WWC

The 2015 World Cup Starts Soon: Who Cares?

Certainly not FIFA.  And maybe not even the Canadian Soccer Association.  Probably a few corporate sponsors including the upstart carbonated beverage maker known as the Coca-Cola Company; some plucky airbnb users for sure; and definitely Fox Sports.  But after three decades of international play and an on-again / off-again romance with the beautiful game, is it possible to defend an American cultural interest in soccer as played by the most successful national team in U.S. history (sorry, Dream Team)?
uswnt wwc15
The 2015 Women’s World Cup Roster (USA)
Here’s how I see it.

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Tammy: 10 Takeaways

tammydc50Melissa McCarthy needs no introduction. Nor do most of the other players in this latest iteration of aggressive summer comedies, save for maybe the indie darling Mark Duplass (but even he’s getting a lot of face-time these days…which is to say: Moms across America are totally Googling “Duplass married, age?”). So let’s get to 10 quick takeaways on the summer comed Tammy–and leave the pontificating to the pros.

In no particular order, some observations:

1. McCarthy plays by her own rules, and doesn’t hew to convention

2. Families, man.

3. Road trip movies can be fun, even when the final destination isn’t reached (perhaps especially.)

4. The average age of the cast is probably somewhere in the 45-50 range. What was the last summer studio movie you could say that about?

5. It’s refreshing to have a movie not set in NY, LA, Chicago or the South (but mostly NY / LA.)

a44a0deb0bf254e15ffffbb33259a8bbcd12eee51dbab75588d3934a215580976. (Spoiler Alert) Kathy Bates is really deft with a handmade car bomb.

7. Shorter comedies typically play stronger than longer comedies. Tammy has a run time of 97 minutes, and a feel time of 107.

8. Stay away from ice cream trucks.

9. If you’re going to rob someone, definitely ask for $50 above what you need.

10. Dan Aykroyd + Allison Janney = power couple; would love to see them do something more substantial together.

 

#SixSeasons&A…Sometimes Good Guys Do Win

I stopped watching Community  years ago. For many of you, that’s enough to question my bona fides and ability to comment on the revealed news that Yahoo!, informally recognized as Ask Jeeves’s hipper search engine cousin, has taken this problem child off of NBC’s hands and decided to produce the much agitated for #Six(th)Season(s)*. Regardless of where you stand on Community, or its endearingly enigmatic showrunner Dan Harmon, it’s a curious sight to behold that a show so incredibly devoid of any capitalistic stamp on our consumer-driven culture can somehow, like Lazarus, raise from the dead year after befuddling year.

Community was supposed to be DOA after season one. And season two. And season five. And everything in between. But it’s not.comgif

Harmon, an evangelist of the Joseph Campbell school of storytelling, is nothing if not an honest storyteller, and his die hard fans (of which there are, if not legion, sufficient enough to continually resuscitate a network television show) have rewarded him and his efforts in a way that has me wondering: how many other storytellers can boast the same? Think about it: how many other modern television creators have the undying (much to NBC’s chagrin, I am sure) support of complete strangers? Arrested Development (and Mitch Hurwitz) may claim similar stats, sure (and the two masters of the medium are not only friends, but have also been the beneficiaries of an adoring public that goes so far as to coordinate wildly popular art shows in Los Angeles), and yes, there have been multiple campaigns (what’s up, Chuck?) over the years to keep unique shows with unique points of view on the air. But perhaps none have experienced the emotional tolls as Community has. No other show has asked so much from its viewers–not as an audience, but as human beings–than this unorthodox story of unorthodox heroes doing unorthodox things for no one’s amusement but their own.

Why do people keep putting up with Harmon and Community? Should I have ended that sentence with an exclamation point?

First, there was Chevy (and before that, there was also Chevy). Then came the infamous season 3 (or was it 4? see…I should not be writing this) “benching” by NBC…which produced one of the finest incarnations of Harmontown that ever was (and at which I, your fair, incompetent writer, was present for); there was Harmon’s benching–i.e., firing–more general disgruntledness, a giant think-piece / cautious homage to Harmon in Grantland; and finally, Harmon’s unlikely return to the show a year after being canned. Good God, I am tired just typing it all. Imagine how gassed I’d be if I watched it.Dan-Harmon-back-to-Community

Cute story: About two years ago got into a heated debate about sitcoms with a show runner of some success (this may be the single douchey-est sentence I’ve ever written, so my apologies; I am nothing, if not a self-aware douche). Having come from the multi-camera world of 18 shares and live studio audiences, he assured me that Community “is not a comedy” and that “Harmon is finished…he’ll never work again!” He was literally salivating over the thought of seeing Dan Harmon go down in professinoal flames. And I was angry. I was angry on behalf of Harmon and every other television creator who has ever cared to tell an actual story, and tell it well, ratings be damned. I was upset because an arrogant hack thought he knew what the masses wanted more than actual storytellers, and what they wanted was slop. Pure, set-up, punchline, slop.

I did not fare well in this discussion. I was lectured and patronized, and summarily dismissed.

But here’s the good news. Community lives. And in some small corners of the universe, whether it’s Harmon’s tumblr, or Reddit, or tiny art galleries in the middle of Hollywood, it matters. It matters more than a million no-name shows that made a million times more than Community ever did for Sony or NBC. It matters because it’s one of the few modern stories that dares to treat audiences like thinking, emotive organisms. It matters because it–and the creative minds behind it–understand fundamental human dilemmas, and the need for human connection for all of us–especially those of us on the margins.

As a writer, I have learned more from a distance from Dan Harmon than just about any other storyteller. I have learned that I probably shouldn’t always be an ass, but I have also learned that it’s important to fight for (y)our creative instinct. It is important to tell our stories. It is important to go to bat for them when no one else will. It is important to be so petulant about them at times, so exacting and unrelenting, that people eventually give in and allow themselves the opportunity see the beauty of someone else’s singular vision.

Love him, hate him, or have absolutely no idea who he is or have any interest in finding out, but Dan Harmon is not finished. And neither are people like him who continue to believe that there is space at the table for them in this medium largely controlled by multi-billion dollar corporations (whoops–I mean people) that just want to sell you baby formula and adult diapers.

And, the more I think about it, maybe it’s time I started watching again. Then I might actually have something educated to say.

*AndAMovie

Cheese Wars

I’m proposing this as a follow-up to filmmaker Anat Baron’s exceptional 2009 feature length documentary Beer Wars. In BW, Baron explores the vibrant-but-fledgling world of small, American craft brewers who are trying to carve out a livelihood, and you know, generally make good things, despite mounds of bureaucratic red-tape and the well-connected corporate “beer” makers (i.e., your MillerCoors, your Anheuser-BuschInBevsSterlingCooperDraperPryces) who would rather they didn’t.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Hey! Why you picking on my Budweiser Black Crowns, you hipster bully?” And you have a point; we all should be free to consume whatever suits our fancy. I’m not a Luddite, or a soda czar. In a weird way, I stand with you and your right to patronize mass-produced crap. I mean, we’ve been doing it since the turn of the Industrial Revolution, so why stop now? After all, the Industrial Revolution meant better living standards and longer lifespans and yay!

But it also conditioned us to become a nation of short-term, self-indulgent spenders willing to throw our shekels at every Model T and tract home that came our way. America is nothing if not a nation of consumers–hell, it’s our answer to nearly everything–and our capitalistic empire relies on people spending billions on bland, vanilla products they don’t need, and in many cases, aren’t good for them. And American industries, and the corporate executives who run them, know this. And they love it.

This is cheese
This is cheese

But with the rise of a new class of successful entrepreneurs who care as equally about their bottom line as they do about the quality of the product they’re making, American corporations are getting a little territorial.

So territorial, they’re coming for our cheese. And they have helpers. According to Forbes,

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

The FDA’s decision will not only harm American cheese makers, but may also bring a halt to the importation of artisan cheeses from abroad

Corporate cheese makers like Leprino and Kraft will be able to weather this regulatory storm — they don’t make cheese, they manufacture cheese.

So the FDA has decided that real cheese is dangerous, and needs to be outlawed. Fine. But they’re going about it in an illegal manner. Per the same article, agency rule books require that any change to best practices and standards be subject to a “notice and comment-rule making” process, which is supposed to work something like this:

  • The FDA says, “Whoa, you fromage-loving hippies. No more wooden boards. They’re killing our children and destroying our homes.”
  • Cheese makers are given the opportunity to provide counter evidence (i.e., they’re afforded due process)
  • The FDA takes their input into consideration, and only after deliberating issues a final verdict

    This is not cheese
    This is not cheese

But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, the FDA is ruling by fiat, and inviting a legal battle that will surely cost independent cheesemongers millions to fight–all to have the right to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Meanwhile, as Forbes points out, corporate “cheese manufactures” get to sit back, relax, munch on a Lunchable, and rake in their billions.

Man. It’s enough to make you need a stiff drink.

 

Turf luck

The rest of the world can have the NBA and NHL Finals, because I want to talk turkey (actually, that’s my other blog)–specifically soccer turkey in the form of next year’s world cup. You know: the one played on stadium sized fields, with regulation sized balls, but by humans that aren’t men (read: the ladies). The World Cup that has, for some time, been ticking off a number of highly visible players from around the globe, specifically because of host country Canada’s curiously frugal choice to stick with artificial turf instead of installing real grass.

The advantages of using grass are nearly limitless (safer for players, cool jersey stains), and yet player-advocates seem to be hollering into the middle of a wind tunnel buried somewhere in the center of Earth’s core which can only be accessed by way of Mordor. Particularly disappointing (though not surprising given its “leadership”) has been the lack of pressure from FIFA to upgrade the fields in time for 2015.turf_toe

Despite the popularity of the 2011 WWC, and the crazy addictive games of the 2012 Olympics (the Women’s final was the most-watched event in the history of NBC Sports), the 2015 WWC only attracted two bidders–the aforementioned neighbors to the north, and Zimbabwe. (To compare, the 2011 WWC had six bidders.) Perhaps Canada, who won the bid in March of 2011, thought they were getting a bargain. The 2007 World Cup proved to be significantly less monumental than the ’99 tournament, and 2003 was a bit of an organizational nightmare, as the US scrambled to replaced original host China after that whole SARS scare. But then 2011 happened, and the world watched. And 2012 happened and the world tweeted. And maybe if you’re Canada you’re thinking “We don’t have time to fix our fields any more,” or, more likely “We thought no one would care.”

Look. I get it, Canada. You want to save a few bucks. But there are lots of ways to save money without cutting corners. For example, I buy cheese in blocks instead of pre-sliced (for more info on that, check out my cheese blog).

So, here’s my pitch to FIFA: let Zimbabwe host. Sure, they were never gonna get the bid thanks to corruption allegations, but since when has FIFA been preoccupied with rules or their enforcement? If anything, the signal FIFA is sending is that you’re not legitimate until fraudulent markets decide you’re worth exploiting. Luckily, women are great at being exploited! Players could even get in on the betting. And then maybe they could buy Canada some real grass.

Lights, Camera, Liberty, the Series: Part IV

This week we’re highlighting some work from the public interest legal organization the Pacific Legal Foundation based out of Sacramento, as we continue the Lights, Camera, Liberty series.

This particular video focuses on the recent legal battles of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a family farm who harvests organic oysters, providing local, sustainable good eats for Marin County, California. Check out the short video and commentary below to learn more about the case!


Albert Im, the media content producer for PLC, discusses his creative approach to telling this story,

We wanted to show the faces behind the people who are affected [by bad farming policy].

I really wanted to show the land and the different colors of the land since the case revolves around a nursery, and essentially, farmers.  These are people who works with their hands and have a feel for the earth.  I also wanted to them in action as they did their daily work.  

I tried to personalize the story and make it more universal so that people understand that this can happen to anyone and any business.  I wanted to tell the story about one family that’s fighting the government with the help of Pacific Legal Foundation, so that others out there who might be dealing with similar issues or problems don’t have to be afraid.

Lights, Camera, Liberty, the Series: Part III

Part three of our multi-part series (see here and here) comes from The Seasteading Institute. The San Francisco-based, Peter Thiel co-founded organization is doing exciting work in developing alternative, watery ways of living on earth. Seasteading has become an increasingly popular topic of intellectual discussion in recent years, and for those of you keeping up with HBO’s Silicon Valley, it has acquired a particular cultural je ne sais quoi.

In their words…

Seasteading is such a wide and deep subject it’s very difficult to sum up for people. The creation of this video is a lesson in how many complex technologies can be summed up by focusing on shared goals.

Joe Quirk, Director of Communications, on how the project came together:

Seasteaders gathered from all over the world at our Seasteading Conference in San Francisco in 2012. Even though I was a committed seasteader, I was astounded by the number of ideas from different industries for how to create floating civilizations on the seas. Nathan Green, who was charged with creating a video to capture the essence of seasteading, couldn’t see how he was going to make a video capturing two days of presentations on technical aspects of ocean law, ocean farming, maritime engineering, algal fuel, “bluegreen technologies,” and environmental cleanup. Then I gave a speech summing up what everybody was doing, and, Nathan said, “The video should be based on that speech.”

Then a truly collaborative process began among everybody at the Institute, as we worked to feature a dozen key speakers and their goals in less than three minutes. Working together, we created something that was more concise and elegant than 25 presentations by 25 experts.  We managed to sum up an effort we thought was impossible to [to do].

Lights, Camera, Liberty, the Series: Part II

As a quick public service announcement for those of you just getting looped in, over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be posting videos submitted by participants in The Atlas Network’s “Lights, Camera, Liberty” program. Each member organization has been asked to share a short (in some cases, short-ish) video that they produced and best shows off their mission-in-action, as well as their filmmaking chops.

This week’s video, a promo clip, comes from the Manning Centre on Building Democracy, based out of Calgary.

In their own words,

Combining archival footage and historic quotes, this short clip reminds Canadians of their country’s tradition of self-reliance and free markets. 

Enjoy, and happy weekend!

Lights, Camera, Liberty: A Series

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be posting videos submitted by participants in The Atlas Network’s “Lights, Camera, Liberty” program. Each member organization has been asked to share a short (in some cases, short-ish) video that they produced and best shows off their mission-in-action, as well as their filmmaking chops.

This week’s video comes from FIRE, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia.

 

 

Here’s FIRE discussing their video submission:

The mission of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

When Chris Morbitzer and his University of Cincinnati (UC) chapter of Young Americans for Liberty sought permission to gather signatures across UC’s campus for a time-sensitive, statewide ballot initiative, their request was denied. Morbitzer was told that if he and his group were seen gathering signatures outside of the school’s tiny and restrictive “free speech zone,” campus security would be called and they could be arrested.

“I think it is absurd that they were threatening to put me in jail for exercising what is a constitutional right,” says Morbitzer in FIRE’s latest video.

Dismayed that he might not be able to gather many signatures if he was confined to a free speech zone that comprised just 0.1% of campus, Morbitzer took a bold step: He sued his university.

“Me suing the university felt a lot like David versus Goliath,” says Morbitzer, “like, I stood no chance at all because, you know, I’m just a little student.”

On far too many campuses nationwide, universities unreasonably restrict students’ expressive activities to limited areas—so-called “free speech zones.” When challenged in the court of law and the court of public opinion, these zones routinely lose.

In this video, we chronicle Morbitzer and his student group’s fight against their school’s attempts to limit their speech. In the process, we examine the problem of restrictive free speech zone policies on and off campus—policies that exile would-be speakers to far off corners of their campuses or, in some cases, place protesters behind barbed-wire fences.

Taliesin Nexus sponsors five $10,000 prizes for web series and short film pitches

I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the adage “There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch” (or TANSTAAFL, for all you acronym aficionados). Because if you’re not the one picking up the tab then, yeah, it’s FREE, so Super Size that #5! (Feel free to use the comment section to point out how flawed my logic is, while I munch on my Big & Tasty.)

money-falling-from-sky

Anyway, in the vein of things being “FREE,” the folks over at Taliesin Nexus are giving away $50,000 to be used on five winning pitches for this year’s Liberty Lab. According to TN:

“The Liberty Lab is an advanced program for those who have some filmmaking or video-making experience or training under their belt but want an opportunity to work with like-minded creatives with the guidance of seasoned professionals.

“In this program, you will have 100 days to write, shoot and edit a short film or video (between 5-30 minutes long) while receiving feedback from one of our faculty along the way at crucial stages (first draft of the script, first rough cut of the video, etc.).  And you will have a $10,000 production budget with which to work.”

This is an awesome opportunity for those of you looking to take your filmmaking to the next level, but are struggling to come up with funds to show the world what you’ve got.

Pitches must be submitted no later than May 15, so get crackin’!

[Note:  This article has been corrected from an earlier version.]

NETFLIX: When the little guy becomes The Man

It all started with a White Elephant Christmas gift exchange in 2002. Or maybe 2003. It’s really immaterial to the story because either way, Netflix was still new(ish) and novel and no one that I knew was using it, which is always a sure sign of a fledgling endeavor because I’m the opposite of an “early adopter.” (I got a smartphone right around the time your great grandmother did–which reminds me: have you heard of this new thing called quinoa?) So when my mom Godfather’d her way to a nondescript package in the middle of a pile of unmarked gifts, and discovered a check for a three month trial subscription to a service that would mail her VHSes that looked like CDs, my first thought was, “They deliver movies in the mail? In a red envelope? Oh, man–the future is adorable!”

NetflixDVD

Even better was the absence of late fees, which was probably the main selling point for my parents, who had to take out a second mortgage in 1995 to cover fines accrued when a Blockbuster copy of “Ernest Goes to Camp” went missing.

Anyway, I’ll skip over the years of household strife that emerged as an organic development when a family of 6 has to agree on anything, let alone entertainment choices.

(Strikes years 2002-2006 from the record.)

In February of 2007, Netflix announced its 1 billionth DVD delivery. “YES WE CAN!” I shouted to no one in particular, and now kick myself for not trademarking. It seemed like the adorable little engine was going to get over the hill after all. The company’s early successes were had when no one–especially Hollywood–was watching. Studios, normally suspicious of anything they can’t control, practically gave away licensing contracts to the plucky up-start. As a result, Netflix capitalized on the low cost of doing business, allowing it to slowly but surely morph into one of the most powerful entertainment outposts since Philo Farnsworth slapped together a couple of two by fours, threw an antenna on top and called it good.

Since its billionth delivery, Netflix has gone on to partner with some of the best creative voices in film and television, racking up Emmy nominations like it’s 1974 and they’re CBS. Now, in the midst of a new world order that includes Net Neutrality, Netflix is getting even savvier. Last week it was announced that the company mostly known for its online services will be partnering with regional cable companies, whereby essentially acting like a new broadcast channel. This move allows Netflix to spread its risks–and potential for rewards–across more platforms, while other companies like Comcast scramble to figure out ways to keep up.

In just a few short years, the company that got its start renting us movies through the mail has become one of the most dominant forces in the entertainment industry. But empires don’t come cheap, and on the heels of their cable announcement, the media giant also announced that starting in June, subscription rates are set to rise.

It looks like it’s time to call an emergency gift exchange. Let’s hope the check is a little bigger this time.

Internships are great–but who can afford to take one?

Never work for free.”

This is (maybe) decent advice, which, in my own personal experience, has been most proffered by writers. Particularly successful writers. Writers who can demand not just a living wage for their work, but an enviable one. But most writers–or other creatives–looking to break into Hollywood are typically not in the position to demand any sort of monetary reward, decent or otherwise. (Unless you rent out your own sound equipment + time. Those guys are the unsung geniuses of Hollywood.)

Every year, a new crop of largely untested, unproven talent moves to Los Angeles with the hopes of making an impact on the industry. And every year, many–if not most–of them, hop from one lowly or unpaid gig from the other, telling themselves that what they’re getting in experience or exposure or connections more than makes up for their mounting credit card debt or unpaid student loans. It’s an incredibly burdensome gamble–one with merits, to be sure–made by those least in a position to do so. So why do they make it in the first place?

Hope. Dreams. Desire. For source material for a future tell-all ebook…. But also…

Because the establishment (which, for the purposes of this post includes agency mailroom workers and studio execs) tells them that this is how things work, and if you’re not willing to take that risk, there are 100 other people waiting to take your job–and they have the support of big media, too.

This is by no means a new attitude. Hollywood, like Washington, D.C., has run for years on the free labor of 20-something help. But the help is starting to fight back.

It’s an interesting tug-of-war, and some execs, frightened by recent lawsuits, have already started to adjust internship policies. I recently learned that the studio I once interned for (as part of a paid program) no longer admits people into their program unless they’re receiving college credit or have received funding from a sponsoring source. While I could still intern there, others that I met through the program–among which I count some good friends–would not. They’d be iced out. I, for one, never would have accepted my internship had I not been paid. I simply could not afford to turn down other work, in order to do script coverage and research for free. Regardless of the fact that it was for a great, successful studio.

TaliesinNexusLogo

Plus, there are always opportunities to get an education in this town, and more and more, that means creating your own content and being your own boss. So I have to wonder how many other people, when faced with the choice to take a gamble on an unpaid position, ultimately miss out on what is still considered a great way to get your foot in the door.

So how do we change a clearly broken system?

Groups like Taliesin Nexus who sponsor internships, are, in my opinion, doing God’s work. They’re providing a third way that doesn’t trap people into making a professional Sophie’s Choice: my dreams, or my groceries? If you’re an executive in any sort of position to partner with programs that sponsor creatives, I urge you to consider the benefits of partnering with up and coming talent. After all, you get what you pay for.

Joss Whedon has a new movie–and it has nothing to do with Avengers

in your eyesThe fine folks over at Reason celebrated earlier today the release of a new Whedon-penned and produced feature called In Your Eyes. The film, which flew under the radar until now, had two premieres: one, at last weekend’s Tribeca Film Festival, and the other online.

If this is the future of filmmaking–i.e., awesome storytellers who plop $5 movies into our lap, and expose us to new directors, without us having to ask–then count me in.

 

Could an app be the future of publishing? A conversation with Connu Co-Founder

A new short-story publishing app is changing the way an entire industry does business

As of last count, I have 36 of apps on my Smartphone. Outside of Twitter, Yelp, and Uber, Connu is one of the most valuable. It’s been a particular life-saver during recent cross-country trips, and the audio version serves as a nice companion when I’m out for a walk.

Connu, an iOS and Android app, publishes (Monday through Friday) short stories written by up-and-coming writers who are recommended to the editors by already established writers.

connu photo main

Oh. And it pays them.

In a publishing landscape dominated by websites routinely asking writers–historically not well-known as being a financially stable lot—for free content, it is rare to have an outlet that doesn’t buy into the myth that “exposure” is an even trade for one’s work. (Probably the most recent, brazen example of this is Entertainment Weekly.)

But this is certainly not a 21st century problem. Years ago, Ernest Hemingway counseled friends who were about to launch a new literary journal thusly:

One of the most important things I believe is to get the very best work that people are doing so you do not make the mistake the Double Dealer and such magazine made of printing 2nd rate stuff by 1st rate writers. I see by your prospectus that you are paying for [manuscripts] on acceptance and think that is the absolute secret of getting the first rate stuff. It is not a question of competing with the big money advertizing magazines but of giving the artist a definite return for his work. 

First off, the Double Dealer sounds horrible. Good riddance. But secondly, it seems unfortunate that Hemingway’s advice, given almost a hundred years ago when publishing magnates still roamed the earth, is still relevant. Enter Connu—a new, digitally relevant source full of procured, purchased material. If that sounds more like a publishing company than an app, well…that’s because it is.

I recently spoke with Susannah Luthi, co-founder of Connu, who was kind enough to indulge me in a conversation about her experience as a classics major, journalist, and MFA-graduate-cum-techie who decided to schlep herself and her copies of The Aeneid to the San Francisco Bay Area in order to develop Connu. To date, Connu has received recommendations from writers such as Sam Lipsyte, Joyce Carol Oates, Aimee Bender, David Sedaris, Janet Fitch, Wells Tower, and Lauren Groff.

(more…)

Shared creative spaces

NYC’s DuArt, a post-production lab established shortly after the birth of Mickey Rooney (RIP), recently announced a new partnership with the New York Television Festival, wherein DuArt will provide NYTVF winning alums with free co-working space, and deeply discounted services (color correction, sound mixing, etc.).

Duart-logo

DuArt’s initiative is–to the best of my knowledge–one of, if not, the first co-working space endeavor of its kind for television and online content creators. NYTVF partners have been giving out development deals to writers / producers / directors for the better part of a decade now, so the added level of investment in up-and-coming talent is incredibly encouraging, especially considering that newer “channels” like Netflix and Amazon –often heralded as proof of Hollywood’s interest in unknown and emerging talent–are, in many ways, just as inaccessible as any other long-standing network. (Now would probably be the best time to point out that I am not being paid to hawk either NYTVF of DuArt.) nytvf

The idea of sharing work space is certainly not a new one, and Silicon Valley (both the show and the locale) has single-handedly made working co-ops like “incubators” a household name. DuArt’s offer is significantly different, in many ways, from an incubator, but it essentially accomplishes the same thing: it places talented, proven creatives together in the same space, and in so doing, takes a (small, but important) risk that the powers-that-be rarely do. It’s also incredibly savvy. Any successful creative that takes advantage of DuArt’s offer, will surely repay the company ten-fold down the line.

As television and film studios continue to be dismantled, expect more moves like this from non-studio entities (think: Coca Cola having an in-house film production company), as relatively unknown artists continue to do more with less–with a healthy serving of collaboration along the way.

And for those of you who know of other efforts like DuArt’s please sound off in the comments!

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Cup

Last evening, on the heels of a 2-0 victory against once-upon-a-time-rival China (what’s up, 1999?), it was announced that the head coach of the United States Women’s National Team–i.e., the face of women’s professional soccer–had been canned. An interesting move for a team that spent a considerable amount of time vetting longtime, legendary coach Pia Sundhage’s replacement, and one that, despite the late hour, whipped social media into a frenzy.

Given the tumultuous history of the USWNT in the last decade, there will be no shortage of speculation about what caused U.S. Soccer head honcho Sunil Gulati to terminate head coach Tom Sermanni (formerly famous for being the Scotsman with the least Scottish-sounding name).

sermanni300x200

The Women’s National squad fared poorly (by which I mean a 7th place finish, including a loss to Sundhage’s new squad, the Swedish national team) in the most recent Algarve Cup, a longstanding yearly tournament hosted by Portugal that the USWNT has typically dominated. But the USWNT has never been short of vocal players who ultimately get what they want, and they’re also not used to losing so much in so little a time.

With approximately 18 months to prepare for the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, U.S. Soccer is undoubtedly scrambling to find the perfect, player-approved, results-oriented coach. Or, you know, maybe Pia could start returning her messages!

 

Finale Fatale

Earlier this week, the Central Broadcasting Station’s long-running multi-cam sitcom How I Met Your Mother came to an end. Like many long-running shows, it received obituaries from a multitude of entertainment and pop-culture outlets, and most of those pieces’ sole purpose was to tell the reader if the finale worked made them happy. If it was worth 9 (NINE!) years of tuning in.

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I’ve seen maybe a week’s worth of HIMYM so I’m not here to weigh in on the show…though, in the spirit of the Internet, maybe I should just go ahead and pontificate on that of which I know nothing…but I digress.

Anyway, the reactions to the How I Met…finale were passionate and enthusiastic (either for or against), and it was fun to watch a lot of people expend so much energy on a show for which I, personally, have zero feelings toward. It’s sort of like going to a friend’s family Thanksgiving: you don’t know why Aunt Lisa isn’t talking to Grandma Joan any more, but at a certain point, you care less about the turkey and more about the tension in the room and who’s going to be the first to get drunk and spill secrets and it’s all so awesome because it has no bearing on your life except, my God, Aunt Lisa throws Manhattans back like a champ and maybe when the dust settles she’ll teach you to go and do likewise.

Which all got me thinking about why we care so much about fake people who live inside a box. From M*A*S*H* to Cheers to LOST to The Sopranos to Cosby, a large chunk of the American cultural construct relies–and has relied, for over half a century–on a collective agreement that every fall (and now “mid-season,” aka January) we will all buy into a world that is not our own. And I think we do this because stories, regardless of the medium, have a way of becoming our families of choice, rather than our families of origin. (Anyone who has ever called home and been informed by a parental figure that “24 is on. Call back tomorrow” followed by a curt click knows what I’m talking about.)

Stories have always provided mankind a way to escape into a place and a tribe that is more in line with what they would have chosen for themselves, had it been an option at birth. This is one of the many reasons that stories, in general, matter.

But back to this particular character of finales… (more…)

The Grand Budapest Hotel: A Brief Musing Using Letters of the Alphabet

If you were to ask me, gun to my head, what I think the interior of Wes Anderson’s home contains, I would answer: dioramas, a train set that could circumnavigate the globe four times, and a secret room filled with Advent calendars (and only Advent calendars). That, or completely unfurnished, Jobs-style. Just some walls and a whole bunch of broccoli. I’m sorry. What were we talking about? Oh yes. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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I first caught wind of this project months ago, while settling into a viewing of Gravity (or, as it’s sometimes known in my house, “Space…?“). Why a trailer for TGBH would run before a Bullock blockbuster is beyond me, and perhaps my memory is all wrong, but let’s just go with it. The trailer was well-received by the affluent, predominantly white crowd that evening. And let’s face it: that demographic is cake to Anderson. And this movie is like an elegant trifle you don’t want to eat because you know, deep down inside, if you partake, it will disappoint you, because there’s no way it’s as lovely inside your mouth as it is outside of it. Like how really elegant-looking wedding cakes almost always taste bland, and the kind of homely ones usually taste pretty spectacular. (Please vote in the comments section whether or not you’d like me to write a long-form article on the nuances of wedding cakes, and how they serve as a metaphor for ephemeral versus lasting beauty.)

All the favorite players make an appearance (your Wilsons, your Swintons, your Bill Murrays), and Alexandre Desplat’s score is there to jauntily scoot you along from one madcap set piece to the next. But keep in mind that TGBH is a dark comedy (whose villains don’t really show up until about an hour in), and, for the most part, depicts the isolated adventure of two unlikely–but, as always, likable–heros: a displaced lobby boy–played by newcomer Tony Revolori who already seems to understand the culture of a Wes Anderson film–and a preening, particular, and ultimately aspirational concierge (Ralph Fiennes). The film’s most redeeming quality, though, is its melancholy, which often gets lost amidst the activity, the swirling colors, and the admirable cast of cartoony characters.

Anyway, Google can generate a million reviews for you in half the time it takes to blink your eye, so I’ll spare you an in-depth assessment. Suffice to say, TGBH is really, really pretty, and it made sense when we all oooh’d and awwww’d six months ago because we were just tasting the trailer frosting. As for the actual cake…let’s just say it wasn’t (spoiler alert) a Mendl’s.

Brooklyn Boondoggle Saints

Remember how some New Yorkers got so upset about the Atlantic Yards Project, aka the Barclays Center, aka “Operation Relocate the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn Because Brooklyn is More Hip Than Jersey*,” that they decided to make a documentary about what would happen to the outer borough if the Project developers got their way?  And blah blah blah “eminent domain” / bold-faced illegal land grab / displaced persons–total snoooozfest. Because here’s what actually happened.

According to Deadspin:

In exchange for giving Forest City Ratner more than $300 million in public subsidies to build the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn (and that’s not counting additional tax breaks and below-market land), the developer promised to give back to the community, including affordable housing, and new railyards. Precisely none of that has materialized. The only tangible giveback to the community? A storage meditation room.

I honestly don’t know what Deadspin is whining about. A meditation room is the perfect place to come when you’re seeking refuge from record-shattering New York winters, or brainstorming where you and your family are going to live now that you’ve been kicked out of your home. Plus, there are only approximately 919 houses of worship in Brooklyn, so the meditation room was definitely needed.

Man, I love a happy ending. Now, will someone please get a security guard to unlock this room so I can rejoice (quietly, of course).

*As of this posting, the Brooklyn Nets are in second place in the weakest conference in the National Basketball Association. Which is still better than being in New Jersey, apparently.

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Homes used to go here. Now, more importantly, it’s where GQ has a barbershop.

Take a look, it’s in an e-book / The Midwest loves Neil Gaiman

And there’s hard data to back it up.

Scribd, aka The Netflix of books that apparently 80 million of you already know about (I thought it was an app for people who like to doodle) has released the findings of who’s reading what in America. Some of the results may shock you. More after a word from our sponsors…

Just kidding. We don’t have sponsors.

So about that list. Illinois (American Gods) and Wisconsin (Neverwhere) can’t seem to get enough of English wordsmith Gaiman, while Tennessee and Arizona are basically fraternal twins separated by half a country, with the former checking out Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and the later thumbing through the book based on the TV show based on the Twitter account, Sh*t My Dad Says. Stay classy, you two.

My personal favorite was Paulo Coelho’s allegorical novella / book most like to appeal to dreamers and/or wannabe tyrants (so I imagine–and I think The Universe might agree) The Alchemist striking a chord with Washington, D.C.’s literati. Alaska rounds out this curious sneak peak into our countrymen’s nightstands by choosing Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book. Alaska. You are hardcore. Don’t you know there are cookbooks for soups? And charred meats? And pies? Basically all hot foods. Maybe check one of those out. There are no late fees.

It really is AWESOME

Having now finally seen The Lego Movie, I can confirm that it is crazy-delightful, especially for those of us who grew up at-play in the halcyon days of the early to mid 90s.

As a general rule, I am skeptical of films built around inanimate objects (that Tamagotchi trilogy is coming…just you wait), but the creative team behind Lego clearly knew how to craft a narrative capable of tapping into the basic reason kids and adults love these Danish interlocking blocks: they rely entirely on our imagination. And they’re fun. So is this movie. Go see it.

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