Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nights like this are why I joined the Ravenna Kibbutz

Doesn't get much more idyllic than that.

In other news, the man who so selflessly served his country so many years ago has found another way to do so, while conveniently making his opponent seem -- to the uninformed, at least -- like he's fiddling while Rome burns. Well played, Johnny Mac.

And while we're on politics: Yesterday at six o'clock I listened to Dubya talk for 15 minutes about the financial crisis. And as an NPR commentator noted after the speech, for the first time in about eight years, the man seemed to know what he was talking about. "The first MBA president," the NPR guy said. Against all odds, I think I may actually have learned something from George W. Bush. I never thought I'd see the day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Postcards From Yo Momma

I think my momma, pictured above, would appreciate this fabulous blog. As high-concept public blogs go, it's right up there with Overheard in New York. Awesome. Thanks to Sasha for the recommendation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

MGMT on "Morning Becomes Electric"

Brightened my morning/afternoon right up.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finally, someone has taken "I Kissed a Girl" to the mat

And not a moment too soon. Michael, a grateful nation thanks you. Particularly for this:
She kisses a girl—sure, okay. She likes it—um, and? Oh, and she hopes her boyfriend doesn't mind, because sexual autonomy is inextricable from the male gaze, and that's fucking awesome. "I Kissed a Girl" is infuriatingly ass-backward: cynical adherence to outdated values made into titillation, snide calculation dressed up as the underdog, the same old bullshit disguised as rebellion.
As you'd imagine, the video is terrible, too.

Of course, back in 1996, Ani DiFranco put her "I kissed a girl" song, "Shameless," on Dilate. Though she likely did a bit more than just kiss a girl, and it's not just her boyfriend (actually, what boyfriend?) who'll be upset:
We better have a good explanation
For all the fun that we had
'Cuz they are coming for us, baby
They are going to be mad
They are going to be mad at us
Check it out:

Monday, September 15, 2008

I did the Puyallup

And here are a few of my snapshots (click on 'em for a closer look):

Friday, September 12, 2008

Clearwire update

I gave 'em hell, and they agreed to refund me 16 months' worth of charges. I was flabbergasted, which is to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Very, very surprised. Let this be a lesson to all who deal with shady corporations: Threaten to sic the law on them enough, and they may actually play ball. That they agreed to repay me, however, doesn't make their past dealings any less shady, or their customer service any less awful. (Tony, the rep who made sure my money would return to my account, was the first Clearwire employee I've talked to -- and I've talked to a lot -- who was any help at all.) So, in honor of the fact that it's still a bad idea to turn over so much as a nickel to this questionably run company, here's a random anti-Clearwire screed. It's one of approximately ten zillion currently available online.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's getting ugly

Michael said today that in light of the mini-scandal surrounding Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment, the wheels might be coming off the campaign. At the very least, based on this willfully deceptive McCain ad, the gloves are coming off on the GOP side:

The Huffington Post helpfully explains:
In essence, Obama supported "age appropriate" sex-education for children as a means of teaching them what was proper or inproper touching, as well as to protect them against pedophiles, his campaign has said. Used in the context of the McCain campaign ad, however, Obama's stance becomes another one of those cultural issues that seems designed to alienate the Illinois Democrat from more socially moderate voters.
While we're on the subject, Jonathan Freedland's commentary in the Guardian is great, and here's some Palin news that Jews can use (both items courtesy of Michael).

On an unrelated note: I discovered today that the Internet provider Clearwire has been flat-out stealing from me for more than a year after I told them, in no uncertain terms, that I wanted out. And by "no uncertain terms," I mean I threatened to go to the Better Business Bureau and the law over their already shady and unethical practices. I would advise anyone who is considering using their services to think twice, since at this point I consider the company capable of intentional fraud.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Full disclosure: Director Keir Moreano, whose new documentary Unspooled has already started on the festival circuit, is a friend of a friend -- someone I met once at a rooftop dinner party. I watched the trailer for Unspooled on his Facebook page and expressed interest in it; he offered me the chance to look at a copy and post a review on my blog. Fortunately for both of us, I enjoyed it, and what follows is my "review," though I'd rather think of it simply as writing about the movie.

Unspooled begins with what seems like a scene from a horror movie, in which a feral young woman covered in blood and dirt attacks a middle-aged man. Out of context, the clip is intriguing enough. When it returns later in Keir Moreano's gripping documentary, about the production of an ill-fated NYU student film called Bemoana, it represents something: the madness and rage that can set in when a well-intentioned project starts to unravel.

The writer and director of Bemoana, Maurice Singer, set out to create an update of "Little Red Riding Hood" that front-loaded the fairy tale's incestuous subtext. Instead of putting her in the clutches of a wolf, Singer decided to send his heroine, Ramona (Nicole Vicius), on a wintry getaway with her father, James (Larry Brustofski), who may or may not have molested her when she was a child. Though the concept shares a few themes with David Slade's 2005 revenge thriller Hard Candy, Singer's film -- scenes of which Moreano sprinkles throughout Unspooled -- owes a lot to the Grimm Brothers' original vision, including a snow-covered, rural setting and dark, murderous impulses waiting near the surface of a seemingly benign personality.

Bemoana was the talk of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts because its budget -- around $50,000, supplied by Singer's father -- was unprecedented within the program, and its Vermont location, seven hours from New York, was positively exotic compared to the in-city sites chosen by most Tisch students. Under the pressure of great expectations -- presumably from both NYU and his dad -- Singer headed into the heart of New England winter with talented actors and a sizable crew that included Moreano, who would be working on special effects and makeup.

The documentary that places viewers behind the scenes of an ultimately disastrous film shoot has become a genre of its own. 2002's Lost in La Mancha, which followed director Terry Gilliam as he attempted to make a movie based on Don Quixote, was a recent standout, and 1991's Hearts of Darkness, about Francis Ford Coppola's notoriously troubled Apocalypse Now shoot, is perhaps the genre's best-known (and finest) entry.

The key is not only to find a suitably disorganized film shoot, of course; it's also essential to edit the story of the shoot in such a way that the viewer gets a true sense of what it was like to be there -- and actually wants to stick around for more. Moreano and his editor, Mario Diaz, accomplish this tricky goal by structuring and pacing the documentary extremely well. When he wasn't designing a lifelike dead deer or burning the flesh off cow bones in order to paint fake blood on them, Moreano documented the Bemoana shoot with a handheld digital camera. Unspooled combines Moreano's footage with actual scenes from Bemoana and post-shoot interviews with the cast and crew.

Little by little, conflicts between crew members emerge, and the production's downward spiral accelerates. First, due to a lack of snow chains, some vital crew members get stuck in the deep Vermont snow; then the generator truck and equipment van take forever to arrive, further delaying the start of the shoot. Halfway through the production schedule, only 20 percent of the photography is done, and tensions begin to mount. Moreano narrates Unspooled, but he does so unobtrusively -- the mark of a director who knows he has a good story to tell and is humble enough to get out of its way. He also does an admirable job of revealing the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, so Unspooled becomes as educational as it is compelling.

Unfortunately, Gil Talmi's score isn't as subtle as the narration; it sounds very much like horror-movie music, which is understandable -- Bemoana was to be, after all, a kind of horror movie, and the "horrors" that plagued the production are the meat and potatoes of Unspooled. Still, the score ends up being distracting at times. The viewer should be able, without musical hints, to sense the thematic connection between madness on- and off-camera, and the sinister urgency of the music seems particularly incongruous during the interviews. That the score is the only such misstep, however, speaks volumes about the success of Unspooled as a whole.

Before Bemoana is a done deal, crew members have ground coffee with a 2-by-4 for lack of a proper grinder; everyone involved in the movie has eaten far too much barbecue; and the toilet has clogged in the way that only a toilet in a highly overpopulated Vermont chalet can. But what's really scary is Unspooled's main theme. As one crew member says: "It surprises me that anybody ever makes a movie." Indeed, when the cast and crew ultimately have to work 48 hours straight in order to finish on time, it's enough to give any would-be filmmaker pause.

Making a movie is such a collaborative process that the variables that can screw you over far outnumber the main factor -- "senseless hope," as Bemoana cinematographer Matthew Santo puts it -- that would draw you to such a project to begin with. And while Bemoana's fate becomes even grimmer following the shoot, the experience had a happy ending for Moreano: It inspired him to become a documentary filmmaker. It's a profession that appears to suit him, based on not only this film but also the praise that greeted his previous one, 2005's As the Call, So the Echo, which profiled Moreano's father, a doctor who traveled to Vietnam as a volunteer surgeon.

That filmmaking can be a torturous process isn't news. What makes Unspooled effective is that it documents a small production -- not Apocalypse Now, not a Gilliam movie -- and reveals that even when the stakes seem low, they're really not. Singer's father makes demands and pulls strings like a big-time producer, crew members clash as though their lives depended on the results, and lead actor Larry Brustofski, who plays Ramona's father, says sincerely of the shoot: "It was the heart of darkness."

Friday, September 5, 2008

"Love is Noise"

The new Verve song is... good!

In other news, I've made my second post to the Moishe House blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008