Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Friday, November 26, 2004
A Friendly Reminder



Yeah, I know it's an empty, symbolic gesture that makes no significant difference in the real world... but symbols are still worth something.

PS: Anyway, I don't recommend this so much because it "makes a difference" (let's be honest, it doesn't), but because I think it's a good idea to take a conscious day off from fevered consumer excess. It's good to have a day to notice all the stuff you'd normally be buying, and to think about what you really need and what you don't.
3:28 AM ::
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Thursday, November 25, 2004
Thanksgiving, Part II

Ugh... that was just too much food. My contribution to the meal was Struan rolls, practically vegan (apart from the honey), secretly made with soy milk just 'cause I like to quietly challenge their dietary assumptions now and then. The family practically inhaled them; I came home with nothing left over and requests to bring more at Christmas. The great thing about baking bread is, no matter how it turns out, it'll always be a hit.

Anyway, I had forgotten about this bit of rabid cultural introspection until Mat reminded me:

A Thanksgiving Prayer
by William S. Burrough

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shit out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen,
feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for
Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where
nobody's allowed to mind the
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories-- all right let's see
your arms!

You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.



7:32 PM ::
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Thanksgiving

I've always had mixed feelings about this one. Let's be honest, this holiday doesn't have so much to do with feast or famine, or pilgrims and indians so much as it's a monumental ode to American consumption. So it's not exactly the most enlightened of national festivals. On the other hand, I rarely get sweet potato casserole otherwise, and certainly don't have any other excuses for making the elaborate dishes I get to make when ten or twelve other people are there to share them with me, so it's not without its good points. And the experience of dozing in a warm room after an enormous meal is one of life's true creature comforts.

But this is also a holiday that's notorious for going drastically and dramatically wrong. This is a dangerous holiday.

For example, there was the Thanksgiving we spent at my grandmother's powerless house (there was a bad storm that day), heating up each bite of over-salted mashed potatoes over candle flames, while making studiously polite conversation with my aunt's prison-bound child-molester boyfriend (seriously) while my nearly-vegetative grandfather, who -- thanks to five or six strokes by that time -- had not eaten solid food in several years, leaving him to drool and stare at us while we ate. That was fun.

And then there was the Thanksgiving in London when Rebecca and I decided to host dinner for all the American students at our film school (along with anyone else who wanted to come). We asked for five quid a head to help cover the expenses; I did the shopping -- including going to Selfridge's for a turkey and hideously overpriced cans of Libby's pureed pumpkin -- and the cooking for twenty people. Big pans of vegetables and sweet potatoes and stuffing/dressing (pick your word), several cans of honest-to-god Ocean Spray cranberry sauce (complete with can-interior ridges), three pumpkin pies, and a sagey, buttery turkey. Rebecca made the gravy. My then-boyfriend came along, and the whole time he was there he wouldn't stop exclaiming his endless love for Reb's gravy, while my (damn good) cooking went utterly unnoticed. I was already aware that he fancied her, but he didn't have to be so fucking obvious about it. And to top it off, I was nursing a middling case of strep throat on Thanksgiving day, and when it finally came time to eat (after seven hours of cooking), I found it too painful to choke down more than a little. By the time I was well again, all the leftovers had either been consumed by others or had spoiled. All that work and I didn't even get any... and to top it off, only three people ever made the asked-for donation, so it cost me and Rebecca rather more dearly than either of us could afford.

These days I have Thanksgiving with my stepfather's family, which is nice and all, but does sometimes underline the lack of any real family of my own. On the other hand, nobody fights (a tradition in many families), and I'm not under any familial obligation to hang around after the meal while the old men watch football and talk about lawn mowers. (Conversation around here always leads to yard care sooner or later.)

I dunno... I never know whether to make the attempt to let this holiday pass me by along with most others (who needs it?), or to indulge myself in missing it in an over-romanticized way. I do know, however, that if it were up to me, we'd always have goose on Thanksgiving. Fuck the turkey.

Oh, and don't forget, Friday is International Buy-Nothing Day. Seems kinda silly that the whole world should have to commemorate the orgy of consumer excess that is the American Day-After-Thanksgiving Sale... but then again, I guess that makes perfect sense.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Smithers' Birthday!

This post is dedicated entirely to the digital celebration of the 36th birthday of the guy who is known around here as Smithers. By my calendar here in Memphis, of course, his birthday isn't til tomorrow, but in Australia (where he is) it already is tomorrow, so birthday wishes are in order. (It's striking how much I'm having to think in antipodean time lately... not that I'm complaining.)

So happy birthday to my sweet, brilliant, beautiful darling buddy-boy Smithers, whom I feel genuinely honored to count among my closest friends. He's one of my all-time favorite people ever.

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Monday, November 22, 2004
Something To Think About














PS: This is a Clear Channel-sponsored "public service" billboard that's been popping up in Florida since the election.
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A Couple Of Random Items

So, after the election, we'd all be forgiven for thinking that America is split 50/50. Hell, even I had assumed so, but it turns out that assumption is wrong. We're actually split into rough thirds: a sane third, an insane third, and a third that can't quite decide between the other two, and ends up splitting about evenly (but slightly favoring insanity.)

See?
Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say. Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.

(source)

So if anybody's still wondering why America is so fucked... there's your answer. Only a third of us have definitely evolved.

Also, if you read regularly you'll probably recall the relatively lengthy conversation that took place here last week about the shooting of a wounded insurgent in a mosque. The footage of that event was taken, as we all probably now know, by a pool reporter named Kevin Sites. Turns out, Sites has a blog, and in his most recent post he attempts to explain the event as he saw it. It's worth reading.
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Arrrrrgh, Mateys!

I need a pro-Bush fiscal conservative to explain this to me.

How is it that, while we're axing federal student loans and environmental work on the one hand, we're able to afford $2 million so that Dubya can have a yacht?


Dubya's New Toy

WASHINGTON - Republicans whisked a $388 billion spending bill through the House on Saturday, a mammoth measure that underscores the dominance of deficit politics by curbing dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups.

(...)

Also enacted during the postelection session was an $800 billion increase in the government's borrowing limit. The measure was yet another testament to record annual deficits, which reached $413 billion last year and are expected to climb indefinitely.

(...)

[The bill included] a potential boon for Bush himself, $2 million for the government to try buying back the presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, though its current owners say the yacht is not for sale.

(source)

Can you make this make sense to me?


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Sunday, November 21, 2004
Okay, Enough About George W. Bush

Well, hey, nobody can be angry all the time (this blog takes the lion's share of my anger, I'm actually very peaceable and mellow in person), and this is theoretically still my personal blog, on which I can write about whatever I'm into at any given time.

And right now, the thing I'm into is cinematography. Specifically, how po' little me can produce something resembling decent cinematography when I have so little cash to work with. As it happens, the happy sum of cash I got from working the festival is just about right to cover the expense of building a basic light and camera kit while still leaving some for production-related expenses. And I'm having a really good time doing it.

I've worked out a system that will get me 1500W of light (plenty for DV) for roughly $300 -- compared to $1200 and up (waaaaay up) for a comparable professional light system. Okay, so I don't end up with a trunk full of barndoors and scrims and stuff, but the joy of low-budget indie DV is that we can come up with creative solutions. I can spend $50 on one of those groovy Lastolite collapsable reflectors, or I can go to the auto parts store and get a collapsable reflective windshield shade -- exactly the same thing, for all useful purposes -- for $10. Get some halogen work lights from the hardware store, a paper lantern-style lamp, and a few of those $5 scoop utility lights, and voilá: key, fill, and backlight. Throw in some gels (they make these really nice multipacks of 12" gels and diffusion now), blackfoil, dulling spray, a couple of gaffer clamps and $50 or $60 for a good used light stand, and there's nothing you can do with the $1200 kit that you can't do with the $300 kit. You might have to fiddle with it all a little more, but working around limitations is the name of the game. Limitations are your friend.

And I'm building a camera stabilizer. When it's done it'll be functionally identical to a Glidecam 4000 PRO, but it'll cost me about $85 compared to $400.

This is what the independent (read: real independent) film revolution is about: finding ways of doing things you theoretically can't do, sharing that knowledge with each other, and making the films we all want to make without having to go through the bullshit inherent to the film industry. One of the things that drew me to film in the first place was that it was a field in which I would be able to develop all aspects of my intelligence -- the range of skills necessary to make films on this level is staggering, but none of it is beyond reach. "Jack of all trades, master of none" isn't an insult in this medium, it's a blessing... knowing enough to do what you want to do (or learning those skills you don't have), but without becoming so up yourself that you forget that others can make valuable contributions is a state to which we aspire. It's not easy, it's not glamorous, it'll (probably) never make you rich, but it keeps my mind active and it keeps me aware of the world in which I move, constantly looking for new concepts and influences. It's a life's worth of good work.

There's also something that I want other people's opinions on. It seems to me that there's an interesting atmosphere brewing in the United States right now... my people, at least, are all hanging around, watching the way our country and the world is going, and we know that in all likelihood, things are going to be getting a lot worse. The bad days haven't ended, the tension hasn't abated, we're still full of anger and resentment. But at the same time... I mean, is it just me, or is there a feeling of giddy nihilism developing lately? A general tone of, "fuck this, fuck George W. Bush, fuck the world, if we're going down we're going to have a good time doing it"? Am I the only one feeling that? People have been amazingly chipper lately, talking about their lives with that sweet dark irony that my generation has claimed for its own. We don't know how we're going to get through whatever's coming, but we're pretty sure that we'll have some fun before it's all over.

Anybody else sensing that?
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