And so I Wrote Something to be Read

Not only do you get a 2D cartoon representation of me, you also get some quotable gems I've probably (wisely) moved away from.

Cartoon Amir.

Cartoon Amir.

In all honestly, this is a cool film series published by FOCAL PRESS with some interesting, and talented(this word is meaningless in many ways, but not always) filmmakers.

I however, did not reread this after it was sent 6 months ago to be published, because, what is the point of revising archived opinion?

With that said, can it possible be the best thing I've ever written? Not sure. 

Enjoy, share and let me know your thoughts.


Hollywood Movies; a commodity?...and other sidetracked thoughts...

The distinction of movies as art, commerce or technology is not an easy one to make, once you extinguish the emotional commitment to one or a combination of the others. The filmic language is probably easier to differentiate itself from photography, whose had a historically more contentious relationship with itself as art work (see here for just a glimpse and one sided take on the subject) . Films just have more moving parts.

But the other argument to make is that most filmmaking, most of the time in it's largest scale is really closer to being a commodity than it is an art. Hollywood churns out a product, a seemingly efficient one, although still messy that resembles a factory process. Now, we all know that this is not true in the same way you produce a cereal product, but, it's main goals is too redo whats worked as sound business practice. However, we all know that repeating a historic process doesn't guarantee a future. And that is precisely where we are now.

My biggest question on the matter of the filmic language is whether or not the form itself demands a need for universality. The means of production and execution have historically been massive. One Hollywood blockbuster could get at at least 100 hundred startups up and running. But that's not the point. To make the money back, you basically need not offend a large group of people, but at the same time, give them a very mediocre experience that's worked in the past. That's top down, middle of the road commoditization. That's what you get at the grocery store. And since, at that huge level of production costs, Hollywood thrives as a monopoly, minimizing risk is the top priority. But, as we all know, a monopoly who doesn't innovate, implodes eventually. 

The real issue is whether movies in the way they are created and marketed could continue to sustain itself in the longer run in a world where media elsewhere keeps downsizing and splitting of into smaller, but more dedicated niches. Even in entrepreneurship, the shift is too micro.

But micro was historically never intended for narrative movies, which had for years depended on a large segment of a population, mildly agreeing with it's storytelling because of habit, to recoup the large costs of production. Of course, Hollywood also created some(a large percentage) of the most memorable movies in the history of the media. 

I believe for now, that the move to niche is only possible, if niches for these new stories exist. And even if they do, is it economically viable for creators to keep producing, or, are we not doing the work necessary, to create another language with similar tools? Or do need to spend the energy on new tools and platforms?

Because supply is everywhere you look. The other part of the equation is undoubtably lessening.

musings of youth and hip hop....

This last few days I've been on one of my periodic pop culture rendezvous, where I survey a specific landscape that I feel my touch slipping away from.

This round happened to be hip-hop, it's new culture and the first wave of OG's reflecting on where the form has gone. Just a footnote before I get labeled; my youth was spent listening to rap and hip-hop and my roots are that of B-Boy. My crew, OSB used to battle at malls, schools, clubs and anywhere else little dudes could roam the streets and engage in rhythmic warfare. Violence hardly ever broke out, but occasionally a dance battle would turn into an actual battle.

This was during the second wave of breakdancing. I experienced the first wave as well, but I was too little to understand the culture. From spreading out cardboards to keeping PLEDGE in my backpack for lubricating linoleum, this was one of my true teenage passion. I'll provide visual evidence at the end. But alas, i grew out of favor with hip-hop, mostly as a result of new hobby's and experiences. Still however, I am a fan to this day.

One particular note of interest in my recent cultural prowling was promo videos featuring the new kids on the block in hip hop. This being the social media age, the youngsters are all savvy of the technology of promotion.  You don't need to fork over big bucks of your advance to do elaborate music videos or smart campaigns, because in essence, you are doing it all the time. Always on twitter, always on instagram, and tumblr, the homies have some form of capture device on them at all times.

It's not hard to come by a 5d, or a Red Scarlett, or a slew of semi-professional camera's these days (and hell, what is professional anyways anymore). Everybody, including your momma has them. And shit, on a 1080 screen, an iphone is good to go. So, everybody is shooting something all the time. Now you just package that extra footage into "promo's" that end up going on youtube as a way to diversify.

The flow of content is a stream. And to not participate is death to an up and comer. In fact, it's death to everybody except a very select few who've managed to keep those giant, top down, middle of America careers of yesteryear. 

One thing that struck me odd about these promos is that the subject of the piece often, if not incessantly, would be looking down at their phones. This was a very common thread. It's jarring watching videos of somebody who spends an inordinate amount of time looking down at their phones. They're not even fully present through the prism of something that is trying to capture them in the present. And this becomes self reflexive. You ask, "do I do that, because, it looks really dumb". In fact, you might. I know I'm guilty at times.

Further, the subjects would often use their phones to capture another fleeting moment through a picture (instagram) or video. Always looking at a screen, or through a screen. Contextualizing everything through pixel.s

Now, granted I was looking mostly at Hip Hop promos because that's where pop culture is now. I don't think there are 17 year old rock and roll kids getting 6 million dollar 360 deals. And they too probably spend time staring into the abyss of electronics. It's an age thing. It's a culture thing. But, my guess is that there is more to this story.

Which brings me to my theory that our phones, through technology serve some strange psychological need to stare at moving things through light, while desperately trying to hoard moments, and store them away; basically trying to capture a life that's always slipping away, ungraspable. 

There is no doubt that our second life in digitalism will be our preferable choice in a very near future. It's an extremely effective opioid, creating the distance from the dirt and grime of reality. You can break up a relationship without direct conflict. You can insult someone without consequence; you can be a sexist, a misogynistic creep, all without even a cold stare from the other end.  However, it comes with many consequences. Chief among them, loneliness and detachment. That might not sound so bad, but when added up, the results are terrifying.

And with all that talk; here is some breakdancing in a living room, featuring your's truly and some ol school homies.


what if you love how it was done before?

The arts are places where obsessions form identities.  And new forms build incrementally, from the past.  A snails pace, where the market generally reflects changes very slowly.  That's often why the avant-garde, or the creationist class never make the big bucks like those who refine the new concepts into familiar forms, or, when so happens that the market and the audience catches on.  This usually occurred a long time afterwards.  This is in reverse order from tech, which handsomely rewards the futurist and early adopters, of which are many.  But, like Sam Cooke sings beautifully, "A change is gonna come".   And it has, without any knock on the proverbial door, giving artist very little choice but to fight or flight.

The fast changing landscapes creates three classes of artist.  Artist whom, "made it" in the classical sense before the grand digital divide, those who exist, still in relative obscurity after this grand divide, and one's who came after this grand chasm. For argument sake, I place this grand chasm around the mid 2000's.  This theory on dates demands more than I'm willing to write this morning, and I'm sure many arguments can be made for placing the divide at different times.  In fact, from an empirically personal standpoint, the real disruption has occurred most forceable in the last couple years. 

If you came on the scene as a child of the internet, you understand the rules of the game better then Jean Renoir.  If you came before and already "made it" in the classical sense, most of this has no immediate consequences for you at the time being, as long as you are working. However, those in the middle of the two, the one's who were still toiling with arts and crafts and still hadn't made a name for themselves, those are the ones with the hardest times.  Not quite sure where their affinity lays. 

The changes in the landscape demand and dictate a change in identity. Why?  Well, all of your prior heroes did it the old school way.  They did it in a way that was familiar and easy to point to. Even though gatekeepers, creation and distribution and all the old shit was even more impossible then it is today, it was safer.  You could toil in obscurity till you make it, or, even in obscurity there was a certain badge of honor in pursuing something against all odds.  There even existed an UNDERGROUND that accepted your invisibility.  And in the case of something like filmmaking, you could always point to the lack of financial support, but we are not talking about the non-doers here.

Now, that luxury of obscurity as honor badge doesn't quite exist.  You cannot hide.  You must get out in front and do like the new school, and leave your heroes behind.  And if they don't adjust, well, after the last of their pre digital clout dies, they will be left like you.  Starting from scratch.  So, adjust now, try new things, let go of old and dying ideas and jump in.  Play.  Look foolish.  It doesn't matter anyways, because the stream might never forget, but it does forgive.   

days of yesteryear.

the thing is, time evaporates.  and this is compounded, unjustly, with the cumulative gathering of it's fleeting essence.  so, it's probably best to keep your days completely full, or, just the opposite, floating on a hammock. the middle, you know, that 9-5, clock in clock out, the thing that the entire industrial age was built on.  that's the fastest ticket onto the bullet train to older.  here in the middle, grey haired the next. 


fear is....

that voice.  you’ve heard it.  no.  really?  it says things very quietly at first.

you might be riding a high, so, it’s hard to tell.  maybe it works too quick?

sit down, it might say.  sip on this water, you’re thirsty.  but, you think to yourself, “no, I’m absolutely not thirsty”.

the feeling starts deep.  in a cavity somewhere inside, a hole, straight down, all the way down, to China maybe.

you can almost reach down and touch it.  it loves amplification.  the echo last’s for hours, days and sometimes years.

and as it works itself up from the abyss, it reigns it's control.  spitting fire, turning the flesh and bone into the lizard it loves.

you’ve become primordial, etched in scales.

tongue and teeth, tail and eyes.  earth is lost, and so is sight.  

lizard brain = yolo

lizard brain = yolo

clap on, clap off.

Disconnecting from the constant noise of popular existence is quite an undertaking these days.  When we unplug, the first reaction is an unnerving sort of anxiety.  Online is safe now, the status quo.

When you disconnect, you deal with the world, as real and mortal as it is.  People die in the real world.  People lose homes, and children and food, and rights.  But, our history was never virtual, and we got pretty good at it.

We are constantly watching TV now.  But, the platform has changed.  It’s no longer called TV.  And granted, we are in control of this new TV.  We pick the channels.   

However, most do not realize what this new freedom means.  And why their children are glued to phones, like the last generation was to television.  

More is not better.  Better is better. Better information, better entertainment, better knowledge and better systems.  As the saying goes, "Garbage in, garbage out."  

Often, when left to our own devices, we make the wrong choices.  Evolution is a son of a bitch.  And so is ignorance.

Ball So Hard.

If you are an outlier, outlie the fuck out of the world.  Outlie so hard, that people can't look away.  

The other choice is to follow the herd, looking to fit in with whatever is the flavor of the moment. 

It just so happens that the mass market flavor of the moment(long drawn out moment) is REALITY TV stars.  Drink that sugary, sticky, coagulated syrup.  Just make sure you don't choke on it.

An Image that may or may not have anything to do with the words above. 

An Image that may or may not have anything to do with the words above. 

Pick Yourself

There is a line, oft repeated in Seth Godin's newest book, "The Icarus Deception" in which he simply states, "pick yourself".  This is a profound thought, and in the simplest language possible.  

Here, he is referring to people who are waiting for a chance in the sun (but instead, can choose themselves).  People who wait for some authority to point them out, to lift them up and place them square into the X at the end of the rainbow.  Problem is, this is the worst type of game, with the worst type of odds.

Now, Seth comes from a marketing background.  He understands the world of business, entrepreneurship, marketing, etc.  But he tries to bridge the gap to the arts.  In many ways, he succeeds.  But, in his fury of words, the actualities and nuances get swept under the rug.  

For example, while you can DIY anything, the cost of traditional narrative movie making is very high.  Even the tiniest budgets rival the seed money for a new start-up.  And while you might not be promised a return, the business world is pretty straightforward.

With that said, his phrase, "pick yourself" still works.  Because, if you don't, your not living in todays world. You're looking at industries and systems of the past, and for the arts, this is especially the case.  

Even with the high cost of movie making,  when you "pick yourself", you have a sense of control, and a vision for tomorrow.  This of course means that some compromises might have to be made.  

But, the numbers tell the truth (at least for now).  Movie making that you remember from your childhood, will not be the same business in a couple years, then it was for the last 50 years.  It is hardly any different from the record business.    

Shit has flipped, and hard.  So, pick up the camera, or remix what's already available.  Or simply, write your dreams down.  That way, you are on the start of the journey of picking yourself.  A place exists for everybody who tries.