the candler blog

The Final Word on #pointergate

Link, News

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who rose to national fame last week after a local news station claimed she threw a gang sign while working to get out the vote, gets the last word on #pointergate (emphasis mine):

One frightening implication of the KSTP story and police union President Delmonico’s support of that story is their implicit assumption that I should use stereotypes to assess with whom I should or should not meet or stand or talk. As The Onion once satirically wrote, “Stereotypes are a real time saver.” It is not a good basis for decision-making, however. It blunts the humanity of the person making the judgment and creates unnecessary separation between two people in a world where more, rather than less, human connection is needed for us to move forward as a community.

Hodges for President.

Poster Children

Design, Link, Writing

Layer Tennis is a design competition run by Coudal Partners, spartan proprietors (along with Draplin Design Co.) of Field Notes, and presented by Adobe Creative Cloud. I don’t know how long it has been running and I don’t full well understand the rules or the state of play.

What I do understand is this lovely intro to today’s match from John Gruber, today’s commentator:

Words, carefully chosen, can be precise in meaning. With emoji you lose that precision, but in exchange you gain a remarkable expressiveness for feeling. An emoji is seldom worth a thousand words, but depending on the moment, it can come close. In the way that email turned everyone into a writer, emoji turn everyone into a visual communicator. That’s something.

As a fan of Coudal (by way of my favorite tiny notebooks) I’ve seen Layer Tennis pop up along my feeds for the past few weeks. I never got it. I still don’t. But I’m getting closer.

I’ll watch today’s match, then, and see where things go.

Extra Thoughts on Listen Up Philip

Movies, Review

I reviewed Listen Up Philip for Heeb Magazine. Initially I wanted to pan the film, but I sat down to re-watch it and discovered how special it actually is. It seems like a chronicle of a few horrible people, but actually it’s a film about how we deal with success.

One thing that irked me on first viewing was the film’s use of voice over. As I mention in my review, this is a knee-jerk reaction. Omniscient narrators are usually a lazy crutch used by writers who can’t build a complex character and structure a narrative at the same time. But that was an unfair assessment. Writer/director Alex Ross Perry’s narrator is there to streamline the narrative, not fix it. We meet our characters in situ and jump right into the meat of their lives. It makes the film almost uncomfortably fast-paced.

And so I came around on this one. I truly love Elisabeth Moss’s performance, though that may be linked to the fact that I feel the closest connection to Ashley, the character she portrays. She also happens to be the only character whose life seems better off by the end of the film, though that’s more a matter of opinion than fact. As I wrote for Heeb, the choice to prefer Ashley “is a personal one though, perhaps linked to my own views of success and artistic struggle.”

That’s the heart of what makes Listen Up Philip such a special work. It offers insight on success (and life) in a mature and introspective manner. I’m glad I didn’t dismiss it because I don’t like omniscient narrators (but generally I still don’t).

Middling

Andy Baio on blogging:

Twitter and Waxy Links cannibalized all the smaller posts, and as my reach grew, I started reserving blogging for more “serious” stuff — mostly longer-form research and investigative writing.

Well, fuck that.

Yup. I want to publish here more as well. And I haven’t been for the exact reasons Andy mentions. So fuck it. Let’s go.

A Primer on Not Being a Music Hater

Criticism, Link, Movies, Music

Great piece by Ryan Gantz on music listening that I think aptly applies to watching movies:

You should feel free to listen to whatever music speaks to you. I do.

But the hard thing about music (and all types of art) is that speak can mean something different for every genre, artist, and album. The emotional, tonal, and verbal vocabulary of heavy metal is almost nothing like the vocabulary of jazz. The intention and cultural contexts differ. The listening experience goals for fans of hip-hop may be at odds with what a classical music-lover wants out of a great symphony.

And that means that it often requires intellectual/emotional openness and very close listening (or, like, dancing) to understand what a piece of music is getting at, what language it’s speaking, what feelings it wants to evoke—even who its target audience might be—before we can fairly judge what’s successful or unsuccessful about it.

Gantz articulates something I try to keep in mind whenever I watch a new film, especially one that exists well outside of my comfort zone.

(via Waxy.)

Fight Club 15 Years Later: Marla, Men’s Rights, and the Internet

Link, Movies

Eric D. Snider, pithy and brilliant as always, for Complex:

To watch Fight Club now, 15 years after its release, is to be amused at how much the Narrator sounds like today’s Men’s Rights Activists and #GamerGate numbnuts.

And later:

What I didn’t fully appreciate at 25 that I do at 40 is that Fight Club doesn’t endorse Tyler Durden’s nihilism, it mocks it. Tyler is an extremist, taking good ideals too far and losing the moral high ground. Peeing in soups and blowing up buildings isn’t rebellion; it’s idiotic and pointless. Tyler Durden’s followers are too blinded by their perceived wrongs and grievances to see that.

Bingo. I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with David Fincher’s Fight Club for this exact reason: the film serves to reinforce the very thing it critiques. The fight club in Fight Club makes fun of male bravado, and yet countless dorm room walls have been adorned with the infamous “rules” as if they were words to live by.

Great art should confront the issues of the day. As Snider points out, Fight Club is still resonating, for better or worse.

The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film

Link, Movies

Every Tuesday in September, my friend Dr. Eric Goldman is co-hosting and curating a screening series on Turner Classic Movies called The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film. I’m sorry I’m a bit late writing about it here, but there are still three weeks left, including tonight, of incredible films. Of the nineteen films in the series, I would say maybe only six or seven (if that many) are well-known to regular viewers of TCM.

My personal favorite part of the series so far has been watching the introductions to the films with Dr. Goldman and Robert Osborne. Yes, there is a novelty to seeing a friend and colleague on television, but there’s more to it than that. Eric brings not only his scholarly perspective to each film; he brings an excitement, almost a giddiness to sharing these films with a wide audience. To hear him talk about these films in the context of both their release and their current status in the culture is a real treat.

Tonight kicks off at 8:00pm EDT with Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer, a 1955 film billed as Israel’s first feature. I’ve never seen it, but Dr. Goldman used to show scenes from it in a production class I instructed with him. If the short scenes are any indication, audiences are in for a real treat tonight. Keep in mind: Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer isn’t readily available for most. It’s not streaming or available for download, and the best way to get a disc is through Dr. Goldman’s company, Ergo Media.1 So if you get Turner Classic Movies, you should take advantage of the opportunity to see something a bit rare.

Check out the screening series’ full schedule for a list of films that are a bit off the beaten path.

  1. You can also go through a few third party resellers on Amazon.

The Smartwatch through History: Great Idea, Mediocre Product

Link, Technology

In anticipation of Apple’s big announcement today,1 I wrote a history of the smartwatch for GOOD Magazine:

These major milestones in the history of the smartwatch are a brief tour through the last 50 years of wristwear styles, and a menagerie of both clever and half-clever ideas. With these precedents, can Apple finally get us to strap computers on our wrists?

The Fossil WRIST PDA is probably the craziest smartwatch that actually shipped. (A PalmPilot for your wrist!) Whatever Apple ships, their historical competition isn’t really that stiff.

  1. At the time of publishing this blog post, I still have no clue what Apple is announcing.

30

Announcements

Today I turn 30.

When I was a kid, 30 seemed impossibly old. Everything did. The future was, seemingly, far away. But now it’s here.

As this birthday approached, in my mind I started putting far more weight on it that it deserves. Am I where I expected to be? Did I accomplish everything I wanted to by my thirtieth birthday? And other stupid questions.

This past year has been one of great change for me. Things have not turned out the way I thought they would, but that’s actually a wonderful thing. I have achieved things I never set out to achieve. I live in a place I never expected to live, and I love it. I’ve got the support of family and friends and a lot to be thankful for. Things are good.

Look. Time is a construct, “a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.” We get older every day and once a year make a big hoo hah over it; once a decade we make an even bigger one. If you asked me five years ago what it meant to be in my twenties I wouldn’t have known what to say. Because who cares?

One thing I’m conscious of as I get older is my own cynicism. I’m not the most cynical person I know by any means, but I know that I sometimes come off as someone who only sees the bad side of things.1 That’s something I’d like to work to correct over the next year, the next decade, and beyond. The world is too big and too full of wonder for me to only see the negative.

I’m excited for 30. I’m ready for the next challenge. But thank goodness 40 is a long way off.

  1. Some might call this “being a dick.”

Joan Rivers

Movies, News

I’ll miss Joan Rivers, who passed away yesterday. I can’t really accept, yet, that she’s gone. The thing that really gets me is this: Rivers would have garnered some incredible material from her own death.1 The sadness of losing a legend is compounded by that fact that only her wit could make us laugh about it.

In 2010 I had the great pleasure of attending a roundtable question-and-answer session with her as part of the press blitz for the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.2 It immediately became clear that she was “on,” performing for us in the small hotel conference room on the Upper East Side. She clarified that point, as I noted in my resulting piece for Heeb Magazine:

“I’m a performer. A girlfriend of mine just told me she spent three weeks in Venice taking cooking classes. I thought, ‘I’d fucking kill myself.’ I’d rather go and perform.”

That was Rivers. A comedian to the end. Another choice quote from the film:

“When a young comedienne comes up to me and says, ‘You paved the way for me’… Paved? Paved?!’ You want to say, ‘Go fuck yourself, I’m still paving it.’”

There are so many great Joan moments that others have posted, but one of my personal favorites is still this clip from the documentary, where she takes the viewer into her card catalog of jokes.

There are funnier and more groundbreaking clips, for sure, but what always impressed me was Rivers’ tenacity. Joke-telling is hard work and she became a master not through magic but through sheer grit. She worked incredibly hard to make us laugh for decades. I, like most, had hoped to get a decade more.

That picture up top, by the way, is of my father’s band with Joan in 1991. My dad is on the right. They served as the backup band for two nights for the Jewish Federation in Philadelphia. He has nothing but good things to say about the experience, which he still remembers like it was yesterday. This has been a common refrain in eulogies, obituaries and remembrances. No matter how poisonous her tongue may have been while performing, off stage she was nothing but charming. There’s a lesson there, I’m sure.

  1. Imagine, if you will, what she would have done with the incredible correction in her aforelinked New York Times obituary: “An earlier version of a label that appeared with this obituary on the home page of NYTimes.com misstated the year of Ms. Rivers’s death. It was 2014, of course, not 1914.”

  2. As part of my coverage of the film, I also recorded a podcast with the filmmakers Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg discussing Joan Rivers.