Saturday, December 16, 2006

bookworms vs. nerds - article/blog

what do you think, kids, does this explain me? a recent study by the british psychological society found that the "more fiction a person reads, the more empathy they have and the better they perform on tests of social understanding and awareness. By contrast, reading more non-fiction, fact-based books shows the opposite association."

Monday, December 11, 2006

"this american life" tries a new medium - article

so i'm a television fanatic, but there is something timeless about stories told and heard over the radio as well.

"this american life" is my favorite program on npr - it feeds into my addiction to good storytelling, and probably was the reason i first began to appreciate non-fiction. (some choice selections for the uninitiated all from the staff favorites page, or you can just go to the site and search for anything and everything david sedaris has ever done.)

and now, it looks as though the npr staple is crossing over.


'This American Life' Is Ready for Its TV Close-Up
by Lynn Neary
All Things Considered, December 5, 2006

OK. Rats. They could film rats running in circles. It would be creepy. It would be cool.

No, scratch that. Humans in rat suits!

That's just one of the many odd discussions that took place in the process of transforming a radio program into a television series. The show is This American Life. The host is Ira Glass. The TV series will debut in March on the Showtime cable channel.

There's a certain simplicity to the art of radio. At its heart, it's all about storytelling. And This American Life is a radio show that revels in storytelling -- quirky stories, sad stories, scary stories.

This American Life seems so wedded to the medium of radio that when the Showtime cable network first approached Glass about turning it into a TV show, he couldn't imagine it.

"We basically said 'no' for a year and half," Glass recalls. "And we kept saying we have no idea how to... be filmmakers. You have to hook us up with people who could design something that got across the feeling of the radio show."

They found those experts in cinematographer Adam Beckman and director Chris Wilcha. Sometimes Beckman and Wilcha have to tell people steeped in radio that their ideas just won't work on television. Other times, they take the ideas and turn them into compelling visual images.

Like the rats. This story, dealing with erasing memory in rats, caught the staff's attention when they heard that real people had called the researchers because they wanted their own bad memories erased. But Wilcha was struggling with the visuals. While Beckman and his crew worked, Wilcha pulled Glass aside to pitch his ideas, which included humans in rat suits.

It's not the first time Glass has been a bit taken aback by one of Wilcha's ideas. Take the desk, for example. They'd been trying to figure out Glass's role as host. Would he just be an off-camera voice? And if not, would he do stand-ups on location or would he appear on a set?

In the end, they decided to give him a desk. But not just any desk.

"What if your desk appeared out on the landscape?" Wilcha wondered. "On an abandoned freeway, on the Salt Flats, in the woods. But you never make mention of it or point to it."

So Glass, staring at the audience through his big, black-framed glasses, introduces the show and the stories from behind a sleek, art deco desk made of shiny, red wood. In one shot, the desk and Ira sit in the middle of Utah's Salt Flats, looking like an inconsequential speck in a vast moonscape.

Perhaps the most painful adjustment for Glass was having to perform for the camera. Not only did he have to say his lines over and over again -- on camera, in a very public setting, surrounded by a huge crew -- he also had to watch himself over and over again.

"I don't see any positive aspect of being on camera," Glass says. "I am 47 years old, I don't like looking at myself. After a certain point, no one likes looking at themselves on television. There's just no up side."

But for all the complications of television, producer Nancy Updike says there have been moments of unexpected pleasure. A longtime radio producer, Updike wasn't sure This American Life would translate to a visual medium. Then she saw the pilot.

In a story about efforts to bring a bull named Chance back from the dead, Updike was surprised that they had managed to transfer the feel of the radio show to television. And the images of the bull provided a pleasure that radio could not.

"They're almost glamour shots of the bull, different parts of him, and he's in shadow and it's breathtaking," Updike says. "It's a moment you can't have in a radio show, a moment of pure visual reverie."

And that's no bull.

found here, and you can listen to it here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"TELL ME THIS AIN'T TRUE." - article

MattR26 (8:46:44 AM): so they're moving veronica mars away from the long arcs format to self-contained episodes
xcr253 (9:30:26 AM): so its gonna fucking be like CSI?! F that shit!
MattR26 (9:30:58 AM): yeah, it kinda sucks
MattR26 (9:31:49 AM): they said its getting hard to make up storylines that the characters are emotionally bonded to without having to bring in a whole new group of characters every time
xcr253 (9:32:28 AM): :( i dont care! you're a writer, its your job!
MattR26 (9:33:02 AM): wow, this is really bothering you
xcr253 (9:33:19 AM): lol you know what? it IS. i saw your msg before i hopped in the shower
xcr253 (9:33:26 AM): so it was ALL i thought about for 20mins
MattR26 (9:33:38 AM): haha
MattR26 (9:34:17 AM): this is from tv guide
xcr253 (9:34:24 AM): F TV GUIDE.
MattR26 (9:34:30 AM): Question: I've just read the news about how Rob Thomas wants to make Veronica Mars into a boring, lousy, "safe" stand-alone show. No arc episodes anymore, only emotional drama will connect the episodes. Tell me this ain't true.
xcr253 (9:34:31 AM): :'(
MattR26 (9:35:02 AM): Ausiello: It's true — the stand-alone part, not the "boring, lousy, safe" part — and here's Rob Thomas' reasoning: "Our fear is that the big mysteries are keeping casual TV viewers away, and it's very difficult to engage Veronica in a multi-episode mystery without making it extremely personal. Season 1 was built around the mystery. Veronica's best friend was dead. Every series regular was intertwined with the mystery.
MattR26 (9:35:08 AM): Without replacing the cast with each mystery and/or killing Wallace, I'm not sure we can devise enough personal connection to a case to keep the momentum we had in Season 1." I'm of the opinion that a self-contained Veronica is better than no Veronica.
xcr253 (9:35:44 AM): no, man.
xcr253 (9:35:57 AM): i disagree.
MattR26 (9:36:22 AM): yeah
xcr253 (9:36:56 AM): i would rather have three box sets of a brilliant tv show that was brazenly ripped off the air by The Man than have a crap veronica.
MattR26 (9:37:13 AM): hahhaa
xcr253 (9:37:36 AM): lol, it's true! it's as if Arrested Development tried to "cater more to the masses" or something
xcr253 (9:37:49 AM): that's bullshit
MattR26 (9:38:08 AM): yeah, thats true
xcr253 (9:38:27 AM): all right. well, and thus begins the internet campaign, i suppose
xcr253 (9:38:32 AM): *goes off to blog about this*
MattR26 (9:38:44 AM): hahahahaah
MattR26 (9:38:47 AM): :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

the new love of my life - article

okay, this is so weird.

first, a confession: i have spent the last three days - literally, the last 72 hours - watching every kristin chenoweth video on youtube. yes, it is finals time. so no, i dont have class.

it started when i was doing a bit of wicked research (going to see it at the pantages in march - w00t!). actually, it started cause i wanted to find more indina menzel clips...but then i found kristin's 1999 tony awards performance (a performance which she won for, btw!) and that shit was all over. the woman is AMAZING. i proceeded to watch everything else youtube had on her.

i've also been interested in her lately b/c i've been watching "studio 60 on the sunset strip," and aaron sorkin has been pretty obvious about modeling lead female character harriet after cheno, who is his ex. (you may also know her as annabeth from west wing.) both cheno and harriet (the character on studio 60) are multi-talented comedy and hollywood stars, very cute and endearing, who happen to be tolerant and open-minded christians, alternately shunned by the gay/liberal community and the religious one, for straddling the line between the two.

[as an aside, i *am* irritated by how dumb harriet's character is. there is a lot of good potential in this character, and i feel like the show treats her poorly to illustrate some pretty obvious psychological/societal points. a lot more depth could be found with her if the show made her less of an idiot; then we could have some real discourse on these issues. c'mon aaron.]

anyway, i gotta tell you, kristin chenoweth is all personality. she's adorable, sexy, and talented through the roof - she has, i think, near perfect pitch and perfect relative pitch (her roots are in opera, and she switches easily between that and any other form of music). as a physical comedienne she's a complete scene-stealer. (her *other* roots are in ballet.) more than that, she is humble and gracious, incredibly hardworking, and handles herself with such elegance. all of hollywood should be striving to handle publicity and fame the way she does. i adore her.

i am not presumptuous enough to say that seeing kristin on stage makes me miss theater, but watching a ton of stage stuff, and planning to go see a lot of stage stuff next semester does remind me of that whole world. i fully intend to get back in to it. some of you know i [kind of] stage managed a show this summer, but LA, unfortunately, is NOT really the place for small, indie on-the-side stuff. the big name tv stars can anchor a show in a professional space, but theater doesn't hum the way it does in new york city. still, once i can afford it =/ i'll be doing it again.

anyway, i was saying it's weird b/c after my weekend of obsession with her, the ny times ran this article! about cheno! so timely!

okay, this is my favorite clip that i want to share with you - i watched this like a million times. i am not kidding you. she's so ridiculously watchable.

talent like that is totally amazing.