26 October 2006

Scene cards

Every story tells a picture, don't it?

25 October 2006

Fava fav

Santorini Fava
Originally uploaded by bootsintheoven.
SALSAS AND DIPS AND SUCH: a friend's collecting that kind of tastes for a book she's putting together, and I pulled together this reminiscence, which I hope suits her pages in this draft or a couple more: "I'm winding a familiar path through the cobbled side alleys of the Ladadika. It's been several years since they cleared out the red-light district on top of what had been the oil and market. Today, many of the small warehouses have been turned into discos, filled with Balkan party animals. But there are meat and fish restaurants, too. I am meeting my friend Eleni at her friend E's taverna, just on the edge of the neighborhood. In the fifth century, this city, Thessaloniki, was the deepest of deep-sea ports. Alexander the Great named the port after his sister. Family counts. When you take a table, you don't have to order. E. sees you from the kitchen or behind the counter, and it's the same ritual as a sushi chef with omakase: you tell them what you don't eat or can't eat but, really, the host expects the table can hold anything. There are small fish that have no names in English. So many simple, natural ingredients, clean flavors from elements hailing from only a few kilometers away, in this humble place two blocks from the sea: the freshest octopus, lightly grilled, scented with lemon; crunchy, fried small fish with no name in English; zesty ripe tomatoes atop crunchy greens; crumbly feta; so many kinds of olives. The fruit of the land is at arm's reach. There's always a small plate of something. All of the history and topography falls away in front of one ever-present dish. While it hails from the peasant cuisine of the island of Santorini, a gorgeous savory staple is fava puree, a swirl of yellow peas with olive oil and lemon, garnished with five or six thin, thin stripes of Spanish onion, pale with slightest hints of purple. I have been known to eat it with a spoon."

The best yellow split peas come from Greek markets, or as yellow "daal" from Indian grocers. Crushed, then boiled with a small, peeled onion and about a third-cup of extra virgin olive oil, two cups of simmering beans will reduce into a puree; after taking the onion out, salt to taste and puree in a blender. The result should be covered and set aside overnight, and served with lemon slices, virgin olive oil and slices of onion.

24 October 2006

What is it?

Water-soluble street stenciling for the Bendfilm Festival in Bend, Oregon.

23 October 2006


Everyone, still, standing.

22 October 2006

21 October 2006

The world's stroppiest actors


Burned by journalists in the 1960s, Beatty was one of the first Hollywood bigs who refused to submit to the indignity of journalistic interrogation. Adam Sandler's used his box-office clout to resist interviews for his latest comedies, and you can't blame him. How many times can you answer the same questions about your life, your loves, your latest movie? There are actors like Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford who soldier onward, revealing little but at least making the gesture. Tom Cruise is all smiles and intense eye contact, a shining exemplar of all the self-help non sequiturs that stream from his anecdotes. Hanks is all sunlight and jollies. He doesn't say much, but it's always with lighthearted good-cheer. While Ford does the circuit, he telegraphs answers shorter than the dialogue of any character he's every played. "I do this because it's part of my job, I do this because, what's the word," he told me recently. "It'll come to me." He slow-burns that famous smile, nearly a smirk. "I'm a profit participant."

Yet those luckless artistes earning less than $20 million a picture are contractually obligated to meet the ladies and gentlemen of the press. Most Hollywood publicity is manufactured during an exhausting weekend-long clusterfuck, day-long series of seven-minute television interviews and twenty-five minute roundtables where journalists fire their impertinent (or idiotic) questions at increasingly punchy performers. We're all working here, you want to shout at the stroppy lot. For instance, Gary Sinise wastes little of his much-advertised theater training to appear less than disagreeable. Make the mistake of telling him who you write for, he's likely to snort his contempt not only for the publication, but that you would stoop to writing for them. Looking at his homely scowl and puffed-up muscles, you wonder: who died and made you talented?

One of the surest signs of polite boredom (and burning-up of interview time) is the actor who flatters the journalist with questions, or piles on layers of shaggy-dog stories, or asks that questions be repeated. Morgan Freeman is one of the most accomplished. At least three times, I've heard his story, apropos of little or nothing, of the day he saw the face of Satan in the swirling clouds while he was out on his boat with his wife. He tells it with Shakespearean grandeur, a great performance, yet it's useless except to impersonate to your pals at the local. I remembered a quotation once while Freeman was talking, something I'd read off the wall in the men's room of a Chicago vegan coffeehouse, that I knew he would ask to hear repeated, and would then repeat and savor, looking off into the distance with a knowing smile. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper while waiting. "It's like the African proverb, 'The true story of the hunt will never be known until the lion gains his voice," I say. He repeats it. "I like that," he says, "Could you write it down for me?" hoping to simply watch as I did. I hand him the scrap of paper. He grins, busted. He looks deep into my eyes. "Did you know the story of how I saw the devil in the clouds?"

Promoting Brett Ratner's Money Talks in 1997, Charlie Sheen was a big joker but also at the tail end of years of admitted whoring, drinking and drugging. Some journalists found him offensive; I thought he was hilarious. Wanna direct yourself, I ask? "It's getting real close. I'm tired of being the guy on the set that knows more than the chap calling all the shots." So you're angry about the business. "I'm just not fooled. Money. Where do they spend it? Where do you spend 200 million dollars on a movie? Do you eat it? Do you sit around at lunch eating cash? Do I seem angry? I'm not angry. I'm just... neutral." He pauses, turns his face into a scowl, "Yeah, I'm fucking pissed! What about it!" He breaks into a big smile. Your plans next? "I'm going to my father's birthday tonight. You bring the Diet 7-up, I'll bring the crushing familial guilt."

Any whiff of breezy self-destruction beats the odor of fire and brimstone: that is, half an hour in the company of the glummest, grumpiest git on the planet. Tommy Lee Jones, the Oscar-winning 55-year-old former soaps star once told People, "I really don't know much about comedy and often don't really understand what is funny and what is not. Irony, I have a pretty good grasp of, but not humor." Reports on his personal life aren't favored, either. "The only thing that's scary is the way the media sensationalized and exaggerated and flat lied about it in order to increase their ratings," he said of a 1998 horseback spill during a polo match. "I feel insulted by having been exploited by the media." We're just letting folks know who you are. "My reputation is derived from critics talking among themselves. It has nothing to do with the reality of who I am. those who work with me know better."

Promoting Men in Black II, Jones was calmer than in prior punch-ups with the press, but inner pain danced across his rumpled, pocked features, as if doing painful penance for dull duds like Blown Away and Batman & Robin.

Brow creased, black eyes growing more black like hellish coals, he offers a dull "How y'all doin'?" then notes, "You got some nice tape recorders here."

To the predictable question, "What's it like acting to imaginary aliens?" gets the same answer as the question, "What's it like acting to imaginary lava (or Anne Heche)?" in the unforgettably forgettable Volcano. "That's what actors do. We're always being asked to react to things like angles, devils and werewolves. They're no more less real than the lava." Or Jones' contempt.

So is it a challenge playing to computer-generated imagery? "Not at all. We've often called upon to use our imaginations as actors. Ummm." He seems to recollect a past root canal. "CGI doesn't make anything easier, it doesn't make anything any more difficult. It certainly enhances the effect of a science fiction movie, and that's certainly to our benefit in this case." A lonnnnnng pause. "I'm not uncomfortable doing anything that's good... or has a chance to be good. I don't hate love scenes or murder scenes. I don't hate any scenes. " He laughs. "I'm supposed to be comfortable! That's part of the job description!"

What drew you to the first Men in Black? "I thought that was pretty cool. Interesting. Thing to do." A challenging glare.

What about your chemistry with Will Smith? "Will is a very hard-working actor, serious work ethic, always on time, energetic. I don't know how to answer your question except to say we tried real hard."

What'd you think about the joke with Michael Jackson as an alien in the film?

"I didn't think about it at all."

Do you enjoy loose, low-key atmosphere on the set, like Barry Sonnenfeld supposedly has? "We have fun all day every day."

Do you watch yourself closely when you see the film? Do you laugh? "Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I'm just amazed at how good Will is or how well a scene works. I sort of laugh, I suppose, in a knowing way. but I'm rather critical and analytical when I watch these movies, but I certainly don't take it personally. It's not a personal experience for me."

What genres are you a fan of? "I'm a fan of all good movies! I don't think in terms of genre. I've heard the term applied to cinema before, but I'm always skeptical. What is a western? Y'know? It's a movie with horses and dust and guns. Uh... I don't know what a genre is." He wheezes a laugh under his breath.

Is it fun to make a film that kids can appreciate as much as adults can? "I like it when I'm able to improve the time of children. I love that." He stares out the hotel suite window toward Central Park.

Jones gives his best performance in answering the question, So how about working with that goddam little pug dog? Talking in circles like a pup trying to sit, he answers, "Um-hum. No problem. That little dog. I wound up liking that little dog. I don't' like dogs that have no skills. My own dog is a cow dog. He's a hound. He works very hard. He has skills. And a life. He really earns his T-bones. Frank, Mushu is his name I think, is a good little dog. That dog will run across a room, hit a mark and stop and sit down or stand up, look in whatever direction you tell him to. I didn't have any problem with that dog. At first, I didn't like him or trust him because he's a dog. But when he showed that he could do something, then I liked him. I like dogs that can do something and I don't like dogs that can't or won't. I like good dogs, I don't like bad dogs, okay?" He laughs.

Are there any ideas that you tried out on the set that you miss? "I can't remember all the discarded ideas. That's like going through the wastepaper basket in an office somewhere. I remember most of the ones we allowed to live. There's never been any kind of profit in that kind of thinking. The short answer to your question is, I don't know."

Are you going to further exploit your comic side any time soon? "I've always just been glad to have a job. And comic roles haven't come my way. Maybe they will in the future." Publicist opens the door and Jones cuts his first killer grin. "Bye now!" [Originally published in a different form in September 2002.]

Surly not

16 October 2006

Day after

The day after closing night ceremonies of Bendfilm, by the river in Bend, Oregon.

Curtain up

The opening night of Bendfilm, the independent film-directed festival in its third year in Bend, Oregon. One of their aborning traditions: on opening night, filmmakers and jurors jostle behind the heavy curtain of the Tower Theater, awaiting a moment that is both charming and a little embarrassing: the curtain is raised and the milling motley is introduced as those who have truly made the festival possible...

11 October 2006

07 October 2006

Snakehead unveiled: Did Carville throw the 2004 election?

At TPM Cafe, M. J. Woodward cites this unpleasant passage from Bob Woodward's recently released "State of Denial": "On page 344, Woodward describes the doings at the White House in the early morning hours of Wednesday, the day after the '04 election. Apparently, Kerry had decided not to concede. There were 250,000 outstanding ballots in Ohio. So Kerry decides to fight. In fact, he considers going to Ohio to camp out with his voters until there is a recount. This is the last thing the White House needs, especially after Florida 2000. So what happened? James Carville gets on the phone with his wife, Mary Matalin, who is at the White House with Bush. "Carville told her he had some inside news. The Kerry campaign was going to challenge the provisional ballots in Ohio — perhaps up to 250,000 of them. 'I don't agree with it, Carville said. I'm just telling you that's what they're talking about.' "Matalin went to Cheney to report…You better tell the President Cheney told her." Matalin does, advising Bush that "somebody in authority needed to get in touch with J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio who would be in charge of any challenge to the provisional votes." An SOS goes out to Blackwell. The rest is history."

06 October 2006

Gained in translation: The New York Times admits Unkilling Chomsky

Editor's note, 6 October 2006: "An article on Sept. 21 about criticism of President Bush at the United Nations by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran reported that Mr. Chavez praised a book by Noam Chomsky, the linguist and social critic. It reported that later, at a news conference, Mr. Chavez said that he regretted not having met Mr. Chomsky before he died. The article noted that in fact, Mr. Chomsky is alive. The assertion that Mr. Chavez had made this misstatement was repeated in a Times interview with Mr. Chomsky the next day. In fact, what Mr. Chavez said was, "I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky, as I am of an American professor who died some time ago." Two sentences later Mr. Chavez named John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist who died last April, calling both him and Mr. Chomsky great intellectual figures. Mr. Chavez was speaking in Spanish at the news conference, but the simultaneous English translation by the United Nations left out the reference to Mr. Galbraith and made it sound as if the man who died was Mr. Chomsky. Readers pointed out the error in e-mails to The Times soon after the first article was published. Reporters reviewed the recordings of the news conference in English and Spanish, but not carefully enough to detect the discrepancy, until after the Venezuelan government complained publicly on Wednesday. Editors and reporters should have been more thorough earlier in checking the accuracy of the simultaneous translation."

01 October 2006

Who are your GOP candidates?

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert