Under fire

September 30, 2008

The following is based on a comment that I left on Shaun’s post and his was based on Ted’s post.  I supposed it should be said that neither Shaun nor I have seen the movie, Fireproof, that we are critiquing.

Shaun said, if I may take the liberty of summarizing, Fireproof does a lot of telling (sermonizing) instead of showing.

The first time I heard the dictum “show, don’t tell” was in my eleventh grade English class.  In that context what our teacher meant was “don’t overuse your omniscient narrator.”  Describe characters by their actions and words, comment on situations by showing their consequences.

I’ve not seen the movie but what I’m assuming Shaun means is that the characters portrayed in the film are given to over-analysis and sermonizing that is unrealistic for who they have been shown to be.  To me that’s less of a problem because it is not a fundamental flaw of the story telling but rather of characterization (like if a pastor gave a sermon we wouldn’t have a problem with it.)  I feel like one can be preachy without messing up their storytelling effort, if the circumstances are right… you have to forgive my over-analysis but I’m a sometimes playwright and amateur dramaturg so I have spent some time thinking about things like this.

Shaun says “Have you ever seen the movie gang member or the mafia guy or the serial killer go to his son and explain his philosophical and moral position on violence in a long chunk of dialogue? Again, heck no.”  But I say that is more a matter of the character’s motivation… if the plot of the story is serial killer dad wants to convince reluctant serial killer son that killing is good I’ll bet there would be some dialogue about it.  Or how about just in real life, my parents do a lot of telling to me.

There is also in my view a difference in saying, “violence is acceptable” versus “violence is good.”  A bunch of movies say, “violence is acceptable.”  It’s a lot harder and uncommon to get a “violence is good” message across.  I think this movie is saying “unconditional love of your wife is good,” a more difficult proposition than say “unconditional love for your wife is sweet when it happens.”   The dad is saying “Please Kirk Cameron(‘s character and also the rest of the world) start acting this certain way all the time.”  That’s his character’s motivation.  I find a movie like The Notebook to be more of the “isn’t it sweet” variety; no one is trying to convince or change each other.  Shaun talked about the filmmakers’ motivation was to motivate the audience to act Jesus-y.  I think there’s the rub… few other movies are trying to motivate anyone to do anything.  Can it be done with more finesse? Definitely, but I think that you’d be hard pressed to find something motivational that isn’t at least a little bit preachy.

So who does write with the “doing this thing is good” message in mind?  Commercial writers.  So in a way I see this movie as a big commercial.  I guess it also could be called propaganda.  And what do I know about commercials? First, some are better than others with better dialog and characterization.  But also… commercials work, they sell things and convince people “candidate X is good.”  Luckily there are more Budweiser purchasers than serial killers.

From the reviews I have read I think most would agree that the insufficiencies of “art” makes the movie a less successful commercial.  But is it bad just for being a commercial? For being Christian propaganda?

Shaun replied to me “A movie is not a commercial.  or at least the audience doesn’t expect it to be.  And so if they get one when what they thought they were getting was a movie, well…”

Yes, most movies are not commercials, they don’t want to make you do anything.  Some do, say Michael Moore documentaries;  I think everyone’s clear they are getting a commercial there.  Most people who go already agree with his slant on things, but I know at least one republican who rethought her gun control postion because of seeing  Bowling for Columbine. …if we only reach one…  Or take Crash, on the other side of the “good art” question, it could be considered an motivational piece don’t you think?  Saying “not being racist is good.”  It’s a bit preachy, but in a good way.

My point is just that if you are making something preachy or telly you probably do have to be twice as good as your commetition who’s offering a take it or leave it message.  But I think that Superbowl commercials prove it’s not impossible to make something both directly motivational and entertaining.

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Meta Monday: Blog Power

September 29, 2008

Tyson is sending food to San Fransisco food banks based on the number of comments received on this post.

Do you remember the time not too long ago, when the price of gas at the pump was not a weekly news story?

I would not want to work there

September 27, 2008

I finally watched the premeir of ER.  Man they have a high death rate of the staff there especially from tramatic injuries.

Last Night’s RENT

September 26, 2008

I was in middle school in 1996 when RENT opened on Broadway. I was singing with the children’s chorus at the time and the high school group did this whole Broadway medley that included “Seasons of Love.” Which I of course thought was awesome.  But by the time I was in drama in high school the craze and phenomenon was over.  It was just another show that was on and we were more excited about the new shows like Jekyll and Hyde and Ragtime and Titanic.  When I was in college the tour came by Tampa and a bunch of the theatre folks went in a group together, but I missed out on that.  So the first time I saw the songs in context was the 2005 movie.  Then the tour came to Tallahassee about a year and a half ago and my friend and I went see it.  It was in the civic center and we were defiantly in the cheap seats.  We were farrrrrrr from that stage.  I am such a Broadway fan when I heard about the showing of the final Broadway cast and performance was a opportunity I could not miss.  It’s such a rare thing to have access to a recording of a Broadway show.

So what did I think of “the Rent movie that doesn’t suck” as one blogger says.  First this is something that producers defiantly need to do again.  I hope they made enough money to justify it.  Tallahassee was a little sparsely attended.  The performances of course are sublime and sounding so much like the original cast by the way.  The crowd noise was fun too as they cheered all the actor’s entrances and most of the songs.  And getting to see the production at the Nerderlander, that’s priceless.  But I hope that they’ll learn from some of the mistakes.

Almost from the beginning it was clear that the camera was right there on the stage because of the extreme close-ups and I later found that this was actually a composite of footage from an earlier performance with the closing night footage.  Well I don’t feel so bad for the live audience, but I then felt a little duped.  I found the camera work frantic at times and the editing to be suspect.  Even in duets the camera would flip back and forth between the actors.  There were these odd close-ups of Rodger and Mimi’s backsides during “Light my Candle.”  I think the one song that I appreciated the in-your-face-ness was “One Song Glory,” a monologue song in spotlight.  But even that was unfortunate for Will Chase the actor playing Roger who is 38 years old.  Not that he’s bad looking he’s just obviously older than his cast mates and is playing a 23 year old(ish) character.  And “Contact” looks like a music video with all of the cuts.

At the end of the show many of the original cast members came on stage for an encore of “Seasons of Love” minus Adam Pascal, Idina Mendzel and Taye Diggs.  Too bad, but we can see Taye on Private Practice every week and Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp will be touring with the show in 2009.  Another thing that I appreciated was the great! sound quality.  It really showed me how much the civic center eats the mix.  You have to turn the sound so high that you miss the subtle things, especially in the songs with counterpoint.  I love actually being able to tell what everyone was saying all of the time.

Over all this reminded me why everyone loves RENT.  I think that lots of people can write a heart breaking song or two, but to have 10 couched in between recitative that actually sounds like words people might say, is emotionally deep, and has a lovely melody.  That takes a special author.  Jonathan Larson was a genius.  Granted there are moments that don’t feel period enough yet to not be a bit clique, but I think that will fade with time.  Man, I got out of the theatre thinking how much I’d like to direct it.  Now I’ll be able to.

It’s not too late to see it; the last showings are Saturday and Sunday at noon.

Here’s to RENT, we were the lucky ones!

To Tallahassee Utilities,

I am writing to protest the 56 dollars of connection fees that I am being charged on my utility account that I have had connected with no interruptions for over three years.

Let me take time to explain the situation.  When I moved to Tallahassee four years ago my father was kind enough to activate my utilities in his name and social security number so that the deposit would be waved due to his good credit with his utility company.  But since that day I have received and paid the utility bills with my own money.

Three years ago I moved across town to a new house.  At that point I decided it would be logical to change the name on the account from my father’s to my name.  I called and inquired and was told that I would have to pay a deposit (approximately $250) in order to do that.  That of course was unsatisfactory to me.   So I asked about what would be done if someone had died or gotten a divorce or sublet a house and needed to change a name on an account.  The customer service representative told me that I could add my name to the account and then after two years of good history I could remove my father’s name from the account.  To do this we had to both (my father who lives out of town and I) appear in person at the Renaissance Center.  So we did that and in June of 2005 my name and social security number were added to the account so that in two years I could remove my father’s name.

Earlier this month I happened to be in the Renaissance Center to meet with Gwen Lightfoot about affordable housing issues on behalf of Tallahassee Equality Action Ministry.  I remembered that it had been plenty of time now and I was in the building I could stop by the Customer Service desk and remove my father’s name from my account.   I got to the front of the line and told the representative what I wanted to do I was first told that had to pay a deposit.  But I explained that I had been on the account for over two years had been told that I could now just remove his name outright.  She looked up my account and told me that was okay and she had me fill out a form and show my ID.  I asked “So now my father is off my account?” and was told yes.  At no time during this meeting or during any of the other conversations and meetings three years ago was I told that there would be any charge if I followed the procedure proscribed.  So that is what I did.

Three days ago I received a bill in my name that included 56 dollars combined of “connection fees” for gas, water, and electricity.  Since my utilities had never been disconnected and I was not expecting any charges I called the customer service line and spoke to a representative.  I asked about the charges and she said, “it says that you had one account that was closed and another that was opened.”  So I explained the situation to her and the steps that I had taken.  She then told me that the way I had handled the situation forced them to send a meter reader to my house and that is what the fees were for and that I was lucky because I only had to pay 56 dollars instead of the $250 deposit.

There are two major problems I have with this.  One, I was never told that I would be charged anything.  The bill I received was the first indication. Had I been told about the charges I would not have done it this way.  And second a deposit would be potentially refundable; where as these “connection fees” I will never see again.  And again, nothing was ever disconnected.

I have over four years of good history with Tallahassee Utilities, three of which are under my own name.  I feel like I am being taken advantage of by an unfair and unclear policy that now I see little way out of.   I hope that I will receive satisfaction by getting a bill that reflects the removal of these unfair fees.

Thank you,
Erin K. Thompson

I went to see Rent tonight.  How about a review tomorrow?  I was going to do on tonight but it’s a bit late. Stay tuned it’s going to be good.

That’s how much money is waiting for me in my account on predictify.com.  It’s a site where you can predict stuff like football winners and the cost of gas and consumer confidence index.  You get money for certain premium questions that people have paid to have asked.  It’s based on accuracy and the time when you predict.  And you get bonuses for overall accuracy across all the questions.  The problem? You get paid when you reach $20 … man almost.

My store

September 23, 2008

I added my new stuff, wanna see?

What will you give?

September 22, 2008

Lets say that you and group all comitted to giving 15 percent effort to something.  If you only produced at about 3 percent effort do you have the right to be mad at the people who gave zero?  What about the person who did five percent?  I suppose that maybe the issue was that we all really only needed 5 percent to meet the goal so that gave me (and everyone) an inflated sense of securtity.  We didn’t meet our goal.  Guess who’s the effective boss?  Me. Who’s ultimately incharge of all 100 percent? Me by defalt.  So long 15 percent effort.