Saturday, January 22, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola On Art, Copying And File Sharing: We Want You To Take From Us | Techdirt

Paul Tamm points us to a really wonderful interview with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, which touches on a whole variety of different topics, but a couple of quotes are likely to be interesting to folks around here. For example, he’s asked about copying works of other filmmakers and whether or not he tries to “veer away” from the masters of the craft to create his own style, and he responds brilliantly:
I once found a little excerpt from Balzac. He speaks about a young writer who stole some of his prose. The thing that almost made me weep, he said, “I was so happy when this young person took from me.” Because that’s what we want. We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice.

And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you. And Balzac said that in his book: It makes me so happy because it makes me immortal because I know that 200 years from now there will be people doing things that somehow I am part of. So the answer to your question is: Don’t worry about whether it’s appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that’s only the first step and you have to take the first step.
While (of course), I always dislike the incorrect use of the term “stealing,” I found this to be quite an insightful answer from someone who is certainly in a position to pretend otherwise. However, throughout history we’ve heard similar (if much less eloquent) claims from others. Ray Charles famously made similar points about copying his music (shamelessly) from others to create his own unique sound (and invent soul music in the process).

Immediately after this, he’s asked about business models, and he notes:
This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.
While some will misinterpret this to mean that artists shouldn’t make money, that’s not what he’s saying at all. He’s saying it shouldn’t be presumed that they automatically must make money — or that if they are to make money, that it needs to come from the film directly.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Books I Read in 2010

My goal was 12 for the year, and I finished the 15th on December 30th. 

Looking back, the list is a bit sci-fi/thriller-heavy, but they were all a fun in their own way. I'll branch out more in 2011 and pick up a few classics I have always wanted to read, but for which I've never allowed the time.

I'm not going to give my opinions of these books here, but if you have any specific questions on any of them, leave a comment and I'll get right back with you. 

The Bad Place -- Dean Koontz

The Shining -- Stephen King

Time and Again -- Jack Finney

The Lost Symbol -- Dan Brown

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire -- Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- Stieg Larsson

Side Effects -- Woody Allen

Mere Anarchy -- Woody Allen

Getting Even -- woody Allen

Without Feathers -- Woody Allen

The Passage -- Justin Cronin

Physics of the Impossible -- Michio Kaku

Lightning -- Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas -- Dean Koontz

Monday, August 23, 2010

The FVC - Family Vacation Center

Back to work after a week’s vacation in Santa Barbara. I’m in an uncharacteristically-quiet mood; not sad, not happy, just. . .mellow, relaxed. Co-workers ask me about my vacation and I tell them it was fantastic, but without my usual enthusiasm. They see me as a tanned, perhaps a little thinner version of the Tom that left ten days ago. I’ll probably return in spirit tomorrow – need to recapture something that’s floating right in front of me, but is yet undefined. I’ll let you know what it is when I find it. 

I lost another five pounds this past eight days, but am feeling healthy – not weak. I’m proud of myself for that, and am encouraged to break past the point in time where most of my attempts at weight loss have failed – the dreaded three week mark. So far, so good – and I’m not going hungry. Sure, it was a challenge to bypass the pizza and desserts last week, but I think the movie popcorn was the hardest. I had ten kernels of popcorn. While it may be true for some snack foods that twice the amount does not equal twice the satisfaction – take, for instance, eating a Snickers bar. Very satisfying – right? Eating two doesn’t double the ecstasy. Well, at least it doesn’t to me. This theory falls apart dismally when applied to popcorn. One kernel is simply not enough. One handful? Not even close. I’m usually not satisfied until I can see the bottom of the container, and even then I’m chomping on the un-popped orphans hoping they’ll give up one last explosive burst of flavor during frenzied mastication. Ten kernels are a tease, a taunt – pure torture. I should have avoided the bag entirely.  So, the lesson here – stay away from popcorn – at least the fat-saturated movie variety, and the kind they sell at Target – same formula, I believe, but one-quarter the price. 

Reflecting on my mood one more time, it occurs to me that I watched a Lawrence Kasdan film last night, Grand Canyon. It’s on my short list of favorite movies, and always makes me a bit self-reflective. The writing in this movie is so delicately crafted that the movie, to me, comes alive and speaks to me on many levels. It’s not a barrel of laughs, and I can certainly see why some people simply don’t “get” the film. It fits me though, like an old, comfortable shirt. Wait – that’s such a mixed metaphor I don’t know where to begin. Perhaps I’ll just stop now instead.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Learning to ride

For months now, my dear daughter has been asking if I could teach her to ride a bike. Last week I finally relented, and told her that Sunday would be the day. Fate lent a gentle push, as Saturday evening we were offered a "like new" girls bicycle from some good friends. This really cemented the deal, as it meant I wouldn't have to don mining gear and crawl deep into our attic to find Nick's old BMX bike. Plus, this girls bike has pretty blue flowers on it! Charming.

I remember teaching Nick, and the long hours of spine-wrenching torture of leaning over and holding him while running. Try leaning at a 35 degree angle and running at full-gait. Yeah, see? Juliana, for whatever reason, was much easier. A couple of passes up and down our block while I held the handelbars and seat, then it was just a matter of supporting her under her arms as she learned the intricacies of steering. By the second day, I could feel her balance was improving to the point where I felt I could let go - with her permission, of course. We tried it, and sure as snuff, she rode for a second or two. A few more minutes of practice and she was riding for ten seconds at a stretch. Then, the inevitable happened. As my heart struggled to pump blood to my legs and my leaden lungs strained to expand, I dropped behind her at one point. Without me to spot her, she panicked, turned sharply to the right, and rode onto a lawn where she promptly laid the bike down with her under it. She was upset - rightfully so. The first crash on your bike is always the worst, regardless of the degree of injury. But beyond that, my repeated promises of "Daddy won't let you crash, so don't worry," came rushing back. Damn heart and lungs! What did I ever do to to you?!?  Oh yeah. . .nothing!

We went out again last night and I ran more than I have since high school. She rode for the longest stretch yet - over 20 seconds. This time I forced myself to keep pace, and this time it was me that collapsed on the lawn, after gliding her slowly to a stop. I recovered without any tears, and she decided to walk with me back to the house. I think she understood, probably better than I, when we'd both had enough for one evening.

(Per)Posterous - The strangeness just keeps coming.

HiFi Collector - Your one-stop gear geek stop

Facebook - They say this thing will really take off some day! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


August 10th, and it's still cool. As we wait for summer's long, hot exhale, I can't help but worry that it will come with a vengence just as school begins in three weeks. Inevitably, the first week of school is tortuously-hot. I remember sitting in new, unfamiliar classrooms in early September, feeling a mix of meloncholy, remorse, and the kind of profound loss you only get when something dear, like your freedom, has been snatched from you. All this, of course, puntuated by a brutal heat wave that mocks your feeble resolve, and bludgeonds hope. But then, sudden promise. A new girl sitting to my left. Pony tails, green eyes. She too looks hot and miserable. The teacher drones on and I glance at the girl and she glances back, smiles. I hang onto that moment, nurture it, and make it last for days.

Had an encounter with a skunk this morning. I see them occasionally around the neighborhood, but have never gotten this close. I was on my pre-dawn fog walk, and fiddling with my iPod when I heard the sound of claws scratching pavement in front of me. There, not more than six feet away, was the most beautiful skunk I've ever seen. Tail raised high, claws quivering on asphault, alabaster white on licorice black fur -  magnificent! I spurted out six explatives in one breath and darted to the right toward the sidewalk. The skunk stayed put, watched me leave then holstered his tail and snuck under a pickup. I couldn't help but wonder - with a wide, empty road for us to share, why did he feel compelled to confront me? He's got to have better night vision than I, and there's no way he could have mistaken me for a parsnip, cockroach, or other delicacy. Then again. . . naw. Anyway, perfect specimen - I applaud his hygeine routine, whatever that may be.

Teaching my daughter to ride a bike. More on this tomorrow - much more.


Posterous - Went through a "depression era" photography phase last week, and I can't promise I'm over it, so be warned.

FaceBook - Daily trivia and now caption contests! It's as much fun as going to a bar for trivia night, except I only ask one question per day, don't serve drinks, and we don't give out any prizes. But hey, - NO COVER!

Breathe In Breathe Out - Ema's Cancer Recovery Journal - New entry! Be the first on your block to read it! Great news on the recovery action.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My kind of tea party

Splendiferous Sunday. Visited my mom in the morning and showed her the cruise pics on my iPhone. She enjoyed seeing the ship, and the family, then she started drifting off a little after I'd flicked through about 60 of them. I'd forgotten just how many photos I took with the iPhone, and realized that she's doing exactly what I'd WANT to do if I were in her shoes. Sixty pics is enough to make anyone's eyes glaze over. Those of you old enough to remember sitting in a living room watching slide shows can appreciate the true meaning of patience. Back during the age of naugahide and hi-low carpets, slide shows were often used as gentle cues to friends and relatives that you felt were visiting your home too often. From a kid's point of view, the shows were utter torture. The thick layer of smoke forced you to snatch a couch cushion and stay close to the floor. Uncle Carl spent half an hour fiddling with the Kodak Carousel, reloading the slides so at least one-third of them were right-side-up, then we'd wait as he took a break to refill his scotch and grab another deviled egg. Finally, when the rest of the adults in the room were sufficiently snockered, the show began. Prior to digital cameras, photography was an investment. You had to purchase a roll of film, and then pay for developing.  I can't think of any other phrase in the consumer world that so well defines the idiom "they get ya comin' and goin.'" These revolving expenses lead to keeping many photos that today would be deleted without hesitation. This also meant that slide shows sometimes lasted until dawn, including the drink breaks and the progressively-slurred narration. So mom - no problem if your gaze shifts from my iPhone to the Food Network in the background - I've been there too.

Sunday afternoon brought a blissful nap, then Juliana approached me, "“Dad I'm bored; I want to do something with you."” Touching, but I read the sub-text. “"Hmmmm… so you're looking for me to find something for us to do together so you're no longer bored?"” Pause. "“Yeah, I guess,”" she said. “"Want to clean your room? That's not boring,"” I said. "“C'mon dad."” We ended up having tea together on the front patio. I spread out a sheet and emptied a can of Diet Coke into her plastic tea pot. She did the honors of pouring, and then brought out the plastic cupcakes and cookies for us to enjoy. “Ummmm. . .” I said. “ Cracker Jack might hit the spot too - don't you think?” She ran inside and grabbed two boxes from the pantry, scampered back.

I told her about how there used to be little toys inside the boxes, rings, assorted plastic figurines, cars, planes. She opened her prize and read me the jokes; we agreed they were pretty lame. I Poured the rest of the “tea and then mentioned that I had to get the RoundUp out and spray the weeds that were peaking up between the patio stones. Explained to her how RoundUp isn't poison, and how it kills weeds by starving them from the inside out. She made a face that told me she understood, but didn't approve. We sprayed the weeds together, she pointing them out to me, and I blasted them. Then we noticed in the far corner a seven foot tall weed that had somehow escaped our radar. This one was in the rose garden, and was some sort of mutant rose shoot - a “sucker” I believe they're called. We sprayed it and decided this would be the true test of RoundUp. If it could kill a weed bigger than me in seven days, it deserves everything it claims.  To that end, we agreed another tea and weed-check should be scheduled for next week as well. Stay tuned for next Sunday's weed update.

Links Galore!

Posterous - Trying to see if there's a limit to how many pages they'll give me for free. Tons of new pics there
(almost) daily.

HiFiCollector - Your one-stop-shop for all your vintage stereo gawking.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Moonlight Madness and a Sad Realization

Yesterday's trip to Salvation Army was deemed successful. Not only did we accomplish our main objective: getting Nick a pair of jeans and a shirt that he can use for his paintball adventure this coming Tuesday (this instead of using clothes he might otherwise wear to school in a month - paintball stains and all), but we hit SA during their once-a-month "Moonlight Madness" sale in which everything in the store was 50% off! Oh joy.

For a thrifter like myself, this meant that I could collect even MORE discarded trinkets with which to fill my house and garage. Alas, we ended up only buying a few items. Aside from the clothes, a DVD/CD player (can never have enough of these), a cool metal latching box for Sam to keep his Nintendo DS and games in, and something else - can't remember. Anyway, the total bill was just shy of $19, or less than lunch for two at Applebees.

The Sad Realization
I recently re-read a few stories on TOYM that I wrote a few years ago, and was not impressed with nar one of them. They're not all bad, just heavy-handed and in need of polishing. Shame, really, as at the time I wrote them, I could have sworn they were at least blog-worthy. Many of these stories were inspired through the creation of 52Stories, which gained modest popularity until the buddy who helped create it and I realized the maintenance of the site was more than either of us could handle at the time. He was starting school again, and  my wife was battling cancer which meant my attention had to be refocused on the home instead of personal pursuits. Yes, as far as the quality of the stories goes, it's a bummer to be disappointed by something you put effort into. But isn't this the case with so many things? Given a little time, our perspective shifts and that painting we created looks odd, the song we sang sounds off-key, the story we wrote seems awry. The eternal optimist in me is trying to tell me that, by recognizing the shortcomings in these stories, I'm actualizing my own growth as a writer. Judgement shifts over time with wisdom. Current wisdom says these stories need work, and that, I guess, is okay. Subsequent stories have been a little bit better, but now will require revisiting as well to see what surprises lie for me there. Feel like checking out the questionable ones? You be the judge - but don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, and a visit to my mom in Long Beach. She's been in a home for Alzheimer patients for about 14 months now and is doing well. It's funny - she's still a rebel, refuses to follow "the crowd." While all the other ladies in the house (six in total) enjoy sitting in the front room watching television or at least listening to it, my mom prefers the solitude and quietness of her room. She's happier and less anxious in there, which is great. Everyone deserves to be happy and calm as often as possible. That's why I get up an hour before dawn each morning - solitude runs in the family, I guess. Sunday evening is also Movie Night! My dad comes over every Sunday and we have dinner while watching a movie in our family room. Tonight's film, Hopscotch, starring Walter Matthau. Saw this in the theater with my parents when it came out, and don't remember anything about it, but my dad requested it - so be it. :)


Posterous is getting freaky! - The Best Thrift Store Finds #5 just posted.

Nostalgia Lounge - More coming... I promise.

FaceBook - Ever heard of this site?