Saturday, September 30, 2006
Gratuitous Image Post

I hate it when this blog turns into one big block of text. However, I lack any good justification for posting an image. But who needs justification, right?


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Friday, September 29, 2006
While You Were Napping

Wow... I hadn't realized that I'd left the blog idle for quite so long. I've just been floating around in a happy cloud of nothing-particular-to-do, enjoying the newly-fine weather and napping with the window open a lot.

So, what's been happening in the world while I was otherwise occupied?

Oh, hey, this Mark Foley thing is pretty goddamn funny, eh? I was afraid for a minute that it was Dave Foley resigning from something, but nope, just another conservative Republican who can't control his tortured libido. I didn't realize until just this evening, though, that the page in question is a boy. That was the succulent, juicy, 16-year-old cherry on top.

Let's see... what else, what else...

Oh. My. God.

These are some of the bill's biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of "illegal enemy combatant" in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret -- there's no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable -- already a contradiction in terms -- and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.


(ugh... I feel sick)
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Coming Down

Well, I think that interview went pretty well. If anybody watches the Memphis local 5 o'clock news tonight, I edited 25 seconds of it. They kinda chucked me in the deep end to see if I would doggie-paddle or just sink to the bottom. (I doggie-paddled, with only a minimum of sputtering along the way.) I could say more, but I'm hoping these people will be my employers soon, and blogging about one's employers is bad news. So I won't. I'll know pretty soon, in any case.

I think now I'm just going to hang out for a few days and do fuck-all.

Update: I just watched my 25 seconds, and it looked just like real news! w00t!
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Snotty

Hey, guess what I'm reading?

I'm only about 100 pages in, but this is some mighty tasty stuff. It's arrogant, it's elitist, it's angry, it's disrespectful, and it's exactly right. Richard Dawkins and Douglas Adams were the two people most responsible for "turning" me (or more accurately, giving me permission to embrace what I was already thinking.) I knew that this book would be rightly dedicated to Adams, and so it is. Perfect.

I'm sure I'll write more after I've finished, but judging from the first couple of chapters, this is going to be well worth the time spent.
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Monday, September 25, 2006
Transition

Right... so, where should I start? Last night, I guess -- it'll do, anyway.

Last night I was up at the Co-op doing the final check on the video: tightening up a few cuts, playing with the color and contrast of a few shots (I'm still not sure I'm happy, but it was the best I knew how to do), making sure there weren't any breaks in the video track, that kind of thing. Detail work. Then I managed to export it and master a simple DVD without too much difficulty -- I think I'm gradually figuring that part out, though I'm not doing much.

Anyway, I took my fresh, warm DVD out of the burner, popped it into my dinky little DVD player, played it on the Co-op's crappy monitor -- and it looked like dog barf.

I don't know what the issue was. It looked fine on the computer monitor (though everything looks a bit crap on a computer.) I was going to go try it out on the Co-op's projection system, but one of the other Coopers suddenly arrived with about thirty close friends for an impromptu screening, so I couldn't. Like I wanted to screen my dog-barfy DVD in front of all those people.

So I took it home in a state of agitation and tried it again on the big TV at home (though still on the same crappy DVD player), and it looked somewhat less dog-barfy, but still a little vomitous. But it was midnight, and there was nothing I could do, so I tried to get some sleep. (FYI -- Ambien is some seriously good stuff.) After getting up this morning, the first thing I did was race back to the Co-op to try the disc out again, and on the projector it looked fine. I tried it a few other places, and again, it looked fine. I'd tried it in my computer's DVD player, and it looked fine. So that was four or five votes for "fine" and one for "dog barf" -- and the pro-dog-barf vote was from a very suspect corner. Still, it scared me.

Anyway, I fixed the disc up and ran it by the office of the folks running the festival, explaining that I'd had one bad experience, and to please check it and let me know if they had any problems with it, but that I was probably just being over-anxious. At this point, all I can see are the problems anyway, so I should really leave final judgement up to an impartial observer. Mercifully, I haven't gotten any dog-barf calls yet, so maybe things are cool.

The point is, I began my day in a state of anxious agitation. The good news is, apart from some simple titling work (which will be done on a strictly no-rush basis,) I'm done with this video. I guess I feel okay about it -- I mean, I think I can do a lot better, but god help me the day I stop thinking that. And I'm not the best person to ask about that anyway; I'm a roiling mass of self-doubt even under the best circumstances. Here's something I didn't mention to anyone at the time, with one exception -- at the outset of this edit, I went through a serious crisis of confidence. Watching rushes is horrible anyway, without doubt the most depressing part of the entire filmmaking process. Your vision is gone, replaced by flawed, ugly reality -- it's the moment where your fantasy of what a film could be hits the ground with a painful thud. Everybody hates rushes.

But this time around was especially hard for me. The shoot was a bit lumpy -- basically, it was a one-day shoot, which is hard going. The first day of any shoot is always kind of a loss. You spend your day finding your feet and getting into it; nothing really good can happen until you've wasted a day. Except that this time, the first day was pretty much it. That was a surprise to me at the time -- I hadn't actually been told that it was a single-day affair until the afternoon of said single day. Finding that out threw me off a bit, but I did the best I could. A one-day shoot, however, can make for some particularly painful rushes.

The two or three days after the shoot were horrible. This sounds melodramatic now, but at the time I was completely sincere: I was seriously considering quitting filmmaking entirely. I thought to myself, "I've let myself and everyone else down, and I should just acknowledge that I suck at this and quit." I spent a couple of days playing out scenarios in my mind in which I humbly admitted to the band how badly I'd fucked up, how sorry I was about... everything, apologizing for wasting their time. I was in a pretty bad way (all self-inflicted, obviously.) The only thing I wanted to do at that point was quit. But there was enough sober experience behind me (barely) to understand that quitting was the last thing I should do at that point, that the only way out of this mess was to go through with it, and that I should commit to editing something, no matter how bad it turned out to be. So I kept dragging myself in to the Co-op, banging my head against that damn computer screen, trying to find anything that could make a cohesive sequence.

And then, like it always does, it started to come together. Only a little bit at first, but enough to make some of that footage looks slightly less dire. From there on, it was just a matter of going in and doing the work. I feel okay about the video now -- not completely satisfied, like I said. There's a lot I would change or do over if I could, though at this point it's probably best just to let it be what it is and save that energy for the next piece. But it's not horrible. It's not perfect -- there's one mistake in particular that I can't believe I made, though nobody else has mentioned it yet -- but it's okay.

I read a quotation a couple of days ago -- I don't know if it's legit or not, and I haven't been able to source it accurately (I've found several competing versions), but in the end it doesn't really matter. It was attributed to Andy Warhol, and said (I'm paraphrasing), "don't worry about whether or not it's art; just do the work." I'm going to post that on my wall; I'm going to laminate it and carry it around in my wallet. If there's one thing I need to get through my thick head, it's that the most important thing is just doing the damn work. I know that I would do much better work if I stopped wasting so much energy worrying about whether I'm doing the "right" work or if my work is good enough (how fucked-up is it to judge your work as inadequate even before you've done it?), and just do whatever it is I need to do. I'm still at a stage of figuring out how I work, and the only way I'll ever get there is by doing it. It's an obvious thing, but I struggle with it.

Interestingly, of everything I did for this video, the parts I like the best are the parts that were the least set-up. The firmer my shooting agenda, the less life there was in the resulting footage. There's an important clue in there somewhere.

Anyway... there's that.

Once I got home from all of this, I got a phone call. For the first time, after nine months of fruitless struggle, I've got my first serious job interview tomorrow, at the local NBC affiliate. It's not for a glamorous, high-paying job, but it would pay me enough (barely) to start acting on plans and schemes, and I'd be in a setting where I could pick up some new, more marketable skills. I don't know if it'll come to anything or not (after all the rejections so far, I'm very reluctant to get my hopes up), but maybe I'm finally catching a break. Wish me luck.

Update: I got word from the video showcase organizer, and she says it looks good. So I guess that worked out okay. Phew.
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Post Announcing Another Post Later

I've had quite a day, let me tell you. Later. Right now my mind is racing in circles like an exciteable little dog, and I'm going to have to wait for it to wear itself out before I can make sense of it. It's no big deal or anything, just one of those days where everything turns up at once.

Anyway, check back tonight.
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Saturday, September 23, 2006
Dork

I'm tired.

I had to go up to town today (like I didn't have to go anyway) to help out with an event at the Co-op. I didn't have to do much -- just open the doors and unlock the projection cabinet, and make a few announcements. Maybe 50 people came to the event, of whom I knew half a dozen. And today for some reason, being around that many strangers just sucked me dry, even more than it usually does. It isn't shyness as such, and it isn't even reserve (though I can be very reserved); it's just that I'm very much a classic introvert. I keep a few close friends whom I prefer to see in ones and twos, or maybe as a small group if I'm really comfortable with everyone. And I can be reasonably outgoing with strangers if I'm introduced and can interact one-on-one, though it always requires some extra effort. But mobs of strangers make me uncomfortable -- not because I can't deal with people, but because they suck the energy right out of me.

This is a big part of why I withdrew from the film industry -- I'm just no good at this schmoozing shit. I don't understand why the social aspect has to be such an integral part of the medium, why I can't just do my work and have that be enough. I've never been one of the cool kids, I'm never going to be one, and I have no real desire to be one in any case... but they can still have an effect on me. I'm 30 years old, and the popular kids can still bring me down. I thought I'd have outgrown that by now.

Anyway, after the event ended and the mob dispersed, I felt a little off-center for the rest of the evening but forged ahead nonetheless. And I got my cut done. There's still one sequence that I'll need to take a fresh look at tomorrow, but I've learned through long experience that a rough cut needs to mellow overnight before you can trim it up. But for the first time, I got to see a full cut of the video. So that was gratifying.

Now I just have to drag the band in to see it and help me check the beats. Then I'll be exporting a copy for the festival showcase, and then making two additional versions (one as a standalone film and one for the web) which will require some minimal adjustments. And then I'll be done -- though I'm sure in a few months I'll come back and see a lot of changes I want to make. I figure I'll take a couple of days to come down and get used to the idea of not having to work on it anymore. Low-grade sorrow will set in after a week or so, once I start missing the process; I'm going to try to drag my camera out and shoot something, anything, to prolong the momentum a little more. And then I'll turn my attention back to the other project.

It's funny, I just realized that I've been engaged in ongoing film-production-related-programs-activities for months solid now. And to think that a couple of years ago I was torturing myself over not doing any filming at all.
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Cut This Bitch

Okay, damn it. Tomorrow I'm going to have a full top-to-bottom cut of this video if I have to stay overnight to do it. I'm going to do it if it kills me; I am not leaving that goddamn room until it's done. Unless I need a snack. I can't work if my blood sugar gets low.

But as of right now, everything's downloaded, converted, imported, rendered, adjusted, exported, re-imported, and re-rendered. Which is to say, all of my remaining footage is fully ready for use. I have maybe 30 seconds more to cut, and I already know what goes where, so it's just a question of making it all fit together. And that's the part I find the easiest, so there shouldn't be anything left standing in my way (yeah, I know, famous last words.)

It's pretty amazing that it can take three full weeks to edit five minutes of finished film; that's longer than I expected it to take. Of course, in that five minutes are (by my estimation) just under 200 cuts -- that's an average of a cut every 1.5 seconds, and that's actually less than I originally intended. And each of those cuts has been placed to the frame -- there are doubtless a few that still want some adjustment, but we're talking fractions of a second here. Or to put it in slightly different terms, five minutes of video contains 9000 "frames" (not literal frames, since it's all basically 1s and 0s, but a representation of literal frames) -- and I have made a conscious decision about each and every one of those frames. So maybe three weeks' work isn't so surprising after all.

One of the interesting things about cutting to music is that it provides a great demonstration of the difference in the ways in which the eye and the ear perceive things. When presented with a rhythm, the ear anticipates each beat -- it knows when it's coming and is satisfied when it happens as expected. The eye, however, experiences a delay every time an image changes -- film is founded on the phenomenon of persistence of vision, and in practice it means that the brain doesn't register an edit for an instant after it occurs. So we have anticipation on one side, and a delay on the other. Therefore, in order to make a cut appear to happen on a beat, you actually have to cut a frame or two before the beat. If you cut exactly on the beat, it'll look late -- almost imperceptibly late, but just late enough to throw the viewer off the rhythm and keep them disengaged. I've seen this principle at work throughout the last few weeks -- a frame or two can make all the difference between a rough, awkward cut and one that zips by unnoticed.

Moreover, it's interesting that a steady auditory rhythm is pleasing to the ear, but a steady visual rhythm quickly becomes boring. Editing to music then becomes an exercise in simultaneously following and diverging from a given rhythm. It's an interesting line on which to balance -- this stuff isn't quite as straightforward as it seems.
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Thursday, September 21, 2006
Convert/Render

I think I'm in the home stretch. I've got about 90% of the video done, and most of my big puzzles have found solutions. Now it's just about slotting in the last pieces and then tightening everything up. And then, of course, the exporting/authoring nightmare begins.

When I was in film school, one wisened old instructor advised us that if we always wanted to have a job in the industry, we'd learn everything we could about DVD authoring. It's such a phenomenal pain in the ass that anyone who can afford to would rather hire the job out than do it themselves. I suppose, if I could find a place where I could get some solid experience, I'd be willing to give it a try -- but from what meager experience of the process I do have, that road would only lead to rage and drunken weeping. I still don't know how I manage to get any of my own work out onto shiny silver discs -- most of the time I feel like I'm just pushing random buttons until a working DVD pops out. The weird thing is, I know how it works, more or less -- it's just that it never fucking works the way it's supposed to.

But I can get through anything: I learned how to edit on a linear tape-to-tape system. Nothing in life will ever be that frustrating again.

PS: Mike Patton = not god, apparently.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Almost Autumn

Yesterday was a lovely day here -- wet and cool. I made friends with rain in London, and ever since then the first cool, rainy day of the season always makes me happy. Today is gorgeous -- mild, sunny, breezy, perfect. It's a good day for running around barefoot making big, expansive circles in the sunshine, if you like that sort of thing.

I wasn't made for this oppressively hot climate, so for me the beginning of autumn feels more like spring. After the contant indoors of summer, the arrival of fall means I can finally go back outside. Winter is good, too; there's not much of a winter in Mississippi (apart from our one annual ice storm) and I miss New England snow sometimes. But I only miss the first few days of snow. The last four or five months of snow, not so much. I can live without April snow.

Anyway... I'm going for a walk before I head up to the city to work.

PS: Arrrrr.

(Sorry, my heart's just not in it this year.)
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Saturday, September 16, 2006
The Gold Tooth In God's Crooked Smile

I kind of got forced into a night off tonight -- I'd hoped to go into the Co-op and get some work done, but the internet connection was down (that's been happening a lot lately), and at the moment everything I need to do requires an internet connection. So there wasn't much for it but to go on home. And I suppose that's not a bad thing. I've been working 6-10 hours a day, every day, for the last two weeks on this video; this is the second day off I've taken in three weeks. So I guess it's okay.

It's getting hard to do good work now anyway -- I have officially arrived at the point on this project where I'm blind to it. Editing has become detached from inspiration and has become a technical, mechanical exercise. The ideal thing now would be to take a couple of weeks away from it, but I'm trying to get it done by next weekend, so I don't have that luxury. At this point, it'll probably be a good year before I can honestly appraise the quality of my work -- I think, basically, it has some good bits, and there are a number of things I'd change if I could. The learning curve was steep, and if I could do it all over again I think I'd produce a better film -- but I'd still be sitting here, filled with ambivalence, thinking that it could be better. My films are never "good enough." But I think it's respectable for my first effort in the form, and I think it's as good a piece as I could possibly assemble from the footage I have. I'm still toying with the idea of taking a whole new pass at it -- that is to say, once I have everything in place, going over it and trying to develop it one step further. But I think to do that really would require more time than I've got. Anyway, I'll put some other people's fresh eyes in front of it tomorrow, and maybe then I'll have a better idea how well I've done.

So rather than sitting at the Co-op waiting for files to download/convert/render, reading and whistling to myself and doing laps of the theater in the Co-op's wheelchair-dolly, I stopped by the hipster video store and rented my first movie in months. Specifically, I got Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, which after a gap of several years on the festival circuit finally appeared on DVD recently.

If god existed and intervened in human affairs, I'd beg him to let me someday make a film like this one. It's a BBC-produced music doc loosely based on the music of Jim White, and I first saw it in 2004 at the documentary film festival where I spent a few seasons working in print traffic. Mostly, though, it's about the south. Some complain that this film is unrealistic, a little too Flannery O'Connor southern-gothic -- it's full of swamps and water-borne shacks and people with big hair and missing teeth playing gospel songs on banjos and saws. Some people seem to hate it. For me, while it's not a replica of the south I know, it feels exactly right. It's definitely not a straightforward doc, but the blurry edge where documentary ends and fiction begins is one of my favorite cinematic terrorities. It's my absolute favorite film about the south, and certainly among my favorite documentaries. And it's unspeakably beautiful. You should watch it.
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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Aw Crap

Ann W. Richards, the silver-haired Texas activist who galvanized the 1988 Democratic National Convention with her tart keynote speech and was the state's 45th governor until upset in 1994 by an underestimated challenger named George W. Bush, died Wednesday at her home in Austin. She was 73.

(Don't you mean, misunderestimated?)

Ms. Richards was the most recent and one of the most effective in a long-line of Lone Star State progressives who vied for control of Texas in the days when it was largely a one-party Democratic enclave, a champion of civil rights, gay rights and feminism. Her defeat by the future president was one of the chief markers of the end of generations of Democratic dominance in Texas.

(...)

"Poor George, he can't help it," Ms. Richards said at the Democratic convention in 1988, speaking about the current president's father, former President George Bush. "He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

(source)

Damn it, she was one of the only ones I actually liked.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006
A Definitive Answer, Maybe

A familiar question came up today, a question that over the years I've been asked by my mother, by my close friends, by total strangers, by people making polite conversation, by people making a lunch run, and once by the guy who directed Battletruck:

"But what do you really want?"

All of them were seeking different information when they asked; "wanting" can encompass so many kinds of hope and desire. But I don't think I've ever really answered this question, even to myself. I'm not sure that I actually know. Maybe that's the problem. Anyway, the person who most recently asked is never going to read this response, but what the hell -- that's not the point.

I want to make a modest little living doing what I love, or, barring that, I want to make a more comfortable living doing something that will allow me to continue doing what I love. I want, just once before I die, to prove what I'm really capable of. I want to hang out with people who do different things than me. I want to write this damn book, I want to learn how to deal with actors, I want to meet more people I can learn from, I want to make at least one film per year. I want to be a little more self-confident, and a little less consumed with self-doubt. I want to be irrefutably good at what I do.

Someday I want to have white hair and wear big floppy hats. By the end of my life, I want to have understood as much about the world as possible. I want to have a real home someday, maybe a family of some description -- I'm not too picky about what it looks like. I also want to go other places as frequently as I can, because sometimes home is best when you're coming back to it. I want to live in another language for a while -- Spanish would be easiest, but French is more interesting. I want to spend a few more years as a foreigner. I want to get to be old friends with culture shock. I want to see St. Paul's from Waterloo Bridge again one day.

I want to keep meeting people I could love. I don't want endless lists of "friends," I just want my carefully-chosen few. But I want that number to always get bigger, not smaller. Someday I want to have them all in the same room at the same time. I want to find a fellow traveler someone-who-also-travels-in-both-a-literal-and-figurative-sense*, someone who knows not to hold onto love too tightly. I want someone who understands that its better to be a pair of individuals than a couple. I want outrageously long conversations and companionly silences. I want somebody who goes out and does things that don't involve me; but I'd like to be able to come along now and then, maybe. I want someone I'd never have expected. I want to stay willfully single until it's time to be with someone; but I'm in no big hurry for that to happen.

And I want a dog -- ideally one that doesn't smell too bad.

I think that about covers it.



*oh, for fuck's sake
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Bush Wins

Number of Americans who died in the attacks of 9/11/01: 2,973

Number of Americans who've died in the Iraq War so far: 3,015

I don't know who the terrorists are anymore.
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Monday, September 11, 2006
It's All Richard Pryor's Fault

So, this guy thinks we unbelievers should stop making jokes at the expense of religion:

[Secularism] is a matter of cultural change, and, ironically, it will be a change that depends entirely on the acceptance of atheists by religious believers. Atheists who would like to change that might profitably ask themselves if insulting religious believers will hasten that day. They might consider if their, at times brilliant, mockery of religion has perhaps played any role in their present day status with believers. When we talk about religion we are talking about people. Religion doesn't exist outside of people who have feelings that inform their opinions and votes.

Which is a fancy way of saying, "religious people can't take a joke, and if you don't stop teasing us we'll throw you to the fundamentalist wolves."

Yep, social minorities cracking jokes about the majority is obviously the problem, and we ignore that wisdom at our peril. I mean, take Richard Pryor for instance. Things were going so well for black people in America in the 70s, and then Pryor came along with his irreverent japery at the expense of honkies, and look what came of it -- 35 years later, the average income in a black household is still less than 60% of that in white households.

Damn that Richard Pryor and his lack of respect for the domninant social and cultural group. He ruined it for everybody.

Atheists on the left should cut out the blanket mocking of religious people. What do they hope to gain by it? Nothing that is worth the cost. Interestingly, it almost always lacks the objective observational acuity necessary for realism, usually the pride of atheists. "Religion" takes in an enormous range of beliefs. It is safe to assume that the range of religious variation is at least as wide as that found in politics. To lump together Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Catholics, Jains, Oomotists, etc. and to ridicule them over their religion as if it was any one thing is the sign of a lazy mind.

Is it? Is it really? See, this was the final big realization for me during the process that ultimately led to my coming out as an unbeliever. I, too, spent several years defending certain types of religious people -- the "good" ones -- on the basis that they were "different." But that became very confusing, because they all say they're "different" -- and what's more, they also all say they're the only ones who are "right." How many liberal Christians have I known whose mantra has been, "please don't confuse us with those so-called Christians; we're different, and what's more, we're the "Real" Christians." I got sick to death of the unending battle between "Real" Christians and Real "Christians" and the Really-Fucking-Christian. Frankly, I don't care what you call your god/s, or what you do about it. It's the simple fact that you've got one that makes me uneasy.

So you don't hate queers and you believe in evolution. Well, bully for you, being so progressive with your bad self, believing in things that are patently obvious. We in the sane half of America welcome you with open arms. But if you must bring your imaginary friends (and their rather extensive cultural and historical baggage) in with you -- well, fine... but don't be surprised if some of us make light of your odd behavior.

Leftists who choose to strike a pose should be asked if they really think their ephemeral self-satisfaction is worth remaining out of power. It isn't a price that is worth it to any rational leftist.

So, giving expression to one's world-view, if one is an atheist, is "striking a pose" and thus deserves derision. But doing the same, if one is a buddhist, muslim, or even a "real" "christian," is the prerogative of the majority and thus demands unquestioning respect, no matter how absurd that world-view is. Hmmmmm.

Also, black people should stop making jokes about white people, because it might make white people stop supporting racial equality. And gays should never, ever laugh at straights, because all those "breeder" jokes make us uncomfortable, and then we might decide that denying them their rights is totally peachy-creamy, since they were so snotty and ungrateful about it.

In fact, no member of any social/culture minority should ever crack a joke at the expense of their would-be/might-be political majority benefactors -- even between themselves, no matter how uncomfortable it is to live in a society in which your identity and world-view work against you. Because you know, it only takes one sarcastic comment to change a dedicated, heartfelt liberal into a drooling, mouth-breathing fundamentalist Bush-voter. And then where would we be?*

PS: And that goes double for the genuinely funny jokes.



*Yep, Mississippi.
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Friday, September 08, 2006
Blogroll Expansion, Photographic Edition

I've added a few new links to the official PortaPulpit blogroll -- this probably marks my biggest single departure from political blogs, but damn it, sometimes words just don't get the job done. And in recent months, blogs like these have brought me more happiness than any of my wordy liberal brethren.




Oopik's Negativity -- a recent find, and not quite as chockablock as some of the others, but it brings regular moments of enlightenment.

Swapatorium -- my first blog in this genre, and one of my favorites -- old snapshots, ephemera, and the occasional wiener crown roast.

earthsworld -- Earth is endlessly brilliant.

The Comics Curmudgeon -- okay, this isn't actually photography, but it's still all about the graphics. And this is the only way I've ever been able to drag myself through a whole week of Mary Worth, much less enjoy it.

And I've mentioned the Athanasius Kircher Society before, right? Okay, just making sure. It's not strictly a photographic blog (though they do some great images), but I've found it to be one of the most reliable sources of mind-blowage on the internets anywhere. And that's enough to get on my blogroll.

I bet that kid with the banjo grew up to be unbelievably awesome.
2:29 PM ::
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Again With The Dreams

I dreamed last night that there was something wrong with my skin -- it was like tissue paper. And it itched. And every time I scratched, my skin tore and I started to bleed profusely. And the bleeding made it itch worse, so I scratched more, and then I bled more, until there was a pool of blood all around me.

Then this morning, I had a dream in which I was crying inconsolably -- crying with an intensity with which I've never actually cried in my life, over some desperate loss that I can't remember now. That was the second dream in six weeks that involved intense crying.

I guess something must be bothering me?

PS: In light of yesterday's post on good old-fashioned Christian self-loathing, a little gospel song. And it works on so many levels. (Not strictly safe for work.)
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Thursday, September 07, 2006
God Loves You, But He Loves You More When You Hate Yourself

I think I've found the most dysfunctional religious website in the world (next to Jack Chick's, obviously. Nobody's more fucked-up than that guy.)

"My Secret" is an orgy of self-shaming, a place where people who get off on guilt can really get down and roll around in it. Don't look for anything too lurid here -- these sins and secrets are generally all of the garden variety: people who look at pornography; closeted gays and lesbians; married men who think about sex with other women; women who are no longer interested in their husbands; a few drunks and pot smokers; girls who gave in to their boyfriends before they married them (those dirty sluts); and people who -- *gasp!* -- masturbate.

You know, the unforgiveable stuff.

And then, predictably (because while they don't announce it at the outset, this website is run by some batshit fundamentalists) they pray for forgiveness for these incredibly lame sins and ask Jesus to change their lives. The entire premise seems awfully suspect to me -- the church offers titillation, but delivers stern disapproval and a heavy dose of guilt. Some of these "confessions" are heart-breaking, though not in the way they were intended to be -- people who attempted suicide because they felt wretched and worthless, girls who were ashamed when their bodies began to change earlier than the others, gay men who've married women and struggle with self-loathing because they don't love their wives, people wracked with guilt because they doubt the existence of god. And instead of being told that these are not sins -- that in fact these experiences are all an inherent part of being human and of being themselves, and that self-inflicted shame will only make their problems worse -- they're told to beg Jesus to forgive them for their wickedness.

The only people who should be ashamed here are these so-called loving Christians. What a sickening fucking waste. And we're supposed to be the "evil" ones.
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Thursday Already?!

Where did my week go? I remember coming home completely exhausted, and then I spent a lot of time sitting in a room looking at a screen, and now it's Thursday. WTF? And I'm not even done yet, not even close!

One of the things that always bothered me, back when the Co-op was still doing workshops, was people who would come up to me to discuss their nascent urge to make films, and say something along the lines of, "... but I want to start with something easy, so I'm going to make a documentary first."

And I always wanted to box their little ears and say, "Documentary is NOT easy. Documentary is the hardest thing in the world, little noob, and it'll break you if you fall in love with it."

Which would've been slightly hyperbolic, but might've made my point. In reality, documentary is "easy" in the sense that it's much harder to make a genuinely bad doc than it is to make a bad dramatic film. You can film almost any old bullshit and people will say, "oh, yes, how interesting." However, it's also much, much harder to make a genuinely good documentary than to make a good dramatic film. And the payoff is a lot smaller.

In light of this, I think a modest mea culpa is in order. It turns out, making music videos is not "easy" at all -- it is, in fact, some seriously fucking tricky shit. Some aspects of it are easier, but the hard parts will kick your cinematic ass. And I'm feeling a little sore today.

I have newfound respect for Spike Jonze.
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Sunday, September 03, 2006
Cartoons And Doom

I had a dream this morning. I dreamt that I was driving on a wide, empty highway, when abruptly, for maybe 200 feet, the road was replaced by a field of wildflowers. It was lovely.

I stopped at the edge of the pavement to consider whether I should attempt to cross the field in my car. The field looked reasonably flat and safe, so I figured it would be okay. I got maybe three-quarters of the way across the field when my car fell into a deep, massive hole, rolling over and over on the way down. I couldn't see anything outside the car but the green of stems and leaves, and I thought to myself, "this is it, I'm definitely going to die this time."

And the I woke up.

What do you think that could've been about?









note: I know these are about cartooning, and I'm not a cartoonist. But I'm still really feeling this one today.

(Also: these panels are from a longer piece in The Acme Novelty Library, by Chris Ware, who is a fucking genius.)
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Saturday, September 02, 2006
Can't Think Of A Real Title

We begin shooting this video today -- my first (and probably their first, too) -- and I've spent the last 24 hours fretting over whether I'm under-prepared. And if I'm not under-prepared, then whether I'm over-prepared. Is it possible to be both at once? I knocked myself out with a pill last night so I wouldn't spend the whole night tying myself in mental knots, and I woke up this morning feeling as balanced as I think I can for a shoot morning. We'll meet for breakfast in a little while, and from there, if my plan works, it'll be like sliding into a warm bath. By tomorrow, I'll wish we could keep shooting all week. Either that, or we'll all be pouting in different corners. But probably not. We'll see.

I'm going in with no set script to follow, and no pre-conceived vision of what it'll look like. I have glimpses of it in my mind, and I have a list of ideas for shots if we get stuck, but I don't have a shot-by-shot image of the entire film in my mind as I normally would with a non-doc film. If anything, my approach with this has been to make the shoot as much like shooting a documentary as possible -- I know I take doc shooting more easily in stride, which leaves me freer to do my best work. In some respects this is the perfect format in which to experiment with new methods; playing this loose on a predefined narrative film would be disastrous, but here, where there's no absolute goal to meet, I can allow the process to be a little more self-propelled. And maybe I'll be able to pick up a few useful new tricks to help make shooting with actors a little less angst-ridden, maybe a little more natural.
7:36 AM ::
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