Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why There's Traffic In Silverlake

At this point, I'm not even trying to find this information. Two and a Half sitcom writers left in L.A. is a nondescript story about the state of affairs in the business of Hollywood concerning it's now mostly out of work writers. In reality, maybe it's bigger than that, as my Producer neighbor is now in the bread line. It's the economy, it's Wall Street, it's the mortgage crisis, or it's because the amateurs are taking over.

The Thumbs Up for Leslie Hall

Many outlets, such as YouTube and Napster, are channels that can circumvent institutional and expensive (i.e. to apply for industry jobs, you'll need a short film as a CV, costing upwards of $20,000) obstacles standing in the way of unrecognized brilliant and marketable ideas, like a big F-U to a system that doesn't easily let anyone but Ivy Leaguers get in; a way to communicate with masses of people who would support and demand more of what you put in front of them by way of cold hard cash through media deals and artist partnerships. As in, Leslie Hall and her Gem Sweater riffs.

I can't wait to see where this gets us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Funeral Bell: Photo by Steven Stokan

As mentioned yesterday, journalism is now one big communal discussion; and there's no standard bar to measure the quality of information suffusing itself through amateur or journalistic outlets nationwide and abroad (even my own writings here). It's led to a lackdaisical attitude and general indifference towards the quality of writing and stories, and now we're addicted to sensational news and getting it at breakneck speed. It's all taken for granted.

Here we are: quotes from The New York Observer, "The story burns more intensely and then it burns out more quickly,” said Jonathan Alter, the Newsweek writer, musing about the life cycle of pieces. “And there’s so much information and so much political coverage that it’s easy for good stories to be lost entirely in that register.”

“Very few of these stories have a long finish,” said Michael Duffy, the nation editor for Time. “The gong dissipates quickly.”

“My instinct is that there is such cacophony of commentary that it does sometimes drown out ideas from good and deeply reported journalism,” said Marcus Brauchli, the executive editor of The Washington Post.

“In the Internet age, the cycle is constant and people don’t really have time to reflect all day on a single story in the newspaper,” he added. “And it’s more difficult to set the agenda for very long.”

Our 'Hobbesian State'...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coffin Nails/Food For The Silverfish

Yesterday ended with the glorious culmination of a prolonged search for a rarefied treasure. In my formative years, I was a carnivorous reader (and can still largely claim that title), spending magnanimous amounts of time in my elementary school's tiny library. In this library, I discovered a passion for fairy tale's and corresponding literature, such as a poem devoted to the woe's of a greedy child and the lengths her sister goes to save her. Comprised of goblins, golden hair, fruit and a moral in there somewhere - the scene would enact itself out in my head. Then I graduated and didn't really think about this story or other tales I had read. Years later, in college, these stories reappeared in my conscience and I had to have them back. I scoured the internet, I went back to my elementary school (thrown out - or something - that crochety old librarian!) , but the books I had loved were gone. I wasn't finished. I was armed with just the plot line.

Photo by Javier Cruzado

Yesterday, I laid out the plot of one title, called Shadow Castle to a co-worker (ok, I knew two of the titles, this one and The Woodcutter's Daughter). It sounded to her like Plato's Allegory of The Cave, and she urged me to Wiki it. Instead, I got online and thought - I'll look on Amazon - just real quick.

I love Amazon, it offers many opportunities with its money saving options and grouping of booksellers from across the U.S. We go a long way back, and I've never had a bad experience, only impatience while waiting for items to arrive in the mail. So, there we were, face to face - me and my favored website, hoping it wouldn't fail me now. There it was, Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell and Olive Bailey (back in print), and others such as George Macdonald's likened tales to Tolkein, but I still didn't have my poem filled with Goblins. I went back online and typed in elements of the plot via Google. Through some obscure discussion group, I found it - Christina Rossetti's Goblin's Market. How come I couldn't find this all before?
Dead Hour: Photo by Jason Larkin

To read this poem now, I'd never have guessed I read it first as a small 3rd grader. It is not the definition of facile. I assume the tales' proclivity towards strange and creepy made its mark, as I tend to read things of chthonic nature to this day, albeit less demons and more dark. Only, my lengthy search reveals one thing - it is my tactile satisfaction of a book that enhances its enjoyment (i.e. crumpled pages of a well-read tome). It is poignant then, that the future of rarefied books and their availability (juxtaposed against cyber-want-it-now-mentality-craving culture) is coming to a crippling end. Publishing had another nail hammered into it's coffin yesterday, and I'm concerned. Who cares enough to maintain books integrity? Must they all shuffle into public libraries and private collections in lieu of Amazon's Kindle and iphone's online newspapers? Like the way of Lehman's and AGI, with reclining newspaper and magazine distribution rates, low reading statistics and the ease of our digital age, we're all in for a nosedive.

Looking Back: Photo by Garry Rafaele

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watching TV Is Not An Exercise

I worry about my brain.

Yesterday I wanted to pour coffee on my salad even before I sat down to eat it (maybe lumping that in with brain malfunction is a little presumptuous since I was eating tofu and spinach, and really who wouldn't want it to taste like something, anything else than what it actually is?). Nevertheless, I was having visions of doing this act while reading/eating in Barnes & Noble across from my office. Am I forgetting my vitamins?

Photo by John Baird

I don't have cable TV. I have TV, I just don't have the multi-channel surf wonderment that is 150 channels of digital information at its best, with the exception of all gaming options of Tomb Raider (only you, Lara). Anyway, thanks to my empty pockets, I won't pony up the funds to pay for the 145 channels I will never watch, even with the option that I will get to watch Showtime's Dexter Season 3 (I love you Michael C. Hall!) with a $80 dollar upgrade (I don't love you that much). So, with just 28 channels of network TV, 20 of which are in Spanish, I'm left with two choices, KCET's channel 15, or Fox's channel 11. Fox loses because The Simpsons are not on, and therefore, at 8:30pm at night, I'm left with KCET's public programming. Lucky me, it's about brain fitness and rightly called The Brain Fitness Program hosted by a former famous actor, whose name I can't recall. Where are those vitamins?

Photo by M.S. White

Dr. Jason Karlawish has a lot to say, so I'm listening intently, but as all programming goes, they cut to commercial and I realize they're hocking a Brain Fitness Video (Like Brain Age? Um, no. I imagine Richard Simmons - Fitness for Your 50's). I was watching based on the promise of educational content; free unencumbered access to it (where's my tivo?). I'm out. I think I'll stick to chess, I hear that can be good for your brain too.

Is The Price Right? Goats Concur

How economic and green is it to transport 100 goats into the midst of Los Angeles denizens? Minus the transportation costs and exhaust, it's resulted in a savings of $4,500 (human hires cost $7,500, goats go for $3,000 all in) for The Community Redevelopment Agency, inaguarated in 1948 to clean up the town so to speak - at least when it concerns housing.

In their owns words, "The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) of the City of Los Angeles is a public agency established to attract private investment into economically depressed communities, eliminate slums, abandoned or unsafe properties, and blight throughout Los Angeles," - Thus the Corona Bearded Goats acting as clean-up crew to a weedy and steep hillside, known as Angels Knoll, in smoggy downtown Los Angeles. Assuming it's been good to the terrain (imagine the fertilizer!) in aesthetics and savings, it might not be the last time we see this atypical sight.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chuck Klosterman Made A Funny Joke

Photo by Chloe Scheffe

Chuck Klosterman uses words like abject, schism and ungulate. I sulkily admit I had to look up their meanings. Reading a half hour of Chuck Klosterman's disquisitional essays in A Decade Of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas is mind-blowing on this level. I assume a well-thumbed thesaurus is always with him; but I have no proof beyond his particular, intellectual and varied, speech staccato peppering all his work. I'm in awe, but not in love.

I'm alone in my lovelessness - there are those who are head over heels: two friends of mine are crushing on Chuck because, as Lauren Salazar from Daily Intel put it, he's got a 'nerdy hotness' about him that makes you sympathize with his wistful fictional characters (he says that "No one ever has sex in his books because he identifies more with people being rejected") and quirky personal real-life stories. Just select a piece from Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, a running commentary on pop culture and its icons - an extension of his comprehensive work - and you'll find a man colored by hilarious juvenile tales and a keen awareness of how to translate what happens around him into a contextualized concept.

When asked if he had a critical aesthetic, which sounds to me like a question about his particular brand of presentation, he says, "I don't know that I have an aesthetic, really. If I do, it would be that I think there are people who want to think critically about the art that engages their life, and I think you can do that with any kind of art. There's this belief that some things can be taken seriously in an intellectual way, while some things are only entertainment or only a commodity. Or there's some kind of critical consensus that some things are "good," and some things are garbage, throwaway culture. And I think the difference between them, in a lot of ways, is actually much less than people think. Especially when you get down to how they affect the audience. So when I write, I don't think it necessarily matters what I'm writing about. I think it matters the way I think about it. The chord changes, and the lyrics on a record have value, but their real value is how they shape the way people look at their own lives."

Although Chuck states that no one can really write an objective piece because it's based on the author's "subjective objectivity," he nevertheless strikes a chord with partakers of pop culture; I think that chord is a collective sense of cynism. In his own words, "I think there's an element of cynicism in my writing, but I'm an optimistic cynic."

Photo by Ellen Choi