here's my column from saturday.
hope everyone had a good thanksgiving!
CARPE DIEM 11-24
I’ve been flogging the subject of the writers’ strike in this space for the past couple of weeks, so rather than rant about it yet again, I thought I might take a look at some alternatives that are available for those who are starting to feel deprived as original scripts for their favorite shows dry up.
· read a book. Of course, this is probably pure fantasy, the most unlikely alternative to television in a society where people feel the need to have streaming video with them at all times on their iPhones, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve been re-reading some of my ancient favorites: “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller resonates more than ever in today’s lunatic-led, war-like environment, and I went on a Vonnegut spree recently. Also, a friend introduced me to Terry Pratchett a while back, and I ripped through half a dozen of his books in a few weeks’ time. Pratchett is a hilarious and sharp-witted writer able to skewer human ignorance and hope through casts of fantastical creatures like trolls, dwarves and vampires. Sort of a Douglas Adams (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) of fantasy.
· catch up on movies. Apart from being able to drink beer and hit pause while you’re watching DVDs at home, another advantage is the extras available on most discs. I’ve long been interested in the actor’s process of creating characters, as well as the nuts and bolts of making a film, and many DVDs provide enticing glimpses into that world. Some of my favorite bits are outtakes where actors helplessly crack up: any recent Will Farrell movie is bound to have these; start with “Anchorman.” Judd Apatow, who produced that film, added a hilarious bit to the extras of the recently released “Knocked Up,” which he wrote and directed. In a five-minute pseudo-doc called “Directing the Director,” director Bennet Miller of “Capote” fame is depicted as having been brought in by the studio to earnestly help “shepherd” Apatow along, providing him tips on “his craft.” He offers on-set advice, giving notes to Apatow’s puzzled actress-wife Leslie Mann, and asks her if their marriage is “serious.” Another favorite is the extras on “Inside Man,” which actually has clips of the very first table-read the cast did.
· web videos rule. While the networks and the writers’ union squabble over who gets what portion of the revenue from online video, people are still putting new material out there. Comedy Central is touting the fact that every episode of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are now online at www.comedycentral.com. (For a hilarious segment featuring Stephen Colbert simultaneously trying to report, eat a banana, and not crack up, search for “colbert prince charles” on “The Daily Show” site.) Also, the striking writers have a blog at www.writers-strike.blogspot.com. Another site with tons of funny material is www.funnyordie.com, a site started by Will Farrell and Adam McKay, where Farrell’s infamous “Landlord” videos debuted. Check out John C. Reilly’s “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” a pseudo-commercial for a chain restaurant named “Pepperbee’s” where the manager really enjoys giving good customer service. No, he really enjoys it.
On a more serious note, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has a new video available at http://artofmentalwarfare.com/pog/ called “Apathy Kills,” in which he outlines in gruesome terms just how the media distract from the real and very dangerous problems we face. Backed with a strong beat and understated vocals (for Reznor, anyway) the four-minute clip uses footage of the World Trade Center towers falling, photos of Bush administration cronies cozying up with dictators, statistics and graphic pictures of those wounded and killed in our self-proclaimed war on terror. Juxtaposed with clips of Paris, Britney, and all the other starlet/train wrecks you can imagine, on whom we concentrate so much more attention than we do on fellow Americans who are dying every day, the video is damning indeed.
It’s a stirring call-to-arms, demanding that we arm ourselves not with guns, but with the knowledge that these heinous acts are being perpetrated in our name, yet benefit only a very few. It’s also a reminder that perhaps the only thing scarier than the Bush administration being in charge for the next year is the mess they are going to leave behind.