On the other hand, maybe he was actually trying to be funny on purpose...
On the other hand, maybe he was actually trying to be funny on purpose...
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.—Matthew 19:24
I must say, the more I read about director Tom Shadyac’s new documentary I Am—which will be released in February of 2011—the more intrigued I am to see it.
The back story to I Am is just so oddly unexpected in our culture: In 2007, Shaydyac, the extremely successful director of hit Hollywood comedies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor and Bruce Almighty, decided to sell his multi-million dollar mansion in Pasadena and hired someone to work for him to give away all of his money to the needy. Shadyac, 51, moved into mobile home in a trailer park. What rich person does something like that in today’s America? Shadyac, a devout Catholic, did. (Contemplate how difficult it would be for at least ten seconds before you continue reading, won’t you?)
But it still didn’t make him happy. Then Shadyac had a bad accident on his bike, causing a broken hand and a concussion. He suffered from “post-concussion syndrome,” which can bring on severe depression, even suicide. Months later, when he recovered he set out to make I Am, which explores why our culture is so competitive instead of cooperative. He flew around the world (coach!) to record interviews with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, the late Howard Zinn and many others.
Here’s the official trailer for I Am:
After the jump, a fascinating post-screening Q&A with Tom Shadyac about I Am.
Just in case you missed it, here’s time-lapse video of the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse 2010, created from photographs taken by William Castleman.
With thanks to Charles Shaar Murray
Funnyman Ricky Gervais pens a cheery holiday editorial for The Wall Street Journal:
Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”
This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)
When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.”
Read the whole thing at The Wall Street Journal.
Below, Ricky Gervais in his early 80s New Wave group, Seona Dancing. Seems like he’s been perfecting his Bowie imitation for years…
French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have documented the decline and decay of Detroit through its buildings and structures that were once source of civic pride (schools, churches, hotels, stations), but now “stand as monuments to the city’s fall from grace.”
Over the past decades, Detroit has suffered a post-industrial decline far worse than any other American city. The once booming city has seen its population fall from 2.5 million in the 1940s, to just over 1 million today, with 1 in 3 people unemployed.
Marchand and Meffre have published a book of their stunning and quite beautiful photographs. Each plate reveals a hidden history of Detroit, detailing an evolutionary process, where:
Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.
The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time : being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things.
Photography appeared to us as a modest way to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state.
More images from this collection can be viewed here.
More Ruins of Detroit by Marchand & Meffre, after the jump…
A must-read article from The New York Times about brilliant, 70-year-old physicist Geoffrey West, who has found a way to crack the code of what happens when population density occurs. West, has, in essence, turned the concept of a “city” into an elegant mathematical formula:
After two years of analysis, West and Bettencourt discovered that all of these urban variables could be described by a few exquisitely simple equations. For example, if they know the population of a metropolitan area in a given country, they can estimate, with approximately 85 percent accuracy, its average income and the dimensions of its sewer system. These are the laws, they say, that automatically emerge whenever people “agglomerate,” cramming themselves into apartment buildings and subway cars. It doesn’t matter if the place is Manhattan or Manhattan, Kan.: the urban patterns remain the same. West isn’t shy about describing the magnitude of this accomplishment. “What we found are the constants that describe every city,” he says. “I can take these laws and make precise predictions about the number of violent crimes and the surface area of roads in a city in Japan with 200,000 people. I don’t know anything about this city or even where it is or its history, but I can tell you all about it. And the reason I can do that is because every city is really the same.” After a pause, as if reflecting on his hyperbole, West adds: “Look, we all know that every city is unique. That’s all we talk about when we talk about cities, those things that make New York different from L.A., or Tokyo different from Albuquerque. But focusing on those differences misses the point. Sure, there are differences, but different from what? We’ve found the what.”
A Physicist Solves the City (New York Times)
Enjoy a free digital LP of holiday related songs from the ultra-fine label that releases me choons. Mine’s the third one in, a song of conflicted ambivalence. Hope ya dig it. Happy Frank Zappa’s birthday, everyone !
Direct Bandcamp link: I’ll be Hometapes For Christmas
On his blog, “You And What Army,” Michael Azerrad lays to rest the drug rumors regarding the death of the man behind Morphine, Mark Sandman.
Morphine singer-bassist Mark Sandman died of cardiac arrest onstage in Palestrina, Italy, on July 3, 1999. And that’s pretty much everything almost anybody knows about the circumstances of his death. None of the accounts of the incident ever explained how such a thing could have happened to a vital 46-year-old man. And so rumors started.
In light of the fact that there wasn’t any official word on why it happened, and the band, friends and family were too grief-stricken to talk, any explanation seemed to be fair game. Maybe it was because Sandman was a rock musician, maybe because of his preternaturally laconic manner, maybe it was simply because his band was called Morphine, but some people jumped to the conclusion that drugs were involved. If so, cocaine would be a good guess — too much and it stops your heart. Many musicians have died of cocaine-related heart attacks: the Pretenders’ James Honeyman-Scott, soul giant David Ruffin, Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow, the Who’s bassist John Entwistle, and on and on. You could probably throw in comedians Chris Farley and Mitch Hedberg too. It was an educated guess, but it was only that — a guess.
In the course of reviewing the upcoming documentary, Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story, I noted that the otherwise fine film doesn’t answer the most basic question surrounding Sandman’s demise, namely, why did it happen? A work of long-form journalism about a man’s life should surely be a little more illuminating about his death. It didn’t address, much less refute, the rumors. I’ve since been in touch with Sandman’s former girlfriend Sabine Hrechdakian, who’s a friend of mine, and his former bandmate Dana Colley. They’re keen to set the record straight, so I offered to tell their story.”
Read the entire story by clicking here.
On a personal note, Mark and I came to know each other back in the eighties and while I shared an occasional drink with him I never saw or knew of Mark doing drugs. I’d always hoped his sudden death wasn’t drug-related. Azerrad makes a compelling case that it was not.
Previously on DM: Mark Sandman’s Cure For Pain
Paging Irwin Chusid! Outsider Christian music from the “Puppet Lady,” a cable access performer. She’s kind of like an old lady, one-woman-band version of the Shaggs. Her program is described at Classical Gas Emissions like so: “This lady and her puppets have very involved conversations about what it means to be a Christian.”
This premiered today on PJ Harvey’s website. The song is “The Last Living Rose” and it’s a track from her album Let England Shake which will be released in the States on February 15. Based on what I’ve heard of the album so far, it sounds to me like Harvey’s best songwriting since Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.
A short film, directed by the esteemed award-winning photographer Seamus Murphy, will premiere right here on Monday December 20th. Murphy has directed a series of short films to accompany all 12 songs on Harveys new album Let England Shake, The Last Living Rose will be the first to air.
The 12 films will feature still and moving images from a 5,000 mile road-trip Murphy undertook around England. He has worked similarly with still photography on journeys through America and Russia.
Inspired and developed from themes in the new album, the films were made in the manner of classic photographic reportage - recording real & spontaneous situations. They make up a visual diary of Murphys journey, travelling light and alone, and his attempt to document England and the English.
Murphy has mixed his observations on England with images from his work in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East - places Polly refers to in her depiction of England. The film soundtrack, the studio recording of the album Let England Shake, is mixed at times with footage and audio Murphy captured of Harvey in rehearsal and in performance. In addition some of the album lyrics were given a voice by people he encountered on his journey.”