Category : People
Category : People
Heather Armstrong is most recently the author of It Sucked and Then I Cried.
[This is the first show in which a guest’s Twitter feed emerges during the course of the conversation! This historical moment can be found at the 13:05 mark.]
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pondering his deficient parental duties.
Author: Heather Armstrong
Subjects Discussed: Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake, checking with other people on stories and blog posts, the fairness of sharing, the private medium of the letter being publicly aired, drawing the distinction between work and fun in personal writing, dealing with negativity and hate mail, public scrutiny, factoring the audience into business decisions, the oddness of an audience as a focus group, writing in all caps and emphatic house style, Armstrong’s affinity for Chili’s, imagining vs. comparing Leta at sixteen, whether or not Bob Costas is insipid, parent writing and the “special” nature of children, Janet Jackson’s nipple, fixating on particular points to keep a narrative going, the two-book deal with Kensington, “having a baby is pretty much a book of commentary,” filtering daily events, following up on investigations by the Pioneer Press, and the concern for “normalcy.”
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: I wanted to ask about your affinity for Chili’s, which you bring up. I don’t think it can be entirely predicated on a love for the chips and salsa, or the fact that the server brings two Diet Cokes at the same time. This can’t merely be the exclusive reason! So I’m curious if you can elaborate on this particular concern and love and joy you have for Chili’s.
Armstrong: Well, I actually worked at Chili’s for three days back when I was a freshman in college. And I lasted three days. I couldn’t wait tables. I am not a table waiter. And there’s just something about the Americanness of the experience, and having that much food brought to you that makes me very connected to the flyover states — that normally I’m not very connected to politically. You know, I don’t see eye to eye with them. Except when they’re bringing me those two Diet Cokes. And when they’re refilling the basket and basket and basket of chips. I feel very American.
Correspondent: I’m wondering if it’s the specific glasses they use.
Armstrong: Oh yeah.
Correspondent: The specific way in which they bring to your table. Because this is a chain restaurant. There are plenty of restaurants that will bring you two Diet Cokes.
Armstrong: Well, consistently though. I mean, I have never had to ask for the second Diet Coke. They will always bring it. And I wasn’t taught this rule when I worked there. I just think that there’s something about the culture there. They know. They know you need it.
Correspondent: Wow. Maybe there’s some divisions of Chili’s in which they bring you that Diet Coke immediately. Or maybe it’s a Utah scenario?
Armstrong: No, it happened in Tennessee too.
Correspondent: It happened in Tennessee too.
Armstrong: It did. It did.
Correspondent: This is an investigative journalistic report.
Armstrong: It really is. (laughs)
Correspondent: Really. You should pursue this further. I want to talk about when Leta is taken in for an MRI and is given some Nembutal. You write that she was “as drunk as a sixteen-year-old on prom night who has had a Long Island Iced Tea on an empty stomach and is in total denial about how drunk she is.” Now this was very interesting to me. Because I must observe that sixteen is right between your age and Leta’s age.
Correspondent: I must also point out that this is not imagining Leta at sixteen. It’s comparing her to a sixteen-year-old. Does the notion of thinking of Leta at sixteen mortify you? And is this why you need this comparative point to someone who is sixteen? Who couldn’t possibly be Leta? Or what?
Armstrong: I’m probably comparing her to the sixteen-year-old I wasn’t actually. And the possibility that she will be very different than I was. I’m raising her ideologically very differently than I was raised. And I don’t want it to seem that it would be okay with me if my sixteen-year-old got drunk. But there’s a part of me that probably needed to when I was sixteen. And the thought of her in her teens, actually, does absolutely terrify me. Yes, it does.
Correspondent: How far in the future can you think about Leta?
Armstrong: Oh, not very far. No, no, no. You can’t do that with her. I mean, it’s a new lesson. You wake up and you think you’ve got it mastered. And then she will just knock you on your ass immediately the next day.
(Photo credit: Carol Browne)
Tatia Rosenthal is is most recently the director of $9.99. The film is presently playing at the New Directors/New Films series, which is running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It is also scheduled for limited release on June 17, 2009.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ushering in an economic revolution.
Guest: Tatia Rosenthal
Subjects Discussed: Unintentionally defying the “good things come in threes” maxim, animating at two frames per movement, Bill Plympton, the aesthetic advantages of budget limitations, character proportions in relation to the sets, camera placement, a shared affinity for short lenses, immersing puppets in shadow, dealing with sweat in animation, animating natural elements, “A Buck’s Worth” as template for $9.99 (YouTube link), compositing vs. in-camera stop-motion animation, shrinking the Lilliputian puppets down in post, sticking to scale parameters, the look of the piggy bank, human mouths and animating Os, the problems of animating dialogue, whether animation must have fantastical elements to be “animation,” magical realism, animating eyes and blinking, breaking away from stereotypical body movement and defying cliches in animation, animating multiple characters in the Show and Tell scene, Anthony Elworthy, ambition, tracking shots, color coordination, self-help books, and graphical elements.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: The other thing I wanted to note is sweat in this film, and bodily fluids in general. Now we see sweat in a love scene late in the film and also in the elevator. However, going back to this question of lighting, I should point out that you lit this in such a way so it appears that the texture is sweating, even though it isn’t. So I’m wondering about how you dealt with this idea of actually having to put some sort of moisture on the puppets in order to get that sense of seat. And not only that. You also have to animate that as well. So I’m curious how this came about.
Rosenthal: I think you’re going to be surprised by the answer. Did you like it?
Correspondent: Yeah, I did.
Rosenthal: Interesting. Because it was an accident. And we were doing our best to conceal the sweaty look. Because the silicone actually appears shiny and looks like sweat. The material that we used. And we were doing our damnedest to erase it with powders and stuff like that. And then some of it would get revealed. Because the animators were touching the puppets. And they looked like they gradually were sweating. And then when we got to post, what we did, when it was really distracting, we deleted it frame-by-frame.
Rosenthal: Painstakingly. And the places where it stayed were the places where it felt appropriate to the scene. Like you’re remarking. So it was really sweating in reverse.
Correspondent: Oh, but I like sweat! Characters should sweat. Puppets should sweat.
Rosenthal: I like it now.
(Photo: Quentin Jones)
Adam Del Deo is most recently the co-director of Every Little Step. The film is presently playing at the New Directors/New Films series, which is running between March 25 and April 5 at MOMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It is also scheduled for limited release on April 17, 2009. You can also read our related review.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Walking a thin line between the need to perform and employment.
Guest: Adam Del Deo
Subjects Discussed: How an outsider’s experience assists in the making of a Broadway documentary, working with James Stern, filming the audition process for the A Chorus Line revival, behind-the-scenes access, hesitation from prospective cast members being filmed, capturing uncomfortable truths in a documentary, documenting the compulsive need to perform, keeping tabs on the many documentary subjects, whether being liked is an artistic liability, casting discrimination, Baayork Lee, Bob Avian’s directorial temperament, Jacques d’Ambrose blowing out his knees in his forties, what a dancer does when he can’t dance anymore, Michael Bennett profiting incommensurately from the dancers, the original A Chorus Line dancers not receiving royalties for the revival, not talking with Wayne Cilento, and whether a documentary filmmaker has the moral obligation to show all sides of the story.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: I also wanted to offer an observation. One moment in which Yuka, who is up for Connie, reveals that she was born in Japan. And the production team expresses some concerns because she can’t, in their view, possibly nail the right dialect because she wasn’t born in the States. In fact, Baayork Lee says, “There’s something about being born in America and fighting for a seat on the F train.” Seeing as how Yuka did, in fact, get the part, this is interesting to me. Because if you were to take such a judgment and put it into another occupation, it would be discrimination. So I am curious. If an actor has the chops, should they not be able to essentially get the part irrespective of the background? This is one of the interesting things, I think, about the film, in which you see such a blunt judgment — despite the fact that it’s done in all love — laid down on the table like that. So what of this dilemma?
Del Deo: I think it’s an interesting observation. I think you’re right. Whoever’s right for the role and best for the role should get the role. But casting roles is very, very subjective. There’s not a specific set of standards and information. I mean, what Baayork is seeing and what Bob Avian is seeing, they’re seeing that differently. That part of the film is, to me, one of the most fascinating parts of the film. Because Baayork is looking at Yuka. She created that role. Baayork Lee was taped by Michael Bennett. And that narrative created the role of Connie. She also happens to be the choreographer for the revival. Now over thirty years later, she’s casting the character of Connie. Which is her. And so she says to Bob Avian, “You know, I don’t see myself that cute.” And Bob’s saying, “Well, she’s very likable.” And she’s like, “Well, it’s me.” And so that was very interesting. But it’s so subjective. And there’s a good healthy debate that happened between the creative team as to who was going to play what role. And I think it’s part of the process.
Correspondent: But do you think though that such a judgment almost crosses the line to some degree? Because she does — like I say, she gets cast in the part. She does a great job. And so it could be one of those things that Baayork just let off. Because they’re all excited about casting the right role. Nevertheless, I say to myself, “Well, this is very interesting. Because if this is a judgment. And these people are true professionals. Imagine what all the other shows are like.” And so I’m not sure if it’s entirely fair if the actor has the chops.
Del Deo: I mean, she got the role.
Del Deo: Baayork, she had questions about that. They ultimately all decided she was best for it. Correct? But she maybe wasn’t on board right away with that decision. She wanted to express her desire possibly to cast someone else. I think she talks about J. Elaine [Marcos]. That was her opinion. But it wasn’t her call. I don’t believe it was a racial issue.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pondering new author taxonomies.
Author: T.C. Boyle
Subjects Discussed: How to conquer jet lag, Ellen Key’s The Woman Movement, the individual vs. the spirit of the time, feminism and Frank Lloyd Wright, notions of education, Miriam’s presence and hypercaffeinated prose, balancing the women in The Women, the ABAB narrative of the first section and Talk Talk, representing Wright through his women, novelizing a fictive novelist’s biography, Blake Bailey, the burdens of chronological order, parallels between Wright and Boyle, the question of what anybody really knows about history from hearsay, seeing the details through an ever-shifting prism, the novel as a suspect medium, Riven Rock, dashes, sentences, and parenthetical information, annotations and “the rest is commentary,” art standing above morality, balancing empathy and the satirical impulse, rejecting reader expectations, reputation and renown vs. not knowing, why cruelty is necessary, reevaluation, empathy and narcissism, and understanding an artist.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Boyle: I try to get it both ways. I try to involve you in something in a satiric way. And yet it should also move you. And of course, in this book, I had to do that because of the tragedy of Mamah, which will conclude the book. So you have to set the reader up for that throughout. And I think there is tragedy throughout the book. Tadashi’s life is incredibly tragic in many, many regards. So again, I’m playing one element against the other throughout. And there is commentary upon commentary upon commentary. And, for me, it opened up the structure and it made it fun. It made it invigorating. A lot of the footnotes exist to give you information that I would like you to know about Frank Lloyd Wright and his buildings and where he was at any given time. But a lot of them also, I just express surprise on the part of Tadashi. And I find the hilarious.
Correspondent: Well, the question is: Okay, the reader wants to know about the artist. And essentially you believe — your own particular view is — that the art should stand above any morality. This is interesting because we don’t know about the artists. And simultaneously, well, you do have many details about Taliesin, as well as the skies and the views and all that. But I’m curious if this almost runs counter to the impulse if you’re playing with the reader’s expectations. So that they will never know about the artist, even though this is, in fact, why they read your books. Whether that’s entirely fair to the reader.
Boyle: Well, don’t forget that when I am creating art, I don’t mean to be fair to the reader or unfair to the reader. Those questions lie right outside the parameters of what I’m doing. I’m dreaming something. I’m creating something for my own purposes. I deliberate to you. And I hope that you interact with it in some way. And obviously you do and other readers do. Sophisticated art, to my mind, doesn’t provide answers and doesn’t have an agenda other than art itself. So I think a book like this one, of all my books, is probably the one in which the reader will be most engaged to try and unravel the truth of what it is in its own right. And don’t forget. I’m not writing about an unknown figure here. Kinsey, as you know, was recognizable second only to the President in this country in his time. But by the time I wrote about him, everyone had completely forgotten who he is. No one knows who he is. And Kellogg too was lost to the mists of history. But again, Frank Lloyd Wright, there’s been a thousand books. There’s a cult. People are lined up in Chicago today, freezing, to get in and go on the tour. So this is someone who has been written about eternally and is very well-known. My interest is: How do I get a new angle on this?
Correspondent: So by him being more well known than Kinsey or Kellogg, you can then justify this notion of not knowing Frank Lloyd Wright. That’s what you’re saying. Of the reader not knowing.
Boyle: If this is your interpretation, I would say yes. But again, I think you do know him. You do see him from his point of view a few times. But I didn’t want to represent his point of view a great deal. Because then you know his motivation and you know what he’s thinking. I would rather have it — that’s why I called it The Women. I’d rather have him viewed from other perspectives so that you can make your own determination. And, yes, I think part of that determination is that he was incredibly narcissistic. Maybe one of the most narcissistic people who ever lived. And yet narcissism, as we talked about with regard to Peck Wilson in Talk Talk, can be very damaging to everybody around you. I like to hope and think that I am sympathetic to people whom I meet and with people who are close to me. And that far from damaging them, I might even be aiding them in some way. A narcissist like Frank Lloyd Wright though, or Kinsey or Kellogg, doesn’t view the world in that way. Everybody else is simply valuable, only as they fit into his regime. So I think that any reader, even the least sophisticated reader of this book, will have a portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright that may be more true than what you get from a biography.
(Photo credit: Christopher Felver)
Tony Stone is the director, writer, producer, editor, and actor of Severed Ways, a film about Vikings that opens in limited release on March 13, 2009.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Unsure of whether he wants to be a Viking or not.
Guest: Tony Stone
Subjects Discussed: The many crew positions that Tony Stone worked, music clearance people who keep weapons under their beds, making a film with seven chapters, how a two week shoot went on for three years, not getting the visuals right the first time, motivations for handheld camera work, accepting art as it is, “Greedo shoots first,” contemporary slang transposed into Viking talk, A Knight’s Tale, how far filmmakers can go in “modernizing” historical settings, the ethics of killing chickens on screen, Ingmar Bergman’s Shame, helpful ways of agitating both vegetarians and meat eaters through cinema, filming a defecation scene, the appropriate constituency of shit for a beautiful shot, Charles Leland’s Algonquin Legends, abstaining from profiling the Abenaki religion, paganism, anarchy, and secular humanism.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: “This fish is pretty killer.” Well, “killer,” as I understand it, is a recent modifier in the English language.
Stone: Yes, it is.
Correspondent: And I don’t think necessarily that the Vikings were using this or that the Nordic tongue had any answer to “killer.” So why the modernization of etymology here? Is this an inroad point along the lines of the Viking headbanger who likewise appears in this?
Stone: Yeah. It’s that. But it’s also that a lot of the times, you’d watch any period piece or historical film, whether it’s Romans or barbarians or whatever else, they’re speaking in semi-Shakespearean accents in their Old British. It doesn’t really make any sense. And everything’s very formal. There’s no reason why, a thousand years ago, they weren’t just as casual as us and they had their own vernacular. So this is using a piece of dialogue — like “This fish is killer” — is basically more of an accurate translation in my mind. Because you’re taking whatever their vernacular was and putting it into our vernacular. So you understand the tone and the vibe of what they’re actually saying. So I actually find there’s more accuracy in it. And we’ve just been so beaten down by the traditional Hollywood stupidity of how I’m dealing with history in films. So that sort of explains why I wanted it there. And of course, the film is trying to bridge the past and the present. And so it’s maing these characters have mannerisms that maybe the dude walking down the street has. Or whatever else. It’s trying to just not have it be this distant, far off, separate thing. It’s trying to make it more current and now. And it is with us.
Correspondent: But on the flip side, there is a certain point where it becomes ridiculous; i.e., A Knight’s Tale, for example. In which you have the Nike swoosh in the Middle Ages. Do you remember this film?
Stone: Yeah, I do. I do.
Correspondent: I mean, it was totally ridiculous. It was fun. But at the same time, one does not look to this for verisimilitude.
Stone: “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Yeah.
Correspondent: So the question is: how far can you go with this?
Stone: Yeah, that’s interesting. A Knight’s Tale. I forgot about that. It’s been a while. But yeah. They use modern music.
Correspondent: “We Will Rock You.” Yeah.
Stone: Then there’s that amazing part where they’re going back to London. And the Thin Lizzy song comes in. “The Boys Are Back In Town.” (laughs) It’s very incredible.
Correspondent: I mean, if we’re talking about Hollywood stupidity, I’m wondering how…
Stone: Yeah. Obviously, there is a level of absurdness to it. I’m not going to deny it. But I think the film is sort of rebellious in a way. It’s trying to set up a dialogue. I don’t know. But in a way, like I’m saying, it’s sort of modernizing the Viking. Making him a current character. Making him more similar to somebody maybe you know is the idea. I’m just getting away from that wall that’s usually put up in terms of dealing with historical material.