Friday, September 25, 2009

To blog, or not to blog...

The question running through my head lately is, now that most people seem to be reading my Facebook updates, should I maintain this particular blog (which has been up and running since 2002!!), or start a new, improved (more focused?) one? You can see I don't update it as frequently as I should. It's partly due to lack of motivation, lack of time, and a small amount of blogger envy (or "Wow, those blogs are getting all the attention. Why isn't mine?")

Seems like when I do write, I write mainly about puppetology, music and music technologies, videogames, the evils of corporations and politics, and myself.

Dear reader, which of these do you enjoy most? Should I break this site out into specific blogs about each subject? Or do you like the haphazard mix as it is? How can I improve it?

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posted by Brian at 2:46 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 24, 2008

TED: Dave Eggers and his After-School Pirate Supply Store Writing Center


A few years ago I went to a Revenge of the Bookeaters fund-raising event for Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project, an after school writing program for kids. Dave put both a magazine and a tutoring center in one place so that kids could have one-on-one access with professional writers. What's novel about the San Francisco location is that it's not "Center for Teaching Kids Writing" or some dull name -- it's a crazy cool pirate accessory store! Having that sort of atmosphere expands kids' imaginations, and writing just becomes a means to express and dignify children's ideas. Other places have opened around the country and even Ireland, all with a nifty theme. One is time travellers accessory store, another a superhero store with a capery... I love it!

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posted by Brian at 9:00 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Michael Chabon, Obama vs. the Phobocracy

Brother Henry referred me to an essay by Michael Chabon, who wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay:
The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.
...
Fear and those who fatten on it spread vile lies about Obama's religion, his past drug use, his views on Israel and the Jews. Fear makes us see the world purely in terms of enemies and perils, and leads us to seek out the promise of leadership, however spurious it proves to be, among those who speak the language of that doomed and demeaning, that inhuman view of the world.
Clinton has not shown herself to be above this fear. She perpetuates it, leverages it and even succumbs to it. In her campaign against Obama. Her fear of the ramifications of voting against the war. Her fear of losing funding and reputation from industry lobbyists... But watch Obama speak. His focus is unity, peace, problem solving, and healing without belittling the other side, without attacking character, without misleading and spinning so characteristic of politics over the last few years.

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posted by Brian at 4:00 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, December 28, 2007

Facebook Begs For Attention


See? I'm glad it's not just me. Facebook is cool in a way, but also annoying. Facebookworms collect and share new applications (I think "toy" is a better word -- application implies you're getting something usseful done) every few hours it seems like. Come on! Nobody has time to use hundreds of these on each of their friends! Time to manage your Zombie, Vampyre, and Jedi hordes, to accumulate TV Trivia points, to build entourages, to send Eggs, stock rooms full of gifts, to poke and superpoke all your friends on a regular basis. The only one you'd have time to do is NOT fill out the Where I've Been? widget because you won't have time to go anywhere anymore.

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posted by Brian at 1:27 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 26, 2007

Writer's Strike Near My Home


Today members of the Writer's Guild of America sat down with members of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers in media silence after weeks of striking. Perhaps we will see some news within the coming days, whether talks progress or the strike continues. (The last writer's strike back in the 1980s lasted for 5 months.)

Somehow I missed the gathering and march of 4000 supporters a few blocks from my apartment in Hollywood, right in front of Graumann Chinese Theatre last Tuesday. I know two writers involved and they've been protesting every day.

At issue is a large chunk of revenue coming from the Internet and DVD sales, which is not being shared with the writers at all. Being a Hollywood writer is generally not a glamorous or stable job. Shows and pilots come and go, canceled willy-nilly by trigger happy bottom-line focused executives. Certainly when that rare show becomes a hit, there is some good money involved. But the average writer's cut is not up there with the actors or those putting up the financial risk. It's a shame that it has taken a strike for the producers to listen and perhaps give writer's a cut of what money does come from Internet advertising and iTunes downloads (which despite all the free material out there, that sum is many millions).

Meanwhile, I heard on NPR that production companies producing (so-called) Reality TV shows are having a different problem: too much work. Yep, they're having to work 24/7 to fulfill the demand created by the void of new programming. But I can only stand so many talent shows, home redecoration shows, chef competitions and shows without writing. One has to escape to HBO and Comedy Central to find the decent writing these days, now that most of the once independent cable channels have been devoured by conglomerate-owned networks and made just like them. The Simpsons continues on, The Office thrives, but for the most part it's a wasteland out there anyway at the moment.

Ahh, but that's why videogames are so popular. Nothing on TV? Let's play Guitar Hero III.

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posted by Brian at 11:41 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, October 15, 2007

Creativity: A Curriculum

I was combing through old VHS tapes this weekend, recording any useful tidbits of footage into my Mac. One that I stumbled across was a Steven Sondheim episode of Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo (back when they were actually an Arts channel and not just another reality-show landscape).

Sondheim talked about how his mentor Oscar Hammerstein (Showboat, Oklahoma) had read his very first musical at age 15 and told him "Are you sure you want me to critique this as if I didn't know you?" and when Steven nodded, he said "Well in that case it's the worst thing I've ever read." Ouch. But then Oscar laid out a curriculum for him, the gist of which I think could apply to any craft or artform you're trying to get better at:
  1. Write a musical version of a play you like
  2. Write musical of a play that you like but find flawed
  3. Write a musical adapted from a work of prose fiction
  4. Write an original musical

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posted by Brian at 4:34 PM 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Two degrees away from Bryan Singer?

This has been the month of weird connections.

Back in 1995 or so when I was working at Lamb & Company (a defunct animation house in Minnesota), I got an email from a guy named Michael Dougherty, then a film student at NYU, who if my memory serves me right, had seen one of my posts to alt.tv.muppets newsgroup. He was interning and called me about getting a subscription of Post magazine. Anyway, we corresponded between 1995 & 1997, and perhaps a little in 2000. I still have the emails!

He went on to work for Nickelodeon, did some short films that were in Spike & Mike's Animation Festival. A few years ago I checked on his website, to see that he'd gotten into making more illustrations and making software for Palm pilots.

Flash forward to today, when I'm web-surfing, randomly. I remembered his name and decided to search for him.

Holy shit! He was the Michael Dougherty who co-wrote X-Men 2 with Bryan Singer and others. Now he's got an agent, and gigs to write the next Superman movie as well as Ender's Game.

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posted by Brian at 8:11 PM 0 comments links to this post