Friday, August 31, 2007



So... At around 6:00 this evening, NY time, the last vestige of On The Lot (OTL), it's interesting website, just evaporated into space, redirecting all visitors to the FOX web site.

The show had a great concept: filmmakers competing for a development deal with DreamWorks, making a short film each week with professional Hollywood crews and actors, and the public voting for their favorites. More than ten thousand filmmakers submitted films for the contest, and tens of thousands more loaded additional, serious short films onto the website.

Unfortunately, the TV show was marred by poor writing, an awkward hostess, lack of compelling "judging" and no publicity, so it did poorly in the ratings. It was also on Tuesday at 8:00, where it was afraid to create a really edgy style (the website even BLEEPed out words like screw -- as in screw in a lightbulb) and it competed with the popular America's Got Talent.

The website was marred by bugs, and though it had many interesting and excellent features, it lacked a powerful search function (and other features), which were badly needed on a site with so many films, filmmakers, and actors.

And the whole production was marred by frequent changes of direction, and excessive secrecy that alienated many people who would have been its biggest fans.

The result was that neither the website nor the show really got any traction.

Yet it's a great loss. The concept was great, and had the execution been as good as the concept it would have been a blockbuster show. The website had an extremely rich collection of excellent films -- serious short stories by serious filmmakers -- and the forums, blogs, and industry information could have made this a very valuable website and a central hub for filmmakers and filmmaking.

I hope someone with a great vision, and an equally good production team, puts together a successful show about making films, with a companion website that becomes a central meeting place for filmmakers. And I hope this combination helps spur independent filmmaking and web video, and fosters communication between the world of emerging filmmakers and the professional film industry.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007



This is from YouTube. Jay Leno featured it on his show tonight.

Monday, August 27, 2007



has just introduced video blogging (VLOGging).

The Blogger edit form now has a button that allows you to directly upload a video to Blogger.

In the past it was a two step process. First you needed to upload a video to
video Google or YouTube (or other video host). Then, second, you copied the embed code to the Blogger post.

So, this is not a totally new capability, but it does make it simpler and faster to put video in your posts!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007



It's still called Ebert & Roeper. And Siskel is still on the credits. Ebert has not been on the show for a while as he recuperates, so it's Roeper & friends in reality. The
website doesn't seem to say anything about the show, but now contains a huge archive of televised reviews by Siskel, Ebert & Roeper.

All this has been a slow evolution from the time when Siskel took ill.

However, suddenly, I noticed today for the first time, the trademarked (seriously, it's trademarked, copyrighted, or otherwise protected intellectual property now controlled by Ebert!) thumbs up and thumbs down that have been a part of the show since it was Siskel & Ebert have disappeared.

A quick search on Google provided the following explanation from the Economic Times: D-ABCDT told AP on August 24 that Ebert has “exercised his right to withhold use of the thumbs until a new contract is signed”.

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About a year ago I wrote a
post about Diamond Walnuts adopting a soft cover for their walnut cans, instead of dangerous metal lids. The change was very welcome, since I had just severely cut my hand on one of their metal lids.

Recently, however, they seem to be back to the metal tops. I don't understand that.

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I tried to buy airline tickets and use points from AMEX to cover part of the cost.

There are a lot of hidden charges and hidden benefits depending on how it is done.

Here are some of the issues...

If the ticket is bought from the airline:

1 - There is a charge to transfer points from AMEX to miles at the airline.
2 - Miles only pay basic charges, other charges (like taxes) may have to be paid additionally.
3 - A specific number of miles is required to pay for a flight; the value of miles varies. One point (or one mile) may pay for more or less than one dollar's worth of the ticket cost.
4 - A ticket paid for by miles is not eligible for earning frequent flyer mile points.
5 - A ticket paid for by miles will not earn points on AMEX.
6 - A ticket paid for by miles will not be eligible for automatic flight/baggage insurance from AMEX.

7 - It required several calls to the airline, a call to AMEX, and several visits to the airline web site to complete the transaction.

When the ticket is bought from AMEX travel, the following may all be possible. In my case, for some reason, the charge on AMEX did not go through, although...

(a) I was assured before hand that I could make the charge on AMEX
(b) When I called AMEX to clear up the problem, some apparent glitch in the system prevented customer service from answering the phone for at least an hour, responding only with a strange prerecorded message to call up during normal business hours.

So here's what I think (unconfirmed!) the issues when buying the ticket from AMEX would be (if it were possible):

1 - Points on AMEX (up to the cost of the ticket, reducing the effective cost) may be converted to a credit at one dollar per point.
2 - The ticket would be eligible for frequent flyer miles at the airline.
3 - The ticket would carry any automatic insurance that was normally carried.
4 - The purchase price would earn points at AMEX.
5 - There would be no transfer fees, and the entire cost of the ticket would be one charge on the credit card.

It would seem that it would be much better to buy the plane ticket from AMEX than to transfer miles to the airline and buy it there. However, there may be other factors that I have not taken into account here. (Comments welcome!) And since AMEX customer service was unable to respond in a timely manner, I did not use AMEX to verify these hypothetical advantages. Advantages don't count when you can't use them when you need them.

There is an old joke. A man goes into a store and asks for wild salmon. It's very expensive. The man says, "The fish market across the street sells salmon for $4 a pound, less than half your price." "So buy it there." "They're out of it." "Oh," says the fish monger, "When I'm out of salmon, I sell it for only $2 a pound."




Every year some shows from the NYC Fringe Festival break out into theater history.

The Fringenyc Encores Series is a showcase for some of the best and most crowd-pleasing shows from the New York International Fringe Festival; most had sold out runs.

August 30 – September 16, 2007
at SoHo Playhouse and The Bleecker Street Theater

The 2007 Fringe Encores selections

As Far As We Know
Beautiful Child
Bombs In Your Mouth
… Double Vision
Hilliary Angonisties
Jamaica Farewell
Lights Rise On Grace
Mary Bridget Poppleton is Writing a Memoir
Naked In A Fish Bowl
Paper Son
Piaf: Love Conquers All
Riding The Bull

Venue #1
SoHo Playhouse
15 Vandam Street at 6th Ave & Varick/ 7th Ave

Transportation: 1 to Houston St. or C, E to Spring

Venue #2
The Bleecker Street Theater
45 Bleecker Street at Lafayette
Transportation: 6 to Bleecker St. or B/D/F/V to Bway/Lafayette

For more information and show schedule visit

Show Descriptions:

As Far As We Know
This ensemble performance chronicles the struggles of an Ohio family tortured by the absence of their son, a soldier abducted during an ambush on a Halliburton transport in Iraq. Inspired by the capture of SSG Matt Maupin.

Beautiful Child
Manhattan 1955: Truman Capote and Marilyn Monroe attend the funeral of Constance Collier, Marilyn’s acting coach. A vivid snapshot of the Marilyn only Capote knew.

Bombs In Your Mouth
Chug Beer, eat Jello, arm wrestle. Do whatever it takes not to talk about the memory of your deadbeat dad. A comedy by Cory Patrick.

… Double Vision
Love hurts. Running from it can leave you half-crazy and riding the subway nude. Six singles navigate the tricky waters of modern urban relationships in this dark romantic comedy. [Warning: Nudity]

Hilliary Angonisties
Spring 2009. Hillary in the White House. 65 million people disappear. Is the Rapture upon us? Pat Robertson, Stephen Hawking, Chelsea and the Antichrist weigh in. Can Madame President avert Armageddon? Starring Priscilla Barnes as Mrs. Clinton.

Jamaica Farewell
Revolution. CIA. Seduction. Desperation. A dream. Heartbreak. Handsome. American. Customs. Million dollars. Duffel bag. Prostitutes. Bullets. Adrenaline. Kerosene. Run for your life.

Lights Rise On Grace
Grace falls for Large. Riece falls for Large. Large... falls. First love. Lost love. New love. Tough love. Follow three desperate New Yorkers as they defy tradition, uncover and recover secrets.

Mary Bridget Poppleton is Writing a Memoir
Mary Bridget Poppleton fakes her own pregnancy. Why? Because she's writing a memoir, and who wants to read about a happy childhood?

Naked In A Fish Bowl
Unscripted, uninhibited and wildly entertaining, this unique improv-comedy eavesdrops on the lives of four friends in NYC.

Paper Son
Byron Yee's acclaimed solo show about growing up in Oklahoma, moving to California, becoming a stand-up comedian, and then finding his heritage.

Piaf: Love Conquers All
For those who have loved, suffered and survived. Come share a cocktail with a French legend as she shares her passion for music, men and morphine!

Riding The Bull
A love affair between a devout rodeo clown and a hell-raising rancher leads to Graceland, prophetic sex, and cows that rise from the dead.

For more information and show schedule phone 212-691-1555 or visit

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007



On The Lot (OTL) is going into its final episode (Fox, Tuesday 8/21, 8:00), The Finale!

There are three finalists, Adam Stein, Will Bigham, and Jason Epperson, one of whom is going to be the grand prize winner of a $Million dollar development deal at DreamWorks.

Each of the contestants made a series of films. I'm posting my reviews of several films of the three finalists, and, later perhaps, some other directors as well, notably Zach Lipovsky who was the #5 finalist, and may have been the most gifted, proficient, and original director of them all.

Here are reviews of the films of Jason Epperson. As of now, when this post is posted, these films can be seen by going to On The Lot, looking at the tab marked CONTESTANTS and selecting Jason.

AUG 7, 2007

Oh, Boy
Starring: Todd Waring, Patrick Kerr, Oscar "Big O" Dillon

I found this to be a mean spirited revenge film that was not very interesting. I don't know why people call Jason's films "sweet" or "kind." I don't like practical jokes. It's just one kind of bullying. When the explosives (which looked like wooden blocks from a kid's toy box) blew up, and sent a pillar of fire higher than the house, it would kill anyone but a cartoon character. Similarly, a punch that sends the guy clumsily flying twenty feet is cartoon stuff. That would be a whole change of genre not justified by the rest of the film. So I think this was a mixed up, nasty and uninteresting film.

JULY 31, 2007

The Move
Starring: Jerry O'Connell, Rich Pierrelouis, Randall Park

Mean spirited. Doesn't make sense. The dialog neither explains, nor is even really consistent with the "payoff". Mean spirited has payed off for Jason before; his Getta Rhoom was a vote getter. His strange ending also worked -- he survived -- in Blood Born. I think he deserves to lose, but the voters may not agree.

JULY 24, 2007

Old Home Boyz
Starring: Allan Wasserman, William Stanford Davis, Lin Shaye, Anthony Vatsula

This film was not good looking -- it was too dark, with an ugly color palette. It was a pretty good story. Jason did fine as an actor. The story was a nice one.

JULY 17, 2007

Starring: Kirk Zipfel, Erin Cahill

A sweet film. Nice ending. Yeah... could've been a better bouquet. Not much action.

(But check out Zach's submission film, "Crazy Late," for a much more inventive and technically difficult -- as well as earlier -- version of almost the exact same story.)

JULY 3, 2007

Eternal Waters

I wasn't quite sure of the story when I saw this on TV. Watching it online, my first impression seemed to be correct: the dead boy's ghost, leaking water out of the photograph, trips up the slasher. But I still have reservations. I would have liked to see blood showing the stabber actually fell on his knife, or have the ghost more explicitly tell his mother she is safe. I have other reservations. There is no explanation for the slasher coming (just the exposition of a fragment of news). The mother is never really threatened much by the slasher. (Granted, it's hard to put in much buildup in such a short-short film, of course.) On the other hand, despite the judge's comments, I have no problem with the costuming or appearance of the mother, although she does not add much value to the story. Give this 1 fright mask and 1 bonus horror book for a complex story.

JUNE 19, 2007

Blood Born

This is a very interesting film. It does not really make sense to me what is happening, or why the shots look the way they do, but it still feels as if the director understands. So the film almost works.


Jarrett Conaway, Jason Epperson, Tamila D Amico

HORROR LIGHT - He is coming for you.

The script has good and bad moments. The first scene starts out great and looks great. The film kind of goes a bit downhill from there, and some of the acting is a bit off. The music works.



Student gets up in school to give a talk… there is a music video.

This is an inventive film. Very high energy. However it doesn’t make much sense. Unless the title is a contraction of Bomb is Away, or it’s about the away that belongs to the bomb, the title is a grammatical error – perhaps on purpose. Jason’s intro is essentially, “Pick me because I’m from Kentucky and not LA or NY like everybody else. "

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On The Lot (OTL) is going into its final episode (Fox, Tuesday 8/21, 8:00), The Finale!

There are three finalists, Adam Stein, Will Bigham, and Jason Epperson, one of whom is going to be the grand prize winner of a $Million dollar development deal at DreamWorks.

Each of the contestants made a series of films. I'm posting my reviews of several films of the three finalists, and, later perhaps, some other directors as well, notably Zach Lipovsky who was the #5 finalist, and may have been the most gifted, proficient, and original director of them all.

Here are reviews of the films of Will Bigham. As of now, when this post is posted, these films can be seen by going to On The Lot, looking at the tab marked CONTESTANTS and selecting Will.

AUG 7, 2007

The Yes Men

Starring: Greg Collins, Lin Shaye, Fred Koehler, Travis Wester

This was a well-told story. It carries many characters and gives them all an individual life. It has a lot of sly satire throughout. And it more-or-less completes the story with a nice joke at the end. (But left dangling is the question of how or why he got into the dress without remembering.)

JULY 31, 2007

Road Rage 101
Starring: Kirk Zipfel

This had some great shots in the beginning; the initial set up, the eyes... It kind of makes sense all the way through. The driver's road rage leads him to beat up on his car. The car takes revenge, goading the other driver to pummel driver. He (driver) apologizes (questioningly, to be sure) to the car and then the car helps him. I haven't seen or read Christine, Steven King's take on a independent car, so I don't know how derivative this is.

JULY 24, 2007

Starring: Randall Park, Tatyana Ali

This was a cute idea, but I didn't think it was particularly well executed. I couldn't find a real logic in the things that the lamps were able to do and not able to do. I was confused by that noose-looking thing. (Was the lamp about to commit suicide for love?) It was quite dark and not all that beautiful to look at. The ending was lame. It could have been terrific if somehow the lamp romance had deliberately facilitated the couple's romance (but in any case all they did was look at each other).

JULY 9, 2007

Starring: Erin Cahill, Travis Wester, and Todd Waring

This film has a nice look and a nice sense of humor.

But it is completely incomprehensible that the guy from the present world isn't scared when someone completely menacing says, "Today's a good day to die." That ruins the whole thing for me.

Present-world-guy seems to know he's in a movie. Cowboy seems to be totally oblivious. Neither character acknowledges the other. (If each one is supposed to be seeing something different from what we see -- something from his own world -- then that's gotta be established -- for example, in some POV shot -- without being corny).

JUNE 26, 2007

Nerve Endings

This film was also OK. It had good slapstick humor. Maybe that went on too long without being inventive enough. The pretext for the doctor to leave was ridiculous, and tainted the beginning. I felt a little cheated that the camera mostly hid the way the intern was manipulating the patient. The end was cute, but not strong enough to match the energy of the slapstick.

JUNE 19, 2007

Glass Eye

A pretty good film. However, the main character never seems to be really trying very hard to get his eye back. It's also careless that you can see his eye from time to time when it's supposed to be out of its socket.


Sponsored By
Kai Soremekun, Daniel Tenkman, Will Bigham

Drama -- Suicide prevention

OK story. The bat bit doesn't work too well. The ideas of realizing the log line "Out Of Time" by "raising the stakes" with a suicide prevention is a little bit film-school-exercise-ish. Will does OK as an actor in this film.


In this film, directed by Danny Tenkman, Will appears as an actor, doing a nice job.

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Monday, August 20, 2007



On The Lot (OTL) is going into its final episode (Fox, Tuesday 8/21, 8:00), The Finale!

There are three finalists, Adam Stein, Will Bigham, and Jason Epperson, one of whom is going to be the grand prize winner of a $Million dollar development deal at DreamWorks.

Each of the contestants made a series of films. I'm posting my reviews of several films of the three finalists, and, later perhaps, some other directors as well, notably Zach Lipovsky who was the #5 finalist, and may have been the most gifted, proficient, and original director of them all.

Here are reviews of the films of Adam Stein. As of now, when this post is posted, these films can be seen by going to On The Lot, looking at the tab marked CONTESTANTS and selecting Adam.

AUG 7, 2007

Army Guy

Starring: Dan Gauthier, Heather Vandeven, David Burtka, Stuart McLean, Ian Bodell, Ariel Winter

On first watching, I found most of the action uninteresting and too silly. It did not work for me moment-to-moment. It had a nice ending. Typical of the directing/editing errors was the girl pointing correctly to the girl on our left, but not accurately pointing to the girl sitting down at our right.

Knowing the punchline, the movie makes sense and is a lot of fun on second viewing. (Someone pointed out that on second viewing they realized the "pointer" was a stewardess and she was doing what stewardesses do when they point to the exits.) It's an interesting "theoretical" issue -- is it "good filmmaking" to make a film that can not be understood until the second time you see it. (I've seen a lot of French films made like that.)

More to the point, in this case, is whether the number of voters that like the film well enough on first viewing, plus the voters that watch it twice and like it, are enough to carry Adam to the next round, and then to DreamWorks.

JULY 31, 2007

Driving Under The Influence

Starring: Tatyana Ali, David Burtka, Patrick Kerr

This was a joyous romp. However, the dancing at the end didn't seem quite right; and kissing the cop as the finale is not a resolution to the driver's traffic problem: What happens when the music stops?

JULY 24, 2007

Girl Trouble

Starring: Fred Koehler, Travis Wester, Patrick Kerr

This was really dreadful and painful to watch. It wasn't funny. It wasn't well acted or look very good. It didn't make sense. If Trent (Guy-2) knows a guy from a girl then he knows a guy from a girl... It was obvious that when he opened the door it was not going to be a beautiful girl: that would not have been funny. So it had to be something else. But another guy??? Doesn't make sense. Maybe if it was a gorilla, or a sheep...

JULY 9, 2007

Worldly Possessions

Starring: David Burtka and Janet Varney

This has the best story of the week. The magnifying glass setting fire to the tree is a brilliant little stroke. I agree that the destruction of the entire neighborhood is a bit much, but it's completely consistent with the set-up in the story. I wasn't too fond of the acting, especially of the wife.

JUNE 26, 2007

Discovering the Wheels

This film was OK. The acting was sort of iffy. The device of making the car appear and disappear with a click of the remote got old very quickly. The final stranding of the caveman did not resolve any story point. And I did not understand how the caveman was able to drive so well (even better than the stunt driver they talked about in the intro). There were a few good jokes. I liked the square wheel (but that idea never got developed), and the picture of the horse. Product placement hell, by the way (sponsored by Ford).

JUNE 5, 2007

Dough: The Musical

I'd have liked to see Adam do something that was not a dance/musical. It was a bit like a new-fangled-type broadway/off-broadway show. The singing wasn't great. (Other notes: Lip sync didn't always work. He sings out loud just when she comes in the store -- but there's no soliloquy convention, so why can't she hear him?) However, the lyrics and the story concept were very clever. It was the one cast I'd like to know more about. It had a great spirit. All in all, it was the most original, most ambitious, and most interesting of the shorts.(The strongest film of the night.)

MAY 29, 2007

Dance Man

Fun. (This film was actually made after Dough. Dough was a submission film, made before Adam was selected as a finalist.)


Time Out

Excellent -- Best film of the night.

The 24 hour films were each made in twenty-four hours by a team of three directors, in this case:

Zach Lipovsky, Sam Friedlander, Adam Stein

Sci-fi/drama/FX --

A conflict makes time stand still. Great! Coherent story. Nicely shot. The special effects work perfectly.

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On The Lot (OTL) (and its official website has maintained high secrecy since it started. In fact, one of the major compaints of filmmakers and viewers has been the lack of information as to what is going on. The show has changed direction several times, confusing viewers. The official website never explained, and even had misinformation several times. And there was little information -- make that no information -- available to the 12,000 or so filmmakers that contributed films to the site and hoped to be on the show as to what the selection process schedule would be. Some people were even posting questions as to when contestants would be notified as the show was starting... with no response.

Now the first little bit of light on the internal processes at OTL have been revealed. A blogger on OTL, lizriz, linked to a another blogger, Denis Logan, who was part of a FORD junket to OTL. Here are links to his posts: -- Tidbits from OTL The whole story of the trip.

Among the most interesting revelations is how hard everyone is trying and how much effort is going into the show. That contrasts with the impression on the website that nobody cares, which is a result of the secrecy, and the trivial errors on the site that go uncorrected for long periods of time. (For example, the 40,000 or so films now on the site suddenly went AWOL last week and have not come back.)

Note: It would be great to see stories like this on the OTL site itself.

Note: It would have been great to invite QPORIT to participate in this junket! I'm a great fan of the show (and a critic only because I want it to succeed).

This Tuesday (Fox, 8:00) is the final episode, when the winner of the grand prize: a $Million dollar development deal at DreamWorks is revealed.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007



Kathleen Wilce Kaczan will play Anna Karenina in an adaptation by Helen Edmunson, directed by Jeremy X. Halpern, in a production at the Beckman Theater.

Adaptation by Helen Edmundson

Cast: Bill Barry, Lily Blau, Susan Foster, Kathleen Kaczan, Aaron David Kapner, Clem McIntosh, Mellisa Seifert, Jesse Sells

Directed by Jeremy X. Halpern

Presented by Kaczan Productions


NEW YORK, NY 10019

AUGUST 28,29,30,31 SEPT 1&2 AT 8PM


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Friday, August 17, 2007



Hannah Wolfe
-- a very talented and charming actress/writer/entrepreneur/producer/impressario -- and WildChild are presenting Her Kind, a mixed media piece about Anne Sexton, at the New York Fringe Festival. They have been working and developing this piece for some time. (I posted on an earlier performance of this piece last year.)

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was a highly respected poet with a disturbed personality, who ultimately committed suicide. According to
biographical notes in Wikipedia, she was encouraged by her therapist to begin writing poetry. She was close with W. D. Snodgrass whose confessional poetry was a source of inspiration. Her own poetry often dealt with feminine and sexual topics and issues more than many other poets of the time.

Her Kind uses dance, film, poetry performance, and recorded readings by Anne Sexton herself.

There is a brief
interview with Hannah on (Episode #147 - Indie Theatre Now). Her segment is at the end of this podcast.

(Download the podcast from the link at the bottom of the interview web page.)

VENUE #13: The Linhart Theater @ 440 Studios
ADDRESS: 440 Lafayette St. 3rd Floor


MON 8/20 @ 7:15 PM
WED 8/22 @ 3:30 PM
THUR 8/23 @ 9:45 PM
FRI 8/24 @ 7:45 PM
SAT 8/25 @ NOON

Tickets may be ordered from the New York Fringe Festival -- or (if available) at the door.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007



On the Fox website, there's a nice list of online places to get (often free) tickets to TV shows:

Audiences Unlimited at 1-818-753-3470 / website at:

On Camera Audiences at 1-818-295-2700 / website at:

Hollywood Tickets website at:

1iota Tickets at 1-866-546-6984 / website at:

(List from "Ask Fox")


Sunday, August 12, 2007



The Company
(TNT Sunday at 8) is not a bad way to spend two hours watching television. However, this show is not a history lesson, and six hours of it (3 episodes of two hours each) may be a bit much.

It's an interesting, sometimes exciting, but kind of one dimensional dramatization of CIA operatives at work during several important events. During the episode I watched (#2) the CIA botched their support of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the Bay of Pigs assault on Cuba in 1961, resulting in many deaths and no progress for democracy anywhere in the world.

To understand the history, I'd suggest consulting Wikipedia (for example, and Google. It's much clearer and more informative than the TV show.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007



It's hard to write a good, original script about time travel or knowing future events.

A lot of good work went into Premonition, but not enough on creating a successful script. It's kind of a shame. I think there's a good film hidden here someplace. There are moments of strong tension as to what will happen, an interesting mystery, and a potentially riveting personal drama. Still, in addition to a confusing time-line (as the film skips back and forth in time) and the lack of a compelling I-think-I-know-what-will-happen logic, the film is also missing any real interpersonal drama. It's kind of Sandra Bullock acting against herself.

To be perfectly honest, when I heard that Sandra Bullock was in a film about an accident that might or might not happen in the future, and that she was not playing against a strong, well-known male co-star, I had a premonition...

It's sort of a medium energy, mixed up, not very interesting, well-made film. It sounds worse than it is. It's not bad. It's just not good.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007



There are a few competitions designed to further artistic works -- in particular, plays -- related to science. Below is a lightly edited version of the announcement of a prize awarded to one such work. All too often these prizes are awarded for popular themes, biographical works, and of course, scientists vs anti-science. It would be nice to see prizes awarded for plays that are not biographical or historical, or politically popular, and which start by taking for granted the basic realities of science.

I have not read any of the plays in this competition; in particular I have not read any of the plays mentioned here, so the following is purely a comment not a criticism: these might all be great plays, far better than any of the others in the competiton. Yet it is interesting that all three put a woman scientist/technician/creator at the center of the drama, prompting the question of whether that was a bias in the selection.

Nevertheless, I applaud all support of both good science and good theater. Here's the announcement...

Playwright Elyse Singer has been awarded first prize in an international competition for plays about science and technology launched by the Professional Artists Lab and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (USCB).

Singer will receive $10,000 for her winning play, "Frequency Hopping," at an awards ceremony next year that will coincide with the premiere of the play at the prestigious
3-Legged Dog Art and Technology Center, a cutting-edge theater and media group in New York City. The prize money for the competition was donated.

Nearly 175 plays from a dozen countries were entered in UCSB's second Scientists, Technologists, and Artists Generating Exploration (STAGE) competition. The unique competition evolved from a shared desire to make science more accessible to the public and the theater more reflective of what is happening in the world, said Nancy Kawalek, director of the Professional Artists Lab.

The winning play tells the story of the remarkable real-life collaboration in 1940 between film icon Hedy Lamarr and avant-garde composer George Antheil on a military communications device now recognized as the model for wireless communication. The darkly comic multidisciplinary play celebrates the process of scientific invention—and the electrified nature of the collaborative process itself—while exploring the relationships between beauty and intelligence, science and art, and celebrity and identity.

Singer's works have been produced by dozens of prestigious theaters, including Playwright's Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, the Women's Project, the Culture Project, P.S. 122, Dixon Place, Location One, Soho Rep, and New Georges. Singer is the founding artistic director of New York City's Hourglass Group, whose mission encompasses the development of adventurous new plays and championing writers who experiment with dramatic language and innovative theatrical forms, including the use of multimedia.

Two other playwrights singled out in the competition as finalists were award-winning Chicago playwright Gloria Bond Clunie, for "Quark," and Australian writer/director/actor Alex Ben Mayor, for "C (299 492 458)."

In "Quark," a terminally ill astrophysics professor struggles to make a final grand gesture to change the lives of her family and the world.

"C (299 492 458)," a simultaneously absurdist comedy and poignant tale, focuses on a female theoretical physicist's search for a unification of four disparate forces of nature. The title refers to the speed of light in a vacuum, taken as a starting point to investigate how we view the world around us.

This year's scripts were judged by a panel made up of two of UCSB's Nobel laureates, David Gross (2004, physics) and Alan Heeger (2000, chemistry); Obie award-winning playwright Lonnie Carter; award-winning playwright Constance Congdon; award-winning playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher; Morgan Jenness, dramaturge and literary agent at Abrams Artists Agency; Tony and Olivier award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and director Mark Medoff; and Kawalek.

The play "Frequency Hopping" is all the more fascinating because it is a true, and perhaps little-known story," said Evelyn Hu, director of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCSB. "It demonstrates how easy it is to box ourselves into limited roles, even if those are excellent and much-recognized roles. Those are the kinds of stereotypes we as scientists are trying to change."

The Professional Artists Lab is a dynamic artistic laboratory in Film and Media Studies and Media Arts and Technology at UCSB, in which professional actors, directors, writers, and producers create and develop new works in film, theatre, television, radio, and multi-media performance. Distinguished visiting artists also discuss their craft in classes and present workshops.

The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), one of the prestigious California Institutes for Science and Innovation, focuses on dramatic breakthroughs in materials, devices and resulting technologies, made possible by controlling form and function at the nanoscale. These breakthroughs are being accomplished through the integration of many science and engineering disciplines, and will have broad applications for innovation in communication, biomedical, energy, and environmental technologies. CNSI is a research partnership between UCSB and UCLA.

Based on the extraordinarily positive response to the competition, it has expanded into the STAGE Project. Under this larger umbrella and Kawalek's direction, the Professional Artists Lab and the California NanoSystems Institute will collaborate internationally with professional artists to create and develop multimedia theater pieces in which science and technology play prominent roles in content and/or form.

Submissions (dramatic plays only, not screenplays or musicals, and no sci-fi) to the next STAGE International Script Competition will be accepted beginning September 1, 2007.

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