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October 5

I've been thinking about voyeurism a lot since reading this script. Supposing Sonia had a video camera and taped everything that she saw? Would a jaded American public simply sit in their comatose way and glaze over Steven and Irina's troubles, thinking 'oh, they know they're in front of a camera so they're just acting'? Or will we be at a point soon where we can show real events without the crutch of consent by the victims? That's reality television, hey. True voyeurism.

Naturally they would have to assume what they were seeing was real, unknowing they were part of a film production. But I wonder if that would matter. Just how would an audience react if they saw bits and pieces of an event that led to dealings with the Russian mafia? I keep thinking maybe of a mini series-like show where people are glued to the TV set every week to see the latest installment. But how long before the people being taped see that they're being taped? Geez. Guess that cancels the idea out, huh?

Maybe, though, I'm just completely out of whack here. Maybe most people really believe that the people on reality TV are completely unaware that there's a camera taping them and are acting normal. After all, the villains on soap operas actually get letters from real-life people saying what creeps they are. SOAP OPERAS, for rice cake!

Well, I don't want this to sound like a rant from some conservative columnist. As far as the subject of reality TV is concerned, I'm sure they've all beaten the 'what-the-hell-is-the-world-coming-to' thing to death. Still, something about an idealistic American actor getting in hot water with the Russian Mafia seems like it would make a now-terribly jaded audience sit up and look around. Am I safe? Did I really tell that foreigner with the weird accent at the store the other day to kiss off? Whose controlling my bank accounts?.

Reality TV could be a good thing, some day. Nothing like an education to keep you alive and well.

September 18

John here, dissecting more of the script to "Notes from the New World." Irina, the Russian call girl, quotes a line from some writer who said there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who understand, and those who don't understand. This reminded me of a quote from that poet/punk rocker Henry Rollins, who said the two types of people in the world consist of those who get Devo, and those who don't (Devo, for those of you who are, like me, uncool, was a syn-techno-punk-new-wave--or whatever you want to call them--rock band from the late seventies). I didn't get them, but hey, I was only fourteen. I grew up on Neil Diamond, okay? But I digress.

The character of Steven obviously is someone, who, I think, doesn't understand. The world, I mean. He shows Irina these videos of 9/11 and other horrible terrorist acts with his usual mixed emotions of horror and fascination. But it's obvious that he doesn't understand them. It's one thing to see someone playing sports when you yourself have no interest in sports and say, well that's just his own personal taste. But it's quite another thing to see what someone is doing and be completely mystified as to why they're doing it. Steven is confused. Not by what they are doing, but how they could be doing it; i.e. their total lack of conscience. All Steven wants to do is produce something, and maybe better the world somehow. The others, though, think nothing of manipulating others--even killing them--for something as simple as money.

All this mixes well, if not somewhat oddly, to the story. Manipulation is the name of the game, and Steven, like a lot of people in the world, has to understand: LEARN.
Maybe I should pay more attention to this concept.

Except, darn it, I just don't understand Howard Stern.

August 25

Hello, John here again. Did some research on call girls. The going rate is anywhere from two hundred and fifty to FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS AN HOUR! OUCH! No wonder I always see them wearing the nicest clothes in all those movies. Bill freakin' GATES doesn't make that much an hour! Well, maybe he does. But anyway, whew. Guess I better work on my charm.

I wonder where the character of Steven got that kind of money to see Irina. He's really not the type to risk what would probably amount to his life savings just to get a pretty Russian girl over to his place and read some lines from a play. But maybe I'm just being nit picky over a pretty good script. To wit: As I said in the last blog, the Russian call girl, Irina, is desperately trying to find the package she left with Steven. Irina—who is only being kept alive so she can make money doing the call girl job--is being hounded by this sleazeball guy named Misha, her "Boss." He wants this money bad. So now Irina is cozying up to both Steven and Sonia, saying that if they tell her where the package is they can all split the money.

This all sounds like a good thriller, but I keep wondering about Steven. He's not a wimp, but he's very much, at least to me, like the character he's trying emulate in the Dostoyevsky book "Notes from the Underground," which this script is based on. This man basically just expounds on his fears and insecurities, and how he's both proud and disgusted by them. He wants to fight back against all the little injustices thrown at him, but he's afraid. But he's not sure if being afraid is good or bad. Should he slap someone back if they slap him? Or would that bring him down to a level he's too frightened to even think about? Think about this excerpt from the play. It's Steven, just after he's witnessed the "accidental" murder of Irina's manager:

I’m a zero… I’m a betrayer
of society… I didn’t report
THE MURDER!!! I’m a coward.
And I don’t have friends…
I don’t have somebody to
love… I’m a piece of shit!
But more than that, this
world is a piece of shit…

See? He hates the world, but he hates himself too. Does he hate his hypocrisy, or is he not even aware of it? This is such a fascinating character to be in this kind of thriller. Most thrillers have guys who were once one-man killing machines but have since turned "good," or "don't remember" ala "The Bourne Identity". But this one has a more Alfred Hitchcock-like character of an ordinary man (somewhat) being thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Only better. Our hero is totally--almost neurotically--INSECURE. This ought to be good.

August 3

Hey, John here, checking out the story to "Notes from the New World." This sounds like a pretty fun picture to work on. This actor named Steven with an obsession for the Russian writer Dostoyevsky invites a Russian call girl to his home, then has her dress up like an English maid. He then wants her to act out scenes from a play. And all through this a cute Spanish girl is watching them through Steve's window! Kinky. Love true voyeurism.  But as the hour goes by (uh, do call girls really only stay for an hour?) and the girl keeps glancing at her watch, Steve doesn't DO anything. Even when she snuggles up to him. He keeps wanting her to act out scenes from the play, asking her how much Russian literature she knows, where she lives in Russia, even shows her video tapes of terrorism (Now I'm really getting interested)--including scenes from 9/11! It's like he's trying to educate her, or save her or something. When I thought that, my interest dimmed a little. I've seen too many flicks about The-Hooker-With-a-Heart-of-Gold-Falling-for-Mr. Geek-Because-There's-Something-Oh-So-Fascinating-About-Him. But then it really gets interesting.

Irina (that's the call girl's name) goes into Steve's bathroom, hides a package in his closet, then leaves. The Spanish girl comes in to his apartment after he's gone to sleep, touches his face, or something, and then...leaves. The Russian call girl comes back the next day with her "manager" and a couple of black eyes. She goes to the bathroom closet, discovers the package gone and freaks out (Did the Spanish girl take it? We don't know).
Going to give you more on what happens soon, but I was wondering. If call girls only stay for an hour, how much do they charge?