Friday, September 30, 2005
Stanley Would Be So Proud

I don't normally indulge in this sort of thing, but this is completely brilliant.

PS: Unrelated, but Chess Club needs a van. If you want to help -- and you do, trust me on this -- go and give 'em a buck. They're worth every penny.
11:43 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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On The Subjectivity of Shitty Music

My next-door neighbor has appalling taste in music.

Now, look, I'm not one to make blanket statements like that, especially where matters of taste are concerned. Personally, I think music nazis are a scourge on humanity -- and yeah, I say that having been the victim of several. One guy in particular used to play a taunting game in the car when listening to the radio. We'd be driving along, and some song that everybody on earth knows would come on, and he'd start in with the quizzing:

"Who is this? Do you know who did this song?"

"Nope."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"You're sure you don't know?"

"I'm completely certain."

"Come on, everybody knows this song... do you know who it is?"

"No, fuck off."

"You really don't know whoooo played this?"

"If you don't stop, I'm dumping your ass right here on Ventura."

"Just think hard... whoooooooooooo is it?"

Which is about when I'd break off the turn-signal lever and jam it into his eyehole. No, not really -- that's when he'd start laughing at me and announce self-assuredly that it was (to grasp an example out of the air, not that this particular song was in any way involved in an especially traumatic round of taunting) "Who Are You" by... well, yes.

Repeat this little routine for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music, Pete Seeger, Journey (yes, Journey), Blue Oyster Cult, etc. etc., ad fucking nauseam every goddamn day the entire time we were in Los Angeles, and you might begin to understand why I dislike the social pressure of popular music appreciation. It wasn't that I didn't know the songs, I just never bothered filling the "by" field in the database inside my head, and that's doubly true of just about anything from the 70s. Apart from the truly ubiquitous names (rhymes with Smeatles), my rock awareness pretty much begins in 1978 in New York and San Francisco. And even then it's patchy at best.

Wait... where the hell was I going with this? Oh, right, the neighbor.

Anyway, as I was saying, I'm not big on holding other people to my personal taste in music, although I happen to think my taste is reasonably good, if still mostly untutored. But this crap that's coming through my wall is just obnoxiously bad. For the last two mornings I have awoken to some godawful Windham Hill - Enya hybrid kind of thing, all floaty, sustained chords and flutes and ethereal vocals. One track this morning was uptempo rock played on a harp -- and I'm here to tell you, there's a damn good reason why harps are not normally associated with rock and roll.

The point is, there are some things I think we can generally agree are objectively bad: Michael Bolton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart. (Maybe that last one is just me, but I hate him with a passion I can barely contain, and I think you should, too.) And I feel confident in saying that the stuff my neighbor has been playing in the mornings -- whatever the fuck it is -- unequivocally qualifies for the list. I don't know how this kid can bear to listen to it, especially first thing in the morning.

As for my own bad taste in music, I'm currently enthralled with this guy. I'm a little ashamed of that -- not because he's not good (I think he's great) but because I strongly suspect that it's the cultural displacement that I'm really responding to; I dig the unexpectedness of it. And yeah, he's singing about god and stuff, but not in a shitty, derivative "Christian rock" way, more in an early-U2 kind of way. (I don't know why, but genuinely good popular songs about god make me feel pleasurably self-conscious, a lot like I did when I was seven, playing at Sarah Wright's house, doing dirty things with her Barbies... I didn't really understand why it made me feel funny, but I knew I liked it; and I liked it even more for knowing I wasn't supposed to.) I don't even like reggae very much, but this guy rocks my face off.

Also -- just by way of bending this post back around on itself -- I'm also currently very enthusiastic about Four Tet and especially this song -- which is funny, y'see, because it makes prominent use a harp. Which I guess makes me something like a hypocrite.
10:28 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Thursday, September 29, 2005
Purgatory

Having just passed my 24th hour of deep editing, I feel like my eyeballs are about to dissolve and drain out of my skull. The first three hours are easy and pass by unnoticed; in the fourth hour, my precision begins to flag; in the fifth hour my mind starts to go fuzzy; by the sixth hour I have to stare at the real world for a good ten seconds before my depth perception clicks back into place. Editing is the part of the process I'm most ambivalent about -- when you're really in it, it's incredibly satisfying, but as soon as you step away, you start to wonder why anyone would subject themselves to it willingly.

Still, I think it's going well enough. Some sequences that I was dreading have cut like butter; others that I thought would be simple are proving to be intractable. But most of the drek has been cleared away, most of the pieces are approximately in the right place, and apart from a couple of frustrating editing issues (and there are always a few), the rough edit is nearly complete. Once I find solutions to the remaining problems, editing will become mostly a matter of finding the right rhythm... I'll stop hacking at whole scenes and start slicing away frames in ones and twos.

The most difficult thing is remembering the images I originally had in my mind... I need them as a reference, but it's hard to see past the images on the screen. Ideally at this point I'd take a week off from editing and return to work when my mind is fresher, but that's not an option in this case. I may indulge in a day off this weekend if things stay on track -- or then again, I might just push through until it's done.

Update: The hell with it, I'm taking some time away. I went in this afternoon to embark on another six hours, piddled around for maybe an hour and a half, and then watched the project from the beginning and realized that, without realizing it, I'd finished the full rough cut a day and a half early. Some of those intractable problems yielded quite easily after a decent night's sleep, and while I've still got quite a bit of work ahead of me, it's only the subtle stuff; the major pieces are essentially in place. What I know for sure is that I can barely see the film at this point -- I see shots and sequences, but I can't see the film for love nor money. And I won't be able to start editing it to coherence until I can, so that means a little time off is needed.

So I'm taking the rest of today and tomorrow off from editing -- I've got plenty of other work to do in the meantime.
10:08 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Farewell to Bugman

Mwhahahahahaha! Got one!

A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on one count of criminal conspiracy, prompting the Sugar Land Republican to give up his leadership post in Congress.

"I have notified (House Speaker Dennis Hastert) that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County District Attorney today," DeLay said in a statement.

The charge, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years incarceration, stems from his role with his political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, a now-defunct organization that already had been indicted on charges of illegally using corporate money during the 2002 legislative elections.

(source)


Suck on it, you corrupt corporate whore. You've been balls-deep in democracy's ass long enough.

PS: Frist is next.
1:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Lost Shot

Tell me truly -- is this not a beautiful image?



I think it is, without much doubt, the most sigh-inducingly lovely frame out of all the thousands of frames I shot over the last couple of weeks of the summer. As soon as I saw it on playback -- hell, as soon as I saw it in my camera's viewfinder -- I knew it was the best image I was going to get on this film. Yep, definitely the highlight of the piece, no question about it.

And we all know what happens to your best shot, don't we boys and girls?

It's an old cutting-room adage that whatever bit of film you like best is, for one reason or another, never going to make it into the finished film. Your best work always gets the axe; it's one of the fundamental laws of filmmaking, maybe of art in general. In this case, it goes in the trim bin because it just doesn't match; the action of the shots it would be cut with is too different. And that's my fault -- this is why normally one person lights, another person shoots, and a third person directs. I can still cut the sequence -- I've got the coverage for that -- but it won't include this shot. Pity.

Oh well. Maybe I'll find a use for it somehow, in some unrelated sequence... or maybe it'll just go in the showreel/portfolio/scrapbook, a pleasing bit of work that never got to fulfill its promise. It happens.

Update: I was wrong! In my editing confusion (totally understandable if you know much about it) I got the nature of the shot above incorrect. This shot is going to end up in the film -- yay!
10:38 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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A Question For The Men

I want to preface this by saying that I adore men. All kinds of men -- all shapes, all sizes, all degrees of hairiness (although, as with all things, moderation is key), all colors, all callings and styles of masculinity. You guys are fantastic.

But I have a question for you.

Ready? Okay... here it is:

What the fuck?

Seriously. What... the... fuck? Explaination is required. And don't pull out that tired old "men are simple creature with simple minds" bad-Tim Allen-impression bullshit, 'cause I'm not buying it anymore. Simple creatures with simple minds could never have produced this or this. And none of that "Mars and Venus on the Killing Fields" stuff either (although admittedly women were the worse party on that score, even though it was a man who came up with it.) I'm ready to hear the real answer, and I promise I won't use it against you -- unless one of you deserves it, of course.

So, go ahead, tell me... I'll wait
11:48 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Sunday, September 25, 2005
Strays

Having lunch with Shaw a few days ago in celebration of his new job, he mentioned something that had come up before, but which hadn't quite penetrated my mind until now: Shaw described us -- by which he meant me and him and our circle of friends from old college days -- as a pack of strays. Many of us came from unconventional backgrounds, many of us had difficult or complicated home lives growing up, and most of us went on after leaving college to continue leading unusual and complex lives. A lot of us -- me included -- have very little close family; many of us are nomads and have shallow roots at best. We don't really belong to anyone, we don't really feel completely at home anywhere, and some of us are mangy and half-starved.

And it occurs to me that a lot of the other people I know -- not just the ones from Vermont, but people from London, people from Memphis, people from everywhere else -- have the same problem. The community I mostly run around in is made up of kids (and former kids) who are disconnected from their homes and families for various reasons -- sexual orientation and gender identification being a common one. But even some of the less-transient-seeming people I know still have that "stray" look on their faces... they aren't now, but they were once, and I guess it never completely goes away.

This isn't some "City of Lost Children" head-trip -- I expect everyone feels like a stray at some point in their lives. But I can't help but think that there are more and more people feeling that way for longer and longer periods of their lives. Is it an age-related thing? I look at the kids I'm currently surrounded by, and I don't see many signs of strayness in them -- they're little hippies, but they're mostly well-adjusted, well-scrubbed middle class kids from stable homes. Maybe it's just the company I keep? I have trouble relating to people from stable homes -- how do you explain to someone whose home has always been intact the little sneer of derision your inner teenager always gives them when they talk about their families? How do you make sense for them of the strange sense of superiority you feel for having survived the fights and the ugly incidents and the dysfunction and the terrified nights you spent growing up? Can you ever share with them the tiny flicker of resentment you have for their lack of toughness, which is always accompanied by a wistful kind of envy? Not that a broken home is the only way to establish your cred, but it's one of the more common ways; we all know it when we see it. (Or maybe it's just me who feels that way?)

Then last night I had a dream about a stray dog. She was medium-sized, rather delicately built (much like another dog from my past, who was often described as resembling a deer), black with some white bits on her chest and muzzle, shy and flinchy, with her ribs sticking out and a tag on the collar around her neck. The tag was enscribed with her name -- which I can't remember exactly, but it was something ludicrous like "Starshadow" (in my dream I actually looked at her and said, "Starshadow?! Yeugh!") -- and a phone number. Some unnamed person called the number for me, and reported back that the owners no longer wanted her -- they had turned her out.

So I took her in, promised to give her a good name once I knew her better, and took her to the pet store to pick out dog food.

It could mean anything.

I often dream of animals during periods of inner-tension, and dogs are the animals with which I most closely identify. I've been thinking a lot about whether it's time for me to try and establish a less tenuous lifestyle for myself -- I'm still not completely convinced, but the fact that I'm considering it as deeply as I have been obviously means it has some appeal. And part of that consideration -- call it a consolation prize for giving up my nomadic ideals for a while -- has been the idea that maybe finally I could get a dog, which I've wanted for years and years. Without question if I did that I'd be looking for a mongrel, a stray, some unwanted would-be pet that needed taking in -- just like in my dream.

But the point is, this is all connected -- I've never gotten a dog because I've always been too rootless to provide a happy home for one. The notion and act of taking in a stray is directly related to having a home myself... this isn't about one stray finding a home, but two. I'm not sure which figure in that dream is supposed to be me -- "me" or the dog, or both.

PS: The season is really starting to turn here now... the leaves are still mostly green, but they're getting lighter, and the first ones are starting to turn. Half the effect of the Vermont foliage season is that it isn't just the colors -- although that's fucking impressive to say the lease -- but the way in which the depths and patterns of the forest come into relief when the trees aren't all a uniform green. The weather was like London this afternoon -- it was overcast and cool, with a damp breeze blowing constantly. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the wind and tried to remember the view from Westminster Bridge. For a few seconds I was almost back.

I also got a startling email a few days ago... it was from "Debbie" and the subject line was my father's name. My technically-step-mother's name is Debbie -- or Deby or Debi or Deborah, depending on her mood and the phase of the moon -- and my instantaneous reaction was "oh fuck, not again." It was a false alarm, though... see, not only is my current technically-step-mother's name Debbie, my previous technically-step-mother -- the woman my father was briefly married to before his current not-exactly-a-marriage -- was also named Debbie. (I have some issues surrounding that name.) She and I had both received a peculiar form-email from my father not long after his recent coronary crisis, then not heard anything else. I, of course, could give a shit. She, however, was curious, and was asking the other half-dozen people on the address line if they'd heard anything since. I wrote back cursorily that I hadn't, but figured that if anything was amiss the other Debbie would've said something. She wrote back that she was pleased to hear from me, was curious about what I'd been doing, blah blah blah... I didn't respond. I was cool with her for a while -- I knew her in Anchorage, and went to the high school where she taught, and spent more of my time there with her than with my father (who dumped me off at her house, then picked me up just in time to lock me in his own house and piss off to the newspaper for the night.) But then I discovered that everything I'd ever said to her in conversation was dutifully reported to my father, and at least twice I got in trouble because she'd ratted me out. To this day I haven't forgotten how betrayed I felt... so she can get stuffed.
4:49 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
All The Little Shit

I don't know what's going on, but it seems like all week things just haven't been going right. Not big things, mind you -- on a larger scale, things are still fine -- just the endless little stuff. I try to go see the college nurse, but she's out for two days. I try to go up to the media lab to get myself a portable hard drive checked out, but the lady who runs it is out all week with the flu. I try to schedule some editing time, but nobody's updated the sign-up sheets in a week, so I can't. I try to get one of the IT guys to help me with the hard drive problem, but they're apparently out of their fishbowl for seven out of eight hours every day. I try to get a book for my academic work, but it ends up going to the wrong address; I try to correct the error, but the customer service system keeps throwing me error messages. I try to contact a person about it, and they refer me back to the dysfunctional system. And so on and so on, for days now.

Each of these things in itself is merely annoying, no big thing, nothing to get upset over. But as they accumulate, the temptation to lose one's shit grows and grows. Someone told me once that when lots of little things start going wrong, it's because something wonderful is trying to be born into your life -- the nuisances serve as a distraction to keep you from sabotaging your own good fortune. That would be nice if it turns out to be true.

And now I've got hippies singing Simon and Garfunkel songs under my window. Not to me -- this is no serenade -- I'm not even sure who the hell they are, or if they're students here or not. They're just there. Singing. Badly. While I try to study.

On the other hand, people have been coming up to me all days, saying "happy birthday!" This is weird, because it's not my birthday -- I've still got a good month and a half left in my 20s, and I don't want to be rushed through it. Not that it's objectionable to have people wish me a happy birthday, regardless of whether it is or isn't actually my birthday, it's just strange. Especially considering that for the most part I've never talked to these people, and I've never told anyone what my birthday is -- from my perspective, this phenomenon is completely spontaneous. I can only assume that they've got me confused with someone else.

And the turkeys were back yesterday, all ten of them, pecking in the grass right under my window. There's a big stand of yew or juniper or something like that right next to my window, so it's popular with birds, which I like a lot.

I've had a couple of really long blog posts simmering in my mind, but I'm trying to hold them back in the hope that they're more a symptom of my repressed need to communicate -- and therefore, if I keep it bottled up and let the pressure build a bit more, I can focus it all into academic writing, which would be vastly more beneficial to me than posting on this blog. Not that y'all aren't important to me -- you are -- but I don't get any credit for you.

Speaking of which... I've got work to do.
6:25 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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The Power of Chang

When I first read about this on another blog, I thought it was a joke. Jeb Bush says:

Last week, after "more than an hour of solemn ceremony" swearing in Rep. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as House speaker, Gov. Jeb Bush stepped to the podium to tell "a short story about 'unleashing Chang,' his 'mystical warrior' friend."

(...)

"Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.

"I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down."

Bush then unsheathed a golden sword and gave it to Rubio as a gift.

"I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior," he said, as the crowd roared.

(source

See, I figured someone was trying to demonstrate the absurdity of "conservative Christian values": if you replace the words "mystical warrior Chang" with "our Lord and Savior Jesus," it sounds exactly like something one of these fundie assholes would say. But then I followed the links, and no, he really did say "Chang".

Seriously, what the fuck?

PS Apparently it's some kind of "rhetorical" device. Sure, okay, uh-huh.

That whole family is fucking insane. Ever see The Ruling Class?
9:01 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Good News From Memphis

They shut those fuckers down. I couldn't help but notice that in spite of some searching, I couldn't find this item anywhere in the big Memphis paper -- I do hope that's just an oversight on my part.

Oh, and John Smid is a fraud.

Also, good news from Brattleboro: my college friend (both times) Shaw finally got a new reporting gig. Yay on Shaw! Of course, he's still going to make himself sick with worry in the mean time... but still, he's a testament to the fact that not all graduates from our college are doomed to work at Wal-Mart forever.
8:20 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Monday, September 19, 2005
Cap'n Kate Be Comin' Aboard

It completely slipped me mind! (Bloody privateers!) Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day... I wouldn't want t' forget one o' the 'net's major holidays. (Blimey!) I rarely be one for divin' into the big memes, but it's a wee bit like karma -- if ye want all the people t' come flockin' t' ye, a lot o' the time ye have t' be one o' the flockers in return.

So for the rest o' the day, ye can avast referrin' t' me as Sister Novena, 'n instead be callin' me by me pirate name: Cap'n Kate Knocknees. Arrrrr!

'N if ye want t' see the rest o' this blog done up in pirate-speak, ye can get it translated here. (Aaarrhhh, me parrot!) I'll be insistin' today that all comments be akin t' the langauge o' those what practice the sweet trade, 'n signed with good pirate names, else I'll be puttin' the black spot on ye! Don't be a lily-livered scurvy dog, get into it! It's fun! Arrrr!
10:24 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Sunday, September 18, 2005
On Making A Film

You begin with a whole, coherent vision in your mind, a finished film that only you can see. Much of it is instinctive, with no rational thought behind the "shots" your creative mind has chosen with no real logic or reason; why you choose one angle over the infinite possible alternate angles is a mystery; why you see it dominated by certain colors, or accompanied by certain sounds, or with a certain person (who may or may not exist in reality) in a role is arbitrary, and yet intensely personal. The film that first forms in your mind is one that could never be imagined by anyone else, and will never be seen by anyone else. It's the ultimate in personal cinema.

If, from there, you move on with the idea of transforming that internal image into an external reality, you find yourself forced to dissect your vision in an aggressive and deeply practical way. This translation of irrational into rational thought is one of the great leaps in filmmaking, in which the fundamental nature of the creation is altered. The images you see in your mind have to be translated into film language, sequences worked out and detailed, gaps filled in, and all of it realigned with the concrete reality of the physical world. The composition you see in your mind may not be possible with any lens known to man, much less one you can afford to rent. The idealized actor you see in the lead role has to be abandoned, and you find someone who captures some of the same qualities -- or maybe someone completely different, who appeals to you for some other reason. The details of the location you see in your mind, if they don't exist anywhere in your real world, give way to different details from a location that does exist. The whole vision begins to shift and adjust.

And then you break your vision into chunks, shots of a size and structure that meet the demands of production. You stop seeing your film as a whole, and begin to see it in pieces; each piece becomes a tiny film in itself, and the larger vision becomes harder to grasp. You put your faith in your rational mind, trusting yourself to have been thinking clearly enough at some point that your plans still hold your original vision somewhere within them. You move through production, watching as new pieces of the real world and of other people's minds and visions work their way in, trying to meet reality halfway, trying to find the best possible union of outside influence and willful creation. Or sometimes you just try to get through it alive.

After all that, when the struggle between what could be and what is ends, you start reconciling yourself to whatever it is that you've ended up with. Some of it's good -- some of it's unexpectedly good -- and some of it isn't. The first look at fresh footage is resignedly satisfied at best, and agonizing at worst; nobody ever looked at new rushes and saw their beautiful vision delivered perfect and whole on the screen. Often, if you're lucky, you don't even really remember what that vision was -- you're so overtaken by the interaction with imperfect life that what you saw through your viewfinder has completely replaced what you saw in your mind, even if vestiges of the original remain. Probably a few traces of that vision appear on your screen as well, along with lots of things you didn't have time to notice while you were shooting.

So you learn to redefine your original love for your vision as your new love for your actual footage. The process you undertook when you started to plan your film now begins to reverse -- you watch long shots and begin to break them into movements, gestures, phrases, expressions, and beats, and you begin to recombine them and rejoin them into entirely new sequences. You find little bits of amazement in unlikely places: an actor's posture during a moment when they weren't acting; an intake of breath and an instant of hesitation right before they flub a line; a pan you screwed up, leaving a shot unusable for its original purpose, but which serendipitously provides a perfect moment for another, unrelated sequence. Some of your plans go to hell, but some of your mistakes are beautiful. You give up control and start to let the film make itself -- just like you did in the first place, but now in a form that you can hold in your hands.

Eventually your sequences join themselves up into scenes; your scenes grow together to make a whole, cohesive film. It looks nothing like anything you've seen before, although if you've done well there are still echoes of your first vision present, even if nobody else can see them for what they are. But it also contains contributions from other people, from your immediate surroundings, and from blind chance. You've swung from total receptivity to hard pragmatism to gentle control; you've travelled from wholeness to fragmentation and back to wholeness again. It involved art and craft and technical skill and intellect; some of the work was mental, and some of it was physical. Some of it was just dumb luck.

It's the best fucking thing in the world.
11:02 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Sunday

Ten wild turkeys showed up on the grass near the dorm driveway.

The girl who lives in the room below mine was sobbing bitterly for the second time in a week.

And a mouse just ran across my floor, under my bed, and back again.
9:59 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Friday, September 16, 2005
Cheesed Off

Today was the day -- I went up to the media lab with the intention of filling in some gaps in my footage logs in order to pave the way for the creation of a full assembly edit on Sunday. I arrived to find a blissfully empty lab -- I can't stand it when people watch me edit, drives me fucking nuts -- and I sat down, booted up, started FCP, and went to open my project files...

... and they were gone.

Fucking bastards.

In my temp folder sat a number of files for something called "Sunny's Plan," files that had no actual data, just sitting there in MY folder where my precious footage was a week previously. I don't know who the hell Sunny is, and I don't know why she couldn't figure out that the folder with my name on it probably wasn't the best place to store her dud files, but if I ever run across her I'm going to give her the most digusted look I can muster. No, it's not the end of the world, just a minor setback -- I still have my footage, and I hadn't done any editing, so all I lost was the two hours it took to import it all, plus the two hours I couldn't spend filling in my logs because I didn't have the footage. And, of course, the four hours it'll take me to re-import all my footage and then fill in my logs on Sunday, which I could've spent actually editing. But I'm well fucked off now anyway -- hardly out of the gate and already things are screwed up. It better not go like this for the rest of the term.

And then there's a kind of intellectual tug-of-war going on between my two main professors, with my mind being the red rag knotted in the middle of the rope. Jay, my film professor, is a really expansive personality, all about what's possible and what could be brought into being and how things should and could be if people wanted it badly enough to work for it; Dana, on the other hand, is grounded and pragmatic, pessimistic, always bringing things back down to earth with a thud. My imagination wants to follow Jay into the troposphere where that other world is, as they say, possible; but I also realize that Dana's blunt realism is a necessary influence. It's just that it always leaves me alternating between Jay's highs and Dana's lows, clear and idealistic one day, confused and adrift the next (but always with a lot more work to do.) Dana's the one who'll get me through this semester intact, but increasingly Jay's the one who's giving me a reason to do it.

Finally, it's only the third week in September and already these goddamn leaf-peepers are everywhere. You can tell 'em from a mile away, driving shiny sedans that no self-respecting Vermonter would ever drive, with their out-of-state plates, going 10 mph under the limit because the sharp curves and mountain roads intimidate them, and not a one of them under 50. The irony is that there's nothing to fucking look at yet; all the leaves are still green, people! Come back next month! Then you'll see something worth gaping at, but right now, as pretty as it is, you're wasting your time. This is the season when the dirt roads get the most use -- the peepers are too scared to venture down them, so they become the preferred path for the locals. It's like a continual slow-speed rally up and down the hills, tossing rocks under your wheels and feeling your teeth rattle when you go over washboards.

This is the best season in New England, in the too-brief period between the unpleasant mugginess of summer and the post-Thanksgiving onset of full-force winter; foliage season aside, autumn has everything going for it -- it's apple season, the weather is often mind-bogglingly perfect, the woods smell their best -- a cross between fresh green and early, sweet-smelling rot -- and everybody's eager to have one last big blow-out before the cold comes. It's warm enough to go out during the day and run around in shirtsleeves, but cool enough at night that snuggly fires are welcome. Harvest festivals only make sense when you've got real seasons, but then you really understand what they're all about.

I still have strong doubts about settling here, even just for a while -- the more I look around, the more I realize that this place has changed on a deeper level than I had thought, and that the changes aren't over yet. The hipster/artist community is already being chased away -- to settle here seems like a dead end. But it's nice to be able to be here for one more autumn.
2:03 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Thursday, September 15, 2005
The Edge Of This Cliff

Oh shit... I have too much to do.

Having spent two weeks getting myself completely sorted out at school -- getting my schedule worked out, fulfilling all the little obligations that must be met but which can be accomplished now rather than later, working about twice as much as I really should be on non-academic stuff -- I sat down to plot out the rest of my term, my last term mind you, and discovered that I have simply too much to do.

Yes, every student in my position has exactly the same problem. It's the nature of the beast at this school -- no matter how you plan ahead (and you really can't plan ahead all that much, even with the best of intentions), in the end, your last semester inevitably becomes a frantic lunge towards completion of your academic requirements. I have a film that still has the bulk of its editing before it; I have interviews to arrange, then conduct, then transcribe, then analyze and write about; I have a long, painful oral exam to prepare for; and I have fifty finished pages of writing to complete. And when I'm done with that, my actual work on the subject, I think, will only have begun -- I'll have no answers, but I'll have some realistic questions, and I'll probably have some theories.

You know you've got some complex stuff on your hands when a year's worth of thought only gets you to the point that you finally know what the questions are.
10:46 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Hope For The Wrong Thing

What does it mean when you open a well-known indie film magazine and discover that you know two of the people appearing inside?

Okay, so one of 'em is just the current hot-shit Memphis director, included purely by virtue of being the current hot-shit director. He's being mentioned all over the place right now, so no big surprise there.

The other person appears in an ad for the film school we both attended, so again, no huge surprise. It was more like being goosed by history -- you open a magazine and hey! look, there's a peripheral figure from a now-totally-irrelevant period in my life looking back at me. He won some fancy-sounding Euro-award that probably doesn't mean all that much really -- le Grand Prix du Merde de Grenouille or something like that -- but all those French words look impressive in the ad.

I, on the other hand, remember him better as the third point in a romantic triangle involving a friend of mine, a guy who actually served in a teacherly position at the school (although he was younger than the actual instructors, serving in more of an assistant-teacher position) and whom I got to know during my last year. I felt a connection to him because he felt like he could've been as much a product of my family as I am; he had a way of making intense eye contact when he talked to you that was simultaneously disconcerting and deeply engaging. He had developed a thing for a student, a Romanian girl who (in my opinion) was more interested in male attention as a general concept than in the attention of any one particular man. She and my friend had a little relationship going on under the radar, but it was incredibly frustrating for my friend, who was constantly having other guys flaunted at him. The hovering of this guy who appears in the ad in this magainze was a particular thorn in his side. And he was bad off over this chick, believe me -- I'd sit in the pub with him and listen to him moan about how painful it all was. And I was happy to do it -- he was my friend, after all, and I'd do anything for my friends, no matter how depressing they are.

In a way, she did him a service: she got him out of a too-long-standing relationship that he wasn't happy in and that did nobody any good. The Romanian girl went her own way in the end -- she was apparently abruptly proposed to by an Italian boy I once physically threw out of my lighting closet, which was amusing -- and left my friend to pick himself up. And after he had, he noticed another young woman, also a student, who had also been his friend, and he realized that he felt much happier around her, and they got married, and now they have a beautiful, chubby baby girl and they seem to be very happy.

What's the point of my talking about all this? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure.

Put it this way: I have very recently released some hopes that I no longer needed. Turning your back on your hopes is always a difficult thing; I always see it in my mind as feeling something like drowning a kitten in a bathtub... it's small and you love it and you want to protect it, you can't bear to kill it. But old dreams chase new dreams away. If it has to die, it might as well happen at the hand of the person who created it.

But I know it's a good thing -- there's been some aching involved, but also a kind of refreshed optimism: my plans and schemes are entirely my own again, and I can go tilting at new, exciting windmills. I've been getting little cosmic hints -- the right song comes on the radio just when I need it, new ideas start flooding in to fill the void, possiblities open up. I found myself with ten idle minutes on a quiet part of campus the other night, so I stretched out in the grass and looked up at the stars until I felt like I was falling into them. And then a big, bright shooting star crossed right above my head, and a dozen different wishes that brought tears to my eyes all tumbled out at once.

Then the next day I went to a bookstore to find a book that I needed sooner than the library could get it for me, and I stopped and looked for something to speak to my current situation. And in the book I found, I read these lines:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing
5:36 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Sunday, September 11, 2005
And They Called It A Freedom Walk

Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today.

The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.

(...)

One restricted group will be the media, whose members will not be allowed to walk along the march route. Reporters and cameras are restricted to three enclosed areas along the route but are not permitted to walk alongside participants walking from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge to the Mall.

(source)


This is what passes for "freedom" in Bush's America. Pathetic.
5:38 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Saturday, September 10, 2005
Friends and the Absence of Friends

This dorm is having a party tonight.

I'm pretty conflicted about that -- I'm at the age when a kegger just doesn't hold the appeal it once might've held (although, to be honest, I was never all that into keggers.) I'd be quite happy to hang out in my room quietly, do some reading, work on my footage logs, maybe watch one of the DVDs I've got hanging around on loan from the college library, that kind of thing. However, just because I'm getting old doesn't mean the other 26 people who live in this building are beholden to my wishes, so after some thought -- and confirmation from a couple of the people I'm friendly with here that they're planning to come -- I've decided that if I can't beat 'em, I might as well join 'em.

So I cleaned my room, got those last personal effects in place, moved my empty storage crates back down to the basement, put all my laundry away, cleaned the bathroom, put on some Mr. Bungle, set some Andy Kaufman spinning on the DVD player (with the sound down, naturally), and now I'm just sitting here waiting for whatever's going to happen to happen.

I always have to go through a difficult mental shift when I travel between Vermont and Memphis, it seems. In spite of my being decidedly an introvert, I'm actually very sociable, provided I'm comfortable around the people in question. Memphis is now reasonably full of friends, and this last stay there was particularly heavy on social interaction, particularly towards the end. Vermont is a different story -- I have friendly acquaintances here, but nobody I'd call "friend" (although there are a couple of people who might become friends after a longer time than I expect to be here.) The fact that I am inherently somewhat separate from almost all of the student body by virtue of being nearly 30 means that Vermont is a fairly isolated place for me. And that's okay -- I'm not too troubled by isolation.

But the shift between these two states -- sociable and secluded -- can be difficult. When I arrived in Memphis after being up here for a few months, I felt cut off from my friends -- their lives had continued on without me, things had happened in the interim, some new people had shown up and other people had departed, and for a good month I felt as though I were trying to enter into a private conversation already in progress. Combined with the effects of coming out of a period of seclusion, it took me a while to get back into the flow of my Memphis-based social life. Now, coming back into seclusion, I feel cut off again, but in a different way -- now I just miss people, miss conversing and hanging out, miss having people to talk to when I want to.

I'll get through the shift, just like I always do -- but there'll probably be a few more dejected days before I get used to isolation again.

And I'm still fretting about what to do after this term. I have a large collection of things I'd like to do -- I've got a feature to write, a solid book idea to shop around, and I'd love to do some investigation of the other side of the film industry -- exhibition, distribution, and other film-culture-related-programs-activities. Writing, for me, requires a safe, solid spot to rest for a year or two; I don't think I'd be able to do it if I were in a situation that still involved a lot of struggle. All my other potential plans seem to be coming to naught -- my soul still urges me to try to get myself expatriated for a while, but I don't currently see any good way to do that. Vermont (and New England in general) is very nice, but as I've said to a few people recently, I just don't feel very connected to it -- shifting here for an extended period, I'm coming to realize, would involved a complete re-establishment of myself, more years spent finding a circle of friends and associates, another drawn-out demonstration of my abilities and worth... in short, I'd have to start all over again. Just the thought saps me of all my creative energy.

But the alternative to re-establishment somewhere else is -- I almost can't bear to make it explicit -- going back to Memphis. Goddamn you, Memphis, goddamn you straight to hell. I spent a decade keeping myself aloof, forever pulling away from you, holding people at arm's length to avoid getting attached, always planning my escape from your grasp, only to find once I've almost gotten free that you've become the closest thing to a home I've ever had. Many of my friends are in Memphis, all my associates are in Memphis, what little creative status I've managed to build up is all tied to Memphis -- Jesus Fucking Christ, Memphis, what do I have to do to make a clean break of it with you?

To me, the idea of returning to Memphis feels like a defeat -- in spite of all the good things and good people there, it feels like a loss... after all those dreams of faraway places, how much does my life suck if going back to Memphis seems like anything other than an admission of failure? Why can't you be more like Austin or Chapel Hill, Memphis? Why must you resist all our efforts to pull you up to your full potential? Why do you harbor so many apathetic yuppie assholes who drag the rest of us down? Sure, you need a decent arthouse theater (like, one that supports itself, no offense Co-op), and a quarterly magazine devoted to the local film scene wouldn't hurt you any (think of a barbecue-flavored Cahiers du Cinema). But to accomplish those things a person would have to make a serious committment to you, and I just don't love you that way, Memphis.

So why do I keep coming back, you ask? Well, you're easy to come back to. If I came back again, though -- and this is just hypothetical, mind you, no promises... I'd still run off to Istanbul or Dublin or Delhi or Sydney at the drop of a fucking hat -- but if I did come back, I'd need you to support me more than you have in the past: a decent job that leaves me enough time and passion to do my work, a comfortable place, no more of this barely-getting-by bullshit. And I'd need more friends -- a couple of really good, close friends, more talented, serious friends. More friends who are ready to get to work. Because Memphis, I don't want to be mean, but you need a lot of work.

So there are my terms. You have three to six months to consider them.
5:46 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Thursday, September 08, 2005
Tell It Like It Is




(via jaywillie on Kos)
12:34 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Oh God, Please No

Please, please let this be a vast overestimate...

A co-owner of Shelbyville-based Gowen-Smith Chapel has been deployed to Gulfport, Miss., to help with recovery since Hurricane Katrina, and his business partner here has described the grim task there.

"DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies," Dan Buckner said, quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a volunteer arm of Homeland Security.

(...)

The 40,000 estimate does "not include the number of disinterred remains that have been displaced from ... mausoleums," Buckner told the Times-Gazette Monday.

(source)


Forty thousand?! Ten thousand was horrible enough, but forty?


7:18 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Monday, September 05, 2005
One Small Thing You Can Do

Go to Wikimedia's PeopleFinder wiki and sign up to help enter data for a central lost/found/missing persons database. It really doesn't take very long to enter a block of data, and it's one little thing each of us can do to make a practical difference in the situations of displaced families.

A telling thing: driving by the local State Trooper barracks today, I couldn't help but notice that while the Vermont state flag had been lowered to half-mast, the national flag had not. After 9/11, the flags were kept at half-mast for a month... why, you'd almost think the federal government doesn't give a rat's ass about a whole city wiped off the map.

(Props to Denny)
12:21 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Sunday, September 04, 2005
Orleans Perish

Some things are just too big for a blog.

A kid barfing in a van is prime blogfodder; it's small, you can hold it in your hand, and amusing synonyms render almost anything you write instantly successful. It's essentially pointless and meaningless -- that's why it's so easy to blog.

On the other end of the spectrum, you've got the profound failure of a society's leaders, the preventable deaths of thousands of people, and suffering on a scale that the human mind refuses to imagine. I've been turning the twin disasters in New Orleans over and over in my mind for days, and at the end of it I'm no closer to having something coherent to say about it than I was on Monday morning. It has immense meaning -- the implications are huge and far-reaching -- and the point is of the most important kind; writing about it seems so useless, and it seems almost impossible to do it justice, but maybe it serves some purpose in the end. Everyone I know has done everything they can in practical terms; all we can do now is document the atrocities in preparation for fixing everything that went so horribly wrong.

Far better writers than me have already produced pages upon pages of words on the subject -- so many that I can't even begin to link to them all as a poor substitute for coming up with some of my own. Books will be written on the subject -- some of them have doubtless already been started. We'll be talking about this for as long as we talked about 9/11, and quite possibly longer... the real magnitute of this disaster dwarfs 9/11 in its effects and ultimately, I fear, in loss of life as well.

I have read and listened to everything I could find over the last few days. I listened to the Mayor of NOLA plead for help and berate the failures of government that have led to the death of a city; I listened to usually self-righteous, obnoxious talking heads break down in tears and talk back to their clueless studio-bound colleagues; I listened to the pleas of people begging for help to find missing loved ones, begging for food and water, begging for delivery to a safe place. And I listened to a purported president spout half-interested platitudes for the benefit of cameras.

As I said before, I do blame Bush for every single death that's occured since Katrina left the Gulf Coast. I blame him for the weakness of the levees; I blame him for staying on vacation for fucking days instead of taking action (and that goes for Cheney and Condi, too); I blame him for gutting FEMA; I blame him for placing at the head of FEMA another incompetent asshole who seemingly made every single decision with the intent to make things worse; I blame him for the failure of Washington to answer Governor Blanco's urgent requests for help until it was far too late; I blame him for his failure to use the vast resources at his command until it was wise -- in PR terms only -- for him to do so; I blame him for claiming that nobody could've known on one hand, and for blaming the victims for not evacuating themselves on the other; I blame him and all his fucking ilk for wanting a federal government so weak it was unable to act in the interests of its people, and thus sacrificing thousands of lives to their cause. I blame him for that fucking cake and that fucking guitar and for every rat-eaten corpse floating through the bowl of toxic shit stew that used to be New Orleans.

We've just had a second 9/11, and this time, instead of blaming Osama bin Laden (or whatever other brown person Bush takes a fancy to), I'm focusing every ounce of blame on George W. Fucking Bush. He and Osama are exactly the same as far as I'm concerned; the deaths of thousands of Americans make them equals.

Bush left New Orleans for dead; regime change begins at home.

PS: Timelines, timelines, timelines, timelines. And all of them damning.

PPS: I'm so ashamed for my country.

PPPS: Boy, I sure am glad this administration has done its utmost to maintain good relations with the UN. Thank god some people still realize what the term "international community" really means.
1:34 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Friday, September 02, 2005
My Glamorous Life

As some of my regulars know, my indentured servitude to my institute of higher learning is fulfilled by way of driving the college van. Back when I was here before, I always wanted to drive the van -- I love driving, and especially these days it's good to do it on someone else's fuel dime -- and I am lucky enough this term to have plenty of opportunity to do so. Normally, especially on these gorgeous autumn nights, it's a piss-easy job; I pick people up, I drive down the mountain, I let people off and pick up a few more, and I drive back up. I get to play whatever I want on the radio and/or cd player, I'm in control of the windows and AC, and I get to be grouchy with clueless teenagers who can't quite get their shit sufficiently together to be at the van stop on time. It's a pretty cool job.

Occasionally, though, things get grim.

Tonight, of course, is the first weekend of the term, and a term with a hundred new freshmen, newly released from their parents' control -- there was, it goes without saying, a big-ass party on campus. And these kids, they get rides into town to score pot and cigarettes and illicit booze, and then they expect to catch the van back up to campus. And when it's just a few of them, it's cool; when it's more than a few, it's a problem. Tonight I drove down the mountain and arrived at the designated pickup spot to discover about 35 students waiting for me -- I drive a 15-passenger van. One confident freshie strides up to the window and says, "it there a precedent for this?" And I respond, "the precedent is, whoever can get on gets on, and everyone else is out of luck." But since these were mostly bewildered first-years who had nowhere to crash and no other recourse, I agreed to make a second trip to pick up anyone patient enough to wait. It was a personal favor and a one-time thing, I pointed out. I didn't actually mind at all, but if you let 'em think you're a pushover that early on, before long you're making twenty stops per trip so people don't have to walk and doubling back and waiting around to pick up those who missed the van the first time. And there's no way in hell I'm doing that.

So I'm headed back up the mountain with a few more passengers than I'm legally allowed to carry when disaster strikes -- there's a retching sound and a groan from the entire van and slowly the aroma of sour milk and half-dissolved dining hall chow wafts up from the back of the van. Some little freshman girl -- "I just get really car-sick" -- had barfed all over the floor, one of the seats, and another girl's thigh. I get the lot of them up to campus where they purge themselves from the van with astonishing speed, then get out and go around to the side door to survey the damage, and wonder what to do next.

There's only one big van operational at present -- I've still got a small van, but that would require two more trips to get all the waiting students home. I have no cleaning supplies, and the van is rapidly turning fetid; not to mention it's probably against school policy to ask people to wallow in another student's vomit. Furthermore, I have to keep driving this van all weekend, and it's not like anyone else is going to clean it up before Tuesday (taking into account the Labor Day staff holiday.) The mess has to go, this van has to be rendered tolerable, and cleaning up puke is the last goddamn thing I wanted to do tonight. But I'm going to do it anyway.

I roll down all the windows and hang my head out the entire way back down the mountain. I stop at an all-night 7-11 on the periphery of town and gather up some overpriced carpet cleaner, a roll of paper towels, some disposable rubber gloves, and a newspaper. I get in line behind several other people -- and the guy in front of me, I shit you not, is someone I'd just been talking about with another friend the day before, someone I once went to college with who now owns a club in town, someone whose middle initials we used to joke stood for a nickname that described his imagined predilection for unnatural acts performed upon livestock, someone whom I'd just said the day before I had not yet run across in town. And there he was. He turned and looked at me, an expression of vague familiarity crossed his face and I -- with my arms full of cleaning products intended to help deal with the little issue (by which I mean "issue forth from the gut of a freshman") in the van, the van I now drive as a student at the college we both attended together nearly a decade ago... and I said nothing. We never knew each other very well anyway.

I paid for my home-brew biohazard kit, got back in the stinky van, drove to the pickup spot, and waved the remaining fifteen students away. I hopped into the back and, breathing through my mouth, sprayed the frothy frosh chuck down with carpet cleaner, put on the rubber gloves, and started scooping it up with wads of paper towels into the plastic carrier bag I'd gotten at the convenience store. How one little girl can spray so much spew I'll never know -- I only hope in the future she has sufficient presence of mind to ask to sit up front, or at least to yell at the driver to pull over when she feels her gorge rise.

Anyway, I got everyone home safe -- above and beyond the call of duty, I'd say. I left the van parked with its windows partly down in the hope that the residual barfy odor won't accumulate too much. I'll know for sure tomorrow afternoon, anyway.

Goddamn freshmen.
10:51 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Thursday, September 01, 2005
Too Much

I've been wanting to write about the slow, agonizing demise of New Orleans for a couple of days, but frankly, my rage at the situation has been so overwhelming that I'm finding it hard to articulate my thoughts. This is exacerbated by the fact that the full scale of the Gulf Coast Apocalypse is still unfolding; I'm not even finished getting angry yet, much less ready to express that anger. I've been obsessivly watching streaming video of NOLA news for two days -- I'm not sure how many more broken people I can see before it all becomes too much.

I just didn't want anyone to think I wasn't paying attention.

And yes, I blame the Bush administration, at least in part, for every single death that has occured since Monday. More on that later.

PS: For comparison's sake, a good idea of what a real president would have said, oh, say three days ago.
2:57 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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