Archive for Life in NC

Walk on the Wild Side

Via The Salt-Box and Digital Digs, here’s Walk Score a cool little Google mashup that calculates the walkability of your place of residence “by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc.” I scored a 25, not very walkable, which was better than Alex and slightly worse than JBJ, but like JBJ, I’m not sure my score matches my experiences.

In my case, I think the 25 is actually too high. I walk as much as possible, but as I mentioned in my comment at The Salt-Box, while there are a few businesses nearby, there are no sidewalks, and cars routinely go 55-60 mph on the highway in front of my complex. If I wanted to go to a business across the street, I’d feel like I was taking my life in my hands. And the “grocery store” they list as closest to my apartment is actually a convenience store, which would be fine if I ate nothing but snack food and liked lousy beer. They also lump clothing and music stores together, with the closest listed store being a Payless Shoe Store I’ve never noticed before. Not that it doesn’t exist; there are so many signs in Fayetteville that they sort of blur together in a single, somewhat shabby blur of advertising and visual noise.

That being said, it’s a cool tool for mapping the livability of a given location is pretty cool. If I had used this tool when planning my move to Fayetteville, I probably would have made more of an effort to find someplace here that’s even a little more walkable.

Side note: my apartment in Hyattsville, MD, scores a 55, which seems a bit low, especially given the access to public transportation that I had. My apartment in Decatur, GA scores a 52, which sounds about right, but also shows the limits of the tool. I happily went without a car during my year in DC, but that would have been practically impossible where I lived in Atlanta.

Another update: My apartment in Champaign, IL, scored a 95, which seems reasonable enough.  I could have easily lived there without a car, and more or less did (my car was about twenty years old), except for the fact that most of the chain movie theaters were about seven or eight miles away.

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Home Movie Day 2007 Reminder

Noticed in the Raleigh News-Observer that the annual Home Movie Day is fast approaching, with events scheduled for Saturday, August 11, in cities all over the world.  I had a lot of fun at last year’s Home Movie Day in Raleigh and would encourage anyone in or near the Triangle to attend.  I’m going to try to make it back up for this year’s event, but with so many writing deadlines approaching, I’ve been a bit of a hermit this summer.

Looking back at my “review” of last year’s event, I think that what fascinated me the most about watching other people watch their home movies was the way in which these movies functioned as memory machines, as virtual time machines for revisiting lost moments in their family’s past.  And, of course, it’s also cool to learn about the kinds of film stock that were used and how to preserve home movies (and other useful information).


Tuesday Links, Part 1

Today’s interesting reading and viewing material:

  • First, I just wanted to mention the video blog over at Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films. I’ve been feeling guilty about pointing out all of the recent crush videos without also linking to some of the more substantive videos out there and Brave News Films is doing an excellent job of compiling some of the more informative political videos out there, One of my recent favorites features Barack Obama describing in detail what the Iraq War is costing us in terms of education and health care. It’s a powerful video, one that reminds me of why I was drawn to Obama in the first place. Also worth checking out: Fox Attacks! The Environment, a video that illustrates FNC’s consistent distortions regarding global warming. One of the strengths of Greenwald as a filmmaker (and others at Brave New Films) is documenting the ways in which Fox News (and other conservative pundits) spread misinformation, often by repeating certain points endlessly, as we saw in Outfoxed. There’s some good stuff here, so I’ll try to make more of an effort to highlight it in the future.
  • On a related note, here’s a photograph taken from the NAACP-sponsored forum for Republican Presidential candidates, which other than Tom Tancredo, features eight empty podiums. It’s worth pointing out that all nine Democratic candidates showed up for their NAACP forum.
  • Anne Thompson has an interesting article in Variety on the increasing interaction between celebrities and fans via the web. Some of this information is familiar to me. I knew, for example, that Zach Braff had blogged the making of Garden State (and beyond) and that Leo DiCaprio had a fairly active fan site where he sometimes discussed his political views. But this is a really useful overview of these celebrity web activities (and, of course, she’s absolutely right to point out Michael Moore as an absolute master of using the web to promote his films and his politics).
  • Cinema Tech called my attention to Ghita Loebenstein’s article on the portable video phenomenon. Loebenstein describes events such as “YouTube Tuesdays” where people gather in a local bar and collectively watch selected YouTube clips. YouTube Tuesdays are sponsored by Is Not Magazine as a way to raise money for the print version of their magazine. The article also describes the Portable Film Festival, which curates videos submitted from around the world. As video becomes increasingly portable and as audiences seek out collective “movie” experiences, I think these activities could become more commonplace. And, of course, there are few geographic barriers–portable film festivals could be started anywhere, in small towns, big cities, wherever there is interest.


Fayetteville Political Resource

Just a follow-up to my previous post on media and politics.  The local newspaper here, The Fayetteville Observer, is in the process of putting together an Election 2007 page to follow the upcoming local elections.  The page will include blogs from all of the candidates, as well as district maps, polling places, and articles from The Observer’s coverage of the elections.

I know I’m starting to pick up a few local readers, and I’d encourage you to take advantage of the paper’s coverage of these upcoming elections.  I know that when I moved here last year, I had to hit the ground running in terms of informing myself about local politics, and it looks like this page could be a big help.


Lazy Tuesday Bullet Points

I’ve spent the last few days working on the book, hence the lack of time for longer, more sustained blog posts (and, yes, I should probably stop apologizing for that fact). But here are a few random bullet points that could very well wind up becoming longer blog posts.

  • Just found out that the Cameo will be getting Sicko one week earlier than I originally reported. The theater’s owners cut a deal with the distributors and the film will begin its Fayetteville run starting this Friday (July 6). I mention this because I’ve been getting several hits per day from people here in town looking for information on Sicko, so I’m glad we’ll be getting the film a week earlier than I expected, which is certainly great news.
  • But even with Sicko playing in Fayetteville, I need to find an excuse to travel up to Cary, a suburb of Raleigh-Durham, to check out the independently-owned and very international art house, Galaxy Cinema, which was apparently revived after the Madstone art house chain collapsed a few years ago. The Independent Weekly review of the theater suggests that it’s a pretty cool place. Lots of international and interesting indie films, with an emphasis on Bollywood. Worth noting: it looks like the concessions on weekends feature samosas, so it might be worth hitting the theater on a weekend just for that.
  • I’m working up a review of Jacob Septimus and Anthony Howard’s documentary, B.I.K.E., about the anti-consumerist bike subculture, the Black Label Bicycle Club. Among other activities, the group frequently participates in tall bike jousts, known as “Bike Kills,” and often joins in activities such as Critical Mass. I wrote a fairly tepid review of the documentary when I first saw it at Silverdocs last year, but I liked the film much better this time and definitely have a lot to say about it. It was nice to be given the opportunity to revisit the film and my initial impressions of it.
  • Like pretty much everyone else (except, of course, David Brooks, who would have lost all credibility with me if he hadn’t already), I’m angered and frustrated by Bush’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s jail sentence. I guess it’s OK for public officials to lie to get us into an ill-conceived war, after all. I haven’t been writing as directly about political issues here, but if people like Brooks continue to write such misleading columns, I might just be drawn back into the fray.
  • Nick Rombes has an interesting post on the New York Times article on the Sundance Channel’s space in Second Life. His big question: “When I watch a Sundance movie in Second Life, am I watching the movie, or am I watching myself watching the movie?” Almost makes me want to go into Second Life.

Update: Wow!  This is very cool news.  I just learned from Film Snob that Jem Cohen’s Chain will be playing on the Sundance Channel several times this month. Chain is easily one of my favorite films of the last five years or so, and I can’t recommend it enough.  Set your DVRs now.  For my New York readers, Cohen’s Building a Better Mousetrap, which I also liked quite a bit, will be having its New York premiere on July 24.  You can also watch Cohen’s one-minute short, Free, commissioned by the col folks at Renew Media to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Media Arts Fellowships.

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Tuesday Media Miscellany

Working on two or three projects at once, which always leaves me scattered. Of course, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably think I’m always scattered. And you’d probably be right. But here are some of the highlights of my recent tours around the web:

  • Hillary Soprano: You’ve probably heard about the contest to choose the theme song for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but if you haven’t seen the video in which Hillary and Bill announce the winner, go see it (note: I have no idea how long it will be on her main page). It’s a fun little homage to the final scene of The Sopranos, a great example of the intersections between politics and popular culture. It even has a cameo Sopranos fans will dig.
  • Via Josephine Cameron, a link to the Alice Munro short story, “The Bear Came over the Mountain,” which provided the basis for Sarah Polley’s amazing new film, Away From Her. And if you haven’t heard Cameron’s music, you should check it out.
  • Karina Longworth discusses the rumors that Michael Moore’s foes may be behind the piracy of his latest film, Sicko. One piece of evidence Jeffrey Wells cites that I find somewhat unconvincing: the file name apparently includes the phrase “suckourdicks” (and apparently a number of readers of the Hollywood Elsewhere blog agree). Like Karina, I think these rumors will become part of “lore” of the film and that they fit neatly onto the narrative Moore has used to sell Sicko (that corporate interests don’t want you to see Moore’s film, that Moore is an “outsider,” whatever). Not that any of this matters. I’ll be the first in line when it comes to Fayetteville in a few days.
  • Carolina Flicks, a blog about film production in North Carolina that I discovered, I believe through Cinema Minima. Not much to add here, but it looks like a nice networking tool for the North Carolina film community.
  • Finally, via Oliver Willis, a picture of ObamaGirl with John Bolton (huh?) and news that she has a blog. OG also points to a great reading of the video on the PopPolitics blog.

Update: Here’s what appears to be a more permanent link to the Hillary Soprano video.

Update 2: Karina also has a column on the Hillary Soprano video.  Like her, I think the video does a fascinating recoding of the Sopranos ending, positioning Hillary as capable and caring (taking care of Bill),  but also populist and cool enough to recognize Johnny Sack when he walks past.

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This American Life in Fayetteville

While skimming the Fayetteville Observer tonight, I learned that representatives from the TV series This American Life will be visiting Fayetteville tomorrow night. According to Paul Woolverton’s Observer article, Haider Hamza, a 22-year old Iraqi living in New York, will visit Fayetteville to learn what “average Americans” think of the war in Iraq. Hamza is traveling around the U.S., but will record segments for the show in only three cities: Fayetteville, Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. It sounds like an interesting project, but I have to admit that I find the implicit assumption that people living in flyover country are “average Americans” incredibly problematic, when in fact, a large percentage of people happen to live in big cities.

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Frederick Wiseman at Duke

Just found out that acclaimed documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman will be giving a lecture at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies on Monday, March 26, at 5 PM. I’ll be traveling, so I won’t be able to attend the lecture, but in anticipation of his appearance, the Center for Documentary Studies will be screening several of his films, including Law and Order, Model and Titicut Follies. Looks like I’ll be wearing out the highway between the ‘ville and Durham over the next few weeks.


The Pit Breakup

Ryan uses Facebook to get over a thousand of his closest friends to meet in “The Pit,” a central location on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus, where he would break up with his grilfriend Mindy. Within days, hundreds of people join his Facebook community. Ryan drafts the services of the Lorelais who serenade Mindy with an a capella version of the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Hundreds of people, many equipped with digital video cameras, show up on Valentine’s Day to watch the drama unfold. Many in the audience chant “slut! slut!” when her infidelity is revealed. Within days, hundreds of thousands of people watch the video on YouTube (as well as post-breakup interviews), and Ryan and Mindy become the latest “stars” on the internet, their private drama revealed to a mass public. Eventually the story gets picked up by mass media outlets, including a planned segment on Good Morning America (which ultimately didn’t air). Then, as the buzz peaked, we learn, via The Charlotte Observer that the video was staged.

Ryan and Mindy never dated, but both were interested in showing that the media “don’t always accurately gauge what teenage and college kids are interested in.” In fact, Ryan planned the hoax video to promote a company he’d like to start to promote musicians. The video has provoked quite a bit of conversation, including a report in Inside Higher Ed apparently written before the video’s status as a hoax was confirmed. The response to this latest bit of Web 2.0 performance art illustrates just how much our response to web video remains unsettled, with many of the responses to the video commenting on the “public humiliation” of the woman involved or suggesting that kids today have no morals. Of course, the video is far more complicated than that. Taking the video at face value, Mindy turns the tables on Ryan, embarassing him for needing hundreds of people to break up with her. And because the video was staged, I think it makes more sense to note the power of the social networking sites that make such hoaxes, performances, and viral videos possible. More later if I have time.

Update: Some interesting letters to the editor in The Daily Tar Heel (scroll down a little).

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Power of Ten

Via the cinetrix, the latest on the 2007 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The fest just announced its “thematic program” and, like the cinetrix, I’m impressed:

Ten years, ten curators, ten films. Artists who have contributed to Full Frame these last ten years return to reflect on the decade and show the films that have influenced their understanding of it in our curated series called The Power of Ten.

Martin Scorsese
Mira Nair
St. Clair Bourne
Julia Reichert
D.A. Pennebaker
Ariel Dorfman
Walter Mosley
Charles Burnett
Cara Mertes
Michael Moore

We are asking the curators to chose a film to screen at the festival and to write an essay about the past ten years, their impact on them personally, and why this film is relevant.

This program sounds fantastic, a great way for me to bring spring semester to a close. FFDFF takes place April 12-15, right up the road in Durham.


Ken Burns in Fayetteville

Via the Fayetteville Observer, the news that Ken Burns will visit the ‘Ville in April to promote his latest documentary, The War, which focuses on the emotional impact of World War II on soldiers and on people at home. So far, it’s not clear whether the screening, which will feature selections from Burns’ 14-hour series, will be open to the public. I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of Burns’ style, but hopefully I’ll be able to attend (and, of course, blog the whole thing).


Quick Fall Break Update

FSU’s fall break began today, so here’s a quick update on what I’ve been doing the last few days:

  • First, I used the start of fall break as an excuse to drive up to the Triangle and catch the latest installment of Michael Apted’s “Up” series, 49 Up (my first visit to the very cool Carolina Theater). The “Up” series began with 7 Up in 1964, in which several British children were interviewed regarding their views about the world. The filmmakers have returned every seven years to receive updates from many of the participants. In this version, I was fascinated to see how many of the subjects discussed the “difficulty” of participating and their ambivalent relationship with the process of revisiting their lives every seven years in such a public forum. More later, but if you have a chance, I’d highly recommend seeing it.
  • From there, I drove across the Triangle to Chapel Hill to catch Built to Spill in concert at Cat’s Cradle, with Camper van Beethoven opening. A very good show, but I got terribly lost on the way home, driving down the darkest, loneliest two-lane roads I’ve ever seen in a terrible driving rainstorm. The result: Wednesday was a very late night, even for me (I didn’t get home until around 4 AM).
  • In other news, somebody “keyed” my car in the FSU parking lot. I’d be angry about it, but my car’s paint job was already awful (from some repair work my father did when one of my parents wrecked the car a few years ago), plus the vandal misspelled the curse word they tried to carve into my car’s hood (I’ll try to get a picture tonight), which made the whole thing sort of funny.
  • Also, if you’re local to Fayetteville, there is a drinking liberally event tonight at Huske Hardware from 7-9 PM. Hope to see you there.

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Netflix Neighbors

The cinetrix mentioned an LA Times slideshow on Netflix’s “local favorites” feature, which lists the top DVD rental picks in a given zip code. The results offer an interesting glimpse of the tastes of your friends and neighbors, inspiring both Andy and the cinetrix to list the local favorites in their neighborhoods. And after seeing their lists, I couldn’t resist checking out the local faves here in Fayetteville:

  1. 7 Seconds
  2. The Land Before Time
  3. My Boss’s Daughter
  4. Why Did I Get Married?
  5. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Movie
  6. Code Breakers
  7. VeggieTales: Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler
  8. The Last Castle
  9. Men of Honor
  10. Bloodrayne

A little further down the list: A Beautiful Mind, The Cooler, and at least three of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies. The unusual number of children’s movies can probably be explained by the presence of Fort Bragg and and the large number of military families with young children. The Cooler is probably the “most surprising” film on the list. The ‘hood around Catholic University (where I taught last year) is a little more interesting, with Our Brand is Crisis, The War Room, and All the President’s Men cracking the top twelve for reasons I can’t quite figure out. So what are the Netflix picks in your neighborhood?

Update: Just wanted to add the observation that the fact that Netflix tracks this information is a little creepy, as Mary Ann Johanson and this CNN article point out. What’s interesting is that the CNN article seems to assert that taste is relatively uniform across the country (and across time), but I’m not so sure that the differeing results from city to city bear that out. Even if Crash is the “most popular” film in a number of cities they surveyed, that probably says as muchabout the marketing of that film (which I still regard as the most overrated film of the last five years) and the role of awards ceremonies in taste-making than anything else.

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Iraq for Sale in Fayetteville

Forgot to mention this earlier, but I pre-ordered my copy of Iraq for Sale, Robert Greenwald’s documentary about “the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq.” We’re working on scheduling a house party screening here in F’ville, during the week of October 8-14, but my apartment would only hold about 8-10 people comfortably. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about Brave New Films’ use of house parties and hope that we can bring something similar here.


Fayetteville Drinking Liberally

Quick reminder that the Fayetteville, NC, branch of Drinking Liberally will be meeting this Thursday night at Huske Hardware from 7-9 PM. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to drop by (if you can’t make it tonight, we’ll be meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of every month). We had a good turnout for our debut a couple of weeks ago, and hopefully we can build on that momentum in the weeks ahead.