Saturday, January 27, 2007

My G-G-G-G-G-

EEK asked me in a comment on the last post:

So if you're going to be the voice of our generation, what are you going to say?

The question is a little tongue in cheek, but I think it deserves a serious answer. Or, baring that, a serious exploration of the premise of the question.

I would never be so bold as to choose a single message I think everyone in my generation should hear, and in this inescapably post-modern era, there would really be no way to get a single message out to a generation anyway.

Besides, being the voice of your generation doesn't really work that way. It means that you reflect or embody the force, movement or personality that's somehow shared by everyone in your generation.

I read this wikipedia entry on Generation Y every six months or so. No one has reached even a wikipedia-worthy consensus on what our generation is about.

We know it has something to do with our generation being the first to grow up with (and so take for granted) computers and the internet, we think it has something to do with 9/11 and maybe even the new millenium, but at the moment, that's all we got.

Right now, the most famous people in our generation are actors, athletes and musicians, because those are the things that can make you famous while you're still young. Still, when the most famous person is Britney Spears, you know that there's a lot more substance still to come.

When will we be able to pick a true voice of generation? That depends on what a voice of our generation still means.

I think of voice-of-a-generation types generally as writers, maybe because I am thinking about Jack Kerouac, and I think of writers as starting to find their voice in their 30s.

Of course, if we're talking about a figure we can all unite behind, like a JFK, we may have to wait until we start electing public figures to high office, which wouldn't come until the 2020s at the earliest.

Then if we're talking about a common experience all of us can share, it would have to be something on t.v., the last way to experience a message that it's plausible an entire generation can share (for the record, t.v. viewing numbers make YouTube viewing numbers look silly).

However, t.v. audiences are getting spread over more channels and across more time as TiVo and YouTube allow culture to be random-accessed. Maybe the final time we were all united in a single experience has already happened, during 9/11, but then even 9/11 meant different things to different people.

We'd have to go back, way back, to find a single t.v. experience shared by each person in our generation in the same way. For my part, I'm betting on TMBG's early '90s appearance on Tiny Toons.

Maybe all this theorizing is futile. It's possible that there's no longer any way for a single person or experience to embody a generation.

Remember how you're the person of the year? (If you are reading this post three months from now or you were out of the country for that news cycle, you won't). Time thinks our diffusion of experience means only a diffusion of media can represent who we are.

I think if there's no way for a single person or voice to embody who we are, then that's the only message that makes sense for our generation. There's no longer any way to say the one thing that will unite everyone. The only thing we can do is try to present what's really happening with ourselves and what we see around us, and, if that reflects our generation's experience in some way, they'll find us.

I say, just like your ee, the trick to writing big is to think small. Call it the Tony Wilson model. I've identified one artistic movement, production company equivalents organizing informally and producing lots of content, and one location, New York City, where I think it's happening. I think that could be enough to hang my hat on.

Friday, January 26, 2007

How to Be the Voice of My Generation

Remember how I'm going to be the voice of my generation? I just figured out why.

For months, Codename Bronco, DP on Ballots Over Broadway, has been telling me that between him and his friend, Nice-Guy Gaffer Nat, he has all the equipment to make a movie - or, as he puts it, "we're basically a production company."

Tonight at my friend's art opening, I met the minds behind The Ballad of Roger and Rose, a very interesting, year-and-a-half long web serial that's going online in the next week to month. These kids, Matt and Dan (there's no need to try to keep them straight), are pretty much doing the same thing Codename Bronco and NGG Nat are doing - working with friends who help Matt and Dan on their projects while Matt and Dan work on their friends' projects.

Jay does the same thing. So do Victor and Pat of Therefore Productions. So does The Burg, and it just took their pilot to get them written up in Time or some shit. My friend Matt is trying the same thing with a project called The Fold that's still in pre-production. The Lonely Island turned it in to SNL-worthy success.

It's easy to underestimate the power of the phenomenon of getting together with your friends and making a movie, because it never feels like something professional - for example, Matt and Dan are still in the early, giddy stages of owning their own genuine and legally incorporated company. And, at this stage, it's awfully simple to overestimate it. It would be foolish, for example, to think that the internet has replaced T.V.

I'm only a reasonably connected guy, and the fact that so many people, and, more than that, so many people I know, have casually come to the same conclusions and organized themselves in the exact same way, and especially that these people represent a very diverse range of occupations and filmmaking abilities, it tells me that these informal groups of people working for free are going to be, if not the shape of things to come, at least more than a passing fad.

Back to being the voice of my generation. I have always naturally fallen in to the role of being a small part of a lot of different groups. It's why my birthday parties go so poorly for everyone but me: the people I invite, although they are all very excited about me, almost never get along with my other friends. It's not that they're from different demographics, or regions, cliques, social circles - it's that they're from different universes. I may be just as important to my hipster friend as my friend from the after school program, but there's no chance those two are gonna get tight.

Perfect example. I went up to my high-pedigree school for Homecoming, and one of the first and last stops I made was at the obscure co-ed non-Fraternity house where I was part (although certainly not the leader) of what I would call a core membership. The whole weekend, I was running around campus. I hung out with the people from my animation class, my friends from the theater stuff I did, the people from the school newspaper - all groups that I was not a central member in, but at least a character, a witness, a central participant.

When I went by my house right before we all headed out, I realized that everyone in my house had been there the whole weekend. They had been spending all day in the living room with each other (all night, too, since many of them had been sleeping there.) Nobody had another community. It was a what the fuck moment.

This is sort of an extreme example since my house always ended up being the last bastion for people who had never found a community in the rest of the school. But, still, I did it. It wasn't impossible to be a community member there and somewhere else. And this sort of thing has been happening to me my whole life.

I big, big part of it is that I ask a lot of questions. I'm a lot more comfortable talking about someone else than I am talking about myself - it's why I'm a good journalist. Since most people feel they've connected strongly with another person when they talk about themselves, I've consistently made many close friends.

So I have this talent for being a small part of a lot of different group, and then there's this New York phenomenon where a lot of different groups of friends are each producing these great mounting heaps of media. Then there's this thing where I keep being a bit older and a bit more of a journalist than my peers.

I don't think I'm going to be leading any revolutions, but I could definitely be the Tony Wilson of my generation - not the guy who made it happen, but one of the only ones who was there for the whole thing, who saw it happen, figured it out before the rest of the country and knew everyone who was involved.

It's spurious logic, it certainly isn't definite or even plausible, but, hypothetically, there it is. I could be the voice of my generation. Not bad for a night's brain work - few have ever realized they had a shot.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

ribble's Progress #2: Work

This is the year I'm getting more work, a new apartment, and a cat. Here's how it's going so far:



So far, each time I write one of these, I am talking about a decision I did not know I'd already made. It seems that I have decided to produce no-budget short films full time with no hope of reward. I have made this seemingly senseless decision because:

1) I am desperate to commit to doing something with my time starting immediately because I consider the alternative, despite all reason, to be doing nothing at all, forever,

2) I know I can do this and do it well because I have done it and done it well,

3) At this point, I have more to learn by producing stuff I want to do than by working as a PA,

4) If I stick with it and don't do anything else, I can make a lot of films very quickly, and, like John Turturro putting wax in his ears in Barton Fink, I kind of have to ride that creative wave out before I lose it.

5) Sinbad says get paid in cash and be your own boss.

Last week I spent settling in from New Orleans and making space for an office. Monday felt like the first day of work at a new job.

So far, my work as a producer consists mostly of making phone calls. The biggest challenge, I can already tell, will be keeping organized. I'm keeping a phone log, but what I really want is a giant white board. Yes, a man can dream...

So far, I am a pretty good boss. I started a bit later in the day than I would have liked, but I gave myself a lot of time off to write.

I am realizing as I write this that it is difficult to explain that this is not a bullshit job. I enjoy it too much. I'm working from home. No one knows what a producer does anyway (Please do not ask me. There are books you can read. I am sick of explaining it. You will only make me whinier.)

I agree with this straw man of accusation in that I believe the only way to justify being self-employed is to produce either money or content. I hope for plenty of the second, but I'm not counting on any of the first.

Monday, January 22, 2007

ribble's Progress #1: Cat

This is the year I'm getting more work, a new apartment, and a cat. Here's how that's going:



I decided I wanted a grownup cat because 1) it's really easy for kittens to get adopted without me, and 2) I don't want to be responsible for the socialization of any living thing at this point in my life.

bff! and I checked out a cat at a place she knew about on the Lower East Side, Social Tees. bff! had met this cat (who does not yet have a name) when the cat had just had kittens. When bff! went back later, both kittens had been adopted, but the cat hadn't. This made bff! sad, so this was the first cat I met.

She was small, black and reaaaaly friendly. Long story short, she was in heat. I will check back in a week to make sure she is not this friendly all the time, but this will probably be my cat. Please do not adopt her before I do.

I feel a little guilty because Speedrail and Liz came up with some great ideas for what and what not to name this cat, but I've decided to name her "Kino."

The family that originally found her had been calling her "Cleo," and I liked the idea of keeping the cat's name the same because we are both grownups and we each had a life before we happened upon each other. Unfortunately, everyone I talked to hated the name Cleo. Still, I wanted something that at least sounded the same, so that's where I started.

"Kino" is a film term. Kino Flo is a company that developed an innovative new lighting system, fluorescent bulbs that didn't flicker, which we call Kinos. Kinos are light as a feather, versatile and easy to work with, and they don't get hot or require any time to turn on or off.

Kinos gave cinemotographers an entirely new weapon in their lighting arsenals and are arguably the most radical innovation in film lighting since the film camera was perfected in the 1920s.

Kino, which is Russian for "film," also suggests Dziga Vertov's Kino-Pravda film series of the 1920s. Specifically, it suggests Man With The Movie Camera, that film series' representative masterpiece. Kino-Pravda films use an energetic and engaging documentary style that uses a lot of camera tricks and innovative techniques to represent the world better than simply seeing it for yourself.

So in general, Kino represents freedom, being light (in terms of weight), progress, and a certain flexibility and playfulness, all of which is significant with this particular cat and what she represents to me. It's short, it's easy to spell over the phone, and it's quite a privilege to be able to name a black cat after a source of light.

I assumed all of this was perfectly obvious, almost cliche, but based on the number of times I've needed to explain the name "Kino" so far, and the number of things I needed to look up on Wikipedia to get this explanation even laughably accurate, I guess it's about as obscure as you can hope for this sort of name.

bff! and I are going litter shopping tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

ribble's Kitty

Tonight, Speedrail, Liz and I checked out our friend Destrosound at Fat Baby and discussed cat names extensively. We believe we have discovered the three most offensive cat names of all time:

3. Darpurr
2. Catrina
1. Meowshwitz

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Leave me Alone

I'm reading Narbonic.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

ribble's Award for Best Narration

Best narrated whatever, ever (in chronological order):

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (original radio series) (1978)
narrated by Peter Jones

Big Lebowski (1998)
narrated by Sam Elliott

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
narrated by Sean Penn

Scrubs (2001)
narrated by Zach Braff

Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
narrated by Alec Baldwin

Arrested Development (2003)
narrated by Ron Howard

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Back in Brooklyn

I am back in Brooklyn. Remember in those Bob Hope / Bing Crosby movies when all they wanted was to get the girls back to Brooklyn? It feels a lot like that.

This year is my fix-up-my-life year. Here's my list:

Get a new apartment. This one's fine, but I am going to need more space if I want to make more movies and all that other stuff. Bringing us to point two...

Get more work. I am considering getting something more nine-to-five-ish, but for the moment it looks like the most interesting work I can do in the short term will be producing more short films (I am talking to two or three different sets of people).

Also, I just read Robert Rodriguez's book, Rebel Without a Crew, and it inspired me to make my own, crappy short movies to learn and get them out of my system so I can eventually make a long, non-crap movie.

Get a cat. Pets are important. People with pets are happier, and growing up with a bunch of animals made me a better and more compassionate person.

Lots of people have dogs in New York, but I think keeping a dog in an apartment in the city is cruel - dogs need a lot of space they can run around with their tails wagging and their tongues out.

Besides, cats love to pretend to ignore me, and there are plenty of times when I'm sure I'll want to pretend to ignore my cat.

Conspicuously missing: Get a girlfriend. This is not on my list because this is not the sort of thing you should plan. Besides, I think that sorting out everything else on this list and being more confident in my life will help if the opportunity should arise.

Of course, now that I've brought it up, I'm sure you'll all have your own opinions.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Saints Win!

Saints Win! The Times-Picayune called it a historic victory, and it certainly felt that way here. This was the Saints' first season playing in the Superdome, the devastated stadium that had served as a defacto refugee center after the storm, and there had been a lot of talk of the Saints' never coming back at all. But damn did it feel like victory last night.

My Cousin the Revolutionary, Drew and I had been carpeting a family's house all day, and we decided to watch the game at a place near where we're staying in the Garden District.

First we went to a place in the circle that turned out to be full of white hipsters, all full of ironic interest in the game. We hung around, watched the first half of the game and had what I would call "enough" drinks, but I think we all felt a little dirty. One woman there was actually rooting for the Eagles.

At the half, we walked back to a daiquiri place that looked pretty hopping before. Now, Drew and MCTR grew up in Atlanta, and they're basically half black, kind of like how Clinton was America's first black president. However, from the outside, we all look very, very white. In this point, at this bar, we were alone.

Thing is, this is exactly what we'd been looking for. Drew, who'd been following the team since that first kick off in the Superdome, said he wanted to root for the Saints "more than I've ever rooted for any team in my life." This daquiri place was full of really excited, really loud, really Southern people who really wanted the Saints to win.

Once it was clear that we were happy to be there, and we were perfectly comfortable being the only white people in an all-black bar, and that WE really wanted the Saints to win, too, people got used to us really quick.

Most everyone there was having a good time with their own friends, but a lot of people came up and talked to us briefly. Although not everyone was great at explaining it, the message I got was that everyone was very happy we'd chosen to be the only white people in an all-black bar and to root for their team.

You remember before that I mentioned we'd had "enough" drinks. Of course you realize we kept drinking. As Drew and I should have learned when 20 minutes and some Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's had gotten us drunk for all of Friday night, the frozen daquiri is a deceptive drink.

It's sweet and cold, and although it tastes alcoholic, you almost can't bring yourself to believe that it is. I feel I should also point out, and I say this in the full knowledge that many if not all of the people I drank daquiris with last night could beat me up, but outside of the Gulf Coast, the daquiri is a girl's drink.

We started with a daquiri each, but they really taste better if you mix the flavors, and in any case, once the game looked to be both dramatic and in our favor, and once they barred the doors to new arrivals but kept the bar open, and especially once a guy dropped a Grant for a couple of gallons of frozen goodness and our glasses stopped ever getting close to empty, any alcohol accounting system we may have instinctively had in place broke down decisively.

There is no way to explain the joy in that bar as it became clear that we were going to win, except to say that every daquiri joint in New Orleans must have felt the same way. We yelled, we jumped up and down, we gave everyone high fives, and then we left the bar, happy, inconceivably drunk, and still carrying one to go cup each of sweet, cold danger.

We yelled at strangers and passing cars for awhile, briefly walked in the direction of the French Quarter, thought better of it and staggered back in the direction of the guest house where we were staying.

At some point it became clear that I was the sober one, or at least that MCTR was the drunk one and Drew was too happy to be of much help to anybody. MCTR kept saying "Rich, how did I get this drunk?," although the question had been asked and answered several times before.

I spent the rest of the night with my hands on my cousin's shoulders, literally steering him back to the hotel. Somehow, we all made it back to our beds, where we each fell immediately to sleep and slept soundly until this morning. I woke up early, Drew woke up really happy, and Joe woke up drunk (his first words were "Rich, how did you let me get this drunk?", a telling variation of the form.)

It was a great night.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Where I Am Right Now

So the movie went very well. People thought it was funny, everyone was happy, and I got good and drunk afterwards. I am already talking with people about what's next. I myself do not know.

Right now at this very moment I am in New Orleans, La., sitting on the deck of a guest house and enjoying my first internet since last week (it doesn't quite reach up to our room).

I am staying with My Cousin the Revolutionary and our dear friend Drew. We are here to do volunteer work and to eat, and so far we're doing better at the first than the second.

Most recently, as far as the first category, I mastered the fine art of wrestling a forty-pound machine in to pulling eight layers of linoleum off a recovering house's floor. I was very virile and impressive.

As far as the second category, we are striking out. The trouble is that by the time we get back to our room, peel off our sweaty, dirty and disgusting clothes, shower, and formulate a plan for dinner, most anywhere we'd want to eat has been closed.

That should brings me to a wider point - New Orleans is a crippled city. The protest I linked to earlier was over a wave of murders (some drug-related, some out of desperation) that has been the recent talk of the city, but there's much more than that.

So much has to be rebuilt, many services aren't being supplied, and, most debilitatingly, half the population has yet to return, and may never return. That's part of why so many less businesses are open and the restaurants close at eight.

It's frightening and angering to think of how easy it was to prevent this disaster and how little is being done to help New Orleans to come back.

I will be back in Brooklyn next week. I'm sure I'll have more to say then.