February 27, 2005

Don't Look For Alan Smithee at the Oscars Tonight (but he'll probably be there somewhere)

You've likely seen an Alan Smithee film at some point, since he's credited with directing dozens of feature films, television episodes, and even a music video or two. A few of the films are even pretty good since an odd technicality prohibits Alan Smithee from getting director's credit on a merely bad movie. Did that make sense? Read on.

Alan Smithee, originally named Allen Smithee, and sometimes referred to as Alan Smithee, Jr., can only direct a movie after the fact, when the The Director's Guild of America agrees that the piece in question was sufficienly meddled with or otherwise hijacked from the director's control. If the director of a film feels that the final cut does not accurately reflect his or her creative vision, The Director's Guild of America guides a process which allows the director to disavow his or her work on the film. They can take a Smithee!

Alan Smithee is a ghost. A puff of smoke. A director's back door. (Smithee's saved a few screenwriters too.)

More than simply a "Get Out of Jail FREE" card, Alan Smithee is a coded message to the industry at large too. Even if the real director of the film is well-known, and most of the time he/she is, the "Alan Smithee" director's credit is a very specific use of pseudonym that indicates that the director was truly stripped of the productive creative freedom on the film. Stamped and attested by the DGA.

"Over the decades, accomplished professionals have used him. After Stuart Rosenberg, the director of Cool Hand Luke, saw the final cut of Let's Get Harry, he decided to let Smithee take the credit. John Frankenheimer followed the same course with his TV film, Riviera. David Lynch didn't like the way a TV network re-edited Dune, so he put Smithee's name on it. Smithee was involved with a highly enjoyable film called Backtrack, in which Dennis Hopper directed himself as a Mafia hit man out to kill Jodie Foster, an artist whose work looks just like Jenny Holzer's. Hopper withdrew his director's credit and replaced it with Smithee's, but later, for the altered video version, took the credit back." - Robert Fulford

In 1968 Robert Totten was directing Death Of A Gunfighter starring Richard Widmark. Widmark had such a creative tiff with Totten he had him replaced with director Don Siegel, who finished the film but refused to allow his name to be used since much of the finished work was Totten's. Later the film would receive high praise from reviewers, but in the meantime nobody felt it was rightfully their own work. The issue was brought to the Director's Guild, and thus the creation of Director "Allen Smithee".

That solution, using the spelling "Alan" more often than not, has been applied ever since to both film and television productions. National Lampoon's Senior Trip director Kelly Makin (who has since directed most episodes of The Kid's In The Hall, and now Queer As Folk), took a Smithee. Hellraiser IV was credited to Alan Smithee. 1997's Sub Down with Stephen Baldwin and Tom Conti, is an Alan Smithee film. Kiefer Sutherland apparently deferred to Alan Smithee in 2000 for the film Woman Wanted. Sutherland also starred in the film, with Holly Hunter.

Whitney Houston's 1992 music video for "I Will Always Love You" was credited to Alan Smithee.

Tony Kaye directed American History X but was so befuddled with the difficulties of putting his artistic stamp on the film he petitioned to the Director's Guild to use the pseudonym, but was actually turned down. He sued. And lost. Sorry, Smithee.

Directors Jud Taylor and Rod Holcomb both Smitheed twice.

Eventually the inside joke, or the secret, or the defiant signature, whatever you want to make of it, reached terminal velocity. In 1998, Arthur Hiller directed a movie ABOUT Alan Smithee. Whether it was absurd parody, or intentional incompetence, or mad genius, the movie itself distorted the acting abilites of a bucketful of Hollywood Stars and turned into an unsalvagable mess. Predictably, Hiller applied for, and got, A Smithee. "An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn", directed by Alan Smithee. Great.

Roger Ebert himself said:
"Sophomores in a film class could make a better film than this. Hell, I have a movie here by Les Brown, a kid who looks about 12 and filmed a thriller in his mother's basement, faking a fight scene by wrestling with a dummy. If I locked you in a room with both movies, you'd end up looking at the kid's."

The film is 86 minutes. Adds Ebert, "The only way to save this film would be to trim 86 minutes."
February 27, 1998

More recently, Alan Smithee has been shelved. The DGA decided from that point on to apply a separate pseudonym to each new instance. The first was a credit to "Thomas Lee" for Walter Hill's movie Supernova in 2000 with James Spader.

So tonight, watching the Oscars, in the bodies of Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Richard C. Sarafian, and others, you may see a twinkle of an Alan Smithee. Or a Thomas Lee. Who knows. You won't see either of them on stage though.

Roger Ebert at the Sun Times
Robert Fulford
Internet Movie Database

Read The Rest HERE

February 25, 2005

The Audio Post That Never Was

Blogger has a new feature, where you can call in to a special number, with your password of course, and leave a voice mail that gets converted to an audio file post on your blog.

I tested it out on Friday, and the post finally showed up this morning (Sunday). I don't if 36-48 hours is supposed to be the normal wait-time. I doubt it.

I intended right from the start to just post a simple message as an experiment and then delete it as soon as I heard it. Which I've done.

But in the process, I experienced something odd. Hearing a mundane voice mail from myself posted to my own blog sort of takes away the magic of "online publishing". Perhaps in the same way that a phone conversation isn't nearly the same as a letter correspondence or even trading a few emails. There is still something far more tangible in the written, or typed, word.

Anyway, forgot what else I was going to say. Just call me back. Talk to you later.

Read The Rest HERE

February 20, 2005

Dying Star Gets Cranky, Lashes Out At Universe

On December 27 of this past year I was going about my day - sleeping off my holiday binge, perhaps - when the Nasa Swift Satellite that had been put into service just the previous week observed a blast of energy from across the galaxy that was brighter than all the trillion stars of the Milky Way combined. Strike that, I goofed: One HALF-trillion stars of the Milky Way. Only brighter than 500 Billion Stars, combined. That's different... So, this pulse of energy was merely the equivalent of 150,000 years of our own sun's energy, all squeezed into one-fifth of a second.

The New York Times Article about it today goes on to describe this little remnant of a neutron star as less than 15 miles in diameter yet 1.5 times our own sun's mass. I love this stuff. Way better than reading about Richard Hoagland, that loony toon who still claims there's a face on Mars (along with the requisite NASA cover-up).

This little star, although it is apparently a little slow by neutron-star standards, is spinning so fast that in the time it takes you to read this sentence it will have completed yet another full rotation on it's axis. That's 7.5 seconds for a full "day". Time flies when you're a dying star. Anyway, I did a little math and it appears that the surface of this mite is moving at about 20,000 miles per hour. No wonder it's a little edgy!

It has this amazingly powerful magnetic field that could, say from the distance of Mars, wipe all the info off your credit cards. Not to mention how it would affect Modest Mouse on your I-pod.

It's a rare breed called a Magnetar. Now that's good. Magnetar's good friends Gundam and Godzilla say they've seen him flare up a few times before, but never like this. "He usually saves that kind of a display for the furtherance of good," added his Superfriends Academy classmate Evangelion, "but sometimes you just have to blow off a little steam. I hope Magnetar's feeling better."

Pokemon and Microman could not be reached for comment.

This story says this epic gamma ray blast happened "just across the Milky Way from Earth". I like that, too. Just a hop, skip, and a jump through deep space. It would take 50,000 years to get there at the speed of light but it sounds as if you could take the back way and get a cup of sugar for that cake you're baking. Or a Gatorade for weathering your binge. Just be a minute.

In fact, the time element is always fun in stories like this. The reportage quite naturally says the blast occured when it was observed, you know, in December, when in fact it was 150,000 years ago. ("And in other news, Napoleon Bonaparte has taken Moscow. Nobody was there so he's coming back before it gets too cold.")

Read The Rest HERE

February 12, 2005

Praying for a Purposeful Cacophony

Omni has an interesting take on the "If-You-Had-One-Wish" hypothesis.

She has a way of deconstructing a concept to an amazing degree. I make sure to read her blog most of the time, if for no other reason than to bathe myself in the electricity of our polar opposition on karma, coincidence, synchronicity, and the physics of it all. (I would comment as such on her blog if there was a way. She doesn't even list an email address. HEY, I know, I'll write a post on my blog linking back to hers and she'll comment here! I'm a genius!)

My point about our divergent views is that, despite such, I find that Omni very thoughtfully dissects her subjects. This particular post of hers pretty boldly maps out the reasoning for the admonishment: "Be careful what you wish for...."

Just yesterday (coincidence, Omni?!) I landed on this story by Mark Twain, which on the surface is a pretty solid indictment of the "God-is-on-our-side" crowd:

A town about to go to war prays for the safe return of it's soldier sons. A wise looking man interrupts the proceedings:

"Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not.... If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time."

Careful what you wish for. If you look at how Omni laid out the details, really the only thing you can do to achieve the desired outcome is to work for it every day. I don't mean this in a self-help-book manner, I'm not about that kind of nonsense. But solving one problem via a wish, merely allows you to attend to myriad other problems, at best.

So: If you could wish for any one thing, let's say, untold riches, then what's the next goal? The untold riches would certainly get you past the bills every month, certainly let you jettison that job you hate, but then what to do?

Well, then you end up pursuing whatever you have always wanted to do if, for instance, money were no object. Meaning, you are still going to get up every day and by your own actions, keep yourself healthy, or happy, or in-shape, or over-sexed, or well-educated, or drug-addicted, or blind from watching movies, or pure-of-heart-and-soul on a mountaintop. Or whatever.

Point is, you still have to DO, even after the wish.

Here is the difference between your secular humanist and your faithful believer.
The secular humanist works to create meaning with deeds, with legacy, with tangible effect, offspring, whatever. This is with a knowledge or an acceptance or understanding of the random chaos and directionlessness of the universe, a lack of a deeper purpose or overseer or even a prime mover. Or Karma. This is with a framework of belief that says our relationships with our surroundings and our universe and each other are the whole process and the goal.

So back to One-Wish. What if really the only wish you can actually wish might be that you're right about your faith? All of religion is the belief that what is thought of the reality of the unseen and unknown, is.

It's the un-uttered wish. That there is a purpose. That there is a reason, that there is a plan, that there is a method behind all the madness.

I read once, then immediately re-read John Irving's novel A Prayer For Owen Meany. The central character, Owen Meany, while being a quirky directionless comic tornado, is ultimately something of a galvanizing force for the narrator's search for meaning. Most authors will imbue their title characters with a name that captures some symbolic or thematic element in their piece, like our recently departed Arthur Miller's "Willy Lo-man" in Death of a Salesman. In Irving's novel I don't think I'm stretching to see a great deal of similarity in "Owen Meany" and "Own Meaning". Maybe it's just me.

As Omni says, you can't really wish away the bad thing, or the enemy, without probably bringing unintended consequences that are of equal or even worse evil. You get the Yin with the Yang.

The One-Wish proposition is entirely hypothetical. But I think every day people are wishing the one wish, that in the end it all makes sense.

Read The Rest HERE

February 10, 2005

Christo's mammoth art project "The Gates" in Central Park

Fourteen years ago I drove up highway 5 from San Diego to the grapevine area north of Los Angeles, in order to witness the visual splendor of thousands of 20-ft tall shiny gold umbrellas dotting the landscape like trees for miles around, on hills, in valleys, and even next to a gas-station and Burger King.

Why? Well, I just HAD to see it. A project of such a vast scale is something you need to see, in person, to really get. I could describe it in any number of ways but to really understand what the hell Christo is up to when he rolls out one of his legendary art installations, is to simply get there and see it.

His philosophy is simple: It is art for its own sake. Wrap a building, wrap a bridge, raise a curtain across a canyon, run a bright fabric fence over 50 miles of hills into the ocean. Surround an island in pink plastic. Better, a series of islands. Stand back and check it out.

"So THAT'S what it would look like if I could wrap the Reichstag in a million square feet of silvery fabric, and 3 miles of blue rope! ... Huh!!"

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

I can't find this film at Netflix of course, but a German documentary of the Reichstag project was made called "The Reichstag Wrapped":

"More than five million visitors, a once in a-lifetime event for Berlin, convincing proof of what art can still achieve today: visionary thinking as a gigantic, quickly transitory manifestation, art as a public festival, a media spectacle, the catalyst for a rare passionate political and aesthetic debate."
- Review at GermanCinema.de

His method is "simple" too. Conceive the idea, propose the idea for 5 to 25 years until the powers that be are satisfied that you won't destroy their town/building/bridge/bay, sell all your drawings, sculptures, collages and schematics of the proposed project to raise the necessary funds, and then execute the installation for 3 to 20 days, at no cost to the city/province/port, at which point you take it all down and go home. Publish a book. Don't have a surname. You're a star.

Christo's latest project, although this has by far taken the longest path to fruition, is "The Gates" in New York's Central Park.

I would say, "try to imagine..." but as I mentioned earlier it's not exactly the same.

But for giggles: Over 7000 "gates" draped with saphron colored fabric billowing in the breeze, spaced over about 23 miles of pathways throughout Central Park. Thousands of volunteers are putting it up as we speak, and in 2 weeks they'll be taking it all down. Check this map:

Map of Central Park and the trail of Orange Gates

If you are anywhere in the Northeast in the next couple of weeks make it a point to visit New York's Central Park. Really. You'll tell your grandkids about it, I swear.

This article in the NY Times - yes, free registration required just do it already - tells you more about this project.

But if you want a really good retrospective look at Christo's legacy, and you've already registered with the NY Times because I just told you to, CLICK HERE

One last thing. All these projects are actually collaborations between Christo and Jeanne-Claude, his equally surnameless life partner. These projects are in no way just the product of "Christo" or "Jeanne-Claude" but are more properly attributed to "Christo and Jeanne-Claude."

From their website:

"Christo and Jeanne-Claude have donated the merchandising rights to the charitable foundation "NNYN" (Nurture New York's Nature and Arts) who are sharing these rights with The Central Park Conservancy.

Neither New York City nor the Park administration shall bear any of the expenses for The Gates."

This is all they do. They raise every dollar for the project by selling scale models, lithos, diagrams, etc in the formulation stage of the project. For The Gates in New York they are spending over $20 million. And they NEVER accept sponsorship money for their works. I'd love to sit and have a beer with them one day.

Check out their website:


Read The Rest HERE

February 09, 2005

Blog Smoothie, Fresh

Q. What do you get when you mix up Democracy, Tsunami stuff, Paintball, and a little something I'll just call McPulp?

A. Today's post.

Honestly, let's not play around and pretend to be a segue-smith (thus would I be seguetious?). I'm just dropping the ingredients - rind, boost, and all - into the blender.


Pop Quiz

In case you haven't lately had to take a test to, let's say, attain U.S. Citizenship, this one might throw you: Are we a republic or a democracy?

Remember, we pledge allegiance not just to the flag, but also "to the Republic for which it stands."

I dare you go out tomorrow and ask 100 people to explain what it means to say we are a Republic and not a Democracy. Unless you are conveniently adjacent to, or upon, a college campus - where tomorrow you shall bump into Professor Wayback - you're going to get 100 blank stares.

I found the link to this article at Dan's "withknivesout" blog a few weeks ago. It takes me a while to get around to stuff like this, eh?

Interestingly, most of the sites where I found the writers laying out the specific differences between a Republic and a direct Democracy, were conservative. And/or faith-based. Many quote the founding fathers as saying that while a direct Democracy is nothing more than a Mobocracy, a Republic is based on a constitutional rule of laws, either natural or God-Given.

In fact, the best and clearest dissection of the subject came on what looked to me like some kooky survivalist site. Go figure.

Of course there's a lot more on the subject, elsewhere, but remember, my post today is a nutritious fruit drink, not an eight course meal.



Obviously not the work of esteemed director McQuentin McTarantino, this is an actual McDonald's commercial, in Israel.

Not to be outdone, Volkswagon threatened at first to sue the pants off of whomever came up with THIS little commentary on our world today. You know, it's really just SO wrong but it's freaking hilarious.

And I think, deep: No one yet has commented on the totally oblivious cafe crowd. They're shown "outside" the cafe, and they're "outside" the VW; in fact, they're "outside" of the sphere of influence of this disturbed young would-be world-changer. Yet, they're as safe and sheltered, and let's say, naive and selfish and undisturbed by the world's woes, as if they were in a cocoon.

See, I can be a loony leftist commentator if I have to. I've been there. Not lately, but I've been there.


Tsunami Tstuff

My interest was piqued, of course, by this little bit of sensationalism in
WorldNetDaily about "The man who predicted the tsunami".

At first I thought, well, somebody somewhere is predicting all sorts of blight and destruction every day, everywhere.

Turns out this professor is in fact a leading expert on plate techtonics and disaster potentials. He really did predict it. And he seems pretty sure that Seattle is in for some trouble someday too.

Check out this speech from 1997 by Professor Sieh, to get an idea of his field of vision.



Yes, paintball. Well, a couple weeks ago my nephew had a little party for his 10th birthday. It was a day of killing and mayhem at the paintball fields in the mountains here outside of San Diego, an area that many of us coastal-ish dwellers view as sort of Appalachia West. Fourteen of us, kids and adults pretty evenly split, had 6 hours of commando time on various courses, which differed in terrain, obstacle types, flora, etc.

A number of areas were roped off as Ecological Preserves, which I found amusing since hundreds of marble-sized paintballs were flying into the marshy creek grasslands there. I imagined all the dead and dying snakes who couldn't resist those neon green and orange "eggs" lying all about their unpeopled homes.

Before we got started, as we gathered in the parking lot of Velocity Paintball in Ramona, my first thought, and my exact comment to my youngest brother, was that if I were FBI or ATF, THIS is where I would hang out on Saturday mornings.

I was truly astounded by the uniforms, the equipment, the gear, the pure militarism dripping from the cyborgs people gathering for the day's festivities. And the technology. One of the 10-year old friend kids brought his own gun, and helmet and goggles, and CO2 cannisters, and harnesses and camo, etc. The fully automatic bursts echoing in the surrounding Eucalyptus groves and firing range(s) nearby was positively... Afghani. An abundance of paintballs littered the dirt parking lot area, every neon color imaginable, smashed and splattered about like fallen cherry blossoms.

Smelled like... victory. Technicolor Latex-based blobs of victory.

Alright, now that I've laid out my superficial first impressions, I'll immediately admit I had the time of my life out there. I was killed, a couple times by one of my brothers' "friendly fire". All of us eventually determined that the best way to stay alive an entire 10-minute game was to NOT be his teammate. But it was fun. Creepy fun. Diving into mud holes, ducking behind woodpiles. Getting to know your equipment. Naming your equipment. Loving your equip-- uh -- err.

Alright. Enough said.

Read The Rest HERE

February 02, 2005

Goodness Sake, It's No-More-Just-Kate !

I Can't Explain Myself On This One

Seriously. I am not kidding - at all - when I tell you that I am going to blogroll this gal. This "Refused to be...Just Kate, So no more Just Kate 2004 now!!!" person.

I will not try to explain myself. I will not analyse my inner workings, no, I will not engage in a shallow and transparent attempt to assuage your perplexidity. Just follow me on this one.

Clear your mind. Read it. Taste it:

It's no different than just come right in. So much
for that stupid knock of asking for entry.

Wamp right into "still mine" office and instead of
asking or annocing her purpose. My sec just so busy yacking with this girl who
going to move into my office and totally ignore me. The nerve of her came in
like I dont exist! Where's your manner that your mother taught

I just have this insatiable desire to read everything she writes.

Now, quit looking at me that way. I'll say this again: I'm not kidding. I honestly don't know if the attraction is so much in the charmingly thorough Thrash & Mangle of the English language, or, more to heart of the issue, the astoundingly clear meaning I get from it. It's like a mind-meld.

Goodness Sake!

Maybe it's that I'm often around a lot of English-as-a-Second-Language speakers, what with my better half being Asian. Well, I don't know what it is - and I swore not to analyse.

But for some reason I'm just a deer in the headlights.

New year suppose to start new chapter of walk. But
she's going to annoy the hack out of us. She's not really really that walking
per sake. Let's stop here and Let's stop there. Waste of time and not really
walking at all.


Come on. Try it. Just ... Be the ball:

Other "soap" online
Some blonde thought she's
stupid. But she manage to hangon to this married older man. And he even willing
to loose his lawfully wedded wife and follow her. I dont think she's that stupid
afterall. Beside, her determination gotten all paid for law school from this
older man. And now she's debating if she should move to the other state to take
this job offer! That's no dumb blonde that I can see.

Get it yet? That tingly feeling?

And you still think I'm kidding.

Listen, unbeliever, this is how it went down: One day I click on the blatantly innocuous "NEXT BLOG" button, and I find myself reading this Kate person's... blog ... thing. And of course, I'm thinking, wow, she's got a little ways to go in the Clarity Department.

But then, magically, I get it. I really do.

Less vocabulary, more meaning. Gained in Translation.

So they can't plan ahead. And now they found problem
and not able to use my program. But with no warning, all of a sudden it became
my problem because for their poor planning. Goodness sake! ... Go take your number. Crying out loud!

See, you know well enough by now how I like to twist and deform words and phrases so that the meanings are, I guess, playfully apparent, if you're up for my game. Words and phrases that aren't "legally sanctioned", yet if you focus just off-center, they're clear as a bell. Maybe that's what this is all about.

And she's very profound:

No yum yum
None of my girls used that much yum yum.
#1 got to be the one used the most. It just dawn on me as the nurse asking for
one for my 16 mos old and I am so proud to tell her no....

Goodness, time sure flies! How
can the before teen grow up way too fast and during teen like dragging forever.
I just can't understand that at all.

Well, I can.

For More of No More Just Kate ...

Read The Rest HERE