Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm Not Alone!

Thank you Stumble, I needed that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who is the Sky Falling On, Exactly?

I don't make political posts because, well, drop in the ocean really. There are more qualified people and places for that. I just wanted to get this out of my head because it's been bugging me.

In the Great Environmental Debate environmentalists are routinely painted as Chicken Littles, overstating the horror and doom of inaction or continued waste, etc. At worst they are exaggerating and at best jumping at their own shadows.

But then look at what is predicted by, lets call them counter-environmentalists and I think we see a far greater hysteria. Going 'green' will destroy our economy, make us live like the Amish, bring us to our knees! Won't someone please think of the children!

And they think that environmental concerns are inconsistent? Cooling/warming? But then what have we heard? Global Warming isn't happening. Well, it's happening, but it's not our fault. Well, it is our fault but there isn't anything we can do about it. Well, we can do something about it but it would destroy our economy so someone else should do something about it.


We build cities and bridges, faster than sound aircraft, cure disease, go to the moon-but the mere thought that we might just maybe find an alternative to fossil fuels is going to bring civilization to its knees?

Regardless of what you believe about global warming, fossil fuels are a finite source and renewables are, well, renewable. The upfront costs of transitioning to renewable resources is somehow insurmountable, but the back end cost of sticking with a depleting source is totally doable? Forget sustainability, in the long run it's just cheaper for a source that renews itself than it is for one that becomes more rare.

The economic argument just seems so feeble to me. Green mutual funds have outpaced the market even with our notably ungreen president in charge. Someone is making money-just not the ones who have shackled themselves to 'dirty' fuels. Where's the 'best buggy whip manufacturer' anecdote for them? They're out of date. Switching off of them won't be the end of civilization.

Sure, the alternatives are not perfect and some just are not ready. Ethanol from corn from every measure seems like a bad idea, from release of nitrates, to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, to what goes into producing it. But there are already bio-diverse alternatives to corn and sugar. Ultimately I don't think that there will be a single 'magic wand' solution. Maybe that's the problem, that oil was a 'single solution' and somehow we were lead to believe that without a single solution, all would be lost.

That it would collapse the sky.

Well, it won't.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Authorship in Collaborative Art

The folks over at Incertus have been having an interesting discussion regarding authorship in respect to Raymond Carver and his editor Gordon Lish. In this specific instance, authorship has a clear hierarchy in that the stories are credited to Carver but were apparently heavily modified by Lish.

It has spurred on something that's been bouncing around in my head for a while so instead of putting off my musings I thought I'd just expand the discussion here.

I have only ever worked in collaborative art forms.

As a musician I worked with bands. Sax players have a rich tradition of being a lone backdrop to a romantic evenings epilogue, and I did that for one winter, but most of my work was done as part of a band.

As a playwright my work was just a blueprint until taken up by a director, casted by actors, and designed by stage crew.

In film I always work with crew people. Often I won't even meet a lot of the people involved in the final creation of what I do. Even in works where I do most of the work, like my college documentary I still had to enlist a small group of people to get it complete.

In all of these things I have had authorship (though as a PA, close to none).

The lines I would play in jazz would be mine, no one would play them like me (as every player plays their own way). But even as a 'lead' on the band there was a recognizable difference in my own playing depending on who I was playing with. A drummer made all the difference in the world. The amazing piano and guitar players I played with in high school made me sound better than I actually was, a false confidence that was a rude awaking when playing with players who weren't able to open the changes up to follow where I wandered.

In big bands my creativity was under the final direction from the leader. But my playing was still my own and the band would not sound exactly the same with any member replaced.

In theater every play I wrote (and write) has a definite vision in my head. I can hear the voices of each character in my head and can answer as to what they are thinking and going through at any given moment in a scene. To me, it's the funnest part of writing a play for me. When a play is really 'happening' I feel like I'm just transcribing a conversation I overheard.

But consistently those expectations have been shattered when actors, directors, and set designers get a hold of it. Actors find new ways of delivering the lines, bringing life into characters that I didn't know was there. The director invariably finds some aspect of the play that fascinates her (my best directors far and away have been women) that maybe I thought was less present, and set designers have worked some interesting miracles with notoriously minimal set requirements.

Even more to the point it is inaccurate to say "I" wrote any plays. Every play has been written with Sous Rature who has put a stamp of depth to all of our works.

If asked we will both sheepishly admit (and here I am speaking a bit for him, but I think I'm right) that our most popular works had more than a little to do with who put them on. We have an immense respect and admiration for the actors that appeared in a number of our plays and tend to think any further success would necessarily involve them to the point that we often try to decide who they would play in each new work we create.

Film simply cannot be done without a small army of people, from lighting, set design, cinematographer, sound recording and design, and editing.

Stanley Kubrick believed that film needed one author in the same way that there is one composer, one writer for a novel or a poem. Film auteurship is based on the director being the film's 'author.' Producers in the Hollywood machine have often taken that credit as well. A book that came out about a year or so ago (which I can't find at the moment) argues for screenwriters being a films author.

To establish a theory of auteurship in film it became necessary for the director or producer to have a recognizable artistry in their films, something Kubrick did manage. There is no mistaking a Kubrick film.

But there is also no mistaking an Arthur C. Clarke story. Is 2001:A Space Odyssey a Stanley Kubrick work or a Arthur C. Clarke work. Kubrick did adaptations throughout his career, but in this time he collaborated on the work that he adapted.

Or for a muddier question, look at the working relationship between Spike Jonze and Charles Kaufman. Kaufman's work has been done by other directors but is still unmistakably Kaufman's. And yet there is a particular stamp to Kaufman when directed by Jonze. So who is the author, Jonze, or Kaufman?

How much of Jean-Pierre Jeunet is Jeunet and how much is cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie and A Very Long Engagement), whose visual style is evident in Across the Universe, even though credit is given in reviews has gone to Julie Taymor. That isn't entirely undeserved, elaborate set design has been part of her work. On the set the decisions were hers, as they were Kubricks, or Jonzes.

But like with the bands, these works would not have been the same with different people. Each one of them brought their authorship to the work. Without the screenplay there would be no story, without the cinematographer no one would see it, and so on.

Autuer theory came about largely because it was felt that it was necessary for films to have authors in order for them to gain legitimacy as an art form. Through school I embraced this, perhaps because I had planned (and still do) becoming a writer-director and that theory lionized my dream role.

But as of late I've been thinking that we missed a fabulous opportunity to question the idea of the single author. I have been arguing for a while (though not here) that art isn't in the conception but in the execution. It's not that anyone can think of a soup can as art but that someone did. Shakespeare borrowed liberally from other sources for his plays, but it's how he told them that makes him still studied today. If that is the case then authorship is shared by the artists who realize it.

Sorry for the rambling...I don't have this fully worked out yet. I may come back to this subject from time to time.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Not that we have in anyway lived up to the Machine premise...but really, one a day?

Who needs that kind of pressure?

Sports Fans Are Nerds

Thats right, I said it. They are nerds. And I mean it, too. Like, nerds-nnnnnneeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrdddddddddddddddssssssssss!!!! Ogre-scream nerds. Seriously. Any sort of pass they may have gotten should be immediately revoked.

Not too long ago (but long enough ago that I should have posted this by now...) I worked an event for sports fans that I tried to describe to a friend who eventually characterized it as 'like a Star Trek convention for [sports] fans.' And it hit me, she had nailed it. Not only was it not any different, in many ways it was far worse.

Look at how we would characterize a Star Trek convention and compare:

Mostly men?

Check. In fact, the sports convention fairs far worse in this category. Star Trek has a rather sizable female following, really. Comparing the women in attendance to this event to the ones I found when doing a documentary of a gaming convention in college, the sports show faired badly.


Check. Unless that large balding man is Jose Conseco...but I doubt it. At least the Sci Fi/Trek fan has the decency to admit that they are dressing up.

Eye for Minutia?

Oh yeah. The sports fan is nothing if not a repository for a list of numbers, dates, and rosters. We're led to believe that somehow knowing when and where the Klingons and Federation signed a treaty is being a total nerd ("Who knows those kind of things?") but knowing the batting average and line up of the 1954 Cubs is normal? I don't know either, but I can guess which person spent too much time in a room with not enough light on a single subject, and he isn't wearing Spock ears...

Too much time spent arguing imaginary match ups?

Bar fights have started over whether or not the 1964 Bengals could beat the 1976 Chargers (yeah sports fans, I grabbed those two out of the air. If you just exclaimed loudly, "That doesn't make any sense" or something like that, welcome to my point.) This is different than 'Is Picard a better captain than Kirk,' how?

Well, that's the crux of the difference that these devoted and deluded little nerds cling to. Sports are 'real' and therefore matter, while Star Trek, comic books, Sci Fi, etc. are works of fiction and don't matter. Because there really was a Walt Chamberlain and a Micheal Jordan, arguments about who was better in their prime are somehow more valid than whether Spiderman could beat up Batman.

Yeah, well-bullshit. There is no difference because they are both bullshit arguments. The games that Chamberlain and Jordan played were different and so were the teams. The fact that they both existed doesn't make their fantasy match up anymore of an act of mental masturbation.

In fact, the fictional characters represent different philosophies, different ideals. They are Man vs. Superman, sometimes literally. Justice vs. Revenge. Individual vs. Society. Power vs. Intellect. It's the discussion of ideas dressed up in tights with action tags. The fantasy sports match ups are just the tights.

I would argue that even though the athletes 'exist,' they matter less. They played a game, people paid a fuckload of money to watch it. Half of them won, half of them lost, and it was done every year for more and more money.

It's not my intention to just crap all over sports. A close basketball game is fun to watch. I love racing and can tell you who the top manufacturers are in number of wins at Le Mans. Sports can be fun to watch. Comics can be fun to read. Star Trek can be enjoyable to watch. But let's not kid ourselves, devotion to these things are peas in a pod.

It's no mistake that you get baseball cards the same place you get comic books.