January 29, 2010

Short Shameful Confession

Even now that Salinger's dead, I still can't bring myself to like or even admire "The Catcher In The Rye". I was forced to read it as part of a high school English course; back then, I remember thinking how specifically and annoyingly American it was, and just how alien to my own life as a teenager in Australia it all felt.

Nowadays, I think I'd add to this the uneasy feeling that the idea abroad here (in so many obituaries) that this specifically-American story represents something universal seems to be one of the most American aspects of the whole inflated TCITR phenomenon.

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January 26, 2010

Army Of Shadows

A film not afraid to wear its reticence on its sleeve: telegraphic, understated, laconic, minimalist, episodic, precisely elided; violence by implication. Melville makes the most of blue and green colour casts and varying saturation to coat so much with a sense of dread mirroring the fogs and washed-out light. The camerawork feels like a big budget film (steady, assured, occasional jolts, zooms, blacks), but with a sort of dirty realism that transcends itself in a minimalist impressionism (visually and narratively). Hats and tunnels (aircraft, train carriages, underpasses, jail and hospital corridors), symbols and geometry, wall textures (tiles, cell walls, London buildings); this film stays in my mind for weeks afterwards….

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January 19, 2010

Down The Drain

Outside, on 29th, a homeless woman who's inhabited the area around the 7-11 for the last few months has built a small fleet of origami boats that she's placed in the gutter and on the grate over the storm water drain next to the street. The effect is desperately sad: this woman is quite crazy — she talks to herself, she sleeps on the bus stop benches in elaborate cardboard-and-umbrella structures, she wanders into the traffic, she verbally attacks you if you show any interest in her — and the sight over the past week or so of these little scrap-paper things sailing away in the garbage-strewn gutter just underlines too much about life in a society too drained of decency.

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January 09, 2010

Rights Rights

I have a little sideline in video making; some of these videos would benefit from music soundtracks derived from (or using as-is) classical or rap or whatever recordings. Unfortunately, while I'd be happy paying a reasonable price to use these tracks on public versions of the videos, there's just no easy way to get those rights, and no fair pricing setup. Around here you typically have to get at least two types of rights per song (sync rights and a master use license); but there's no single central place to find out who the original rights holders are (there may be many, and you may never be able to discover with any certainty whether the rights are unencumbered by other hidden rights holders through derivative licensing), and even if you find them, it may take months or even years of wrangling to get an agreement, which will inevitably cost an arm and a leg (think thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars with a reduction if you're just doing a film festival or you're a student or whatever). The system's set up for large-scale studio films and lawyers; it's hopeless for people like me who're only too happy to pay but have no mechanism for doing so that doesn't include paying more than every other production expense combined for a single soundtrack right, for a short video that's intended for only very limited public showing, or that's not a commercial work.

I dream of the day when there's a central authoritative and efficient rights clearing house for things like this, with a simple payment system based on micro payments per (YouTube, Vimeo, whatever) play, up to a capped amount (think something like a penny per play up to (say) $500 for non-mainstream use). Fat chance, of course, but I can dream.

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January 03, 2010

That Totalitarian Democracy

With all the bipartisan furor about the missing intelligence oversight of the Christmas Underpants Bomber we're rushing slowly towards the consensual totalitarian democracy. But the real scary and destructive scenarios involve things like a suitcase bomb on BART's trans-bay tube, random truck bombings in the heartland, or DNS root server subversion; those are the sorts of things that have me reaching for my shades….

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