Scott Ellington's Blog

Just another weblog

20 April 2011

The President of the United States is here in the San Francisco Bay Area today to raise millions of dollars for the thriving industry of broadcast network television (at the kickoff for his West Coast campaign-solicitation [champagne] campaign) by holding a closed, T-ball (peptalk), townhall meeting at Facebook, streamed by Facebook at 13:45 PDT.  I might not have noticed this historic ironic event were it not for the ABC “headline” news coverage of Mrs. Obama’s near-trivial brush with inconvenience involving a shift-changing airtraffic controller’s failure to keep a 5mile buffer between her 737 and the military aircraft in front of it, upon her departure from Andrews AFB.  The suddenly-imperative NTSB investigation may (and probably won’t) eventually finger Ronald Reagan’s pulsing legacy of uncommon disdain for the rank&file, at least 30 years late.  grassroots. greenmail.  “ordinary Americans”.  26year-old billionaire interviews President O’Dollar, who forgot to force the bailed-out financial industry to share the wealth, so the million micropumps (small business) of a sluggish national economy don’t pump, and the Supremely-disloyal opposition wins seats in Congress, stymies progress, Blue Fairys corporations, and fabricates budget crises that crush all hope of positive change by threatening every minutely-incremental advance made in American commonwealth (CPH, PBS, NPR, NEA, PP, Ed, Med…) since Machiavellian LBJ.  WTF!

NCMR podcasts became available for download yesterday.  The supremely-informative Saving the Bay documentary will begin rebroadcast, nationally, this evening with the first of four hour-long chapters at 22:00 PDT.  It’s the brand of semi-scrupulous propaganda I dearly favor.  And The Royal Wedding furor is ramping up on every channel I can choose to ignore.  Can’t hardly see the lethal paradoxes for all of the intervening oxymorons.

It’s a glorious time to be able to choose where one directs one’s attention…so it can’t last much longer.

“There is no progress so long as private funds drive public elections.” — Lessig

20 Apr 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Leni Riefenstahl’s towering reputation as a visual storyteller is significantly tarnished for me as sit, presently, watching her crowning achievement.  Reports of revolutionary breakthroughs in camera location, meticulous planning and tireless editing leave me wondering about the crappiness of all that came before her.  Perhaps I’m disappointed in Riefenstahl’s direction and editing because I’ve been spoiled by several decades of sports broadcasting performed by people who studied her work (and improved upon it tremendously).

I think Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 pushed almost all manner of cinematic talent absolutely out of Germany, which left a limited number of people (who were mostly famous for being famous) like Riefenstahl to photograph the 1934 Nazi Pary Congress in Nuremburg, embellish the static documentary style, then prevalent, with fascinating bits of moviemaking magic and spend two years editing her so-called propaganda masterpiece, Triumph of the Will.  So they called on her again in 1936 for the XI Olympiad in Berlin.  But (for example) Olympia stations the primary camera for four heats and the final of the 100m dash high above the track in the stadium stands at midfield.  Which puts that stationary camera in one of an infinite number of wrong places to clearly and dramatically document the crossing of the finish line every time that race is run.  There was no recognizable learning process evident as each race ends with the camera locked on the backs of the runners rather than looking straight down at the tape.  All of the track and field events are made less coherent, substantive and meaningful by theoretically-appropriate camera angles, editorial interruptions for snippets of crowd reaction, Hitler footage, flag waving, awards ceremonies, and irrelevant bits of bullshit.  Jesse Owens starts his approach for his very last attempt at the long jump victory (he will win).  We cut away to anxious faces in the crowd whle he’s tearing along the runway.  We jumpcut back from the crowd as Owens leaves the ground at the foul line, hangs in the air (in realtime) and lands, characteristically springing out of the pit because his forward momentum always carries him forward.  The narrator explains that Owens has won the event.  We cut back to the jubilation erupting from the stadium’s American contingent.  It might as well have been radio, for all the value added by cinematic file footage edited by Leni Riefenstahl to dramatize an event that required no music, no punching-up and no crowd footage, and (properly shot) zero narration.

She did the best she could do with unlimited funds, license to dig pits in the field, float baloons, and submerge cameramen in the diving pool for optimal camera placements, 40 camera operators, two years to edit 400 miles of film, and Hitler’s unconditional blessing.

It’s like George W. Bush, in late 1999, appointing Angelina Jolie to create a stirring cinematic propaganda record of his first presidential inauguration, then appointing her again to cover Superbowl XXXVII without permitting her to consult exiled or assassinated acknowleged football experts, hire experienced staff, nor listen to anything better-informed than her famous celebrity gut.

I think Leni Riefenstahl performed two monumentally difficult tasks (that were jammed down her throat) quite admirably.  Neither of those productions deserves the mountains of praise that have been heaped upon them nor the ruinous condemnation, nor did she.  Her careers as dancer-then-actress (as presented in The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl) don’t look particularly interesting, but Hitler’s ascendancy pulled her unfairly way out of her league/depth, just as his fall buried her unjustly for several decades.  No doubt, I’ll eventually stumble over Billy Wilder’s and Fritz Lang’s… remarks about her, but now that I’ve seen the two masterpieces that created the fuss that made her a figure of controversy, the unkind remarks of the genuine talent (whose conspicuous absence from Germany) made her a star will wait while I stumble along elsewhere.

07 Apr 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


My first pass through this series this weekend moves the first season of Treme toward the top of my list of favorite entertainments, for all of the reasons enumerated elsewhere: 

  • Powerful, ringing, ferocious performances by a brilliant ensemble cast;
  • Vibrant, engaging music created and performed with an authenticity that comes directly from and goes directly to the heart;
  • An intimate immersion in the soul of a profoundly alien culture;
  • Interlocking stories about interlocking, deeply-engaging people, woven from miniature realities that encapsularize and vivify enormous, abidingly-human, irresolute real problems…

My first pass through the first season of Treme has generated an insatiable, immediate hankering for one hell of a whole lot more!  I recognize in myself a degree of need I haven’t felt since discovering-and-losing Firefly — which, upon reflection, I realize was ABOUT things, like;

  • the intimate presentation of the personal lives of people caught in the negligent and incompetent machineries of a corrupt and interfering complex of bureaucracies;
  • the literal preservation/restoration/creation of Traditional American Values in absolute spite of the obscene abuses that subverted phrase has been used to justify;
  • and We, The fuckin’ People, Jack.

I’ve always suspected that the continuing mission of the tramp freighter, Serenity, a vessel desperately dedicated to enterprise, was to boldly go (with fathomless stores of humor and character) to explore the future of inequality in sex, finance, influence and race; projecting present-day pathologies forward through centuries of morally-degenerate tomorrows.  And I truly believe that in Treme, I’ve found the logical/emotional/spiritual successor to Firefly.  It’s primary interest is in (its and us) people; leaving ratings, political correctness, sociopolitical issues and universal popularity to sort themselves out in the fullness of time.  Or not.  I love these show.  They nourish conscience (by example).

04 Apr 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments