Monthly Archives: November 2004

From Skid Row To Cod Roe

Vignettes of Ann Arbor.

The tramps here aren’t your run of the mill down and outs. They’re cultured. This lunchtime we went over to the University of Michigan Art Museum to see a documentary about the Bauhaus and this guy walks in, off the street. Literally. He sits down at the front and proceeds to eat his burger. No one says a word. It’s bizarre. It’s like he had a break from begging–“Hey, I’ve made five bucks this morning.”–and decided to stop for an educational lunch.

Contrast this with life on the other side of town. Laura suggested we go to Whole Foods for lunch. Organic produce for the very well-heeled. You’d think the combination of politically correct organic farming and environmental friendliness would bring out the best in people but no. We watched and waited as two cars, one of them clearly there before the other, fought over a parking space. The second arrival stole it, the first woman blocked her in and honked the horn. Clearly they were anxious to spend some major bucks on very good but very expensive food.

Ann Arbor has a lot of money and a lot of educational opportunities. The President of the University, Mary Sue Coleman, here is the third highest paid public university president in the USA. She earns $677k a year. Nice. I was filming in her office last week, Ann Arbor’s oldest university building. She wasn’t there. We were recording an interview with a couple who are donating $44m to the medical school to help find a cure for diabetes. A good story. Somehow, while I was there, one of my business cards fell out and I think may have been lost in the huge dictionary that was out on display. Filed under “F for filmmakers”. Hey, maybe they’ll show one of my films in the museum one lunchtime. You think?

The Bauhaus film was interesting, by the way, because although I knew a bit, I never knew quite so much iconic design came out of Germany. It’s not all “Two world wars and one world cup, doo daa.” However, the documentary did verge on depressing because of the parallels in current US politics with the right and left halves of the country diverging and the economy going to hell. Mind you, looking around Whole Foods you’d be forgiven for thinking, “Recession? What recession?” There’s no shortage of consumer power in Ann Arbor. Hell, it’s only a matter of time before they start offering courses on Effective Philathropy. Maybe the US trade and budget deficits are all just another big scare tactic by the Democrats. But then why is the dollar doing so badly on the currency markets? Eh?

If nothing else, this week, at least we got Pete’s new mac printing wirelessly over his home network. I call that a result. And this morning, we paid off the major part of our mortgage as America’s debt creates an uncertain future for borrowers. That’s awesome. Today, now, it’s snowing and tomorrow it’s Thanksgiving. I shall give thanks for a great year, thanks for all the good people I’ve met and thanks for Laura. Then I shall attempt to pickle my last two brain cells for posterity.

Tuesday On Friday

It’s the end of the week and there’s no energy left in the universe to smoke the place up with a really good rant. It’s all goth-dark out there in the world so it’s probably no surprise that the most promising feature script I’ve read in a while is one which holds out a candle in that darkness. A candle sputtering bright flames to illuminate the tragically beautiful redemption and loss of five unknown characters in beautifully decayed Detroit.

Robert Fox’s script is dark. Really dark. I’ve had his scripts for months now but I met up with him on Tuesday, after a chamber of commerce networking event and before Cinema Slam (now with added forums–go on post, you know you want to). Bob, like more than a few others I know, once worked on a local newspaper but has latterly devoted himself to screenwriting. He’s also big into comics. Needless to say, we clicked.

So there we were in the closest place to hell suburbia has to offer, Starbucks, discussing his scripts. Awaiting Identification starts with all the main characters in body bags and flashes back from there. It wasn’t my first choice of his scripts, but it’s definitely the most tightly written. My first thought was to get a comic artist to start drawing some cool storyboards. My second thought was that I’d really like Mr Ricketts to take a look over this material and see if I’m missing something. I mean something other than the hard sell of all the blackness. I await a pdf to forward.

That was Tuesday, more or less. Cinema Slam was a great show although I sucked at publicity. My opinion. There were quite a few in the audience, I just wanted more because it really was a great show. Wednesday was a Leadership Ann Arbor day. Leadership Ann Arbor is a course I’ve signed up on through the chamber of commerce (sic) which is all about discovering everything there is to know about the local area. It’s also a fantastic networking opportunity. We’ve already had a two-day retreat in Ohio. This time it was all about economic development and our guide was Peter Allen, a local developer, who turned out to be a fascinating, enthusiastic and thoroughly knowledgeable guide.

We started in downtown and worked our way out. Things that struck me were the real opportunities for growth here, Peter’s enthusiasm for things like cycle routes, the zoning problems that hold back development (but protect the character of the city), costs of parking structures versus surface lots, costs of dealing with water problems in Ann Arbor including floodwater storage requirements and the way A2 deals with affordable housing. It’s not like St Albans, UK, where affordable housing means someone gets it cheap then sells at market value. Here the property price is locked to inflation, so there’s no chance of building equity. The drawback of that is actually two-fold because, not only does the buyer not benefit economically but the builder has to incorporate the true cost of the property in other buildings, which means the middle value market is lost.

We visited many many places on our day’s travels, among them the new U of M Life Science’s Institute. Two things struck me there. First, the chairs were ridiculously small. I was hanging over the arms in a brand new lecture theater, and I’m not overly large by American standards. I wouldn’t be able to take notes in there. Second, the university is the major player in local economics, employing one in five people directly, another 1.5 indirectly and generating huge amounts of money with its activities. Just the income for hotels and restaurants for visitors attending a football game is colossal.

What else? There was tons. The information was almost overwhelming but it was fascinating and detailed. The day finished at the Arbor Brewing Company (same place we held our wedding evening event), where I tried to chat to lots of people simultaneously, with the result that I didn’t get a chance to talk to half the people I wanted to. However, I did get to talk to Terry who works at Ann Arbor Public Libraries and she knew a comic book artist, Chuck Yates. Which takes us back to Awaiting Identification.

He’s already sent some samples. They’re very good. Very detailed, very clean. But perhaps too clean. I’m looking for grungy, rougher, more spontaneous. Chuck’s focussed my mind, though, which is a good thing and maybe he works in other styles. Maybe someone else will come out of the woodwork. Can I really be contemplating a feature, this feature?

Last Sunday, Laura and I were driving home when she noticed lights in the sky. The northern lights. Aurora Borealis. Way cool. I’ve never seen them before and they’re apparently really rare this far south so we drove out, away from the city lights for a better look. The sky shifted patterns in green then red. Curtains then smoky drifting cloudlike effects, but not clouds. Beams of light the drifting smokelights in the sky. I don’t know about omens but it was, as I say, exceptionally cool.

So I was thinking about Bob’s script some more yesterday and again today and I realised something. I’m thinking about it. Well. Well, okay. That’s actually more than I’ve done with a lot of other stuff I’ve been sent. Also I was thinking I need a casting director, a production designer, I already know an editor (Simon) and two cinematographers (both here in MI). And I know how to break the script down for production and budgetting. We’ll see what happens next. Is this really something I can remain interested in for four, maybe five years? We’ll see. I await a pdf.

Why We Love Kids

Spongebob the Movie is being promoted to death on Cartoon Network with commercials featuring the various showbiz types who’re appearing with our animated aquatic hero. So we’re in the car and Sam asks: “Is there really such a person as David Hasselhoff?”

Smells Like A Conspiracy Theory

It wouldn’t be America without a good conspiracy theory would it. So, here it is. Two states made the biggest difference for Bush. Two states with new electronic voting systems and no paper trails to check if anything seemed amiss. Funnily enough, those states with e-votes were ones where naughty voters apparently bucked the trend of the paper balloted states and lied to the folks conducting exit polls.

Daily Kos thinks this might be worth a few minutes of people’s attention. Here’s a nice clear illustration so you can judge for yourself.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the election was “free and fair” according to the international monitors. Ah, but, here’s the nice bit for the conspiracy theory: they didn’t allow those election monitors into the polling stations in–you’ll never guess–Florida and Ohio. Surely not.

Nah, it’s just some bitter Kerry supporters. It’s not like the voting machine manufacturer promised Ohio to Bush beforehand or anything. That would be silly.

Anyway, it strikes me that …Hey, is that a black helicopter? Jesus is watching. Thwup thwup thwup…


Yet more evidence is being presented that the vote may have been hacked. Too late now, though. Kerry already capitulated.

Thwup thwup thwup…

Quotes Of The Day

Culled from The Motley Fool discussion boards:

“Hey, at least I have the pleasure of saying ‘monkey boy’ for four more years.”

“Last time the Republicans had to lie, cheat and steal to win the election. This time they only had to lie. So consider it an improvement.”

“President Bush received more votes than any candidate in history.
So did John Kerry.”

“I’m not happy about the Prize the American people are getting, but they won.”

“In some sense, there are no winners either way. We’ve got a divided country.”

And finally…

“The old dems dominated this country for MANY years by doing one thing but doing it VERY well, We LISTENED! We listened to what john and jane average american were saying. We werent so busy shouting AT them as ya’ll appear to be. We were in touch with what they actually believed and wanted. And we figured out ways to give it to them. We had an actual partnership with the people of the country.

“We didn’t SNEER at the opinions of the working public but treated them with respect. Whether Bush wins again or not is moot. The very fact that he is as unpopular in some ways as he is and that he has given Kerry everything he can handle and more, proves that ya’ll just don’t get it. PLEASE fix this in the next four years as I really have had all the neocon politics that I can tolerate….ok?”
[this last one by a poster named bundoriyagyu]

Aged 19-24?

Thanks for not voting. It was your last chance. Didn’t want to stand out in the rain? Didn’t want to wait because the lines were longer than your cable TV-created ADD could tolerate? Born again for Jesus were you, down there in Ohio? You just flushed your future. Enjoy watching your parents spend your inheritance. And enjoy the draft.