I am in desperate need of a new scanner. Mine is at least ten years old and it is really, really showing its age. Yikes. This Ektachrome film is marvelous—which, at $24 per roll, it better be—and all the color is just drained by these scans.

Nevertheless, a couple from the Palm Springs area, earlier this spring.

Earlier this week I watched The Five Devils, and with that, officially hit 1,000 films on Letterboxd. (It certainly feels like I’ve seen more movies than that, but maybe it’s just because I’ve seen Hackers so many times.)

I have a strange relationship with movies—in one hand I love cinema as an art form, and in the other I understand the addictive effects of screen-based media. In the interest of the former, I try to see as many movies as possible, but in caution of the latter, I have to make sure I am not sidelining my life or work with streaming habits. (A circumstance that has happened more than I care to admit.)

There are many strange and fascinating parts about being a movie-lover who moved to Los Angeles in my late 30s, and I’ll write about them as time goes on. For now, the big news here is the writer’s strike—something I was thinking about while watching The Five Devils.

Art in the United States has a troubled history, as ‘success’ is often tied to our market-based concept of the word. Even with film, a medium practically defined by the efforts of Americans here in Hollywood, the business of entertainment has woefully impacted the culture produced. The Five Devils, a French film, was a good movie. It won’t win Best Picture anywhere, but it was a wonderful little tale. It is exactly the type of movie that is made less and less in the USA.

When I look at the WGA strike—and the rejected demands by the industry—there is certainly something to be won for the livelihood of the profession. But beyond that, it shows the entertainment industry playing their hand in regards to the future: There is no interest in human stories, in small budgets, in lower profits. Being profitable isn’t enough—the industry is about Intellectual Property, franchise films, and streaming rights. They’re more than happy to have an AI shit out a couple Marvel movies every year ad nauseum.

Like all art, the best cinema isn’t a formula. Its resonance is defined by the humanity of its creation, the passion behind the imperfections in craft. To my mind, there isn’t much worse than watching the grotesque nature of capital actively work to tarnish the potential of creativity in the name of profit. The US already struggles to keep up with foreign cinema in terms of artistic quality, and it’s not like a shift to more algorithm-friendly content is going to do anything for that.

It’d be a comedy, if it wasn’t such a tragedy.

I’ve found it difficult to write online for some time now. I write on my own plenty, but as the internet is a venue for public consumption, it’s been tricky to develop a creative thesis for such that isn’t just a scorched-earth manifesto. In considering why this is, two basic ideas came to mind:

The first is that covid-19 is still around—and while we may be out of the Going outside may kill you part of the pandemic, the fact that this virus isn’t likely to leave the realm of concern for years. The fact it’s been phased out of media attention in the U.S. is reminiscent of the idea that the government just wants us all to forget it ever happened—lest we remember how they preferred we keep the economy going above public safety.

That’s a subtle dagger to the heart of this country. There is no longer a claim to be made that the state functions as anything other than a tool to enforce the needs of the economy. The only workers who were truly protected through the past few years were the well-educated, upper-middle class tech sector, and regardless of any one person’s politics, none could provide evidence that either administration did all it could to keep the people of this country safe and secure. We may not talk about it much, but that permeating idea that we are all on our own only grows stronger with each mass shooting or police killing or ecological disaster. They all only reinforce the government is willing to live with a horror show of a future instead of acting in the present, as they did before, and as they will again.

Secondly, the economic system the state protects pits us all against one another. The lines have all been drawn in the sand in terms of politics, so now culture wars create talking points about the ‘wokeness’ of major corporations and vanilla entertainment. No matter what a person may think, the only place they can safely have that thought is kept inside their head. Expressing it in any public fashion has, because of how the internet has grown under capitalism, opened it up for public critique. (This is why I haven’t had a comment section on this blog since 2006.)

Right now, even publishing ideas feels more hostile than it is, or ought to be. There’s a natural sense of alienation from the past few years that gets worse with each passing day, and then there’s the understanding that in a medium where everything is weaponized, any contribution is a de facto weapon. This is especially exhausting given that very little that exists online actually matters, and a vast majority serves only as a distraction from the failed state of reality.

Between complete failure of the state and all-consuming individualist competition, I can’t say I have much hope for the future—or a desire to contribute to the present. So I’m not too sure how to approach this. But I do hate inconsistency, as well as the idea that the internet should consist of four giant websites and nothing else. A random blog has its place, and should either have some kind of content stream or not exist at all. I am not exactly sure what I want to do with this space, but I know what I don’t want it to become, and I guess in today’s world, that’s at least a start.

—found text off Route 66 in the California desert, March 2023—