shorter vacation time, fewer benefits of social citizenship like national childcare programs, cutbacks on healthcare and welfare and in general strip away the indulgent, lazy chic fabulousness of the French lifestyle. And for what? To have more cubicle mice making more money but without the leisure time to enjoy it? To score a lower quality of life rating? (USA consistantly rates the lowest of 1st world countries in this category). It’s perplexing indeed.

I love France, the movies, the food, the beautiful language, Juliette Binoche and Oliver Martinez…I could go on. But Sarkozy’s Bush-like agenda of being a ‘decider’ in order to dispel the image of the French as overly intellectual cowards (which doesn’t even make sense given their bloody history of revolution and colonization) smacks of crisis of masculinity governing. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that he was running against a liberal woman – her politics and gender encapsulating the somehow feminized hue that careful deliberation and diplomacy have acquired in the “War on Terror” age. We want our leaders to act, corroborating evidence or not, instead of thinking about the consequences. If you doubt this check out Tony Blair’s baffling transformation from thoughtful liberal Brit to Bush’s lapdog. Thank god he’s on his way out.

Even more telling, after learning of his win, Sarkozy took off on a yacht vacation with his family while riots tore the city apart. Do I even need to draw the connection to Bush’s extended and inappropriate wartime sojourns to his ranch in Crawford, Texas?

Still, there is hope. Sarkozy’s choice for PM seems reasonable at first glance and he is AGAINST the Iraq war. And he seems far less tolerant of police brutality than Giuliani – he actually suspended the officers responsible for the beating of a demonstrator – which is more justice than Amadou Diallo got. So we shall see if five years from now French remains the bastion of thoughtful sensuality in matters of food, leisure and art, as well as the bearer of an important intellectual tradition relying on rational (that word always deserves quotation marks) deliberation OR if it’s become a aesthetically beige, police state version of itself.

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Earth-like planet discovered!

April 27, 2007 at 8:04 pm (news)

kanamit.jpgFor better or worse, humans may not be alone in this vast universe. Scientists recently discovered a planet similar to Earth’s size, shape and temperature in a nearby galaxy. Planet 581 c – not a very sexy name is it? – orbits a red dwarf and is believed to have a slightly stronger gravitational pull than our lovely home planet.

I think astronomers should hold a contest to come up with a name for this bizarro Earth.  Any suggestions? How about Kanabit (see picture) or Red Lodge (hollaback TP fans)
http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/space/04/25/habitable.planet.ap/index.html

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Now “Oldboy” is to blame for Virginia Tech

April 22, 2007 at 5:22 am (news, virginia tech blame)

oldboy.jpgOldboy (2003) the fantastic thriller by South Korean director Park Chan Wook is now being scapegoated for the massacre at Virginia Tech. The revenge tale includes a scene of the hero attacking a group of people with a hammer, in a pose resembling the picture released of the killer. Of course, it’s probable that Cho Seung-Hui saw the crossover hit but whether he derived inspiration from the flick is debatable. In fact, if he had paid attention to the movie, and indeed the message of Park’s trilogy including Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, he would understand how absurd and unfulfilling revenge truly is.

While I believe that occasionally films can inspire one to political action and indignation I don’t think that anyone would have such a monkey see, monkey do response to extreme violence in a film, so much so that it would overrule their morals and understanding of the law.

In any case I urge everyone to see Oldboy, it’s a masterpiece of melodrama, action and a little bit of romance – with a twist.

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The Virginia Tech blame game

April 18, 2007 at 12:45 am (news, virginia tech blame)

Was the shooter possibly depressed? Is our video game culture to blame? Perhaps more severe gun restrictions would prevent another tragedy. Or maybe stricter immigration laws are in order, since the shooter, 23 year old senior Cho Seung-Hui of South Korea, was a legal resident. Or maybe he was depressed and his alleged anti-depression meds are to blame? So says the latest article from Yahoo!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070417/ap_on_re_us/virginia_tech_shooting

It’s amazing how quickly mourning turns into the frantic search for a scapegoat in an event like this. It happened in Columbine and the Amish shooting and now once again. The thought that anything like this can be explained away by either an intense concentraton on the details of the killer’s personality or a sweeping generalization about “society’s” pathologies is ridiculously simplistic.

Consider each explanation:

1. The anti-depression meds did it. This is an excuse the scientologists would love. No matter what the pharmaceutical industry says, Western medicine is not an exact science. Finding the right medication for ANY condition is always a combination of three things a) Dr. expertise and knowledge b) patient consistency in taking the pill – something which young patients are notoriously bad about c) simple trial and error with dosage and brand. Even something as pedestrian as the birth control pill can have side effects of varying severity- blood clots to acne – in different people. Anti-depressants are no different. Very rarely certain psychotropicmeds (like Paxil) can increase suicidal thoughts, usually when the patient is a teenager or been misdiagnosed. It’s even more rare that they will become homicidal. Conveniently we can’t track the amount of people who have refrained from doing harm to themselves or others because of anti-depressants/anxiety/psychotics. We can only learn about the few, unrepresentative rogue individuals that do.

2. The school didn’t do enough. Hindsight is 20/20 and while it seems obvious now that the school should have done more, what would “more” have included? Police can only work with the best information they have which, after the first killing, seemed to suggest that the two murders at 7:15am in the dorm was personally motivated, and that the shooter had left the premises. What could have possibly suggested what was to come? There’s no precedent even in other school shootings for someone returning hours later. They sent out several e-mails giving the info they knew. Even then, it was very early in the morning and students were already en route to school. I know that I never checked my e-mail before classes that early and I lived ON campus, if you are a commuter I suspect this is even more rare. By the second round of shootings, cops were called and people were informed, perhaps to the best of the school’s ability for an event that took place over the course of a few hours. This school was a moderate size. How could they have evacuated everyone?

I suppose you can blame the school for not having a contingency plan already in place, but really, who prepares for such an event? And is it worth turning every university into a police state to prevent another accident, assuming you could in the first place? When people become desperate or fervent enough to be suicidal there is very little you can do to prevent them from carrying out their intent because they have nothing at stake; you can’t threaten them with prison or death, they have already decided what their life is worth.

3. Violent culture theory. It’s simple enough to blame Marilyn Manson, Grand Theft Auto or movies for violence but how true is it? This isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t be held accountable for what they put out, but there is rarely a 1:1 relationship of someone seeing violence then committing a crime. What remains unsaid is that Japanese culture, among others, is just as violence saturated if not MORE then American youth culture. Manga, yakuza movies and violent video games are consumed just as much among youngsters and they – to my knowledge – have never had a school massacre and their national homicide rate is a fraction of ours.

4. Guns kill people, stupid. I won’t rehash the gun debate here. We all know about the 2nd amendment and our right to bear arms, blah, blah, blah. We also know it was referring to the militia and not any civilian with a paranoid ax to grind. The fact is most people in this country live in cities, not some homestead out in the wilderness where we need to protect our land from coyotes or intruders because we are miles away from the nearest police station. In our cities or suburbs, handguns are only intended for one thing: killing PEOPLE. You aren’t going to go hunt deer with your pistol and shoot birds with your handgun. Let’s not pretend these types of weapons are for anything else.

Then again, waiting periods and restrictions on buying guns will only prevent crimes based on impulse. For those who are meticulously planning their assault on innocents for weeks and months, as Cho seemed to be, a couple of days will not be a deterrent. But such policies will probably prevent some suicides, domestic murders, etc. Only a wholesale ban and collection of existing weapons would prevent massacres as these. Sure, guns don’t kill people, people do. But it’s hard to kill 33 people with a bayonet or a crossbow or knife.

5. Some people are just evil. Or this is an example of the devil’s work in the world. Or, this act was inhuman. This is a cop-out. Humans have a long history of cruelty towards one another. Any act done by a human cannot be INhuman. It is necessarily and resolutely in the realm of human behavior. And, if you take the long historically view, not even abnormal human behavior. Attempts to bring in the supernatural lets us off the hook too easily for raising people capable of doing these shocking deeds.

I’m sure that all of these explanations play a small part in explaining why this happened but they will never be the whole truth because people are complex configurations of nature and nuture, memories and motivations competing with each other, encouraging some actions and canceling others out. It’s tempting to want an “AHA” answer that ties up this tragedy in a bow, because if we can find a singular cause then we can implement a solution.

No matter what Cho’s so-called suicide note says, that won’t even be the whole truth of his frame of mind. There is who you are and who you want people to think you are even in the darkest moments doing the most heinous things. If Charles Whitman, the UT sniper taught us anything, it was the inscrutability of the human mind. Was it a bad relationship with his mother? Anxiety over arguments with his wife? Or the brain tumor they found during the autopsy? Yes and no.

Luckily, we don’t need a “why” to mourn these unfortunate victims. And no matter how badly this incident reflects on humanity and our weaknesses it doesn’t erase the beauty in the stories emerging of people who risked their live to protect others, sometimes strangers. Like the professor who held the door while his students escaped or the RA who came to the first victims aid. Courage, like cruelty is thankfully also a very human trait.

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