December 31, 2011

Music Time: Robin's Egg Blue

Our gift to you for 2012… two sweet songs from Atsumi Ishibashi and her band, Robin's Egg Blue:

©2011–2012 Atsumi Ishibashi / Masashi Ishiura / Robin's Egg Blue /
Rosegarden Media & Entertainment.

Please remember to support the band by purchasing their Songbird mini–album. Atsumi and Masashi will thank you from their hearts. And so do we.

あけましておめでとございます!! Happy New Year!

December 30, 2011

Finally, music for Mr. Dickens

Many apologies for the delay (created by a crazy–inducing combination of the holidays and an industrial–strength head cold that refused to leave until a few days ago), but now while we are still in the midst of the Twelve Days of Christmas, here at last are the best of the 2011 Dickens Festival Sessions from Port Jefferson (Long Island, New York, weekend of 2nd and 3rd December).

First up are Cecila Kirtland and Robin Greenstein with a pair of evergreen German Christmas carols (and a little trivia on how the English and the Yanks got the Yule tree habit):

Next are the Unicorn Singers of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook with two well–known carols in English (and a little history behind one of them):

Both videograms ©2011 Rosegarden Media & Entertainment.

And, yes, we are asking you to support the artistes we feature by buying their albums (none for the Unicorn Singers yet, but I am certain the Fellowship will welcome your PayPal donation).

Finally, due to frustrations with YouTube, it looks like we will be a Vimeo exclusive for quite a while. This is not what I had wanted, and I apologize to those whose Internet TV (IPTV) sets or devices cannot access material on Vimeo just yet. Please contact your IPTV device provider or the manufacturer of your Internet ready TV or other device and ask that they produce a firmware update that will support Vimeo.

December 7, 2011

Mr. Dickens goes into post

Image ©2011 Cecilia Kirtland/Robin Greenstein — Rosegarden Television.

This has already been posted on our Tumblr page — I have to admit that publishing on Tumblr can be so addictive that you forget about your other blog, as I did — but regular readers of this blog deserve to be treated fairly, so…

Many thanks and blessings to Cecilia Kirtland and Robin Greenstein (pictured above) for letting us capture as much as we could of their Songs of the Season performance for the opening night of the 2012 Charles Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson (Long Island), New York.

Here’s a still frame of them giving the audience a Yule (Jul) song from… Sweden.

We also recorded a performance by the Unicorn Singers (of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook), and we will post what we legally can the week of 11 through 17 December.

There may be much more, however — and very soon. Watch this space (and our Tumblr space, too).

November 7, 2011

Feature Presentation: Black Pamphlets

Welcome to November, and — in honor of Election Day in the States (tomorrow, 8 November), we offer you Nitin K.'s documerntary Black Pamphlets.

This film is also available in India on DVD fromn Under Construction. Here is the description of the documentary on Flipkart's website (they apparently only ship to India):

In the sylvan, chirpy campus of Delhi University, eighty thousand students directly elect their union representative. Following the twelve–day election campaign, [Black Pamphlets] becomes both an [exposé] of the money and muscle behind student elections, and a portrait of a generation of global consumers as they engage with the idea of politics. The film asks important questions about Indian democracy: how do the future citizens of a neo–liberal democracy feel about elections? Are they idealistic, cynical, indifferent? Are the political heroes of the Indian freedom struggle, who were the same age as the students of today, meaningful to them, or are they simply fictional characters in Bollywood narratives[?]. Or, if there is any space left for ideas that do not conform, that ask for change in the [world's] largest democracy.

This feature is split in six parts for YouTube, and I've gathered them up here so you can watch each one in turn, in the correct sequence:

©2007 Nitin K., courtesy of the Magic Lantern Foundation.

And to my friends in the States who go to the polls tomorrow: Please. Vote. With. Your. HEAD.

October 23, 2011

House Lights: S.978, showbiz, and you

Before I say any more, do take a look at this video recorded on behalf of Huntington (Long Island), New York singer/songwriter Patricia Shih (I wish they could have come in a little tighter on her, but hey) and enjoy this little "flash mob" action from 11 October 2011, meant to support the Huntington Arts Council (whose funding was being targeted for budget cuts).

Oh, and by the way, this one was clearly made with no harm meant to the creative team behind the classic Broadway musical Damn Yankees:

©2011 Shih Enterprises, Inc.

Thank you. Now take a look at the lead story in this 3 October Tubefilter episode with Marc Hustvedt (you're welcome to view the balance of it, but it's the first story I'd like to you to note):

©2011 Tubefilter, Inc.

Yes, I wish the first story was a joke, even a late April Fools' one. But there's nothing funny in S.978, according to OpenCongress::

The bill would make web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a prison sentence of up to 5 years. That means you could go to jail for posting a video to YouTube with the wrong background music, all in the name of protecting big media companies that don’t want to update their old business models for the age of peer–to–peer sharing.

And there is a lot of money being wagered that this bill will become law. Many of the names will be all too familiar (Disney, Viacom, Sony, Universal Music, some very powerful unions, and the usual lobbying groups). And look at the names of the officials being showered with that cash to go their way.

By now, you may have heard that a new digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future is hitting back with a campaign that should make more than just a certain teen idol's fans especially fearful. Because while Justin Bieber may be the biggest of the names to possibly run afoul of S.978, future teen idols aren't the only ones who may take a hit.

Go back to Patricia Shih. The celebrated musician (and a close friend, I should disclose) could also face jail time for her take on "You Gotta Have Heart" even though her target wasn't Broadway but the Huntington Village Board (and she wasn't alone, as you no doubt noticed).

Underground filmmakers, such as the notable Damon Packard (Reflections of Evil, Space Disco–One) could also get hit with the full force of this bill. Ditto mash–up maestros whose inventive takes on pop apparently haven't swayed the minds and hearts of music execs who wonder why their clammy junk hardly ever moves (hint: shouldn't you let a DJ take over and tinker with it?).

What troubles your Projectionist even more is the potential damage to the "Fair Use" clause of the United States Copyright Act, which does allow for the sampling of fragments from Copyrighted works (as in the Tubefilter episode shown above, by the way) for the purpose of commentary and criticism, so long as the samples are worked into an entirely new work. The folks who are Negativland certainly understand this; so do the Media Education Foundation, even if you find their efforts less than stellar (Consuming Kids had to be one of the worst "agenda" flicks I've ever seen — and I actually agree with the points made in that one).

While I could go further, I believe action will indeed speak louder than words. OpenCongress will let registered users (USA only, of course) take action by urging their elected officials to defeat S.978; you can also take action at the Free Bieber site if you feel more comfortable there. Those outside the USA can also do their part to educate people about wrong–headed legislation like this and the damage (intentional or unintentional) it can create if not stopped.

Look at it this way: The next flash mob video you save could be your own.

Just remember Patricia Shih.

October 9, 2011

House Lights: "Once upon a time," reloading [reloaded 2011-10-09]

This is a reposting of the message currently on the Promenade Digital [Mediaworks] website (link at right).

Dear Friends:

This summer started on a difficult note for Promenade, as I was forced to miss the start of Central Park‘s annual story season. That said, I did make up for lost time by recording Diane Wolkstein (our biggest and most kindhearted supporter) telling both Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and Hasidic stories. I also added a new teller to the Just One Story… roster — Rafe Martin — as he told Jakarta tales.

All that is something special, and I hope it will all be worth the wait. And that alone deserves an explanation.

First, I will be going back to the beginning of Just One Story… and start remastering each episode for the best possible picture quality (at as high a resolution as can be done).

Second, the remastered episodes will get upgraded packaging (specifically improved opening and closing titles) and then be mirrored on both YouTube and Vimeo, in new channels created for each.

Third, my net–studio is getting a re–branding. And it will actually be the first thing that happens — because some recent Google use has revealed that, not only has the name Promenade been spoken for (by, among others, a Christian family–centric company), but so has my Esperanto signature, Konstelacio.

So why “reload” everything? In two words: Internet TV.

Quite simply, Internet–delivered television programming has taken off in a very big way — starting with ethnic audiences (KyLin, Jadoo, NEPALiPTV) and conservatively–religious viewers (Sky Angel) and now moving on a more mainstream level (Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee, not to mention a growing number of widescreen televisions and disc players with Internet capabilities). And for many people, it is simply replacing cable and satellite TV because of what it can deliver for the money.

And your Projectionist is now an Internet TV adopter — of Mela. (One a filmi fan, always…)

All of this forced me to re–evaluate my own show (and in turn, my net–studio), and it became clear to me that, while I do have a foot in the door, the show is still not quite as ready for prime time as it should be. I’m not sure how much can be done about the video quality for the first four episodes (recorded with standard definition camcorders, you will remember), but the content is still valuable.

I want to ensure that it looks as good as possible — not just on 13–inch computer monitors, but on the newest of widescreen TVs as well.

As for the re–branding: It is actually going to be a welcome thing for me, because I have always had issues with naming something after yourself — it has always struck me as exceedingly vain. Thankfully, I think you will like the new name, as it will also better reflect what I now know my net–studio should be doing: cultivating a cultural garden worthy of your attention.

For financial reasons, the re–branded studio will probably not have its own domain name (at least not for a while), and will probably have its home page hosted on Google Sites or tumblr. I will make a decision soon, and it will be announced here.

I promise the reloaded net–studio and all that grows within will be a true garden of delights.

Many thanks for staying tuned to us.

UPDATE 2011.11.08: The re–branding has begun.

September 14, 2011

Music Time: Großstadgeflüster

And now for something completely different: a German pop-rock trio on bikes.

Here's "Weil das Morgen noch so ist" by Großstadgeflüster, from their newest disc, Alles muß man selber machen.

Start pedaling!

©2011 Großstadgeflüster.

For those with an Internet TV service that can fetch YouTube material, this one looks very good on a larger screen.

September 7, 2011

In Memoriam: Shafeeque Ahmed

Very sad news today, courtesy of Dear Cinema:

Shafeeque Ahmed, who played Malegaon Ka Superman in the film by the same name passed away Wednesday morning.

Due to his ill health, a special screening of his film which is due for release was organized in Malegaon on Tuesday. The screening was attended by Anurag Kashyap and Sunil Bora, the producers of the film.

The original film, which was made on consumer–grade camcorders, is excerpted in Faiza Ahmad Khan's documentary Supermen of Malegaon, available on DVD (all region, NTSC) via FilmKaravan. I had hoped to see it in all its lower–than–low budget glory, as Mr. Nasir and I seem to have a few things in common.

Right now, however, my thoughts belong first and foremost with his surviving family and the entire town of Malegaon. May all who live there be able to carry on after the loss of one of their own.

August 25, 2011

Coming Attraction: Ghosts with Shit Jobs

The timing for this one couldn't be more appropriate: Jim Munroe, the Canadian author of the film Infest Wisely, is back with a new movie that's just about ready to go — just as we in the States are facing some very bitter–tasting medicine that has more to do with politics than the economy.

And I'm sorry to say, there is no way to sugarcoat or get around the title: Ghosts with Shit Jobs.

Could any of these characters be you?

©2011 No Media Kings.

Think about it.

Or you can read more on the No Media Kings website.

August 8, 2011

My sentiment exactly

Finally back after a short spell, with the Campaign of the Season:

Grab the one you want, and Make. It. Viral.

July 30, 2011

House Lights: Define "fair"

Yes, I've been away too long. And yes, I know. Blame it on a stack of transcription jobs that have kept your Projectionist from being… well, your Projectionist.

Thankfully, there will now be a bit of a break for a while, and I can finally get to some unfinished business, including at least one more Just One Story… episode from the 2010 Central Park sessions. (And we will be back in September for at least one more time. I will decide the future/fate of the series by year's end.)

There is more, though, and I will gradually reveal things over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, how about a little Mimi and Eunice action?

2011 Nina Paley.

Like we'll be allowed to have any, right?

June 7, 2011

House Lights: Hey, it must be the money!

Whoa… Nina Paley cuts to the quick:

They're totally different!

2011 Nina Paley.

PSA: You text, they boot (very NSFW)

Have you ever had to endure someone using his mobile (be it a phone, a tablet, or something similar) to text or tweet just as the house lights are being dimmed and the show is about to begin?

Annoying, right?

You might appreciate how things are done at the legendary Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain of Austin, Texas, as per their top banana Tim League:

When we adopted our strict no talking policy back in 1997 we knew we were going to alienate some of our patrons. That was the plan. If you can't change your behavior and be quiet (or unilluminated) during a movie, then we don't want you at our venue. Follow our rules, or get the hell out and don't come back until you can.

In other words, be courteous and considerate of everybody else that's in the cinema with you.

The Drafthouse's policy makes that abundantly clear: Patrons who cannot abide by the the cinema's no–texting policy get ejected, and their money is not refunded.

Unfortunately, the staff at one of their theatres had no choice but to do just that to one patron who ignored two warnings to turn her device off.

Not long after the customer was given the boot, she rang the Drafthouse's headquarters and left an obscenity–peppered message.

Uh–oh. Guess what the Drafthouse staff did with it:

©2011 Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

You just had to give them useful ammo, did you, ma'am?

For the record, here's another PSA made years ago with the late Ann Richards (then the Governor of Texas):

©Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

Got the drift, kids? Good. Now turn off that damn toy and put it away.

P.S.: The Drafthouse has twelve locations altogether — 11 in Texas (5 in Austin, 2 in Houston, 4 in San Antonio) and one as far north as Virginia (Winchester). That's a lot of enforcement.

June 5, 2011

House Lights: Far from over

There is hope for Just One Story… after all. And this should be the last such status change we make for a long while.

A few weeks ago, we announced that we would be unable to make new episodes of Just One Story… in New York City’s Central Park, due to an unexpected crisis back home on Long Island. Some time has passed since that rainy day announcement, and we are happy to say that our show and our online presence are indeed far from over.

The cancellation announced in early May only affects the NYC shoots for June. It does not mean the end of the show itself, as we had earlier feared; we will hopefully be back in Central Park this September. And there is the off–chance that we will be able to produce at least one episode on Long Island this year — something we’ve been wanting to do ever since we launched our show in late 2009.

PD[M] on Vimeo

You will also be relieved to know that we will be staying put on Vimeo after all. We have enjoyed the ease of sharing our work on their servers since last July, and we didn’t want to have to let it go. Thankfully, it will not have to be that way.

While things will seem a little quiet here at Promenade Central, rest assured that a lot will still be going on behind the scenes — we just can’t reveal it all just yet. But suffice it to say that, as our website gets a little tweaking here and there, you will eventually find out.

For the moment, then, as the cliché goes — stay tuned.

June 3, 2011

House Lights: Zip on, zip off

This is too good to share. Courtesy of Becky Stern and Boing Boing:

Go forth, and give Big Media nightmares.

House Lights: You sure that was a good idea?

Nina Paley and her pals Mimi and Eunice just summed up my feelings about "locked" technologies — broadcast flags, Macrovision, anti–copy schemes on mass–made CDs, DVDs and Blu–ray discs, DRM, HD Radio {ewww}…

locked up technology
2011 Nina Paley.

Here are the gears she used (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons), and here at Techdirt is what sparked this episode.

Nice going, Sony. How soon do you go ashcan? (Only on those days when trash burning is permitted, we're sure.)

May 31, 2011

Whoa, Canada

Class War Films comes out swinging against ExxonMobil and their minions in Canadian and U.S. government circles. That simple. And in this case, very effectively.

This one's for the Stimulator at subMedia, whose web–series It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine gave me an introduction to what he referred to as "The Muthaf***in Tar Sands."

You don't know what "The Muthaf***in Tar Sands" are, or what's on ExxonMobil's map to obscene wealth? Press play and find out:

H/T to LUV News (a/k/a Liberty Underground), among whose readers are the two who crafted this piece.

May 18, 2011

Coming Attractions: The Tunnel

Well, if this won't sink Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer's pirate ship franchise, I'm not sure what will. It is a new horror film called The Tunnel, and its Aussie production company, Distracted Media, went one better than the House of Mouse…

They took it directly to VODO.

Read on if we got your attention:

In 2007 the New South Wales government suddenly scrapped a plan to utilise the water in the disused underground train tunnels beneath Sydney. In 2008, chasing rumours of a government cover-up and urban legends surrounding the sudden backflip, investigative journalist Natasha Warner [Bel Deliá] led a crew of four into the underground labyrinth. They went down into the tunnels looking for a story — until the story found them.

Here comes the trailer, mates:

Courtesy Distracted Media.
©2011 The Tunnel Project Pty. Ltd.

You know what to do, horror buffs. And a few extra greenbacks/Euros into their PayPal account probably wouldn't hurt.

Feature Presentation: Chicken chicken chicken

Well… why not?

You have to watch the whole thing to get "it," you really do. (You can also right–click to get the original Microsoft PowerPoint presentation and a PDF made from it.)

H/T of the (Buffalo) wing to BoingBoing.

For those of you who are vegan or vegetarian, just kidding.

May 10, 2011

House Lights: Aiming higher

Ah, what technology and social media will let you do. Courtesy the ever–observant Nina Paley:

2011 Nina Paley.

Except that what Promenade Digital does is quite a bit above poop. Stressing the word "quite."

May 7, 2011

Feature Presentation: Are You with Us?

For the more thoughtful souls amongst us, we bring you Rajesh Chittineni's Are You with Us?, made with the aid of his software engineer friends — all of them fed up with India's ever–enduring history of corruption (and how anyone can be affected by it), and able to craft a simple vignette based on the fight for the Jan Lokpal bill, which, according to India Against Corruption, would require that "investigations into any case should be completed within a year and the trial should get over in the next one year so that a corrupt person goes to jail within two years of complaint and his ill gotten wealth is confiscated."

Please do watch it:

©2011 Dreams Unlimited.

Take a bow, gentlemen.

Feature Presentation: Kung Fooled

Tonight, we give our big screen over to Wong Fu Productions for a nice little smackdown of stereotypes and perceptions.

Or to cut to the quick: Did you just get Kung Fooled?

©2011 Wong Fu Productions.

Oh, yeah.

April 22, 2011

House Lights: Pushed back — way back

Ah, the best–laid plans of mice and men. Except that the cat scored first.

In a nutshell: The Ram Gopal Varma movie review project is on indefinite hold — in part because of my work schedule and in part because not all of his films are properly accessible. The big stumbling block: Some of his films are in Telugu. Just try to find them in a Hindi–speaking home video market near where I live.

Also, because of my shooting schedule (a client video recording on Monday night), it doesn't look good for Dum Maaro Dum. I am expected in New York City early this week; unfortunately, the schedule prevents me from even catching an afternoon screening. Most likely, I'll probably decide later on if I really want to see this one on a legitimately–made disc. (The reviews haven't been tremendously encouraging thus far. And before you ask: No reviews thus far in the major non–Desi papers, some of whom put their online content behind a pay wall.)

Complicating things is something else that I cannot divulge here but which could be a long–term project. No, I can't say if it will be a film, although I won't rule it out. For now, you'll have to wait and see.

Just One Story… is still very much alive and well, and I hope to have a new episode out eventually. I'm not sure at this point when we'll be able to do new episodes (or whether we will be able to return to Central Park this summer). I'll say more eventually, so do stick around.

April 14, 2011

Just as we were warming up…

…we received some unhappy tidings from Cisco Systems (via TechCrunch):

Wow. Cisco has just issued a release stating that in a strategic plan to “align its operations,” the company will exit parts of its consumer businesses and realign the remaining consumer business to support four of its five key company priorities: core routing, switching and services; collaboration; architectures; and video. One of the casualties of this realignment: Cisco’s video camera Flip business, which was part of its [USD] $590 million acquisition of Pure Digital.

To be fair to Cisco, this move probably makes smart business sense. Take a look at how many mobile devices — Apple's iPhone (and iPod Touch), for example — can now record high–definition video. That and so much more, except doing your laundry.

That leaves the once novel Flip — of which we have two different models (one that records and saves as standard definition AVIs, and the UltraHD model that we've been using since last June) — out in the cold.

Along, sadly, with 550 employees that will be sacked by Cisco shortly. 550 souls that will now be forced to look for jobs that may or may not exist (much less provide a proper living).

Certainly we will continue to use our Flips for as long as they last and as long as we can buy suitable batteries for them.

Just mark it well, though, that it will be a while before we can begin the search for video recording gear to back up and eventually replace our Flips (alright, a very long time). Frankly, we're not happy about this news. Cisco apparently decided that its chief business — networking (and, no doubt, the eventual remote shaping of Internet traffic in a most user–unfriendly way) — couldn't take on the eventual burden of a product not related to said business.

Which makes one wonder why they bought Pure Digital in the first place.

One thing we can say for sure: There is no iPhone or Blackberry in our future. There are, simply put, some things we simply can't afford to buy, let alone use.

Our business is media content, not surrendering cash to legacy companies (Verizon, AT&T, and so on).

And with that, we'll get back to our movie making.

To borrow from a recent Ram Gopal Varma film: Topic is over.

Cross–posted from the Promenade Digital [Mediaworks] website.

April 12, 2011

A true "gotcha" moment

Leave it to Nina Paley's Mimi and Eunice to land you where they want you:

2011 Nina Paley.

What? Not even over brown basmati rice?

March 19, 2011

Just One Story… Episode 10:
The Princess and the Pea

I haven't had a chance to update the Promenade Digital homepage to reflect this, but I do welcome you to the Second Season of Just One Story… my simple and humble streaming series devoted to oral storytelling done live (and done best that way).

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please welcome Jeslyn Wheeless, here to sing you a song and tell you a Hans Christian Andersen favorite:

©2010–2011 Jeslyn Wheeless / Philip David Morgan —
Promenade Digital [Mediaworks].

Creative Commons License
This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution–Noncommercial–No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Welcome to Season 2.

The not–so–secret word next time is… cornbread.

March 16, 2011

Feature Presentation: 11 March, 2001, without words

This is extracted from a TV Asahi broadcast on 11 March 2011 — clearly shot at street level (in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefuncture), and notable for the absolute absence of needless commentary.

And I stand speechless.

Do watch it to the very end.

Merci to the Kanpai group in France, who snagged this at the moment that they did.

March 11, 2011

Coming Attraction: Dum Maaro Dum

Your Projectionist is starving for some big screen filmi goodness. Will Rohan (son of Sholay director Ramesh) Sippy's crime drama Dum Maaro Dum — the second genuine Bollywood movie picked up by Fox Searchlight — deliver when it drops on 22 April?

Here's hoping it does, what with its Goa setting and Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu in the leads:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

Especially when you have to make your sell in less than ninety seconds.

Oh, yes: No mention of the film on the Fox Searchlight website, even though the release date is close.

House Lights: Light your candles, say a prayer

Dear Friends:

Post–production on the next Just One Story… episode(s) will be temporarily on hold due to the heartbreaking news of the 8.9–magnitude earthquake and tsunami that have devastated the east coast of Japan (including the port city of Sendai).

I have friends and acquaintances who either live in Japan or have family members there. Thus far, no one has been lost to the whims of Mother Earth.

It has been impossible to access Facebook today and not see a few posts related to the earthquake and tsunami; I've generated a few myself, asking if anyone's alright and still very much with us. (200 to 300 hundred people alone reportedly perished in Sendai.)

The BBC has set up a dedicated section of their news site for detailed reports and updates. Check it often, and in the meantime, pray/meditate/visualize for the safety of so many loved ones… maybe yours.

March 10, 2011

One step closer to becoming [past] history

I don't like being distracted.

There are at least two new Just One Story… episodes I would love to get put together and bopped off to Vimeo. Then there is the grain of a brand new project that, once translated and subtitled in Esperanto, could give the gesamideanoj a glimpse of the United States that rarely gets seen. In other words, I've got movies to make.

The problem is, I end up having to dissect this:

©2011 James O'Keefe / Project Veritas.

For those not familiar with the story: outgoing National Public Radio fund–raising executive Ronald Schiller and a colleague named Betsy Liley arrived at Café Milano, a Georgetown, Maryland eatery, to meet who they believed to be two representatives for a Muslim organization willing to give the public broadcaster a large windfall (USD 5 million).

It didn't happen.

What happened instead… well, you can see for yourself above. Basically, Mr. Schiller and Ms. Liley — and by association, NPR — got "punk'd" (gamers would say "p8wned") by James O'Keefe and Project Veritas (ironically, the Latin word for "truth") — the same Conservative agitation team that brought you the downfall of ACORN.

It's done more, however, than just show Ronald Schiller the door (he was readying to take a new role over at the Aspen Institute, anyway). Now NPR's own CEO, Vivian Schiller (no relation, by the way), is gone, too.

One possible reaction to the above is to echo the words of NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard:

"Doesn't anyone in NPR’s top management think of the consequences before they act?"

Exactly. Didn't anyone in Mr. Schiller's team bother to check the background of the people who sent the invite? Couldn't they even had bothered to poke around the faux organization's phony website to see if there wasn't anything fishy going on — especially when it was clear that Project Veritas is made up of Conservatives determined to take down as many big name "liberal–leaning" entities as possible through video stings like this?

"Embarrassing" doesn't begin to describe my sentiments right now.

Worse, still, this is happening at a time when public radio and television stations are trying to raise funds through their occasional beg–a–thons, something I am very resistant to.

Does this mean that I don't value public broadcasting? Well, my hangup isn't with the idea of non–commercial radio and TV — rather, it's over how NPR, PRI (Public Radio International), APM (American Public Media), and television's PBS have (d–)evolved.

Worse, I don't hear any big names in the Republican–led House of Representatives raising questions about Public Radio Capital. It too gets funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — so it can grease the wheels of buying out (in back room deals) and taking over college and university radio stations that were better off being programmed by their students and members of their surrounding communities. That alone takes the "public" out of public broadcasting, as does making programming decisions (whether for TV or radio) without direct public participation, even if those who participate have no money to give (but whose voices should still count).

Sadly, the current tone of the arguments for the de–funding (and in some quarters, the abolition) of U.S. public broadcasting remain fixed on perceived "liberal bias." I don't have the bandwidth to hyperlink every essay that would disprove that (a good round of Googling will fish them up), but it's clear that, while, yes, public broadcasting is riddled with issues, you won't see them getting much air time. Especially when a Conservative operative who believes himself to be a filmmaker (Damon Packard he isn't) is the latest media darling.

As I said, "embarrassing" is hardly the word that describes my current sentiments.

Joel Meares has a more emotionally–metered assessment of the sad affair over on the Columbia Journalism Review website. Read and digest deeply.

[UPDATE 2011.03.11: More words of wisdom and reflection, from Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, over at Common Dreams. Like me, they question how someone like Ronald Schiller could just fall for James O'Keefe's bait. Read it in full, and ask yourself what you can do to deal with this mess.]

March 2, 2011

Feature Presentation: WISCONSIN

Vimeo user @paulmadethis offers what can only be considered the movie of our time, made back on 21 February, 2011.

Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy WISCONSIN (also hosted at YouTube):

©2011 @paulmadethis.

Stay strong, Wisconsin. "Forward!"

March 1, 2011

House Lights:
One Estrella that deserves to fall

Apologies to Liberman Broadcasting.

The last time your Projectionist commented on anything involving Spanish–speaking radio or television in the States, it was about Televisa's control of the Univisión networks.

But then, I wasn't planning to comment on EstrellaTV, part of the Liberman Broadcasting group (just look at their station maps to see how much of the States they cover). This network is accessible in the New York metro area via WPIX/11 (as a digital side–channel).

Have you ever tried watching EstrellaTV? And how often have you ended up switching to one of the Univisión or Telemundo channels, for example?

Moreover, did you find yourself reaching for the remote to escape the likes of José Luis: Sin Censura? [Explore the NSFW site at your own peril.]

It is perhaps the most brazen and vulgar item on the EstrellaTV schedule. Even worse than the slots given oven to butchered movies (themselves minus all opening and closing titles — no way to show movies).

And it is now the target of a complaint filed with no less than the Federal Communications Commission — jointly filed by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition — according to The Advocate.

The hyperlinked article also has some choice (again NSFW) examples of the "show" (such as it is) subtitled in English. I won't embed it here out of respect for my readers — not to mention respect for those working to bring profound and positive change in Hispanic radio and television. What the Liberman gang is doing is nothing less than criminal, and a betrayal of the trust of the audiences they want to attract in the first place.

Hopefully the fact that this complaint is being filed by two distinctly different entities will prevent the inevitable fallout from being swept under any rug.

Of course, the once–proud WPIX (itself part of Tribune) could distance itself from this quicksand by quickly ditching Liberman's disgrace of a network and either 1) court another entity with better programming or 2) start work on its own Spanish–speaking channel that can be programmed by those already living in the New York metro area. Unfortunately, with Liberman having a huge sway and a cash flow to match (they're not just a TV company), neither option is likely.

Maybe it would take bringing down the whole Liberman empire — and jailing their execs (and Mr. J.L. himself) — to send a serious message to those seeking to profit from the Latino communities of the United States: Respect their sensibilities first and foremost.

Or kiss your stars goodbye. It's up to you.

February 24, 2011

Music Time: Jane Lui

Time to break the silence, and bring you a song of hope — in the words, music, and voice of the charming California–based Jane Lui.

Here's the infectious title song from her latest, Goodnight Company. With an infectious music video to match (bravo, Steve Ellington).

Sing along, boys and girls…

©2010–2011 Jane Lui.

Make sure you get the entire album, via the links on her website.

January 25, 2011

Feature Presentation:
The Silent National Anthem (of India)

How often do you get something this amazing and special?

For the nation of India's 61st Republic Day (their national holiday), a team led by director Amit Sharma (of Chrome Pictures) made a new short video featuring his country's National Anthem (a/k/a "Vande Mantram") for the Reliance ADA Group's BIG Cinemas chain.

It's not unusual for audiences to be greeted by "Vande Mantram" before a movie in India; in fact, it's customary for theatres to run a short reel with the anthem before showtime.

But this version is… in sign language.

To quote Bobby Pawar of Mudra:

…Our idea was to use the Anthem to make people do more than just stand and sing, but make them feel a little differently about their country and while driving home a strong message about unity in diversity. The idea is centered on the thought, ‘Patriotism knows no language’ and it is brought to life by hundreds of special kids singing the National Anthem with their hands. The film is the first part of a program to engage people, on ground and on line, in a dialogue about how we can free our nation from the prejudices that can divide us.

Watch, then, without prejudice:

Courtesy Reliance ADA–BIG Cinemas.

Jai Hind!

January 20, 2011

Coming Attractions?: Chai Charitra

In advance of our upcoming series of DVD reviews spotlighting the movies of Ram Gopal Varma — and because this one is impossible for your Projectionist to resist — we offer you one of many streaming parodies of the man's recent two–part opus Rakta Charitra (both now available on DVD in India from T–Series).

I have Mr. Sameer Panje at Cinemaa Online to thank for the heads–up on this pretend trailer, for which YouTube user "rahulnsm" calls Chai Charitra.

That first word should give you an idea of what you're in for:

There is also an English subtitle stream for this parody (thank you, Arun Surendran and Sharath Bulusu). Just click on both the "CC" and speech bubble icons (they should both turn red, meaning they're activated) to follow along.

It's too bad the two original films are already out on disc — I'd like Mr. Ramu to ask for and gather all the best web parodies he can find. They'd make a nice bonus feature. Certainly this one should make the {ahem} cut.

On DVD: Las 77 Páginas

Yet another trailer for your perusal: a teaser created by GH (Gradual Hate) Records (based in Valencia, Spain) for Diego Arandojo and Mauro Savarino's Las 77 Páginas (The 77 Pages), a film with a curious premise indeed.

Here's a brief summary, adapted from the product page on GH Records' website:

The Earth is in a dangerous geological process: all the continents are moving back to the original Pangaea position, the first continent that arose more than 200 billion years ago. This will [result] in the extinction of the human race. Nevertheless, there is a solution. A group called the Necessary Council presents itself before the [United Nations], claiming to have the key for the salvation of Humanity: a strange book of indeterminate age, which possesses on its pages the great secrets of History and Science. But very soon the Necessary Council will realize that the fight against Nature has its cost…

I'm actually intrigued by this one. Here's GH Records' teaser:

©2007–2011 Diego Arandojo & Mauro Savarino —Lafarium Producciones.

You can buy the Region 0 PAL DVD either directly from GH (using PayPal) or their friends at Britain's Cold Spring Records.

I'll have more to say about this one when it reaches my desk.

January 19, 2011

Coming Attractions: Hostel (Manish Gupta, 2011) [UPDATED]

For those of you who shuddered at the heading of this post, relax. Your Projectionist is not even thinking (once) about a certain denounced snuff horror franchise that didn't deserve to get made.

No, the Hostel in this case is Manish Gupta's statement against what we would call in the States "hazing" (read: acts of humiliation — usually through the use of violence — committed against college students by their elder classmates). In India, it's called "ragging."

The topic of ragging isn't news in pop culture; readers of Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone (What Not to Do at IIT!) — later adapted for the movie 3 Idiots — will recall that the three college friends who are the book's protagonists face the threat of being ragged in the very first chapter. They were spared, thankfully.

Mr. Gupta's Hostel depicts what happens to those who aren't so lucky.

There's more on the film, including some storyboards, over at Passion for Cinema. But for now, here's the theatrical trailer, definitely NSFW:

©2011 Matrix Medias.

It was supposed to be released last December but will finally hit cinemas in India this Friday. I'd like to see this one, although it looks like I'll be waiting for the disc to street later on.

By the way, Mr. Gupta is also the screenwriter for Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar; you can read or download the screeenplay here. (Sarkar will be reviewed here soon.)

One more note about the above trailer: It is, to me, a good example of how I would like to see Indian movie trailers streamed online: the CFBC rating card is the first thing we see (an "A" rating for adult content here), and the contractual credits are given at the end, where they should be. UTV, Yash Raj Films and all the rest, please copy.

[UPDATED 2011.02.25-26: Shree International has released the export disc, available to North American customers via Nehaflix. As is usually the case for Indian home video, don't look for extras to be included — although I certainly would have wanted an English–speaking commentary track. Too much gets left unsaid about movies like this one.]

Coming Attractions: 7 Khoon Maaf

This trailer is heavily edited for streaming (no Central Board of Film Classification rating card, and there are no contractual credits at the end), but you do deserve an advance look at Vishal Bharadwaj's new film 7 Khoon Maaf, which gets released by UTV Motion Pictures and Mr. Bharadwaj's own vanity imprint on 18 February.

It's also the second time he has worked with Priyanka Chopra (she was in his last film, Kaminey), but the cast also includes John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Naseeruddin Shah (A Wednesday!), Irrfan Khan, Anu Kapoor, Vivaan Shah and Aleksandr Dyachenko. (Mr. Abraham, Mr. Mukesh, and Mr. Khan also appeared together in the Yash Raj Films–made New York.)

At least get a taste of what you can expect in a few weeks:

©2011 UTV Motion Pictures (Mauritius), Limited.

Despite the lack of the CBFC's rating card, I suspect this one will be rated "A" for adult content, as was Kaminey. Since multiplexes in the States don't take the time to learn anything about India's film rating system, it will probably be designated as "NR" (not rated) in the papers. Just don't bring the kids to this one.

And yes, this flick's got its own Facebook page. And yes, it also tweets.

So long as it's worth seeing, folks.

Coming Attractions: Rubber

With a 1st April theatrical release date, either this will be one big April Fools' Day prank or else the sort of event that tops Snakes on a Plane for outright… well… you finish the sentence, boys and girls.

From maverick Mark Cuban's Magnolia Pictures (their Magnet imprint, to be exact), with a 25 February "on demand" premiere date:

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

You didn't want it as a double–bill with Tarzan the Wonder Car, did you?

January 14, 2011

My new friends and a puzzle called RGV

A belated Happy New Year to my readers. (As for why: blame most of it on the sudden changes to my supermarket job schedule for the last two weeks and the wave of winter storms that have been sucker-punching the New York metropolitan area. And we're only in the second full week of January 2011. Really.)

While Just One Story… is getting a much–needed break (in part to raise funds for the production of a new wave of episodes this year — hit our PayPal "donate" button if you want to see me make more), your Projectionist wants to pay public respect to two new friends he has made via Facebook — both of whom have made Indian movies their beat in different ways.

Pooja Kohli

Pooja Kohli, of FilmKaravan.

First to be acknowledged is Pooja Kohli, who handles acquisitions for the New Jersey-based distributor FilmKaravan. You may have heard of them in connection with Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues, as they have published a "Creator Endorsed" DVD of that wonderful animation. But FK's small catalogue also includes Beware Dogs (Spandan Banerjee's visit with the group Indian Ocean), the Mira Nair–curated omnibus AIDS JaaGO, and Faiza Ahmad Khan's "making of" documentary Supermen of Malegaon. (And, yes, I still want to see the finished product, Malegaon ka Superman, along with any and all commercially–available movies made in that modest town some 296 km from Mumbai.)

Sameer Panje

Sameer Panje, editor of CinemaaOnline.

While Pooja works behind the scenes at FilmKaravan to add to the tiny distributor's catalogue, Sameer Panje writes about Indian cinema from his home base in Pune, as both the editor of CinemaaOnline (the extra "a" is intentional) and via his own blog, The Narcissist's Rant (where you can also read his poetry in English and Hindi).

So… Mr. Narcissist, meet Mr. Projectionist.

I first heard of Sameer through his recent CinemaaOnline piece (signed as "Bollyfan"), "The A 2 Z of 2010 in films," which reminded me of an old South Bank Show special in which British moviemaker Ken Russell went through his own personal ABCs of British music.

While I recommend you check out the entire piece for yourself, here are some choice letters of Sameer's worth sharing.

For starters, A is for Amitabh Bachchan (a/k/a "the Big B"):

The man introduced us to levels of shamelessness never seen before in people of the arts, and I’m not talking about anything personal here. His behavior in public space before and after the releases of [Rańń: The News Battle], Raavan and [Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey] was completely unbecoming of someone who is idolized by millions across the country. And what’s with the sycophantic moderation of his blog comments?

Skipping a little, D is for Debutants:

If there was one bright spark in the Bollywood skies this year, it was the debutants Filmmakers like Abhishek Choubey, Abhishek Sharma, Anusha Rizvi [Peepli [Live]], Bela Negi, Habib Faisal, Sanjay Pooran Singh Chauhan and Vikramaditya Motwane stormed on the scene with highly promising efforts that makes me beg for more. Add to that the debutant actors like Omkardas Manikpuri, Shalini Vatsa, [and] Rajat Barmecha and it's clear that 2010 would have been frightening minus them.

Further down, F is for the indepedently–made and released For Real, which I want to see:

If Independent films have to make an impression, they need to create parallel promotion and exhibition structures for themselves. Sona Jain (another debutant) served up For Real, a film that could serve as a fantastic prototype for these parallel structures. The film was promoted extensively through social media and Sona worked her way around conventional exhibition structures to ensure a decent theatrical release for the film, something even big distribution houses failed to achieve for their smaller releases. Are indie filmmakers listening?

Let's hope they are, and not just in India. It's a lesson more people in North America can use.

Meanwhile, L is for Jaideep Varma's Leaving Home: The Life and Music of Indian Ocean, which we both like:

The first documentary to get a theatrical release in India. And the epicness just started there. The subject was epic — the story of India’s most successful band, Indian Ocean. The execution was epic — a beautifully woven narrative that takes you back in time and on a journey with the band. The experience was epic — inspiring (here’s my rant after watching it) and insightful. The only thing not epic was the audience reception — and we expect good cinema to do well.

I first heard of this film when I did a search for the band on (following the release of Peepli [Live], which uses some of their music), and was surprised when a DVD of this one surfaced. It turned out to be one of the best documentaries on any musical group anywhere. I will be looking forward to the "Longer Trip" cut (spread out on two platters) when Amazon finally gets some copies in.

For some of us, home video provides the only feasible exposure to smaller films. A sad reality, but a reality all the same.

Back to the alphabet. Staying on the subject of supporting indie cinema, N stands for what irks both of us: "No country for the small film":

The criminal neglect of the small film by our exhibition structures was one of the worst aspects of 2010. The near demise of the single screen in bigger cities has also spelt doom for the low–budget films as they don't feature anywhere in the multiplex' list of priorities. And it's sad to see that a majority of our audience was deprived of some of the better films of the year. Hoping against hope to see a change in this trend in the coming years.

It would also help if the smaller cinemas on Long Island — yes, Cinema Arts Centre, I'm looking at you — would add India's (indie) cinema to its calendar. They could have given Peepli [Live] a much needed push — and do it better than the National Amusements chain. The CAC could have also given smaller films such as For Real and (yes) Love Sex aur Dhoka serious exposure if they could only pay attention. (Of course, not giving preferential treatment to big studio fare like Black Swan would help.)

Back to the alphabet for one more, which I find amusing. R is for Ram Gopal Varma, one of the most interesting "name" directors India can claim:

Even if his films have long stopped being the pop–culture icons they once used to be, the man himself remains as unapologetically bombastic as ever. And in the process, we get some unforgettable gems from him like “In front of [Farah Khan's] Tees Maar Khan, even [Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag] looks like Sholay”. And though the two Rakht Charitra films themselves were pretty much below average, they did showcase gore as never seen before in Hindi films.

Let me stop there, and let you read the rest of the piece (which also offers some of his takes on what came out of Hollywood last year, both the sublime and the ridiculous).

And now back to Ram Gopal Varma.

Recently, I told my friends on Facebook that I'd be willing to start a series of DVD reviews of Indian movies. Pooja suggested that I focus on a single director, perhaps starting with Mr. RGV (or "Ramu," as he is also known) and his body of work.

So I have bookmarked the expected Wikipedia page as well as his "blog and lifestream" (it could use an update right about now — that makes two of us), for leads. The Wikipedia page, as you might expect, also gives his filmography as director, which is what I will be working from.

I should say, however, that it won't be a chronological survey of his filmography, for one big reason: Try finding legit (read: "original") DVDs of his Telugu flicks on store shelves in the States or on eBay. (His first film, for example, was a Telugu feature called Siva, released in 1989. Because it was so successful, the film was remade in Hindi the following year.)

So essentially, I will be trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle of RGV, knowing full well that there will be some missing pieces.

Perhaps my new friends can help me track down the Telugu titles. If you, dear readers, have better knowledge of Telugu video labels and know how to get RGV's work in that language legally, please don't hesitate to reply in the (moderated) comments. All responses will be shared with Pooja in the States and Sameer in Pune, so consider yourselves advised.

Of course, Just One Story… will continue to be priority one for Promenade Central. This "puzzle" will be worked on and resumed when there is time to spare.

Hopefully the man will consider himself fortunate that Hollywood isn't my beat, and with good reason.

And with that done, Mr. Varma, you may, as we would say, bring it.