Movie Map: Hang a Left at The Mummy’s Tomb

The British Designers We Are Dorothy have created a map of the movies. Cute idea. You can zoom in (but not print) at and can order it on We Are Dorothy’s site, where they describe it:

A street map made up of over 900 film titles including cinema classics such as Lost Highway, On the Waterfront, Jurassic Park, Reservoir Dogs, Carlito’s Way, Nightmare on Elm Street, Valley of the Dolls and Chinatown.

The Map, which is loosely based on the style of a vintage Los Angeles street map has its own Hollywood Boulevard and includes districts dedicated to Hitchcock and Cult British Horror movies. Like most cities it also has its own Red Light area. There’s an A-Z key at the base of the Map listing all the films featured with their release dates and names of the directors.

They’ve got a sense of humor, among other things putting “Grindhouse” at the end of “Howards End.” But what the hell is “The Mole Man of Belmont Ave?”


Career Advice Courtesy of Johnny Bunko

Daniel Pink (he of the remarkable RSA video on motivation) has written a manga career guide with art by Rob Ten Pas, and it’s very good. The protagonist, Johnny Bunko, is a creative type stuck in an accounting job he’s terrible at. Enter magic chopsticks and a kind of tough love career genie (to be played by Angelina Jolie in the film I bet). Johnny gets six work and life lessons. Good advice, engagingly delivered:

  1. There is no plan.
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
  3. It’s not about you.
  4. Persistence trumps talent.
  5. Make excellent mistakes.
  6. Leave an imprint.

#5, an echo of Samuel Beckett’s line,

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Unreasonable Words: Corporate Gobbledygook

At the risk of shooting fish in a barrel, I provide this company blurb found at the bottom of a job listing:

“… is an Emmy-nominated media company driving the creative revolution in interactive television through solutions that break through the “fourth wall” to engage audiences, extend subscriber loyalty, and deliver census-level measurement and reporting. The company’s EBIF solutions include the Ad Widgets® end-to-end advertising system and TV Widgets® applications both of which drive viewer engagement and convenience. The AdAim™ Audience Measurement Suite offers census-level measurement of television audience activities and innovative metrics and analytics. … is a leading provider of EBIF technology platforms for Cisco, Motorola, and tru2way set-top boxes and the cloud-based AirCommand™ gateway that connects external devices to digital cable set-top boxes. … products and technology are distributed through partnerships with Comcast Media Center, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Bright House Networks, Rovi, Motorola Mobility, DISH Network, and several smaller operators. …

I assume it’s akin to a “dog whistle,” that is, people who need to know what it means can parse it. And, god knows, I have contributed a lot of organizational double speak in “corporate communications” I’ve “written,” but this bit is pretty incomprehensible to a tech civilian (even one who is a digital producer) and the bits I do understand are a little unsettling. I don’t really want my media to reach out of the device, break the fourth wall, and have a beer with me (while quietly passing all my data to Time Warner).

Great fodder for, though.

A Poet’s Prose: Adam Zagajewski

Coming across many nice bits as I read Another Beauty, a memoir by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. Like the language of his poems, the prose is full of lightly brushed depths. It resonates with me, a would-be philosophy major, as much of it is about his serious study of philosophy in Krakow.

Passages I copied out:

“Twenty-year-old students talking poetry and philosophy until dawn, sitting in a cheap café in Krakow or Paris: who can match their ardor, who can defend or indict all writers, living and dead, with greater passion? No one better honors the works of the human spirit than students sitting for hours in the smoke-filled rooms of little restaurants, students caught up in conversations. ”

“Anyone who writes, or tries to write, and plans his day around the thought of the task that awaits him, has to grapple with two basic problems: (1) how to get up in the morning, and (2) (if he manages to the first) how to get sleep at night. ”

Reasonable Words: How to Respond to a Bad Review

Oscar Wilde has it down. Here’s his reply to a newspaper that ran a scathing review of one of his plays, in which the writer flunked the first rule of fact-checking, get the playwright’s name right. From Letters of Note:

16 Tite Street

February, 1892


John is an admirable name. It was the name of the most charming of all the Disciples, the one who did not write the Fourth Gospel. It was the name of the most perfect of all the English poets of this century, as it was the greatest English poet of all the centuries. Popes and princes, wicked or wonderful, have been called John. John has been the name of several eminent journalists and criminals. But John is not amongst the many delightful names (they included, besides Oscar, Fingal O’Flahertie Wills) given to me at my baptism. So kindly let me correct the statement made by your reckless dramatic critic in his last and unavailing attack on my play.

The attempt he makes to falsify one of the most important facts in the history of the arts must be checked at once.

Oscar Wilde

Unreasonable Words: What Results When Handel Meets Mad Men? An “Uncontrollable Gush”

20120721-175857.jpgLetters of Note (via the Sydney Morning Herald) dug up the writing tips of David Ogilvy (above), the advertising mastermind behind Ogilvy and Mather. It only takes a small adjustment of the vertical hold to apply these insights to other kinds of writing, particularly item 9.

Personally, I have never used booze and Handel to make it through a writing project, but do confess to exploiting the rousing character of the “Tannhäuser” Overture or Pilgrims’ Chorus to make it through the last push on a grad school paper now and then.

Perhaps some empirical research on which period of music (or individual piece for that matter) correlates to word count is in order? Do you have anything you put on to get the writerly juices flowing or sprint to a deadline?

April 19, 1955

Dear Mr Calt:

On March 22nd you wrote to me asking for some notes on my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:
1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.
2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.
3. I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.
4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.
5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every conceivable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organised and relate them to research and the copy platform.
6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.
7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)
8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.
9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.
10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.
11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)
12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry – because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.
Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility.
Yours sincerely,

Sing a Little Song: My Fair Lady

“Everyone who should be here is here!”
The live Met Opera broadcast is my long-time Saturday afternoon tradition. But no Met in the summer, so last week and this I have been making it up with the the BBC Proms, which last Saturday posted a wonderful broadcast of My Fair Lady. I took in one act a week, along with an interesting intermission feature on G.B. Shaw whose Pygmalion is the source for the musical (with many of the best lines straight from his play.)

The broadcast (audio only in the U.S.) is up for another week and well worth listening to if you are a musical lover or even if you’re not. It’s a dated show, yes, but what a score! (Stephen Sondheim notes that it is “the most entertaining musical I’ve ever seen (exclusive of my own, of course).”

The Proms semi-staged version boasts a luxury cast (and posh orchestrations from André Previn’s arrangement for the film.) The leads, Annalene Beechey and Anthony Andrews, are spot on, and Siân Philips’ Mrs. Higgins is knowing and droll (sympathetic to Eliza, and understanding more about Henry than he knows himself.)

The crowd goes crazy at the end, justified, and no doubt gratifying to the whole team who did a lot of work for a single performance.

Ty Burr on the Aurora Shooting

Some provocative thoughts from the Globe movie critic on the shooting. He starts with the imperative not to blame the film, the director, or the actors.

Our entertainment culture’s dreams of power are a drug that keeps us rapt in a cloud of promises: that we can win and that winning is everything; that we’ll be seen and heard for who we are if we’re thin enough or strong enough or have the coolest toys or the biggest guns. The fantasies lie, because the people who make the fantasies know we’re desperate to be lied to and willing to pay for it. And every so often, when we’re sold a fantasy that is so well made, that seems to tap so deeply into our very real sense of imminent catastrophe, and that seems so self-aware about the fantasy itself, certain people respond to it as if it’s the Truth. “The Dark Knight” movies are such a fantasy, and if they matter to you as anything more than extremely well-made and provocative entertainment, you really need to interrogate yourself (and maybe your friends) as to why.

Full piece at Likely to be in front of the paywall only today.

When I did a site about arts and controversy, video games were one of subjects of the debate. (Still are.) In that site, the writer noted that the Columbine killers were players of violent video games. James Au had this observation:

“Play a first-person shooter long enough and its morbid reality seems to descend over your awareness like a grid, accompanied by a kind of adrenalized hyper-awareness and euphoric rage. Grid, adrenaline and rage stay with you, far past the point when you exit to the desktop. Walk away from the computer, and they still persist. You find yourself stealing up on street corners as if preparing to strafe the adjoining block; you seem to see a crosshair traced across the bodies of passersby. For the overwhelming majority of us, with well-adjusted social lives…the grid recedes.”

–Wagner James Au, new media critic, Salon and Wired, from Salon, “Quake, Doom and Bloodlust,” May 1999.