Prior to 46 BC, no one in Rome knew what day it was. The calendar was tightly controlled by the priest class. They based it on cycles of the moon, and some years would have fifteen months, others would have eleven. Sometimes different priests would tell you it was a different day depending on how it might serve them. The first of the month would roll around a little more often for landlord priests, and priests in the senate always seemed to meet their deadlines.
The Federal Housing Act of 1949 allowed, finally, for the eradication of tenement slums. Until then, generations of underprivileged Americans would memorize the annual date and time of the sun’s only brief appearance in their cramped, basement homes. Children would stay home from school to see it, and watch as the family pet stretched in the yearly rectangle of brilliance on their broken, chipped floors. Leaky tin roofs, dark passageways and rampant garbage-born illness had melted even the most conservative congressional hearts into legislating a chance for a new post-war life for the poorest Americans.
As these tenements were torn down, the wooden windowsills would often be found with two smooth depressions which had come from generations of women’s elbows leaning out to enjoy the passing street life, exchange gossip across the way, and mete out verbal justice to the children below.
Now, federal money created the opportunity for new forms of urban housing that would bring prosperity to all levels of society.
Enter the Congrès Internationale d’Architecture Moderne.(more…)
Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart were determined to have family, with a daughter named Maria and a son named Johann.
It took them seven tries.
Johann Leopold was born in August of 1748 and lived almost six months. Maria Cordula was born the following June but lived less than a week. Maria Nepomucena was born the next May, and lived two-and-a-half months. One year later Maria Anna was born, became known as Nannerl, and emerged from the biological gauntlet of 18th century childhood to live to 78 years old. A son, Johann Karl, and a daughter named Maria Crescentia followed, but neither would live beyond three months. Their seventh child and final child was born on January 27, 1756 and they named him Johann Chrysostomus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He would live 35 years.
Leopold and Maria determined themselves to push past the world’s most unimaginable pain five times to finish the family they started. The Mozarts were finishers. The Mozarts could close the deal.
Maria was irrepressible and funny. She encouraged little Johann Chrysostomus’s love of scatological humor. So much so that when he composed his 1788 canon Difficile Lectu in F Major, he included the quasi-Latin lyric “lectu mihi mars,” which, when perceived phonetically in German, became “Leck du mich im Arsch,” or lick my ass.(more…)
On our honeymoon in Oaxaca, Emily and I rode the bus with an Australian pharmacist. She told us of a shellshocked young couple that came to her shop early one Saturday asking for a morning after pill. The dosage required two different pills to be taken at the same time. "Take both of these right now," she told them. They nodded, looked at each other... and each took one. Concatenation is the order in which we experience events through linear time. Simultaneity is the relationship between events that we perceive are happening at the same time. Our anal retentive left brains organize time in a linear fashion to fit it through the keyhole of our consciousness. Our tripping balls hippie right brains, meanwhile, seem to know that every event in history is still happening right now, somewhere in the universe. I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have done the same thing as the stricken couple in the Australian pharmacy. Two pills. Take 'em now. Divide them up. Down the hatch. The past: erased. When I've watched a glass spill, my brain has revved to 5,000 frames a second, watching the teeter the tip and the splash of every drop I had planned to enjoy. And I have felt, in the same moment, the sudden funeral for my next ten minutes that now will be spent cleaning it up. It's as if the more you don't want something to be true, the less you perceive the concatenation of time. Or perhaps the more emotional you are, the more simultaneous life feels. Great movies whizz by. Funerals and burials are a rich mind cocktail of an un-had future and a bygone past, and go by in kind of a blur. A morning at the DMV takes weeks. Breathing hard, desperate for a solution to last night's youthful indiscretion, relieved at the clear instructions of an authoritative pharmacist, I think I too would have taken that pill. Down the hatch. The past: erased.
The massacre and death that so marked World War Two
Left Americans racked with bad shell shock and sorrow.
But progress in the sciences and especially in flight
Led all of them to believe in a much brighter tomorrow.
The problem was that airplanes just could not break Mach One,
Or the invisible barrier known as the speed of sound.
The Aircrafts combusted the closer they got
And put pilot upon pilot in a burial mound.
The PhDs warned of an infinite drag
As molecules stacked up in front of the plane
And test pilots would faint as G-force moved their blood,
So to approach the sound barrier was deemed flat-out insane.
But one captain among the brand new air force ranks
Beheld not a wall, just a steep hill to climb.
If bullwhips and bullets could pass through the drag
Then for man and machine it was a matter of time.
The TV show Right This Minute featured my video about shaving your Adam’s Apple!
And here’s the original video…
The frozen tundra of 21st-century artistic possibilities stretches before us. Madness lies in every direction. We know directing is the only option for an intrepid, citizen-philosopher, bon vivant like ourselves (or so we like to think)… but directing what?
To whom must we communicate? What message? Over what production elements are we compelled to bear influence? Can we ever start a family? Hopefully this handy chart will help.
Click to enlarge. Download the PDF here.
Directing is a trust fund baby’s game. Are you a trust fund baby? If so, good for you. Couldn’t happen to a better person. Seriously. Furthermore, go fuck yourself. While you yourself may be talented and friendly, your kind, with its consequence-free paradigm, dilutes the talent pool in the entertainment industry and has an undue influence on the American narrative — which is why, in the 1970’s, movies were about urban, interesting looking, colorful people, and today, they’re about suburban, dead-souled superheroes. And thanks to “unpaid internships,” your ilk will maintain its stranglehold on the industry for generations to come.
I am not so fortunate. I had three strikes against me as I embarked on this profession. Number one, I am publicly educated. Number two, I am Irish Catholic by heritage, meaning one look at me and every person thinks, “I’m going to colonize and oppress the living shamrock out of that people-pleasing leprechaun, just for the hell of it.” Number three, I am interested in the happiness of others. Numbers two and three are related, baked into my motherboard, and problems I’ll contend with for life.
Number one, on the other hand, could have gone another way.
My high school was extremely traditional. How traditional? It was founded in 1635. Six years of Latin. A strict adherence to 17th century educational principals of discipline, rigor and gratuitous suffering. If you raised your hand, you had better have the right answer or you get the hose again. In the hall? Where’s your lavatory pass (that’s right, lavatory)? Hard work was king. Colorful complexity, as a desirable trait, was, in the eyes of my instructors, a notch below rabies. Lunch break was 19 minutes long. Lollygag time did not exist.
And here’s the lesson one takes away from this. If you speak, spit out the right answer fast and get out of the line of fire. Go along. Do not be noticeable for fear of a misdemeanor mark. This is, obviously, fantastic training for the bottom of any number of executive food chains.
My wife, on the other hand, went to a private boarding high school only 25 miles, yet several centuries, north of my own. At her school, probing complexity was the name of the game. An interesting and deep answer was prized higher than a correct one. Students probably rode around in golf carts or were carried on sedan chairs by lower classmen. All enjoying the overwhelming message: I am a complex person and my complexity has value.
At dinner parties, when you find yourself bored to tears by a person’s long-winded answer to “how are you?” chances are they went to private school. That other guest, who got everyone else talking but left without divulging so much as their last name? Public. And it bears mentioning, the one who snuck off to go to the bathroom but really was doing all the dishes? Parochial. God bless those poor bastards.
To be a director, in this industry that is now overrun by Thad Claddingtons the Thirds, who only feel comfortable hiring their own, we must learn to pass. All the blonde, white-slacked, yacht-treading villains from 1980’s John Cusack sex comedies grew up to become agents and development executives and we, the John Cusacks of the world, only too excited to be granted the right to work, have been tossed outside the gates.
Luckily there is a way back in. A secret body language taught to and understood by only the privileged. And here I am to blow the whistle on it. I humbly present: Six Ways to Pass as Privately Educated, or… Six Secrets to High Status Body Language, or… Six Methods to Put Peasants in Their Heads…
Dear future son, During your first week of college, you'll have chosen your courses and will have to go to the college bookstore, if such a place still exists. Mostly it will be sweatshirts and stuffed mascots, but perhaps some craggy old fart will force you to buy an actual biology textbook made out of tree. You will find it on the shelf, and you will gawk at the price. $600. Or Units. Or whatever currency is now, point being, it will be more than you thought. I, your old man, will have been pretty stingy with you growing up, so you already know you'd sooner get blood from a stone than that kind of scratch from me. Dejected, and angry at the concept of core curriculums at state schools, you'll leave, fists frustratedly shoved into sweatshirt, looking at ground. You don't have any friends here yet, so you're all alone with no one to entertain your grousing. But then you look up, and a beautiful girl sitting behind a table sustains eye contact with you... and smiles. You are lonely in this moment, as I already mentioned. You are in a new place, and are basing way too much of your self-worth on the facial expressions of strangers. You have the unfortunate arrogance of a teenager, so you don't even realize how vulnerable you really are right now. But son, when this happens, and it will exactly as I described it... run. Do not, under any circumstances let her engage you. Doing so will create a mess you could still be cleaning up 20 years later, when you are 38, as I am while writing this, with an APR of 20%. Son, she works for a credit card company. She has been carefully selected based on personality and magnetism and placed precisely into the eye line of dejected young boys like yourself, stalking out of the college bookstore, furious at how broke you are. She is there to offer you the illusion of free money, just for being you. Just for having a name and a social security number. You're walking toward her, as the waves of egotastic tingling come over you, and she continues to hold your gaze, but think carefully about this: if you had a credit card, borrowed a tiny bit here and there, and always paid it off right away, then they wouldn't make any money off of you, right? It would be a horrible business model. They only make money when they get you to borrow money you can't pay back. The juice starts flowing. They get their tentacles on you. They are loan sharks. Or, loan squids. Before you know it—seriously, you see two movies, splurge a little on a date, finally buy that iBrain and you are FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS IN DEBT (please adjust this for inflation from 1992 to 2031). And you're still as broke as you were walking out of that bookstore. But now you owe them, every month, an amount of money that you can barely afford. And that amount you owe them never goes down, no matter how many payments you make. Then they've wrapped their tendrils around you and pulled you to the bottom of the sea to feed on you slowly. Then you miss just one little payment because February has 28 days, then your credit score plummets, then all of their friends can also make ridiculous money off of you and you'll have severely limited your ability to ever have any free time or to backpack through Eurochina with you buddies this summer, because you have to scramble every month to pay back these faceless tall buildings. Don't do it, son. Don't get a credit card. Or better yet, get one, buy one thing for ten dollars, pay it off, and put it in a drawer forever. Twelve financially wretched years after your idiot father destroyed his credit by talking to that girl behind the table, I finally figured out how to start gradually climbing out of the hole: by jerry-rigging my online bank account to pay these jackals weekly instead of monthly, so it hurt a little less. I was paying the same amount, ultimately, but didn't carry the psychological wound the monthly payment did (and now I never forgot because it was automatic). I could get my head around parting with $35 a week much easier than $140 a month. Then the balance finally started to creep down. Then I'd inch up the weekly payments, and get more confident. Then I used the online banking to pay all my bills this way. Then there was only one number I had to keep track of. Then, after five, or Christ it might have been ten years, I finally paid it all off. I haven't missed a payment on anything in five years. But my APR has only gone down to 20% from 29%. It's a game, son. And the rules are: be suspicious of tall buildings, watch and learn how they rig the game, then beat them at it. Set up your credit card to automatically pay a small utility bill every month, then set up your bank to automatically pay your credit card, and zero out without even keeping track. Then watch the good credit history grow. Living cash-in-cash-out can suck when your friends are out galavanting on plastic. But you should avoid buying on credit at all costs. And never, EVER buy future sewage on credit. Buying something on credit is paying triple. Buying something on credit is giving future you the middle finger. But future you is older than you, and deserves respect. Instead, get the coins out of your couch, buy an onion, make soup and have an evening in with a library book. You'll be smarter, less poor, and you won't get a beer gut, which will be the subject of my next letter. We are very proud peasants in this family, kid. Restaurants are for millionaires. Love, Your future dad