Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Disaster on Lego World

My son has just completed his first short film, about a UFO attack on Lego World. Contains horrible violence and bloodied, dismembered Lego dudes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dennis Kucinich at the Democratic Debate

The warmongers at GE/NBC specifically changed their rules to exclude the anti-war Kucinich from last night's debate, after initially inviting him. Luckily, American patriot Amy Goodman of Democracy Now decided to rerun major chunks of the debate with Kucinich in studio, essentially giving him the seat at the table he was denied by the corporate controlled media. So here's the debate as it should have been:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Richard Dreyfuss@Macworld

I mentioned a few days ago seeing Richard Dreyfuss, the actor from Jaws and The Goodbye Girl, hanging around at Macworld. Well, I had a Close Encounter of the Star Kind and I snapped a surreptitious pic for you, Dear Reader.

I wasn't going to add this coda but what the hell. You see, when I saw Richard Dreyfuss, all I could think of was a little anecdote in uber-producer Julia Phillips' memoir, You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again. Phillips and Erica Jong* were hanging out with Dreyfuss:

“Whaddyou mean, angry fucking?” Erica says, egging him on. She and I exchange an I’ll-never-fuck-this-one look. Oh, please. Dreyfuss is a little shorter than me, and has taken to calling me “boss” as in, “Hi, boss,” then pecking me, sonlike, chastely on the cheek.

Dreyfuss pulls himself up to his full height, which is not much, and puffs out his chest. He dryhumps the air, his arms around an invisible whore, and as he screams, “I hate you I hate you I hate you…” one hand smacks his phantom lover about the head and shoulders. We crack up, but in my mind he has moved from a maybe to a never.

So that's what I thought of when I saw Richard Dreyfuss.

* So worth a click, just for the audio. At the moment, it's Jong reading her own poem Smoke on Vanessa Daou's trippy electro-jazz album Zipless: Songs From the Poems of Erica Jong.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Macworld & EFF

I got to feel ridiculously hip yesterday, what with wandering Macworld and then schmoozing at EFF's 17th birthday party at the 111 Minna Gallery a few blocks down the road. The highlight of Macworld for me, besides playing with the new Macbook Air, was getting a chance to play an early version of Spore, genius Sims creator Will Wright's much delayed new wonder in which players get to create an entire universe, from single-celled organisms to highly customizable animals and creatures to galactic physics.

Check Wright's inspiring TED talk for a closer look.

In the picture, a guy is designing a creature, elongating and shaping the spine. You decide on the length, width, and placement of legs, eyes, mouth, and every other design element of the creature. Then, when he comes alive he moves according to your design and, presumably, some basic rules of anatomy and physiology. Tres cool.

Spore is the game my son and I and -- a great many other people -- have been most eagerly anticipating for several years. Wright's the kind of guy who won't release a game until it's really, truly ready, and I'm willing to believe Spore has required some seriously heavy-duty coding to bring to fruition. Previous release estimate put the date around March, but all I could get out of the EA reps was that the game would be released "sometime this year."

After following their heroic work for well over a decade, I finally joined the EFF at Macworld. Joining supports the leading voice for civil liberties in cyberspace and netted me a cool Hugh D'Andrade-designed tee shirt, too.

I ran into my buddy Bob around the iPod Touch display and we ended up going to dinner at Osha, a very nice Thai place right in the neighborhood. We watched a very cute redhead in a short skirt and white stockings getting a big takeout order. After dinner, we walked over to 111 Minna and discovered the cute redhead is an EFFer. I knew there was something special about her!

At the EFF party, I met Fred von Lohmann, Senior Intellectual Property Attorney, copyfight hero, and all-around nice guy. I've been a fan for years, and I complimented von Lohmann on his excellent interview in Steal This Film II, the fantastic free documentary all about the historic threat to free and open information exchange on the Internet.

I also had a nice long chat with Charles Choi, founder of Caachi.com a new indie film distribution site. With Caachi, filmmakers set their own prices for DRM-free downloads. Artists retain all rights to their work, along with 75 cents of every dollar their films take in. I wonder what percentage goes to the artists with Apple's newly-announced video download service?

In the corner, a couple of guys held court for a while with XO laptops from the One Laptop Per Child project. Impressions without actually playing with one: Very cool, stylish design, and pretty powerful for what it is. The guy doing the demo claims it's very easy to learn to use, especially for someone who has never before used anything else.

Then I met EFF's incoming webmaster Chris and his delightful girlfriend Hilary (one "l," thank you very much) and told them about the seminal role EFF has played over the last 17 years. I advised Chris to make sure the site steers everyone to the Join EFF page as clearly and conveniently as possible.

I even got to introduce Chris and Hilary to Fred von Lohmann, who wished Chris well in organizing a decade and a half's worth of documents into some coherent form!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Liveblogging from Macworld

I don't have much to say at the moment. I just think it's cool to be posting from the Blogger's Lounge at MacWorld, sponsored by Office 2008. I've already bumped into a couple of friends, one of whom will accompany me to the EFF 17th birthday party later.

Saw lots of cool Mac-related stuff and got to play with the new Macbook Air. Crazy. Also saw Richard Dreyfuss hanging outside the John Lennon Bus. Pics and impressions to follow.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

3 Graphic Designers + 4 Days = D-Day Invasion

This astonishing clip demonstrates that the days in which you needed the GNP of a small country to make an effects-heavy blockbuster are coming to an end. The clip supports my contention from a few days ago that the balance of power has shifted quite dramatically in the film industry.

In my previous post, I mentioned that big time film and television artists will start creating their own media companies, owning every step in the production process and eliminating the parasitic middlemen called studios. Apparently, this process is already underway. Artists and writers are teaming up with geeks to create their own production partnerships, entirely independent from the studios.

The time is ripe for a bottom-up reinvention of the film and television industry. Both technology and society have evolved exponentially since the last writers' stike, way back in 1988. The current writers' strike is the biggest mistake the AMPTP has ever made, and the blowback could prove fatal.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Daily Show is Back -- Thank God

Jon Stewart went on a tear for his first show back in the midst of the Writers' Strike. Stewart, along with Stephen Colbert, is the best friend the writers could ever hope for, clarifying the issues and slicing the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the corporations it represents. Both Stewart and Colbert featured experts on labor and unions. If nothing else, this strike is educating Americans about the value of unions in allowing workers to stand up to large corporations to assert what are beginning to seem like fundamental rights.

Stewart: I don't believe that the AMPTP understands the struggle that it's in, and I don't think they understand the blowback that's going to happen.
Link (click on the Writers' Strike segment)

Very soon, film and television artists will simply cut free from their corporate masters and run their own shows, much the way musicians are doing right now. Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin did this in 1919 when they formed United Artists, and others have periodically tried the same tactic, often successfully. But the fundamental paradigm of big media has remained constant. Production and distribution have been so expensive that only large corporations have been able to afford them.

That era is coming to a close. Digital media democratizes every step of the process, from production to distribution. The days of scarcity, of a small number of giant corporations controlling the means of production, are over. How appalling that artists and creators largely don't own or control their own work! How'd we ever get into this situation?

The future of media is the Internet, and everyone knows it. The media giants are fighting to hold onto their digital distribution cash while simultaneously claiming they're not making any money on the Internet ($1 billion lawsuits against YouTube notwithstanding).

This strike is a big story. A very, very big story. This is the first Internet-era strike, the first time artists have been able to take their case to the public through all the new media channels, the ones not controlled by their adversaries. Hell, the Golden Globes had to be cancelled, because the producers couldn't get any actors to cross the picket lines and show up.

A line has been drawn in the sand. The AMPTP is fighting a losing battle. Watch out for the blowback.