Check out this interesting article about writing. Excerpt:
“If you think of Groundhog Day — the only whys that are ever explored is the whys behind the individual choices Bill Murray makes during his endlessly repeating day. What you are NOT ever given the why answer to is:
Why did this start? Is it God? Why did he pick Bill Murray? Why this particular Groundhog Day? In other words, Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis do not bog you down in any of the metaphysical questions of how this world came to be or why this is happening to Bill Murray because they know it doesnt matter; what people want to see — what they will enjoy, is seeing what happens next: why Bill Murray makes the choices he does, and eventually, how he comes to see the world differently.”
Couldn’t really agree more. It’s all about the drive in the story-telling, sometimes the details can get distracting. I remember having a conversation with a friend about this and the movie Moon — where basically the philosophy behind the making of that movie was not to alienate the audience by making the sci-fi too obscure or detail oriented.
(via Dead Things ON Sticks)
Been doing a fair amount of offline reading so haven’t had as much to write about. Read Everything Bad Is Good for You and was pretty impressed. The book starts as almost a defense of video games as a complex medium, despite it’s being maligned at best as overly simplistic and at worst as degrading society. Steven Johnson’s assertions in the first half of the book as he traces the intricacy in popular culture through television, film and gaming are a great summation but no surprise to anyone familiar with Marshal Macluhan.
Where the meat of the book lies is in the second half when he supports his argument that not only is popular culture more complex than it was 30 years ago but it actually is making society smarter. He uses sociological studies to prove his points and in doing so goes one further in opening up the debate about the effects media has on our minds — even to the point of increasing IQs.
While in California (my two week trip was also a reason for my lack of posts) I had a few conversations about Blogging, both writing and reading. Most I’ve spoken with seem to express having too little time to spend pouring over blogs and even less to write their own content. It’s interesting because those same contacts would likely agree with Johnson’s argument about the complexity of television with multithreading.
In the same span of time friends, would tell me they didn’t have the time to read blogs or write about their own interests they would extol the virtues of decoding an episode of Lost. I have many friends- smart friends mind you- here in NYC that spend hours on World of Warcraft. I don’t doubt that my acquaintances would feel vindicated by reading Johnson’s tome. In fact, reading it myself I’ve been somewhat inspired to pay more attention to T.V. and look into video gaming as a practice of sharpening my mind.
Johnson himself doesn’t touch much on Blogging and the internet. Sure he mentions how it opens new avenues for viewers and players to critique and dissect T.V. and video games. He also mentions the benefit of all that reading that’s going on since he is quick to note the virtues of rich narrative over the cognitive gains of video games and visual media.
What I wonder, however, is a deeper elaboration on how Blogging and the internet affect society and the central nervous system the same way Macluhan remarks about T.V. and its effects.
This isn’t so much of a criticism of the book, in fact, I was very taken by its arguments and the questions it raised. I’m a huge defender of popular culture as a valid and important discourse. I guess I’m just looking for Blogging to be considered in the same light.
Just saw one of the best TED talk videos I’ve ever seen: Peter Hirshberg on TV and the web | Video on TED.com. Basically tells a familiar story of the convergence of web and media that was covered in so many classes I TAed at UCSC and gives a glimpse of what I’d like to study in graduate school.
It’s thesis is also compelling as it sort of posits that Tv and computers are in a sort of competition with one another (and very appropriately references Marshall Macluhan). It’s long but worth a watch.
Much to my delight Scare Tactics has been posted on Hulu. I had all but forgotten about the show that originally aired a few years ago — with host Shannon Doughtery when recently I saw an ad for an updated version with host Tracy Morgan. The problem with my being able to watch the show didnât, however, so much lie in the choice of host (though I think Morgan is a bit appetizing to the palate) but in trying to figure out air-times. Iâve never been very good at remembering when a show is on and rarely do I tune my dial to the SciFi channel when there isnât a marathon of some show that has been cancelled for several decades. Hence Iâm glad that Hulu posted it and I get to enjoy the antics and pranks at my own leisure, creating a little mini-marathon for myself this morning.
If you havenât seen the show its similar in format to the old âCandid Cameraâ? or new âPunktâ? format where an unwitting participant is duped into believing a bizarre scenario while the audience laughs at their stupidity. The twist with Scare Tactics is that instead of the premise being bizarrely funny in order to shock the participant it is based upon a paranormal event set in the fantasy or Sci Fi realm. The effect is to scare the ba-Jesus out of the person. For example one scene has a participant who is hired for an odd-job on a farm whoâs owner (an actor) is very a very testing and demanding, border-line paranoid. The dupe along with his âco-workersâ? (also actors) are unclear about the whereabouts of the âownerâsâ? brother. They set about their work loading branches into a chipper when one of the co-workers disappears. The participant along while finishing the chipping work see a stream of (fake) blood shoot through the machine and upon discovering the half-mangled body of their deceased co-worker the owner returns and starts screaming about how they âdidnât see anything.â? Of course, the actors are just portraying characters. The dupe, however, is shitting his pants more scared than he has ever been in his life until he it is all revealed as a prank.
One of the beauties of the show is not simply the premise — that scaring people is funny but in a lot of ways mirrors the popularity of folk-lore. That is, the skits concocted are slightly based in reality and are acted out real enough that placed into the situation the participant canât tell that the over-acting and silly postulation are fake. By blending reality with fantasy the show achieves a sort of hyper-reality making true what cannot be. For the individual involved the reality of the sketch is de-facto reality.
Just saw an interesting episode of the Twilight Zone; The Obsolete Man. Though it’s overtly a commentary on fascism it is all somehow relatable. I see myself in the little librarian played by Burgess Meredith. Not that I’m an avid reader (skipping of course RSS feeds).
There’s something about the way the term “obsolete” is used especially given its modern connotations in relation to technology. The definition used in this episode is more along the lines of someone lacking use value in accordance of the values of the system. I wouldn’t normally call myself “obsolete” but certainly I’ve second guessed how much I serve the system versus how much I reject its standards.
If you’re curious the entire episode is up on youtube. If you have a minute definitely watch the first part of the episode. Fantastic dialogue though somewhat overacted:
Episode 1 [link]
Episode 2 [link]
Episode 3 [link]
The Incredible Hulk [IMDB link] delivers on a lot of personal scores for me. The main point which can not be denied is the homage to the 70s T.V. show. I posted a few weeks ago about the Hulk marathon that the SciFi channel was running and it was fun to reminisce. I remember that I had watched the show when I was a kid but re-watching it now, it’s hard to see how I related to it then. It’s dark and sometimes somber attitude is kind of a downer as far as superhero stories go. It is clear now, however, how it has informed some of my perceptions on the world and life.
What that show gets right is the melancholy of living with an affliction. Bruce Banner (in the TV show David) is a smart and in most ways down-to-earth man. It’s only when he is pushed to the brink that the Hulk comes in to smash. Because of Banner’s inability to control his rage he purposefully rejects stability and becomes a lone drifter. In another world he would be a respected scientist but in this world he is hunted and spurned.
In retrospect there may be something to the mind of a youngster which looks at uncontrollable rage and society’s need to repress it and finds communion with Bruce’s situation. What I personal enjoy about the character, however, is the lone drifter style. The fact that this inability to control rage and rejection by society forces Banner to never fully reach stability. He wanders town to town relying on the help and hospitality of others. I don’t practice what I preach but I feel most at home when I’m away from home. Travel and those who seek it — especially in its extreme form as a nomad have always attracted me.
The drifter senario may be ultimately indicative of the 70s, when people were more free -wheeling and likely to trust. I remember hearing stories growing up of people hitch-hiking from one place to the other. It’s not that it doesn’t happen now. But it’s more that it’s not prevalent or more aptly the heart just isn’t there. Society is much too jaded now for any one to think its a good idea or even possible to make it from place to place without a plan, without a focus and with little to no money. Yet this is precisely the premise of the Hulk. Banner hitch-hikes from town to town with no money expected to barter or get hired in odd-jobs. Mostly he relies on the hospitality of others and where the movie and T.V. show become appealing is in their passing glances at normal, mom and pop businesses who extend a hand sometimes job to Banner before the Hulk comes and forces him to move on.
There’s a Horatio Alger in there somewhere, taking odd jobs, having adventures and moving on. Placelessness to me is a relatable concept. The fact that it all pins on a secret just makes the stakes higher and the concept sadder. Given a choice Banner would probably give up his powers and seek a normal life. His affliction, however, is endemic. It makes the placelessness all the more despondent.
There is nowhere for me that this feeling of being constantly uprooted, feisty and rejected is better projected than in the theme from that show – something I posted about when I mentioned the SciFi Channel Marathon. This is again an area where the movie borrowed and rightfully so. While the character wanders from place to place we hear that same sad theme. It’s an ode to the lost and the broken-hearted and in the Hulk pantheon a hint of the lurking underbelly – the rage within.
Unlike other Superhero icons that I remember liking as a kid Hulk has this air of sadness that fits my mood right now. Bixby who played David Banner in the TV show had one of the saddest lives filled with deaths, divorce and cancer (Bill Bixby – Wikipedia)
and the Theme song to the TV show, while often comically parodied is sad and melancholy. Have a listen:
Found on http://www.elite.net/~gurpal/tv/
A Tumblog with every day’s Final Jeopardy question? Thanks a lot Kottke yet another feed to follow: [link]
I started a new website with my colleagues Dave Grilli and Angel Mendez. Right now its a blog and a google group for our forth-coming podcast about movies called Scene DNA (I swear we’ll get it up there soon) but for now Dave and I have been posting movie related articles to the blog.
Check it out at:
if you are a subscriber of the rss persuasion you can subscribe to the blog here:
subscribe to scenedna feed
If you would like to get in on the ground floor of the google group and start participating in discussions about movies or have story suggestions check out the google group:
A by-product of my recent insomnia has produced a new travesty of unnecessary knowledge. I was not aware that those penis enlargement spam companies actually advertise through “legitimate channels” like late-night infomercials.
For proof see this youTube video:
Found this list of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches listed alphabetically. As far as I can tell this looks fairly comprehensive.
As frequently happens with wikipedia entries this leads to a deluge of further information on the topic in its “see also” section.