86 Days in Front of a Television? Don’t Blame Us, Our Films Are Short.

The Census Bureau reports today that Americans will spend 65 days in front of the TV in 2007. Those are 24-hr days, mindyou. If you just counted one’s waking hours, it’d be more like 86 days. 41 more days (by their count) will be spent listening to the radio, a week on the Internet, and a week reading newspapers.

This is all in the latest copy of Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007. Today’s press release is titled, “Nearly Half of our Lives Spent with TV, Radio, Internet, Newspapers, According to Census Bureau Publication,” which we think is hilarious; they could have used the title for statistics on rampant poverty or teen pregnancy in the U.S., but perhaps they know better. A title like that never would have been covered by the press, since the media knows that Americans are aware of poverty and just don’t seem to care. Instead, the title is making headlines—we heard the story on the radio, . . . part of our 41 days(?). Then we looked it up on the Internets.

Perhaps we’re feeling a little guilty around the office, upon hearing this news. It could be argued that the Journal is keeping people in front of televisions, too. Life is too over-mediated and unexperienced, as it is. A population of anti-social, sheep-like media consumers can’t be good for a nation, especially when that media is all centrally beamed to you by a handful of corporations. You could argue that a homogenized and nationalized culture—everyone watching the same shows, etc.—should lead to more social and/or national unity, but how can that happen when this “culture” is simply advertising and escapism. This kind of culture is not engaging—over the dinner table, the water cooler, wherever—it is disengaging. The only engagement this culture wants is between you and its brands; e.g., on The Amazing Race(tm): “Log onto CBS dot com backslash Excedrin to vote for your favorite Power Through And Go(tm) Moment. The Pain Stops, You Don’t(tm).” Okay, well, to sum up: it seems like this “culture” and these media habits lead to disconnected, alienated, indifferent people. They lead to violent or sad individual action (Columbine, anyone?, anti-depressants, anyone?) and widespread public inaction (Iraq War, anyone?).

We blame suburbanization, too. Oh, and a government that encourages self-interest. Oh, and a political system that thrives on a lack of participation. Oh, and corrupt religious movements that promote selfishness. Oh, and an unequal public education system that keeps people ignorant and economically segregated.

Wait, this was supposed to be an act of self-justification. Here it is: we hope the JSF is an independent, non-commercial, thoughtful alternative. It’d be nice if quality could trump quantity for a change and you could leave the TV off most of the time.

Whew, I guess we can blame everyone but ourselves. Have a good weekend!

Screening: Neil Needleman, NYC-area, 12/16-1/28/07, + Talk by Marcy Freedman, 1/13

If you find yourself in the northern burbs of NYC, stop by The Studio in Armonk for Neil’s Stamford Storefront Loop. His piece is a “slowly evolving meditation on an urban scene reflected in a store window over the blank expressions of several mannequins.”
Here are the details:
Winter Solstice V: Expressions of Our Time and Place (a group show including Stamford Storefront Loop)
The Studio: An Alternative Space for Contemporary Art
2 Maryland Ave., Armonk, NY 10504
December 16, 2006 through January 28, 2007, Open Saturdays and Sundays, 1:00 p.m. 5 p.m.
Gallery talk:
January 13 at 2:00 p.m., Artist & art historian Marcy Freedman on “Freedom of Expression”
Registration required; $5 fee
For more information:

Popmatters Features the Journal

Popmatters has posted an article on the Journal. It is written by Shaun Huston, who has previously contributed good pieces on digital video (HERE) and V for Vendetta (HERE). Included in the JSF article is an interview with the publisher wherein he (the publisher) bloviates on subjects ranging from literature to legalities.

In case you haven’t visited The Reeler, lately, drop by to read their latest and to behold the comely JSF web ad.

More on Short Film Contests

With increasing frequency we are finding short film contests floating around the Internet. It’s hard to know right now if this is good for short film or not. It often sounds like a cheap bid for content, as in Yahoo!’s case. But any excuse to create something and any opportunity to share it seem like a blessing, especially when considering what the landscape looked like a few years ago. We will continue to highlight a contest every now and then, but/and it will usually be associated with some worthy cause, like Current TV or a musician we like.

Today’s contest is mentioned mostly because we couldn’t resist the name of Rafter Roberts’ new CD, for which he and Asthmatic Kitty Records are hosting a video competition. The upcoming CD is called Music for Total Chickens, and filmmakers are invited to submit videos for one of 4 pre-released tracks. Here is their announcement:

Contestants will be offered four mp3s to choose from off of Rafter’s upcoming release, Music for Total Chickens. These mp3s will be posted on various blogs and the Asthmatic Kitty website, contestants will choose one of these mp3s to make a video. Contestants will create and upload their videos to the Rafter Contest Group on YouTube. They will have two months to create and post the video. The contest will run to January 23 and the winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2007. No submissions will be taken after January 23, 2007. Two $500 cash prizes will be given.
THE QUALITY PRIZE: The first prize will go to the video selected by a panel of “celebrity” judges.
THE QUANTITY PRIZE: The second prize will go to whichever video is the most viewed according to YouTube’s statistics.

Sounds good to us. Again, I’ll reiterate the office’s philosophy that short film deserves more permanent distribution than streaming media and better screenings than on laptop and vPod screens. Short film deserves nothing less than theatrical releases and permanent archiving. But, hey, in the meantime, we’re cool with this. If a filmmaker were crafty and talented enough, she could win several contests a year and support herself, all the while creating her ass off and honing her craft.