Archive for September, 2006

Closer to Spock

I heard about this potentially NSFW Star Trek slash video (NIN’s “Closer” plays on the soundtrack) a few days ago but hadn’t thought to mention it here until now. Of course there’s a long history of Star Trek slash fiction, so this video is picking up on a much longer tradition, but it’s still very funny stuff (interesting discussion in the comments at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels). Also didn’t want to lose track of this video because I may address it in the project I mentioned a few days ago.

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Mountain Goats in the Triangle

Via Scrivenings, one of my go-to blogs for news about indie rock: news that The Mountain Goats will be playing in Durham at the Troika Music Festival on October 20. Given that I’m going to a conference in Austin the following weekend, I’m not sure I can justify the trip up to hear them play, but I have been wanting to catch some live music for a while.

Other bands playing at the Troika Music Festival: Asobi Seksu, Two Ton Boa, The Moaners, Portastatic, and another personal fave, Okkervil River.

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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.

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Lazy Sunday Links

While digging around on the web tonight, I came across the news that Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s The Boys of Baraka will be airing on PBS on Tuesday night. Ewing and Grady more recently made the controversial documentary, Jesus Camp, which I had the good fortune of seeing earlier this summer at Silverdocs. Not sure I’ll get a chance to watch it–I’m insanely busy right now–but wanted to give the doc a quick mention.

Lance Mannion has an interesting blog entry on the ABC docudrama, The Road to 9/11, in which he addresses the transparently partisan marketing of the series through screeners sent to right-wing bloggers. I’ve been too exhausted and saddened by the incessant discussions of the fifth anniversary of the attacks to want to spend four hours watching a miniseries of questionable veracity. I don’t have any specific problems with the docudrama genre–I think it worked quite well in The Road to Guantanamo, but my sense is that Road to 9/11 is not only nakedly partisan but also poorly made, so I’ve decided not to watch it. In part, this probably stems from the fact that I find the relentless memorializing of 9/11 to be rather morbid, and Road to 9/11 is caught up in that for me. And while I realize that I can choose to avoid watching it, I also find CNN’s decision to replay the coverage of the 9/11 attacks online to be similarly morbid.

I also wanted to mention another web TV series that has recently come to my attention. Based out of Pittsburgh (where I believe I have at least two regular readers), the series Something to be Desired focuses on a group of DJs who work at a Pittsburgh radio station. I’m just now checking out the series, which is in its third season, but given my recent obsessions with web TV series such as Young American Bodies (probably NSFW), the whole LonelyGirl15 phenomenon, and the “webisodes” promoting the new season of Battlestar Gallactica, I figured this series deserved a mention, too. I’ll try to watch some episodes later this week and write a longer review.

Tuesday Update: Via Risky Biz, an interesting interview with Jesus Camp filmmakers Rachel Grady and Hedi Ewing, plus the news that Magnolia Pictures, the film’s distributor, is platforming Jesus Camp throughout the midwest before playing the film in national spotlight cities such as New York and Los Angeles. I’m still getting tons of hits here from people looking for reviews of the film (it’s currently one of my most visited reviews), which suggests that there’s lots of interest in this doc.

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More LG15 Links

Still fascinated by the speculation about the LonelyGirl15 videos on YouTube and whether they are the real confessions of a precocious, homschooled teen, a viral marketing scheme of some kind, or something else altogether. In some sense, for me at least, the speculation is at least as interesting as whether the videos are “real” or not (although I’ll admit that I’m taken by the narrative of growing up in a strict religious family), and because I’m in the mood to procrastinate today, I figured I’d point to a few LG15 links rather than doing some real work.

Via thedayislikewidewater, Adam Sternbergh’s New York Magazine article on LG15, which describes the series as a kind of David Lynchian narrative. Stenbergh points to gohepcat’s YouTube videos that question the authenticity of Bree’s videos, noting that gohepcat has become a character in the LG saga. Sternbergh concludes that “maybe this, and not some NBC shows for sale on iTunes, is the future of television–or the promised land of a new narrative form.” I’m not ready to make such grand pronouncements yet, although I think it’s clear that there is a fairly refined narrative sensibility at work here (and that sensibility wouldn’t preclude the possibility that LG15’s story is “real”).

Alexander at GayGamer.net, operating under the assumption that Bree’s story is fictional, has a good read on the ways in which participants in alternate-reality games (ARGs) become enmeshed in the game. And Tanner at The Means’ Blog also has an interesting read, praising the LonelyGirl15 narrative as “a great example of how New Media and Internet technologies can be used to create unique and dynamic new forms of media,” while commenting on the ways in which viewers become “co-conspirators” in perpetuating the fiction.

Friday AM Update: Via milowent, an LA Times scoop that emails sent from an LG15 account were sent from the offices of the Creative Artists Agency. In the same post, milowent quotes a “letter” posted on one of the prominent LG15 forums from “the writers” of Bree’s story. I’m not convinced that the forum post is genuine, and if it is, the writers tipped their hands way too quickly. As usual, Virginia Heffernan continues to provide a good play-by-play of the ongoing saga. More later, but I have to teach in a few minutes.

Update (Sat AM): New LG15 video is up. Mostly plot filler, so it’s not that interesting, and now that the scripters have pulled back the curtain, it seems like some of the recent enthusiasm has faded.

Update 9/12/06: NYT reports on Jessica Rose, the actress commissioned to play Bree in the LonelyGirl15 storyline. Sounds like LG15 is fading gently into YouTube obscurity (via Risky Biz; also see Virginia Heffernan’s Screens).

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Late to the Party

I’m very late to the LonelyGirl15 party. The basics as I understand them: Bree, a sixteen-year old homeschooled girl living in the middle of nowhere (“300 miles from the nearest mall”) has been posting videos on YouTube for the last two months, in which she complains about her parents, talks about her friend Daniel, and discusses everything from Richard Feynman to religion. The videos have recently spawned a number of debates about their authenticity, including a recent discussion of her “Swimming” video, in which one attentive viewer identifies a plant that appears to be native to Southern California (to name just one example of the details that viewers are poring over).

I’ve only just begun rewatching the videos and reading the forums, but my current take on the “LonelyGirl15 conspiracy?” Brian Flemming is right: It’s all about the game, and I’ll be playing all night. More later, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Update One (the first of many, I’m sure): Lonelygirl15’s MySpace page, Virginia Heffernan’s NYT blog entry with an email from Bree; her arguments that LonelyGirl15 is a fraud; and yet another email from Bree. I’m fascinated by the conspiracies, whether true or not, including one theory that makes much of the coincidence that the outdoor footage appears to have been filmed in a section of SoCal not too far from….wait for it….the headquarters of YouTube.

Update 2 (yeah, there will probably be more): Jon Fine has done some digging and believes that LonelyGirl15 is the work of a performance coterie working to get a deal for a web serial, a theory that seems mildly convincing, especially given some of Brian’s questions about Bree’s decision to post “I Probably Shouldn’t Post This…” And, he’s right, the Aleister Crowley allusions are a great plot twist. Also notable, while I’m in the neighborhood: Brian reads the “proving Science Wrong” videos much like I do. They are clear parodies of anti-science videos that actually seem to imply that scientific reasoning is right. What that means for the larger narrative is a whole ‘nother matter. I’ve officially been at this for 2.5 hours tonight.

Update 3: Also worth checking out: Terryfic’s very funny video response to LonelyGirl15, “I am the very model of a popular YouTube auteur.”

Update 4: I’ll start a new entry on LG15 soon, but I just wanted to mention Dee Cook’s interesting post about the LG15 phenomenon on the Alternate Reality Gaming Network.

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Converging in Tempe

Interesting New York Times article about the “EnterTech” program at Arizona State University, which focuses on the convergence between entertainment and technology, with the hopes of preparing students for the massive changes taking place in Hollywood, due in part to new media technologies.

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Jump Cut Archives

David at Green Cine mentioned this a few days ago, but it’s worth mentioning here as well: Jump Cut has made its entire archive, dating back to 1974, available online. As David points out, this is an incredible resource for film scholars and fans alike. The most recent issue, featuring a number of essays on documentary, looks like a great read.

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TV on the Web

More details later, but one of my planned projects this year will be an article on the “future” of science fiction television. One area I’m planning to explore will be webcasts of material not broadcast on television, including these “webisodes” of the Sci-Fi Channel series Battlestar Gallactica, which will be appearing every Tuesday and Thursday from now until the season premiere in October. Interesting stuff and a cool way to generate enthusiasm for the new season (thanks to Atrios for the link).

Update: A quick pointer to Grahame Weinbren’s “In the Ocean of Streams of Story” from the Spring 1995 issue of Millennium Film Journal for another, more immediate deadline.

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C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

Just wanted to mention that I caught Kevin Willmott’s compelling mockumentary, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (IMDB), which imagines a world in which the Confederacy won the “war of northern aggression,” with General Grant surrendering to General Lee, and setting in motion an alternate history of North America in which slavery remains legal even a century after the Civil War. I mention this news in part because I had the strange surprise of seeing a friend and former colleague from Georgia Tech with a bit part in the film, but I also found it to be a remarkably interetsing, smart, and disturbing take on the history of race in the United States.

The documentary is ostensibly made by a BBC-style network offering an overview of the history of the CSA, and we are told at the film’s beginning that it is airing “by popular demand” on a local television station, and the parody of documentary form, a staple of independent film, is put to effective use here, reminding us not only of the ways in which authority is established in the kinds of expository documentaries that confer institutional authority on official versions of the truth, with the assumptions of historical victors rarely called into question.

After establishing its context with two or three mock advertisements, CSA then proceeds to tell an alternative version of history that resembles and diverges from our own, recalling P.K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle, as several reviewers have pointed out. Using this alternate-reality approach, Willmott is able to imagine the worst excesses of the fantasies of Confederate leaders brought to life. In Willmott’s alternative history, Confederate leaders after the war embark on an aggressive campaign to colonize much of South America, leaving only Canada as a significant rival (and an alternative Cold War foe, complete with a wall dividing the two countries) in the Americas. The CSA leadership also provides “tax incentives” for northern factories to return to the practice of slavery even against the country’s economic interests, with one contemporary historian reflecting that the country’s identity was “too important” in comparison with the financial gain. The CSA even joins in an alliance with Hitler during World War II although they regard his “final solution” as wasteful of human labor. While CSA’s history imagines a bleak alternative, many of the policies reflect real goals of some Confederate leaders who imagined an entire continent (or two) under American control “from Maine to Santiago” as one mock children’s song would have it.

Willmott, a professor of film studies at the University of Kansas, is at his best when critiquing the hsitory of racist representations in popular culture, especially during mock advertisements and public service announcements that interrupt the documentary narrative. These commercials include ads for a fuel additive along the lines of STP that parodies The Dukes of Hazzard, a show about capturing runaway slaves that recalls the racial dynamic of COPS, and a restaurant modeled on the now-defunct chain, Sambo’s. Similarly, the mockumentary features a mock-D.W. Griffith film in which a discredited Abraham Lincoln is arrested while trying to escape to Canada via the “underground railroad,” while wearing blackface (sequences that reminded most reviewers, including myself of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled). As these mock advertisements and films illustrate, racist images have continued to be used to sell everything from rice to maple syrup, a point that Wilmott hammers home in an epilogue that reminds us that manyof his “mock” ads were based on real products.

To convey many of his arguments about the relationship between history and image, Willmott makes use of quite a bit of archival footage, both manufactured and real, with much of the real footage digitally manipulated in a manner that recalls the techniques used in Forrest Gump, with the film’s hero–coincidentally named after a Confederate general–obliviously drifting through the history of twentieth-century America. In fact, CSA might be regarded as the anti-Gump, depicting the ways in which these historical images continue to haunt us rather than Gump’s utopian journey through time in which Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, and the women’s rights movement are magically resolved through Forrest’s experiences.

I didn’t intend to write such a long review of the film, but as I began writing, I became taken by Willmott’s attentive critique of the role of images and icons in constructing national identity and wanted to highlight this remarkable little film.

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News on the March!

Feeling somewhat lazy this afternoon and eveing after a late, late night of good conversation, one that somehow culminated in watching one of the Muppet movies (I have no idea which one), but just wanted to mention that I’ve been fascinated by the fact that there are at least two new Hollywood murder mystery films hitting theaters this fall. There’s Allen Coulter’s Hollywoodland, which focuses on the mysterious death of George Reeves, who played Superman on the 1950s TV series. But there’s also Brian DePalma’s adaptation of The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy’s novel about the murder of a Hollywood starlet in the 1940s. Both films are tapping into film noir imagery and seem nostalgic for the old Hollywood. In particular, I was intrigued to come across Universal’s newsreel compilation promoting Dahlia on YouTube (thanks to Risky Biz for the link, also seen at the Movie Marketing blog). The mock newsreel runs a little over four minutes and mixes in grainy archival footage with a “story” on the Black Dahlia murders told in classical newsreel style with a nod to the opening sequence of Citizen Kane, all the way down to backlit reporters discussing the case. It’s an interesting little promo clip, especially for a film so self-consciously about the “old” Hollywood.

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