Routines: John Waters

"I make notes ... This idea. This joke. This thing. This character. This this. Pages and pages and pages of notes. Then I go through and outline. This is exactly how I do it: I always have to have an exact kind of legal pads from Towson Stationery. They make the brand I like the best. Bic pens, black like twenty of them. Then a red Bic pen to circle the ideas I like. Then a red pencil to circle the ones I like even more than the red pen. Then I go back to another legal pad. I have a whole book of titles, a whole book of casting, a whole book of who the characters are and what happens with them in the first, second, and third acts … All of my movies are within five minutes of being ninety minutes long. It goes back to three reels, my old 16 mm days, you know? A beginning, a middle, and an end."

–John Waters. "Artist in Dialogue", interview with John G. Ives, 1992. 

Postmodern Pain

"Physical pain, the pain of the body itself, is no longer the constituent element of the penalty. From being an art of unbearable sensations punishment has become an economy of suspended rights. If it is still necessary for the law to reach and manipulate the body of the convict, it will be at a distance, in the proper way, according to strict rules, and with a much 'higher' aim … Today a doctor must watch over those condemned to death, right up to the last moment–thus juxtaposing himself as the agent of welfare, as the alleviator of pain, with the official whose task it is to end life. This is worth thinking about. When the moment of execution approaches, the patients are injected with tranquilizers. A utopia of judicial reticence: take away life, but prevent the patient from feeling it; deprive the prisoner of all rights, but do not inflict pain; impose penalties free of all pain.

Michel Foucault. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

Service Culture

Zadie Smith on "Takeout" in America vs. "Takeaway" in England

"In London, you don’t tip for delivery. A man on a motorbike arrives and hands over an oil-soaked bag, or a box. You give him the exact amount of money it costs or wait and look at your shoes while he hunts for change. Then you close the door. Sometimes all this is achieved without even the removal of his motorcycle helmet. The dream (an especially British dream) is that the whole awkward exchange pass wordlessly ... 

But I’m not going to complain about Britain’s “lack of a service culture”—it’s one of the things I cherish about the place. I don’t think any nation should elevate service to the status of culture. At best, it’s a practicality, to be enacted politely and decently by both parties, but no one should be asked to pretend that the intimate satisfaction of her existence is servicing you, the “guest,” with a shrimp sandwich wrapped in plastic. If the choice is between the antic all-singing, all-dancing employees in New York’s Astor Place Pret-A-Manger and the stony-faced contempt of just about everybody behind a food counter in London (including all the Prets), I wholeheartedly opt for the latter. We are subject to enough delusions in this life without adding to them the belief that the girl with the name tag is secretly in love with us."

Zadie Smith. "Take It or Leave It". The New Yorker. 

Americans are so insecure.

Don't Judith Butler Me

"I mean, it was very funny to say, 'don't Judith Butler me,' but 'to Judith Butler someone' meant to say something very negative about men and to identify with a form of feminism that was against men. And I've never been identified with that form of feminism. That's not my mode. I'm not known for that. So it seems like it was confusing me with a radical feminist view that one would associate with Catharine MacKinnon or Andrea Dworkin, a completely different feminist modality. I'm not always calling into question who's a man and who's not, and am I a man? Maybe I'm a man. [laughs] Call me a man. I am much more open about categories of gender, and my feminism has been about women's safety from violence, increased literacy, decreased poverty and more equality. I was never against the category of men."

-Judith Butler. Gender Theorist. 

Her writings include "Gender Trouble" and "Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex". 

34.6 million viewers

"When Twin Peaks debuted, it got thirty-three share in the last half hour. That's in a pre-cable universe, but it was still unbelievable. It was as if the earth shifted in the television business for a minute and the notion of doing something quirky and different and odd and weird became something that could be possible in TV. 'Quirky' never was something that existed in TV before that and that's what David and Mark did with Twin Peaks and it was a … shocker."

-Tony Krantz. Former television agent, Creative Artists Agency. 

Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks. Brad Dukes. 

Twin Peaks' mood, odd humor, and intimacy seduced a lot of people. There was definitely a shift in the collective subconscious after the show aired.

Angelo Badalamenti's Music

"Just by talking and whispering in my right ear as I'm at a keyboard, David describes a mood and I'm able to take his words and translate that into music. It has its own identity. It's been kind of incredible to work so closely together, and the fact we're on the same musical wavelength, it's very special if and when that happens. 

It's also great for David – because he's told me this a bunch of times – even in Twin Peaks before he would film or shoot a scene he would had some demos of the themes I've written and he would play it for the actors on the set and it would put them in some kind of a mood, even as they speak their words. The style, the mood, and the pace – it helps the director with the actors. The music becomes an integral part of the story.

"Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks." Brad Dukes.

A new book that compiles first person accounts of the making of Twin Peaks. It includes numerous interviews with the original cast, crew, and network executives. 

"Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks." Brad Dukes.

Duplicity

"We could ask what might happen if we were to meet one of our copies. You might think this was just like shadow boxing in the mirror but there is no reason to think that any one of your doubles would act as you do. You may both have identical histories up until the moment of encounter, but confronted with a new situation you might respond differently, for the first time, just as two identical twins might do. In the future your experiences and choices would become increasingly different. Yet elsewhere in the infinite universe there would have to be a never-ending series of copies of each of us making the same future decisions and being in every respect identical. It is as if every possible decision that we could have taken at every moment is actually taken. There is always someone somewhere who lives a past life identical to my own and then takes one of all the possible decisions open to me about what to do next. They are always more numerous than those who continue to choose like I do. Others are alarmed at the ethical consequences of a universe where all possible sequences of events take place regardless of their consequences. All possible virtual histories are acted out for real. There are histories where evil always overcomes good and others where that is even thought to be a good thing."

-The Book of Universes. John D. Barrow.

John Adams

"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine."

-John Adams

Jazzonomics

CLIFFORD. … The last time I saw these guys together was at Unemployment. Nine years ago, at the old 92nd Street Office. The musicians called it Club 92. (Harsh lights up on: Club 92. Clifford stands, walks over to the head of the beginner's unemployment line. Two lines away, his father, Gene, and Al, Ziggy, and Jonesy wait on the old-timer's line. To audience.) I am twenty-one years old, out of college, out of work. On line for my first unemployment check. It is 1977. As I inch my way up the beginner's line, I spot my father, who is over there (Points.) to sign for what, his four millionth check. As a jazz musician, he is sort of always there. There's the National Endowment for the Arts, which is money for classical musicians, and there's the New York State Bureau of Unemployment, which gives grants to jazz musicians. It's a two-tiered system. 

GENE. (Calling out to the other musicians.) Al, Ziggy, Jonesy – get a load of this: My kid is signing for his first check. (The guys all see Clifford, shout hellos and wave.)

CLIFFORD. He is, at that moment, prouder of me than I have ever seen him: Today, I am a man. (Clifford joins Gene, Al, Ziggy, and Jonesy in a booth at the Melody Lounge. To audience.) To celebrate, the old man takes me out afterwards …

 -Warren Leight. "Sideman". 1999 Tony award winning play.   

This was one of my favorite plays growing up. Leight is now the showrunner for Law and Order SVU on NBC. 

The Year of Dreaming Dangerously: 2011

"What is to be done in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street movement, when the protests that began far away–in the Middle East, Greece, Spain, the UK–reached the center and are now being reinforced and rolling out all around the world? In San Francisco on Sunday October 16, 2011, in an echo of the OWS movement, a man addressed the crowd with an invitation to participate as if it were a happening in the 1960s hippy style: 'They are asking us what is our program. We have no program. We are here to have a good time.' Such statements reveal one of the great dangers the protesters face: the danger that they will fall in love with themselves, with the fun they are having in the 'occupied' zones. But carnivals come cheap–the true test of their worth is what happens the day after, how our everyday life has changed or is to be changed." 

-Slavoj Zizek. The Year of Dreaming Dangerously.

Girls on the Set of David Lynch's "Lost Highway"

"A lot of the camera and sound and makeup crew are female, but a lot of these, too, have a similar look: thirtyish, makeupless, insouciantly pretty, wearing faded jeans and old running shoes and black T-shirts ... the sort of sloppily pretty tech-savvy young woman you can just tell smokes pot and owns a dog. Most of these hands-on technical females have that certain expression around the eyes that communicates "Been there, done that." A bunch of them at lunch won't eat anything but bean curd and don't regard certain grips' comments about what bean curd looks like as in any way worthy of response.  One of the technical women, the production's still photographer, has on the inside of her forearm a tattoo of the Japanese character for "strength," and she can manipulate her forearm's muscles in such a way as to make the ideogram bulge Nietzscheanly and then recede.

A lot of the script people and assistant wardrobe people and production assistants are also female, but they're of a different genus - younger, less lean, more vulnerable, without the technically savvy self-esteem of the camera or sound women. As opposed to the hands-on women's weltschmerzian serenity, the script and PA females all have the same pained I-went-to-a-really-good-college-and-what-am-l-doing-with-my-life look around the eyes, the sort of look where you know that if they're not in twice-a-week therapy it's only because they can't afford it."

-David Foster Wallace "David Lynch Keeps His Head". Premiere magazine, September 1996.

David Foster Wallace on David Lynch

"The first time I lay actual eyes on the real David Lynch on the set of his movie, he's peeing on a tree. This is on 8 January in L.A.'s Griffith Park, where some of Lost Highway's exteriors and driving scenes are being shot. He is standing in the bristly underbrush off the dirt road between the base camp's trailers and the set, peeing on a stunted pine. Mr. David Lynch, a prodigious coffee drinker, apparently pees hard and often, and neither he nor the production can afford the time it'd take to run down the base camp's long line of trailers to the trailer where the bathrooms are every time he needs to pee. So my first (and generally representative) sight of Lynch is from the back, and (understandably) from a distance. Lost Highway's cast and crew pretty much ignore Lynch's urinating in public, (though I never did see anybody else relieving themselves on the set again, Lynch really was exponentially busier than everybody else.) and they ignore it in a relaxed rather than a tense or uncomfortable way, sort of the way you'd ignore a child's alfresco peeing."

-David Foster Wallace "David Lynch Keeps His Head". Premiere magazine, September 1996.

I've always been a big fan of DFW's non-fiction writing and journalism. 

Producer's Diary

May 2004

"2:30 P.M. Well, the MPAA started watching A Dirty Shame in L.A. 10 a.m. PST, so they should be nearing the end of the rating-appeal hearing. Right now it’s NC-17, which is absurd. You can watch eyeballs getting squished in Kill Bill, but you can’t make a joke about felching. John Waters is out there with Carolyn Blackwood, the legal and business affairs rep from New Line. John wrote us a nervous e-mail yesterday outlining their strategy. When they announce their verdict, he wrote, “I’ll find out their home addresses and ritualistically slaughter the entire board. That’s my morning tomorrow. How’s yours?” John calls: the appeal got rejected. “The hardest thing to fight,” he says, “was when the MPAA lady said, ‘Seventeen-year-olds, seniors in high school, and all college students will be certainly allowed to see this movie with an NC-17 rating.’ What do you say to that?” I call Ted Hope, my producing partner on the film, to strategize. It’ll be New Line’s choice whether to fight, but soon Variety will get the story and it’ll be out of our hands. “If we’re going to come out swinging,” I tell Ted, “we need to do it on our own terms.”

-Christine Vachon. A Killer Life: How an Independent Film Producer Survives Deals and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond.