Junior Potter graduates
Bellona Times
. . . Topics . . .   . . . Annals/Logs . . .
Search for word or phrase:
Responses welcomed
. . . 2002-07-06

Admission Statement

Alongside calamondin, Geegaw, and (soon) metascene, this venture enters its fourth year.

Over the past twelve months, the trends here have been toward fewer gags, longer (often serialized) texts, more political and philosophical pomposity, more inter-weblog discussion, and more online editions of rare print material. Without rigorous supression, they'll probably continue. An anonymous reader recently asked:

How long does it take to hold a dwarf bunny?
And I aim to find out.

Speaking of anniversaries, I just today realized that Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren is now twenty-seven years old.

  Chester Brown's Late Night Snack
Holding a dwarf bunny

. . . 2002-07-13

The Underground Press Cartel

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY   On the sidewalk outside some theater a while back, Juliet and I found a leftover from the last Syco Fantic Int'l Film Festival: an expensively produced perfect-bound 48-page (plus translucent inset sheet) booklet promoting CQ, a "quality" studio film written and directed by some guy whose previous experience seems to have been as a second unit director on Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Virgin Suicides.

Although probably inspired by having seen Irma Vep on DVD, the film presents itself as a we-kid-because-we-love tribute to those fab 1960s Europop productions that were accomplished at about, what, one-tenth the budget?

The swag's cover informs us that EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY.

Following groovalicious Jean-Luc Godard's lead, let's see what story is told by the swag:

1. Underground Press Cartel
2. Dolby Gital
3. Allrights Reserved
My old pal Matt disapproves of my obsession with the Coppolas. After all, they haven't gone out of their way to do me any harm personally, and it's papa's right to throw his money at whatever he wants (minus taxes, please), and besides, Roman was a wealthy and enthusiastic and godawful poker player, which helped finance Matt's way through college.

I'm happy about that last one anyway. But, when attacked, obsessive resentment will, to save itself, even go so far as to try to find rational reasons.

There's this standard way of putting down self-publishing (and non-publishing) as easy-ride self-indulgence, and this standard way of assuming that anything that gets officially stamped as high art has been inspected for quality. Whereas even a glancing acquaintance with the actual workings of cultural institutions discloses vanity publishing, nepotism, and self-aggrandizement, albeit on a larger scale. We get doctorates by supporting our advisor's research; we get good reviews by giving good reviews; we get publicity by having a name. And then we're supposed to forget everything we learned about our meat suppliers while we're dishing out the sausage.

This after-the-fact idealism reminds me of the fights I used to get into back when affirmative action was still something to fight for, as opposed to reminiscing about. "Everyone should get hired strictly on the basis of merit." Like anyone ever has been.

Yeah, I know: Grow up.

But see, that's exactly where I get all prissy-lipped. I don't mind a rich guy buying lights to put his name in (after taxes), and I can understand how rich kids are naturally better set up to do things that don't bring in any income but are highly regarded and get lots of life-style propaganda because they don't bring in any income. ("For few people are really interested in anyone else's description of himself except as it makes them feel upper-class." - Laura Riding)

I just don't see why, on top of all that, I should be the one who has to grow up.

+ + +

Mondo 2002

Despite my long-time skepticism about attributing revolutionary values to, first, mind-blowin' multimedia and, later, wild world-wide webbin', UFO Breakfast's comparisons to 18th century newspapers and 18th century letters have me thinking about eventual 18th century outcomes. (It helps that UFO Breakfast's proprietor is no techno-utopian either.)

The medium's eventual artistic usefulness, on the other hand, I never had doubts about. Because all an avant-garde really requires is a lack of editorial control. (And people to do the work.)

. . . 2002-07-16

Let no man write my epitaph

'Cause I already have two really good ones:

Anyway, last night I realized that when someone we admire dies, we should make sure that any tribute we compose is as dull and trite as possible, so they don't feel so bad about having to miss it. Even if they're too polite to protest, it must come off step-on-the-corns rude to write something moving and insightful and celebratory too late, like remembering a bass player with a moment of silence.

. . . 2002-07-17

Movie Comment: Eric Rohmer: With Supporting Evidence

"Every possible decision entails some sacrifice, paradox or irony. But irony doesn't subvert morality; morality is about choosing the lesser of two ironies."
      -- Raymond Durgnat on Eric Rohmer
Godard was louder and funnier, but the best criticism in Cahiers du cinéma was written by Eric Rohmer, and it used to seem sad to me that he didn't, like Godard, keep it going as an occasional thing.

One of the rewards of sitting through this two-part TV interview-with-dumbass-arty-touches is that instead of sad it now seems inevitable, and louder, and funnier. Unlike Godard's too-cool-for-school improvs, Rohmer's criticism was labored over; it was never "occasional" prose. Even if it had been, there's no room for any occasion outside movie-making in Rohmer's post-Cahiers life: every strand, scrap, and moment of his existence is replete with movie-making, and the tools and souvenirs of movie-making threaten to bury him as we watch, cassettes, notebooks, videos, photos, lights, filters (colored tracing paper), reflectors (made in 1959 from tin foil and a portfolio), projectors, photos, and props piling on the desk like from Harpo's inexhaustible trench coat....

I've always been against destruction. I think that in order to build, we mustn't destroy.

In still photos, Rohmer always looks dignified and aristocratic. In action, he's an enthusiastic (if still very polite) goofball, fondly mimicked by Jean-Louis Trintignant in My Night at Maud's and by Hugues Quester in Tale of Springtime, more like a monomaniacal Roland Young than like cold-blue-blooded Antonioni.

Maybe most like Joseph H. Lewis: happy as a pig in low-budget slops.

I believe more and more what I wrote in my last article, that is, that cinema has more to fear from its own clichés than from those of the other arts. Right now, I despise, I hate, cinephile madness, cinephile culture. In "Le Celluloid et le marbre" I said that it was very good to be a pure cinephile, to have no culture, to be cultivated only by the cinema. Unfortunately, it has happened: There now are people whose culture is limited to the world of film, who think only through film, and when they make films, their films contain beings who exist only through film, whether the reminiscence of old films or the people in the profession. The number of short films by novices who in one way or another show only filmmakers is terrifying! I think that there are other things in the world besides film and, conversely, that film feeds on things that exist outside it. I would even say that film is the art that can feed on itself the least. It is certainly less dangerous for the other arts.

If movies are your entire life, life can't enter your movies except through the knotholes and the rust-streaking leaks and the breezy gaps between the amateurish joins. Hollywood can pay to seal itself in; Rohmer can't, and that's exactly what he enjoys about the process.

So nice to think that this is what can happen to a fine analytical critic. Loving the pre-decadent days of cinema, Rohmer, almost uniquely, understands and follows its percepts, that is, its precepts -- that is, its restrictions, which is to say its freedoms. As the man says, it's better to have fifty films made by crews of ten than to have one film made by a crew of five hundred. You can't have a healthy art form without excess production.

It is also because that when you see a "movie" being shot in the streets you usually see 5 production trucks, and an army of assistants running around or standing around, and bright lamps in the middle of a sunny day, and traffic being blocked off, etc etc etc. So nobody takes notice of a professor-looking-type with his young women holding small cameras/equipment (and Pascal, big burley guy who looks like an eternal student), even if some of Rendezvous in Paris was actually shot with Diane Baratier (the camerawoman) sitting in a wheelchair (our idea of a dolly) with Rohmer pushing it.

Rohmer not only takes inspiration around him but is deeply affected by the lives of his immediate entourage. It is not by accident that Winter's Tale told the story of a young woman raising a child single-handedly while sorting out her sentimental webs, it was around that time that Rohmer's immediate entourage turned from young carefree girls into young women freshly divorced or separated with a young child.

Taking the responsibility of adaptation as seriously as any other responsibility, Rohmer didn't go through the same improvisational process with the three movies he's based on existing texts. Instead, as if to fill up any time gained by starting with a finished script, all three laboriously emphasized technical demands and formal experimentation -- and stumbled (sometimes with a triumphant lurching leap) over anti-realistic (or stiff, or inappropriate) acting, or even (in the latest, anyway) horrendous structural problems in the script.

Rohmer is a great moviemaker, and so his experiments are interesting. But one reason he's a great moviemaker is that his rote way of making movies works reliably.

His latest 100-super-movie-au-maximum, Tale of Springtime, I figured was planned from the start as a wiser and more gynocentric answer to My Night at Maud's. It turns out the philosophical discussions that connect the two films were only constructed after long negotiations with the actress who had been cast as the lead. She was a philosophy scholar, the sketchy teacher of Rohmer's original plan was, at her request, realized as a philo prof, and the bare branch blossomed from there.

That's the routine that works, like the seasons. Rohmer quietly worries for decades at vague ideas, suspending their resolution until they can opportunistically latch onto the particulars of setting and collaborator. He films in vacation spots because that's where his friends' empty houses are; he picks amateur actors because they're unyielding enough to propagate story and grateful enough to do it again and because he can afford them; his shots are dictated by his cheap bundle of equipment, and he loves it like a muse. New life is born of abundant wish and a lack of choice.

. . . 2002-07-19

Open for Branding
  Up to 3 initials
(via an in-flight shopping catalog)

. . . 2002-07-22

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are

"That's The Bag I'm In" by the Fabs

Every morning when I wake up
I burn my fingers on the coffee pot.
My toast is cold and my orange juice hot.
I could start over but I'd really rather not
'Cause it would only happen over again.

Well, yeah!
Well, that's the bag I'm in.
That's the bag, that's the bag, that's the bag I'm in.
That's the bag, baby!
That's the bag I'm in.
Well, that's the bag I'm in.

I never met a girl I thought could be my friend.
The only money I got is Chinese yen.
They'll probably drop the bomb the day my ship comes in.
I want a steady girl who could be tall and thin.

Well, that's the bag I'm in.
Well, that's the bag I'm in.
Well, that's the bag I'm in.

  "Fickle Heart" by Johnny Garfield

Every heart is a fickle heart,
No matter what the good folks say.
But I'd rather love a fickle heart
And make every day a rainy day.

Every dream is just make believe
Of the things you want every day,
But I'd rather dream just little dreams
Than let your love fade away.

When I hear your call,
Pitter pat on my door,
The world becomes alive.
You always return
the love that I yearn.
What else can I ask?
Nothing more.

Every heart is a fickle heart,
No matter what the good folks say.
But I'm so glad of the love you give
With your fickle heart every day.

To further cite Dorothy Wordsworth's much cited formula, poetry takes its origin from dining digested in tranquility.

And nothing more reliably feeds pop lyricism -- pop being, as Leonard Bernstein and Rod McKuen assured us, the poetry of our time (that is, too early in the morning) -- than breakfast, whether the breakfast be good or bad.

I love breakfast songs, and bummers, and my favorite bummer breakfast song used to be Neil Young's "Last Dance": "The coffee's hot and the orange juice is cold... cold... cold."

But the Fabs bum worse. And they deserve to.

And they know it! And they don't care!

'Cause they want it that way! No compromise! No learning! Your fingers get burnt, you just push 'em right down home on the range again! Fuck learning! We chose to do this and we will keep on doing it!

You know, like when people quit publishing on the web because it's so disgusting to pay attention to hit counts and to newspaper stories and self-promoting programmers and all those things that I guess must be inherent to publishing on the web. Or like asshole yuppie men complaining about how whiny and airheaded and golddigging all attractive women are, or like asshole yuppie women complaining about how sleazy and manipulative and moneygrubbing all attractive men are. God forbid you should ask them to define "attractive."

I especially like how the unmodulating 1-2-1-2 garage chords and thump-thump beat emphasize that "it would only happen again."

I understand how legal partnerships can be useful when managing expensive property like houses or children or senatorial seats. But I never got how marriage proves emotional commitment.

I mean, why would the government be interested in your emotional commitments, and why would you want them to be? You show an emotional commitment (usually quite explicitly enough to embarrass your friends) by staying emotionally committed. Making a public oath of emotional commitment seems as nuts as swearing that y'all'll nevah be hungreh agehn. It's not up to you. At most, it's inviting disgrace; at best, it's unnecessary.

Some folks, not to name names, have accused me of cynicism on this score. Not so! I think emotional commitment is entirely possible. And nice! But I haven't noticed oaths helping it along. People just like to make oaths.

Johnny "Everybody Dies" Garfield, on the other hand, he would seem really cynical.

Kind of.

If it wasn't for this... his... triumph.

Garfield belts the song out like a puffy heldentenor: it's heroic how heroic he feels. It's that Nietzschean clasping of tragic fate, but closer than usual because he's really not complaining. He liiiiikes it. What tightens the ties that bind, cutting voluptuously into his flesh, is an ecstatic faith in betrayal.

May blessings rain and sizzle upon him and his, pitter pat, acidly and basely.

. . . 2002-07-25

Vision Statement
  What could be more appropriate

Twenty years ago I encountered Academia and ran away squealing like a libertarian.

But now I return.

What brought me back? One goal. One goal I have in mind. One monochromatic battle of darkness against light. I hate that stupid fight.

For I will never rest until an end's been put to high-resolution bitmaps and our cultural heritage has been saved by eight-color grayscale GIFs (or until I reach early retirement, whichever comes first). For every effin' U. teaches its baggy-jeaned tots and cane-wielding toddlers that strict two-color black-&-white is how digital archiving must be done, thus destroying all they digitally archive, and the U.s do more digital archiving than anyone, for they have much to destroy.

I don't know how this horrible delusion started. Maybe it's like some remnant of IBM punchcard chic. Long-term academic toiler Juliet Clark suggests it's because those B&W grislies at least reproduce predictably on laser printers. It might also be from numbing habituation to microfiche, or from world-is-language overdependence on OCR software since OCR software works off monochrome.

But open your eyes, people! And, once opened, roll them down the curvy lines and plump gradations, and past the obvious paper blotches, forgiving the poor pulped wood for its imperfections as it forgives ours, and back again. OCR software is even dumber than we are! And infinitely-high-contrast is why! Contextualized dark gray that doesn't fade into light gray on the outside and black on the inside is ignorable, and uncalloused vision is smart enough to know it. Dark gray mechanically transformed into black is noise, and black that shatters directly into white also approaches noise.

This is a disgrace, well-meant and hard-labored-over. This (via Portage) purportedly shows microfilm vs. paper, but (being merely two different digitalized graphics displayed on your monitor) actually shows bitmap vs. JPEG. Don't blindly follow the one-eyed king! Compare and decontrast. As the poet sang:

For what is a scan?
What has it got?
If not colors
Then it has dots.

+ + +

Addendum: There Is No Easy Way Down

Writing mostly at 5 AM nowadays, I fear for my never robust coherency.

So, just in case Mun-deii's Ba-lues weren't B&W enough to follow:

Anyone who gives up on web publishing because they've been deeply hurt by the existence of lying newspapers, moronic trends, bullheaded misintrepretations, blanket disregard, and bullying cliques had best never venture their tender skins into the waters of book publishing.

Because this is as easy as it gets.

Not to say that I don't wish it were easier.

. . . 2002-07-30

Pierce the bag  
Resent, reopened

My latest Coppola tantrum touched a nation's open heart, without washing first. Anita:

I liked CQ at SIFF -- it's not the same as Sofia Coppola acting.
Yeah, by my own critical principles, my dislike is unprincipled, which is probably why it bothers me enough to write about. What's offensive is the way the world works with them; their work merely attempts (and can afford to achieve) professionalism. The Coppola daughter's acting stands out because it depends on herself; her movie fits in because it depends on hiring other people.

The Great Anonymous grunts:

Huh. http://www.mrcranky.com/movies/cq.html viz. Z Herbert, 'What Mr Cogito Thinks About Hell'
And salivates:
Good White Bread
And adds:
Eh, I think I left a hyphen out of there
Joe Foster concurs:
re: CQ/coppolas you're fucking right. "underground" my ass. When there are so many things happening and some of value, things happening for nothing, no gain, no fame, no "qualifications" or "sanction" so to speak, then I say that the appropriation of the (natural if flawed) romanticisation of said things by peops w/sanction$connect as 'underground' or 'rebellious' is pretty much like a mountain dew commercial. Meat dew? "No time to eat? Drink your meat! - Do the Dew!" oh it's extreme, it's in MY face, at least.
From a slightly related 3.7.02 scoop of Foster's Melting Object:

I forgot to mention that I played with the Quixotic Trio just before leaving PDX. Also present were Control R Workshop, who now seem like old friends. Unfortunately Control R's drummer had quit to join a rock band. We all did mixed duos and trios all night, cappng the evening with short sets by each group. My duet with Frank (lastname?) the drummer of the QT was a blast. He's an interesting player who will benefit from touring more and meeting more players. The crabby, petulant JP Jenkins was not there, claiming "if there's not going to be an audience, what's the point of playing?" (an unbelievably bankrupt sentiment, if you ask me, and unbecoming a player of his caliber and commitment level - not to mention the fact that we *did* have a GREAT audience that night!).

And from a fairly unrelated (unlike, say, Roman Coppola) email from David Auerbach:

I went to a local improv show this weekend and saw 2/3 of the 12-strong crowd leave after the first set, and I believe I was the only person left who didn't know the performer. It left me with the question of why it's cool to listen to music no one else likes, but not to play music no one else likes.

+ + +


Juliet Clark corrects my latest attempt at tech cred:

Actually, I wouldn't call "predictable results on a laser printer" a reason; it just happens to be the most common excuse I've heard. In reality the insistence on huge bitmaps as "archival" files probably has more to do with the reason why certain academics are still trying to deconstruct Madonna: because they heard a decade or more ago that it was the thing to do, and haven't been listening since.
Certainly, it's hard to believe that all ugly digital archives have laser printers as their principal audience, and certainly, any really cool academic will be trying to deconstruct Buffy instead.

But a rewarding exchange with pierre-martin's infinitely patient Olaf Simons has taught me a bit (I don't often make jokes!) more tolerance. Simons scans for paper publication, and therefore has a big old bitpile of bitmaps available. Once they're made, he generously attempts to repurpose them for the web -- but paper, in his case, is paramount. And, unfortunately, even though shrinking a 600dpi bitmapped image to computer monitor size will look better in grayscale, it'll never look quite as good as shrinking an originally grayscale image would.

I also didn't account for pierre-marteau's use of another mostly-academic technique: by setting image tags to widths such as "50%," the site relies on the web browser to dynamically resize graphics to different resolutions and window sizes. So, in fact, the bitmapped pierre-martin image I linked to is -- if saved to a local file and then viewed at its original size -- much better looking than I thought it was.

One benefit of this technique is that it saves on labor. Another is that the web pages will print out nicely on a laser printer. There are some problems, though:

Given enough time (an unlikely scenario, as I'm all too aware), here's what seems ideal:
  1. Original scans should never be done as bitmaps. With color or grayscale, it's much easier to figure out what's interesting source material and what are stains or dust or scanning errors, making it easier to eliminate such distractions before reducing the image size. (Noise isn't exactly discarded by compression; instead, noise coarsens the end results.) Also, grayscale better preserves curves and true relations between edges.

  2. Graphics intended as webpage illustrations should be color or grayscale and statically sized. It often happens that I want to provide an extremely detailed look at a graphic as its own semi-independent artifact, and also want to include something more reasonably sized (both in dimensions and in download filesize) in a page's layout. In such circumstances, I usually hand-craft two different graphics files for the two different contexts. The smaller layout-fitting illustration usually takes much more work -- depending on the source material, I may shrink the entire graphic to a thumbnail or I may have to blow up a detail instead. I then link from the embedded graphic to the standalone one.

  3. If one wants to support laser-printing "viewers" as well, use the old commercial-site trick of a "Print View" link that, instead of eliminating ads and page breaks, swaps in 300dpi or 600dpi bitmap graphics.
Juliet tells me that she's seen some academic archives that managed all these suggestions. I look forward to it myself.

+ + +

Olaf Simons blows the whiftle:

One little thing caught my eye when I looked at your headline-gif. It ſays "Ray Daviſ, Editor and Publiſher" - and the ſ in Daviſ and Publiſher is the ſame long ſ. I might be a bit touchy with this, yet I was careful to give all quotes in my book with the correct eſſes - whether long or regular. (I manipulated my old download HP-ſoftfonts to produce the authentic long ſ wherever needed even with my old dos-word...). Now there are ſtrict rules when to uſe which. At the end of a word it is the regular one (alſo, curiouſly, in "ask"). The ſtricteſt rule is that even compounds like busſtop obſerve the regular ſmall s at the end of the integrated word - it would then be bus with regular s and ſtop with long ſ - yet many Engliſh printers loſt that feeling. If a word ends with two eſſes - like sickneſs you will always have firſt the long ſ and then the regular one. The printer can draw both together and produce the ß - which might be loſt in this e-mail (we Germans ſtill have that little thing).

One often ſees the overcompenſation of people uſing the long ſ as a regular ſmall s at all places to get this feeling of the old text - yet no old text will ever offer a long ſ at the end of a word - hence Davis ſhould end with a regular s.


Get Production on the phone!

Age of Revolution or no Age of Revolution, heads are going to roll!

. . . before . . .. . . after . . .

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2002 Ray Davis.