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Thursday, November 29, 2001
Kubrick Polishes a Turd
Filmmaker Stanely Kubrick is known for his brilliance, work ethic, genius, thinking outside the box, etc., but his sense of humor is rarely glimpsed. When he died in March of 1999, The New York Times published a collection of reminiscences by friends and enemies alike, compiled by film director and critic/historian Peter Bogdanovich. Its a touching tribute, and a few of the anicdotes that showcase Kubricks sense of humor caught my eye:
Matthew Modine (actor; lead role in "Full Metal Jacket"): One day I said: "I got a joke for you. ... You're dead." He said, "It's not funny." I said: "Let me tell the joke. Steven Spielberg's dead, too." He said, "Steven's dead, oh, that's funny." And I said: "You're dead and you're up in heaven and Steven Spielberg has just died and he's being greeted at the gate by Gabriel and Gabriel says: 'God's really dug a lot of your movies and he wants to make sure that you're comfortable. If there's anything you need, you come to me, I'm your man.' And Steven says, 'Well, you know, I always wanted to meet Stanley Kubrick, do you think you could arrange that?' And Gabriel looks at him and says: 'You know, Steven, of all the things that you could ask for, why would you ask for that? You know that Stanley doesn't take meetings.' He says, 'Well, you said that if there was anything I wanted.' Gabriel says: 'I'm really sorry. I can't do that.' So now he's showing him around heaven and Steven sees this guy wearing an army jacket with a beard riding a bicycle. And Steven says to Gabriel: 'Oh, my God, look, over there, that's Stanley Kubrick. Couldn't we just stop him and say hello?' And Gabriel pulls Steven to the side and says, 'That's not Stanley Kubrick; that's God -- he just thinks he's Stanley Kubrick.' "Stanley liked that joke.
That's a funny one, but this one is my favourite:
Jerry Lewis (actor-director-writer; edited a film at same studio Kubrick was editing "2001"): He's in the cutting room and I'm watching this man investigate his work, and it was fascinating. He was intrigued with the fact that I did more than one thing. He was a very big fan of "hyphenates." I think he would have loved to have written "2001" without Arthur Clarke. But he did have a high regard for people who directed their own material.

I was in my cutting room around 1 in the morning, and he strolls in smoking a cigarette and says, "Can I watch?" I said: "Yeah, you can watch. You wanna see a Jew go down? Stand there." That was the night I coined the expression, "You cannot polish a turd."

And then Kubrick looked at me and said, "You can if you freeze it."
He was a genius. And he could kick Stephen Baldwin's ass in Chess. [special thanks to riverrun of e2 fame for his writeup on the subject]
posted by tallman 9:08:53 AM .: link


 

Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Taking Heat on The Squint™
Some Thoughts on Clint Eastwood and Heidegger by Bruce Jay Friedman : I don't much know what to make of this. I know I like it, and that it made me laugh a couple of times, but it also has some sort of wierd, deep quality to it. On the surface its a spastic and completely absurd article, but its actually quite complex. In fact, thats the point Friedman makes about Eastwood.
If you must know, I believe Clint Eastwood's remote, alienated style is a goddammed metaphor for our time. Which is why I salute him—as a man, as an artist, as a professional (and I understand he's an outrageous stickler for detail on the set, even though the net effect emerges as being casual), and as a complex human being.
The article is an excerpt from Friedman's book Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos and was originally published in Harpers in 1976. Friedman sounds like an interesting fellow. I shall have to check out some more of his work...
posted by tallman 2:55:54 PM .: link


 

Monday, November 19, 2001
Shifting Perceptions
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman : An interesting piece of short fiction written by Gaiman in 1994. To be perfectly blunt, I don't want to ruin it, so just give it a read. Its a great idea for a story. You'll see, just read it. I enjoyed it muchly. Its nice to have perceptions rewired every now and again...
posted by tallman 11:00:35 AM .: link


 

Thursday, November 15, 2001
Web advertising that doesn't suck?
pyRads™ is a service for purchasing, managing, and serving micro advertising on web sites. Micro advertising is different than most banners and other forms of advertising you see on the web in that: 1) It's low-cost, easy, and often highly effective for advertisers. 2) It's unobtrusive, interesting, and even useful for the audience. This is an interesting little project from Pyra (makers of Blogger) and I can see it being very, very popular. Right now, the only advertising space you can buy is on Blogger, but that is a really attractive place to advertise - plus, I'm sure ev is hard at work getting other websites in the loop... It should be interesting to see how this turns out, as this form of advertising is emminently more effective and less obtrusive than all the others. Hell, at $10.00 a pop, I'm tempted to run a "Rad," just to see how well this really works.

In other blogging news (well I guess this is kind of old, but still noteworthy), Dack is back, featuring links on "The Dumb War". I don't really like this very much, though; I still miss the old Dack.com.

"It just keeps looping, Adrian! You call this music?!" - This is the funniest thing I've read in a while. Thanks DyRE!
posted by tallman 10:46:06 AM .: link


 

Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Opera 6.0 beta
Opera 6.0 for Windows Beta 1 was released yesterday. I fell in love with Opera 5.x; it became my favourite browser for a number of reasons. With Opera 6.0, I was looking forward to a host of new and exciting features. To be perfectly honest, I don't see much to get excited about. The most noticeable feature is the ability for users to choose between single or multiple document interface (SDI/MDI); this is pretty much irrelevant to existing Opera users like myself, but I suppose it could be an important step in converting users accustomed to competing browsers. The other "big" change is the completely new default user interface, which I despise (fortunately, Opera has the ability to customize the interface:) There are a bunch of other nifty enhancements (and bug fixes), but nothing approaches the big innovative leaps that Opera 5.x made. There are also a few rendering bugs that I suppose will be worked out before the official release. Still, I highly recommend you take the Opera plunge if you haven't already; download the whopping 3.2 mb installation file here.
posted by tallman 11:03:32 AM .: link


 

Thursday, November 08, 2001
Strangelove in 2001
Kubrick's Lost Doomsday Scenario : A "suitcase nuclear bomb" being detonated by a "potential enemy" in Washington, DC in a sneak attack? Film director Stanley Kubrick suggested just such a scenario in 1994. What seemed wildly implausible before September 11th—like a subplot from the director's apocalyptic classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—no longer seems so far-fetched. Kubrick's politically-charged essay, which The New York Times refused to publish in 1994, warned of the potential of nuclear attack caused by "accident, miscalculation or madness."
In a nuclear crisis, tens of millions of lives would depend on communications. We've been given some information about the "hot-line" but the nuclear powers should be much more open about the details. Like so many other things that are secret and never used, sloppiness, complacency and lack of imagination tend to take over.
At first, it seems counter-intuitive to be open about the details of your nuclear arsenal, but, in the words of Dr. Strangelove, "the whole point of the doomsday machine is lost . . . if you keep it a secret! Why didn't you tell the world, ay?!"

Another Strangelove quote: "Deterrence is the art of producing, in the mind of the enemy, the fear to attack!" The scary thing about our current war on terrorism is that the conventional wisdom present in these quotes might not really apply. They've certainly proved that they have no fear of attacking us, its just a matter of whether or not they'd go nuclear...
posted by tallman 1:16:11 PM .: link


 

Wednesday, November 07, 2001
No Whammy, no Whammy, STOP!
Back in May of 1984, history was made as Michael Larsen, an unemployed ice cream truck driver from Ohio, managed to win $110,237 on the classic CBS television game show Press Your Luck. Having watched Press Your Luck since it premiered, Larsen came to the conclusion that the swift, seemingly random flashing lights that bounced around the Press Your Luck board were not as random as they seemed. By taping the show religiously and pausing the tapes, Larsen discovered that there were just six light patterns on the board. With this bit of knowledge, he practiced at home while watching the show and realized that he could stop the board wherever and whenever he wanted, if he just had patience. The article is worth visiting, if only to see the looks on the host's face as Larsen racked up the dough. Ironically, Larsen eventually wound up losing all his winnings in a bad housing investment deal.
posted by tallman 11:59:53 AM .: link


 

Friday, November 02, 2001
Blackhawk Down
Blackhawk Down by Mark Bowden : An amazingly detailed, 29 part series concerning the Battle of Mogadishu. On Sunday, Oct. 3, 1993, attack helicopters dropped about 120 elite American soldiers into a busy neighborhood in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. Their mission was to abduct several top lieutenants of Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and return to base. A variety of logistic and intelligence miscalculations turned the operation into a military fiasco, as two Blackhawk attack helicopters were shot down, and 3 more were immobilized, stranding the soldiers in the middle of a hostile city for several hours. When they emerged the following morning, 18 Americans were dead and 73 were wounded. The Somalis faired much worse, with 500 dead and over 1000 wounded, many of them civilians (of course, the numbers presented here are estimates). It was the biggest single firefight involving American soldiers since the Vietnam War. Helicopter pilot Michael Durant had been carried off by an angry mob and dragged around the streets. He was still alive, held captive somewhere in the city. In strictly military terms, Mogadishu was a success. The targets of that day's raid, two obscure clan leaders, were apprehended. But the awful price of those arrests came as a shock to the American people, and in the years since that humanitarian mission dissolved into combat, Somalia has had a profound cautionary influence on American foreign policy.

Bowden interviewed many of the participating soldiers, and even some of the Somalis they fought against, to create a detailed picture of the firefight. The result is a gripping story, told minute by minute, of an elite fighting force that was stranded in a city where literally everyone in the city was trying to kill them. Their strict egagement orders (not to fire unless fired upon) were quickly thrown out the window as soldiers fought for their lives, oftentimes just firing into a crowd of civilians and Somalian soldiers. There are a few drawbacks to the series, most notably the lack of context about why the battle was fought, but overall, it is excellently done. It makes me wonder how this current war on terrorism will play out. If we are serious about the war, firefights like this one are bound to happen routinely...
posted by tallman 9:20:11 AM .: link


 

Thursday, November 01, 2001
The Belated Blues
Hellhound by Mitch Myers (real audio): An interesting NPR piece I heard on the way home yesterday. It is based on the story of legendary blues artist Robert Johnson, who, legend has it, sold his soul to the devil to obtain his amazing guitar skills. As if to strengthen this Faustian explaination, Johnson explored in his music the battle of good against evil and recorded songs like "Hell Hound on My Trail" and "Me and the Devil Blues." There is some contention as to where Robert is buried, too. Two graves in different cemetaries in Greenwood, Mississippi both bear his name, and there is a popular roadside spot nearby where some believe he was interred. Myers' story is an interesting one, concerning ghastly secret track on Robert Johnson's boxed set. In his short life, Johnson recorded only 41 tracks, many of which are alternate takes of the same song, but his sound has had an large impact on blues and rock music ever since.
posted by tallman 9:16:36 AM .: link


 

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