Sunday, May 08, 2022

Robert Caro's Smith Corona Electra 210 Typewriter

Robert Caro shows off his typewriter and also gives a succient explanation of his writing process and how to avoid "thinking with your fingers."

New-York Historical's exhibition “Turn Every Page”: Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive showcases never-before-seen highlights from life and career of Robert Caro, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author behind such masterful biographies as The Power Broker and the multi-volume series The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

Watch as Caro himself explores some of the key objects in the exhibition. In this episode, he describes one of his trusty Smith Corona Electra 210 typewriters, a brand that he's worked on for decades and that has become an essential part of his writing process.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Press Release for "Bigfoot Tim"

My first documentary film, Bigfoot Tim, is finally done. What follows is the press release.

Bigfoot Tim is a 2022 American documentary film by Thomas Fasano, who created the movie from over 1,500 of his brother’s YouTube videos, old 8mm home movies, newspaper articles, podcast clips, and recorded radio interviews to tell the story of the last decade of his brother’s life.

The film was initially made for a total budget of $79, using the Filmora software on an older iMac. Bigfoot Tim focuses on the last years of Tim Fasano’s life as he filmed it obsessively before his death in 2019 of cardiac arrest at 63.

Born and raised in Virginia, Fasano eventually settled in the Tampa area. The film explores Fasano’s life as he struggles to pull himself out of poverty as a cab driver while developing an interest in videography and a passion for finding Bigfoot in the swamps of Florida. The film brims with wild stories, wild characters, strange dreamers, and big ideas about human existence.

The soundtrack uses 31 compositions by the Australian/Swedish composer Scott Buckley. It also uses the song “Wishes” by American guitarist, singer, and songwriter Matthew Mondanile, performed by his solo music project, Ducktails. The film’s trailer features the composition “Wonderful” by Scott Buckley. It will be available for streaming on Vimeo June 1, 2022.

Update: May 8, 2022
I'm still trying to get distribution for the film.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Turn Every Page: A Documentary on Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb

This looks like a movie I'll see: a feature-length documentary on the life and work of Robert Caro and his longtime editor Robert Gottlieb, directed by Gottlieb’s daughter Lizzie Gottlieb.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robert Caro and legendary editor Robert Gottlieb have been working - and fighting - together for 50 years. At 86, Caro is battling time to finish work on his long-promised fifth and final volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Now 90, Gottlieb continues to edit, write and pursue his myriad and unexpected passions, attempting to “love and be silent” until he and Caro can begin to edit Caro’s final masterwork.

Directed by Gottlieb’s daughter Lizzie Gottlieb, Turn Every Page is an intimate look into artistry, mortality, antagonism, and friendship. Gottlieb chronicles the behind-the-scenes drama of the making of Caro’s The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson volumes. The film is a deep-dive into the power dynamics of creative collaboration, the peculiarities and work habits of two ferocious intellects, and the culmination of a journey that has consumed both of their lives.

No release date yet, but I will definitely see this when it comes out. in the meantime, see the New-York Historical Society’s ongoing exhibition, “Turn Every Page”: Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Some Thoughts about Belief in God

A friend of mine sent me an email that forced me to think about my own faith and evolution as a believer. So I wanted to share a few thoughts about the matter. You may not know that I still consider myself a Catholic although I'm now more inclined toward 18th-century Lutheranism (probably because of all the Bach church music I listen to). I attended Catholic school, was an altar boy, and embraced the church as a youngster — although I’m pretty secular nowadays, a lapsed Catholic I suppose one could say. But I still believe in a creative God or whatever we could call it, especially while listening to Bach's cantatas.

For me, the fine-tuning of nature is one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God. This argument points to the precision and complexity of our universe, which suggests that it was designed by an intelligent being. I think it's fair to say that many people today see the concept of God as nothing more than a construct of our human minds. I believe that there is no one answer to this question. Each person's perspective on this matter will be different. Personally, I am undecided on whether or not I believe in the exact concept of God taught in the Catholic church. I'll let others argue the fine details of theology and Catholic catechism. On the other side of the coin, I think the idea of atheism being a wish fulfillment holds a lot of credibility. I think atheism is as much a faith as anything else.

My parents were believers in God, and so were their parents. They were all strong Catholics. So of course , growing up I believed in God and still do.

My reading on the subject has taken me down some rather wonderful, dark, and ridiculous paths. I read Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion, in which he proposes the question of who designed the designer, in other words, who created God. The problem for Dawkins is that this is an old schoolboy question that assumes God was created. I'm not surprised Dawkins titled his book The God Delusion, because created gods are by definition a delusion. However, in order to weigh Dawkins' argument, we need to know what he means by "God." (Dawkins never actually says what he means by this.) If he means "a god," then we are reduced to thinking about created gods, which none of us believe in. No one with any real intelligence would propose such a preposterous idea, although Dawkins seems to.

For some reason, intellectuals, especially the Brits, argue that David Hume argued the most persuasively concerning the impossibility of a supernatural world. However, I think there are two things we need to bear in mind about Hume. Firstly, he didn't believe in cause and effect — on which the laws of nature are founded. Secondly, he didn't appear to believe in induction — which is the principle upon which our scientific knowledge rests. So I don't think he's an authority we should necessarily rely on when discussing miracles.

CS Lewis made a valid point . He argued that when we see the beauty of something, like a garden, we don't automatically assume there are fairies at the bottom of it. We know someone created and designed the garden, and we appreciate their intelligence and creativity. In the same way, Lewis argues that when we see the beauty of nature, we don't automatically believe that it was all just chance. There must have been an intelligent designer behind it all.

Lastly, I want to say something about religious bigotry and hatred. I’m inclined to hold quite a bit of anger at American evangelism and the Pentecostal movement in general, especially since the evangelical churches all seem to be in bed with the alt-right and the GOP. But I always check myself because I've always believed that bigotry and hatred of religions is a dangerous path to take. Being anti-Catholic or anti-Muslim or anti-Mormon, etc., is not far removed from anti-Semitism. And we all know how that has turned out historically.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The Andy Warhol Diaries

For the most part, the well-known facts about Andy Warhol's life are covered in the first hour of Ryan Murphy's six-part Netflix documentary The Andy Warhol Diaries. When he was younger, he drew portraits of his classmates in an attempt to stop them from bullying him; he also had a fondness for Campbell's tomato soup; and he left Pittsburgh in 1949, when he was just 20 years old. After making the switch from graphic design to fine art, he opened The Factory in Union Square, where he exhibited his first soup cans in 1962 and went on to become a pop star by 1968.

Warhol's inner life is the subject of director Andrew Rossi, who focuses mostly on the artist's complicated connection with his homosexuality. Using a mix of archival and newly shot material, the documentary tells the story of Warhol's intense feelings for three key characters: interior designer Jed Johnson, Paramount Pictures vice president Jon Gould, and artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. By all accounts, Warhol's attraction to Basquiat was parental, sexual, and opportunistic. The primary tone is one of intense loneliness, as a voice like Warhol's reads sections from his journal, a blend of actor Bill Irwin and a somewhat robotic drone of artificial intelligence.

After leaving Pittsburgh's oppressive homophobia, he moved to New York City, where other gay artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns radiated a machismo he could not begin to conjure.

Then Rossi turns to Warhol’s relentless cultivation of his own persona. Meticulous yet glamorous—his trademark silver wigs are shown off by Jessica Beck of the Warhol Museum—the artist built a perfectly constructed persona, one that he often used as a defense mechanism. “The way he presented himself was as asexual,” says Fab Five Freddy. “You would hear rumors, but he publicly kept that aspect of his life out of the picture.” In the film, he describes the various young, beautiful, or powerful people whom Warhol regularly surrounded himself with: Keith Haring, Andy Kaufman, Basquiat, and Jon Gould (the subject of his last film). Warhol often hid behind these figures in an attempt to mask his persistent fears of ageing and irrelevance.

Warhol's diaries, do not remind me of a medieval saints, nor even of a kept mistress, but of the secret lovesick grumblings of servant-boy, frustrated in an attic turret. One therefore assumes that Warhol's diary is less than a masterpiece of the genre. But this is not the impression conveyed by Mr. Rossi's film, which insinuates itself into the territory of Proust and Henry James with its wet and spongy footsteps. "I wouldn't be surprised if they started putting gays in concentration camps," Warhol writes. It is only what you would expect from such a louche observer, such a tone-deaf man of fashion—those sneakers, those sunglasses!—and such an aesthete, who still, despite his fame and fortune, thought himself a member of some oppressed minority. Much of the language of Warhol's time is problematic today, including his references to Basquiat as "the big black painter" or Aids as "gay cancer." You can blame yourself if you remain in doubt about this film's intentions. Strictly speaking, it has none. It is not trying to understand Warhol or his work, or to interpret either in any way. It is a bath that has been prepared for you; into it you must sink for as long as the water remains warm.