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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Joke of the Day

From Kristen Schaal:
What’s the difference between a fertilized egg; a corporation; and a woman? (Beat.) One of them isn’t considered a person in Oklahoma! BOOM!!!
Fucking hilarious.

At the Mercado

The closest grocery store to me is a small Mexican place called Azteca. It's a tiny place, maybe six aisles, in a tiny building. And in addition to the produce, the dry goods, the meat, the dairy, a bakery, all the things you'd expect from a grocery store, it has two restaurants, a check-cashing place, a clothing store, a little desert shop, a cell phone kiosk, and a key-maker.

A few years ago, the local Safeway became an Avanza. Now it's a Mercado. When it was a Safeway, it was a grocery store that had a bank and a pharmacy. The bank and pharmacy are gone.

The cart corral has been turned into a hair salon. The niche where the vending machines sat is now a key-maker booth. Back where the pharmacy used to be, that's now separated into a clothing shop on one side and a CD shop on the other. The bank? It's a jewelry store now. Oh, and they have a little kiosk where they sell Mexican sodas and those little orange wheels.

Now I'm not up on all the details and the business arrangements, but I'm pretty sure that all of these little shops and vendors are NOT run by the Azteca and Mercado companies. Azteca and Mercado rent the space out, of course, but these booths and kiosks are operated by the owners.

I doubt there's much money to be made selling duplicate keys or duritos, but at least they're making their own way, and more importantly, have an institution (the store) that gives them the space to do it.

When I was talking the train, I often wondered why RTD didn't engineer space for vendors at every station. I mean, why not? Leasing out space to a vendor would help pay the overhead. The streams of people every fifteen minutes would provide the vendor with lots of selling opportunities. Thirsty riders would definitely buy a cup of coffee or a newspaper. So why not do it this way?

I have no idea. I'd be curious to see if the idea was even considered.

Occupy Uranus

I'm on record as stating that though I share the Occupy people's concerns, I think their methods are crap. I also kind of thought these protests fizzled out last year, but they're still going? (Um...no real surprise there, considering holding signs and yelling at people accomplishes exactly...nothing.)

In this video, I sympathize with the reporter. He's live on TV doing a story that has nothing to do the Occupy protests, but they see the lights and the camera and think "free publicity!" Of course, one of the signs says "Fuck the Police," which --hey, I'm all for fucking the police-- but you really think your "Fuck the Police" sign is going to stay on the air very long?

After they ruin his shot and they're packing up, the main instigator cries, "Woo, yeah! We're making change!" Bullshit. You're making enemies.

If you wanted to make change, get a retail job.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Choosing to Suck

I'm much calmer in my old age, but sometimes I want to grab certain people by the lapels and scream, "Look, you dumb motherfucker."

In this case, I'd like to do that to Salman Rushdie, who's complaining about plans by the Justice Department to break up publishing cartels:
"Anyone who thinks that fair pricing that allows authors to make a living is a cabal or cartel system is deep in the grip of Napsterism."

He goes onto explain that the Napsterism, named after the free music website Napster, is the belief "that it's OK to acquire people's work for almost nothing."
You always hear about this "How can I make a living?" crap. Well, there's the way you chose --ripping people off, basically-- and the other way, which is convincing people to give you money.

I don't know if Rushdie has noticed lately, but nobody reads anymore. Newspapers are dying. Bookstores are closing up. Libraries are being closed. Literature? There's a literature scene, sure, a niche of booknerds geeking out over books. But in the larger culture? If it's not a movie, no one knows about it, and if they know about it, it's going to be made into a movie.

We're a visual and aural culture now, not really a literary one. Maybe you can go back, but I don't know. I think we're going to have to accept that the written word is NOT god. That all this stuff we type and print out and get people to read, in the end...it's just not worth very much money.

Not unless you option it by a studio or get picked for Oprah's book club.

It is okay to get people's work for almost nothing. Almost every book I've ever read has been picked up second-hand for almost nothing. Dime novels. Penny dreadfuls. Pulp fiction. Goddamn newspapers sold on street corners, a nickel. Seats were cheap at the Globe Theater when Hamlet debuted. Monks copying pages of the Bible by hand, every one of them vowing poverty. Bards and poets, passing down the legends by rote.

Do you think Homer got a residual every time someone recited The Odyssey?

As this whole debate goes on, copyrights and literature-as-commercial-product, I've become more and more annoyed at this idea that you deserve to make money from what you write simply by virtue of having written it. I've been writing this blog for years. Every word has been copyrighted. Haven't made a dime. If I tried to package it and sell it to someone, no one would buy it. My blog is literally worthless.

Here's how business works: You want my money? Convince me to give it to you. I like to buy books. Seriously. I rate it up there as one of the great joys of life. But I don't actually have an infinite amount of money to spend. So I must be cautious and careful in my choices. If I spend $10 on your book, not only can I not spend that on another book, but I can't spend that $10 on the light bill, snacks, or toothpaste.

So while I appreciate the need to make a living, maybe you might have to make it from someone else.

But wait, say you drop it down to $5, no...better yet, $1. I might be able to part with that.

What do you think ole Salman Rushdie is going to say? This is what he'd say: "Are you insane? If I charge a dollar for this book, I'll have to charge a dollar for every other book."

Yes, you can tell him. But you'll sell more books.

"I don't want to sell more books," Rushdie will say. "I want to make more per book."

Okay then. If that's the choice you want to make...

And that's the thing, I've come to realize. That it really comes down to choices. Publishers could accept that their bubble has popped. Like the housing market, there's been a drastic revision of value in what they're pumping out. They could accept less profit in exchange for higher sales.

But they don't want to. They want to stay on the gravy train as long as possible, with their cartels and their "fair pricing" and their "making a living" bullshit. (Salman Rushdie is wealthy. Google says he has a net worth of $15 million. If that's "making a living," I'm barely scraping by...)

I see this with the theater chains I work with. They're investing millions of dollars per theater converting them to digital projectors, and almost nothing on the people who run their operations. It's a choice, a business choice, and I think one of the reasons we've had this whole revision of value, this economic catastrophe, these last few years is that a lot of industries have been doing this, choosing to put out an inferior product because it's more profitable.

That's no way to run a culture.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why Can't They Get Horror Movies Right?

I watched the remake of The Thing this weekend, although it's more of a prequel, and while I enjoyed some of it, I think it's a failure of a film. The interesting thing about the John Carpenter version. which this one attempts to set up, wasn't really the gross and horrible things that the Thing did. It was the characters grinding up against one another, the paranoia, the mistrust.

This one toys with that stuff for a scene or two, but it's more interested in freaking you out with flapping tentacles and chest-mouths. Scenes of the Thing chasing people, you know, they can get boring after a while.

And here's where they messed up. The character of Kate Lloyd, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. They made her a scientist, then didn't really give her much to do. Oh, sure she figures it all out, but they're all scientists. Any one of the Norwegians could have figured it out.

In my script, Kate Lloyd is one of the pilots. She and Joel Edgerton's character are flying in some specialists and get stuck at the base because of a storm. The Norwegians dig out the Thing, take it back to the shed. They want to fly it out, but Kate sees the block of ice and freaks out. She refuses to put it on her helicopter. That's when the Thing breaks out, and things proceed pretty much like you have it in the movie...but you know, better.

The Brawl

I think it would have been hilarious to stand about a block away on Colorado Avenue around last call on a rowdy Colorado Springs night.

Reports say:
At 1:40 a.m., witnesses called 911 saying as many as 25 people brawling on the 2400 Colorado Avenue outside an Old Colorado City bar.
I'm thinking there were two opposing groups. The Niners and the Sons, maybe.