Dennis the Menace.

I had a dream where I was talking to someone about my theory that Mr. Wilson in Dennis the Menace is really Dennis from the future who lives next door and endures the young boy’s hijinx because he must ultimately serve as his/their protector.

Elevator pitch: It’s Terminator meets Family Circus, but slapstick.

Wider angle.

Any Wire fan who looked at extrapolated art should consider themselves fortunate that David Simon became invested in the process of transferring the series to high-definition video. By considering the possibility of a strictly algorithm-based expansion of the frame and contrasting that to Simon’s shot-by-shot observations, it becomes clear that in art, the space beyond the edges of the frame can never really be determined by the contents of the frame.

Fittingly, both links come from the literally inimitable Kottke: Slate’s Robottke experiment and the insight that “In computer science parlance, Kottke doesn’t scale” is particularly relevant.

Also related: “Be Right Back,” the first episode of the second series of Black Mirror.

Marjane Satrapi got jokes.

Last night, we attended a talk with Marjane Satrapi at NYPL Live. She said that when she was in San Francisco, she told a dirty joke that shifted into focus the American sense of humor. It went something like this:

A man looks in the mirror and sees he has a button on his forehead. Every day, the button gets longer and longer until finally he sees a doctor. He says to the doctor:
“What’s growing on my forehead?”
“It’s a penis.”
“Is there anything I can do about it?”
“Don’t worry about it. Soon enough, the balls will cover your eyes.”

I learned: she’s got a new film coming out about a serial killer and his cat, has made some beautiful paintings, and seen Seven Samurai at least 400 times.

She also made me feel I should read some Dostoyevsky.

The cognitive dissonance of Richard Francis-Bruce.

Christina and I watched this video about how David Fincher shoots his movies:

And so we got to talking and we looked up who edited SevenRichard Francis-Bruce – and realized that he immediately followed that up with The Rock.

Which means that Richard Francis-Bruce’s editing bay went straight from a Fincher sampler to shots that all look like these:

What cognitive dissonance that must have been.

It boggles my mind that the official title of Seven in IMDB is “Se7en.” If you’re searching IMDB for “Seven,” you will not see a link to the movie Seven in the autosuggest features. Also, it implies the title is pronounced se-seven-en.

Before and after.

We watched a matinee of Before Midnight yesterday, and after dinner (at Maysville: Christina ordered the trout, which was superior to my duck breast entree; we shared the grits and scallops and I had a hound dog – bourbon, grapefruit, honey, mint, and lime – which is really a fantastic and (to my palette) innovative concoction), while Christina packed for a trip to California, we re-watched Before Sunset and Before Sunrise (in that order, and finishing at precisely 11:59 pm yesterday). It really is the most unlikely and satisfying trilogy of movies, and I must confess that I found myself most engrossed in and entertained by the newest installment.

Perhaps it has to do with the present stage of my life – whereas Sunrise and Sunset were about meeting and re-meeting, Midnight is set firmly mid-course in a relationship that is top-heavy in origin story. Whereas Sunrise finds Jesse and Celine short on money with time to kill (pay attention to how they talk of hotels and red wine between the first and third installments), Midnight, set 18 years hence, finds them in material comfort but straining to find time for themselves – also more akin to my present situation.

Over the course of the series, each film has made less of its placeSunrise was as much about the relationship between these two characters as it was about them being in Vienna, a place they only understood through a guide book. There are chance meetings with a gypsy, a begging poet, and the sound of a harpsichord (oh, that harpsichord) that haunts a street deserted at dawn.

Sunset, set in Celine’s hometown of Paris, replaces the tension that comes with a language barrier and a barely superficial understanding of a place with that of a couple unsure of what their relationship actually is and what each of them wants it to be. Midnight, set ostensibly in the southern Peloponnese, is also structured around the same long takes of walks and car rides overstuffed with extemporaneous bullshit – punctuated with moments of ‘what is our relationship?’ – that made the first two installments feel alive, but with a kind of this-could-take-place-anywhere that would be to its detriment were the central relationship not so compelling after watching it unfold on celluloid for five or six hours.

The quote that clawed its way into my brain to crystallize how I’ve felt about the difference between Midnight and Sunrise/Sunset is from Oliver Stone’s Nixon, of all things: “When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are.”

Richard Linklater (and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), by following only one pair of characters in all three movies (instead of making a trilogy connected only thematically by being about stages of romantic relationships in general) into parenthood and intermittent intimacy – however intentionally or inadvertently – remind their now 18-years-older audience that despite the occasional spat between their long-time lovers, they too may have once been romantic enough to take a fling in a city they didn’t know.

(Or, for the uninitiated youth introduced to the series: all romances, however starry-eyed their origin, are earth-bound by these arguments and evaluations if they persist long enough.)

What struck me most after watching all three in the span of twelve hours is how little I actually remembered of the factual events and their order in the first two films. (If you too watch all three movies in one day, in addition to the aforementioned meaning of red wine, pay attention to how Jesse and Celine speak of monks and monasteries, of time machines, and how pretentious and kinda-meta Jesse’s ideas are for TV shows and books.)

But perhaps that is no small reason this trilogy resonates with me more now than when I first saw Sunrise and Sunset in succession eight years ago: in them, as in my own experience, a few relatively small moments tend to stand in my memory for the entire experience of a relationship. And as those moments collapse into smaller and smaller percentages of that relationship, it can become more challenging to remember how exciting, inspiring, awful, boring, or inane the origins are of that relationship. And as I’ve become older, distant, affluent, and hurried, I’ve found this challenge among the most difficult to meet in my life.

And so. As far as the movies are concerned, I want to believe this series can continue for a few more decades, and not just because I want to believe that this fictional couple can see each other through the uncertainties that attend their early 40s: the movies’ craft (particularly of Sunset) is so honed and illuminating. The principal actors are so subsumed in their roles that a seemingly plausible retcon is that Jesse and Celine have really been actors/filmmakers the whole time and their work includes Training Day and 2 Days in Paris, respectively. The movies, taken as a whole serialized work, are so good that they inspire – and merit – this level of introspection. I’d like to believe that if a movie-going public can support 20-odd Bond movies and a Fast and Furious franchise, there’s room for After Breakfast and beyond.

But I can also see, within these movies’ universe, Midnight as its endpoint. Not all relationships end like fairy tales, though fairy tales as I’ve known them usually define the start – and Sunrise and Sunset were essentially two halves of a modern fairy tale.

And at this point in my life, living every day at maximum hair and minimum weight, fairy tales are far less inspiring than stories of two people who know each other too well and meet an even greater challenge than stopping at the ruins to re-imagine what once stood there: to see each other not as aged externalizations of fond memories but to address each other as people who fear there will be no fond memories beyond those that defined them too long ago.

The deathly hallows, part 2.

Hewlett Packard and the Toner of Secrets, illustration by Will Posner

(Much like the movie described herein, this post will make a lot more sense if you read the first part.)

So I live-tweeted my viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I was hesitant to even watch it when I was offered a ticket, having reveled to some degree in the cultural anti-cachet of having remained quite ignorant about one of the defining fictional universes of the last decade.

Though I still don’t really understand the canon of Harry Potter, I find that since watching this movie and (having had much of the jargon explained to me) that I understand the Twitterverse/blogosphere a little better – it makes a kind of sense to me now when someone calls Rebekah Brooks one of Rupert Murdoch’s horcruxes.

What follows below are the complete tweets of that night. Please forgive any typos; much of this was written in a crowded movie theater on a BlackBerry with the aid/obstacle of Christina’s summer cardigan laying over the screen. (Seriously, RIM, make a BlackBerry ad that involves tweeting snarkily in a dark movie theater filled with emotionally attached fans – with pretty minimal typos – and the halo of touchscreens will dim.)
Continue reading The deathly hallows, part 2.

The deathly hallows.

Spoiler alert: at midnight, I will watch my first Harry Potter movie. Before tonight, I have never read a Harry Potter book or watched a Harry Potter movie. Until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t know the full name of the movie for which I possess a ticket. Like the people in this Slate article, I might live-tweet or live-blog the whole experience, but with more profanity.

What I know about Harry Potter:

  • He has two sidekicks, a redhead and a woman.
  • There’s a drink called butter beer.
  • There’s a game called quiddich (sp?).
  • Snape kills Dumbledore.
  • The first book was written by J.K. Rowling shortly after she divorced. She is now a gazillionaire, and in pounds sterling.
  • Daniel Radcliffe plays the title role. He appeared naked on Broadway.
  • The third movie was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who also directed Y Tu Mama Tambien which had lots of nudity. Everyone agrees that it’s “really dark” but nobody seems to remember the name of the movie right away (The Prisoner of Azkaban, apparently).
  • Design Observer ran a piece on the typography in one of the movies a couple years ago.

I’m afraid to learn what “hog warts” are.

A web of yes.


via Kindra

I thought these two were related:

I’ve learned that the web has countless ways to say “no,” or to say “meh.” It has fewer ways to say “yes.” Readability looks like a way to say “yes” to people doing hard work—whether they’re journalists, essay and fiction writers, publishers, editors, fact-checkers, illustrators, photographers, proofreaders, circulation specialists—or the people who write the checks. The web needs more “yes.”

Paul Ford via Frank Chimero

My persistent frustration with most web design is that it doesn’t give me what I want or, for that matter, what the site seems to want to give.

Google ads, tag clouds, and excessive hyperlinks litter the page, forcing type smaller and smaller just so it can “fit above the fold.” Or, worse, the tl;dr Tumblr crowd who present us with nothing but acontextual photos and clever sentences from the first paragraphs of The New Yorker articles in large, bold, sans-serif type.

Fuck the fold. And fuck tl;dr. I like scrolling, I like long reads, and I like large (enough) type.

Andrew Simone

In case you missed it:

Recent viewing: I can’t more strongly recommend The 39 Steps, which we watched as part of the AFI Silver Theater’s Hitchcock Retrospective. Occasionally slapstick and often disorienting, the whole show is elliptical but rich, especially so for a sub-90 minute feature film.

I also recommend Inside Job. Though the tone gets pushy and the filmmakers do an uneven job of keeping all the facts in order, they are to be credited for getting at the deeper systematic causes of the 2008 financial crisis with an unusually strong indictment of higher education institutions – and perhaps it only seems strong because it is merely present.

Oh, and I have a working television at my residence for the first time in almost six years. What’s everyone doing for Oscar night?

While I am writing.

As I start thesis writing in earnest, my priorities are shifting to the production of documents necessary to the academic ritual: the proposal, annotated bibliographies, review of related literature, and chapters of primary research. I am writing on the form of the web browser and its social effects, investigating how browsers were shaped through distributed processes of software architecture and improvised linguistics into an infrastructure upon which we google people to find their Facebook profile and Twitter feed. The part of me that’s been doing this shit for years is a singular candidate for the task, the academic come-lately (part-time, at that) within approaches with some apprehension, and the friend known to you dreads that as we are a postcard’s reach apart, it’s more likely that postcards are all that will pass between us.

It’s become obvious practices that once defined me have suffered as I’ve travelled different social and professional avenues and consequently developed new practices. And it’s difficult for me to admit that my creative output has not dropped as much as I sometimes feel; there are analogues. Where I was once defined by semi-annual meticulously crafted mix CDs, I now with similar frequency and attention assemble brunch for 20 in my one-bedroom apartment. Books with starred reviews are Goodyear-welted shoes, late-night drives are late-night walks, weekly benders are personal training appointments. I am led to believe this is normal for my age.

Similarly, I’m learning not to mistake change in the form of my output for a drop in my ability to “leave my mark.” Blog posts, mix CDs, portfolio/gallery websites, cityscapes, sketchbooks, AIM statuses, long-winded and vain email newsletters – each has come and go as my preferred medium, and who knows when if ever I’ll resume any of these with the same zeal, let alone skill. For the foreseeable future, my blog’s purposes as an outpost for commentary on current events, meme participation, telling of my new favorite earworms, and nudging and winking (and hyperlinking) in the direction of funny shit have been distributed to the lower-maintenance domains of my Facebook profile, Twitter feed, Flickr photostream, Hype Machine loves, and Pinterest boards. I’ll probably write occasionally to float wacky ideas that likely wouldn’t float with my thesis committee, and 140 characters isn’t enough for all the wonderful things and weird shit I want to share.

(Like, I mean, have you seen Marwencol? My esteem for it grows every time I think of it, and I now doubt I’ll see a better movie released this year. It’s a documentary about Mark Hogancamp, who survives a beating but loses motor skills and memories, and a discussion of the role of photography and memory, the role of sincerity in art, and the role of art in therapy. It goes into Charlie Kaufman territory (recursion, specifically, and not as a storytelling technique employed by the filmmakers so much as a consequence of the documentary process (and the subject being documented)) and is so terrifically distinct from anything I consider my experience of the world it’s easy to forget its foundation in real events. Oh, and Hogancamp – who is still getting by on disability checks – takes a cut of sales of related merchandise (maybe some box-office receipts?), so patronage includes a nugget of charity.)

(So there’s that.)

Part of me now chafes at a not-much-younger version of me that exercised writing not because writing is not something to be exercised but because I/he believed that it was through a systematic exploration and exploitation of syntax and diction that one improved as a writer. Improved and writer now seem insubstantial, even laughable, just as there was once a me that thought a feeble configuration of magnets and arrows and dials the ideal of compass. At 25, I probably couldn’t make a better mix CD or write a better blog post than when I was 22, but that realization took almost three more years to reconcile comfortably. I still believe that getting prolific is a step towards getting good, but that better bears a troublesome resemblance to analysis paralysis and all that. As I’m steady working and ringing up debts in pages and accounting in chapters for at least the next eight months, that reconciliation arrives at a fruitful moment.

To those who know (and the present tense feels so tenuous here) me as a blogger, mix maker, enfant terrible (increasingly sans enfant), I leave you with this: While I am writing – the usual 79 minutes and change in one 95 MB file – to remember me as a friend. I worry I only have so many words, and they are needed elsewhere. Till the next postcard, know you’re invited to – and missed at – brunch.