We have the technology!
Friday, January 30, 2004 So Dumb it Makes My Head Hurt
Did you see this whack-job? Some DOLT took a $2500 Apple G5 that he got for xmas and crammed a shitty PC into the case. He carelessly gutted the precision engineered components that were lovingly "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in Taiwan," and gave them to his equally dumb friend in a box. What a friggin moron.
It makes me very angry. His reasoning for the switch was that he lacked apps for OS X, but then he goes and says, "I use it mostly for Internet, ripping music/DVDs." ALL of which can be done with software that comes pre-installed on the G5, and ALL OF WHICH would work better and faster on the G5.posted by JMV | 1/30/2004 04:31:00 PM
...To Iason's comment on my earlier post about how screwed up the bottom rungs on the ladder to a career in film production are. Iason asks what can be done when there are SO MANY skilled and qualified entry-level people vying for so few jobs. I have to say, I don't think anything can be done. The system is basically fucked.
That said, I want to make it clear that I don't have a problem with competition for jobs. I don't have any issues with working for free to learn the ropes and build a network. My problem is that the producers, the people who are getting these shoe-string budget films started, are just using free labor to advance their own careers. They get $$$ together for a film and go, "well we will just crew up with a bunch of noobs that we don't have to pay to cut costs. And we will shoot it in 1/2 the time we should take to shoot it to save even more!" This "sweat-shop filmmaking" is one issue. Another is the exodus of major film production from Hollywood and the glut of low-overhead reality TV programming. This causes a lot of professional crew to take jobs "below" them for way less $$, filling all the jobs one or two "steps up" the ladder from freebie work which makes it tough to climb the ladder. This makes for bitter and cranky Gaffers and Key Grips who have no interest in "baby sitting" wet-eared film school grads (and really who can blame them.)
What can be done? Short of miraculously bringing back productions that have gone to Vancoover, New Zealand, or Austraila and the eventual death of Reality TV, not much. Hopeful filmmakers have, as I see it, 3 ways to "break in" all of which involve a lot of luck. First you can work your butt off and hope that someone, somewhere calls you for that gig that leads to the gig that gets you the gig.... Second you can sink 20-100K of SOMEBODY'S money on the next Swingers or Blair Witch or Clerks and become the next goldenboy of indie film. And third: ...well, I'm still working on that. So unless I suddenly find "investors" willing to fund the aforementioned "next indie gem" (which hasn't been written yet,) I'll be working my butt off and waiting for the call. And thats cool. It is, after all, why I am IN Hollywood. And at least I'm not trying to become an actor. Those fools have it BAD!
The real key to success in Hollywood is to do what EVERYONE in town is doing, but do it better than everyone else: write. A GOOD screenplay is the quickest way out of the ghetto of wannabes. And on that note I'm off to put the finishing touches on the step-outline to my ticket outta here....posted by JMV | 1/30/2004 12:26:00 PM
Tuesday, January 27, 2004 Musics
Trolling around the 'net while I can't sleep has turned up some interesting music tidbits. Radiohead has been doing quite well in the various year-end wrap-ups and best of 2003 lists, including Rolling Stone's best tour of 2003.
I just found out that the legendary unreleased Beach Boys album "Smile" will finally be released in some sort of official and completed version this year sometime. Smile was to be Brian Wilson's magnum opus of psychedelia, and is often compared to Sergeant Pepper. I have not heard much more than a few bootlegged tracks, and by no means am I a Beach Boys fanatic, but Brain Wilson has often fascinated me and I cannot deny the impact that Pet Sounds had on my adolescence.
The video for the new Incubus single, "Megalomaniac," is getting fairly heavy play on MTV2 and I'm quite fond of it, though that may just be tied to the kick-ass video which features a stop-motion flying Hitler-ballerina. It was directed by Floria Sigismondi who has directed videos for Bjork and Sigur Ros and absolutely rocks. Check out her website here.posted by JMV | 1/27/2004 02:07:00 AM
Monday, January 26, 2004 Reason Number 412 I love TiVo
Awards Shows. Watched the (3+ hour long) Golden Globe Awards in like 70 minuets Sunday night. Got to "bloop-bloop" all the lame bits and just watch the good bits. Like Lord of the Rings sweeping every category it was nominated in (notoriously camera-shy Fran Walsh even co-accepted for best song!) And Bill Murray's accepting Best Actor (Comedy) for Lost in Translation (which also won for screenplay and Best Picture-Comedy or Musical.) I hope the Academy follows pretty closely when the Oscar nominations come out this Tuesday. And what the hell was up with Sting and not wearing a shirt? I mean SERIOUSLY, I realize that the "Globes" are a less-formal event than the Oscars, but PUT A FRIGGIN SHIRT ON!
OH! I nearly forgot, while watching the "Globes" I saw a promo for Michael Jay Fox's triumphant return to TV. On SCRUBS! Which makes me dislike NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker even more. See Zucker (who is also responsible for all the dumb-ass non-standard start times and durations for NBC shows,) in his ceaseless tinkering with the NBC primetime schedule, moved Scrubs to Tuesday night so that "The Apprentice" wouldn't get slaughtered by "American Idol" again. So that means the runner up for the Octy in TV will be up against the Octy winner "24." Which I guess is reason number 413 that I love TiVo.
Sometimes Miramax Makes me Happy
The Blind Swordsman. This Summer.
posted by JMV | 1/26/2004 01:21:00 AM
Friday, January 23, 2004 The State of the Industry...
...From my current worms-eye view. It is fairly common knowledge that climbing the ladder of film production requires lo or no paying work as a PA (Production Assistant or gopher.) But the theory goes after a couple of these jobs you will start getting paying work and are then on your way to professional crew-dom. But the reality is pretty different. Not only does a newbie in the production realm, even a newbie with a degree in production and resume well stocked with student projects, has to face stiff competition for jobs that don't pay, but these jobs don't hold ANY guaranty of advancement, (though they all come with the promise of advancement.) It has gotten to the point where there are SO many people trying to "break in" to the industry that whole features are being shot without paying ANY crew members. That means 10-20+ people, working 14+ hour days and six day weeks for as much as 25 days. But thats not even the worst part, as freebie jobs often have a good vibe and a crew that it dedicated to the project (you have to be to work those kind of hours for free.) The worst part is jobs that pay, but pay WAY below scale. This creates a crew that is grumpy and bitter about having to work a job so far below what they SHOULD be making, but those are the only jobs around since producers realize they can get away with it. This is WHY there are unions. But the unions are these huge institutions that hold a mythical appeal to all those non-union crew members... The myth goes that once you GET into the union you are set for life, but I know professionals who have worked, and made a living, as crew for YEARS without being able to get into the union. Not my intention isn't to bitch and moan about how hard "breaking in" is. There is no real surprise there, but what is surprising is how quickly things are getting worse industry wide. I have been turned down for un-paying, un-credited jobs because of lack of experience. I have seen listings for internships that require previous inter experience. I have worked on lo/no jobs that go 16+ hours without any explanation or consolation from producers or ADs. I have been blown-off by producers for whom I have worked for free in the past when asking about working for free again. And all this because there are so many people willing to work their ass off for free. It is like a giant workforce of scabs (of which I am one) which hurts EVERYBODY'S chances for work. This whole rant was started when I read a joke-posting on the Craig's List job board. It wasn't the first such posting from another frustrated filmmaker, nor do I imagine it will be the last. So wish me luck in the big-pond, and in the meantime go watch Living in Oblivion. posted by JMV | 1/23/2004 04:25:00 PM
Thursday, January 22, 2004 Sunrise
I took this movie (1.3megs) with my DV camera and some cool time-lapse software for OS X. The clip shows the sunrise from my bedroom window (north facing) on the 20th; I started recording just before dawn and compressed around 2 hours into a 15 second clip. I'm pretty happy with the results, though next time I will have to fix a white-balance issue (as you can see in the clip, the camera gets confused about 1/2 way through and the color quickly shifts from blue to yellow.) The software I used is really cool; it allows you to set automated start/stop times (so I didn't actually have to be AWAKE at the crack of dawn to shoot the clip) and specify how often it will record a frame as well as the frame-rate of the resulting Quicktime file. It takes the DV stream from a camera hooked up via FireWire and dumps one frame at a time to a Quicktime file that can then be edited in any NLE app like iMove or Final Cut. Now, if I could find an time-lapse app for the PC I would be all set to shoot some really long-period movies (I don't want to have the powerbook tethered to a stationary camera for days at a time.) posted by JMV | 1/22/2004 03:57:00 PM
I have posted A LOT of random news stories to Octopus Hat over the last year, and today I'm happy to post follow-up stories to a few of them.
Frist, remember the blob that washed ashore in Chile way back in July? Well, it turns out that it was just decomposed whale. Skip Pierce, professor of biology at the University of South Florida, had this to say about the dis-discovery: "Once again, to our disappointment, we have not found any evidence that any of the blobs are the remains of unknown sea monsters.” Shucks.
More recently I posted about a poll on the AFA website and encouraged all my readers to go vote for the legalization of gay marrige. It turns out that the American Family Association has pulled the results of the poll and has no intention of presenting it to congress because the results were the exact opposite of what they were shooting for: 2-to-1 in favor of legalization of gay marriage! Yay for us good netizens! Now if there were only a way for the average American to influence the policies of our President and keep the governing body from passing unjust and archaic changes to the very document that our country is built on. Oh wait...posted by JMV | 1/22/2004 03:02:00 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2004 Neat Stuff
I just got the inaugural issue of the UCSC Film and Digital Media Alumni newsletter, and there are some items of note that I thought I would share. First off, one of my favorite theory professors from my time at UCSC, Shelly Stamp, has been awarded a grant by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Professor Stamp often taught a class on Film Noir that was notorious for its dense lectures and horrible location, but it had a screening list that made it one the harder theory classes to get into, and she was the best prof. to take any Silent Era classes from. The $25K award given by the Academy's Film Scholar Program will be used to finish a book about Lois Weber, "a female director of the silent-film era who became the first and only woman granted membership in the Motion Picture Directors Association, a precursor to the Directors Guild of America." It is great to see the very talented faculty of the Film and Digital Media department at UCSC getting this kind of recognition, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Academy is actively supporting scholarly writings. I was beginning to think the days of informed film thinking was being killed by popular reviews and industry gossip.
The newsletter also mentioned a new exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum that focuses on the "Ant Farm" art collective from the Sixties. The Ant Farm was the group responsible for the Cadillac Ranch in Texas and was co-founded by UCSC FDM Department Chair Chip Lord. Chip is an old-school experimental video guru and another brilliant mind that I had the pleasure of learning from in his Intro to Production and Documentary Filmmaking classes. If your in the Bay Area between now and April I highly suggest checking out the exhibit.
And finally, a couple of people who were students when I was running the Check-Out lab at UCSC have short films running at Sundance this year! So here is to hoping they make it big and remember the guy that bent all the rules to get them gear when they needed it.posted by JMV | 1/20/2004 04:27:00 PM
Sunday, January 18, 2004 Big Cats Have Sharp Teeth
I've spent the afternoon installing Panther, the new Mac OS. I've been meaning to to this for a while and finally got around to all the necessary backing up and prepping for the install yesterday. The install itself was quick and easy, but it wasn't long before the first crash. Over the next hour I experienced 5-6 dreaded Kernal Panics (nasty crashes at the very lowest levels of the UNIX operating system.) For reference I think that in the previous 9 months of running OS 10.2 I had 0 kernal panics. But after some quick troubleshooting and an OS update I seem to have de-clawed the beast. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the time being, but I look forward to enjoying all the new features of the OS.
Also, the local PBS station KCET is running the wonderful "Power of Myth" series today. Joseph Campbell is SO friggin brilliant (and it was mostly his fault that I very nearly majored in Philosophy in college.) The 6-hour program is just Bill Moyers interviewing Campbell (with some occasional video clips intercut to break up the "talking heads,") and yet it is unstoppably watchable. Campbell is THE master story-teller of the 20th Century. If you haven't seen it I highly suggest adding it to your queue.posted by JMV | 1/18/2004 03:43:00 PM
Friday, January 16, 2004 4 Great Tastes That Taste Great in Any Combination of 2.
Two quick things. First is this, a caffeinated hot sauce from the people who brought us caffeinated soap.The extra hot habanero sauce has about 16mgs (or 1/4 a can of Coke) of caffeine per serving. Sounds good to me!
Second, the word-on-the-street is Shatner will return to doing Priceline commercials, and he will be joined with his ol' buddy Leonard Nimoy. (And I thought they hated each other.)posted by JMV | 1/16/2004 03:07:00 PM
Tuesday, January 13, 2004 Public School Screws Geek
A 13-year old middle schooler was suspended for 3 days after he "hacked" his schools computers by displaying to a friend his mastery of DOS networking. He used a built-in command in the OS yesteryear to send "Hey!" to all 80 of the schools computers. And he was suspended for hacking. The problem isn't, as Dave Lieber the author of the above linked story says, that the school's discipline was too harsh or uninformed, but rather that the school's 80 computers are running DOS. Seriously. The last time you could purchase DOS was like in 1745. The problem is America's middle schools have shitty computer labs. posted by JMV | 1/13/2004 10:30:00 PM
Oh, by the way
It is now springtime in Los Angeles. After our brief and cold-for-us winter, the weather here in the southland has returned to 75 degrees and sunny. We are wearing shorts, flipflops, and grilling w/o a jacket. Our local weather guy commented that it is, in fact, "by far the nicest weather in North America." posted by JMV | 1/13/2004 05:56:00 PM
Happy Birthday Octopushat!
Thats right! Today is the official one year anniversary of my first post, though the first post of actual content occurred the next day. The whole thing was started as a way to force me to write at least a little something every day. And while I don't post every day, I have managed to post, on average, every other day. And with well over 200 posts in my first year, I'm pretty pleased with the way the weblog has shaped up. I've had my moments of questioning the purpose of the blog, and and waffled back and forth between being a linkmine and a personal journal, and I think I have finally found a balance between the personal "this weekend..." entries and the more content driven commentaries. And while my readership hasn't really grown beyond my core network of friends and acquaintances I recently realized that I don't blog for the hits, I don't blog for the Bloggie and I don't blog for the wishlist. I blog for you guys! (Well that and because I am a hopeless narcissist and I love to here myself speak.)
But here is to another year!posted by JMV | 1/13/2004 05:19:00 PM
Monday, January 12, 2004 Moooo
Now that the country is one step away from media-fueled mass hysteria about an epidemic of Mad Cow disease, I think it is time to consider an elegant solution. Cannibalism. A solution to two problems: tainted beef and over population. And we should probably start by eating the Irish.
But seriously. Mad Cow disease is a horribly lethal brain infection, and the mere threat of infection has caused massive worldwide economic turmoil. The fact is there are less that 160 cases of human infection WORLDWIDE and the CDC pegs the risk at contracting Mad Cow greater than one-in-ten-BILLION. As my favorite celebrity chef points out (in his January 11th post) Americans are FAR more likely to be killed by a food-born bacterial infection (such as e.coli) than ever contracting Mad Cow. Even is you don't eat ANY meat unsanitary kitchen conditions can cross contaminate your salad and get you sick. And that is a hell of a lot more likely to happen even the most voracious carnivores getting infected with Mad Cow. The militant vegans and meat-phobics are quick to point out the long incubation period and mysterious nature of the disease and use these facts as bellows to stoke the flames of panic. But the reality is eating a cheeseburger today is no more dangerous than eating one ten years ago. Mad Cow is an important issue and changes DO need to be made in the meat-industry. But lets not forget the SARS scare, and the West Nile Virus scare, and any other pestilence-of-the-week that the media over-inflates to sell papers.
But you are still going to give up beef? Then go exotic. Amazon now sells a selection of exotic meats like venison, ostrich, and even yak! Many are organic and eating 100% exotic meats will reduce your risk of contracting Mad Cow to 1 in 20 billion! Seriously though. Yak. Mmmm Mmmm good. Why don't you come on over and I'll grill us up some wild beastie!posted by JMV | 1/12/2004 04:15:00 PM
Wednesday, January 07, 2004 Nature Fights Back
Chimps in Africa (specifically Tanzania and Uganda) have turned violent in reaction to the destruction of their territorial homes. At least 8 small children have been killed in the past 7 years my murderous chimpanzees, while some half-a-dozen more have been injured. The story reports that, "Some of the victims were found with limbs and other body parts chewed off." I guess it was only a matter of time before steady deforestation forced the native animals to launch a guerilla war against man's "progress." posted by JMV | 1/07/2004 06:07:00 PM
Tuesday, January 06, 2004 A Stinky Black Oasis
Jules and I finally got to visit the La Brea Tar Pits this afternoon. The Tar Pits are an archeological gold mine where the fossilized remains of literally thousands of animals have been uncovered since the initial discovery in 1906. Everything from saber-toothed cats to mammoths and dire wolves have been recovered and there are several complete skeletons on display. It is really fascinating to me to be able to look in the empty eye-sockets of the long dead beasties and imagine what they would have looked like 30,000 years ago. But the most incredible thing is the quantity of specimens that have been taken out of the pits in the last hundred years; in 2000 over 1600 fossils were recovered from just once site, and there are literally boxes full of bones marked "canis dirus ribs" are just laying about in the fishbowl lab (a working lab for where the visitors to the museum can watch the scientists cleaning and cataloging finds.) The museum is really cool, but you can see the whole thing in under an hour so I highly suggest visiting on the first Tuesday of the month when admission is free.
posted by JMV | 1/06/2004 11:32:00 PM
Friday, January 02, 2004 2003 Octy for Best Album!
Let me preface this award by saying that the music category is both the most difficult from a logistics standpoint and the most influenced by personal preferences. SO MUCH music was released in 2003 that it is totally impossible for me to evaluated even the small group of disc that were critically lauded. If you take a look at MetaFilter's Best of 2003 page you can see how many different CDs have made it into the various critic's top-10 lists. There are some albums that I didn't get a chance to hear that could easily be my next favorite album. Things like the Black Eyed Pea's "Elephunk," and the eponymous Liz Phair disc are things that I've been meaning to get a hold of all year but never did. The new Outkast double album is easily one of the best rated albums of the year, but I just got it for xmas and haven't truly had a chance to evaluate it yet. So take all this into consideration as I present the Octy.
The runner up this year is the White Stripe's "Elephant." A wonderfully produced take on the duo's distinct Detroit blues-rock. The album was recorded across the pond at Toe-Rag Studios (an ancient all analog studio), and there must have been something in the air in London, or perhaps it was all the breaks for tea, but the disc has a very distinct feeling that separates it from their earlier offerings. Which isn't to say that their sound is any different; it is still all about Meg White's "Minimalist Drumming" and Jack's frenetic abuse of his Gibson, but the arrangements on Elephant are a little deeper and more refined. The song writing is top-shelf material; every song is a gem and I would be hard pressed to name only a few highlights. But the quote-unquote epic "Ball and Biscuit" ranks as one of my favorite songs of 2003. If "White Blood Cells" was the White Stripe's attention grabbing "pop" album then Elephant is their dark and challenging album that looks to shake-off the Johnny-come-lately fans and succeeds in proving that the band is no one-trick pony.
I actually find it easyer to write about the runners-up than the actually Octy winners, and this Octy is a particularly difficult case because the Band has worked so hard at deifying categorization. But here goes. The 2003 Octy for Best Album goes to:Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief". Radiohead has fought against the media and the industry's attempt to pigeon-hole them, first as a one-hit wonder then as the new sound of Brit-pop. After "OK Computer" became one of the most critically lauded albums of the Nineties nobody suspected the bizarre and often inaccessible techno-rock-opera of "Kid A." It is a love-it or hate-it disc that served to dichotomize Radiohead fans. Those fans in the "bring back the damn guitars" camp were disappointed by the hastily issued follow up to Kid A: "Amnesiac." Made up primarily of B-sides from the Kid A sessions and is, predictably, a little uneven. But even where the disc doesn't work as a cohesive album (not in the way OK Computer of Kid A do anyway) it still contains some of the best songs by the band. The long awaited "Hail to the Thief" achieves the near impossible feat of satisfying those wanting "old Radiohead" and those (like myself) that want the band to puch forward further into the uncharted with each album. (Sorry for the little "A History of Radiohead, as Told by John," but I feel that it was necessary to discuss what has come before "Hail to the Thief" before I tackled what I think of the disc.)
Hail to the Thief (hereafter HttT) is perhaps Radiohead's first album for their fans and not just for Radiohead. It skillfully blends the "modern guitar rock" of their early catalog with the purposefully difficult electronic textures and soundscapes of the Kid A period. To quote the All Music Guide review, "Guitars sound like guitars more often than not; drums are more likely to be played by a human; and discernible verses are more frequently trailed by discernible choruses. ...there is a certain return to relatively traditional songcraft." But there are still the delicious moments of electronic freak-out (most notably on "Backdrifts" and my favorite cut on the album "The Gloaming") that made Kid A and Amnesiac so wonderfully scary. The album was officially released on June 10th, just two months after US forces entered Baghdad and during a period of mounting US casualties and it seems to perfectly reflect our uncertainties and insecurities during the troubling summer months making it an eerily well suited soundtrack to 2003. But the thing that cemented HttT as the Octy winner for 2003 was seeing the band play live at the Hollywood Bowl in September. It was a long time dream of mine to see them live and the show was a near religious experience for me. And by this I mean that after the show I felt a profound sense of peace and awe and felt like I was given a certain new perspective; like one who is devout would feel after a moving sermon or mass. The set list was primarily material from HttT and the show really gave me a new perspective on the album, and there were two important points that became clear to me after the show. First Thom York is the glue that holds the band together, but each member is a brilliant musician capable of many splendid things. And secondly Radiohead fucking ROCKS. And by this I mean "rocks out" in the traditional way that the iconic gods of rock and roll have always rocked: with a jumping around, trashing, theatrical stage presence that electrified the crowd as if a high voltage spark had been transmitted through The 20,000 people at the Bowl that night. It reminded me that Rock and Roll isn't dead, and that it can be new, exciting, and electric. (Best. Birthday present. Ever.)
The Honorable Mention for the Octy this year is Natalie Merchant's "A House Carpenter's Daughter." I had a review of this all written up, but I can't find it now. And my head hurts after writing the White Striped and Radiohead portion of the post so you'll just have to trust me on this one until I get around to posting why.posted by JMV | 1/02/2004 01:27:00 PM
Thursday, January 01, 2004 Catching Up on the Octys
Didn't really find time to blog yesterday, what with all the partying and whatnot, so I'll do two Octys today.
2003 Octy for Television
Yup, season two of everyone's favorite realtime crime/political/action drama gets the Octy for TV in 2003, even though I didn't watch the show until a few months ago on DVD. The first season was ground breaking and nail-bitting, and the second season was bigger, faster, more action packed, and kept you guessing until the very last episode. I highly suggest checking out the first two seasons on DVD. Just be sure to clear your schedule as the show is seriously addictive, and once your through the first disc, you'll have a hard time stopping.
And now, the 2003 Octy for Film!
Tomorrow, the long awaited Octy for Best Album in 2003!posted by JMV | 1/01/2004 08:57:00 PM
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Yay! Net access! Happy new year ya' all! I sincerly wish a happy 2004 to all of you! And let me propose a toast: To us, NOT to them!
Don't give up the fight!