Steven Soderbergh


I look at Hurricane Katrina, and I think if four days before landfall you gave a movie studio autonomy and a 100th of the billions the government spent on that disaster, and told them, “Lock this place down and get everyone taken care of,” we wouldn’t be using that disaster as an example of whatnot to do. A big movie involves clothing, feeding, and moving thousands of people around the world on a tight schedule. Problems are solved creatively and efficiently within a budget, or your ass is out of work. So when I look at what’s going on in the government, the gridlock, I think, Wow, that’s a really inefficient way to run a railroad. The government can’t solve problems because the two parties are so wedded to their opposing ideas that they can’t move. The very idea that someone from Congress can’t take something from the other side because they’ll be punished by their own party? That’s stupid. If I were running for office, I would be poaching ideas from everywhere. That’s how art works. You steal from everything. I must remember to tweet that I’m in fact not running for office.

(I can’t agree that the entertainment biz is a model of efficiency)

On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, “What are the stories you want people to tell about you?” Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then–Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] Out of Sight after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts. That’s a long way of saying, “If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that’s a big plus.”

I was watching one of those iconoclast shows on the Sundance Channel. Jamie Oliver said Paul Smith had told him something he hadn’t understood until very recently: “I’d rather be No. 2 forever than No. 1 for a while.” Just make stuff and don’t agonize over it. Stop worrying about being No. 1. I see a lot of people getting paralyzed by the response to their work, the imagined result. It’s like playing a Jedi mind trick on yourself, and Smith is right. That’s the way I’ve always approached films, the way I approach everything. Just make ’em.


“[Robert] Kennedy did not just play furiously.  He was furious,” spoiling, off the field as well as on, for a fight – often for senseless fights.  One took place in a Cambridge bar where Bobby, celebrating his birthday with a group of friends, including the football captain, Ken O’Donnell, was picking up everyone’s bar tab.  Another Harvard student, John Magnuson, happened to be already celebrating his birthday there, and his friends began singing “Happy Birthday” to him.  Infuriated over what he apparently regarded as an intrusion into his celebration, Bob walked up behind Magnuson and hit him over the head with a beer bottle, sending him to the hospital for stitches.

– from Robert Caro, The Years Of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power


Cinderella and Interrogation Technique

This is one of five mosaics depicting the story of Cinderella, which can be found inside Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World.

These mosaics were supervised by one of the world’s great mosaicists, Hanns Scharff.

Before moving the US and becoming a mosaicist, Hanns Scharff was considered the best interrogator in the German Luftwaffe.

Scharff was opposed to physically abusing prisoners to obtain information. Learning on the job, Scharff instead relied upon the Luftwaffe’s approved list of techniques, which mostly involved making the interrogator seem as if he is his prisoner’s greatest advocate while in captivity.

Scharff described various experiences with new POWs, outlining the procedure most of his fellow interrogators were instructed to use. Initially, the POW’s fear and sense of disorientation, combined with isolation while not in interrogation, were exploited to gain as much initial biographical information as possible. A prisoner was frequently warned that unless he could produce information beyond name, rank, and serial number, such as the name of his unit and airbase, the Luftwaffe would have no choice but to assume he was a spy and turn him over to theGestapo for questioning…

After a prisoner’s fear had been allayed, Scharff continued to act as a good friend, including sharing jokes, homemade food items, and occasionally alcoholic beverages. Scharff was fluent in English and knowledgeable about British customs and some American ones, which helped him to gain the trust and friendship of many of his prisoners. Some high profile prisoners were treated to outings to German airfields (one POW was even allowed to take a German aircraft for a trial run), tea with German fighter aces, swimming pool excursions, and luncheons, among other things.

Scharff was best known for taking his prisoners on strolls through the nearby woods, first having them swear an oath of honor that they would not attempt to escape during their walk. Scharff chose not to use these nature walks as a time to directly ask his prisoners obvious military-related questions, but instead relied on the POWs’ desire to speak to anyone outside of isolated captivity about informal, generalized topics.

Scharff began by asking a prisoner a question he already knew the answer to, informing the prisoner that he already knew everything about him, but his superiors had given instruction that the prisoner himself had to say it. Scharff continued asking questions that he would then provide the answers for, each time hoping to convince his captive that there was nothing he did not already know. When Scharff eventually got to the piece of information he did not have, prisoners would frequently give the answer, assuming Scharff already had it in his files anyway, often saying so as they provided the information. Scharff made a point of keeping the Luftwaffe’s lack of knowledge a strict secret so as to exploit the same tactic further in later conversations.

In 1948 Scharff lectured at the Pentagon on interrogation techniques.

The Crabfish

The Crabfish is a ribaldhumorousfolk song of the Englishoral tradition. It dates back to the seventeenth century, appearing in Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript as a song named “The Sea Crabb” based on an earlier tale.

Lyrics, dating to 1620 apparently, are found here:

“Fisherman, fisherman, standing by the sea,
Have you a crabfish that you can sell to me?”
By the wayside i-diddle-dee-di-doh.

“Yes sir, yes sir, that indeed I do.
I’ve got a crabfish that I can sell to you.”
By the wayside etc.

Well, I took him on home and I thought he’d like a swim,
So I filled up the thunderjug and I threw the bastard in.

Late that night I thought I’d have a fit
When my old lady got up to take a shit.

“Husband, husband,” she cried out to me,
“The devil’s in the thunderjug and he’s got hold of me!”

“Children, children, bring the looking glass.
Come and see the crabfish that bit your mother’s ass.”

“Children, children, did you hear the grunt?
Come and see the crabfish that bit your mother’s cunt.”

That’s the end of my song and I don’t give a fuck.
There’s a lemon up my asshole and you can have a suck.

The ’70s

Do not miss these rad photos from the 1970s, from an EPA project to document “America’s Environmental Problems and Achievements,” found at the consistently terrific Big Picture.