arts Film

Movies To Watch Again

GummoThere is hope in most of these films. And hope is something that can be hard to find. So you can watch any of these films with me. I’d gladly watch them again (and again and again). Or you can watch them by yourself. Just don’t miss them, here’s why.

  1. Fame (1980) — Okay, I’ll admit it. Fame shaped my life…probably informed my love of ballet and ballerinas. But that’s not why you should watch it again. Wim Wenders said that every narrative feature film is also a sort of documentary film of it’s time. So behind the actors in Fame some great documentary scenes from Times Square in the late 70’s — a documentary not to miss.
  2. Cinema Paradiso — The themes of the thread that attaches us to the past, moving from home, moving on — mortality. The opening image says it all…the long long thread back to mom. This film gets me every time.
  3. Blow Up — how did Michelangelo Antonioni so perfectly capture ‘mod’ right in the middle of it happening in England? It’s beyond me. But more importantly, it’s the wandering absence of narrative — an image maker in search of something and finding death. The Felliniesque ending with the mimes — brilliant. Plus, Jane Burken appears nude at 18 years old — what more do you need?
  4. Raging Bull — Robert De Niro chomped down on this role like a pit bull. One of Martin Scorsese’s best films. Nothing against Robert Redford or Ordinary People but — boy — did the Academy get it wrong that year.
  5. Gattaca – The inner struggle for perfection. The triumph of will. The beautiful images. “I never saved anything for the way back”. This movie teaches you to reach beyond your grasp, to give it all, and to not leave an excuse for failing.
  6. Dead Man – The dichotomy of Native American culture with the zany view of the white wild west – machine – is so interesting and compelling. The great performance by Mr. Depp, the music of Niel Young and the Jim Jarmusch style blended perfectly.
  7. Sense and Sensibility – this is not just a ‘chick flick’ — not at all. It’s a very great movie — stunning Cinematography and art direction. Great costuming. Great writing, of course, by Jane Austin. This film takes you back to a gentile, yet still imperfect, time.
  8. La Strada – one of Fillini’s more ‘normal’ films, and for me, one of his best. Not only does Giulietta Masina vaguely remind me of my own mother, she is absolutely innocent in this film. This is a tragic film. “I don’t know for what this pebble is useful but it must be useful. For if its useless, everything is useless.” Ahhh, there is hope in this film too.
  9. Strictly Ballroom – I was a professional dancer when I saw this film and I thought it spoke to me directly. Almost everything in the film related to my current life. I caught every insight into the dance world — every pun, every sarcasm, every irony. I laughed so hard that when the film was over, people in the audience looked at me like I was an insane manic.
  10. Deconstructing Harry – I like plenty of Woody Allen’s Films — maybe all of them — but there are a few that really stand out. This one brilliantly shows how a writer’s real life merges with his fiction.
  11. Everyone Says I Love You – Drew Barrymore, Allen Alda, Goldie Hawn — all in a musical about mortality and love. Thank you Mr. Allen, for this one. You truly are one of the great ones. Other Woody Allen Movies certainly worth watching again and again — Bullets Over Broadway, Manhattan, Anne Hall, Broadway Danny Rose, Match Point, etc.Bicycle Theifs
  12. Gummo — The first time I saw this film, I hated it. I didn’t get it. I had to learn to love the brilliance of eating spaghetti in a bubble bath with a chocolate chaser. I had to get over my repulsion to appreciate the body slam of a folding chair. Such great performances from the slap fighters — scenes worth seeing again.
  13. Pickpocket – How do you film someones soul? Watch Pickpocket to see…I became interested in the film after hearing a radio program with writer Paul Schrader, who said that Pickpocket influenced him in writing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. So I went to the Film Forum in New York City one raining October afternoon and became so involved in the pickpocket character that I totally forgot that I was in 2005 New York. The cinematographic grammar of Bresson is truly ahead of his time. He is able to place the viewer into the head of the pickpocket, strangely, by not showing the action you would expect a film maker to show. Schrader talked about Pickpocket as the first example he had seen of a film that is about the soul of the hero instead of about the actions.
  14. Ladri di biciclette — Maybe Schrader got it wrong and Pickpocket wasn’t the first film about a soul. The Bicycle Thief is about a soul and it’s from 1948. I didn’t want this list to get all “film schooly” but it’s hard to leave this one off my list. The story is so simple, so fundamental, so universal…I’d watch it any day…I’d stand in line.

Sales Technology Web Wordpress

Wufoo Form Referrer in WordPress Widgets

We were using a Wufoo form in a sidebar widget area on a WordPress theme to help with sales conversions. But then we wanted to know what page the user was looking at when they filled out the form. Below is all the information you’ll need to do just that.

The Wufoo blog has an informative overview of the general solution to tracking on wufoo. And Wufoo support team was very helpful by sharing this wufoo tracking tutorial with CSS. Those two links took me 90% there. Here are the extra details you’ll want to get it all to work in the WordPress widget area.

  1. Set things up as described in the links above.
  2. Install the PHP Text Widget plugin, which extends the text area widget to allow PHP within the text area (otherwise it won’t compile the code at runtime, and instead it would merely echo the PHP code within the widget). Please note, that once you install the plugin, there is nothing else to do — there is no settings page for the plugin or anything…the text area widget will now compile the php.
  3. You will want to add this code 'defaultValues':'fieldXXX=<?php the_permalink() ?/> ', to the wufoo form javascript code. This will autofill a field XXX with the URL that the user is viewing. Specifically, this code <?php the_permalink() ?/> will use PHP to return the current URL in wordpress.
  4. Finally, to find that field number XXX and replace it with the actual field number of your hidden refer field. To do this, in Wufoo admin tool, go the the form’s “code” area and click on the “API Information” button in the upper right corner. Than will show you the API ID of each field. Replace XXX in with your field’s number.

Now when somebody fills out your form, it should show the URL they were on when they filled out the form. Happy coding!

arts dance

Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers — Hellsapoppin

Talk about man handling your dance partner — look no further. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers was an incredible dance group formed in Harlem in the late 30’s and early 40’s and this is one of the few video archives — from the movie Hellsapoppin. These people pretty much invented the Jitterbug, which is the energetic derivative of the lindy hop and swing dancing. In particular, the lifts by the guy in overalls are insane.


The Train to NYC from Irvington NY

There is a train down the Hudson River to Grand Central Terminal. It is a beautiful ride from Irvington where I live. It’s packed with commuters every morning and we yawn holding coffee and newspapers, rolling past the tug boats and the Palisade cliffs.

Tug Boat on the Hudson River
Tug Boat on the Hudson River

A thin bridge arches high above the confluence of the Harlem Canal where the Columbia University rowing crew sweep hard against the current in side by side training. We rattle past the other commuters, who back up on the freeway in their cars, passed the graffited littered walls, onto the elevated tracks of Harlem, then down under Park Avenue. We disembark into the human river of Grand Central Terminal, it’s impossible not to touch as each person makes their own way to their final desitnation. I finally emerge into the glass canyon, the fresh air, and the excitement of a New York City day.

Emerge into the glass canyon
Emerge into the glass canyon
Jack Wolfram Jonathan Wolfram parenting

Jack & His Soccer

In this video, Jack scores three goals in one game against a presumably good team. Jack loves his soccer and he’s pretty good at it because he practices all the time.

He loves it so much that he wears soccer jerseys everywhere. He even wants to wear the entire kit to school, socks, shorts jersey. He wears them every day. We wonder if it’s bad for him, his entire identity tied up in soccer. He says stuff like “when I’m a famous soccer player I’ll have three houses.”

We want him to do well in school…I know it’s only a remote possibility that he doesn’t end up on FC Barcelona or FC Bayern…if that occurs, then we want him to have something to fall back on. On the one hand, my brother says “let him self actualize” and buy him all the cleats he wants, even if he has four pairs already that he’ll out grow in two months.

My colleague Ross suggests that I implement the “normal shirt for one day” rule, where we enforce the rule that he wears a normal shirt for just one day a week. Is that too much to ask? Can Jack self-actualize and still wear a normal shirt for one day? I think so.

In any case, I’m way too involved and shouldn’t care as much as I do. I can’t drink coffee before his match and it effects me when they lose or if he doesn’t play well. It depresses me. Deep inside I know that the most important thing is that he have fun. Nothing else matters.


Suddenly Vegan(ish)

At 8:35pm on August 8th, 2013, I suddenly stopped eating meat. Prior to that moment, meatless meals were absolutely unappealing. I loved meat. And I didn’t really didn’t enjoy vegetables. As near as I can tell, everything changed in a moment when I read:

“Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable”
–― Gary L. Francione

Within an hour of reading that, I went to the Burrito box on 9th Avenue between 57th and 58th and ordered a vegan chilly burrito for dinner. I had no intention of giving up eating animal flesh, but the delicious burrito was smothered in the new flavor of knowing that not a single animal was harmed. It was subtile yet pervasive. The food was free of misery.

Looking back, the change occurred when I realized the positive, the peace, the moral comfort that I could have simply by eating a yummy burrito. The next morning I didn’t eat meat again, and I didn’t eat meat again for lunch. I thought the urge might go away, so I didn’t even tell anybody. The change happened so suddenly that it scared me. I really didn’t know what was happening. I thought I might have had a stroke.

A Vegan Snack -- so good
A Vegan Snack — so good

It continued for a few days and I didn’t tell my wife. I was afraid of how she would react. She didn’t marry this vegan guy. And change is scary. What else would I change? After about 4 days I finally confessed. She was surprisingly supportive and understanding.

When I tell other people, even when I give emphasis that I changed for moral reasons, they often don’t hear what I’m saying and assume that I’ve changed for health reasons or to lose weight. Those are secondary benefits apparently (the verdict is still out). The reason I’m not eating animal or animal products is that I suddenly became acutely conscious that it’s immoral to treat animals the way we do and I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

But I am a rookie. Especially in those first few days. I really didn’t know what to eat. And I was hungry. I didn’t know where to turn. I ate nuts and bread, carrots and salads, hummus and tomatoes. But my repertory is growing. The food I’ve eaten in the past few month has been some of the most delicious of life.

I didn’t miss meat at all — not one bit. I walk by the Hala carts frying chicken and lamb, those carts of my former sustenance, and it doesn’t seem like food to me anymore.