Monthly Archives: September 2002

I like the girls with the boom

9/20/02

I’ve always agreed with David Byrne’s quote about lyrics: they’re a trick to get you to listen to a song longer than you normally would. Most song lyrics are reprehensible to me, some are vaguely unnoticeable, and only a tiny fraction of them are brilliant. I realize I’m in the minority on this one, as most people find a great deal of meaning in their favorite songs, but to me, lyrics fall under the following categories:

– badly-forced rhyme (most boy bands, No Doubt, Britney, Pink, etc.)

– incomprehensible and pretentious (Alanis Morrissette, some Fiona Apple, etc.)

– nihilistic bullshit (Bush, Creed, Matchbox 20, and all college moaning rock)

– lame aphorisms ending up as high school yearbook quotes (Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, the Dead, Phish, Widespread, etc.)

I mean, give me the indiscernible vocals of the Cocteau Twins, the Sea & Cake, Stereolab and early R.E.M. any day of the week – at least those guys understood that vocals were meant to be another instrument, not a bullhorn for whatever dime-store epiphany the lead singer happened to have during fellatio the night before. I loathe country music, but at least they understand the ludicrousness of their lyrics; someone in Murfreesboro, Tennessee thinks “Drop-Kick Me Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life” and then writes a song around it. There’s only three or four rap bands I can stand (Outkast, Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul

9/19/02 Today’s blog is cancelled

9/19/02

Today’s blog is cancelled due to a blinding migraine.

But before I go, I just need to ask this: why do companies treat their workers so fucking badly? I know it’s a big clich to whine about the plight of the American employee (not that I am one anymore), but in what part of business school do they teach that being an asshole makes you more money? Is there some graph with a parabolic curve that shows how mean-spirited you can be per dollar?

I ask this because one of my friends (who shall remain Google search-less, but I’ll call him Jeremy) recently survived a merger, wherein his company was bought by a larger company, and he was one of the few that kept his job. Now, anyone who has been through mergers like this can tell you that being the “bought company” almost always spells doom, even if not right away. Jeremy clung on and accepted a new position at the newly-minted supercompany, but only if he agreed to lose all his seniority and thus his vacation days.

Now, I have to ask how big a fucking deal is it for him to have a few days off? In what sense is the company financially impacted when Jeremy takes a couple of god damn days to drive to Palm Springs and get a mud massage? I’d say it was beyond negligible, perhaps even an infinitesimal, cosmologically small fraction of money lost to the company

9/18/02 I don’t know how

9/18/02

I don’t know how many of you out there have tried to add music to a movie, but it ain’t as simple as throwing in a couple of rock tunes and seeing what happens. In essence, it’s turning out to be one of the most challenging things we’ve done, and that includes almost getting struck by lightning in the real Pink House yard (as well as putting my fist through a Mexican restaurant soap dispenser and lacerating my wrist I forgot about that one).

Anyway, a fine line separates a great scene with a great score from a great scene made utterly unwatchable by a cheesy music cue. You can see bad music cues all the time just by turning on Cinemax after 1am or so all those straight-to-video erotic thrillers starring Shannon Tweed have god-awful synth moments covering up lame expository shots.

You need to keep the cues short and snappy, but do too much of this, and you get the bass-zapping goofiness of “Seinfeld.” Or even worse, those stupid clarinet riffs from “Cheers.” And by all means, avoid songs with words unless you plan to make some larger point, something I’ve never seen a movie do successfully save for the In Your Eyes scene from Say Anything. Frustratingly, it’s easy to grow weary of a song or orchestral riff that goes on too long in the background, but if you change it up too often, your movie feels emotionally messy. You could try to do without music entirely, but then your 85-minute comedy will seem like a 4-hour documentary on Bulgarian shepherds.

I was told many years ago that audiences will forgive almost anything visual, but the true mark of a student film disaster is bad sound. We were very careful with sound during the Pink House shoot, but now that clean livin’ has caught up with us: the party sequences seem to happen inside a vacuum. It’s fascinating how even the slightest tweaks of ambient noise can supercharge a scene it definitely makes one more aware of noise in real life. Every time you rustle your shirt as you turn in your seat, every time you lay your hand to rest on the table: these things make noise, and they’re generally not caught by the microphone during a movie. You have to add all that shit in later, and believe me, it’s tedious.

Thankfully, today was about actual songs. I decided long ago to be pretty good at a shitload of musical instruments rather than be great at any one, and it’s a decision that has paid off in the studio and at parties (my piano version of “Someone to Watch Over Me” is definitely B-minus, but then again, you get it for free). Today I laid down guitar, drum, piano, bass and violin tracks that can act as scene segues, or even as a character’s identity (for instance, we’re thinking an evil solo violin will accompany Heather Matarazzo whenever her antagonist Charlotte is onscreen). It can be a stop-gap measure before my mom writes a real score, something that can’t happen before our Sundance submission deadline on Oct. 2. This 11th-hour push also forced me to get an optical cable that runs from the digital 8-track recorder through the Edirol UA-30 and straight into the iMac through USB, which is pretty sexy for closet dorked-out music spastics like me. I know I’m late to the optical cable party, but how cool is that thing? There’s actual red light coming out the end of it!

my cramped studio

9/17/02 When my brother Sean

9/17/02

When my brother Sean called me today, I was at the Whole Foods market on the corner of 24th and 7th Ave, juggling two giant cartons of organic lactose-free milk and a good-for-you coffee muffin. I had to sit down in the frozen foods section because he had an anxiety attack at the airport, and I realized that my myriad freak-outs regarding flying have rendered me useless to help in such situations. Sean’s experience today is similar to my airplane troubles; both of us just started getting zorked out after a bunch of really bad flights. He had a cross-country jaunt two weeks ago that was apparently 2 1/2 hours of being put in a paint shaker even the flight attendants strapped themselves down for the better part of a thousand miles.

Sean asked me a question I’ve been asking myself all year: why are we capable of developing such chronic anxieties at a time in our lives when we should be mellowing out? You’d think that a lifetime of three decades, stretched thin by the friction of experience, would give us the ammunition to care less about the things we can’t control. God knows or should I say the Buddha knows

9/16/02 Finally back in my

9/16/02

Finally back in my own digs here in beautiful Brooklyn, with my own computer and all the amenities of my cave. It’s just me and the Chopes tonight, as Tessa is up in rural Massachusetts filming a documentary on Erin McKeown, leaving me to procure every last bit of music for the temporary Pink House soundtrack, order sushi and walk around without a shirt. I wish I found wife-beater shirts comfortable, but there’s just something about them that’s totally stinky to me. I’m not a big fan of men’s underarm hair (or their toes either, but that’s another story) – or it might be the Mormon “garment” thing as well. If you don’t know what that means, have a Mormon tell you (except it’ll mean being on their mailing list until the year 3057).

This trip to Chapel Hill was a good one, the sort of perfect distillation of the NC experience that happens every third trip or so. Several images come to mind, but I’ll just post a smattering so you get the idea.

click on the images below for a bigger version

left: Natane Boudreau practices lines while we frame her in the monitor she nailed the hardest joke in the movie a few seconds later

right: a shadowy Tessa waits for the horse and buggy to arrive for our 1920s shot, while the sun (and our hopes) plunge into the horizon

left: the beautiful Liz Mann done up in 1929 best

right: Scotty and me post-football game, wandering past UNC’s Bell Tower shrouded in a midnight mist

9/15/02 Ever fascinated with this

9/15/02

Ever fascinated with this country’s malls, I decided to drag Scotty along to the Triangle area’s most recent monstrosity, the Southpoint Mall. Or it might be “Southpointe” – it’s impossible to tell with the New South’s penchance for ludicrous anglophile apartment names. One more shithole called “Thrushcross Grange” or “King Henry’s Creek” and I’d just about blow a gasket. The New South is sterile and ugly, what with its boxy, glassy downtowns and its mind-numbing urban sprawl, all coaxed together with cubic tons of red cedar mulch and sad, symmetric saplings held down with guy wire. North Raleigh is the most soulless place you could ever go; it takes about three gallons of fossil fuel to wander anywhere interesting (public transportation is non-existent, and they clear-cut the old forests for car dealerships and “Chi-Chi’s”).

Thankfully, Southpoint(e) Mall was a bit of a surprise. It’s still the same mall ingredients found all over this great country of ours (Spencer Gifts, Bath and Body Works, Foot Locker, and a bad Food Court) but they actually did their homework architecturally. Not only is the structure largely brick, but also reminiscent of old downtown Durham with the tapered smokestacks of the ancient tobacco warehouses. And they really got me with once nice touch: all over the building are pref-fab “ghost ads” touting products and businesses that no longer exist. I’m a huge fan of the genre even though these are fake. I’d post pictures, but of course, I’m stuck on another computer with nary a bit of access to my stuff!

After watching the compelling indie The Good Girl, we met Ann Humphreys at the Wine Bar to exchange tales of the last year or so. We reckoned that our lives would have been much better if only she and I had decided to live in the same town circa 1997-2000, instead of her being miserable in San Fran, and me being suicidal in LA. But here we are anyway, both in pretty good places. I’d love to have her up in New York, but she has carved out a nice life for herself here in North Carolina, with a support group of friends, great yoga and a cool job. I had her on one issue, however: the only people smart enough to deserve her live in the city that never sleeps.

9/14/02 Here I am in

9/14/02

Here I am in Scott Bullock’s house in Durham, NC, and find myself in a technological quandary. Scott jettisoned his landline phone service in favor of a wireless lifestyle; however, since my iBook is apparently a squeamish little bunny rabbit, it won’t hook up to his high-speed ethernet. Which puts me on his ancient Celebris 6200 typing in the blog without access to any of the cool pictures we took today of the various goings-on. I sometimes wonder about those of you reading this thing with a dial-up account; I hope my relentlessly self-involved picture-posting doesn’t bum y’all out unduly.

The rest of the Pink House crew left today, leaving only me (a Chapel Hill orphan) and Liz Mann (a longtime Heel born and bred) to navigate our way through some of the heaviest downpours I’ve seen since the last time we tried to make a movie. Thank god we had wrapped shooting by yesterday or else we’d be back in the same boat, Noah-style and shit. The rain provoked a 3.5 hour nap on my part (which is probably why I’m up and on crack here in the middle of the night), before making the adventurous trek to Kenan Stadium to watch my beloved Heels get their asses handed to them by the University of Texas, coached by our own turncoat leader, Mack Brown. It was good to get back inside the stadium to see the sea of baby blue, and I’m so used to watching our football team lose that it wasn’t even all that bittersweet.

I do have to say this again, though: today’s sophomores are way fatter and wear way less clothes than they did back in 1990. It makes for a Ruebenesque sluttiness that is half tragic and half sexy. I’d be interested to know if eating disorders are on the way down, since everyone seems so happy showing their bulging love handles, but knowing this country, they’re all probably fat, slutty and STILL barfing.

9/13/02 I have to say,

9/13/02

I have to say, today was damn near a perfect day, marred only by the absence of my beloved Tessa. In many respects, it was the perfect representation of the Chapel Hill lifestyle: we slept late, ate Mama Dips for lunch, went to Schoolkids to buy records, slacked at home watching a DVD, went to Pepper’s for dinner, then Henderson Street for drinks, then to a party in Chatham County to top off the evening. One forgets the simple pleasures here, and it was very nice, even if it’s the kind of life I have no interest in living again.

It felt incumbent on me to provide a good day for the crew Kim and Emily had never been to Chapel Hill before, and Rick’s only experience was last year’s nightmarish month of hellish Pink House production, so we even went to Surplus Sid’s to buy outlandish nightwear. I fancied a blue Swiss Army coat, but Rick actually bought a red-and-white barbershop quartet sport coat that was a hit with the crowds downtown.

Pepper’s Pizza was its usual zoo, complete with vaguely hardened-yet-sensitive rock chick waitresses, and the mercurial Moses, who looked happy to see me and then bitched at me in front of the restaurant. One thing was different: the art on the walls – usually moronic black-and-white photographs trying unsuccessfully to give the joint a classy ambiance was the work of David Rose, someone Rick and I immediately loved. His world seemed to be based on a robot called Se

9/12/02 I have much to

9/12/02

I have much to say at this point, especially since this spate of re-shoots came to an end tonight, but I’m so tired I literally can’t run my fingers over the keyboard. I can report this, however: we nailed every shot we attempted. The most complicated set-up was a horse and buggy shot through downtown Hillsborough just after rush hour, and we nailed it on the first take. More tomorrow when my coma is over; in the meantime, here’s a bit of proof that we came, we dressed, we filmed, we conquered:

the only scene I’m in: us posing with Amazon, The Horse That Wouldn’t (But Eventually Did)

9/11/02 Being in a small

9/11/02

Being in a small Southern town on the anniversary of 9/11 highlights just how important geography really is; in New York, we think about aspects of terrorism every day, and here, on the media-saturated remembrance of the day itself, we had to keep reminding ourselves. In New York, we find ourselves in massive anxiety-producing crowds pretty much every day; in Chapel Hill, the only time 20,000 people get together is to eat barbecue and get drunk at Kenan Stadium on football Saturday.

In short, it was perfect. Not only was I not around the relentless sorrow and ubiquitous concerns for our safety, we actually managed to have a good time and stayed busy. I’m noticing my anxiety takes a precipitous fall whenever we’re involved in an intense project and when we’re surrounded by a commune of friends. Shooting pick-ups with the likes of John Kelleran, Rick Gradone, Liz Mann, Kim Ludlow and our small staff of production assistants all of us holed up in our connecting apartments