Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Hemingway's Garden of Eden"

A bit of news... December 10th will see the US release by Roadside Attractions of "Hemingway's The Garden of Eden."

"The Garden of Eden" has long been my favorite of Hemingway's novels.  Like all his best work, it gives you the look and feel of places (in this case the Cote d'azur in the 1920s), but also the sensuous thrill of what the world offers, the excitement of complex relationships, and the tension of sexual intrigue.  I only hope the film lives up to this great book.  (I suppose I should mention that I'm biased since I wrote the screen adaptation.)

A glimpse here:

The trailer can be seen here, or here.

And more information here.  Announcement here, here with commentary here... by ace blogger Liberty London Girl here.

And The Paris Review Daily reports on a New York screening at Tribeca Grand Hotel HERE... Vanity Fair interview HERE, and another by the wonderful Christine Spines on Random House's Word & Film site HERE.

Finally my account of a fit of overwhelming insecurity, film-related, in the FT HERE.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blogging will be light... though I remain before the fate machine

Blogging has been light recently as I've been at work on a feature film adaptation of a book by the fellow who also wrote this.

So, yes, I've been away, and yet still in front of this "fate machine."

Fate machine?  "Typewriter keys represent the keys of life."  It is all explained in this clip...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Billy Wilder on Writing "Some Like It Hot," and Directing Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis died yesterday. His career included roles in The Sweet Smell of Success, Spartacus, The Defiant Ones, and many others, but he’ll be best remembered as Joe (and Josephine) in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot.
   Some years ago, when I was an editor at The Paris Review and was visiting Los Angeles, I learned that Billy Wilder went to the same office every day from ten to twelve in the morning. For two year I’d been trying to get the filmmaker to agree to an interview for the Writers at Work Series, and he’d steadfastly refused. I finally decided simply to show up and introduce myself, to “door-step him,” as he had done, years before, as a young journalist in Vienna.
   The office was a simple suite on the second floor of a low-rise office building. Mr. Wilder, a restless man, even at ninety then, taller than expected, blinked behind large black-framed glasses, and was not quite as surprised to see me as I’d expected. With wonderful Old World manners, he ushered me in, nodding as I gave my name. The mail had just arrived and with the air of a benevolent, even exuberant, dictator, he instructed me to pick it up and carry it over to his desk. He motioned to a leather chair beside it.
   On the wall across from his desk, in gilt letters eight inches high was the question "HOW WOULD LUBITSCH DO IT?" A day bed, like an analyst's couch, was set against one wall. The opposite wall was decorated with personal photos, including a number of him with some of cinema's other great writer-directors--John Huston, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini.
   When firmly settled in a large chair behind his desk, we chatted for a half hour while he sorted his mail. Finally, the mail sorted and opened, he peered over his glasses and said, "You wanted to ask me a question."
   Thus began a series of four meetings over ten days, after which we composed and, with my boss George Plimpton, edited a text that became “The Art of Screenwriting.” The edited interview can read in Paris Review Interviews, Volume I, published by Picador. I include below one of the many out-takes from the published piece that were removed due to their concern with the craft of directing, and so outside purview of the magazine’s interviews series, the craft of writing. For Wilder, of course, those two were one and the same, or rather one melded into the other. (Plimpton would have none of this argument unfortunately, and so out these anecdotes went, removed from publication, until now.)
   Sometime into our second meeting I asked Mr. Wilder what happens between the script and the filming of a script.

BILLY WILDER: You have to work with the actors to make sure the dialogue meshes, that there are no pauses. Or, if there is going to be a laugh you need to make a pause there for the audience response, some bit of action maybe.
   When the Marx Brothers were about to shoot A Night at the Opera, Irving Thalberg of MGM did something very intelligent. He had some of the brothers take routines from the movie and play them between vaudeville acts to an audience. Somebody from the studio would be there to analyze the laughter and time everything: "This is good for seven seconds." "This is only good for four." "This falls flat. That we cut."
   So, for instance, when we had the scene in Some Like it Hot where Tony Curtis after a night with Marilyn Monroe, using that Cary Grant accent on her, climbs into the window of his hotel room, where he finds lying in bed Mr. Lemmon, who had just danced the night away, the tango, everything, with Joe E. Brown.
   Curtis says, "What's new?"
   Lemmon says, "I'm engaged."
   "What do you mean you're engaged, for Christ's sake. Who's going to marry you?" In fact, this millionaire guy, Joe E. Brown, wants to marry Jack Lemmon.
   I knew it was a very funny scene and people were going to laugh at all this. There was a group of tourists on the set while we shooting who didn't know the script. As soon as they saw Curtis dressed as a Shell Oil heir-kind of yacht captain, and Lemmon in the dress with the hairdo, there was constant laughter from the sidelines. People were having to leave the stage so as not to disrupt shots. We figured that we had written in about twenty laugh lines, and I knew I would need to slow down, to retard the dialogue to give people time to recoup.
   On the stage, someone will say a straight line to set up a whallop of a joke. Right? Then you need to wait for the laughter to subside before you start in with the next straight line to feed the next joke.
   In pictures, it's almost impossible to stop the laughter, to slow things down. The next joke will come while people are still laughing. So I came up with the idea of Lemmon playing with some Cuban maracas.
   So Curtis: "Why would you want to marry a guy?"
   Lemmon: "Security!" Rum, bum, bum, bah, with the maracas.
   I spread the lines out with the maracas.
   It wasn't so easy when we first showed the guys in disguise. First you see the heels, walking, very high heels, then the legs.
   Slowly I disclose that these two are carrying instruments, and then you figure out it's our two musicians on the run, Lemmon and Curtis. On the MGM lot number three where they had the train, they only had a locomotive and three cars. We wanted to spread the walking out, so we used three takes four times--a train's a train, you can't even tell.
   The audience now has enough time to recover, we're back to a medium shot, the feet and the bottom of a dress. The feet stop walking, and Lemmon says, "It's so drafty!"

[During another meeting I asked Mr. Wilder if when he wrote something whether he could tell when he had it right. – JSL]

BILLY WILDER: Izzy Diamond and I were writing the final scene of Some Like it Hot the week before we shot it. We'd come to the situation where Jack Lemmon tries to convince Joe E. Brown that he cannot marry him.
   "Why?" Brown says.
   "Because I smoke!"
   "That's all right as far as I'm concerned..."
   Finally Lemmon rips his wig off and yells at him, "I'm a boy! Because I'm a boy!"
   Diamond and I were in our room working together waiting for the next line--Joe E. Brown's response, the final line, the curtain line of the film--to come to us.
   Then I heard Diamond say, "Nobody's perfect."
   I thought about it, and I said, "Well, let's put in 'nobody's perfect' for now. But only for the time being.     We have a whole weeks to think about it." We thought about it all week. Neither of us could come up with anything better, so we shot that line, still not entirely satisfied.
   When we screened the movie, that line got one of the biggest laughs I've ever heard in the theater. But we just hadn't trusted it when we wrote it; we just didn't see it. "Nobody's perfect." The line had come too easily, just popped out.
   Now if I go to Europe or if I am in New York sometimes somebody will suddenly stare at me, and without saying my name, maybe not even knowing who I am but just that I had something to do with that movie, they'll say, "Nobody's perfect."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Economic Indicators

"Nathan Rothschild famously quipped, 'Buy when there is blood in the streets,' but he never said anything about firebombs thrown at Greek riot police, a trillion dollar easing of the money supply, or synthetic collateral debt obligations."

- Andy Kessler, WSJ

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mirror, by Mark Strand

A white room and a party going on
and I was standing with some friends
under a large gilt-framed mirror
that tilted slightly forward
over the fireplace.
We were drinking whiskey
and some of us, feeling no pain,
were trying to decide
what precise shade of yellow
the setting sun turned our drinks.
I closed my eyes briefly,
then looked up into the mirror:
a woman in a green dress leaned
against the far wall.
She seemed distracted,
the fingers of one hand
fidgeted with her necklace,
and she was staring into the mirror,
not at me, but past me, into a space
that might be filled by someone
yet to arrive, who at that moment
could be starting the journey
which would lead eventually to her.
Then, suddenly, my friends
said it was time to move on.
This was years ago,
and though I have forgotten
where we went and who we all were,
I still recall that moment of looking up
and seeing the woman stare past me
into a place I could only imagine,
and each time it is with a pang,
as if just then I were stepping
from the depths of the mirror
into that white room, breathless and eager,
only to discover too late
that she is not there.

- Poem courtesy of Knopf Poetry.  Listen to Strand read this poem here.  Sign up for Knopf's Poem-a-Day service here.  Lastly, a hat tip, and deep bow in her direction, to Andrea A. for her suggestion of the poem. 

Ernest Hemingway's "The Garden of Eden"

... also forthcoming... news of, and a release for, the feature film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novel "The Garden of Eden." [For update info, see recent post.]

"Garden" has long been my favorite of Hemingway's novels.  Like all his best work, it gives you the look and feel of places (in this case the Cote d'azur in the 1920s), but also the sensuous thrill of what the world offers, the excitement of complex relationships, and the tension of sexual intrigue.  I only hope the film lives up to this great book.  (Disclosure: I wrote the film adaptation.)

The trailer can be seen here, or here.

And more information here.  Announcement here, here with commentary here... by ace blogger Liberty London Girl here.

And The Paris Review Daily reports on a New York screening at Tribeca Grand Hotel here.

Main Point Pictures

For information and updates on Main Point Pictures, go HERE.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Grand National Steeplechase

UPDATE: Inexplicably, I have lost in betting on this race once again.

"Gambling Types #7:  I don't like to talk about this lot.  I'm one of them.  They're simply out of their depths.  They know they can't win, but they'll risk it 'just this once.'  They bet beyond their means, go mad when they win and cry all the way home on the train when they lose.  Their cup doth not runneth over and there's a nasty tendency toward bitterness which takes the form of swearing loudly in the Gents when it's empty.  They also retreat there to have a private roll call of their rapidly dwindling wad from time to time.  They gamble while under the influence of alcohol and/or the astrological columns and they're even mad enough to gamble to 'get out of trouble.'  That's why they're always in it.  Like most dogs they have their day. About once in a lifetime."  

--Jeffrey Bernard:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Everybody" by Bissou

This video is too sweet by half... and quite wonderful.  The song is "Everybody" written by Ingrid Michaelson.  This interpretation is arranged and performed by the group Bissou, who are Miranda, Elodie and Mikaela.

Hat tip Chloe Bass for the suggestion.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Hat, a Coat and a Gun

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.”

from Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Still Life by James Perceval, courtesy of LP.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Headline of the Week

via The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"In Academic Culture, Mental-Health Problems Are Hard to Recognize..."

If you didn't know this already, the article may be read HERE.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Ale and Quail Club

The other day a correspondent mentioned in passing something called The Fellowship of Boar and Beer.  When I asked to what he was referring, he clammed up. 

I never considered there was particularly much relationship between boars and beer, but as the person in question knows someone in the Baker Street Irregulars, and because boars were often depicted in heraldic terms alongside warriors, I wondered if that might be a group akin to The Red-Headed League, depicted in that Sherlock Holmes tale.  Probably not... or was in fact the Red-Headed League a hoax?  I don't remember, but all this set me to pondering.

I'm ensconced these days in north London above an old butcher shop, 18th century by the facade, but a local historian says the foundation goes back to late 16th century.  Out back even today through the fog I can still see the outline of the old stockyard, and in between a barn-like building, now an artist's loft, once for the bloody process between stockyard and counter.  And, further, nearby is Bacon Lane... though I've suspected that was named after the scientist Francis Bacon, who died nearby of ague after conducting an experiment with a chicken.  No matter.  Across the street is a very old pub, where last month I was served a wonderful "winter warmer" cask ale.  Come to think of it, across from every old butcher shop there is a pub, but... well, this is London.  Of course, there there may be chapters of this group all around and I've simply never noticed?

I remembered then that some of our friends were fans of the filmmaker Preston Sturges and I recalled a group who appear early on in his movie "The Palm Beach Story."  The Ale and Quail Club.  Not to be confused with the stockcar racing outfit based out of upstate New York.  

Yes, I suspect that the mysterious association The Fellowship of Boar and Beer, if it even exists, has something to do with Ale and Quail Club, but who knows? 

I await confirmation.  In the meantime I include below a relevant clip.  (Please forgive Sturges his broad caricature of the waiter.)

Quote of the Week: from Lee Smith, via Michael Totten

It's an interesting reading day when one of my favorite Middle East observers, Michael Totten, quotes another of my favorites, Lee Smith.  Here, as posted earlier this week by Totten:

For Assad and the Alawis, the Iraqi insurgency amounted to a debate over the nature of the Middle East. The Bush administration thought that the region was ripe for democracy and pluralism, and that its furies could be tamed by giving Middle Easterners a voice in their own government. Syria countered that the Middle East could only be governed through violence. Its support for the insurgency was, at least in part, intended to give Washington no choice but to put away dangerous ideas like Arab democracy…
This is what the Syrians, and the Iranians, did in Iraq—but the Americans were also at fault, and not just because we failed to provide enough security early on. We should have given more consideration, and even respect, to the theory the Arabs had about us. While Washington may have thought it was laboring to bring democracy to the region, the Arabs believed we were on a deliberate course to set them at each other's throats, with the goal of dividing and conquering. The sectarian warfare that Zarqawi was waging there was seen as just the first of many more conflagrations to come, conflagrations that the Arabs thought would be to our benefit, and of course to that of the Israelis.

Sometimes shows of power and diplomacy are, in fact, connected aspects of one player's coherent and comprehensive Middle East policy. But often what appears to be a grand strategy is just a fantasy that Arab analysts, journalists, and cafe society have projected onto the map of the region in order to pass time and keep the mind nimble, like a narrative version of backgammon. That was the case with the Arab interpretation of U.S. policy in Iraq. We didn't want to set the Sunnis and Shias against each other—we just wanted to take a few pieces off the table. But the Arabs find it impossible to believe that we do not understand the nature of the Middle East, and they therefore assume that our guile matches our power.

The assumption that democracy was all a plan to set the Arabs at each other's throats also made sense to many Arabs because it fit the way they see their own societies. For the Americans, democracy meant investing the Arab man, woman, and child with the rights due every human being. From the Arab nationalist perspective, empowering the Arab individual would necessarily come at the expense of the Arab nation. And weakening the unity of the nation would animate the sectarian monster that has stalked the region for a millennium.

Nowhere were these fears stronger than in Damascus. For the Syrian regime, democracy would mean an end to the domestic peace cultivated through coercion and repression since the founding of the modern Syrian state, and the unleashing of violence at unprecedentedly lethal levels. Majority rule, meanwhile, would obviously not only spell the demise of the Alawi regime but also threaten the very existence of the Alawi community. As they watched what was happening in Lebanon and Iraq, it was easy for the Arabs to conclude that if representative government meant brother slaughtering brother, then the Americans could keep their precious democracy to themselves.

Hatred of America's freedoms, the Bush White House liked to say, is why jihadis commit acts of terror against the United States. The Syrian regime reminded the Arab mainstream that it wasn't American freedoms they hated, but their own. The Arabs feared each other.

From The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations by Lee Smith.

More from Totten, including about Iran on its 31st anniversary here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Overexposed - A BBC Radio Documentary by Miles Warde

Though I missed it when it was broadcast Monday on BBC Radio 4, I've since caught my friend Miles Warde's documentary on i-player (link below) where it will be available through the end of the week.

It's a riveting half hour that examines the motivation, and the fates, of a group of photojournalists starting out together twenty years ago at the London College of Printing.  Above is a photo by one of this group, another friend, James Hill, Pulitzer Prize winner for his work in Afghanistan for The New York Times.

As Chris Campling writes about the documentary:

Brave - probably foolhardy - and desperately ambitious, these young men and women came out of college and into warfare, travelling to Yugoslavia, Angola, Rwanda and Iraq in search of the pictures that would make their names. They went with little more than accreditation from various newspapers and agencies, utterly exposed to the dangers they would encounter, a far cry from the embedded journalists of today. Two of them were to die within a couple of years of graduation. Some of the others went into less dangerous lines of work. All have memories to make your hair curl.

OVEREXPOSED, on BBC i-player here.  (Please note this program may not be available outside the UK.  If not, please request it from your local public radio station.)

More photography by James Hill may be found here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Iran, an Anniversary, the Green Movement, and Memory

February will mark the 31th Anniversary of Iran's revolution against the Shah, an event that, once the anti-Shah coalition was reduced to a single faction, became known as "The Islamic Revolution."

Will the Islamic Republic of Iran reach its thirty-first anniversary and last until March?  Alone among my friends I'm not entirely sure.   Or rather, I should say plainly:

I do not think the current government in Iran will survive through this spring.

The Obama administration has been attempting to engage the cleric-backed government of Ahmadinejad diplomatically, yet because of its behavior on the international stage Iran's current government should not be granted the standing as a partner for such negotiations.

Meanwhile, their government has been undergoing a crisis of legitimacy within Iran itself. A vast majority of theologians have all along been in agreement that clerical rule has no place in Shia Islam. Virtually the lone dissenters are those wielding power in Iran now.  Of course, I'd counsel readers not to take my word for it, and instead refer you to authorities in Najaf.

The question within Iran of the legitimacy of their government, however, now turns not so much on theological arguments as on its pervasive and grotesque abuse of human rights.   Of course, I'd counsel readers not to take my word for it, but instead to listen to what Iranian people themselves have been saying, and are saying in the streets, on twitter and sundry other media channels, even now.  In the meantime, detailed and authoritative reports about these abuses have been assembled and produced by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and they are available HERE.

About February, and the coming anniversary of the Iranian revolution, this, on the persistence of memory, from Roya Hakanian:

For 30 years, Milan Kundera’s elegant formulation had been upended in Iran. Those in power insisted on remembering the past; ordinary men and women insisted on forgetting it. To remember was “revolutionary.” Not to remember was not simply counter-revolutionary, it was even blasphemous.... The tension was so palpable that even foreign reporters—clueless to language and cultural subtexts—sensed it. Report after report appeared in the English-language press about the youth’s disregard for the old totems, and their penchant for all things western, as they understood western to be—like going blonde, wearing Nikes, being sexually promiscuous, and saving money for plastic surgery. This generation that clandestinely swung its hips to the cool tunes of American pop would not be caught chanting a passé like Allahu akbar....
In the aftermath of the June presidential elections, the national dementia lifted. What was buried in the collective consciousness took hold of young and old. Everyone suddenly remembered. They climbed to the rooftops and chanted Allahu akbar just as they had in the weeks before the fall of the Shah. They took to the streets by the millions, and the image of their throngs uncannily resembled its precursor. They remembered how to build barricades, mix a Molotov cocktail, kiss the cheek of a riot policeman to pacify him, or set a tire on fire to neutralize tear gas. The regime finally got its wish. The nation proved to have been an assiduous student of history all along—and of all the detailed instructions it now regrets having passed on.

Now, in a farcical twist, the promotion of forgetting has become a governmental priority.

As Hakakian explains: "Last week, the broadcast and distribution of several images from 1978 was declared banned."   [As may be seen here:]

"The Green Movement, however, has already vowed to fight the ban by remembering."

Read Hakakian's entire article HERE.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The River-Merchant's Wife, by Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you

- translation by Ezra Pound

with my thanks for the suggestion to Lawrence Osborne

Monday, January 25, 2010

Outsourcing, and the Decline of Journalism

A few years ago friends at newspapers and magazines attempted to warn me off blogging with the contention that I'd be contributing to the decline of the paid-journalism model. In fact, all of us grossly underestimated the pressure that would soon be put on traditional methods of journalism production.

We all know the results.

Next cool-media newspapers like The Guardian began to cannibalize television news with their on-line documentary film series, and new media players such as PJTV and Reason TV further eroded that market.

Now we wait in hope now for the immanent arrival of The Jesus Tablet.

In the meantime, another ominous portent, or indeed competitor, has interceded:

The world's first film shot entirely by chimpanzees is to be broadcast by the BBC as part of a natural history documentary. The apes created the movie using a specially designed chimp-proof camera given to them by primatologists. The film-making exercise is part of a scientific study into how chimpanzees perceive the world and each other. It will be screened within the Natural World programme "Chimpcam" shown on BBC Two at 2000GMT on Wednesday 23 January.

The Horror.

Read all about it HERE.

Frank O'Hara reads "Having a Coke With You"

Friday, January 22, 2010

What We'd Like to Hear President Obama Say

"We won't agree on every issue... But we do agree that we love America equally, that we're concerned about the future of this country, and that we will do our very best to address big problems... The American people expect us to rise above partisan differences, and my administration will do its part...."

Hat tip Ann Althouse.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Dancing: Jean-Luc Godard's "Bande a Part"

Akira Kurosawa's STRAY DOG

After watching some early Polanski films last week I've been thinking about pulp fictions and genre films.

Many of the finest filmmakers did their finest work in what some, incorrectly, call the lesser genres. Billy Wilder's film noir "Double Indemnity," an adaptation of the James M. Caine novel, compares well to his original "Sunset Boulevard," and in some ways paved the way for that later work. Elsewhere on this blog I've offered Wilder's account of working on that adaptation with Raymond Chandler, from a conversation I had with the director shortly before he died. (It was a contentious relationship and in the end Wilder was legally enjoined by the studio from brandishing his riding crop during working hours. A limit was also placed on the number of calls he was allowed to accept from young ladies.)

This week I've been re-watching Akira Kurosawa's film noir "Stray Dog" (1949). That film had its genesis as an unpublished police procedural novel that the great Japanese filmmaker himself wrote over a feverish two month period.

"Stray Dog" tells the story of the frantic search by a rookie cop (Toshiro Mifune) for his stolen Colt pistol, which to his shame had been lifted from him on a bus. A manhunt, lead by the rookie's mentor, begins after the stolen gun is used in a murder. The action throughout takes place during a heatwave in a bombed-out post-war Tokyo. One thing that gives the film such psychological depth is that both cop and killer are from the same background and are the same age... though it's never mentioned both must have been recently de-mobilized from the defeated Imperial Army. There's a sense of "there but for the grace of God go I."

The mini documentary in the Criterion Collection edition recounts a stir over the opening shot of a dog panting feverishly. The film premiered during the American occupation of Japan, and a busybody American woman associated with the ASPCA accused Kurosawa of having injected the dog with rabies to get that wild-eyed effect. This was in the wake of post-war revelations about "scientific" experiments performed by the Japanese imperial army. Apparently this woman was persistent, obsessed even, and brought suit. It was the one blot on an otherwise happy production.

Of course, to get the shot Kurosawa simply had his team take the dog on a run for a few minutes on a hot day.

Video: Archie, the Parsons Terrier

In writing earlier about Soupy Sales, I commented that "these days with a laptop and a two hundred dollar Flip video camera, most everyone has better tools than he and his cohorts had."  Not that their videos are funnier.

I offer proof on both points in this video I've just shot and edited about the training of Archie, an aspirant to the role of Sherriff of Hampstead Heath.  He is a terror to squirrels and other small dogs.

There'll soon be other and better videos here and on my Youtube site, HERE.

Soupy Sales: Fang's Talent Agency

Since his death late last year I've been watching clips from the Soupy Sales Show.  The picture quality is not great, and the sets are homemade, but you could make a pretty funny video with a single stationary camera and a fellow in front of it who had a lot of personality.  In a way his are the forebears for Saturday Night Live's videos.

I like "Fang's Talent Agency," a still from which below, but there loads of others.

These days with a laptop and a two hundred dollar Flip video camera, most everyone has better tools than he and his cohorts had.

Watch Soupy and Fang HERE.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Politics, the Way They're Supposed to Be Played

Last year, at Standpoint on-line, I did a series of posts entitled "Does Anyone Know How to Drive This Thing?"

It's refreshing now to see, in contrast, when someone gets it right.  This from Senator-elect Scott Brown's election victory speech:
This special election came about because we lost someone very dear to Massachusetts, and to America. Senator Ted Kennedy was a tireless and big-hearted public servant, and for most of my lifetime was a force like no other in this state.  His name will always command the affection and respect by the people of Massachusetts, and the same goes for his wife Vicki.  There's no replacing a man like that, but tonight I honor his memory, and I pledge my very best to be a worthy successor.

Here's hoping.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jim Treacher, The Metrosexualization of...

Heh, via TickTockBlog:
Highly-paid Beltway blogger Jim Treacher reveals that he has become a Mac user. Oh dear, this will never do for the former self-fashioned hayseed-blogger from rural Indiana. Treacher was seduced recently by Tucker Carlson to join the ranks of DC chatteratti via Carlson's Daily Caller website. In his new column Treacher has been documenting his change in latitude, attitude, and operating system: "So I’m a Mac guy now."

The whole thing is here, and fairly funny.

The latest post of the "transformed" Treacher is now here, and he's funny too, though I have a bone to pick with him, about which more soon...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another Reason Not to Look Forward to the Trial of KSM

In Manhattan federal court, jury selection has begun for the attempted murder trial of Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT and Brandeis-trained scientist. The mother of three, and the only woman accused of working with al Qaeda's leadership, she has been dubbed the "terror mom."

Yesterday Siddiqui requested "genetic testing" to weed out jurors "of Zionist or Israeli background" from the pool of New York City jurors.

No response yet from Judge Richard Berman.

Her trial brings to light a bizarre 2008 incident in an Afghanistan police station. Siddiqi had been arrested outside an Afghan government compound, allegedly carrying two pounds of cyanide, information on chemical weapons, as well as descriptions of American landmarks. While in custody, Siddiqui allegedly grabbed an American soldier's rifle and fired at soldiers and FBI agents nearby.

Siddiqi is married to the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the one-time head of al Qaeda military committee who planned the 9/11 attacks. Her husband's cousin is Ramsi Youssef.

In the courtroom, Siddiqi said, "I'm boycotting this trial," adding, in the patois of a young New Yorker, "I'm out of this," before placing her head on the table. The trial of course is not boycotting Aafia Siddiqi, and the circus will continue when the proceedings begin on Tuesday.

This does cast a certain light on Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to move the trial of KSM to Manhattan, my beloved hometown.

Thank you NOT, Mr. Holder.

Full article from the Times (UK) on-line HERE.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lee Smith on the Clash of Arab Civilizations

Tony Badran has interviewed Lee Smith, author of the just-published tome The Strong Horse, for Now Lebanon. Smith's book, excerpts of which I've read, is an essential and contrarian reading of power politics in the Middle East today.

About his book:

The title comes from Osama Bin Laden’s observation that people by nature prefer the strong horse to the weak one. I wanted to try to explain is how politics works in a region like the Middle East, where, with very few exceptions, there are no peaceful transitions of authority, and power is not shared but rather is typically passed from one family member to another, or taken in a military coup.

On power alignment in the region:

On one hand you have the Islamic Republic of Iran, which wants to rewrite the regional order to its own advantage, and on the other you have Washington and the American-backed regional order, including Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states, along with Egypt, Jordan, and of course Israel, that wants to maintain its position. Tehran, at least until the June presidential elections, has been very confident in its status as a rising power, while the US is now led by a president who has expressed his discomfort with power.

On the implications for pro-democracy advocates in the region:

For pro-democracy forces in the Arab states, and perhaps Iran as well, an American loss of will amounts to an unqualified disaster. An active Iranian nuclear program would be powerful evidence that resistance works. Those publicly advocating in the region on behalf of democratic principles like rule of law are a minority as it is; but a victory for the culture of resistance would enshrine violence and vengeance as the manner in which to redress all grievances, real and imagined.

Smith's notion of a developing comity ahead between the Arab Sunni powers and Israel goes against received opinion and is, I think, quite correct.

Read the whole interview at Now Lebanon HERE.

And buy Smith's book HERE.

Oral Literature Meets Cool Media

I was just searching IMDB, the movie industry data base, good for contacts, credits, etc... and came across this:


Direct Contact: (Phone) Homer has been dead for more than two thousand years.
Agent: (N/A)
Profession: Writer
Known for: Troy / O Brother, Where Art Thou? / The Odyssey
Born: c. 850 BC, Turkey
Died: c. 800 BC

Industry News:
WGA Nominees Announced (From Studio Briefing - Film News. 8 February 2001)


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meant for Each Other, a story by Barry Yourgrau

You make a date through the Internet. You meet the girl for the first time at a sake bar. She gulps down a whole bottle of sake by herself. “Okay,” you think. “I guess we know what sort of problem she has. But man, is she cute.”

After two more bottles, the girl falls asleep on her bar stool. “That’s our sweetheart,” grins the bartender, shaking his head at the girl’s snores.

“You mean you know her?” you inquire, uneasily.

“Sure, she’s here every night, with a different guy,” says the bartender. “Whoopee, whoopee.” He winks.

“Really,” you reply. You eye the unconscious girl slumped headfirst on the bar counter. And you decide no matter how cute she is, this first date will also be the last,thank you very much.

And this is how you two meet, you and the love of your life. Four months later you get married and move into a lovely apartment together, where you start to raise a large and happy family.

How you get from point A to point B is a long, complicated, heart-warming, and in many ways wonderfully unbelievable story. But alas it requires someone with far greater narrative powers than mine to properly relate.

Posted with permission of the author.

Absinthe Drinkers

Yesterday, was simply a failure of imagination.

Must imagine better tomorrow. Tomorrow, fail again, but fail better.

Here is how, long ago, some sought to up their imagination... through the green demon, Absinthe.

Above, Viktor Oliva's painting "The Absinthe Drinker," which hangs in the Cafe Slavia, Prague.

Another absinthe drinker, Hemingway, had a favorite cocktail, Death in the Afternoon - a measure of absinthe in a champagne glass, fill to the top with Bollinger...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Al Gore Gulfstream 5 Watch in Effect

This is the scene outside my window in London right now. All indications are for a visit soon by the Nobel Laureate and former Vice President. Up to eighteen inches are expected in the Southeast, the most snow in thirty years.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hell Froze Over... and No One Even Noticed

Actor Tim Robbins, the recently-separated partner of Susan Sarandon, donated money to Republican Michelle Bachmann?

According to The Daily Beast, this is so:

"If Federal Election Commission records are to be believed, Robbins has not only donated regularly to Democratic candidates over the past 18 years, he also has written checks to conservative Republicans. In the 2006 election cycle, according to public records, the actor gave $5,000 to 10 Republican candidates for the House and Senate—including, most shocking of all, Minnesota’s resident wingnut, Rep. Michele Bachmann."

More Beastliness here.

Picked-up Pieces

Recently we've been obsessed by Bacon, Francis Bacon, the Jacobean-era lawyer who outlined the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific revolution, "knowledge is power," the importance of hardware (for testing purposes), trial and error. Bacon died in 1626 just over the road and across the square from where I now sit, in a house whose later incarnation has become the residence of filmmaker and Lord of Unreason Terry Gilliam.

Trial and error, especially error, has been on my mind since the start of the new year. Must do better.

Speaking of bacon, for Christmas I cooked pheasant stuffed and wrapped with the same, in a mustard cream sauce. Will be posting that recipe soon as well as ones for sea bass with capers and olives, "death pasta," and the venison we had for new year's eve.

Over the holidays I've been revisiting the short stories of James Salter, the rare writer who manages to be both exquisite and masculine. I'm now reading his volume Last Night. I meant to give this new-bought copy as a gift but couldn't let it go. Next I'll soon re-read his masterpiece A Sport and a Pastime. I would describe him as "a writers' writer" but I did this once before and he responded by asking if that was akin to "a whores' whore."

In other news of letters, we welcome the debut of Little Star magazine, edited by the estimable Ann Kjellberg.

We've been reminded that Philip Marlowe is the still the "chief of detectives," and Raymond Chandler the premiere writer of detectives novels.

We've also been pondering Apple's forthcoming itablet and wondering -- will it have a separate keyboard for scribes, for those who like to type rather than just read and watch?

Regarding current events, some items not yet on the front pages... Tigerhawk analyzes Iran and disinformation HERE. Elsewhere, a former Iranian spy chief HERE says their government is on the verge of collapse.

Victor Davis Hanson asks, regarding security matters, who is the enemy?

Edward Jay Epstein, the premiere debunker of conspiracy theories, re-investigates "Who Burned Down the Reichstag?" HERE.

Frank Schell, the Sage of Chicago, offers message advice to the president in the Chicago Tribune, here.

Archeologist Dorothy King points to Garance Dore as an alternative to the Sartorialist. (Here I am no expert.)

My favorite fashion blogger and friend LondonLibertyGirl offers a look back at her first year in Manhattan HERE.

We look forward to the launch of Big Journalism, edited by one Michael Walsh.

This year, as a little journalist, I've resolved to proofread before posting, or to do so better than last year. If I've missed something please forgive me. Trial and error. The scientific method.

Oliver Pilcher's film for D.S. Dundee

It's a slow start to the new year and not much is happening in the world, eh-hem, so we're continuing to post on the fashion and film front.

Just before Christmas we visited the pop-up shop of D.S. Dundee, a neo-sahib label, and met its proprietor Oliver Pilcher, a noted photographer, and the grandson of Scottish novelist Rosamunde P.

Pilcher has made a short film to tout D.S. Dundee, inspired by Patrick Gordon Duff Pennington's poem "The Crossing of the Waters." The film, a sort of two-minute "Atonement," was done for a tuppence, and it's a testament to what you can do for that with today's machines. My screen-shot from the opening is above (apologies for the quality, and don't let that discount the foregoing).

Look for Pilcher's forthcoming editorial work on the Outer Hebrides.

See the film HERE.

Shop D.S. Dundee HERE.

Maud Yeddou - Another Excellent Thing About French Cinema

She's got a great look, and wears it with attitude.

Found by New York Magazine's "Look Book," Yeddou was evidently visiting the city to perform in an experimental video by Anton Perich.

Her interview in NYM HERE.

Anton Perich's Youtube video channel HERE.

Another excellent thing about French cinema HERE.