The Blue Raccoon

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Blathering Following A Quiet
Does one ever recover from the Democratic primary malady?

I'm reading Richmonder James Branch Cabell's early novel, The Cords of Vanity--A Comedy of Shirking of 1909 (re-edited and republished 1920), to gain some understanding of the rarefied mindset of his social class to provide persepctive for this book I'm endeavoring to write. [The image above is via the Virginia Commonwealth University Special Collections site].

This, along with Ellen Glasgow's more realistic and far less self-conscious Romance of a Plain Man, are providing invaluable and insightful glimpses into this time and place.

Glasgow mentions the suffrage question, includes cruelty to animals, but even in her book African-Americas are tangential, uneducated people, lacking individual character. Cabell's Townsend character refers to his mammy. These two writers occupied the same city, though not a similar realm of existence as businessman and firebrand editor of the Richmond Planet, John Mitchell Jr. He was running weekly tallies of the lynchings of blacks, and the purported reasons for the crime. And none of them were sending checks to support the muckraker socialist Adon A. Yoder and his Idea.

Now, Cabell never needed to work, that is, in the time-clock punching way--he was descended of two storied Virginia families and his daddy married well. But he was the artist in the family, and as such, experienced the loneliness of loving a city that held him in suspicion and further expected him to accomplish something significant, and then after he built 52 books, forgot him.

Cords is, as his biographer Edgar MacDonald described, an almost painfully autobiographical novel. The protagonist Robert Etheridge Townsend is James Branch Cabell's alter ego. Richmond becomes Lichfield.

He strove to be an epigrammatic word smith, oh so witty and droll. For this reason, among others, he is a personal hero, though I shall never match Cabell's preciosity--I'm not by half as well-read or educated--I, instead, seek relevancy.

Townsend of Lichfield was sort of dating, with intention of marriage, a young woman of means named Rosalind Jemmett whom he kind of forgot about while writing his first and unfortunate novel. They patch up and take up. He spends the summer holidaying with Rosalind and her family's well-off friends. Here, he waxes proto-Fitzgeraldian.

"They were a queer lot. They all looked so unspeakably new; their clothes were spick and span, and as expensive as possible, but that was not it; even in their bathing suits these middle-aged people--the were mostly middle-aged--seemed to have been very recently finished, like animated waxworks of animated people just come from the factory. And they spent money in a continuous careless way that frightened me.
But I was on my very best, most dignified behavior; and when Aunt Lora presented me as "one of the Lichfield Townsends, you know," these brewers and breweresses appeared to be properly impressed. One of them--actually--"supposed that I had a coat-of-arms"; which in Lichfield would be equivalent of supposing that a gentleman possesses a pair of trousers."

Then at one point he finds wealthy widow named Elena Barry-Smith -- (sounding like Cabell's wife, Priscilla Bradley Shepherd, though Elena has no children, and goes off to marry someone else due to Townsend's arty dawdling and protestations--and the chronology is too soon) -- who is acting as though she's not interested, and he woos her, making great and ardent claims, even that he'd become a prominent citizen and seek office. This comment leaped out considering the current season:

"I will even go into civic politics, if you insist upon it, and have round-cornered cards in all the drug-stores so that everybody who buys a cigar will know I am subject to the Democratic primary. I wonder, by the way, if people ever survive that malady? It sounds to me a deal more dangerous than epilepsy, say, yet lots of persons seem to have it -- "

Firehouse Cabaret Reviewed

The writer still says you should go; despite quibbles here and there.

'Firehouse' Offers Change of Pace


The modestly entertaining "Firehouse Theatre Cabaret" brings back the concept of a revue.

Like some shows done in New York in the 1950s and'60s, it's a mixture of sketches -- in this case, actual 10-minute plays -- and songs with a slightly skewed perspective.

This year's cabaret is in the hands of Scott Wichmann, who not only acts and sings in the show but also directed it.

There are few pleasures in Richmond equal to seeing Wichmann perform; he's like a cyclotron, full of energy and magnetism. His singing is especially skilled in this cabaret; he does wonders with Gershwin's "Sweet and Low Down" and Ray Charles' "Hallelujah."

There's a pleasantly loose jazz trio backing up the singer-actors, with a basic black set by Tad Burrell and well-executed lighting by Mike Mauren.

Wichmann has good supporting players to work with. Jude Fageas opens the evening with "But I Was Cool," an Oscar Brown Jr. song, and he uses his lanky frame and versatile voice to embody a geeky grace.

Alia Bisharat sings a soulful version of the Mack Gordon-Harry Warren "At Last," and Lisa Kotula ably joins Wichmann in the absurdly amusing "Date with a Stranger" by playwright Cherie Vogelstein.

But the other playlets are lackluster. Ellen Melaver's "Isabelle" is flat; Jamie Brandli's "Clowning Around" is silly; Jeffrey Sweet's "The Award" is just mildly amusing; and Mary Miller's "Ferris Wheel" echoes "Date with a Stranger" a little too much.

And while the playwrights are honored with full program bios, you have to wonder why there are no credits at all for the songwriters, including Rodgers and Hart, or for songs borrowed from the scores of "Brooklyn" and "Avenue Q."

Yet this is enough of a change of pace from the usual theatrical fare to make it worth seeing. Get to the theater early, buy a drink and snag a table. You'll feel like you're in a nightclub, you'll have some laughs and you'll enjoy some tunes. Not a bad night out.

The Best Parts of the Merlefest

The Avett Brothers, their full-bore, fierce Friday night mainstage set. So earnest, energetic and entertaining, these boys from Concord, N.C. A mixed blood child of newgrass, The Proclaimers, Kurt Cobain and The Beatles. Dancing erupted up front, but without enough space, thus the audience began hefting chairs in fire brigade fashion, passing them overhead and out of the way, and for a while the plastic seats danced in the air, as though performing a blue grass-flavored peformance-art piece.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group of young African-American musicians playing as a string band in the tradition of Upper Piedmont Carolina's banjo and fiddle music. Joyful, wistful, spiritual, surprising-- their version of Blu Cantrell's "Hit'Em Up Style" gets the crowd roaring.

The Waybacks, with John Cowan, presenting classic Led Zeppelin tunes, on the Hillside Stage, with intermittent rain. Who knew Jimmy Page played all that on an acoustic instrument? Yup, those are fiddles, a banjo, drums and guitars. Two words: A-mazing.

• And just meandering around, listening and watching as all types and sizes plucked, picked, and fiddled just for the fun of being among others who also enjoy the music.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Firehouse Theatre Cabaret: Opening Tonight!
Featuring and directed by Scott Wichmann
Through the sponsorship of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Singleton

It’s BACK! The Firehouse Theatre Cabaret, opening Thursday, April 24th.

the Firehouse interior transformed into an intimate cabaret-style setting!

by Director Scott Wichmann, Alia Bisharat, Jude Fageas, and Lisa Kotula playing various roles in these ten-minute, one-act plays:

Clowning Around
by Jamie Brandli, in which two women compete for a job neither want, but both desperately need; Isabelle by Ellen Melaver, in which a man projects his old dreams onto his ex-girlfriend’s new life; The Award by Jeffrey Sweet, in which a scientist’s trophy becomes a catalyst for revenge; Ferris Wheel by Mary Miller, in which two lonely souls are trapped on a stuck ferris wheel at a county fair; and Date With a Stranger by Cherie Vogelstein, in which two impetuous people meet in a diner and act out the rest of their lives over breakfast.

to the live music ensemble led by Ryan Corbitt playing jazz interludes.

(Photo, L-R: Scott Wichmann, Jude Fageas (rear), Lisa Kotula, Alia Bisharat. Photo by Jay Paul Photography)

April 24 - May 17, 2008.

Special Events:
Thursday, April 24th: Opening night! Post-show reception provided by Davis & Main.
Friday, April 25th: Post-show talk back with cast and crew.
Friday, May 2: Doors open at 7:00 for a special wine tasting provided by Strawberry Street Vineyard. Show starts at 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 15: See Firehouse Fire Ball auction winners Caroline Gottwald and Debbie Walton in their debut performances on the Firehouse stage!

Tickets: Individual - $25; Seniors - $22; Student - $10 with valid ID.
Showtimes: 8:00 p.m. Thursdays - Saturdays; Sunday matinees at 4:00 p.m. Doors open a half-hour before showtime.

Click here to buy tickets online, or call the Firehouse at 355-2001.

Off To The Merle, too...

Despite having too many things and not enough clock, we're making the annual journey to the Merelefest in N. Wilkesboro, N.C. This is massive four-day event of bluegrass, blues, alt-country--what Page Wilson has termed "purebred American mongrel music," which is as good a description as I know of. Anyway, I tank up on banjo sounds until I don't need to hear anymore the rest of the year. Well, OK, for a few weeks.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Louise Brooks Bio-Pic Fantasy

The concept of a "Louise Brooks" film intrigues me; especially after having seen
La Vie En Rose (and knowing that Edith Piaf didn't supply Louise's singing voice in Prix de Beaute.)

Louise provides a challenge for a film because unlike Piaf, or several others you can name, she didn't die young. Though Louise, similar to Piaf, was stubborn, feisty and hard-charging. Neither woman had much truck with getting told what to do. And like Edith, Louise had some serious issues with alcohol. Both of them packed several lives into one.

When adapting the life of Louise Brooks into art, how does one begin?

I very much enjoyed the non-linear quality of the Piaf film and how at times a scene shifted in time and space by having actors walk through a door or a curtain--as though in a reverie, theatrical.

I tend to think in terms of live theater. Despite my passion for cinema, my heart is with living actors on creaking stages, and I'm kind of married to one.

Janet Munsil's Smoking With Lulu got around the old/young Louise dichotomy by having the younger Louise present on stage as Kenneth Tynan interviewed the older version, with a cinematic back drop. This was quite effective and helped pull in the wide ranging story. You can see how my theater worked on it in these rehearsal images:

And here, through the Louise Brooks Society.

Hannah Schygulla has toured a concert for orchestra and voice titled, "Elle! Louise Brooks."

And there's the Swiss Brooksie: The Jazz Age Musical.

Beyond a recounting of her life, the Silent Theatre company of Chicago not long ago mounted a traveling production of a staged version of Pandora's Box. They titled it Lulu. Their title conflated playwright Frank Wedekind's original character with the Berg opera, also based on Wedekind's
plays, and inextricably connected to Louise and her most famous character. [Still from the play via Louise Brooks Society]

The most compelling part of this is the Silent Company's reinvention of the silent film, by transforming the concept into living theater. A company out of Seattle has filmed retro silents and performed the sound track live with voices, instruments and effects.

If I had the budget to make the film I'd like to watch this is how I'd go about creating the thing. I'd hire a cast of relative unknowns though multi-disciplined in stage acting and writing, voice, choreography, dance performance, and videography. Except for the Louise character and perhaps the Pabst, all would play multiple roles. This is about six to eight people. Most regional theaters can't afford casts of more than five anymore, but since we have musical elements, we'll stretch the budget a bit.

For two months after hiring them, we'd make Louise, her life and times, our personal obsession. The actors would receive a DVD of Louise's greatest hits: film sequences and interviews, and copies of the Barry Paris biography; Lulu In Hollywood, and Portrait of An Anti-Star. And they'd be responsible for studying (which some actors manage better than others.) Some of the cast members might put it off and not participate; which is fine, their choice, and interesting in and of itself. But we'd schedule regular informal discussion meetings to kick around concepts; something like a book group to talk about the life we're learning about.

If there were any 1920s related events going on during this time, whether art exhibitions, classes, lectures, I'd direct the actors to them. There would be a few field trips for the ensemble. This is how the sinews of a project are sewn. How the fun begins.

While the performers experience
Total Brooksie Immersion, that is,
-they would be thinking about the shaping of a play portraying Louise's life and context. They'd be encouraged not to think of this in standard birth to death fashion, nor as making Louise into some kind of victim. Flawed, conflicted and contradictory, even tragic, all those things, yes.

Then we'd begin putting the thing together in an old theater or warehouse that would have assorted cast off props, furnishings, musical instruments. We'd
discuss what part of her story was most intriguing, or exasperating.

We'd work for two months to put together a two hour performance piece to be shot over several runs of the show, with and without an audience, using multiple cameras. I would add to this mix a quartet of jazz-centric musicians using a variety of instruments, acoustic and electric. We would not have a "score" as such, but interpreted, improvised pieces per performance. The process would reveal either a god awful mess, or something marvelous, or a combination.

As a film, it would need to edited into a standard 97-minute format, and for other television broadcast, 55 minutes. Hah! Thankfully, I'm not an editor.

That's the fantasy movie I'd make. May I have a sinecure? Investors, anybody?

[ I've amassed these images through the years, but two places to check out are here and here. She lives, and lives always.]

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For The Want of Rivets The Great Ship Was Lost
Mis-allocation of resources cause disasters: news and notes
[Additional material added, April 20, 2008]

The Titanic, via the Associated Press/New York Times.

This morning, as survivor Jack Thayer described, the world "woke with a start" to realize that the largest moving object ever made by the hands of man had struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and plummeted two and a half miles deep beneath the frigid North Atlantic. The wreck resulted in the deaths of some 1,500 people. Or, as The Onion said in its headlines of "Our Dumb Century" : "World's Largest Metaphor Strikes Iceberg, Sinks."

And the Titanic just keeps producing Thoughts For Our Epoch; as in, how making do with shoddy workmanship and inferior materials in order to complete a project often leads to the effort's failure when that lack of care meets with an unforeseen event.

Item from the New York Times:

"...While some ships of the time were built entirely with steel rivets, the Titanic used a mix of steel and iron rivets. In the bow, where the Titanic hit the iceberg, weaker iron rivets were used.

In the book "What Really Sank the Titanic," the researchers Jennifer Hooper McCarty and Tim Foecke argue that the rivets were the Achilles' heel of the Titanic and that the problem was worsened by poor manufacturing; high variability, because of the large number of suppliers; and a rush to complete the ship."

Or; in computer programming terms, garbage in, garbage out. The question isn't what did builders Harland & Wolff know and when did they know it; but knowing what they knew, did The Man-agement just hope nobody would ever find out? After all, this was toward the bow. What could happen?

After all, her second sister, the Olympic became known as "Old Reliable" and served her line, passengers and crew quite well for 26 more years. She never struck a berg, either.

From the story by William J. Broad:

"Researchers have discovered that the builder of the Titanic struggled for years to obtain enough good rivets and riveters and ultimately settled on faulty materials that doomed the ship, which sank 96 years ago Tuesday.

The builder’s own archives, two scientists say, harbor evidence of a deadly mix of low quality rivets and lofty ambition as the builder labored to construct the three biggest ships in the world at once — the Titanic and two sisters, the Olympic and the Britannic.

Now, historians say new evidence uncovered in the archive of the builder, Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, settles the argument and finally solves the riddle of one of the most famous sinkings of all time. The company says the findings are deeply flawed.

Each of the great ships under construction required three million rivets that acted like glue to hold everything together. In a new book, the scientists say the shortages peaked during the Titanic’s construction.

“The board was in crisis mode,” one of the authors, Jennifer Hooper McCarty, who studied the archives, said in an interview. “It was constant stress. Every meeting it was, ‘There’s problems with the rivets and we need to hire more people.’ ”

Apart from the archives, the team gleaned clues from 48 rivets recovered from the hulk of the Titanic, modern tests and computer simulations. They also compared metal from the Titanic with other metals from the same era, and looked at documentation about what engineers and shipbuilders of that era considered state of the art."

If you're a Titaniac, you know this charge has been zinging about the Titaniosphere for years; that the vaunted Harland & Wolff construction cheaped out on the very basic component of their huge ship and, when sufficiently mismanaged to get it wrapped around an iceberg on a cold April night, those bad rivets burst out of the ship's seams like machine gun bullets.

These unearthed records, and scientific tests, have proved--to the satisfaction of the book publishers, anyway--that the ship was undone, yes, by nature, but also corporate avariciousness and neglect in detail.

Speaking of disasters that could have been averted, I direct you to this piece in The Guardian by George Monbiot about how the rise in fuel prices, causing an increase in food costs, is assuring that millions of people who are balanced on the edge of subsistence, will go hungry, and probably starve. You can read the dreary forecast here.

As usual, the problem isn't that there's not enough food, but that allocation is beyond criminal, its genocidal.

"Never mind the economic crisis. Focus for a moment on a more urgent threat: the great food recession that is sweeping the world faster than the credit crunch. You have probably seen the figures by now: the price of rice has risen by three-quarters over the past year, that of wheat by 130%. There are food crises in 37 countries. One hundred million people, according to the World Bank, could be pushed into deeper poverty by the high prices.

But I bet that you have missed the most telling statistic. At 2.1bn tonnes, the global grain harvest broke all records last year - it beat the previous year's by almost 5%. The crisis, in other words, has begun before world food supplies are hit by climate change. If hunger can strike now, what will happen if harvests decline?

There is plenty of food. It is just not reaching human stomachs. Of the 2.13bn tonnes likely to be consumed this year, only 1.01bn, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, will feed people."

This reponse, by Rashers101, though, drives the dismal point harder home:

Rashers101 April 15, 2008 12:59 AM

2.8 billion people - nearly half of the world's population - live on $2 a day or less. When you are living on $2 a day, most of your income is spent on food - not processed chicken dinners and frozen pizzas, but the basics: flour, corn, rice. This is what keeps you and your family alive.
When you spend $1.50 a day out of your $2 income on basic food, you don't have much wriggle-room. So when food prices go up by 75%, or 130%, its not a matter of cutting back in other areas. Instead it means that you and your children will eat less, and go to bed hungry at night.

2.8 billion people - nearly half of the world's population - have been put in this situation during the last year.

If you've ever gone on a strict diet, or fasted for a day for religious reasons, you might have an inclinling of an idea of what hunger is like. But you know nothing of days and weeks and months of hunger - you can't even really conceive of it.
Haitians use the expression "grangou klowox" or "eating bleach", to describe the daily hunger pains they face as a result of rising food prices, because of the burning feeling in their stomachs.

That's why they riot.

Fear of inflation, fear of a house-price collapse, fear of interest rate increases - these are notihing when compared to fear of hunger, and it is that fear that is rapidly spreading around the world as prices rise.

And why are prices rising?

Because you drive and fly.

A big impetus behind rising basic food prices is the rise in the price of oil due to supply scarcity (and a lot of oil goes into mechanised agriculture) combined with a widespread swich of agricultural land to the biofuel crops that are more valuable than food crops.

In other words, as we reach and pass peak oil, oil prices are inexhorably rising as people compete for the remaining oil production. On one side of that competition are the 15% of the world's people who drive and fly and waste beyond the wildest imagination of our ancestors. And on the other side are the 45% of the world's people who live from day to day on $2 or less.
On one side you have the shiney new Terminal 5, and on the other hungry children. On one side car trips to Tesco to buy food flown in from the other side of the world, and on the other the feeling of "eating bleach".

So next time you're filling up your petrol tank (one person's food for the year) or flying off for a weekend break (a year's food for a village?), spare a thought for some hungry person in Cote dIvore, or Haiti, or Mexico, or Egypt, because that's who's dinner your burning.

And get prepared to either harden your conscience or change your behaviour because, unfortunately, this is a story that is not going away.

Then there are these comments:

tomper2 April 15, 2008 1:24 AM
So, 78 million more people on the planet each year has nothing to do with it?

bannedbycastro April 15, 2008 1:31 AM
Could you please explain to my why I should give up eating beef so as to provide food for people who have large families and destroy their environment ?

If I am not allowed to decide what family size there should be in the third world, why should I ship food to them?

April 15, 2008 1:59 AM
If the West sacrifices to allow for cheap food for the world's poor, their number will just keep increasing. It would be better, in the long term, to provide free birth control, rather than cheap food.

harlan April 15, 2008 2:13 AM
What insipid rubbish Monbiot continues to spew. My mum has been a vegan for half her life-she is now 68, has a ruddy complexion, is active, fit and healthy, still full of life. Much of the world's population live largely vegan lives, albeit not of their own choice.

Eating animals for increasing numbers of newly rich Chinese, Indians and others is an aspiration to presumed higher status. Whatever we in the West attempt to do to cut our consumption will be dwarfed by these future inheritors of world power dominance.

If Monbiot took the trouble to learn more about how to balance various food-groups, if he was prepared to put the effort into preparing meals that incorporated many and varied vegetables, he would be able to live most healthily as a vegan.

Monbiot betrays a flaw that so many of us possess: what was once mankind's major purpose - to find food to sustain us - has become for us Westerners an incidental thing, taken for granted. Until Monbiot adjusts his values, his priorities, to take more account of this most fundamental component in human and animal life, his pretensions to saving the planet will continue to be little more than ignorant simplistic hypocrisy.

tv603 April 15, 2008 3:48 AM
"There was a thread on this a week or so ago. An economist (KatieL, I think) pointed out that something called Jevon's paradox would come into play when people stopped eating meat. When some people become vegetarians, this depresses the price of meat, enabling those who still eat meat to afford to consume more, and those who couldn't previously afford it to begin.

The world is densely populated with what I would call 'economic vegetarians': people who would like to eat meat but can't afford it, along with people who would eat more meat if it was cheaper. This is true of rich countries as well as poor countries. About twenty years ago a survey in the US asked what people would spend an extra $100 a month on if they suddenly received that amount as a pay rise.

Most people said they would eat more steaks.

I live in India where about a third of the population (Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and scheduled-caste Hindus)have always eaten meat. The practice is now spreading among the upwardly mobile caste-Hindu population, many of who are shedding the traditional taboos on meat eating. I was genuinely shocked a few years ago when I walked into a five-star hotel in Chennai and saw a pig being barbecued by the swimming pool. Beside it, a long queue of well-fed, upper-middle-class Hindus were lining up to receive their portions. If a hundred million Hindus join the meat eaters in the next few years, they will more than compensate for westerners who reduce their consumption on moral grounds.

If 10% of westerners reduced their consumption of meat by a third, individually they would probably be a bit healthier. However, I don't think that their actions would reduce the amount of land and grain being allocated to meat producers. The meat they have denied themselves will end up in the stomachs of other people."

"Do be a good chap and try to forgive them for their incessant pain and misery." -- Jedmed, on Digg

Death On A Pale Horse --JMW Turner, ca. 1825-1830, via staroilpainting.

[Update: The New York Times, April 18, 2008: The Grey Lady rubs her eyes and realizes about half the world is starving and angry and rioting for results.]

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.
Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”
That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments. More here.

These comments followed a posting of the piece on Democratic Underground:

cliffordu Fri Apr-18-08 03:27 AM
Response to Original message
1. I fully expect starvation on a global scale in the next five years.

I live in western Washington...80% of the honeybees are gone in places - just disappeared in the last two years....

I read they are down 25% nationwide.

If they go critical, 1/3 of all our food is history.

And then we're done.

The folks examining this problem don't have a clue as to how it's happening.
lissa Fri Apr-18-08 04:22 PM
Response to Reply #1
15. I agree.
Re: starvation. I'm expecting things to happen very quickly. I think by this summer, we're going to see things spiral out of control in many countries. And I think it's going to be massive. Add to that drought conditions in many countries. Also, water seems to be short in many places = an absolute disaster.

That's why we are stocking up as quickly as we can before prices go out of control.

Washington: your state is awesome. I'm sorry to hear about the honey bees. Washington is an amazing producer of an enormous amount of Agricultural products; in my opinion they are the best in the country. The wine coming out of the Grandview-Prosser area is turning into one of the best in the world.
I'm in Oregon, and I think WA has better products than even us.

In fact, I export WA state apples to other countries (the best in the world). If anything happens to our crop, we're toast.

More_liberal_than_mo Fri Apr-18-08 09:43 AM
Response to Original message
10. Results of over-population.

The future is here now. One of the worst aspects of Global Warming is that sudden changes in rain patterns disrupt the farming of staple crops. It takes many years to readjust to the new patterns and since us humans need a steady stable source of food we should be prepared for more of this.

I just read yesterday that the longest drought in Australia’s history has wiped out 98 per cent of its rice production.

Food crops are going to fail in areas of the world that have traditionally produced them. It will take decades for farmers to move production to northern parts of Canada and Russia, while millions starve. When people starve on a mass scale such as this there will be more wars. Competition for water and food will soon thin out the over-population of our planet. Earth simply can’t handle 6 billion people’s hunger during a world-wide climatic cycle change.
noMoreMyths Fri Apr-18-08 10:05 AM
Response to Original message
11. When you create a universal, one-size-fits-all world
You're going to end up with universal, one-size-fits-all world problems. In the quest for the most efficient single way of organizing life, when that one way no longer works, there is no place left to turn. Until things find a balance, but that process isn't going to be easy.

We live in a globalizing world built on very concentrated, cheap(economically, not environmentally), non-human energy. Most of the people alive today wouldn't be here if we only used our species fair share. Most of us are a burden on the ecological system, whether we consume massive amounts of resources or not. I know that I'm part of the problem. I don't have a car, and pretty much walk everywhere I go, but I still buy food that I had no physical link in getting, and my clothes are most likely the product of some 7 year old girl, whom I will never meet, in SE Asia.

It's a hell of a reality we've built. There is no simple answer either. We can't stop doing what we're doing, as that would kill billions voluntarily, but we can't continue to do what we've been doing, which is trying to have all 6.5 billion+ people have everything that everyone has access to. We want everything, but don't want to pay the price for it, which only ends up making the environmental problem worse.
more_liberal_than_mo Fri Apr-18-08 11:13 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. Well said!

We are trapped by our own devices. We have never gone through a major climatic change such as we are just now starting to experience. Even without climate change 6.5 billion people are way too many for the earth to support.

I just saw a report on ABC with the National Geographic channel / that the population of the USA which comprises only 5% of the world’s population use 25% of the world’s resources. That worked ok for a few decades while the rest of the world struggled just to feed itself. Now that India and China are literally taking over production of almost everything we use they now have the wealth to try and match our greed.

If we were able to maintain our current overuse of resources and they managed to match us it would take 4 earth sized planets to satisfy all of us. Ain’t gonna happen… we Americans are going to have to lower our standard of living and lower it fast to make room for the rest of the planet’s peoples. The alternatives are not pretty either,,,, war and famine.

Then there's these two polar opposite comments on Digg that summarize why there just isn't much movement on the global starvation issues, and why policy here is schizophrenic, and the fundamental reasons millions of innocents die daily:

"This is such a load of c***. Why is it people people living in villages feel it's their entitlement to produce five or more children when they have no running water, hygiene, medical care or economic base? Answer? It's everyone else's fault, particularly, America's. Let the religious groups who spawn this thinking pick up the tab. Parents that love their children don't intentionally plan miserable lives for them. Overpopulation is the root cause here, not a food shortage."

Hello? Do you really believe that these people have any clue as to what you are talking about? They are living hand-to-mouth because this is the world that they were born into and they possess no physical resources. You and I, however, have so much of everything that we are free to pontificate about topics like personal responsibility and social values while they starve to death. Do be a good chap and try to forgive them for their incessant pain and misery.
In the meantime I'll keep trying to forgive myself by writing useless crap like this.

Further in the Disasters Waiting To Happen--and I'm not speaking about the failing U.S. commercial aviation industry, which is heading the way of the Penn Central Railroad (the ENRON of its day) and CONRAIL that begat Amtrak which is funded with grudging cheapness by the government and bullied by CSX -- no, this latest sound and fury about what Barack said and what he meant to day and whether he's an elitist, which, of course, both Democrats are.

They both want to be one of those figures that come out of the Rathaus clock every four years, bang each other over the head, switch places, and the clock keeps ticking and nothing changes except for the rotating figures' entry and exit points.

But you got to get placed into that exalted tower, so everybody can see what time it is. [Image of the candidates via the LA Times and townhall clock, Land of Fairy Tales.]

Fact is, whoever goes in the out way this time around is inheriting a rasher of excrement.

From James Howard Kunstler:

" Barack Obama caught hell last week for daring to tell the truth about the ragged thing that the American spirit has become. He said that small-town Pennsylvania voters, bitter over their economic circumstances, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to work out their negative emotions. He might have added that the Pope wears a funny hat (see for yourself this week), and that bears shit in the woods (something rural Pennsylvanians probably know). Nevertheless, in the manner lately prescribed for those who slip up and speak truthfully in public (and in contradiction to the reigning delusions), Obama was pressured to apologize for his statements.

The evermore loathsome and odious Hillary Clinton, co-owner of a $100 million personal wealth portfolio, seized the moment to remind voters what a normal, everyday gal she is -- who would never look down on the small-town folk of Pennsylvania the way her "elitist" opponent had -- forgetting, apparently, that the Clinton family's consigliere, James Carville, famously described the Keystone State as a kind of redneck sandwich with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as the bread, and Alabama as the lunch meat in between.

As I mull over all this, I begin to think that Hillary is exactly what the USA deserves and, that should she manage to winkle away the nomination and get elected president, the outcome would be instructive and salutary. For one thing, she will be buried under an avalanche of political woe, beginning with the basic financial insolvency of everything in the nation except the Clinton family. Then she would proceed straight into an oil-and-gas clusterfuck that could take this society back to the eighteenth century economically.

This would have the positive effect of forcing the American public to look elsewhere for governance than the usual parties in Washington, D.C. It's time for a national purgative, anyway. In fact, it's way overdue. Are the Democratic and Republican parties anymore necessary than the Whigs? Neither of them can really articulate the problems we face (and when their honchos slip up and come close to the truth, they're persecuted for it)."

But it isn't just Pennsylvanians who are harboring some bitterness these days, as this response by Riddick to Kunstler's remarks indicate:

"The USA is in an inevitable and inexorable decline just as the new world order is in ascendancy. Brazil is booming and now has a bustling middle class, China is squirreling away all the energy it can scrounge and especially right in the US backyard of South America. So much for the Monroe Doctrine I guess, the US is pre-occupied chasing "terrorists" in deserts 6000 miles away. India is about to cement a massive new trade initiative with China that when combined will make their economies ultimately dwarf the west and japan.

And, of course, as the energy supplies dwindle, these rising powers are working feverishly to undermine US access to energy so they can maintain their growth. Hugo Chavez is even helping the cause by sending his heavy oil shipments to China now and away from Louisiana. CITGO is building 3 major heavy oil refineries in China as I write.

All this portents a really bad wind down for the good ol US of A. Our distracted leadership (latter term used only for reference not quality)spends billions upon billions in the deserts of Babylon and Afghanistan; a place that has sucked more previous empires dry then one can imagine. Our economic and soon political foes are out-foxing us around the globe and all we can do is cry "waa" when big bad Obama calls it like it really is. Yep, we do deserve Billary alright.

Look at your life right now folks, expensive gasoline, stagnant wages and employers that will fire you in a heartbeat if needed. Truly, if you are trying to remain amidst the clueless masses and perhaps hit the lotto then perhaps you would be more prudent building the pine box your family will be using for you in the not so distant future."

Happy Abraham Lincoln Assassination-Titanic Disaster-Tax Day!

Dr. Evil's Radar Installation
Though I've written about this many posts ago, in view of this horrific situation in the world, I thought this 2006 piece from Brad DeLong's blog Grasping Reality With Both Hands is as good as any an indication of the warped-beyond-understanding consensus reality that the U.S. operates under in these critical days:

Nuclear Armageddon-Prevention Blogging

His name is Stross. Charles Stross. And he writes about the X-band radar system:

Charlie's Diary: Paging Dr Evil (or, Who designs these things, anyway?): The Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars" program) has, since Ronald Reagan announced it more than 20 years ago, cost the US government more than US $100Bn.... There are about ten interceptor missiles available, and the current goal of the project is to pop a cap in the ass of any rogue state that tries to destroy the United States by launching a single 1950s-vintage ICBM with a single warhead and no countermeasure capability.... However, there is one leetle weakness in the BMD program. To hit a missile with a missile requires fairly accurate radar -- it entails accurately tracking a target the size of a dustbin at a range of several thousand kilometres -- and so they've also developed an appropriate radar system. The sea-based X-band radar system... looks as if it sailed in out of a Bond movie: a $900M fifty thousand tonne offshore platform with a 1800 ton radar installation on top of it, it's designed to sit in the ocean near the Aleutian islands and spot incoming sub-orbital trash cans and guide the rocket interceptors into the target.

Unfortunately, there's a problem with it.... [A]ny budding Doctor Evil can ensure the success of his orbital mind control lasers or terrorist ICBMs by... sending... a 1950s vintage Whisky class diesel-electric submarine to poke a pointy stick through the eyes of the ballistic missile defense system. Which is, you will notice, not exactly mounted on a vessel that's capable of fighting off a bunch of Malacca Straits pirates.... I don't know about you, but I'm coming to the conclusion that the Pentagon subcontracted this job to the same guys that James Bond's enemies always hired to design their headquarters -- you know, the one with the prominently labelled SELF DESTRUCT button. (That would be Halliburton and Brown & Root, right?) I mean, what other explanation is there...?

I am told that the vulnerability of the X-band radar to pretty much anything with explosives, and the absence of two rotating carrier battle groups to protect it would be a serious defect in the system--if it worked, and if it couldn't be spoofed.

But I am also told that it doesn't work. And that it can be spoofed. So the vulnerability of the radar problem is only a third-order flaw in the system as it stands.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sick, Writing and Just Too Damn Busy to Blog

If, billion-eyed audience, you have come to the Blue Raccoon during the past few days in search of more scintillating commentary and trenchant observation, then why did you come here?

But seriously, for part of the previous week I was afflicted by what I think was a combination of allergies and an attempt for a cold that I've avoided all season to fell me, which, it in part, succeeded. I also got a whole bunch of writing and research done for the upcoming book, stayed way too long in front of this box and when I felt a bit better there was a downpour.

I wrote and banked a post, but you'll have to scroll down to March 26 to read what will be a two parter about my distant cousinage in Berlin and other parts of the old country, that is, Poland. For further explanation, scroll down and see for yourself.

The image at top I actually took myself, and this is Kollatz Strasse in Berlin. The reproduction here doesn't render the sign very sharp, but the name is there, and that's a little Smart car. They were just starting to be seen in Berlin's streets when I visited there in 2004.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

"Festival for the Independent-Minded" -- 15th Edition
"Scientists say the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted."--Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Southland Tales"

[Contains some capsule reviews and perhaps spoilers]

Cheers! It's the 15th annual running of the Richmond Moving Image Co-op's James River Film Festival.

Yes, this is springtime in Richmond, when the cinema extravaganzas commence, just as our weather is at its most splendiferous (though with occasional downpours). [Image is still from Midlothian, Va's own Richard Kelly's Southland Tales via]

RMIC's week-long celebration of the independent-minded cinema kind of snuck up on us this year; what with the French Film Festival that came just before, and general demands of the thing called living-in-Richmond-when-you're-busy.

Convenient to us, the bulk of the offerings this year are either at the Byrd or Firehouse and that suits us just find, in particular if the weather allows pedestrian pleasures.

Richmond is bereft of a true repertory art house, but we have scads of cinema around, and maybe there's an advantage to compressing all your art/alternative film into a few weeks. A sense of urgency arises. If you don't see these films as part of a theater audience, you're other option is to get the DVD, and that works better for some film than others, though a number of the offerings at these festivals won't be on DVD. Which is why there's such things as Wholphin, the journal of short video and film, which has its representation here this year, too.

"'Ow about big dog's cock? Can you say that?" -- Control

For those of you in the billion-eyed audiences who are With Partner, and who find out aspects of The Other's personality you didn't know about, I got a revelation last night.

So, after our First Friday-ing-ness we went to see the RMIC's Byrd witching hour showing of Anton Corbin's Control, about the creation of the band Joy Division and the out-out-brief-candle life of its prime motivator, epileptic artist poet musician Ian Curtis.

I knew she owned some New Order CDs and I never thought much of that; but she also in her years of working in a studio amassed many boxes of cassette tapes, and some of them have Joy Division/New Order on them.

She used to listen to them, and even saw New Order perform live in New Orleans, "back in the day," as they say.

The film I'm sure is masterful, its won a raft full of awards, and lensed in clear as crystal moody black-and-white by a director who made some Joy Division videos and knew all the principals -- but the viewing hour was late for the middle-aged. And I had some PBRs in me. And up in the balcony where we'd stole to, I kind of dozed. I mean, this isn't La vie en Rose.

Still, people liked the film a great deal, judging from the excited burble in the lobby after, and WRIR had its table and Melissa of Mercury Falls was there, and Michael Miracle of the Lotus Land show gave a brief commentary prior to the screening.

For some reason, the big curtain rising above the Byrd screen reminded me of a funeral.

We're going to try and hit these events, but may not get to them--there's books to be written and art to make and leaves to rake, between rain showers.


Sponsored by WRIR, 97.3 FM
3:30 p.m., The Firehouse Theatre

Tactical media is creative solidarity in the fight for justice and democracy: resistance to the rampant tendencies toward repression, exploitation, isolation, alienation and corporatization.
– DeeDee Halleck

DeeDee Halleck, filmmaker, co-founder of Paper Tiger Television and the Deep Dish Satellite Network, and Professor Emeritus Department of Communication at the University of San Diego, will present a selection of provocative videos produced by Paper Tiger Television and Deep Dish Satellite Network and discuss the role that independent media can play in building community and promoting social change.

  • Community Media Around the World
  • Paper Tiger Reads Paper Tiger
  • Shocking and Awful (Iraq War)
  • The Last Televangelist, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz -- [We experienced Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping in Charlottesville, Va., as part of the Virginia Film Festival a few years ago--a service held in an abandoned grocery store. It doesn't get much better than that.]


Nanook of The North imageRICHMOND INDIGENOUS GOURD ORCHESTRA plays NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922, 79 min., silent with live score)
Sponsored by Plan 9 Music
8:30 p.m., The Firehouse Theatre
$10 advance @ Plan 9 Music and JRFF events;
$15 at door Seating is limited.
Robert Flaherty’s documentary on life with the Eskimos – Itivimuits – of northern Hudson Bay set the standard for narrative nonfiction and made Nanook the Hunter an international celebrity – remember the Eskimo Pie? Flaherty’s chronicle of Nanook’s and his family’s nomadic routine in the frozen North shows man at his best, living harmoniously with his surroundings, i.e. living green in black and white. Seen it before? Hear it new with RIGO’S live accompaniment!
Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra.

The Partner In Art For Life and me saw this at another venue last year, and the sound and experience will be more intimate at the Firehouse.

One has to remember that: the family put together for Nanook wasn't all his and that
some of the interior igloo scenes were shot on a soundstage under bright lights. Thus,
Flaherty created the genre of full-length documentary. Hell, even U.S. Civil War photographers Timothy O' Sullivan and Mathew Brady moved corpses for effect.

Barry Bless, of the RIGO, explained to me that the Inuits chose to live up there; they weren't marooned. No poisonous snakes or spiders, malaria, yellow fever, humidity, jungle rot nor many predators except for polar bears and wolves-- and no vegetables. Bless joked that Nanook's people didn't have gourds, either. But the music and sound effects the group created is now tied to the film for me.


Donnie Darko posterDONNIE DARKO: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (2004, 133 min.) with Richard Kelly
Co-sponsored by Virginia Film Office
11:30 p.m., The Byrd Theatre
Admission $5
Director Richard Kelly will introduce his widely acclaimed feature, the hallucinatory Donnie Darko, an original and dark comic turn on suburban high school late 1980s time travel angst. Referencing everything from Harvey with Jimmy Stewart, Graham Greene’s The Destructors, Marker’s La Jetée to David Lynch and post-modern doppelgangers everywhere, Donnie Darko is a surprisingly assured first outing for Midlothian native Kelly. It was initially released in 2001, and has since been accorded “official cult status.” Please join us for this very special screening.

The first time we saw this film was at the Two Boots Theater in Greenwich Village at a midnight showing . Now, here Kelly is, back home, with his preferred edited version.

Sunday A.M. update:

Interesting cinematic experiences back-to-back: Nanook of the North to Donnie Darko. Films about isolation, adapting to circumstances (or not) and survival of a nuclear family in a confusing and harsh, uncaring world. No fantasy in Nanook's life (except in Flaherty's jiggering of reality), contemplations of immortality, eternity, time and space. Just endless ice on the edge of starvation. Maybe Donnie needed some real Nanook time. Suburbia is a physical isolation that becomes a psychological insularity although you can drive somewhere else. Nanook and his family could travel only by dogsled, kayak and on foot. Without assistance, Donnie would've been dead in few frozen hours.

A good audience for the witching hour to see this extended version of John Hughes taking a detour into Rod Serling/David Lynch territory. Amie remarked that the film shows its Lynchian and music video roots, with a dollop of X-Files influence -- which we enjoyed until 9/11 made the series seem rather innocent and irrelevant. Still, Amie said, one could put together a thesis about how Richard Kelly and X-Files writer and producer Vince Gilligan both came out of the cul-de-sac archipelago outside Poe's city. (Gilligan was a couple years behind me at Lloyd C. Bird High School -- Go Skyhawks!)

The big addition to the film is the text of the book Philosophy of Time Travel. Kind of reminded me of Myst: portentous and mysterious. I wondered where he came up with the material that expained how the Darko version of time travel worked.

And we had an experience of film festival reality mesh -- Joy Division was playing in the background of the Donny Darko house party scene.

Kelly spoke a little prior to the screening; he was genial and remarked that he was 25 when he made Darko and seems so long ago now, and made in a blur. Hell, it was 2000-2001, looking back at 1988 -- ah the far away days of Dukakis v. Bush the Senior. And that's enough of a blur right there.

I'm wondering if he's just plain tired of talking about the work -- he gave us no special insights -- but you know, billion-eyed audience, I'm an adherent of time distortion and past alterations and alternatives, and that a little free will discussion Darko has with Dr. John Carter, I mean, Noah Wiley, about free will or fate, that concludes with the science teacher saying, "I can't continue this topic of conversation...Because I could lose my job." Kind of sums up why we tend to see matters in a linear fashion. It's less controversial and easier to function.

I'd completely forgotten that the adoralicious Maggie Gyllenhaal was playing against her actual brother in the film--there were many nuances that, having not seen the film awhile, that were refreshed on this viewing on the Byrd's big screen.

Oh, and he's filming his next--which I think is about a strange time capsule placed in the footing of a school that's unearthed and there's documents with prophecies that have come true--except for the final one. (At least that's what it was when I last interviewed up years ago--but I think that plot line is discarded). Now this one seems more akin to an updated Brothers Grim/Poe fable Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella are in it; film's called The Box, and Kelly is using parts of Hampton Roads and Boston to resemble Richmond circa 1976. I don't get this part, but, maybe we'll hear more later.


Southland Tales poster
SOUTHLAND TALES (2006, 145 min.) with Richard Kelly
Co-sponsored by Virginia Film Office & Velocity Comics
12:00 noon, The Byrd Theatre
Admission $5
Guest Richard Kelly’s follow-up to Donnie Darko is an apocalyptic sci-fi war story that challenges an audience’s narrative expectations. Naysayed at Cannes, Southland Tales was re-edited and released and championed by critic Amy Taubin as a new form of cinema along with David Lynch’s Inland Empire, a form employing the associative editing and continuity breaking conventions of dreams. Kelly readily acknowledges the multiple pop cultural influences – comics, music videos, movies, internet – in his films but still manages to somehow twist them in his own image. A Richmond premiere!

The film was booed at Cannes. All this and Mandy Moore, too! She plays a manipulative, foul-mouthed political socialite. The Maestro himself is pictured below, and Sarah Michelle Gellar dances with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson during a sequence that maybe was or wasn't intended to resemble "Dance With The Stars" but while aboard a gigantic zeppelin. And we like zeppelins, or, to be accurate, airships.

Kelly's realization of a 21st century luxury airshp, as sleek, 1920s Deco through a 21st century aesthetic also bears some resembles to the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" U.S.S. Enterpise. Images Via Rotten

When the lights came up at the Byrd Theatre following The Southland Tales experience, Amie turned to me and said, "It's like Vince Gilligan. Like you. It's Richmond. It's time travel. It's all about the end of the world and going forward while going backward."

I think she got something quite right there.

Kelly is one of the Mellennials; a generation in the US bracketed by their media experience ranging from the Challenger explosion to Lady Diana's death to the Columbine slaughter to the televised Gulf Wars to 9/11. It's a generation afflicted/infected/affected by the Internet, global warming, blogs, smart bombs, AIDS, video games and Southern presidents. These under-40/30s don't just expect to see the revolution televised, but that CNN will break in to announce the world's final moments. How else do you account for V for Vendetta?

Kelly is one of those younger directors who've swallowed pop culture whole and now release the mashed up results in frantic frenetic visual collages.

Southland also represents how movies aren't movies anymore. Well, they've rarely been art for art's sake. Kelly doesn't want to be Jonas Mekas or Stan Brakahge. He's about something else, as are movies in the 21st century. No, movies have always been about pushing ancillary products: soundtracks, toys, fashion lines and assorted touchstone reproductions of themselves.

But here is an example where a mere movie--stretching and straining to pack as much information into the frame as possible-- is one component part of a universe-- a mythos--that utilizes graphic novels and the Internet to complement and overlap a story with layers to give a sense of complexity. The complicated interrelatedness of these realizations give a greater sense of importance to them than they merit. I'll leave aside whether they are huge wastes of time. Their audiences don't think so. Go ask any devoted fan of Lost.

The sum effect is a cataract of information that people Kelly's age have had to figure out how to process. They're exposed to such attention-robbing nuisances from the cradle on. And don't even get me started on video games that are now movies that spawn more video games and comic books.

All that said, I don't know sitting here in the misty Richmond evening waiting to see Juno if Southland Tales is a disaster movie or a movie disaster. That he shot it in 30 days accounts for the film's headlong rush.

I'm reminded of those 1970s films, The Towering Inferno, the Airport series, (many of which featured the late great Charlton Heston) The Poseidon Adventure, or trying-to-be-zany It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The premise is simple: load a film up with a variety of recognizable faces from either their marquee wattage or character value, put them in a frantic situation and keep the pace rolling and the unusual cameos flowing. Voilá!

But in most of the above films, the situation was straight-forward: a burning building, a crashing airplane, Jimmy Durante kicks a bucket and sets in motion a crazy cross-country car chase in search of a pile of money under the Big "W."

Kelly's through lines are multiple and multifaceted. He said it himself: the movie starts with an atomic bomb blast during a Fourth of July party and goes on from there, to a Doomsday Scenario underwritten by Hustler and Bud Light. He said that perhaps that's why he hired the 1990s roster of Saturday Night Live and a Los Angeles comedy troupe, The Mechanicals, to bring his doomed, distressed and demented characters to life. (I recall how director Philip Kaufman hired a comedy troupe to represent "The Permanent Press Corps" attached to the U.S. space program in his The Right Stuff.)

And with an eye to the culture, there's actors playing characters who seem like other actors: a Will Ferrell double on roller blades; a Rob Lowe political suit (or, maybe, Robert Downey Jr.), and Kevin Smith sounding like Jack Black, playing a latter day Karl Marx. There's even a floating glowing ice cream van reminiscent of the car in Repo Man.

"This is only a movie, after all," Kelly said to the Byrd audience.

Yes, and it carries themes of his other one: vehicular homicides, eyes shot out, time travel, free will and fate and the End of Everything. I was reminded, too, Until The End of the World. The 1991 Wim Wenders endeavor featured, among other things, like Kelly's films-- an incredible soundtrack (which I still have, on tape, bought new at the time). Ominous chords conveyed by Moby were also reminiscent of the Wenders epic.

The '91 film also had a crazy scientist portrayed (naturally) by Max Von Sydow, here played by Wallace Shawn (!) who is a cross between his Smartest Man In The World from the Princess Bride, his journalist character in The Moderns ("If it wasn't for me, those people would think Surrealism was a breakfast cereal!") and Gary Oldman's Jean-Baptiste Zorg in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element -- another mashup of a film, that worked much better. Kelly, like, Besson, suddenly stops the show for a production number aboard a mammoth vessel.

[And another weird connection: Shawn was in the classic My Dinner With André that was lensed right here in Richmond, Va., at the Jefferson Hotel. Thank Thespis that the great Louis Malle, Shawn and Andre Gregory made the film 1981, just before the advent of hyperkeneticism in movies that Southland Tales is just but one and fuller expression. Only on HBO could something like Dinner made today.]

A reviewer of Until The End of the World praised Wenders for showing the audience a glimpse of the future. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but words tothe effect of: some films claim to show the future, but here, the future is impinging on the present. Maybe that's what I missed in Kelly's film: Germanic seriousness as opposed to U.S. antic-ness.

But that's personal taste; whether you prefer the first Batman or Batman Begins. I caved in to commercials and stood in line to see the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton effort but have always faulted the thing because of the devolution into glory passes of the Batmobile and Kim Basinger screaming. More rain. More darkness. More psychodrama. I don't care if it is a comic book, make it like Bergman meets Brueghel becomes The Bat-Man. Then you have the great trifecta: pretentious and portentous and ponderous. And I don't care. Why do we give up hours of our lives in big dark rooms, anyway? Entertainment is one thing; creating memorable art is another.

But there's something else at work here, too. There was some Charlie Kaufman in that a half-baked movie script becomes the movie you're watching.

So, OK. There's plenty of nods and winks and irony -- so much that the movie has more tics and twitches than some viewers may find comprehensible.

But for all the operatic pretense of Southland Tales, I left it feeling that I should be more than just conflicted.

Amie at one point whispered to me: Kitsch is hard.

But I don't think that's what Kelly sought to accomplish. If he did, as Amie said, it isn't bad enough to be good, nor bad enough to be really bad.

Camp is tough, if you're attempting to make it fresh and satire is difficult if your quarry is the sum total of contemporary existence. There were some amazing inspired moments -- the scene on the mega-zeppelin where the National Anthem his sung by a heavy-bosomed chanteuse backed by a contemporary music quartet is just one. The mighty mite, buffed Cheri Oteri kicking serious ass is another.

But after the third or fourth killing and arms thrown up like that Spanish Civil War soldier photograph, I got kind of disheartened. [That's the Robrt Capa image, via]

And in the end, I guess, I'm from Richmond, and I like my dystopia dark, rainy, dismal and monochromatic, with far less self-reference and with fewer levels of plot.

I don't need to be reminded I'm seeing a movie, I want to experience that world the director is taking me into, even if I'm unnerved and distressed. And if there are several story strands, they each should be fascinating.

Finally, was it Orson Welles?-- I think it was--who said being director of a major motion picture was like a boy getting the biggest train set in the world. Kelly is having fun. He's smiling through the apocalypses he keeps making movies about.

Maybe I'm too old to think that the End of the Age is a laughing matter.

BAD GIRLS (2000-2005, 85 min.) with David Williams

5:00 p.m., The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
Another in a series of works that delve into artists’ personalities and processes, Richmond filmmaker David Williams offers a work-in-progress on the local art duo known as “Bad Girl Art.” Keithley Pierce and Georgia Terry--who died in June 2007-- who make their art with an unflinching honesty and a humorous tongue-in-cheek quality derived from their own relationships with men and family. After cultivating a loyal patronage, they’re finally able to quit their day jobs and pursue their one true calling. Stay for a Q&A after the film with Mr. Williams.

If you don't see a Williams film here, the likelihood of you seeing it is remote, unless you're on a festival circuit somewhere. We love David and his work, and we're honored that he makes his art here.

As with all of his films, Bad Girls is a Williams character study -- and Keithley is quite a character; but real, vulnerable-- eccentric--and committed to her craft. She's gone from real estate to making her vision. Able to spin out world-wise steel magnolia-styled bon mots and apply them to fanciful, folk-styled portraits with the drawling ease of thought, but proving that making them is an industrious, wearying, chain-smoking process.

The film begins with a jolt--the death of Keithley's father. And ends with an ambiguous image of her standing in Hollywood Cemetery, her back to the camera. Fatality is never far from this story, which is also busy with the Bad Girls making their pieces in mass production fashion, and enlisting family and friends to help. By turns funny, poignant, and always authentic, this film deserves more viewings by other audiences other than the packed house at the Firehouse.


Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? film posterWHY HAS BODHI-DHARMA LEFT FOR THE EAST? (1989, 135 min., Korean with subtitles)
7:30 p.m., The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
The first major Korean film to be released in the U.S., director Bae Yong-kyun’s Zen saga relates the last days of an elderly Buddhist monk, and his two charges, a disciple and an orphan. As he prepares for his death, he wisely prepares them for their own life paths. Stunning cinematography in a restored print from Milestone Films. In Korean with subtitles.

I regret that Amie and I just couldn't stay for this; I think the film would've provided a unique capstone to our movie feast this weekend. We just had to go home.

The True Richmond Stories Are Here! The True Richmond Stories Are Here!

Yes, the World and his Wife can rest easy. The second printing of True Richmond Stories is arrving at finer book stores, Amazon and Barnes & even as we speak. Now, over at Chop Suey Tuey in Carytown right this instant they got 15 of the first editions that just, for reasons I cannot explain, showed up. I think History Press was shifting some back orders around, I dunno. I got a call from a friend telling me about that many were at of all places Sam's Club in Southside. So.

Anyway, I ambled over there and signed, dated and explained that the hand annotations weren't from just somebody writing in your book, but from me...writing in your book.

That's me, after the September release event, during the afterparty at Cafe Gutenberg.

Along the way I met filmmaker David Williams, and Keithley Pierce, one of the stars of his Bad Girls film screening tomorrow.

Federal Marshals! Open up!

Our place on Colonial Avenue has a criminal past. The place was a half-way house for those released from incarceration who had drug and alcohol problems. We on occasion get pleading letters from men behind bars who are soon to be released and don't have any immediate place for residence.

And there's also fierce communications from creditors--used to be, by phone, but not so much anymore, and maybe even a sheriff who didn't get the memo six years ago that those people don't live here anymore.

Well, this week, the Partner In Art For Life was home during the day. A knocking came at the door. This means we know the person. Amie thought the timing odd, as nobody had called, but we still have friends who do drop in. The knocking on the door got louder.

She throws her house robe on and dashes down stairs and peers out the front door window to see....two men in dark suits and one holding up a badge.

"Federal marshals!" was the insistence.

"Oh no," Amie thought. "What did we do? What did we not do?"

They were, actually, looking for a prior resident whose name was familiar to us due to correspondence that she's always noting, 'No longer at this address' and clipping to the post box. Amie explained to the federales the recent history. One chuckled, "Do you want us to stay?"

Amie said they were more like actors in a film portraying federal marshals. They did apologize for the interruption.


[Image: Marc's Voice blog]

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