The Tropical Movies (2012)

In October 2012, I began making the Tropical Movies, a series of documentaries in which a singular idea fixed in our culture is investigated through a series of interviews, eccentric divagation, and other assorted contexts. The Tropical Movies are shot using a one person lo-fi rig in which the camera is as close to to my head as possible, in an effort to provide the viewer with a faithfully vicarious experience.

Tropic One: Comic Convention

Tropic One explores the relationship between fandom and commerce at New York Comic Con, investigates Chevrolet’s recent efforts to get fans to buy cars through “digital awareness,” and includes businessman/music producer Terence Dudley’s strategy to use superheroes to get people excited about batteries, artist Amanda Rachels’s confined position in a booth, and makeup artist Crystal Soveroski doing bikini body painting on a model named Jessica. The film was shot on October 13, 2012 and edited on October 14, 2012. (You can also read a related photoessay which also emerged from this experience.) (Running time: 9:31)

As of October 15, 2012, there are three Tropical Movies in production.

The Anthropological Films (2009)

During the summer of 2009, I began making a series of “anthropological films” to reflect the sights, sounds, and moments in New York that many New Yorkers seem to ignore — whether through juxtaposition or direct observation. I didn’t know that I was embarking on a series when I first started out. The films were created without any preconceived theme. I completely capitulate to the subconscious. In the editing, I try and make sense of what I’ve shot and use the footage to create variations on the common anthropological theme, which shifts with each film.

The idea behind the Anthropological Films was to make them when some moment, sight, idea, or piece of music steers me in the right direction through a divine act of serendipity. There is no specific order in which these films should be watched, but the careful viewer watching in chronological order may see specific themes develop.

I had planned to shoot ten short films before the end of 2009. But I only made four. I decided to reapproach the idea in documentary form in 2012 through the Tropical Movies.

1. Bubbles: A Consideration

On June 12, 2009, I attended a bubble battle in New York. But the event wasn’t really a battle — at least not in the traditional sense. Hundred of people who didn’t know each other gathered in Times Square to blow bubbles. It seemed like such a simple act, but it turned out to be so much more. And I hope that the above film, “Bubbles: A Consideration,” gives anyone who wasn’t able to attend a sense of the possibilities.

2. Dia de los Vivos

On June 28, 2009, I attended The Flower Parade. I knew nothing about the parade, but learned very quickly that its intent was to celebrate Colombia. The above film, “Dia de los Vivos,” presents the spirit that I observed and participated in.

3. Golden Hour

“Golden Hour,” which was shot at and around Riverside Park between July 7 and July 9, 2009. Like the other two films, this installment deals with certain glimpses ignored by most New Yorkers. This latest film chronicles aspects of how we live that were put into place decades ago by developer Robert Moses. (I recommend Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker, if you’re not familiar with the subject.)

4. Subway

“Subway” was shot and edited on July 14, 2009. For some unknown reason, I took my camera with me for a job interview. Since I had arrived at the Times Square station early, I began shooting. I figured that this was something I would work on later. But that evening, I became haunted by the subway and felt compelled to finish the film. So I rode the subway for a few hours and, to my surprise, it all came together. For those noting the absence of rats, I should point out that I did go out of my way to look for them, but my quest for vermin proved unsuccessful (at least in relation to the human emphasis). And since the film is more about the human relationship with the subway system, I don’t feel that (for this film anyway) rats were entirely necessary.

Prototypical Films

The Articulate Nature of Jonathan Franzen

The Occupational Hazards of Book Critics

Fans: A Reconsideration

Is Jay Leno a Corporate Shill?

The Most Important Absence

Woody Allen’s Stalking Annie

Chicago Paranoia (Google Ad Parody)

BEA 2009

  1. Clifford the Big Red Dog: Our Correspondent encounters Clifford the Big Red Dog at BookExpo America and attempts to solicit some answers from him.
  2. James Ellroy: Our Correspondent encounters Black Dahlia novelist James Ellroy at BookExpo America and asks him just why in the sam hill he’s asking future readers to be his Facebook friends for his forthcoming novel, Blood’s a Rover.
  3. Cool-Er Reader: Our Correspondent talks with marketing director Phil Wood (of Interead) about the Cool-Er Reader — one of several $249 e-readers available in the New Media/New E-Reader/New Technological Trend Zone.
  4. Yiddish Yoga: Our Correspondent talked with Lisa Grunberger about her book, Yiddish Yoga, at BookExpo America. Our Correspondent made several efforts to figure out the degree of Yiddish language and culture that could be found in Ms. Grunberger’s book.
  5. Bethanne Patrick: Our Correspondent talks with Bethanne Patrick (aka The Book Maven) at BookExpo America and attempts to pinpoint the precise nature of enthusiasm that one should have about books. (A recent NPR article containing the word “Whee!” is remarked upon during the conversation.)

Tools of Change 2009

  1. Plastic Logic: Our Correspondent talks with Maureen Mellon about Plastic Logic, the e-reader that ended up getting upstaged by the Kindle 2. But, hey, we like ourselves a few underdogs. Unfortunately, Our Correspondent also loves doodling.
  2. Sarah Wendell: Our Correspondent seeks out Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books ( about the troubling divide between male geeks and female readers, and how ebooks might reconsider this problem.
  3. Kevin Smokler: At Tools of Change, Our Correspondent talks to Web evangelist Kevin Smokler just after a war of words erupted near the end of his panel. Are there specific web and publishing standards that everyone can agree on?

New York Comic Con 2009

  1. Colin Baker: Colin Baker — who is perhaps best known as the sixth Doctor Who — talks with Our Correspondent about whether New York has been deprived of Doctors (and other roles that Mr. Baker has portrayed). But why is he really at New York Comic Con?
  2. Swear Bears: Our Correspondent encountered a mysterious hawker who claimed to be gentleman named “Blackie Lawless.” After Mr. Lawless proceeded to pitch his product unapologetically to our cameras, Our Correspondent was forced to question the premise of his particular invention.
  3. Susan Heidi: Susan Heidi talks with Our Correspondent about her pin-up art.
  4. Pete Pasquerello: On February 6, 2009, The Bat Segundo Show hit the floors of New York Comic Con 2009 to talk with Pete Pasquerello of The Entophilezzz! What Mr. Pasquerello did not expect was that Our Correspondent would query him on his Calvin & Hobbes comparison and introduce a rather strange concept involving T-shirts.
  5. Adam Deemer: Adam Deemer has designed the Comic Cubes. Mr. Deemer has suggested that this is the ideal furniture with which to store comic books. However, Our Correspondent is particularly concerned about the furniture’s resilience to an atomic blast.

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