February 27, 2009

House Lights: Riddle yourself these

Are you planning to sell off part of your videodisc library this year? That is, your VCDs, DVDs, and the like?

What prompted your decision?

Do you now prefer to have your videos library as XviD, Matroska, MP4/H264/X264, or Ogg Theora files (for example?)

How much of your viewing habits have changed because of the economic depression? (Let's call a spade a spade here.)

Do you plan, as I do, to start making your own movies instead of buying them all the time?

If so, what do you plan to make movies about, and with whom? How will you circulate them? Torrents, Usenet, or...?

Leave your thoughts in the comments...

Intermission: Better living through coal toxins

The Coen Brothers have gone "commercial" in a way, with this spot for Clean Coal Clean, a new sort of "air freshener." Or is it?

Watch it:

©2009 Reality Campaign.

Of course, you know there is no such thing as "clean" coal. Never was, actually.

Let's see what happens when someone tries to pitch "clean" nukes next.

February 24, 2009

Final fade to black: Adieu, New Yorker Films

Sad news today via The New York Times: New Yorker Films is closing down after more than four decades of serving the arthouse movie community.

From the company's website:

After 43 years in business, New Yorker Films has ceased operations.

We would like to thank the filmmakers and producers who trusted us with their work, as well as our customers, whose loyalty has sustained us through the years.

And yes, the film library is being auctioned off; I assume the same will be true for home video rights licensed through other companies, including Zeitgeist and Milestone.

New Yorker also handled U.S. video sales for Canada's Project X Distribution, which helped create a new audience for the work of Peter Watkins, one of my favorite directors. (Your Projectionist just sent the director of The War Game, Edvard Munch, and La Commune [Paris 1871] a note about the New York Times story.)

Very sad.

Janus, Kino International, Zeitgeist… it's up to you now.

February 23, 2009

Bedtime Story Time: Leslie Slape

Something new now and then: A story that should make getting to bed so much easier.

Tonight, your Projectionist stumbled on this YouTubed piece by oral storyteller Leslie Slape, who offers us one of the most classic fairy tales ever given to the world: "Sleeping Beauty," brought to you by the kind people at Storyteller.net.

Here it is (with the text over here)…

©2008 Leslie Slape.

Careful now, folks… do you think you know how this one goes?

February 17, 2009

Coming Attractions: Iron Sky

Yes, there is Life Beyond Hollywood, as regular visitors to this blog know all too well. Your Friendly Neighbo(u)rhood Projectionist sees to it on a regular basis.

Today, he stumbled on this teaser for the forthcoming cult sci–fi feature Iron Sky from Finland's ultra–geekish Energia Productions, well known for their Star Wreck franchise as well as for their TV advertising.

But enough chit–chat… behold producers Tero Kaukomaa, Petri Jokiranta, and Samuli Torssonen and director Timo Vuorensola's vision of 2018:

©2008 Tuotantoyhtiö Energia Oy, et.al.

Will NBC–Universal's Sci–Fi Channel Syfy be ready for this one?

[UPDATE 2009.03.16: NBC–Universal is re–branding their murky grindhouse–ish channel according to the New York Times. A grindhouse channel by any other name…]

February 13, 2009

Set Sita free! (updated)

I did promise to say something about — no, for — cartoonist/animator Nina Paley and her animated movie, Sita Sings the Blues.

That time is now.

Original artwork ©2008 Nina Paley Productions, L.L.C.

Ms. Paley and her friends at QuestionCopyright.org have put out the call for anyone whose servers can host the movie for direct download.

And what kind of animated movie are we talking about? How about a multilayered tale of love done wrong, adapted from the Hindu Sanskrit epic of Ramayana, with occasional commentary from the 1920's–era songs made famous by one Annette Hanshaw (a silent film actress and singer)?

Alright, that doesn't quite begin to do Ms. Paley's film justice. But that's in part because this is one movie you probably haven't heard of before. You see, Sita Sings the Blues can't get a distribution deal because it is under an anal kind of Copyright lockdown.

In this case, Ms. Paley used several sound recordings of the aforementioned Annette Hanshaw… singing songs that, sadly, are still protected under old school Copyright.

Things may yet change, as Ms. Paley and her colleagues are negotiating with the rights holders to the songs (the actual songs — not the recordings thereof, which are no longer under Copyright protection, strangely enough). In the meantime, they are looking to get arrangements for server space fixed so that they'll be ready to offer Sita's story for download the moment the last of the Copyright hurdles is cleared.

Need to get a handle on Ms. Paley's dilemna? Watch this interview for QuestionCopyright.org (hosted by Google Video, and also at the Internet Archive):

2008 QuestionCopyright.org.

I hope to be among those watching WNET/Thirteen on Saturday, March 7th, at around 10:45 p.m. (Eastern). The PBS station may even have a compressed edition of the film streaming online much earlier — as early as Thursday, February 26th, if all works out OK.

If my schedule doesn't work out, I will certainly wait for the download.

Until the blesséd day comes, at least there's the trailer hosted at the Internet Archive. (I can't embed it here because it autoplays when the blog loads. My deepest apologies.)

By the way, Ms. Paley is looking for people to help get Sita out of Copyright jail. If you've got a credit card you haven't maxed out yet, and can use Google Checkout, go for it.

Want more? Have a look at "The Stork":

©2001 Nina Paley.

And here's big box motherhood in "FERTCO":

©2002 Nina Paley.

One final word, for those of you who would poo–pooh Ms. Paley for not opting to replace the Hanshaw music in Sita's story with something not under Copyright lockdown:

It isn't always so easy. Especially if your Muse is gently insistent.

[UPDATE 2009.03.06: Sita has been set free: You can now watch the film online at the WNET/Thirteen website, and/or download it in H264 format from the Internet Archive.

Plus, Mme. Paley has laid out her reasons for sticking with the Annette Hanshaw sound in an essay on the movie's official site. Please take the time to read it.]

February 12, 2009

Not a Coming Attraction — it's already here

Cartoonist/animator Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues — on which there'll be more soon) has summed up the showbiz world in one single… image:

2009 Nina Paley.

Yep. Sounds just right.

February 11, 2009

It's Ivory Soap time, folks (NSFW due to language)

Oy. This one's bad, folks.

You know how you're supposed to mind your P's and Q's on YouTube?

Somehow, sometime, Eric Cantor, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, managed to "lose it" in what has become nothing less than a personal war against the civil service union known as AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — and I hasten to add, one of the most reputable labor unions anywhere in the United States) and the advocacy group known as Americans United for Change.

Backstory time: Representative Cantor, who is from Virginia, was apparently egging his fellow Republicans to stall and counterattack the recent stimulus proposals from his Democratic counterparts. AFSCME and Americans United for Change caught wind of it and launched an advertisement campaign calling out Mr. Cantor for his tactics.

Other obstructionists would ask for air time on National Public Radio or PBS — or, if they choose, play "the voice of reason" on any of the multitude of right–wing talk radio networks operating in the States. They might also ask for a brief interview on the BBC World Service if they wanted to.

Not Eric Cantor. No. He chose to trash talk about (against) AFSCME. Using stereotypes and explicit adult words. And re–dubbing an old AFSCME commercial:

Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, didn't take long to respond. And he kept his cool:

Does Eric Cantor believe that peddling profanity–laced filth around the Internet is consistent with the values of the people of Virginia or the country? This is childish, inappropriate and disgusting behavior from someone who is supposed to be a leader in Congress and a role model to others. Eric Cantor's response to one of the most serious crises facing America in our lifetimes is to spread this filth, denigrate government employees and treat the current economic crisis like a joke. This video has been floating around on YouTube for years — but Eric Cantor's use of it in this context shows how completely and utterly out of touch he is with the current economic crisis and the lives of his constituents. Eric Cantor should be ashamed and he should apologize.

Don't try to defend this one, Mr. Cantor. You're no Damon Packard.

And you're sure as h–e–double–hockey sticks not from Brooklyn.

February 9, 2009

Now that's stimulus, my friend.

The more I look at Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, even just in excerpts on Viacom's Comedy Central website, the more I wonder if Viacom needs to re–brand their channel.

Take a look at this thoughtful conversation he had on January 27th with PBS presenter and The Breakthrough author Gwen Ifill:

©2009 Viacom International, Inc.

Be sure to listen to the last minute, when Mr. Stewart cuts to the chase on our nation's economic malaise and offers one of those great "why–didn't–I–think–of–that?" moments.

What he says might surprise you. And it sounds really good to me.

February 5, 2009

Music Time: Another weapon for mashdom

Geeks haven't had it so good since John Oswald's Plunderphonic experiments or his earlier Mystery Tape series. Just when you think you've heard every mashup method, leave it to the people who forced their Windows® on most of us to give us a new weapon in the culture jamming wars.

Behold Microsoft Corporation's Songsmith®, if you haven't already heard (and if you can bear with the cheesy promo below):

©2009 Microsoft Corporation.

Got it? You just launch the app, start singing into a plugged–in microphone, and the app takes your signing and builds a synthesizer track behind it.

It turns out, though, that merely feeding any vocal track can create some interesting results. The Evolution Control Committee have done a handful of mashups this way, which you're welcome to download as MP3 files. (Warning: You'll never quite hear the likes of, say, the Fat Boys(!), Nico, or Destiny's Child the same way again.)

Then they turned to (read: against) Microsoft's original ad itself:

2009 The Evolution Control Committee.

Hmm…could we top that? Well…

Rapper Rick Ross goes to Moscow with a small bluegrass combo on this one:

Meanwhile, YouTube user azz100c contributes his (her?) fair share of remixes like these:

And, of course, what selection would be complete without letting one Rick Astley (remember him?) have it:

Me, I just have to be different. Here's German composer Johannes Kreidler (watch out for popunders) going to the top (and the bottom) of some very different charts indeed (H/T to WFMU's BOT for this one):

2009 Johannes Kreidler.

One correction: Did he mean "U.S. Debt" and not "U.S. Dept" midway?

Mr. Kreidler's got an interesting battle going on with GEMA (which is to Germany what ASCAP and BMI are to the States and JASRAC is to Japan — a performing rights agency with far more power than it deserves), and I'll report on that another day.

Meanwhile, Mr. Oswald: What have you done?

February 3, 2009

Music Time: Remember the Silver Jews

It isn't breaking news anymore when a rock band breaks up, or so I've been told. But I've just read a story by Anne Landman for the Center of Media and Democracy that made me sit up bolt upright.

Fans of the "indie" rock scene will have already heard of the demise of the Silver Jews, a well–respected band signed to the Drag City label (also home to Joanna Newsom, Edith Frost, and Faun Fables, among others).

What's startling is why SJs lead singer/songwriter David Berman broke up the band. From a post on the Drag City message boards:

Now that the Joos are over I can tell you my gravest secret. Worse than suicide, worse than crack addiction:

My father.

You might be surprised to know he is famous, for terrible reasons. My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human [molester]…

That famous "human molester" is… Richard B. "Rick" Berman.

Mme. Landman provides the background:

Berman has long been the front man through which corporations have aggressively attacked their opponents without leaving fingerprints. Known to his own friends and enemies alike as "Dr. Evil," Berman has perfected the art of setting up non-profit "charitable" groups to advance corporate interests. The groups have deceptively helpful-sounding names, like "Guest Choice Network," the "Employment Policies Institute" or the "Center for Consumer Freedom," but really serve as well-funded attack dogs for the tobacco, alcohol, chain restaurant, tanning and other industries. The groups' non-profit status makes their funding hard to trace, which has permitted Berman to operate in the shadows for decades while pocketing millions from unpopular industries for his work thwarting public interest legislation.

BermanExposed.org was launched last year by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. It reads like a what's what of all of Berman's inhuman activies including the ones Mme. Landman listed in the above quoted paragraph. Plenty to make you hold your nose and ask the musical question, "Who the f*** is that?!"

Berman managed to get the site pulled down temporarily, but it is back up and functioning as of this writing.

Back to the son:

He props up fast food/soda/factory farming/childhood obesity and diabetes/drunk driving/secondhand smoke.

He attacks animal lovers, ecologists, civil action attorneys, scientists, dieticians, doctors, teachers.

His clients include everyone from the makers of Agent Orange to the Tanning Salon Owners of America.

He helped ensure the minimum wage did not move a penny from 1997–2007!

The worst part for me as a writer is what he does with the English language.

Though vicious he is a doltish thinker, and his spurious editorials rely on doublethink and always with the Lashon Hara ["evil tongue" in Hebrew, as in vicious gossip — your Projectionist].

As I studied Judaism over the years, the shame and the shanda grew almost too much. My heart was constantly on fire for justice. I could find no relief.

This winter I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused. To you and everyone you know.

And those are the milder passages. There's more in Mme. Landman's story, which I urge you to read in full.

But first, a belated good–bye to his band, with the song "I'm Getting Back into Getting Back into You," from the 2005 album Tanglewood Numbers.

Kick it old school indie, David:

©2005 Drag City Records.

And may justice come swiftly to deal with the sins of his father.

February 1, 2009

We want information. (Information. Information!)

And we will get it. By hooking some crooks in the Federal Treasury, we will.

If this American News Project item is any indication, upstart Congressman Alan Grayson is the new Number 2, shown here question a few candidates for the new Number 6.

©2009 American News Project.

No need to say who is Number 1 in Washington.