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  1. Walter Murch Edits "Cold Mountain"
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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Walter Murch Edits "Cold Mountain"
Dear Friedrich -- You may enjoy this interview with the film editor Walter Murch, here. Murch, who was a film-schoolmate of people like Lucas and Coppola, edited the new movie "Cold Mountain" on a bunch of Macs, using the off-the-racks software package Final Cut Pro -- evidently the largest, most complex film project yet edited on Macs. He's enthusiastic, and he seems to have no major complaint about his experience, though it has to be kept in mind that the interview was done by Apple. He gets off a couple of thoughts I found especially interesting. When asked what he misses about traditional celluloid-based editing, he responds: I think there are only two areas where something is missing. When you actually had to make the cut physically on film, you naturally tended to think more about what you were about to do. Which — in the right proportion — is a good thing to do. The cut is a kind of sacramental moment. When I was in grade school they made us write our essays in ink for the same reason. Pencil was too easy to erase. The other “missing” advantage to linear editing was the natural integration of repeatedly scanning through rolls of film to get to a shot you wanted. Inevitably, before you ever got there, you found something that was better than what you had in mind. With random access, you immediately get what you want. Which may not be what you need. I love that distinction between bolting directly to what you want and stumbling into what you need. He seems to be nailing something that a lot of people sense happens when you move from the analog world to the digital world. Murch is a thoughtful guy, by the way -- a bit of a philosopher as well as a sensitive film editor. (He's probably best-known for his work on "The Godfather, Part II" "Apocalypse Now" and "The English Patient.") I've enjoyed his book In the Blink of an Eye (buyable here), as well as Michael Ondaatje's book-length set of conversations with him (here). Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 20, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Sexy Movies, Episode One Million
Dear Friedrich -- Wandering around a local video parlor, I noticed that some sexy movies I've enjoyed can now be rented on DVD. Are they new to DVD? Beats me, but who cares? The world of digital entertainment is one where everything that's available qualifies as eternally new. Note: I'm not -- repeat, I am not -- arguing these are good movies. I'm simply saying that I enjoyed watching them; maybe you will too. Is anyone really so snobbish that he or she insists that a movie be "good" before enjoying it? Or, conversely, that just because he or she enjoyed a movie, that makes it good? Certainly no one with the class and brains to visit 2Blowhards would make such a silly mistake. Wide Sargasso Sea -- A small-scale but voluptuous John Duigan adaptation of a late Jean Rhys novella -- a prequel to "Jane Eyre" set on a Caribbean island. As a viewing experience, it's stormy, moody, wailing, and narcissistic, with a turbulent but silky surface, and with the entrancingly beautiful part-Cherokee, part-Tahitian Karina Lombard in the lead. (If anyone's in the mood to read a Jean Rhys novella, let me suggest skipping "Wide Sargasso Sea" and trying "Good Morning, Midnight" instead. It's buyable here.) This is one of those erotic movies women seem to enjoy a lot, like the Venice-set Dangerous Beauty (about classy courtesans) and the Spanish film Sex and Lucia, both of which are also now available on DVD. (I posted about "Sex and Lucia" here.) To Live and Die in L.A., and Jade -- Overproduced, heavy-handed, sleazy thrillers from the incomparable (don't miss the relish and irony in my use of the word, please) William Friedkin. In an earnest mood, I'd argue that "To Live and Die" is a juicy example of its rough-you-up, decadent genre while "Jade" falls flat on its face. But why should I be earnest (and why should I try to turn my pleasures into an argument) when the simple fact is that I had a good time watching both of these movies, which were full of cops, murders, semi-ludicrous but entertaining sophistication about sex and drugs, and tons of gritty, slam-bang carrying-on? Though they were made fairly recently, they're like examples of a certain kind of hyper-profane, '70s Robert Evans production; in fact, "Jade" was produced by Evans, who's pretty incomparable in his own right. William Petersen, the star of "To Live and Die," has always reminded me of FvBlowhard, if after a few extra weeks on the Opti-Fast regimen. Perhaps Petersen is a Son of the Midwest too? Dancing at the Blue Iguana -- Definitely not a good movie, though I wouldn't have missed it for the world and would be happy to sit through it again. It's a semi-improvised acting-fest about life at a strip club, starring Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly, Sandra Oh and Sheila Kelley. T&A aside (and there isn't nearly as much skin in the movie as one might want), it's an interesting filmmaking experiment,... posted by Michael at December 18, 2003 | perma-link | (8) comments

Dear Friedrich -- A few of the things I've learned from hanging out online: How many people identify themselves as libertarians. How many people have gone through serious Ayn Rand phases. How many bright people read and enjoy sci-fi as adults. The immense cultural importance of Robert Heinlein. I think I've managed to semi-understand the first three of those phenomena. The fourth still eludes me. As you know, I'm largely incapable of reading sci-fi -- off we swoop into other lands, dimensions and times, and some toggle in my brain I've got no control over switches to "off." So I've read almost no Heinlein, only "Starship Troopers," which I was curious about because I loved the Verhoeven movie based on it. Have you seen the film? I found it a riot -- an irreverent, midnight-movie-ish, satirical, borderline-porn bash that happened to get produced on an A-movie budget. But I understand true Heinlein fans don't approve of the movie. I can see why --- when I read the novel I was surprised to find it straight-ahead and earnest in its concerns, though (the toggle in my brain having switched to "off") I can no longer recall what those concerns were. I seem to remember that you were a fan many decades ago. Can you explain what it is Heinlein means to many people? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 18, 2003 | perma-link | (48) comments

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Coming To Grips With Nietzsche, Part III
Michael: In my (no doubt) long-awaited third posting on Nietzsche, I want to discuss where I think his ideas have been significant to me, and where I think he went wrong. Because I haven’t touched on all aspects of his thought in my previous posts, I beg your indulgence while offering a brief summary: God is Dead—This is Nietzsche’s term for the collapse of belief in God and the Christian interpretation of the meaning of life, a process that had been underway for a century but was accelerating in his time. The Christian interpretation of the world had served as a way of giving meaning to suffering, death and worldly frustration, so it kept under control humanity’s tendency towards nihilism—i.e., the belief that life is meaningless suffering, with its consequential world weariness and will to death. Nietzsche therefore anticipated that he lived at the beginning of an epoch during which nihilism would spiral out of control. However, he notices that although belief in God was diminishing, the credence given to Christian moral judgments seems to be doing fine. This leads him to ponder the source and nature of morality and value systems, a project he entitles the Revaluation of Values. By contemplating history and psychology, Nietzche rejects the notion that values and moralities are handed down from on high and are thus absolute. He finds, rather, that values and moralities (which are, in essence, systems of guidance) are developed to serve the needs of particular human groups, communities and classes. He finds that the group whose needs are served by taking guidance from Christian values are the weak and suffering majority of mankind. He also finds Christian values to be infused with envy and resentment against the powerful. By the powerful he meant the well-formed, those who do not suffer, those who get what they want. Nietzsche also thought that these ‘lower class’ values had hampered the few well-formed powerful individuals of his time from actualizing themselves. Nietzsche also saw that the values of the secular ‘religions’ of his time (democracy, socialism, feminism, nationalism) were likewise in the service of the same weak and suffering majority, and were laden with the same resentment. (As you might expect, Nietzsche was against all of these secular ‘religions,’ which makes the Nazis’ appropriation of his philosophy sort of a bad joke.) Looking back in history, he saw, however, that the weak and suffering had not been the only human group that had created a set of values. According to Nietzsche, the classical Greeks and Romans, who were dominated by the upper classes—that is, the masters, the powerful and well-formed, those that never doubted that they should be in charge and get what they want—had believed in a very different set of values. This ‘master’ morality was not full of resentment, as those that believed in it didn’t feel weak or powerless. Nietzsche also found that this ‘master’ morality had encouraged the remarkable development of superior human beings in the Classical era and their... posted by Friedrich at December 17, 2003 | perma-link | (16) comments

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Salingaros on Kahn
Dear Friedrich -- As you know, I've been trying to persuade Nikos Salingaros to make use of 2Blowhards as a vehicle for his more blog-y and informal reflections and observations. And I'm pleased to report that I've had some success -- Nikos has written up his responses to the work of the architect Louis Kahn, and has given us the OK to publish them. Readers who want to find links to Kahn resources on the Web are urged click here. Nikos' website, where he makes available his very impressive writing and thinking on architecture, is here. Salingaros on Kahn 1. Which Kahn? First let's get the architect's identity straight. There are three Kahns in American architecture: Albert Kahn; Ely Jacques Kahn; and Louis Isadore Kahn. The first was a great Classical architect -- a contemporary of Julia Morgan and Stanford White who also built some plain industrial buildings, but not for human habitation. Albert Kahn made the mistake of pointing out that the industrial style is inappropriate for most buildings, and claiming that modernism is not real architecture, so you don't hear much about him nowadays. The second Kahn was a master of Art Deco, who helped to define what New York ought to have become were it not for the modernists. Ely Kahn built some of the more attractive modest skyscrapers, which were replaced by the faceless monstrosities of today. When archaeologists of the future define New York culture by its artistic style, it will probably be the Art Deco style of 1930, just as Paris is indelibly associated with the Art Nouveau style of the 1900 Metro station entrances. Nevertheless, both New York and Paris have done their best to erase their identifying symbols, like the ex-convict Jean Valjean trying to hide all traces of his true identity. The third Kahn was the champion of modernism that we know so well -- the Kahn of "what does a brick want to become?" It is de rigueur for young architects to refer to him casually as "Lou" so as to imply a nonexistent familiarity. Even though Kahn was born in Estonia, he grew up in the USA, and is thus considered more American than the numerous European modernist architects who immigrated as adults. The "official" histories of architecture are written so as to imply that genuinely homegrown American innovation in architecture really took off with Louis Kahn and Philip Johnson. To think this way is ridiculous, but it represents modernist dogma and is not meant to be supported by either reality or facts. To criticize Kahn's work amounts to criticizing the spirit of American Architecture. Louis Kahn is an American Icon, and I respect that. Christopher Alexander and I were talking about famous modernist architects, and Louis Kahn's name came up. Christopher said: "I cannot bring it in my heart to criticize the guy, since he always went out of his way to be nice to me when I was a young man. He really liked me, and amazingly,... posted by Michael at December 16, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Monday, December 15, 2003

Guest Posting -- Turbokitty
Dear Friedrich -- Turbokitty, who 2Blowhards visitors know as the writer of a variety of kick-ass contributions to our Comments section, is my favorite rambunctious art chick. The Wife and I enjoy downtown evenings out on doubledates with Turbokitty (real name: Michelle Vaughan) and her alpha blogger b.f. Felix Salmon, whose own website is here. Anyway, Michelle was rapping the other day about this and that, and she got me fascinated; she was talking about how she'd recently started seeing and perceiving things in new ways. I asked if she could get it down in writing, and she soon came back with this piece. I think it's loads of visual-people fun -- as well as, shhhh, sweet and touching. Enjoy. The images are thumbnails, so be sure to click on them. TurboKitty Turns a Corner It happened in my living room about a month ago. I was listening to  Ween, a group  I've liked for years and years because they were such hysterical and  quirky college musicians who smoked fierce amounts of pot. But on  their brand new CD, "Quebec", the music is ... so grown up. "Ohmigod,"  I thought. "What the hell happened?"  The music was still playful and twisted, but through the entire album  something resonated -- Gene and Dean Ween had loved and lost (*sigh*). It was serious stuff, although it wasn't as if they'd entirely given  up their psychedelic smartass style. But also in there was more ambiguous music. Whoa dude, were they getting deep on me? So I listened to the CD over and over. I went through all the lyrics (yes, at age 32, there I was deconstructing potheads). I wanted to know what was going on, and I finally realized that they've moved into another dimension of communication, with irony worn like old shoes, not forgotten but with new places to go. It occurs to me that perhaps we've moved into the post-post modern world. Sometimes I feel like I've fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in a world of déjà vu. Even Ween's growing up -- like I say: Omigod. Now, they're older than I am, around 35 or 38. And maybe one of them got a divorce, and maybe one of them kicked speed. And it can be depressing to come off speed. Still, I've grown up with Ween, so this change affected me, and I didn't expect that. It made me feel sad, like when I used to feel sad for Charlie Brown in the Peanuts strip when nothing went his way. What was going on? I became an art chick back during the eighties. I was a kid living by the beach in California and I was bored out of my skull. I knew I was going to be an artist from when I was five. My grandfather was a cubist painter, and I loved to draw ever since I was a little kid, and I was lucky enough to have parents who promoted my interest in it;... posted by Michael at December 15, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments