Friday, August 11, 2017

Art and survival in a cancerous economy

Dipped into the special features on the new Arrow Video edition of Re-Animator. I started with the 10 minute interview with Stuart Gordon on his history with Organic Theater Company, which is an ongoing subject of interest to me.

He started it with his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and their intention was that everyone working their could make a living at it. With my wife, Kimberly, and I slowly plotting creative project that I'd like to see be on-going, that seems crazy to me that there was a time when that would seem plausible as a company just starting up. It does feel like exactly what I do want, though.

There's a larger societal issue here. In Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff, he discusses in depth how corporations, and the economies that surround them, create their own set of needs.

One of the key needs, and the most obviously cancerous, is the need for constant growth. No matter what corporation you've worked for, you've probably been told all about the growth they've had and how they are working toward more growth.

I don't have a clear solution to this in most industries. Essentially, the most pernicious element of this evil addiction to growth is that it's so difficult to create a business that maintains a healthy, steady income within an economy that demands constant growth. The business needs to grow in order to keep up with the cost of living and to attract and compensate qualified workers.

It's a hamster wheel that none of us knows how to get off, and too few even consider as something that could, within a healthier economic body, be possible and desirable to get off. We have all been convinced that this is how economies work.

The idea that Mr. Jones could own a general store, hire a couple of people to help him, and serve his community, while having what he needs to feed his family as a constant, accounting for some years having greater challenges or exceptional boons, simply doesn't exist at this point.

Whenever I see how art is dying, most often it's rock music, as in my column Rock, RIP, in which I was struggling with these same issues, I can't help thinking that it's not a sane system that's dying. It's not an art economy in which people are trying to create something and reasonably feed their family. They're trying to restore a stupid one in which stupid amounts of money are poured on Foghat, a band that is assuredly talented enough that they deserve to make a decent living through performing music, but might have, for a time, had a level of success that was out of scale with the amount of talent they had, because it was an economy that demanded huge rock band, enjoying massive success, in order to finance elements that had nothing to do with them or music fans.

As an aging creative person, with a lot of aging creative friends, I have had a lot of conversations about how none of want to be Stephen King, Steven Spielberg or, uh, Steven Tyler, I guess. Is some of that compensating for the fact that these goals are less likely as we age? Maybe, but I think part of the reason people mostly end up that famous young is that with any reasonable amount of maturity, it doesn't sound very desirable.

I know a lot of us that would love to just make ends meet doing our thing. Even if that meant occasional temp jobs or part time work doing other things, that wouldn't be too bad. On top of whatever one does full time, that they are working hard, and are good at doing.

I'm betting outside of creative fields there are a lot of people who think owning, or working for, that general store I mentioned above, or something equivalent in their field of interest, sounds good. Because we've allowed an unnecessary complication to make surviving and living more complicated than it needs to be, and its accepted implicitly by the vast majority of people as a given.

Because that's, by and large, what reasonable, responsible, mature adult people want from life. The fact that our economy demands that we work toward other things demonstrates that it is not compatible with the needs of responsible adult individuals.

Generally, it tries to keep up from behaving reasonably or responsibly, or thinking with maturity. Considering where we are, that seems to be working.

I'm also embedding this episode of Team Human by Rushkoff and Natalie Foster about the future of work. It doesn't answer these questions, but does address them in an intelligent and constructive way.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Han Solo and the creative crisis

I'm not surprised by Why Lucasfilm Fired Han Solo Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller by Peter Sciretta. Not exactly. I don't really have emotions about it either.

Despite the overwhelming enthusiasm that exists in the world, including by many people I like and respect, I have never been able to raise the tiniest spark of interest for the work of Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller. I don't hate them or their work. And, in theory, I'll be trapped in a room somewhere and watch something they made. I might even enjoy it. I don't know. Until then, there's always something I'm more interested in doing, like watching something I was already interested in or clipping my toenails or something.

Not to mention, while I love Han Solo in the original movies and I'll go to this, no matter what, because I'm still seeing Star Wars movies, I'm not really interested in a Han Solo flashback movie. Oddly, most of the other elements interested me more than Han Solo, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Donald Glover in a Star Wars movie makes me happy in some way. The idea of a young Han Solo movie bores the fuck out of me. I'm hoping the movie eventually wins me over anyway.

All that said, I would love someone to pull together a real timeline for this crisis. The timing itself is curious.

I assume when these guys, Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank were brought in, the idea was to give the anthology "Star Wars Story" movies would have unique textures outside the Lucasfilm "house style". Obviously Trank burned out somehow pretty early in the process.

I suspect the success of The Force Awakens and the specifics of Edwards peculiarities led to the much discussed reshoots and a Rogue One that generally resembled "house style" fairly closely. I'm really quite fond of Rogue One. I'm glad it exists, but I'm not sure, for that reason, Edwards or his story were the strongest lead for this.

Honestly, none of this group seem like they were strong choices to lead a series with that as the goal to my view. I can't help wondering what other options they had on the table to work with but ultimately moved away from to favor these choices.

One of the things that's been plaguing me recently for reasons irrelevant to any of this is that one the biggest problems of making a project with multiple stylistically independent projects work isn't necessarily making them all the same within a range, which is the first and obvious concern, it's making sure they're all different enough to ensure that it's always clear that they're stylistically independent. People are naturally inclined to follow the leader or build on an existing pattern, especially a successful one.

Once Rogue One went to "house style", it was going to be harder to explain the future stories falling away from that. I don't think they had a contingency for that.

This, I think, comes pretty close to explaining to me how they got past the initial planning of this project without it breaking down on the basis of what, at this point, was clearly an impasse. Rogue One was being placed as a "hit" and canonized as what they wanted as the anthology style to be just at the time that this started filming. It got past that window in which it should have broken down without a big crisis.

That said, I still can't help wondering, like most others, exactly how it got this far and, having done so, how it finally broke down this late in the process. It seems like there's still an interesting story right there.

That said, I love this anthology story idea. There was a time that I fantasized about Star Trek doing a series of TV movies that did something similar. It might have been a better idea with TV movies having so much less at stake for each individual movie. It would have allowed them to take more interesting risks with them and not have to make too many about characters with the top name recognition and explore deeper. If they had considered such a thing.

Interestingly, as I understand Star Trek: Discovery will be the beginning of a similar concept in the form of limited series of different concepts. I like it, but it does take it back to putting pressure on each one again, doesn't it?

So far, the freedom to play around the edges, as a movie, still comes at the cost of having the succeed at the same level as the main story. More is the shame, I think. Most people will ultimately be happier with this, or at least leap to understand what it is and why they should like it, and they're smarter to make them happy than me.

And what do I even know about that? So far, they've completed one anthology movie, and I really liked it a lot. I might be the dumbest one of all.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The future of the USA

I continue thinking about He has sounded forth the trumpet that I wrote on January 25, 2017. Like all predictions about Trump and Trump's America, it suffers from thinking anything will, or could, move forward in a predictable fashion. Since, as Max Boot wrote,
Donald Trump Is Proving Too Stupid to Be President
, and the Republican Party remains far too cowardly and irresponsible to even attempt to fix that mess, there's no telling where this ride ends. I no longer think my old prediction will prove accurate, although I'm not sure how to update it.

I just read The American Empire (1898 – 2017) by Buzz Dixon, and its follow-up, America, The New India, and I think it feels about right.

As much as I love Prophets of Rage, and dig the song embedded above, they're off here. The song seems largely about unfucking the US. A fair goal, in itself, but I can't help thinking that an America that isn't at the top of the food chain has a better chance of being unfucked.

Look, I don't see this ending with the US being whatever it is now. I don't see our current parties making it out of this. Republicans have no heroes to point to when this all blows up. They'll try with John McCain as usual, but I think America has largely, if more quietly, joined Alex Pareene, I Don't Want To Hear Another Fucking Word About John McCain Unless He Dies Or Actually Does Something Useful For Once. Everyone might not be saying it, and we know it'll always make the news when McCain pretends to have a spine against his party, but his credibility is completely in the Honey Bucket tank, which might be better than it deserves.

All could be considered ironic since I think everyone who voted for the guy who said "He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured." are fucking garbage.

I know, here's where some poor traumatized, cry baby Trump voter comes with their crocodile tears and say, "Oh, how do you expect to get votes from people if you call them fucking garbage?"

First, I don't expect to get any votes. I'm not running for anything, shithead.

Second, I don't expect the Democratic Party, or any other alternative to the Republicans, to get any votes either. Me failing to speak truth is absolutely not going to change this frustrating fact. They, and their most fervent supporters, would have to look a lot deeper into the mirror to see what went wrong in 2016, and I don't see anyone even admitting they need to in this cycle. These are people who, after knowing she lost and Trump became president, refuse to accept that Hillary Clinton was a flawed choice of candidate. I know. There's no fucking way they're doing any better next time.

Third, and I think most importantly, it's called integrity. The fact that you and I know that Senator McCain, the victim of that anti-American attack, is certainly one of those pieces of fucking garbage himself. Or, worse yet, he's not that kind of garbage, but would claim to be if cornered.

Yeah, I'll stick to the losing side with my integrity. I fully understand that no Trump voter will ever understand integrity, so I won't bother to explain it.

The point is that, some day we will come to the end. Trump's presidency will blow-up or fizzle-out. We will then have 63 million voters who should have the integrity to admit their part in the destruction of the US, as it stood at the time of their fatal vote. And they will not. The best of them will, as we have already seen, admit only to being fooled or conned. Their claim is that they somehow believed a self-evidently sociopathic asshole would be transformed into a decent citizen by the magic of being given power, and they blame him for his for being a scorpion.

So, where will we end up? In a Second Civil War, as I suggested. I suspect not. Not as I originally imagined it. Something that would be reasonably comparable to the first Civil War. It could be something that will eventually be described as such by people looking back at it.

I think there's something to Buzz Dixon's India comparison. A lot to it, in fact.

Now, if I knew more about Indian politics, I might be able to express this better, or at least understand how it compares in this context, but I suspect we're coming out of this with a less powerful federal government. I don't know if this will involve a reversal of the Civil War gain of federal power over the states and simply more state power, as Republicans have long argued for, in many contexts, at least, or if it will be be larger regions that have some intermediate power, like blocs of states, or if it will be smaller than states at a county or other size, that will be the center. And I don't know how much power will be left in the federal government. I doubt there will be anything like a full breakup. I suspect the union will remain in name and many functions, but without the same levels of power.

Again, with the United States no longer the biggest power in the world, which I agree we have already fallen from and just don't know it yet, the amount of power the the federal government has is substantially reduced, leaving less reason for many to fight as furiously to keep it in one place.

I'm sure that many of my left of center friends are ready to pounce on me for endorsing such a thing, but here's the thing, I'm not really. I just think there's no way it's not going to happen. This blows-up or fizzles-out in some way that none of us know yet. If that's soon or peacefully, my prediction could be wrong, for the time being, but I doubt it will quite be either that soon or entirely peaceful.

So, somewhere the fact that the Electoral College deprives value of the vote of someone from California and adds value to the vote of Iowa means something different this time. Something more. Something worse. How much ruin is the country in? How immense a crisis? How much blood spilled? I have no prediction, but the answers to these questions will be the clues to how united we are at the end of whatever happens and how united we wish to remain.

I don't know the answer. I just know that right now everyone's playing a game like this is Richard Nixon and Watergate and we'll come out at the end bruised, but not fundamentally changed, at least to our own perception, and seeing some imaginary light at the end that gets us there. I don't see that happening here. I think we will see the scars from this every day. I don't think they will be sexy scars that we'll pick up other countries with either. It will just be national PTSD that makes us afraid to engage with the rest of the world.

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