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Saturday, March 8, 2008

We Don't Have to Worry About Anarchy Anymore [COMIC]

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'24' prequel set

Two-hour TV movie to bridge gap between Seasons 6 and 7


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"24"

RELATED:
Surnow leaves '24'

Fox's "24" will be returning in the fall, after all.

The producers of the Emmy-winning series are developing a two-hour "prequel" to the upcoming seventh season.

The movie, designed to bridge the two-year gap between Seasons 6 and 7, is targeted to air in the fall, leading to the January return of the real-time drama. On Wednesday, "24" producers began securing the show's core cast members for the film.

"24" was one of the biggest casualties of the writers strike. Three days into the work stoppage, Fox decided against airing a partial season of the serialized drama with the eight episodes produced before and during the first weeks of the strike.

Each season of "24" is a closed arc that takes place in real time over a 24-hour period. The upcoming seventh season is set in Washington and features the first female U.S. president, played by Cherry Jones.

At the end of the writers strike, there were rumblings about a possible split of the seventh season into two parts to air in the fall and in midseason. But Fox was quick to put those rumors to rest, reiterating that the show's scheduling pattern will remain intact with a January launch.

The "24" writing team is back at work, with filming on the remaining episodes of the seventh season slated to begin in April. Missing from the writers room is the series co-creator/executive producer Joel Surnow, who left at the end of the strike. Since the fifth season, "24" has been run by exec producer Howard Gordon.

Fox and 20th Century Fox TV, which produces the series with Imagine TV, declined comment Wednesday.

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Numbers don't tally for clip

YouTube is investigating a sudden surge in traffic that has seen a fan-made video clip featuring a quirky Brazilian pop band rocket to the top of its most viewed video chart.

The clip, Music is My Hot Hot Sex by the Brazilian electro band Cansei De Ser Sexy, has collected over 40 million additional views in just three weeks to push its cumulative tally to an impressive 89 million.

In that period, it jumped from tenth place on YouTube's all-time leaderboard to first, overtaking American motivational speaker Judson Laipply's Evolution of Dance which has held the top spot unchallenged for over 18 months.

Cansei De Ser Sexy, or CSS for short, means "I got tired of being sexy". The name refers to a comment attributed to singer Beyonce Knowles around the time the band formed in 2003.

The video's come-from-nowhere success however has left many YouTube fans asking questions about the unprecedented traffic spike, with many suggesting that the books may have been cooked.

An in-depth analysis of the YouTube statistics by blogger Andy Baio also suggests inconsistencies in the traffic surge.

Biao points out that an examination of hits compared with user ratings shows that the Brazilian video has what he described as "a very unusual 21,487-to-1 ratio" of views-to-ratings.

He calculated the average ratio for every other video in the top 10 to be 590:1, which is consistent with a ratio of 545:1 for the top 500 YouTube videos.

In other words, far fewer viewers are leaving a recommendation after watching Music is My Hot Hot Sex than is the case across the board.

This may indicate the use of an automated, non-human method to inflate the clicks.

A YouTube spokesman told smh.com.au the company was investigating the traffic spike. YouTube is owned by Google, the world's leading search engine.

"We don't condone efforts to affect the integrity of our video rankings or view counts," he said. "We are looking into this matter and will take appropriate action when we resolve the investigation."

There are two other plausible explanations for the surge: Apple and Barack Obama.

The Hot Hot Sex video was actually made by an Italian music blogger and photographer called Clarus Bartel.

Last year, CSS had invited Italian fans to use raw footage of the band to create their own videos, using another of their song titled Alcohol .

Bartel, however, chose to remix the video with Music is My Hot Hot Sex and he uploaded his mashup on to YouTube last April.

In September, a British student a the University of Leeds, 18-year-old Nick Haley, discovered Bartel's YouTube clip and turned it into a homemade advertisement for Apple's new iPod touch media player - which he then also uploaded to YouTube.

Haley, who had his first Apple computer when he was just three, told The New York Times he was inspired to create the advertisement after he heard the lyric in the song "My music is where I'd like you to touch".

An Apple employee stumbled across Haley's video and referred it to the company's ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, suggesting they contact the creator with a view to turning it into a real advertisement.

Haley was invited to help work on a broadcast-quality version of the advertisement and the finished product was premiered on primetime television in the US last October.

Among the keywords Bartel has tagged his video with are "iPod", "touch", "hot", "sex", "apple", "Barack" and "Obama" - all very hot search terms in an age where discovery and success can be predicated on how highly you rate on a Google search.

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Beatles engineer Smith dies at 85

Norman Smith
Norman Smith worked on records including Rubber Soul
The Beatles' engineer Norman Smith, who worked on every studio recording the band made between 1962 and 1965, has died at the age of 85.

Smith, nicknamed "Normal Norman" by John Lennon, took charge of the band's first session at Abbey Road in 1962.

Promoted to producer in 1966, he signed Pink Floyd and produced their early albums including Saucerful of Secrets.

Under the name Hurricane Smith, he also enjoyed UK chart success with singles including Don't Let It Die in 1971.

That song reached number two in the UK, while follow-up Oh Babe, What Would You Say? reached the top five on both sides of the Atlantic the following year.

The Beatles in 1963
Smith helped create The Beatles' early sound
His record label EMI described him as "a legendary figure in the history of EMI and British music".

"We were very saddened to hear of his passing away, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family at this time," the statement said.

Recalling The Beatles' first session for EMI, Smith once told an interviewer: "Visually, they made quite an impression, but musically we didn't really hear their potential."

He was impressed by their sense of humour and style, which marked them out from the large number of other bands that came in to try to impress producer George Martin and earn a record deal.

Smith said he told Martin at the time: "For that alone we should sign them. Just because of their humour and the way they present themselves, they are different."

'Mood creation'

Once promoted to producer, he said he signed Pink Floyd after being impressed by their stage presentation at one of their gigs.

"I can't in all honesty say that the music meant anything at all to me," he later recalled. "In fact, I could barely call it music.

"A mood creation through sound is the best way that I could describe Floyd."

Smith, who was born in Edmonton, North London, died on 3 March.

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The Five Most Powerful Pre-Murder Monologues In Film


For reasons that will become very clear as this article goes on, Daniel Day Lewis' recent Oscar win for There Will Be Blood prompted me to think of the art of the monologue and specifically, the pre-murder monologue. Murder plays to two binary aspects of our psyche: It both shocks the conscience and titillates us. This phenomenon of simultaneous revulsion and excitement goes as far back as the days of the Colosseum and stays with us in the modern age, every summer as we go to see the latest action killtacular blockbuster film.

People kill for all sorts of reasons. For pleasure, for power, for revenge, for fun. And when murderers open their mouths right before they do so, they give us insight into the will and the heartlessness that it takes to kill a man. Often the results can be profound, funny, and/or tragic. Here are the five most powerful pre-murder monologues of film:

Pulp Fiction: Ving Rhames Gets Medieval on Hillbilly Boy's Ass


Murderer: Marsellus Wallace - Murdered: Zed

This scene manages to combine the horror of rape, the hope of salvation, the thrill of the kill, and the threat of torture into a single sequence so tense that you could cut the tension with a sword.

Text: What now? Let me tell you what now. I'ma call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin' n**gers, who'll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'ma get medieval on your ass.

American Psycho: Christian Bale Shows It's Hip to Be Square


Murderer: Patrick Bateman - Murdered: Paul Allen

A lot of people didn't get that American Psycho was not supposed to some serial killer thriller, but rather a sharp satire of the materialism and relentelessness of the 1980s. In this scene, Patrick Bateman murders Paul Allen because Allen is able to get a table at a restaurant that Bateman can't. The fact that he decides to regale Allen with a brief history of everyone's favorite 80s band before chopping him to bits demonstrates that Bateman is a character who not only lacks of morals, but only has disgust and ambition where morals should be.

Text: Do you like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humour...In '87, Huey released this, "Fore," their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself.

Pulp Fiction: Samuel L. Jackson Dares You To Say "What" Again:


Murderer: Jules Winnfield - Murdered: Brett

The deliberate pacing, quick back-and-forth dialogue, and crescendo in volume and tone make this perhaps one of the most well-known killing scenes of our time. The assassination of Brett by Jules Winnfield demonstrated not only that Samuel L. Jackson is a complete badass, but that Quentin Taranatino can write monologues loaded with juicy witicisms like nobody's business.

Text: There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!"

There Will Be Blood: Daniel Day Lewis Drinks Your Milkshake


Murderer: Daniel Plainview - Murdered: Eli Sunday

Daniel Day Lewis' chilling portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood was one of the best performances of the year, one which garnered him much-deserved acclaim and dozens of awards. But few can argue that his most memorable moment from the film came during this final scene, in which he launched into a bombastic tirade against Eli Sunday. All of a sudden, all of Plainviews pent up anger.

Many people read There Will Be Blood as an allegory. If so, this scene is the ultimate triumph of secular humanism and capitalist greed over religion, expressed in the haunting line: I drink your milkshake. Go here for the full, spoiler-ific scene.

Text: DRAINAGE! Drainage, Eli you boy. Drained dry, I'm so sorry. If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake. And I have a straw, there it is, my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up! Did you think your song and dance and your superstition would help you, Eli? I am the third revelation. I'm smarter than you! I'm not a false prophet, you sniveling boy! I AM THE THIRD REVELATION!

Ralph Fiennes Shows Us The Face of True Evil


Murderer: Amon Goethe and the Nazis - Murdered: The Jews of Krakow

Who could have guessed that one of the most abhorrent villains from all of film is actually a based on a real person? Amon Goethe's sadistic streak is presented in monologue form as, in one fell swoop, he dismisses the achievements of all the Jews and foretells their heartless murders. Every time I watch this scene, it still chills me to my bone.

Text: Today is history. Today will be remembered. Years from now the young will ask with wonder about this day. Today is history and you are part of it. Six hundred years ago when elsewhere they were footing the blame for the Black Death, Casimir the Great - so called - told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered in business, science, education, the arts. With nothing they came and with nothing they flourished. For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. By this evening those six centuries will be a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.

If you liked this article, you'll probably like these:

You can also hear Dave, Adam, and Devindra on The Watchers Podcast. Check back here on the main site next week for some great new features!

(photo by Eduardo, via CC)

Update: Several people (in the comments and on the digg posting) have made reference to Dennis Hopper's monologue in True Romance. Please note: These are pre-MURDER monologues (i.e. monologues delievered by the murderer). For a list of notable pre-DEATH monologues in film, check back next week.

Update 2: "Dag" from the comments brought up a great point - the excellent speech by Robert De Niro in The Untouchables. I'm including it below. If there are any more I missed, feel free to leave it in a comment and it will be added here if it's a good choice. Thanks for the comments!

The Untouchables: Robert De Niro Plays Baseball With Guy's Head


Murderer: Al Capone - Murdered: Mobster

Text: A man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiams... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork.... Looks, throws, catches, hustles.Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don't field... what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I'm goin' out there for myself. But... I get nowhere unless the team wins.

Update 3: Unforgiven: Eastwood Decorates the Saloon (Thanks Ozymandias!)


Murderer: William Munny - Murdered: Little Bill

Text: Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!

Well, he should have armed himself if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend...I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I'm here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.

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5 Movie Fighting Styles Too Awesome to Actually Exist

Every male, at some point in their life, has watched some kung fu badass beat up a room full of bad guys and said, "I want to learn that!"

Unfortunately, some of the martial arts you've fantasized about don't even exist in the real world. Why? Because they're too awesome. For instance:

Gun Kata (Equilibrium)

This incredibly kick-ass way to kick ass with a dumb-ass name (that's three asses!) first appeared in the movie Equilibrium where Christian Bale uses it to kill pretty much everyone. From there it's shown up in way too many, ridiculously awful fan videos, and a few that are surprisingly cool, inspired some genuine martial artists to do their own choreographed performances of the style, and depending on which rabid fanboys you talk to, may or may not have appeared in director Kurt Wimmer's spiritual sequel/suckfest Ultraviolet.

According to the movie:

"Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically-predictable element. The Gun Kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents, while keeping the defender clear of the statistically-traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120 percent."

Allow us to translate:

"Treats the gun as a total weapon." You can shoot people with your gun and pistol whip them with it.
"Maximum kill zone/damage/number of opponents." You shoot a lot of people.
"Keeps the defender clear." Nobody can touch you.
"Rote mastery of this art." It works entirely on the principle of cool poses.

See it in action:
Allow us to repeat that last part: this martial art works by cool poses. Seriously.

But would it actually work?
In the vast majority of cases where people survive gun fights (note the avoidance of the word "win") they do so not by dodging shots but by taking cover. The concept of "statistically-traditional trajectories of return fire" is laughable. That said ...

There are quite a few martial artists out there who've created something like the gun kata, including former ILF fighter M.A. Sotelo's Juu Kun Do. Or check out this actual karate class, where they're learning the technique. It's best not to show up on live ammo day.

Moq'bara (Star Trek)

Moq'bara, from Star Trek, is the martial art practiced by Klingons everywhere, because while a peaceful society like the Federation will have hundreds of styles ranging from kung fu to boxing, a warrior culture will clearly only have one.

Depending on who's doing the fight choreography that day, it may be a pussyfied version of tai chi, an up close, in-your-face slugfest that favors two-fisted rabbit punches above all else, or could simply be boxing by guys with ridges on their foreheads. Alternatively, it may involve batleths--silly looking "swords" that have actually been examined by Kung Fu Magazine and pronounced a viable weapon.

See it in action:
As we'll see, the best way to learn is a strongly-implied erotic tension with a man who looks like he has a fossilized trilobite stuck to his forehead.

But would it actually work?
Pretty good actually. Being too cheap and/or lazy to invent their own martial art, Star Trek seems to have simply hired whatever fight choreographer was available that day and given him free license provided it was gritty, realistic, and pretty boring. Consequently most Star Trek fight scenes, while incredibly dull, use techniques you could learn at any respectable dojo.

If you really want a chance to use those techniques in the real world, simply approach some drunken redneck and tell him you're not afraid of him, since you know the Klingon martial art of Moq'bara.

Blade Song (Dungeons & Dragons)

If you've ever played Dungeons & Dragons (and if you're a Cracked reader, chances are you have a 14th-level Gnomish Wizard rolled up and ready for play) then you probably came to the same conclusion about the problem with elves that we did: not gay enough. Sure they're tall, thin, and gorgeous--their +2 bonus to Dexterity makes them lithe and agile while they're -2 penalty to Constitution makes them delicate. But they just needed that extra little something.

Thus, some D&D writer invented Blade Song, a fighting style to really emphasize how effeminate elves actually are. Since the rest of the game design team was unable to come up with anything gayer (we're stumped too), it passed into canon. In various D&D settings, Blade Song is created by elves, "who have blended art, swordplay and arcane magic into a harmonious whole."

"In battle, a bladesinger's lithe movements and subtle tactics are beautiful, belying their deadly martial efficiency," or so says Dungeons & Dragons: Complete Warrior. The artist would have us believe a Blade Singer looks something like this:

That's a man, by the way.

See it in action:
Note how the first 30 seconds of any bladesong duel involves hard, catty stares.

We would also like to point out that even in an otherwise kick-ass fight scene, the main purpose of the style seems to be giving each other haircuts.

But would it actually work?
The closest real-life equivalent of the elven warrior we could find was Nong Thoom, a male-to-female transgendered muay-Thai champion. In 1998, at the age of 16, she (at the time "he") defeated a larger, more muscular opponent while wearing make up, then proceeded to kiss him. She then proceeded to fuck up pretty much every prospective rival in the league before going on to start a modeling and acting career.

Since gender identity issues can apparently inspire ass-kicking rage, and since most elven warriors make Nong Thoom look like Staff Sgt. Max Fightmaster, you'd be wise to observe a strict "don't fuck with elves" policy at your local dojo.

Goutetsu-ryu Ansatsuken (Street Fighter games)

Yes, ansatsuken, which may or may not actually translate to "assassin's fist," is the ultra-violent martial art practiced by Ryu and Ken Masters in the Street Fighter series. Ryu and Ken learned the style from Gouken, who'd sworn to create a less violent version of the martial art created by his master Goutetsu, which in video game parlance means you're simply going to add "for peace" to the end of every cut scene dialog as you continue to remove someone's testicles through their anus.

Of course the most useful technique is the hadoken, which allows the fighter to unleash a deadly ball of energy that flies at the opponent at a speed of about 15 miles an hour.

See it in action:

Wait, that doesn't look right ...

But would it actually work?
It's likely that no amount of practice will allow you to hurl fireballs just by crouching, moving towards someone and then punching the air. Still, if you do run across an opponent who's dressed in a gi (with sleeves that appear to have been ripped off in savage fury), it's probably best to steer clear of them.

Gymkata (Gymkata)

In 1985, Olympic gold medalist Kurt Thomas starred in the movie Gymkata. Gymkata, a movie Maxim ranked as the 17th worst movie of all time, was based on the novel The Terrible Game by Dan Tyler Moore, a novel so bad no one has even bothered to make a Wikipedia entry for it.

In the film Thomas plays John Cabot, an Olympic gymnast who combines gymnastics and martial arts to ... fuck it, let's just go to the clip.

See it in action:

As we see, the gymkata expert is deadly on a pommel horse, or any kind of object in his environment set up exactly like a pommel horse. The true gymkata expert will travel with an entourage of assistants who will have a pommel horse kit ready at all times, in case of conflict.

But would it actually work?
Where do we begin? Let's assume, just for a moment, this art actually existed. We're pretty sure it can be defeated by the simple principle of staying the fuck away from pommel horses, or failing that, avoiding such classic battle tactics as charging one at a time into your opponent's spinning, flying legs.

But what if you're in an enclosed space, and the only way out is being blocked by a pommel horse and a spinning gymkata master? Then you can kiss your ass goodbye, unless you happen to know a little gymkata yourself. And, of course, have your own pommel horse.

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My Kid Could Paint That

Marla Olmstead. Click image to expand.

Marla Olmstead made her first abstract painting while still in diapers, crouching on her parents' dining-room table. She was not yet 2. Her big break came when she was 3, and a family friend hung her paintings in a coffee shop in her hometown of Binghamton, N.Y. By the time she was 4, she was scarfing down cookies at the packed opening of her first solo gallery show. A local reporter covered the story, and the New York Times picked it up. Soon, news crews from all over were rushing to report on the adorable blond moppet and her colorful canvases, calling her a "budding Picasso," a "pint-sized Pollock." Within a few months, she sold more than $300,000 worth of paintings. And then, just short of her 5th birthday, the bubble burst. In February 2005, 60 Minutes aired a report by Charlie Rose implying that Marla's father, a night-shift manager at a Frito-Lay plant and an amateur painter himself, was guiding her compositions. Sales of the paintings quickly dried up, the family was barraged with hate mail, and the New York Post gleefully piled on the puns, reporting that "the juvenile Jackson Pollock may actually be a full-fledged Willem de Frauding."

In his new documentary, My Kid Could Paint That, director Amir Bar-Lev traces Marla's sensational rise and fall, focusing on the media feeding frenzy and on the Olmsteads' efforts to prove that Marla created her paintings unaided. Whatever the degree of parental coaching, Bar-Lev's footage reveals a child who clearly enjoys painting. We see her squeezing gobs of thick acrylic paint directly from the tube onto the canvas, smooshing it around with brushes, fingers, and spatulas, and using plastic squeeze bottles to add delicate squiggles and swirls. Yet, when Bar-Lev tries to film her creating a single work from start to finish, the camera-shy toddler grows silly and restless, and in one incriminating scene, begs her father to draw a smiley face on her picture. (He declines, grinning nervously.)

The possibility of fraud is the film's narrative engine, and Bar-Lev isn't shy about voicing his own doubts about the works' authenticity, or reflecting, a la Janet Malcolm, on the queasy blend of complicity and betrayal that typifies the relationship between journalist and subject. In one excruciating scene, Bar-Lev shares his misgivings about the paintings with Marla's mother, Laura, a dental technician. "I need you to believe me," she says, staring into the camera. The interview ends in tears.

All this makes for a fascinating story about stage parents, media hype, and the ethics of documentary filmmaking. But in focusing on Marla as a media and market phenomenon, the film gives short shrift to some of the more intriguing questions about what it means to look at a 4-year-old's splattery abstract canvases in the context of art. Marla's paintings, with their swirling colors and expressive brushstrokes, have been compared repeatedly to the work of modern masters like Kandinsky and Pollock. Does it matter that she has no knowledge of these artistic precedents, and most likely, no clear concept of "art" itself? Is Marla a prodigy or a primitive? Can a work of art transcend the intentions of its maker? If a child can make great abstract paintings, does this mean that modern art is itself a hoax, a high-culture con game?

Ten years ago, I traveled around Thailand with Russian conceptual artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, teaching domesticated elephants to hold brushes in their trunks and apply paint to canvas. The project was cheerfully satirical, but the elephants really did learn to paint, and their bold, gestural abstractions were strikingly similar to Marla's—and raised many of the same questions. Like Marla, elephants approach a blank canvas with a blithe lack of inhibition and no preconceived idea of what a painting is supposed to look like. What matters to them is the process: the friction of the brush against the surface of the canvas, the creamy viscosity of the paint, and the fine-motor activity involved in making different kinds of marks, from long sweeping strokes to quick rhythmic dabs and slithery caresses.

Of course, neither Marla nor the elephants would be painting without some degree of instruction, encouragement, and access to quality art supplies. For this, Marla, who is now 7 and still painting, has her father. He sets her up with large primed canvases (measuring up to 5 square feet), tubes of acrylic paint, and an array of brushes, spatulas, and squirt bottles filled with watered-down pigment. The elephants have their trainers, called mahouts, who essentially collaborate with them, choosing the colors, proffering paint-loaded brushes, and, most importantly, whisking away the paper or canvas before it devolves into a drab, muddy mess. I suspect that Marla's dad plays a similar role in her creative process. The enthusiasm and unbridled spontaneity of a child or an elephant wielding a paintbrush can be beautiful to behold, but a successful abstract painting also requires a certain sober restraint, a capacity to step back, lay down the brush, and decide: This is it.

When people look at abstract paintings and say, "My kid could do that," they're right—up to a point. Given the right materials and a little bit of coaching, any kid—or elephant or chimpanzee—can produce something that looks like art, or at least something that looks like Abstract Expressionism. In the 1950s, artists like de Kooning and Pollock proposed a radically new way of thinking about painting: as the direct trace of the artist's physical engagement with the materials. Harold Rosenberg, the critic who first coined the term "action painting," put it like this: "At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act—rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze, or 'express' an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event." The Ab-Exers were great formal innovators, but even more important than Pollock's drips or de Kooning's arabesques was their revolutionary insight that a painting can represent nothing other than the process of its own creation.

Now, more than half a century later, we're still reeling from this revelation. Hence the continuing fascination with cases like Marla's. For those who believe that painting must be about something more than just color and gesture—like craft or technical skill or mimetic representation—abstract paintings by children and animals provide the ultimate refutation, proof that modern art is indeed a hoax. But such skeptics profoundly miss the point of the art they're trying to debunk. Yes, anyone can pick up a brush and slather paint on canvas in a drippy style that evokes Jackson Pollock. But it took an artist like Pollock to step back from his own work, which at the time looked unlike anything that had come before, and say, with bold conviction: "This is it. This is what modern painting looks like." In other words, Pollock taught us how to see art in a new way.

Marla, the elephants, and perhaps even your own brilliant progeny may be terrific painters—but they're not artists. This is because art is not just about making things or slapping pigment on canvas; it's also a way of thinking and seeing. Marla and the elephants are primitives, not prodigies. With no understanding of the issues at stake, there's little chance that their work will push art in any meaningful new direction. But this doesn't mean we should dismiss them entirely. As viewers, we can appreciate their paintings as art, even if they didn't intend them as such. And, as the stars of their own media circuses, these exuberant painters serve a crucial role as catalysts for discussion, inadvertently prodding a broader public to come to terms with the mid-century revolution in seeing that permanently and profoundly changed modern art.

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Jason Statham Does a Little Bank Job

Jason Statham is not your average action star. He has that square jaw and serious look that would have made him a household name in the era of Steve McQueen, but with the 'everyday hero' taking off in the new millennium, Statham hasn't really broken through like he should in the States. (He's much bigger in the rest of the world.) Instead, Statham has carved out an incredibly consistent niche of macho action characters from The Transporter to Crank. Even in straight-to-video fare like the recently released Chaos, Jason Statham rarely fails to deliver. He's getting some of the best early reviews of his career for Roger Donaldson's The Bank Job, an action thriller based on a famous 1971 heist that opens this Friday. He sat down at a press conference recently to tell us about his character, his celebrity status in the U.K., and even working again with the director who gave him his big break, Guy Ritchie.

Jason Statham on how much he remembers about the real life robbery:

"We didn’t know much about it. I mean it’s a little...1971, I was barely on the planet at that period of time. So the fact that there was a D notice that was issued and I think there was like three days of press, each day was progressively more, leaning towards, you know the exposure of what was happening in and around the bank. On day four there was no further coverage in any of the newspapers, so for thirty odd years no one has really known anything about the robbery."

"Now when Roger decided to take on the movie, he’s a great man of research, so his learning of what happened in an around that time was as much to me and all of my friends. When I was telling them...I’d get newspaper cuttings, the police evidence pictures from inside the vault, from inside the handbag shop where they put all of the..., how big the tunnel was, where they threw all of the earth. So every night I’d go home with new information about the robbery and my mates are going, ‘yeah, yeah I’ll ask my dad about it’. And they said they remembered vaguely something in and around it, but no one really knew about it. It’s been sort of completely blanketed and I think a lot of people from back then will be glad to know what really happened, even if they could remember a robbery at all from the Lloyds Bank. I think it’s a great story that needed telling, but I can’t remember much. So preparing for the film was a bit of an education for me and all of my friends."

Statham on his character in the film:

"I think he’s doing this for his family, you know. I think he is a good person. Okay he’s got a side of him that...let’s say a darker side of him, well not really a dark side. Let’s just say that desperate men do desperate things and I think there is an innocence as much as there is a criminal side to Terry. I mean he’s just wanted to make a better life for himself and the family. I think if anyone is given an opportunity to do that, if you look at your circumstances, people try it all different ways. They go to Vegas and try to make a better life for themselves on a stupid slot machine. Are they respectable people? Some think yes and some think no. I mean the world is full of bad things that go on behind curtains and closed doors. And if you think that Terry is a bad person I could show you a lot of people who run around in suits and ties and put on this big front, top show about how respectable they are and they’ve got more seedy, dirty habits than you could possibly imagine."

"The fact that this guy is given an opportunity to rob a bank and you know they’re not stealing from the poor. They’re robbing a bank that contains...they’re basically robbing a safe deposit vault and the people that have these safety deposit boxes usually keep within them things they don’t want people to know about. A lot of things that are in these deposit boxes are illicit earnings anyway, there’s a lot of bad stuff, jewels that have been stolen, there’s money that doesn’t belong to people. So these boxes that they’re robbing, not to say we’re allowed to go steal that stuff, I’m not trying to dilute it and make it a justifiable act, but we’re not going in there with machine guns and balaclavas and hurting people. We’re doing something against the law, yes, but basically who is the law here? MI5 are trying to create a robbery themselves to protect their bad stuff and I think...the catch phrase is, ‘we’re the most innocent people involved’ and I think on this occasion we are."

On dealing with his celebrity status in the UK:

"I ain’t that popular, believe me. People are a bit more reserved back in the UK, you know, they’re not running around with pens and papers. Every now and then you get the odd fan here and there. So, yeah, I think it’s cool to make a film in the UK, some people give you props now and again. But it’s not like I’m Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, I mean they’ve got problems."(laughs)

On the intelligence of Terry and his crew:

"That was a question I was sort of asking, cause I know a few crooks and crims from my earlier days, not that I’ve ever been involved with that kind of stuff...I used to sell perfume and jewelry in my own little way and it’s not like I sold stolen goods. But I do know different levels of crooks and criminals and I’ve met quite a few of them. Most of them don’t necessarily look like Dave and Steve the photographer, but you know what, there’s always a surprise. I’ve recently met someone who went to prison for a long time and you could never pigeon hole him as a guy who would do something against the law or would end up inside, so there’s always a surprise. They don’t have to look like Al Capone to be worthy of doing something against the law."

Statham on working with Guy Richie again:

"I’d love to work with Guy again, absolutely. Whenever he’s got the script he wants me involved with I will certainly be jumping up and down. I mean I can’t say no to him, I love him as a filmmaker, I love his style, I love his tastes, we’re good friends, we work well together, f**k yeah I’d jump at the chance."

And Vinnie Jones:

(laughs) "Vin’s and old friend of mine, we haven’t worked together for many years now. We live very close by and if we can do something and if Guy wants to direct it, great."

Jason Statham on future projects:

"Brazilian Job has just been out there in the stratosphere for quite some time and if that happens I’ll be very surprised. But I’m very happy to work with Mark and everybody and would love to do it, but it just doesn’t look realistic. Crank 2 is definitely happening, I’m going to throw myself around the streets of L.A. once more with the delightful Amy Smart and the mad Neveldine and Taylor. And I’m just about to go do Transporter 3 over in Paris with Luc Besson, so I’m preparing physically now with a very strict regime from six in the morning until mid-day every day."

-- Jordan Riefe

Original here