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Saturday, July 28, 2007



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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Comic-Con 2007

Very sorry to say I'm not in San Diego this week for Comic-Con. But some of my best friends are.

I'm told the people do hold comics and sequential art confabs on this side of the Atlantic - both here in the UK as well as in the countries that can't speak English - and I'll be getting to as many of those as I can. But there is, as we well know, only one Comic-Con.

Actually, there are two Comic-Cons now, aren't there? There is a spring-time New York Comic-Con. But this is not the real Comic-Con, no. It is a pale and wretched East Coast imitation, concocted purely as a money-making venture.
Of course, I really want to go some time.

But being thousands of miles away still isn't going to stop me from trying to push you around. Of course, Comic-Con's got endless panoplies of stuff to see, do, learns, but if you're an artist or writer looking for some enlightenment, I recommend:

Thursday, July 26

11:30-12:30 Too Much Coffee Man Opera— The Too Much Coffee Man Opera is laid bare as Shannon Wheeler details his experience with the high art of opera. Is this the first opera to be based on a comic book? What does the opera community think of it? How did it come about? Is it in English or Italian? How did it get performed at one of the most respectable performance spaces in Portland? Will there be a sequel? Will it be go "on the road"? Does Shannon sing in it? Is there nudity? These questions and more will be answered by a whiskey-drinking Shannon Wheeler

1:30-2:30 Blade Runner and More— Syd Mead will be on hand in person to recall his experiences while working on the motion picture Blade Runner and to introduce his newest DVD release: Visual Futurist: The Art & Life of Syd Mead. The DVD takes the viewer behind the scenes and beyond the images he created for this film as well as Tron, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, private 747s, games, yachts, cars, and a seemingly endless list of major design projects around the world. Syd looks forward to entertaining questions and providing his unique perspective on topics of design for the film industry. Joining him will be Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The making of Blade Runner, the definitive book on its subject. Paul will add his own anecdotes about BR's creation while divulging new details about his brand-new Second Edition Future Noir, due for publication in late 2007. Room 6B

3:00-4:00 DC: Crossing Over— These days it seems like all roads lead to comics, whether they’re a stop on the road to other media or a final destination. The incredible media talent crossing into the comic book world has had an enormous impact. On hand to discuss their paths are Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes), Paul Dini (Countdown, Detective Comics), Christos N. Gage (Stormwatch PHD), Greg Rucka (52, Checkmate), Steve Niles (Batman: County Line), Mark Verheiden (Superman/Batman), and Gregory Noveck, DC’s Senior VP of Creative Affairs! Room 5AB

Friday, July 27

11:00-12:00 She/He Who Understands History Gets to Rewrite It— Authors discuss how an appreciation of world history and modern events as well as mythology influences and colors their worlds of fantasy, science fiction, and alternate realities. Panelists Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy series), David Anthony Durham (Acacia: Book One: The War with the Mein ), David Keck (In the Eye of Heaven), Harry Turtledove ( Settling Accounts: In at the Death), Peter David (Darkness of the Light), R.A. Salvatore (The Ancient), and Mel Odom (Quest for the Trilogy) adapt and build on world events for their own purposes. Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy moderates. Room 8

2:30-4:00 Dimension Films: Halloween and The Mist— Join acclaimed musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses) and several cast members in a special preview of Zombie’s entirely new take on the highly successful and terrifying Halloween legacy that began in 1978. While revealing a new chapter in the established Michael Myers saga, the film will surprise both classic and modern horror fans with a departure from prior films in the Halloween franchise. Brace yourself for unprecedented fear as Zombie turns back time to uncover the making of a pathologically disturbed, even cursed child named Michael Myers. Halloween comes early this year—opening everywhere on August 31, 2007.

4:00-5:00 Lessons from Masters in Visual Storytelling - Marshall Vandruff will show how such masters of comic art as Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland) and Harvey Kurtzman (MAD) brought images and story structure together that form a foundation for all visual storytelling, including children's books, animation, and film. This session is part of the Crash-Course in Sequential Art being offered next weekend at The Art Institute of California, San Diego. Room 30CDE

(I highly recommend Marshall's seminar. If you're a visual artist of any kind seeking to perfect your skills, Marshall Vandruff is the man for you! Ask Bernie Wrightson if I lie!)

Saturday, July 28

10:30-11:30 Meet the Press: Writing About Comics— From blogs to books to magazines, the public conversation about comics is livelier—and faster—than it's ever been. Heidi MacDonald (Publishers Weekly), Nisha Gopalan (Entertainment Weekly), Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter), Tom McLean (Variety), Graeme McMillan (The Savage Critics), and moderator Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics) discuss the state of the art of comics criticism. Room 3

12:00-1:00 Minx: Evocative and Fearless— Learn more about DC’s newest imprint Minx, with Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, the creators of the very first Minx book, The Plain Janes! They are joined by Mike Carey (Re-Gifters, Confessions of a Blabbermouth), Sonny Liew (Re-Gifters), Aaron Alexovich (Confessions of a Blabbermouth, Kimmie66), Minx group editor Shelly Bond, and some surprise new faces! Room 8 2:30-4:00 Remembering Caniff and Canyon: 100/60— Panelists Harry Guyton (Milton Caniff Estate), R. C. Harvey (Meanwhile...A Biography of Milton Caniff), Denis Kitchen (Steve Canyon Magazine), Russ Maheras (Steve Canyon 50th Anniversary comic strip), Diana Doalson (Milton Caniff's grandniece), and John Ellis (Steve Canyon DVD producer) will offer a rollicking remembrance of all things Caniff! Includes the first public screening of the restored 1959 NBC Steve Canyon episode “Operation Intercept”

4:00-5:00 Two Rays: Bradbury and Harryhausen— Two of the living legends of science fiction and fantasy reunite in this Comic- Con exclusive event! Author Ray Bradbury and filmmaker Ray Harryhausen share a life-long friendship and passionate interest in all things fantastic. Joining them are Bradbury biographer Sam Weller and Harryhausen producer Arnold Kunert. Room 6CDEF

Sunday, July 29

10:30-11:45 Jack Kirby Tribute— Let’s face it: when it comes to comics, it’s Kirby’s World and we just live in it. 2007 has seen a bumper crop of Kirby projects, including the first volume of DC’s deluxe chronological reprinting of all the Fourth World stories, a major documentary about Jack on the Fantastic Four DVD, and Mark Evanier’s upcoming art book Kirby, King of Comics. Join Evanier as he talks to Neil Gaiman, Erik Larsen, Darwyn Cooke, Mike Royer, and members of the Kirby family about the lasting influence of the undisputed King of comics. Room 1AB


11:30-1:00 Comics Are Not Literature— For years, comics have presented themselves as a new kind of literature—but cartooning isn't prose, and graphic novels aren't novels. What if conflating comics with "literary" storytelling is a terrible mistake? Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics) moderates what should be a contentious discussion with Cecil Castellucci (The PLAIN Janes), Dan Nadel (PictureBox Inc.), Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible), Paul Tobin (Spider-Man Family), and Sara Ryan (The Rules for Hearts). Room 8

2:30-4:00 Starship Smackdown Ultimate Episode 4: The Final Showdown— A Comic-Con favorite returns with ships, aliens, computers, and robots, oh my! The original Starship Smackdown is back in San Diego and it's never been smackier (or snarkier). Watch as the Enterprise battles Gort, Robby the Robot goes mano e mano with Hal 9000, and Death Star does the Klingon Empire. It's the ultimate conflagration for the supreme winner of Starship Smackdown. This time it's war, with an expert panel of spaceship-ologists, including Robert Meyer Burnett (director, Free Enterprise), Chris Gossett (creator, The Red Star), Steve Melching (writer, Star Wars: Clone Wars, X-Men Animated, The Batman), Daren Dochterman (Hollywood conceptual designer on Get Smart, X2, Master & Commander), Jeff Bond (editor, Geek Monthly), and the Richard Dawson of the stars, moderator Mark A. Altman (producer, DOA: Dead Or Alive). It's Starship Smackdown, Robot Rumble, Alien Armageddon, and Computer Crashdown all in one 90-minute panel! Our prediction for the fight: pain! Room 2



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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cecil Castellucci - Interview

Cecil Castellucci on Art, Transformation,
and Not Being Boy Proof

interview, Cecil Castellucci &
 Neal Romanek

CECIL CASTELLUCCI has fronted punk bands, has written, directed, and acted in theater and film, has encouraged and coached fellow artists with enterprises like L.A.'s Alpha 60 filmmaking collective, and has an extensive resume as a journalist writing about media and media technology. She is not just a role model for the teens she writes for, but also for a whole generation of cross-platform authors.

Her novels, "Boy Proof", "The Queen Of Cool", and, most recently, "Beige", feature teen characters caught between worlds, on the cusps of a transformation. She was a natural choice to write the debut graphic novel in DC Comics' new "Minx" line of comics for teen girls. "The Plain Janes", illustrated by Jim Rugg came out this May to critical acclaim and is the flagship book for a whole new division of DC.
I talked with Cecil, while she was holed up in Amherst, Mass. with fellow writers, a dog, and a boyfriend.

Neal Romanek: So what are you up to in Amherst?

Cecil Castellucci: I came to Amherst to write. I am secluded in a house where my friend - boy friend - is house sitting, and there is a dog and a large yard and lots of food and wine and great conversation. We go into town and sit in a cafe with a bunch of other writers - and we write and write and write.

NR: You seem reluctant to use the word "boyfriend".

CC: No, I just never had a boyfriend before. And so I didn't know how to say it! I am usually an old maid! It's all so new! And this is the first interview where I say "I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!"

NR: Congratulations! But you've had boyfriends before.

CC: Never! Okay, yes. But a really long time ago. I have always been more Emily Dickinson than AnaÏs Nin.

NR: You and Jen Sincero devised a play you performed in Los Angeles called "Spinster".

CC: Exactly!

NR: Why the caution?

CC: Because it's so new. But I am so in love

NR: You're feeling like a teen.

CC: Yes.

NR: You write about teens, and for teens. If you settled down with a 9-to-5 and behaved sensibly and married a doctor, would you fear losing touch with that Cecil-teen?

CC: Yes. That's why I could never settle down with a regular type. Or if I did, then I would be the kooky wife and put glow-in-the-dark stars on everything and eat only popsicles.

NR: It seems like there is a theme of "settling down" - or avoiding settling down - or having to cope with it in some way - in your novels and also in "The Plain Janes". There's relocation. Or dealing with a new environment or new paradigm.

CC: Yes. Isn't that always the way things are? Big or little, there is always transformation. But I think that settling down, sometimes people think that's scary. But it's not. It's just settling into yourself, becoming who you really are.

NR: And maybe finding that someone who understands who you are.

CC: Yes.

NR: Or understands at least, who you're not.

CC: In "The Queen of Cool", the dad character has settled into someone that he thinks he is supposed to be. So has Libby, the main character. She has settled into being the "cool" girl. But then they both transform into their real selves.

NR: And they're transformed through a relocation, right? Or she is.

CC: Libby's transformed by doing a science internship at the zoo.

NR: And the zoo is that new "Special World", where she has to set aside that old self. It's a great location choice, because it's the same with the animals, who've been relocated too.

CC: Yeah! I never thought of that! I had thought of it as a clear and simple way to talk about cliques. Like the gorillas and the zebras and the lions all hang out with each other but still they are all in the zoo. Kind of like the cool kids and the nerds all in the same school.

NR: And every type has a specific name, habits, routine that is expected of them. But your own growing up seemed to be really free of conventional restraints, yes?

CC: Yes. I never had chores. I never had curfews. My parents were - are - research scientists. And French. So, you know, it was a free for all! Also I didn't go to a typical high school. I went to the Laguardia High School of Performing Arts.

NR: What kind of science did your parents do?

CC: My dad was a neurobiologist. My mom was a molecular biologist. And genetic engineer. They still are.

NR: That's fascinating, because both those professions would seem to be about trying to control and manage life. A little discouraging of the artistic impulse.

CC: I think that they are very similar to being an artist. With neurobiology, my dad studies the mechanics of memory, which I think is beautiful and poetic. My mom studies genetics, the building blocks of life and the pieces that make us human. And isn't that what we do as artists? Study memory and also try to figure out what makes us human? I think so.
NR: You're right! And also there is the discpline in both science and in art to label a thing correctly and precisely. That's kind of the beginning of art – or of writing, at least. To name a thing exactly.

CC: Also in both there is a need to think very creatively and outside of any boxes. Growing up, my parents were always going to the lab to do their experiments. That's what I do. Experiment. Only it's with stories. Artists and Scientists are people who have very similar hearts.

NR: People always talk about the temperamental & suffering artist. But they don't talk about the suffering scientist, do they?

CC: They talk about the mad scientist!

NR: Yes! Of course!

CC: Same thing, different manifestation.

NR: Dr. Frankenstein.

CC: Exactly!

NR: ... aka Mary Shelley herself.

CC: And Dr. Jekyll.

NR: And Prospero.
CC: Yes.

NR: Prospero, who is both artist AND scientist.

CC: See! Shakespeare agrees!

NR: Do you use many actual incidents from your life when you write? Is there ever any memoir element?

CC: Yes, but the facts become so warped and changed that they are hardly recognizable as any real thing. It's the visceral emotional element that is more interesting to me. But I can point to many places and be like, "this is where that comes from.". It might be interesting to annotate and dissect a book like that one day. Describe where each idea originated.

NR: Could you give an example?

CC: Like in "Boy Proof", the mom comes from a slight combination of Jennifer Aniston's mom, who always said, whenever I was sleeping over at her house in High School, "How can you leave the house without your faces on?" if we didn't wear make up. And also my friend Chastity Bono's mom, Cher, who was making a comeback at the time. Both those girls were friends of mine in high school, I'm not in touch with them now, but their moms certainly gave me a seed of something and I can see tiny elements or threads of those ladies in Egg's mom. There are not any specific traits I used, but there is a certain something that I was inspired by.

And as far as "The Plain Janes" goes: I myself was in a terrorist bombing when I was very young. It has always affected me. Always marked me. But there is no similarity to the events in "The Plain Janes" and my experience. I could never understand why someone who didn't know me, the IRA, would want to harm me. And I couldn't understand why someone would do something so ugly. And I struggle to find beauty in everyone and everywhere because of it. I was 9, I was in Belgium at La Grand Place, it was like, the 2000th birthday of Brussels or something. The British Army Band was playing in the square. The IRA put a bomb under the stage. I was in a beer museum, not drinking. The stage had been empty five minutes before, and I had been dancing on the empty stage. Five minutes later, when I was in the museum, the stage blew up. The museum was the most damaged building. A window fell on me. It was very frightening. I'm still affected by it. Obviously it's much better now, but I still struggle with that fear that anything could happen at any moment. And people could just start screaming ... I don't like thinking about it. Anyway, all that to say, that yes, there are elements of my real life in my books.

NR: Thanks for sharing that.

CC: I think that's your job as an artist, to take and mold and twist and glean and use your experiences to try to reach out and find a universal human truth. I also think it is your job as an artist to go out and have a lot of experiences. To eat, love, live, dance, jump, cry, scream, kiss, drink.

NR: There does seem to be in your stories an echo of being blasted out of the world. And then trying to find a way back to it.

CC: Yes. That's a good way of putting it.

NR: In "The Plain Janes, the solution to the trauma - not literally, but at least the thing that happens after the trauma -...is the bringing forward of the arts. Creativity. And trying to help others with it. Did you get any of that in your own experience at La Guardia? I envision lots of couches and fingerpaint and hippy teachers with no bras.

CC: Well, creativity has always been my answer to everything. Sadly there were no couches and hippy teachers with no bras. I wish it had been that bohemian. I longed for that growing up.

NR: It sounds very romantic. But how was it really?

CC: There was a crazy kind of fabulous teacher named Mr. Anthony Abeson. He had us doing yoga poses and officially he taught drama, but it was more like he taught how to look at the world and live life as an artist. He was always quoting someone, but once he said - I don't know if it is him or someone else - but he said, "'In general' is the enemy of all mankind."

NR: Again - art is the attempt to name a thing exactly and precisely.

CC: Exactly. That's a life lesson that I still think about at least once a day.

NR: What I imagine is that you might in that environment learn how to integrate art into your daily life more. Learn how to make it a part of your daily work.

CC: I think that, for me, that did work like that. Because half our day was art, and half our day was academics. So it just really was the same thing. They informed each other for me. I also learned from another teacher of mine - a Russian from the Moscow Arts Theater, Mr. Marat Yusim - that to be a great artist you must see a lot of great art. So I made it my mission in high school to go see a lot of plays, movies, museums, and also to read a lot of books and plays. That was all because I was interested in stories. I've seen and read a lot, but I still feel as though I am so far behind and have so much more just basic stuff to read. I feel like I'll never catch up!

NR: They keep writing them, is the problem.

CC: It's true. And also, you read one thing, and then you want to go to the source. Like Greek tragedies! Or Norse myths Or you know ... EVERYTHING!

NR: LIke when you watch "Oldboy", you want to dust off your Edith Hamilton.

CC: Exactly.

NR: I myself have read absolutely nothing - which is helpful because then everything you pick up seems a revelation.

CC: That's how I feel.

NR: But you don't just write. You do music. Theatre, film, and write journalism, fiction, sequential art.

CC: But it's all telling a story.

NR: What is the satisfaction you get out of telling a story?

CC: I think it's that the whole world is yours. You can go anywhere. As a writer, you can try being anything. I suppose it's the same way actors feel. It's like getting a chance to try out everything. And go anywhere. even dark places. Or tall places. Or boy places. Or outer space places. Or old places. Or then. Or now.

NR: And do you need - or crave - an audience? A partner? Or is it just the stories themselves?

CC: It's always nice to have an audience, you know. You don't make art in a vacuum. It's nice to see how it affects someone else, but that audience can be one person. But mostly it just pleases me. Or is something I want to see or read.

NR: So most of the time you just want to do something for yourself.

CC: Yes.

NR: And there isn't necessarily the need to have it heard or witnessed?

CC: It's because I have to. But then, I do also feel compelled to share it too. But I would do it anyway.

NR: I get the feeling that with the audience reaction not foremost and dominant in your mind, it allows you to create less self-consciously.

CC: Yes. I have played a lot of rock shows to five people, sometimes to total drunks in bars who are yelling "Show me your tits!" I do try to put it out there. But not my tits. I will say that I sometimes do write with the hope that someone will smile. Like with "The Plain Janes" I felt like I was writing it for Jim Rugg, because he was drawing it. So I wanted him to smile and have fun.

NR: Which he did, by all accounts.

CC: It kind of felt like I wanted to do better or the bar was higher because he was my audience. So even though I wrote it for myself, since we were partners in crime, I wrote with Jim in mind.

NR: I heard you say at a reading once that you write the kinds of things you loved as a teen. Is there that sense of sending something to yourself back through time? A message in a bottle for a young Cecil?

CC: Sure! The things I longed to read when I was a teen, that teen inside of me still wants and longs for that. I'm always happy when the 8-year-old, 12-year-old, 16-year-old, 25-year-old, and 37-year-old me are happy!

NR: And if you can make all of them happy at the same time, then that's when you have a masterpiece.

CC: Yes! That is when you have a masterpiece.

NR: Thank you very much, Cecil.

CC: Thank you!


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Hollywood Reporter's Sherman Torgan Obit

Last Friday, The Hollywood Reporter featured the following report on the death of New Beverly Cinema owner & operator, Sherman Torgan:

New Beverly founder Sherman Torgan dies

By Tony Gieske

July 20, 2007

Sherman Torgan, who founded and ran the last remaining full-time revival cinema in Los Angeles, died Wednesday of a heart attack while bicycling in Santa Monica. He was 63.

His New Beverly Cinema at 7165 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles has been screening repertory double bills continuously since it opened in 1978. Past, present and future filmmakers, actors and movie lovers have been drawn to the house, whose attractions run the gamut from old Hollywood classics, recent independent film and European and Asian favorites, to the occasional silent or animated feature.

Torgan opened the doors of the New Beverly on May 5, 1978, with a Marlon Brando double bill -- "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Last Tango in Paris," which was just then helping to bridge the gap between X-rated and mainstream entertainment.

On its recent 25th anniversary, the theater held no celebration. "Hooray! The Beverly Cinema has reached a milestone" read a notice in agate type on the theater's calendar. "This month marks 25 years of continuous repertory programming. . . . The struggle goes on."

After coming west from Philadelphia and graduating from UCLA in 1969, Torgan had relocated to the San Francisco area, where he worked as a location scout and spent a year negotiating the purchase of a theater with several partners.

When that fell through, he returned to Los Angeles, where he leased what was then known simply as the Beverly Cinema and staffed it mostly with UCLA film-school grads. "I didn't want to get in a business that involved getting up too early," he said, "and I wanted to get in a business that really had sort of a positive vibe. Movies put a smile on people's faces."

"I like to say that the L.A. Times put me in business," Torgan says.

Years earlier, the house had been Slapsie Maxie's, a nightclub named for the boxer and, later, actor Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom (model for the Big Jule role in "Guys and Dolls" on Broadway). The club then was managed by Charlie and Sy Devore, clothiers to the Rat Pack, and actually was owned by mobster Mickey Cohen.

In the late 1950s and early '60s, the space was taken over by a cinema society; then it became the Europa, specializing in foreign films, and then the Eros, which showed 35mm first-run adult films. But in 1977, the Los Angeles Times suddenly stopped accepting ads for adult films, and the business became a liability.

Film luminaires often stopped by: Seymour Cassel, Malcolm McDowell, Timothy Carey, Allen Garfield, Tom Waits, Andy Kaufman, Robert Altman, Rod Steiger and Quentin Tarantino among them.

"I think anyone who tries to run a revival house will tell you that theaters saw the writing on the wall years ago," Torgan told an interviewer for the L.A. Weekly in 2003.

" I'm just hoping that things turn around. I have another option period for quite a few years into the future. But anything can happen. I'm getting older; it just becomes exhausting, and kind of disheartening.

"I feel unappreciated. In a way, I am supporting the theater, just in the labor that I don't pay myself for. I try to do everything I can myself: I book the theater, I put together the calendar, I distribute the calendar, I buy supplies. I do pretty much everything except run the projectors. My son has helped out since college -- he works a day or two a week -- but he works full time elsewhere.


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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nights At The New Bev

Just last week I was confessing that I didn't see "Jurassic Park" (1993) until a year after it was released - and that I finally saw it at the New Beverly Cinema. And this week, Sherman Torgan, owner & operator of the New Beverly died of a sudden heart attack during his regular bike ride in Santa Monica at the age of 63.

At first I thought it a noteworthy synchronicity, but then realized that I mention the New Beverly so frequently in talking about my Los Angeles past that, at any given time, mention of the theater is ever only a few blog posts away.

At the beginning of the month, I'd swing by the New Beverly to get a new schedule - usually parking illegally on Detroit - usually snatching up a couple extras just in case someone else I knew wanted one. Nobody ever did want one, but that never stopped me. Occasionally, the floor of my car would have a few months worth of old New Beverly schedules strewn among the empty cigarette packs and unpaid parking tickets - tickets probably received near the New Beverly.

It was always exciting reading the schedule, circling all the movies you were planning on seeing - ignoring the fact that you were likely to get to a bare handful of them. But it was great to know that you COULD see them, if you wanted to - or that, if not you, at least someone was seeing them.

One of the great joys of my life has been attending movies by myself. It hasn't always been voluntary. It's not as easy to get people to come out to a screening of "The Valley Of Gwangi" (1969) as you would think. I have spent many nights alone at the New Beverly, and can still recall that calm clear joy of leaving the theater anonymously, strolling through the dark to my car, probably parked on Detroit, driving home with my mind blown my some cinematic revelation.

So many times, the New Beverly gave me "the first time I saw..." The first time I saw "Jurassic Park", of course - let's not mention that again - and the first time I saw "The 400 Blows" (1959) and "Hard Boiled" (1992) and "Mystery Train" (1989) and "Cremaster 1 & 2" (1996 & 1997) and "Audition" and "Chungking Express" (1994) and "Until The End Of The World" (1991) and "Aguirre: The Wrath Of God" (1972) and "The Lady Eve" (1941) ... and, of course, and very appropriately too, the "Kill Bills" (2003 & 2004).

But one of the great treats the New Bev offered was seeing again, and again and again, all those movies that I loved, packing buttered popcorn and a diet coke on top of a belly full of El Coyote.

I once saw "Lawrence Of Arabia" (1962) at the New Beverly - which baffled my friends at the time. Why watch the quintessential widescreen movie in such an obviously inferior viewing space. Why? Because you have to jump at every opportunity to see "L of A" projected. And seeing "L of A" projected, even at the New Beverly, via a chewed-up print, was still an experience light years ahead of seeing it on my big screen tv.

I saw "Picnic At Hanging Rock" (1975), which bowled me over when I first saw it at school years previously - and was ecstatic to find that the movie was even better than I had remembered.

I saw "The Hunger" (1983) for like the thousandth time - which is, you know ... well, it is what it is. It's Tony Scott's best movie, you know.

I - with every other cineaste in Los Angeles - lamented the physical state of the New Beverly. There was that famous soft drink stain in the middle of the screen. And though I never actually saw a rat or a cockroach, I believed in them. I believed they were there - watching. Time and again, my friends and I would have the conversation: "A bunch of filmmakers should get together to renovate the New Beverly. As a service to the filmmaking and filmgoing community. A new screen and sound system and new projector or two? Why, it's chump change to some of these guys!", etc. And I certainly was not the only guy in Hollywood who imagined including the New Beverly in his Oscar acceptance gratitude list, or fantasized that he'd renovate it with money out of his own pocket with state of the art equipment and subsidize ticket sales too so that they were actually cheaper than their already ridiculously low $6 double feature.

Oh, well.

Most industry support seemed to fall in the direction of the Aero Theatre, because - let's face it - it was in Santa Monica. And though I do appreciate the Aero's helping to widen the net of the American Cinematheque, how many times a year can you really watch "Manhattan" and "Sunset Blvd"?

Sherman's family has closed the New Beverly Cinema until further notice. I've lived in London since last fall, and am likely to be here for some time, so the future state of the New Beverly won't affect my day-to-day experience much. But I hope Sherman Torgan's New Beverly will remain with us. It was his New Beverly, wasn't it?

I saw Sherman repeatedly on the other side of the glass, rarely said more than "One, please" to him. What a profound and long-lasting effect this man I never spoke to had on me and on virtually ever other serious filmmaker east of Sepulveda. I said it before, and I'll say it again, Sherman's death really is a significant landmark in L.A. cinema - and for, I would argue, cinema around the world.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Sherman Torgan, New Beverly Cinema

Sherman Torgan, owner/operator of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles has died unexpectedly.

The New Beverly has been one of L.A.'s longest running arthouse cinemas. Its custom was to screen a thematically-linked double-feature every night, usually changing the bill three times in a week. The theater's influence on Hollywood culture, and especially L.A. filmmakers, is incalculable.

Sherman's son, Michael Torgan, posted the following on the New Beverly Cinema's website: http://www.newbevcinema.com :

July 19, 2007

Due to the sudden and completely unexpected passing of my father Sherman, the New Beverly's programming will be cancelled until further notice.

Sherman was my father and my best friend, and his passing has left me and my family completely devastated. He was the main force behind the New Beverly from May 5, 1978 until the present. I simply do not known when I will be able to fill his shoes. My pain and sorrow are truly too much to bear right now. He was still so young and full of life, and was doing what he loved so much, riding his bike on the Santa Monica bike path, when he died. My mom and I am in utter shock.

Thank you to everyone for their support during this difficult time.

Please check this website for any updates on public memorials and the future of the New Beverly Cinema.

With love,

Michael Torgan

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blog Till Dawn

So, it's 4:30AM, the new baby is inconsolable, the birds are beginning to twitter outside, it's going to be a long morning. What does a dedicated writer do?

Complete part two of that overdue article about sound design in nature documentaries?

Format and publish that interview with Cecil Castellucci?

Work on the novel?

Design another planet for the Cyclopedia?


Yes, write in my web-log about the days activities, and about my thoughts thereunto them.
People laughed when I said we were having a baby. They said "Ha! Well, you've had your last night of good sleep!"

I thought they were kidding. I really did.

I really thought they were kidding.

There are so many things they don't tell you about having a child. They don't tell you about the decibels. They don't tell you about the true enormity of the volume of poo you're going to be dealing with. A staggering amount of poo.

My baby just head-butted me in the face. And then screamed into my ear.

The one thing that seems to produce any calmness in the child is to walking the floors for hours on end like Madeline Usher, murmuring endless nonsense. So I better get to it.

So much for blogging.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Jolly Good About The Revolt

This week, long-time British Mid-East journalist, Robert Fisk, writes in The Independent of London about T.E. Lawrence and desert revolts:

TE Lawrence had it right about Iraq

"Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active and 98 per cent passively sympathetic"

By Robert Fisk

07/14/07 "The Independent" -- Back in 1929, Lawrence of Arabia wrote the entry for "Guerrilla" in the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is a chilling read - and here I thank one of my favourite readers, Peter Metcalfe of Stevenage, for sending me TE's remarkable article - because it contains so ghastly a message to the American armies in Iraq.

Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the 1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and elsewhere): "... suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour..."

How typical of Lawrence to use the horror of gas warfare as a metaphor for insurgency. To control the land they occupied, he continued, the Turks "would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available."

Now who does that remind you of? The "fortified post every four square miles" is the ghostly future echo of George W Bush's absurd "surge". The Americans need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they have only 150,000 available. Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of "war lite" is responsible for that. Yet still these rascals get away with it.

Hands up those readers who know that Canada's Defence Minister, Gordon O'Connor, actually sent a letter to Rumsfeld two days before his departure in disgrace from the Pentagon, praising this disreputable man's "leadership". Yes, O'Connor wanted "to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your many achievements (sic) as Secretary of Defence, and to recognise the significant contribution you have made in the fight against terrorism". The world, gushed the ridiculous O'Connor, had benefited from Rumsfeld's "leadership in addressing the complex issues in play".

O'Connor tried to shrug off this grovelling note, acquired through the Canadian Access to Information Act, by claiming he merely wanted to thank Rumsfeld for the use of US medical facilities in Germany to ferry wounded Canadian soldiers home from Afghanistan. But he made no mention of this in his preposterous letter. O'Connor, it seems, is just another of the world's illusionists who believe they can ignore the facts - and laud fools - by stating the opposite of the truth. Bush, of course, is among the worst of these meretricious creatures. So is the late Tony Blair.

Oh, how we miss Lawrence. "The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern (guerrilla) commander," he wrote 78 years ago, accurately predicting al-Qa'ida's modern-day use of the internet. For insurgents, "battles were a mistake ... Napoleon had spoken in angry reaction against the excessive finesse of the 18th century, when men almost forgot that war gave licence to murder".

True, the First World War Arab Revolt was not identical to today's Iraqi insurgency. In 1917, the Turks had manpower but insufficient weapons. Today the Americans have the weapons but insufficient men. But listen to Lawrence again.

"Rebellion must have an unassailable base ...

In the minds of men converted to its creed. It must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.

"It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic ... Granted mobility, security ... time, and doctrine ... victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain."

Has the US General David Petraeus read this? Has Bush? Have any of the tired American columnists whose anti-Arab bias is wobbling close to racism, bothered to study this wisdom? I remember how Daniel Pipes - one of the great illusionists of modern American journalism - announced in the summer of 2003 that what the Iraqis needed was (no smirking here, please), a "democratically minded strongman".

They had already had one, of course, our old chum Saddam Hussein, whom we did indeed call a "strongman" when he was our friend and when he was busy using our gas against Iran. And I do wonder whether Bush - defeated, as he is, in Iraq - may not soon sanction an Iraqi military coup d'état to overthrow the ridiculous Maliki "Green Zone" government in Baghdad. Well, as one of my favourite expressions goes, we'll see.

But wait, Pipes is at it again. The director of the "Middle East Forum" has been writing in Canada's National Post about "Palestine". His piece is filled with the usual bile. Palestinian anarchy had "spewed forth" warlords. Arafat was an "evil" figure. Israeli withdrawal from Gaza had deprived Palestinians of the one "stabilising element" in the region. Phew! "Palestinianism" (whatever that is) is "superficial". Palestinian "victimisation" is a "supreme myth of modern politics". Gaza is now an "[Islamist] beachhead at the heart of the Middle East from which to infiltrate Egypt, Israel and the West Bank".

One of these days, Pipes concludes, "maybe the idiot savant 'peace processors' will note the trail of disasters their handiwork has achieved". He notes with approval that "Ehud Barak, Israel's brand new Defence Minister, reportedly plans to attack Hamas within weeks" and condemns the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, for buoying Mahmoud Abbas' "corrupt and irredentist Fatah".

So we are going to have yet another war in the Middle East, this time against Hamas - democratically elected, of course, but only as a result of what Pipes calls "the Bush administration's heedless rush to Palestinian elections"? It's good to see that the late Tony Blair is already being dubbed a "savant". But shouldn't Pipes, too, read Lawrence? For insurgency is a more powerful "vapour" than that which comes from the mouths of illusionists.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wanitani & Moons

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Child Report

So we have a child now. A girl child.

I have avoided any lengthy discourse in the rabbit + crow blog about the coming and birthing, and rearing now, of the child. I suppose I wanted to respect my privacy and not keep butting in, exploiting things here for personal gain at the expense of myself and my privacies.

Tony Pierce however would be disgusted - if he read my blog. I think that he would think that my avoiding writing about becoming and being a dad is a betrayal of myself, is a cowardly retreat into the pseudo-safety of the life of smoke and mirrors, is a slap in the face to my fellow bloggers who are all really putting it all out there for all to see.

Why, you can be certain the GirlWithAOneTrackMind wouldn't duck writing about her new child. She'd use it as an opportunity to teach, to inform the publics. Perhaps to teach and inform them exactly how to keep having sex right up to the moment of delivery.

But when my child vomited in my ear this morning, I got to thinking how undignified all my sneaking around has been.

So from now on ...


Both my wife and I have dual citizenship - we are citizens both of the great nation of America and also of the great nation of Europe. And we wanted to pass this nationality on to our child, whatever creed or color they might be, which is one of our many reasons for moving to London.

Also, we believe the US is a sinking ship - and we are rats. The Euro is where it's at, man. Why, you couldn't pay me to work for US dollars anymore. Unless you paid me a whole lot of them. In cash. The Euro is the future! For a couple more years anyway, and then the Euro will be out and the Yuan will be the future. But this isn't about money, it's about childs.

So here we are, crass Americans, with our pushy crass American ways. And not just any Americans, no. We're not Nicaraguan or Lakota, or Canadian or Argentine. No, we are USA-ers! With a Brit baby-child. Better than that. A Londoner baby-child!

Why, I see a sitcom coming on!

It's called "What The Hell's A 'Pram'?"

Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007


crow pigeons


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Sunday, July 08, 2007

My Secret Shame

I must confess myself:

I haven't seen "300" (2006) yet.

What's wrong with me?!

All that build up, all those excited posts, the raving about the promo panel at Comic-Con last year! And still, somehow, I have had better things to do than  see "300". And now - barring some screening at the National Film Theatre or some other backwater - I'm going to have to watch it on DVD.

And it's not like it's just one more movie that might provide me with a couple hours distraction. It falls exactly within my own oeurvra ... my ouevere ... my oovre ... It's precisely my kind of thing is the thing what I'm trying to say in French. I am the sword-fightin' adventure go-to guy - as my manager will almost certainly neglect to tell you.

trex versus spartanThe same thing happened when "Jurassic Park" (1993) was released. If there's one thing I love more than broadswords hewing human flesh, it's dinosaurs hewing human flesh. And I didn't see "Jurassic Park" until a year after it was released.


Although, in my own defense, I did see it projected in a Los Angeles theater ...

... That theater was the New Beverly Cinema.

The shame. The shame.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Planet Conus Landscape

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Monday, July 02, 2007

DAM London 2007

Last week, I attended the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Conference, hosted by Henry Stewart Events at the Radisson SAS Portman Hotel, near Marble Arch. The DAM Conferences are held throughout the year, with events also in New York, Amsterdam, and Paris.

And what IS Digital Asset Management? A participant asked a conference panel this question in the last 15 minutes of a Q&A session. The moderator replied: "I'm sorry we only have 15 minutes." The attendees laughed with that extra self-congratulatory edge of an inside joke received.

The current definition at Wikipedia is as simple and concise as any: "DIGITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT consists of tasks and decisions surrounding ingesting, annotating, cataloguing, storage and retrieval of digital assets, such as digital photographs, animations, videos and music."

It's worth noting that the term "Digital Asset Management" is actually on the wane, and is being replaced by "Media Asset Management". The thinking seems to be that since virtually all information can be stored digitally, the word "Digital" is no more a helpful descriptor than the word "electric" would be to describe a lightbulb. All lightbulbs use electricity; all image, sound and text media can be reduced to a file on a hard drive.

All those years ago, at the turn of the century, media companies looked forward to a dazzling future in which a single DAM system would usher a piece of content through the entire enterprise, from conception to production to exhibition to archiving to repurposing. Any individual - with the proper permissions - could track and retrieve any image, any audio file, any video from anywhere at anytime.

It was the consensus in more than one panel I attended at the DAM Conference that this ideal has essentially been abandoned. Enterprises are resigned to having multiple - and sometimes not even compatible - DAM / MAM systems operating. And, in fact, that is perfectly fine.

We love our technology. It seems to be human nature to want to acquire the one system that does everything with one press of one button. But, as we well know, when such a thing occurs, we get antsy about having to press that one button, and we look forward to the day when there will be a great leap forward in which all button pressing is eliminated. And should that day come, well, then we will look forward to the time when we do not have to even be present at all, etc. We're never happy, are we?

In practical terms, the use of multiple systems - by all reports - works well in media companies across Britain. In fact, I would argue that a single blanket solution for all data storage issues, is too much putting of all eggs in one basket. A modest diversity among the solutions your company selects to store its media at different points along the chain is probably sensible and may be more forgiving of errors made at different points along the way. One problem with a universal solution is that it can also lead to problems which are equally universal.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Smoke And Fire

Whenever I don't know what I think or feel, I consult the news.

The news will always tell me what I think and feel - which is a weight off my shoulders, I can tell you.

In the wake of some really zany car bomb antics here in the UK over the past couple days - not exactly multiple simultaneous detonations across a city, or hijacking and skillfully piloting planes on the best known travel routes in the Western Hemisphere - the UK is on its highest possible alert - "CRITICAL" - which means attack "is expected imminently". And I think that's kind of cool. In my dark, dread-filled fantasies I have wondered what it would be like to be in a situation as dire as this - nuclear disaster, zombie attack, Godzilla approaching - with the entire country on the highest alert.

Now I know. It's not so bad actually.

Kind of relaxing.

Perhaps because now there is nothing left we can do, but wait ... and pray.

Yes, the news is telling us how we in the UK feel about this latest End of the World. Apparently we are experiencing "renewed fears" and we are "on edge". So that's good to know. This morning I was mostly feeling drowsy, and a little cheerful about the rain. I like rain. But enough of that. I've got to get into character!

But more than flammable cars, what is really making us nervous is the Smoking Ban that goes into effect today nation wide. I haven't smoked for some years now, but I still have great affection and sympathy for my smoker brethren and sistren. After today, the police will be able to issue tickets if people are seen smoking in public areas.

Is it a coincidence that the nutcases have parked their gasoline-filled Mercedes in front of a nightclub, where until today smokers were able to enjoy their wretched vice in peace? Or that a gasoline laden truck was driven through the front door of a Scottish airport terminal (only smokers will understand how vital it is to secure a good smoking spot at the airport).

No, this latest criminal activity is not the raging fist of international terrorism. It is the trembling hand of unhinged nicotine withdrawal.

Have you ever seen a nicotine addict denied his drug? It's a good thing Britain is on the highest alert.

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