Saturday, June 28, 2008

George Carlin

I was sorry to hear about the passing of George Carlin. Along with Richard Pryor, Carlin helped change stand up comedy. To me Carlin was a truth teller and a wordsmith. He knocked down pompous hypocrites with just the right word. He called a spade a spade.

For a 9th grade drop out, he did pretty well for himself. He had a plan- radio first (he had a radio show in Shreveport, LA when he was 18), then comedy, then films. He wanted to be Bob Hope or Danny Kaye. He felt it was his birthright and he didn't need three more years of formal schooling to get there. He was also blessed with a mom who instilled in him the love of language. The dictionary was an important book in the Carlin house.

Below is an excerpt of his famous seven-dirty words monologue. He can say it better than me. George Carlin you will be missed.

PeterH

There are some people that aren't into all the words. There are some people who would have you not use certain words. Yeah, there are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven of them that you can't say on television. What a ratio that is. 399,993 to seven. They must really be bad. They'd have to be outrageous, to be separated from a group that large. All of you over here, you seven. Bad words. That's what they told us they were, remember? 'That's a bad word.' 'Awwww.' There are no bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad Intentions.

And words, you know the seven don't you? Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits, huh? Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits, wow. Tits doesn't even belong on the list, you know. It's such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname. 'Hey, Tits, come here. Tits, meet Toots, Toots, Tits, Tits, Toots.' It sounds like a snack doesn't it? Yes, I know, it is, right. But I don't mean the sexist snack, I mean, New Nabisco Tits. The new Cheese Tits, and Corn Tits and Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits Onion Tits, Tater Tits, Yeah. Betcha can't eat just one. That's true I usually switch off . But I mean that word does not belong on the list.

Actually, none of the words belong on the list, but you can understand why some of them are there. I am not completely insensitive to people's feelings. You know, I can dig why some of those words got on the list...like cocksucker and motherfucker. Those are...those are heavy-weight words. There's a lot going on there, man. Besides the literal translation and the emotional feeling. They're just busy words. There's a lot of syllables to contend with. And those K's. Those are aggressive sounds, they jump out at you. CocksuckerMotherfuckerCocksucker. It's like an assault, on you. So I can dig that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Details, Details, Details

"God is in the details," the architect Mies van der Rohe said. (Though I prefer the Devil is in the details, but you get the picture- details are important.)

The first class all Flashpoint students take is called Sound, Image, Time & Space (SITSP). I like to call it the "attention to details" class. Last September I co-taught the course with Flashpoint Visual FX chair Perry Harovas. The first thing we did on day one was to play a sound effect of a car driving. We then asked students what they heard. It very quickly went from "a car," to "a car on wet pavement, in the country, evening, microphone at a certain distance away, etc...." To me that is paying attention to details, and in good all art God (the Devil) is in the details.

This brings me to two films I saw recently. No Country for Old Men, the multi-Oscar winner from the Coen brothers, and Jeff Garlin's I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. Forget the subject matter and the themes of the films, the difference in the attention to details was remarkable.

I must preface this by saying that I really like Jeff Garlin. I love him on Curb your Enthusiasm, and I think it was great he made this little movie in Chicago. In May he came to Flashpoint and gave a very inspirational talk. That said, I didn't much like his film and it was mostly because of his lack of attention to details. In short, too many scenes had little or no sound design, not enough extras, and overall it just looked like a thin film. I could go into detail- if you see it, look at the first scene with Sarah Silverman and you will know what I mean- but won't.

No Country... on the other hand was just terrific. Details are everywhere- look at the haircut Javier Bardiem wears. The pop tops on the beer cans, the language spoken, especially by Tommie Lee Jones. Everything is so clearly thought out and executed it is beautiful. Coincidently, John Murray chair of Flashpoint's Recording Arts department just screened it in his Aesthetics of Sound class as an example of how it is done.

I hope Jeff Garlin makes another film and makes it in Chicago. And next time I hope he follows Mies van der Rohe's ( a fellow Chicagoan- he moved here to head up the Illinois Institute of Technology's architecture program and designed many notable buildings here) advice and pays attention to details.

PeterH