tom moody

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

"the last man": a screenplay

Screenplay for short film. No dialogue, just images and music.

JODY is male, late 20s,  reasonably good-looking. He walks down an urban sidewalk.
A series of cuts establishes that he is observing his surroundings as he walks.
He looks at architectural details, birds, clouds in the sky. Close-ups show a twinkle of appreciation in his eye -- that he is enjoying the walk and what he sees.
He passes ordinary people on the sidewalk, all of different ages. They are either standing or moving, but all are looking down, engrossed in smartphones. Soon it becomes clear that not a single person is like JODY, that is, just a person walking along, looking at nothing in particular.
About the sixth person JODY passes suddenly looks up, and does a quick once-over of JODY. He ends the brief examination by looking at JODY's hands, which are swinging and not holding a phone.
JODY passes several more people, all looking down at phones, standing at random intervals along the sidewalk -- cars are passing back and forth on the street, it is a normal day in the city -- and the same inspection occurs. This is beginning to seem ominous. The fourth person he passes, a young woman, ends her perusal of him by returning to her phone keypad, where she is seen urgently typing as he passes.
The next man JODY passes looks up from his phone as if expecting to see JODY, and immediately begins typing. Closeups of JODY's face show bemusement, scorn, then worry.
Halfway down the block, JODY sees a group of four "yuppies" standing together, all looking at phones but also talking to each other. As he approaches, they disperse into a line that will block his passage on the sidewalk. Their body postures are menacing.
The four start moving towards him in tight formation, hate in their eyes, and...

- tom moody

July 31st, 2014 at 11:22 am

Posted in general

jim thompson classics

Have started reading Jim Thompson novels in earnest, after a false start many years back (not sure why I stopped reading). This Crime Time post has a good rundown on Thompson's life, and recommendations of what it considers the best books:

Nothing More Than Murder (1949)
The Killer Inside Me (1952)
Savage Night (1953)
A Swell-Looking Babe (1954)
A Hell Of A Woman (1954)
After Dark, My Sweet (1955)
Wildtown (1957)
The Getaway (1959)
The Grifters (1963)
Pop.1280 (1964)

Never had any interest in seeing the "iconic" film version of The Getaway -- Ali McGraw, yuck -- so was able to read the book without imagining Steve McQueen in the role of "Doc." It's an astounding work -- but to film the hard-boiled action scenes minus Thompson's under-the-radar left-wing subversion and the surreal ending is to gut the work. Make no mistake, this is one of the tightest, meanest critiques of the world Ayn Rand made.

Thompson's politics peek out more abruptly in a scene in Pop. 1280 where the town's early 20th Century small town sheriff "kids" a Pinkerton detective (changed to "Talkington" in the novel):

"So you're with the Talkington Agency," I said. "Why, god-dang if I ain't heard a lot about you people! Let's see now, you broke up that big railroad strike, didn't you?"
"That's right." He showed me the tooth again. "The railroad strike was one of our jobs."
"Now, by golly, that really took nerve," I said. "Them railroad workers throwin' chunks of coal at you an' splashin' you with water, and you fellas without nothin' to defend yourself with except shotguns and automatic rifles! Yes, sir, god-dang it, I really gotta hand it to you!"
"Now, just a moment, Sheriff!" His mouth came together like a buttonhole. "We have never -- "

This passage from Savage Night shows Thompson's skill at tossing off humorous one-liners:

I met Mr. Kendall, the other boarder, on the way down to dinner. He was a dignified, little old guy -- the kind who'd remain dignified if he got locked in a nickel toilet and had to crawl under the door.

Or this one, from the same book:

Ruth served breakfast to us, and the way she kept trying to catch my eye I had a notion to take it out and hand it to her.

- tom moody

July 26th, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Posted in general

confess, artists, and others will follow your example

The current CPOTI (creative person on the internet) operates in a shifting, amorphous zone between the two extremes of

1. Theatrically quitting the Net (and then returning with a self-hosted site -- the Kevin Bewersdorf model)


2. Surrendering your entire practice to Mark Zuckerberg's advertising honey trap-cum-government surveillance apparatus, as described, not in those terms of course, in this extended Facebook infomercial on the Hyperallergic website (hat tip bill)

John Seed, the writer of the infomercial, was evidently born very recently and thus has no deja vu sensation that this entire "have virtual friends in your studio, listening to you moan about your creative trials and giving you self-serving advice" model was done ten years ago in the so-called blogosphere, and without all the conflicted issues of being grist for someone else's ad machine. (Issues of which Seed seems unaware.)
In fact, some denizens of that era never moved to Facebook. Painter Dennis Hollingsworth, am happy to see, is still maintaining an open studio on his Movable Type blog. How he is able to do this with no verifiable friend count is hard to fathom -- he must be crushingly lonely. Almost like painters were before the internet.
To be fair, Hollingsworth doesn't moan -- his studio diary spares you maudlin, unprofessional entries such as this:


John Seed's article about the above painter uses two words that should cause shivers to anyone who has read a word or two about Facebook's celebrated collusion with government and advertisers: trust ("the sense of trust this [transparency] engenders" "his candor generates trust") and confessions ("Mark’s Facebook posts strike me as brave and honest confessions around the challenges faced by the painter on a daily basis" "Facebook offers a public forum where doubts and confessions can be offered up and support can be offered").
Its true that "talking about some of the melancholy [you] go through in the studio" isn't the same as admitting a crime or peccadillo that John Law or Jane Employer might find intriguing. But post-Snowden, et al, this is probably a better time to be putting on your game face than letting it all hang out. One should be wary of "confession creep." Hyperallergic won't do this -- its ongoing mission is to make Facebook cool for artists. But others might note the example of how not to be, on the internet, at this particular moment. Your vulnerabilities can and will be used against you.

- tom moody

July 19th, 2014 at 10:47 am

Posted in general

which version of the blog did you see?

From the calm, unconflicted perspective on this old school blog, we continue to watch in amazement as the world crawls up Mark Zuckerberg's bum. OK, well maybe not so calm.
Naked Capitalism linked today to a new "cool stuff" blog under the Nick Denton/Gawker/Gizmodo brand called "Sploid." Heavy on animated GIFs and meme-hopefuls, it's just one cool thing after another.
Each post has a "join us on Facebook" link. Curious what that offered, other than access for Sploid to the vaunted social graph (you know, kids), we went to the Sploid Facebook page, as it appears to non-Zucks. It's a shortened version of the Sploid blog, but looks worse because it has to conform to Facebook's design scheme, and with new teaser copy that some poor SOB has to write (and no animated GIFs -- apparently Sploid opted not to convert them to Facebook's fake GIF format). The top of each Sploid Facebook post says "SPLOID shared a link," as if Sploid was your friend and wanted you to know about some cool thing, when it fact it's just mirroring its own daily content. There doesn't appear to be a Twitter clone yet.
Of course Denton is horrible and kind of desperate, but I wonder how many other publications have decided their survival depends on having crappier versions of their product surrendered into a competitor's private servers. They would essentially be admitting their work isn't strong enough to lure readers back to the "commons," where they can be found through ordinary search and word of mouth. Does the commons even exist, or is it just spam and crappy old sites -- please don't answer that.
A small anecdote from recent experience. A younger musician, let's call him DankCats, said he would follow my blog more but he can't deal with getting an RSS reader. A mutual friend offered to create a Tumblr that mirrors posts so DankCats could read it. Our editorial board convened and considered a motion that, in order for (and the artist who produces it) to survive as a going concern in the modern world, it was going to need a "tumblr version," a "twitter version," and a "facebook version." The motion failed. There are many ways to look at failure.

- tom moody

July 18th, 2014 at 9:58 am

Posted in general

Sharing and Shifting with Miracle Jones

Wrote earlier about the Texas-Brooklyn author Miracle Jones, who gets his words out there through the interwebs and despite the undeserved lack of a major publishing house (whatever those even are, anymore). Jones' e-books Sharing and Shifting (available as free downloads on Smashwords) come highly recommended to the strong of heart and stomach. Was going to describe Sharing as "Chronicles of Narnia meets William Burroughs by way of Texas Chainsaw Massacre" but then it turns out to be laying groundwork for Shifting's urban psychic-cyberpunk thriller and by then most of the Pevensies have been killed off. There's far too much skanky and robust sex in these books for kids anyway. And "cyberpunk" doesn't quite nail it. Shifting more recalls cyberpunk forerunners such as Samuel Delany (on steroids) or Alfred Bester (on crack), or Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix yarns, with their body-mod cults in outer space.
Neither book is science fiction per se but Jones gives us plenty of genre tropes: parallel universes, mind and matter transfer, biology run amok. The narratives keep driving forward and Jones explains enough to keep you grounded. OK, we have a city in the brain folds of an enormous floating octopus, which moves from one reality to another, acquiring new immigrants and cultural minglings. In this gritty world of Blade-Runner-and-the-Star-Wars-bar shaped by unknown laws of physics, we have levels of psychic advancement called "folding": Sharing is telepathy, Shifting is telekinesis, Burning is pyrokinesis, Traveling is jumping between dimensions, and so on.
Sharing's coming of age novel centers on the character of Charlotte, who we follow from childhood to puberty through hardships that would make Job say you've got to be kidding. No plague of boils but she does have to cook several of her friends and serve them to the evil Unicorn-god-thing who is top dog in the little universe she inhabits.
Shifting's love story takes place on the aforementioned Octopus, named The General. There, Charlotte (who can Share) meets Ljubo (who can Share and Shift) and they mostly fight and bicker throughout the novel. But then the book is almost entirely fighting, as all hell breaks loose among various factions on, in, and outside of The General. We seriously need a third book, as Shifting ends in mid-war with the lovers parting but it's been almost three years since Shifting was published so we may have to write the rest in our heads.

The forward drive of the narratives stems in part from Jones' feverish imagination and sick humor. You keep reading because he keeps throwing new, disgusting creatures and situations at you, seducing you into wanting to know where this is going. In Sharing, the heroine doesn't just cook her friends for the evil unicorn but a variety of other life forms that he brings to her in bags, dead or semi-conscious, through a dimensional doorway. Was reading the following passage in a restaurant and had to look away from the e-reader momentarily because it started cracking me up:

Inside the sack was a giant maggot the size of a pony. According to Asfodel, the
maggot was only slightly psychic, and also stupid and brutal. Asfodel warned
Charlotte against Sharing with the creature, but she couldn’t help herself and as
the maggot flopped onto the kitchen floor like a gaffed fish, she eased into its
consciousness and tried to soothe it. The maggot fought harder, turning itself in
circles and banging into the cabinets, causing pots and pans to spill out all over the

Charlotte cut the connection as fast as she could, but not before the maggot
learned her name. The maggot didn’t have eyes. At one end it had a curved green
flange as sharp as a knife that groped and twisted as it searched for flesh. At the
other end, it had a tiny sphincter that bubbled and frothed like spilled beer.

“Chaaaaaaarrrrrlottttte,” the maggot whispered from the sphincter as it flopped
blindly around the kitchen, searching for her neck with the sharp flange.

Shifting is the better book but don't even try to read it without first learning the vocabulary and concepts in Sharing. Minus the first novel you wouldn't know, for example, that the "fairy" creatures Jones keeps mentioning are sentient, telepathic cockroaches, or what "shape trees" are. The opening chapters of Sharing are truly dark and unsettling, and create an emotional undertow that sloshes through both books like a bad childhood dream.

- tom moody

July 9th, 2014 at 9:36 am

Posted in general

michael manning enjoys a crit of his jpegs, i mean paintings

A one-time commenter was dissing Michael Manning's paintings over at ArtFCity and Paddy was agreeing with him so the death-paddle had to come down. The fun started with Johnson's run-down of what was selling in the online auctions (yawn). A Manning sold, and the peanut gallery weighed in:

wiki minaj • 4 days ago

I don't think it's the lack of big names that made it hard, it was the overall quality. The pieces just weren't that good, cohesive, or well curated. The market responded as it ought to, minus a couple 'gaming for reputation' pieces.

I mean, if Michael Manning's lethargic finger wiggling is the highlight of your lot then you don't have much to present. Even the recognized names' pieces weren't particularly strong.

Only a few lots were worth looking at and the lack of visual documentation makes the first impression the ONLY impression. Zooming in on a picture only to be treated by a low resolution, bilinear blur set the tone immediately. This shit doesn't matter.

Paddy Johnson • 4 days ago

I totally agree that this was a big problem. I wonder if people are distrustful of the sales format? I mean, Phillips isn't a small name—it shouldn't have been a problem to get better work.

tom moody • 3 days ago

Michael Manning's finger wiggling is anything but lethargic, wiki minaj! His muscles are toned, and so powerful he has had to register his fingers as weapons. His studio floor is littered with broken phones from his enthusiastic jabs.

Kidding aside, Manning has yet to find a Harold Rosenberg to pen the definitive "American Action Painters" essay for phone and tablet painting, ultimately rendered as printed canvas, daubed with actual physical gel. So we are having to rely on the collector's nose for quality at this moment. The paintings are good in person -- have you seen them, or are you basing your dismissal on jpegs? There is a bit of a goofing quality to them but they also have a sense of freedom and openness, owing to the large scale. They don't read like "digital art" much at all, yet have an interesting artificiality. The viewer thinks about how -- and why -- they were made.

10 years ago you could hardly give away a digital painting, collectors were so nervous about them. Manning has broken the ice for more people working this way.
But who gives a tinker's damn about the money? Let's talk about the art.

Paddy Johnson • 2 days ago

I don't think it's a good idea to rely on collector noses for quality. A lot of the time that's the last thing they are interested in.

I haven't seen Michael Manning's paintings in the flesh. I'm a little skeptical of how much they could be transformed IRL, though your vouch for it does make me question that skepticism.

From the jpegs and videos, I can see that scale helps the work, but they still still feel a little hotel-y to me. What's so unique about them. Are they really staking out a position for themselves?

tom moody • a day ago

I've seen two shows of the work in person but I was already intrigued by the way Bill Brady presented it, just from the installation shot:
I know of one feted new media painter (via hearsay) who was convinced by actually seeing the work.
Hotel-y is part of the story -- in quotation marks -- but in person you are vacillating between the skepticism you would have if this work had actually been made with paint and the digital aspect, which is all about simulation and physical modeling (at the most accessible level of "consumer" tech). It's a matter of scale -- these things tower over you -- but also of presence and presentation. The gel medium is smeared on as if it were painted, yet has little actual relationship to the underlying strokes. This is funny, but is also adding a weird kind of solidity to the work.
They are pretty but not merely pretty, and certainly not cloying, in person.
By the "nose of the collector" I only meant that plunking down money will have to do until someone actually provides the critical exegesis. By then the flippers will be on to something else. I don't see any of our established NY painting critics providing this exegesis. I think they will avoid this work because it's "digital" and they still don't know how to talk about that. (Of course I'd be interested in any articles I might have missed.)

Paddy Johnson • a day ago

Where did you see the work in NYC? (Or did you see it elsewhere?)

tom moody • 20 hours ago

These were the two I saw:
American Contemporary (East Village, NYC)
Apr - June 2014
Retrospective gallery (Hudson, NY)
May - June 2014

- tom moody

July 8th, 2014 at 10:35 am

Posted in general

experience regina

A reason attempts to parody internet content will always fail is the superabundance of effectively self-parodying content. Case in point: "Experience Regina" [YouTube] (hat tip Rising Tensions)

From the irrepressible YouTube commentariat:

Alain Lemay via Google+ 1 year ago

Possibly the worst tourism video ever created. Complete with Seindfeldesk music riffs and an underage girl in a bikini. And what's with that no-uterus pic at 2:23?

ThaReal JmanV 7 months ago
It's supposed to be not vagina. Regina. Get it? I know hilarious, right?

- tom moody

July 8th, 2014 at 10:01 am

Posted in general

ranking big steve

I stopped reading Stephen King novels after The Tommyknockers and tossed out many of the paperbacks. I still like his writing, though, on re-reading, or when I encounter it in newspapers and magazines (he's become very respectable, and his Times overview of Raymond Carver a few years ago was something a grown-up, ex-genre novelist might have written). I also like some of the later movie adaptations, such as Dolores Claiborne, the novel for which is number 17 on Vulture's "Ranking All 64 Stephen King Novels." Here's where the books I still have on the shelf fell in the Vulture list:

IT (number 3)

The Shining (number 4)

Danse Macabre (number 10)

That's it for my collection -- not too shabby, Vulturewise.

Vulture gives a 63 out of 64 ranking for The Tommyknockers. I knew King had problems with alcohol, early on, but can't picture him as an '80s cokehead -- guess it happened. As Vulture puts it: "This tale of a Maine writer (you'll be seeing a lot of these) who accidentally comes across a piece of alien metal in her backyard and finds herself compelled to dig up the flying saucer that it's attached to was written at the height of King's addiction troubles. Writing with 'his heart running at a hundred and thirty beats a minute and cotton swabs stuck up my nose to stem the coke-induced bleeding' (as he would later describe it), King filled his book with addicts and thinly veiled metaphors for what he was going through. Full of anger at himself and the eighties, The Tommyknockers is a white-hot mess. Anyone who remembers the deadly levitating Coke machine would agree."

- tom moody

July 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Posted in general

around the web

"Elevator Mixtape" by IEJ [Vimeo]
Apparently people posting video footage of escalators on YouTube and elsewhere is a "thing." IEJ made a compilation. Update, from an email from IEJ: "As far as I can tell, the escalator recording community is a subset of the elevator recording community who have their own wikipedia. I linked to the page of dieselducy who took the video you can see in the preview freezeframe (mall in Roanoke VA) [in IEJ's mixtape]. He's big in that scene. ... Maybe they don't have the glamour of bridges and trains but elevators/escalators are ubiquitous anomalies themselves (they aren't everywhere - WY only has two and the riders of the first one in Kurdistan are happy and confused)." Tom here: Documenting escalators is interesting to me in an "all the buildings on the sunset strip" way, only crowdsourced. These are unobserved phenomena that take on an aesthetic dimension through mass recording.

"Wistle While You Twerk" by Ying Yang Twins [YouTube]
America woke up to twerking with Miley Cyrus, but this song, from the album Thug Walkin', released in 2000, shows that it's been around for 14 years, at least! Join Doc, Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey, and the rest of the gang with this happy anthem.

Addendum: The German group Trio is considered a one-hit wonder of the '80s (for "Da Da Da - I Don't Love You - You Don't Love Me ") but they were a pretty good band, as seen in a collection of German TV performances assembled by Network Awesome. In fact most '80s one hit wonders are that way because of the music industry's insistence on hits.

- tom moody

July 5th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Posted in general

who is using the internet

cosmicsands has transcribed the text of Kevin Bewersdorf's Issue Project Room reading on Rap Genius, a site for crowdsourcing lyrics, poetry, etc. Based on this, the phrase "Taoist poetry about the internet" in the previous post is a bit confining. There is Eastern influence but also a tone of Walt Whitman-esque celebration, in poems such as "Who is using the internet?" (see below). A poem like this walks a line between being savvy enough to characterize an ocean of data, with ever-shifting codes of hipness and obscurity, while "opening its heart" to that data as if it were Whitman's democratic throngs. Missing is the even more delicate balance of some of the earlier work, before Bewersdorf's road-to-Damascus moment of deleting his website and (ostensibly) going offline, between understandable revulsion at phenomena such as dozens of stock photos of people praying and an attempt to write sincere praise in a tone that mimics both religious awe and corporate sales motivation.

"Who is using the Internet?"

Who is using the Internet?
In my eyes, the sun is.
Dragon dorks.
Shark dorks.
Los Angeles Latinas.
Mystical comedians.
Cable guys.
Credit card registrants.
Grown men in developing countries.
Dream weavers.
Native peoples.
Inverse porn stars.
Someone typing randomly.
The descendants of Adam and Eve.
Adam Sandler, and his descendants.
Cranky flowershop owners.
Anyone who's seen the sun.
The employed.
The powerfully obsessed.
The politically ejaculating.
Those committing heinous crimes,
As well as the dying,
Their caregivers,
Your parents
And your lover.
Paleface, my heart goes out to you.

corrections to transcription can be added on Rap Genius

- tom moody

July 5th, 2014 at 10:42 am

Posted in general