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Monday, August 31, 2009

O Captain, My Captain


This is pathetic: I finally dreamed of Bill (for the first time!), and what did I dream? I dreamed I went up to him-- as he is today, more or less--and shook his hand.
He made some perfectly pleasant remark, which I don't recall, like "thank you very much" or something.
And that was it.

Is this the best my subconscious could come up with?

Forgive me, capitano dell'astronave!
_____________________________________
This is the best thing I've read on Shatner as Shatner, from The Guardian, "William Shatner, you are a very special guy":
"William Shatner may be a living joke, but his dignity, not to say his genius, is that he's the one telling it."

Sunshine Suicide

I am really glad I didn't see Sunshine Cleaning in a movie theater. It is a comedy of sorts, but I would have laughed at all the wrong places, and I don't like doing that in movies about sensitive subjects.

I knew the movie was about two sisters who work cleaning up biohazards (blood and body fluids) after messy deaths. I didn't know the backstory--their mother's death when they were little was, as one of the sisters says, "a do-it-yourself job."
Watching it alone on DVD (it's a new release), I could make happy noises of recognition: oh look! that bloody mattress looks just like my mother's!
I completed one semester of Mortuary Science school in 1999, and that's a world that knows all about biohazards too, and about the peculiar humor and particular brand of compassion that arises among people who work with them.
The sisters are like me and my sister too. The elder (Amy Adams, left in picture) is the high achiever (that's my sister), and the younger (Emily Blunt) is "interesting."

Amy Adams always impresses me--she has the pert, petite, perkiness of an airhead ingenue; but she's unfailingly, surprisingly real. Watching her on screen, I can imagine what it would feel like to touch the skin of her arm.

Anyway, Sunshine Cleaning was very good. The characters caught the right balance of freaky and funny, the way having your life broken can both damage and warp you and strengthen and stretch you.

I've been thinking about what movie I want to make next.
I've got a three-hour tutorial scheduled with the Apple tutors to clean up some ragged editing ends, and then Orestes is pretty much done.

I don't know if I'm ready to do this, but I'd like to film people talking about suicide. I've already asked one woman whose brother took his own life if she'd be interested, and she said yes. I could talk about my mother's suicide too, though that's not my intention.

I picture it being entirely composed of people talking about their experiences. Just talking.
No expert analysis.
No sociology.
No infomercial crap.

That's the kind of documentaries I like. I think there's a name for them, the kind where the moviemakers don't explain things in well-modulated voice overs. No experts are interviewed and inserted. Of course, moviemakers control the spin by how they edit the footage (no small thing!); but otherwise, the people in front of the camera make the story.

What I discovered the few times I've interviewed people for articles is that all you need to do is get people talking. Then listen, and eventually they will say something--often incidentally, maybe when they're getting their stuff together to leave and you're thinking you've nothing to write about--that cracks the sky open.

I don't know what I'd do with such a film; but perhaps there'd be some use for it. Honestly, I just want to make it.

Sometime.

______________
I avoided movies on this topic for a long time, but this spring I wrote briefly about another good movie about suicide: Love Liza.

_________________

For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Serial Loves


Right: 365 self-portrait [I've lost count of what # I'm on]:
Nibble on Them Teeny Toes

Momo and her daughter gave me this Captain Kirk doll (from 1991), and mighty glad I was too; but part of me still boggles at my love for Jim.
What ever is this? I ask myself.

I'd talked about my serial loves with a friend who has them too--deep fascinations with a person, place, philosophy, or pursuit; fascinations which sometimes mystify. It feels as if they grab us and hold us--or we grab them-- until they're done with us; but it's not always clear, why this particular person or place or pursuit, of all things? Why am I in love with this idea?

My loves are like what physics says about energies in the universe: they're never lost, they just change form.
Even after the fuel has burned up, the heat dispersed, I don't stop loving, at least in part, anything I've ever loved:
my best friend, Helen McElroy, in fourth grade; horses in fifth grade; Star Trek; Bruce Springsteen; feminism; Cream of Wheat with raisins; Saint Augustine; the glass dome of the British Museum (an afternoon fling); book- and paper-making; etc. etc.
It more that my relationship with each waxes and wanes in intensity over time. When the energy is consumed, it cools.

Not only am I sometimes confused about what I love, other people are too.
Sometimes for frivolous reasons: A friend was once flummoxed when I told him I love maraschino cherries. (Not an intense passion, that.) This childish pleasure just didn't go with his image of me as an intellectual who, at that time, was studying Japanese. (Oh, right--add Japanese Literature to my list.)
Sometimes because the philosophies seem to clash: a feminist friend could not get her head around me joining the Catholic Church.

Eventually, my loves always make sense to me. There's a network of underground rivers connecting them all.
There's a river of searching: Bruce, feminism, and saints all refuse to settle for the status quo.
There's a river of paradox: a chewy raisin in smooth cereal is something like a court of natural light in the center of a venerable stone museum.
There's a river of intensity: horses, starship captains, and walking across Spain.
Some rivers crisscross or flow together too. This year, filmmaking is one giant aboveground river with many tributaries.

After we talked, my friend e-mailed me this quote from a book about the Myers-Briggs personality types, Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual by Lenore Thomson (pp. 231-232):
“INJs [meaning INFJs and INTJs, or introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging types, of which I am one]... often collect things that represent their sense of emergent meaning, even if they can’t explain why the objects matter to them.

"For example, an INTJ minister of my acquaintance collects carvings of the Green Man. The instinctual nature of this pagan image resonates with him but has no relationship with his current life structure.

"The INJ’s self experience nearly always embodies the unknown, a state of being that’s not yet embodied. Accordingly, where ISJs [introverted, sensory, judging types] maintain and enjoy their hobbies all their lives, INJs tend to lose interest when the fluid nature of unrealized meaning takes expressible shape and has meaning for others.

"One of my cousins, an INFJ, spent years following the career of an unknown character actor, mesmerized by what she saw in him but unable to explain the interest to anyone else. When he ultimately got a part in a popular TV show and won an Emmy, she felt vindicated but found that he no longer held the same fascination for her.”
Yep. That's me.
Though I wouldn't say I lose interest if my loves take on meaning for others (that would exclude Kirk, for one); but there may be something idiosyncratic about them.
For instance, I sure found out that the reasons I love the Catholic Church weren't often shared by other people in the pews. I relished the mustang-like wildness of spirit in the religion's stories; but the church itself was more like a corral, and the workers like cowboys set on domesticating that wildness.

Really, I'm not all that baffled why I love Kirk. He embodies a whole bunch of energies I want to tap in myself. Confidence, probably most of all. To boldly go, without second-guessing yourself. To love what you love, and to be what you are, without apology. Also, he's so damn cute.

I am a little bit surprised, though, how long this love has lasted. Seems there's a lot of fuel in that tank, and many rivers to cross.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What question have you always wanted to be asked?

Right: Painting of D. H. Lawrence's writing by Dr Ala Bashir

Being chronically misunderstood by someone up close and personal is like getting beaten with a bag of oranges: it damages you internally but leaves no bruises. (Or so The Grifters claims of the bag of oranges). Being understood, on the other hand, especially without even having to spell yourself out, is like that wonderful first gasp of air after you've been underwater too long.

Recently I came across a letter (oft quoted) that D. H. Lawrence wrote while his mother was dying, describing their love: "we knew each other by instinct," he writes.
I felt the same about my mother, I told a friend over lunch. I wouldn't go so far as Lawrence and say our love made me "abnormal," but my mother was the person who helped me make sense of the universe.

I don't actually know this friend very well, but we've always "gotten" each other. I've felt rather pummeled this week, and talking to her was like a balm.
After I quoted Lawrence to explain my mother and me, she asked,
"How ever did you withstand her death?"

I suppose I got used to living without that sort of understanding.
It's even freed me up to do other things. Lawrence said something about that too--that he had to let go of his mother's hand before he could take someone else's. But without that cushion of understanding, the blows of being misunderstood can feel even weightier. So I stand farther back.
Probably a good thing. Or, anyway, it is what it is.

Later in our conversation, my friend, who's very interested in psychology, asked me, "What's the question you've always wanted to be asked?"

I thought a while and replied that she had asked one of them: how did I stand my mother's death. But, I said, I wouldn't want most people to ask it. It's more that I want the sort of friendship where the person feels comfortable asking it, and I feel comfortable answering it.

That's actually the point of that question, she said: it reveals not the question we want but the relationship we want.

"So, what about you?" I asked her. "What question have you always wanted to be asked?"

"You just asked it," she said.
I was only the second of many people she's asked who has asked the question in return, she told me.
Which isn't to say that all those other people were insensitive but that there aren't that many people who get you.
__________________________
Speaking of which, this video won't embed, but I love this song:
Everything But The Girl's Get Me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No animals were harmed in the making of this blog.

Julie and Julia comes with the "no animals were harmed" blessing of the Animal Humane Society in its credits. This is pretty funny for a movie that is a glorification of eating animals and whose culminating scene is the boning of a dead duck.
I can believe that the scene of Amy Adams (Julie) dropping live lobsters into boiling water was simulated (and were the lobsters then released into the wild?); but there is no way that that duck corpse was not once animated and quacking.
I am not offended.
I am not a rabid vegetarian.
I am simply amused.

It's an amusing movie. I liked it a whole lot. I went to see it for the same reason I cried when Walter Cronkite died: the voice. My father watched the news when I was little and my mother watched The French Chef. The distinctive voices trigger memories.

Meryl Streep got Julia Child's right: the second I heard her whinnying tones, I remembered ... the handwoven place mats of our family dinner table.

A family friend, a woman I called Aunt Emilie, wove these place mats. She was married to a Turk, and she wove in the colors of magic carpets, as if she'd gathered wisps of wool off bushes sheep had brushed passed, dusty with ochre, and dyed them pomegranate, olive leaf, and blue.

My mother cooked and served us meals out of Julia Child on those place mats. My foodie sister could tell you more about those meals, but I didn't pay much attention. I was a philistine. In the school cafeteria, with my container of leftover bœuf bourguignon and a slice of génoise cake wrapped in wax paper, I was jealous of the kids who pulled baloney sandwiches and twinkies out of their brown paper sacks.

I don't care much about things that happen in kitchens. For me, Julie and Julia is a movie not about cooking but about writing. Specifically, and wonderfully, blogging. I laughed a lot in recognition. Is it the first movie ever about blogging, based on a real blog?
Julie, you probably know, is a stalled writer--she's managed half a novel--who decides to blog about cooking every recipe in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. I wished there'd been less cooking and more blogging, but anyone who blogs will relate to bits like Julia's thrill at getting comments that aren't from her mom.

Julie and Julia is friendly and familiar--it's about women preparing food, after all--but it's also very unusual: it's a film about women pursuing their work, their art, with passion. Successfully! and without tragedy. They are not punished, hacked to bits, say, by animal activists. They are not sexless and alone. They both have lovely, edible husbands--Stanley Tucci plays Meryl Streep's. (If Tucci were a food, he would be the kind of mustard you slather.)

Sitting in the movie theater, I was struck by what a treat it was to be able to identify with movie heroes. I'm so used to translating the main characters (male) who do anything other than fall in love into "me," it's only its absence I notice.

You could call Julie and Julia a chick flick, I suppose, since it's about cooking, even if it's not about boyfriends, but it's one of the few movies I've ever seen that meets the Bechdel Test (from Alison Bechdel, creator of the cartoon Dykes to Watch Out For). The criteria are, the movie must:
1. have two women characters
2. who talk to each other
3. about something other than a man

(I might add, 4. and neither one dies. But there goes Alien, Thelma and Louise, Terms of Endearment ... leaving almost only Babette's Feast.)

I have an idea: movies that meet the criteria could add a little statement in the credits, like the Animal Humane Society one:
Two Women Talk About Something Other Than Men in This Film. (But they also kill lobsters.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Channeling Cheerful Hamster

Above: curry with "cheerful hamster" from Engrish.com

A friend of mine who is generally rather acerbic passed along this advice from a radio psychologist for dealing with interpersonal conflict:
just act "stupid and cheerful." (You know: fake it.)
We both thought this was a brilliant idea.

But when I told it to another friend last night--a friend with a much sweeter demeanor--she said she's been doing it all her life, with the end result that she feels... stupid.

"Stupid and cheerful" appeals to me because I grew up in a family that took "smart and resentful" to the Olympics.
Though my strategies for dealing with difficult situations have been more about avoidance--become Invisible Girl; Duck and Cover; Don't Care, Disappear; Cut and Run--when I feel pushed, I can slip into Vengeful Cobra.

So, one has to tinker with the angle of the advice; but the central point is:
when something dangles in front of you and you know there's a hook in its center, don't bite--even though it's wrapped in yummy righteousness.
But you don't have to run away either.

I am grateful for any skills that help me stay present and not take the bait. For me, calling up the idea of a cheerful hamster helps. It adds some air, light, and space around the hook, which is a very dense, heavy, metal. (I've seen the Dalai Lama play something like the Cheerful Hamster.)

Cheerful Hamster's inherent silliness provides a cushion too, so I can stay put and take the blows, say, to my pride.

This doesn't work if it means doing violence to your own self. Obviously the idea isn't to twist on your own hook instead of someone else's.
Maybe my sweet friend might benefit more from calling up her inner tart apple: Howard Beale ("I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!") rather than Cheerful Hamster.

(I hadn't seen Peter Finch's ravings since Network came out in 1976--amazing how well they apply 33 years later.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

P.S. (remembering I'm happy)

Gee, yesterday was such a hard day that this morning when I wrote about editing my film, I see now that all I did was talk about my mistakes.
So this evening I must add my delight and pride and thrilled astonishment: Orestes and the Fly is almost done!!!
Wow...
I remember when I started last fall, a friend told me I had bitten off more than I could chew, for a first film.
He was right, but I just kept chewing. A lot of people have helped--gnawed on the tough bits and the like--and really, I think the final result won't be half bad, all things considered.
I am very, very happy.

One year, 8 min. 58 sec.

"And now she could not bring herself to believe that the uneventful life she was leading was the happiness of which she had dreamed."
--Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

Below: Screen cap of an Orestes and the Fly editing moment on iMovie. (I was choosing a bit of Top Hat to insert.)

I bought my HD camcorder last August. After one year, my first film * is nearing completion. As of today, it's 8 minutes 58 seconds long. The credits could be almost as long as the movie, but at any rate, it's going to be under 10 minutes.

Of course, I wasn't working on the film continuously for a year--I spent the middle 7 months inert in gloom because I didn't want to bite the bullet and buy the computer I needed to edit. But I count that time too, because that was part of the whole arc, and part of what I learned:
If you need a tool to do a job, get that tool.

I've always lived on the cheap, so it barely even occurs to me that I could choose to go into debt. But there's a place where living simply can tip into deprivation, and that's a dangerous place. That's where living on the cheap becomes true poverty.
Obviously we don't always have a choice about this, but in my case, I did have a choice: it was fear that was holding me back. But I didn't really see that. Now I do.**

Mostly this project has been fun, if nerve wracking. But yesterday, bink spent about 6 hours trying to help me edit, and I was at my worst. There are some things I need to do alone, and the futzy stuff of editing is one of them. But I didn't know that either, so I was just a bitch.

(I'm sure you believe me, but if you don't, ask bink. Here she is, right, wearing protective eye-shields against my movie-editing venom.)

It's horrible to see oneself behaving badly. I think I've avoided doing all sorts of things that I sensed might show me that side of myself. But it's like taking a chance to get the right tool: if you can't risk it, you're stuck in the safe zone, where nothing much happens.

I thought I would write a long thoughtful post this Sunday morning, but I am too distracted. I don't think I can focus on writing until I'm settled with the movie. Along with the 7 months of inertia, that's another thing that won't show in the 8 min 58 sec--all the time I spend
1. staring into space
2. making a cut or an addition to the film
3. undoing the change
4. staring into space again
______________
* I could claim Peeps Blow Up as my first film, but since bink edited the entire thing on her own, on her computer--and The Making Of too, I've always considered them more hers. Or at least ours. This one's mine. Mine, mine, mine. Even though bink and others helped a ton.

** Full disclosure: it was my dad who finally bought me the computer I needed this summer. But the lesson was the same: once I had the tool, I realized what a complete fool I'd been not to buy it on credit last October when I realized I needed it. I could have spent the winter working on projects instead of watching other people's. It scares me to take on debt--financial or emotional--yeah; but the growing realization that there's more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than in the top sure helps put it in perspective.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Soundtrack of Your Life

If your life was a movie, what songs would be on the Sountrack Sold Separately?
I don't mean your favorite songs, but the songs that set the background mood, give information, and carry the story forward.

I've been thinking about this as I edit Orestes and the Fly. I've finally reached the stage where the clip-timing is set enough that I can add music.
I was worried about this stage because I'm not really a music person, so I'm surprised how [relatively] easy it's being. I guess I'm more of a music person than I think, because I find I have a sound in mind for each of the characters.

What surprised me the most, though, was the instant transformation music brings about. Of course I knew that sound is a huge, huge part of movies, but when I took my own silent footage and added songs, it still blew me away.
For instance, I've always wanted to make Orestes sympathetic, even though he killed his mother. I was hoping the music would help with that, and it does-- perfectly.
In fact, it feels like a cheat: Hey, I think, I did all this work creating these visuals and the thing that carries it away is the music! Damn.

I was talking to Kellie about this---how you can change the mood (in real-life-time or in film) by changing the music, and she told me there's a whole genre out there of recut and rescored film trailers that do that. She sent me one of the best and most famous: "The Shining (Happy Version)". I literally screamed with laughter.


In a different vein, I'd already seen and admired Gin's slash version of the Star Trek III: The Search for Spock trailer quite a while ago; but as she says herself, she took what was already there and upped the Kirk/Spock romance, she didn't turn it into a whole different genre or story.

And there's Broke Trek--A Star Trek Brokeback Mountain Parody too.

Watching this again inspired my Kirk of the Week, though I was thinking of the line from Four Weddings and a Funeral: "It's you, it's always been you, Charlie..."

Hmm, looking around the nets for pix, I see I'm far from the only one who thought Charlie (Hugh Grant) should have ended up with Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), though she was probably better off without him.

This is the song that has been playing in the background of my life this summer:
Tim McGraw's "My Next Thirty Years" (not the video, just the song). You know, I wouldn't put this on my list of Top 100 Songs, it just fits my mood.


And here's the weirdest thing--I'm thinking I don't want to have to rely on other people's music all the time--couldn't I score some of my own stuff?
My computer comes with Garage Band, where you can create music, and I think I could probably create a few seconds of a dirge of some sort, for instance, couldn't I? Something slow, in a minor key...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tricky Little Stories

At the last house I sat, I idly started to read two books not knowing much about them but having heard good things about their authors. "New York Times Bestseller" appears on each book's cover. About a quarter of the way into each of them, I realized these wildly different books have the same theme:
A young man, left by his African father as a child, searches for his identity.

The books are Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father and Neil Gaiman's "magical-horror-thriller-ghost-romantic-comedy-family-epic" * novel Anansi Boys. Anansi is the West African trickster god, a spider who can appear as a man. Gaiman's wonderfully readable book follows the adventures of Anansi's son Fat Charlie, who gets mightily confused about his own identity when he realizes after his father dies that he was a god.

Right: Eartha Kitt (some kind of cat goddess, for sure)

Anansi stories are big in the Caribbean, where some of Anansi Boys' characters come from. But it took me a while to realize the characters aren't white because the author doesn't outright say they're black, like authors generally do. This is part of the fun of the book--realizing Gaiman is playing a bit with writing about race--I think almost the only time he gratuitously mentions someone's skin color is when they're white. (Early on, he tells us a nurse is white, for no reason--you never see her again.) Otherwise he says things like "she resembled a skeletal Eartha Kitt," but leaves it up to the reader to decide what the skin of someone whose father is an African god looks like.

Obama, of course, mentions race outright on the very cover of his book, which is subtitled A Story of Race and Inheritance. I can't say a whole lot about this book because I bogged down on page 94. I am totally sympathetic to his search, but this guy is sooooo sincere, so literal, he works so hard to explain behavior for us, the readers, I think he's a bit of a bore.

You know how I said recently I'm not interested in messages but in good stories? Well, Obama may be a good politician and a great guy, and I'm *very* happy he's my president, but his writing foot is heavy on the message. Fair enough, he never said he was a storyteller, right? His imagination is normal. Which is probably good in a politician.

[small spoiler]
This evening I finally finished Anansi Boys, which comes to a very satisfying conclusion. It ends with the main character basically saying just what I recently said: that he chooses the way of the storyteller:
"Charlie realized, with no little surprise, that he enjoyed singing to other people, and he knew, at that moment, that this was what he would spend the rest of his life doing. He would sing: not big, magical songs that made worlds or recreated existence. Just small songs that would make people happy for a breath, make them move, make them, for a little while, forget their problems."

I don't know much about Gaiman, but he seems to have chosen the same: to entertain rather than to put over a message. In the way of things, his book comes trailing clouds of meaning, of course, because words do. Entertaining stories end up making worlds and recreating existence, too... they just do it sneaky-like. I would choose Gaiman's as a story about a man's search for identity over Mr. Obama's ponderous, literal rendition of it.

My favorite kind of story talks to everybody and everybody hears it a little differently.
Like Jesus' parables. Jesus has some trickster-god qualities, come to think of it. He hands out these confusing little pearls and leaves folks trying to figure out just what it is they're holding--and what they want to do about it. Very tricksy.

* Interview with Gaiman about Anansi Boys, in which he says he really wanted to do "was try and emulate people like P. G. Wodehouse," which helps explain the book's charm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer, 1964

I'm slacking off on blogging and 365ing and everything, so here to pick up some slack is me (front), aged three, with my five-year-old sister, our mother's mother, and our family dog, picnicking on the banks of Piney River, in Missouri.

Forty-three years later, I'd be back to scatter my mother's ashes in this river.

Friday, August 14, 2009

365: Getting Ready for Lakshmi & Ganesha

Even though I don't like hot weather, every year round about now, I feel energized by heat of the tomato-ripening, sunflower-swelling kind. This year not only am I taking out and washing all my combination windows, I am inspired to wash all my walls too, which I have never done before, though I've lived here seven years.
This morning I almost deleted the latest mass-forwarded "money/spiritual wealth is coming to you" e-mail, though it's from a friend I trust. These promises of abundance, even when couched as spiritual good wishes, usually feel more like threats, probably because they are, in their final lines:
Send on to 12 people or you will be cursed.

This one, however, came with this picture of the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and an elephant who reminds me of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.
Ganesha and Lakshmi aren't related but they team up on Diwali, when he clears away obstacles and she delivers the goodies. Diwali this year isn't until October 17, but I think for me it is today, as I finish clearing the clutter.
I always loved Ganesha and was amazed to learn a few years ago that he is the patron of writers--he holds in his hand the tip of one of his tusks, which he broke off to use to write down the Mahabharata. He's my sort of god--he also likes to eat sweets and dance.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

365: Crown of Thorns

On Marcia's back porch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"There's Always Someone Cooler Than You"

Now that August has turned hot and muggy, after weeks of lovely cool, dry weather, I'm leaving behind my air-conditioned housesitting gigs and going back home to my hot little apartment. There I will finish (eventually) editing my film to the cheery accompaniment of Ben Folds.

I love this song.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home of the Brave?

Right: Vegetables? Or Dangerous Implements?

Darwi has blogged about seeing through the myth that America is the Land of the Free, after living here in the USA for six months. Lately I've also noticed people (such as William Gurstelle) pointing out, with concern, that perhaps we're not exactly the Home of the Brave either. We've become what some call a "nanny culture," horribly worried that we'll fall and bump ourselves--or that other people will and we'll be blamed.

Sunday morning I experienced how ridiculously fearful we've become.
bink and I went to a neighborhood Farmers Market where bink bought a big head of cabbage. Afterward we had coffee at a nearby café that caters to an artsy, gender-bending crowd. The place thinks of itself as very cutting edge.

bink said she'd give me half the cabbage, if only we had a knife. So, since the line at the counter was long, I went right up to the kitchen cutaway window and asked the cook if I could use his knife to cut a cabbage in half.

The manager came up to me all aflutter and asked if I was a vendor. No, I said, I just wanted to borrow a knife to cut this cabbage in half--and I held it up and showed her.
Well, her knickers, and her face, really twisted at that.
"Oh, I don't think we can let you use a sharp knife!" she said, just at the moment the cook handed his knife through the window to me, saying, "Please be careful."

I simply turned away from the manager and cut the cabbage in half--no blood was spilled--and handed the knife back to the cook, saying "Bless you."
Really, it felt like he'd taken this huge risk and deserved a blessing. To his credit, he looked a bit chagrined.

The manager had disappeared, perhaps to up the café's insurance policy or to don armor, what with such dangerous customers around. Why, someone might come at her with a raspberry!

I'm not someone who jumps out of planes, but I am philosophically aligned with Gertrude Stein who says, "Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really very frightening."
Or maybe it is, but if we don't face down at least some of our fears, we'll have to eat all our cabbages ourselves.

Picture of veg from this recipe for cabbage soup. (It's a weight-loss soup, so I advise adding some butter. Go ahead, sue me!)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Free Women in Paris


"Photography can never grow up and stand on its own two feet if it imitates primarily some other medium. It has to walk alone. It has to be itself.”

--Berenice Abbott, photographer (far right, photo by Man Ray, c. 1921)

If I'm reminiscing about my religious, philosophical, and other influences, I can't overlook the influence of the Lesbian Artist in Paris (fin de siècle or between the wars), who seemed to me, when I was in my early twenties, the epitome of freedom. It wasn't all that simple, of course, but I still find these women's lives--as creators, not subjects--alluring, inspiring.

This afternoon I took a break from film editing, which I find nerve-wracking, to gather some images. I used to remember who painted or published or photographed whom, and who was lovers with whom too, but these details don't stay with me, just the sense of women unfettered and alive. I suppose my admiration for them is a relative of my admiration for Jim Kirk (though he's no intellect)--people who stand on their own feet. A romantic illusion, in part (a lot of these women were independently wealthy, for instance, and Kirk is, I hate to say it, fictional), but not a bad one...

Romaine Brooks, self-portrait (1923)

Reneé Vivien (left) and Natalie Barney

"Writing only leads to more writing." --Colette

Au Café, Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes in Paris, 1922, photo by Maurice Brange

"It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important." --Gertrude Stein



Sylvia Beach

Far left, photo by Berenice Abbott;

Near left, in her Paris book- shop, Shakes- peare and Co., photo by Gisèle Freund

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My film is "awesome!"

That's what the Apple trainer said last night at the "one-to-one" class (you can sign up for these when you buy a Mac computer) about my film: awesome!

This guy is a filmmaker himself, and I love how people get all happy when other people do what they love to do too. Isn't that a wonderful phenomenon? --instead of getting protective and competitive, the response is to welcome and share the thing you love. (Funny how that doesn't apply to everything we love, ...or we think we love.)

Anyway, it's so great to get encouragement.
I take into account he had spent all day showing people how to set up e-mail accounts on their Macs, and then I come in with my raw footage for editing help; but I still take it as a valid judgment, because, in fact, the film does look pretty awesome, seen by strangers out in public--a dancing Fly, murder in a bathtub, sinking newspaper boats...

He gave me a whole bunch of editing tips, and maybe the most encouraging one was the reassurance that feeling overwhelmed is not a sign that I'm doing anything fundamentally wrong, the task truly is enormous:

Video footage is 30 frames per second, and I've got... say, 4 hours of film.
That's 60 seconds x 4 hours = 240 sec. x 30 frames = 7200 still photos to juggle in your brain.
(And I say I can't do math!)
He said he uses two big monitors to edit, so it's not all cramped upon a laptop. You can get monitors cheap, so I'll think about that. Maybe for the next film.

He also told me the name for special effects you create with the camera, which I like so much, (for instance, I had filmed a stormy sky and wanted help superimposing that shot, semi-opaque, over a scene of the sinking boat):
"practical effects".
As opposed to CGI (computer generated images) special effects.

This morning I'm heading off to sacrifice Iphigenia. It's been raining all night and the sky is thick, which should be just right. My only worry is directing a nine-year-old whom I don't really know.
Unless I have to reshoot something, this really is the last shoot. I'm so glad I started this last year. It really is the most interesting thing I've done in years--and the most challenging.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Religious Life, Condensed

Annika e-mailed and asked me if I've always been interested in religion.
Yes, I have always been interested in religion. Or, rather, metaphysics first, organized religion later.

I spent this morning writing this Reader's Digest version of my religious life in reply. Maybe it's too condensed to be of interest? I don't know, but I spent hours writing it out, so gosh darn it, I'm posting it (cf. The Creed of the Blogger).
________________________
Right: Jospeh Cornell, Observatory-Window on Skies, Empty White Room (1957)

I. The Weight of the Cosmos

When I was about four years old, I dreamed several times that I was a tiny speck in the grass, looking up at immensity. Hugeness--the sky, the cosmos--was pressing down and in on me from all around. It was scary.

I read a description of that experience of awareness a few years ago, but I can't remember what it was called. I think it's a stage of a child's awareness of having a body separate from the world?
Anyway, I see it now as a core experience--an awareness of the infinity of the universe and myself as a speck, separate from but part of that universe. My interest in religion was at first an interest in coming to terms with cosmic matters more than an interest in living in human society.

When I went to first grade, I realized other kids took part in this thing called church, and that intrigued me. I knew incoherently that it had something to do with our place in the universe, beyond material things like Pink Pearl erasers and library paste.

My family never, ever went to church, though my parents never spoke badly of it. We read books and went to art museums and things like that in a similar way. It was good stuff: Thomas Jefferson and dried figs on the coffee table, and going to see innovative stagings of Midsummer Night's Dream.

Still, alone among my family, I was really, really curious this Christian/Jewish concept of "God", which seemed to be beyond the limits of self, not created by humans like art and government are.
My Sicilian grandmother used to say, "God is love." I didn't know she was quoting the Bible, but that formula intrigued me. It seemed to acknowledge that some invisible force, like gravity, was operating behind/alongside solid, visible reality.

II. Sweep Me Away on a Cloud of God

When I was thirteen, that solid reality came unglued. My mother left the family, and I started going to a high school where I didn't know anybody.
As a teenager, I was so miserable, I just wanted escape. Something like what you write, Annika: "I was after psychedelic experiences of being swept away to another plane of existence".

I got some of that from Star Trek! A doorway into another world that is this one, but better, different. And Bruce Springsteen. Mostly, though, I sat in my room and read and read and read, and ate Sugar Pops cereal.

When I was fifteen, I saw the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972, left), which is a 1960s operatic version of Saint Francis's life. I LOVED it.
When I watched it again a few years ago, I couldn't stand to watch the whole thing, it was so over-the-top soupy. You know, God as a filmy linen curtain blowing in the breeze, with soaring music... Still, the movie preached kindness and social justice and the spiritual transcendence of the material world, and those are all good things.

(I also listened over and over again to the album of "Jesus Christ, Superstar", which is where I first got the whole gospel story.)

So, when I was sixteen, I looked into joining the Catholic Church, thinking it would be like Franco Zeffirelli meets Rice & Webber. There actually were elements of that--this was a campus church in the 1970s--but I quickly realized politics matter more than stage settings. I didn't join.

Around then, my father and I had a sort of fight that perfectly describes who we both are:
I asked him if he thought rocks have souls.
He said it was a stupid question; but I wouldn't drop it and kept pushing (too much) trying to explain to him what I meant.
Finally he got really annoyed at me and said that we could never know if rocks have souls, so it was pointless to even ask the question.
I felt ridiculed and stymied. (I'm so attracted as an adult to the Buddhist teaching, "Don't use your words as weapons" partly because I had so much experience as a child with how very effective they are.)

I graduated from high school early, at sixteen, and moved out.

III. Anti-Nuclear Vegetarian Radical Lesbian-Feminist Utopianism

By twenty, I'd moved around a bit and dropped in and out of college. I dabbled briefly in a bunch of different spiritual and socio-political philosophies and practices: Wicca, tarot, New Age, astrology, and anti-nuclear vegetarian radical lesbian-feminist utopianism (the idea that women without men could create a perfect world---ha!).
But I've never fit very well in groups, and I never got seriously involved in any spiritual or political community.

Still, I read a lot and I learned a lot from each of these philosophies. I'm grateful to each one. Reading tarot, for instance, is good practice learning to see and think symbolically. Astrology provides practice in looking out for different personalities.
And Wicca, as I met it through lovely people like Starhawk, was a good counterbalance to male-dominated, power mongering world views. (This was the Reagan era.)

I also made art throughout my twenties--mostly found-object and book arts: papermaking, book binding, calligraphy, drawing, and cutting and pasting. I looked over the shoulder of my lover, Lucinda, too, as she went back to college for her MFA in painting. Making art was like the physical side of religion, I now know--seeing and uncovering and co-creating with the expressive, plastic qualities of matter. It's a sacramental view of the world.

At twenty-eight, I got a job working the evening shift at an art college library, where I would spend the next twelve years looking at pictures and being around people who thought it was normal and good to make stuff that isn't necessarily useful. In religious terms, it was sort of like attending seminary. (I think it's the Jesuits who prepare for ordination to the priesthood for something like that long.)

IV. More Fathers

Visual art was great, but when I was 31, my brain suffered severe cramps from lack of verbal exercise, and I went back to college. At the university here, though it's a huge school (40,000-some students), there was no formal way to study religion at that time. (There is now, in this post-Sept. 11 world) I ended up in the Classics department studying Late Antiquity, the fall of Rome and the rise of Christian state power, and the heavy hitting "fathers of the church": Augustine, Basil, Jerome, and other theologians/philosophers/statesmen of the time.

Left: Working on my senior paper, "Ambrose and the Theology of Death" (1995-96, on paper!)

I was still most interested in the romantic stuff, like Augustine at his sweetest, most mystical self (especially in his "Confessions," where I recognized myself); but I ended up doing my senior paper on the most political of men: Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. He wrote some lovely hymns still sung today, but really, he was more like the Godfather--the Church being an offer you couldn't refuse.

Aside from reading the "Confessions" in a history class, the class that most related to my childhood dream of tininess and infinity was the Physics for non-science majors. But I couldn't do the math to go any further into that.

Right:Particle Physics, "First Gold Beam Beam Collision Event", from Science Daily

When I graduated at 35, I went looking for a place to practice what I had been studying. On "What Religion Suits You?" internet tests, people like me always score as Unitarians or Episcopalians. I looked into those religions, but they didn't have the oomph I needed.
The Episcopalians gave me an official pamphlet that said they seek moderation in all things. I'm not looking for moderation. And the Unitarians were just like the folks I grew up with---nice secular humanists. I can do that on my own. I wasn't looking for a social group, anyway, I was looking for the supra-personal.

No, I needed to jump in the deep, immoderate end. I got baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, the church of blood and guts.

V. In the Church

My local church was a cathedral, a wonderful, magical place. Dark wood and cool marble. Beeswax candlelight reflected in gold chalices. Wine as blood, bread as flesh, and water as spirit. Prayers rising up on silent incense. Vestments of silk, books bound in leather, holy incantations, and triangles and crosses...
(Hmmm, I just realized, it was a bit like Hogwarts.)

For about four years I steeped myself in church, and I loved it. The stories were not altogether new to me, but I hadn't grown up with them, and I found useful and entertaining wisdom in them.

I'd joined the Catholic Church expecting to find supple-minded young Augustine, longing for union with God as a lover, and he was there, on the edges. Gradually, however, I realized I was inside an institution governed by the old Augustine, the cranky, overburdened bishop all wrapped up in political concerns and encrusted with certainty. Having studied the Fathers of the Church, I shouldn't have been surprised when I ran into the Powers That Be. But I was.

Right: Incense boat and pots in the sacristy where I worked

Maybe that wouldn't have mattered much, if I'd stayed on the edges. The spring I turned forty-two, though, I started to work at my church part-time as a sacristan, setting up and taking down for the weekend Masses, and for baptism, weddings, and funerals. (I avoided working confirmations, if I could, which one priest described well as cattle calls.) It was wonderful--sort of like working backstage in the theater.

When my mother killed herself at winter Solstice, six month later, I was in the right place. No one in my family was part of any religious or spiritual community. I arranged a memorial Mass for my mother at my church, and for me, that was hugely important-- if nothing else, simply to gather people in a sacred place and mark the death.

I chose the reading about the woman caught in adultery for that Mass, because Jesus' teaching, "let whoever is without sin cast the first stone" is such a wonderful central teaching, and one that is so hard to practice we often just ignore it. I knew my mother had always longed for the sort of understanding and acceptance that Jesus offers in this story.

I always say that working in the church was like working in your favorite restaurant: you get to see how how the sausages are made and the bills are paid, and that's the end of innocence.

Up close, in the rectory, it was Ambrose all over again: men without women administering an empire with a lot of money, a lot of land, a lot of power, and very, very few checks and balances.
This creates a playground for the ego to run amok in, of course, and it does.

It took me a while to see how this worked. In the end, I learned more about politics--how it really works--while I was working in the Church than in any other way.

VI. Doubtful Fathers

I could illustrate this with personal stories, but you can see it for yourself in the movie (originally a play) Doubt, which recently came out on DVD.
In it, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a parish priest during the heady times of Vatican II, who is all for opening the windows of the Church to let the Spirit in. Meryl Streep plays an old-school, knuckle-rapping nun, the principal of the parish school, who mistrusts the priest's affectionate ways with the boys. It's never revealed whether or not the priest is "inappropriate" with the boys.
To me, that isn't the point.
I was most interested in the way the movie really gets, and shows, how power works in the Church. It's nothing unusual, it's not a secret--it's simply how systems that rely on domination work.
Like families.
If the person in power (Father, generally, but it could be Maggie Thatcher) is benign, that's nice. It's not so bad to follow rules that are fair, even if you didn't set them.
If the rules aren't fair, you can exercise the power of the powerless to resist them, which include emotional blackmail, don't-ask-don't-tell, passive resistance, and a whole bunch of sneaky but powerful tricks.
(My grandmother once "accidentally" put salt in the sugar bowl when she served coffee to her abusive husband and his cronies.)

This is just what the nun does. She harasses the priest in a bunch of ankle-biting little ways. In the film, he represents an open, forward-looking Church and she, the closed old ways.
But there comes a point where he shows the limits of his desire to change. The nun tells him she's called his old parish and talked to a nun about him. The priest, alarmed, objects that she didn't follow the chain of command, she should have talked to the parish priest.
She repeats that she talked to a nun.

Left: Doubt on stage (actors' names not given)

And he loses it.
Mr. Let's-Be-a-New-Friendly-Church, under the pressure of fear for himself, accuses her of disobeying her vows, which includes, he says, almost apoplectically, the Vow of Obedience.

Oh, this is a beautiful scene. (I couldn't find a picture of the perfect Mr. Hoffman playing it.) Whether or not this priest is guilty of anything, when push comes to shove, he is just as old-school as her, where it concerns maintaining his power.
Not really surprising--the powerful don't gratuitously give up power.

In the end, the nun uses her tricks to get the priest out of her school [the power of the powerless is not small...]; but the bishop makes him a pastor and school-principal somewhere else [...but the power of the powerful is bigger].

What struck me so forcefully was that this is exactly what I saw in the rectory.
Of course. Why should it change? The Mass is no longer in Latin, girls can serve at the altar, religious wear street clothes, but the political structure remains the same.

After a few events brought this home to me fully, I said to the pastor, with whom I had a fraught relationship, "I finally understand how this place works. It's not about spirituality, it's about politics."
He narrowed his eyes at me and replied, "Just like everywhere else," and walked away.

Well, maybe he's right--you don't get away from power struggles in any human organization. Practicing a cosmic mysticism separate from human community wouldn't fit me at all. If nothing else, annoying as they are, it's other humans who provide lunch.

VII. Write Your Own Life

Democracy's even worse, or more work, anyway. You've got to participate in making up the rules and you can't blame Father if they still suck. (Though people do, of course.) I can see why people like monarchies and the like.

But if I get to choose what system I operate in, it wouldn't be a dictatorship, even the most benign one. And really, the church I worked for was relatively benign, as Catholic churches go anyway, it just wasn't a democracy.
I'd already left one Father's house, I wasn't going to stay in another. I quit the job. Eventually I quit going to Mass, though that was more because I felt full up than for any political reason. I still love to visit once in a while.
The true truths I learned, I keep with me.

Once when I was feeling kinda low and lost, sometime in my late twenties, I went to a little bookstore I liked a lot. They had a good religion/spirituality section, and I went looking for something that would offer some comfort and guidance. I stood there looking at the shelves and for the first time I knew what I needed wasn't in those books, many of which I'd read. It was in me. I just had to live it.
I turned around and left, feeling low and lost ...and OK.

Of course, since then I've read lots more spiritual books and looked to all sorts of teachers and guides and people who've helped me, including priests and nuns.
That feeling of being a tiny speck in the universe is still with me, of course, but I don't feel particularly lost in the universe. (The Enterprise is out there, after all.)

Now I focus more on those tricky little details closer to the ground, like how not to use my words as weapons. How to not fool myself, like the priest in Doubt does. And how to edit film.

This past Saturday, in the middle of filming some of the last of Orestes and the Fly, I heard myself say to the guy who's playing Orestes, who I don't know very well, that I'm not terribly interested in movies with messages.
I couldn't believe I said that, it's such a reversal of what I've said in the past. But it's true, at least in part. If I work on trying to tell a true story, and an entertaining story, I can trust the cosmic message will take care of itself, instead of the other way 'round.

Have I arrived at a religious creed of sorts?
I think maybe something like that. For now.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Seeing the Details

365: Sun Mirror

"Happiness and the Brain"--that was the topic of some expert's talk on the radio, which I caught about seven minutes of, midstream. We misjudge (over or under) how happy or unhappy something will make us, he said, because we don't take details into account. Like the Buddhist saying I like so much--we don't take into account that after the ecstasy, there's the laundry. Or that after the tragedy, there's still satisfaction in watering our houseplants or clipping our toenails.

I don't know what this guy's point was because I didn't listen that long, but of course it's a good thing our brains don't notice all the details. Noticing all the details is a diagnosable problem. (I think it's one of the hallmarks of autism spectrum disorders--when you can't get past the minute details of things.)

Sitting here on the deck this morning, I don't need to spend brain energy on noticing exactly how many cherry tomatoes are ripening on the potted plant next to me (eight semi-ripe ones and a bunch of greenies, as it happens) or what the neighbors' names are (since I'm only housesitting here one more week).

The Test Pattern
How much incoming info we can handle varies. After my mother died, I felt desperate for nothing else to happen, and for a good long while, nothing did. Or, rather, looking back, plenty did, but my brain didn't register it. That's a great thing, that our brains can smooth over details.

But on the other hand, I know my brain can get so lazy it starts to look like a test pattern. It registers just a few tidy, predicable patterns. My brain kind of likes that, for a while, but eventually it dissolves into the gray static of depression.

For a few years after my mother's death, I just stayed with the base test pattern.
I wasn't happy. I wasn't unhappy.
I didn't create anything original. Art, I mean. Art is all about the details. You can't write a sentence or draw a line without your brain having to pay attention to a million details. The more personal the material, the more the brain has to pay attention to itself, the life and the body it is in. That's what I didn't want to attend to.

The guidelines of the geography books I was working on limited my choices, and that was great. I had to make all kinds of intellectual choices, of course--how to describe the role of Libya's Gaddafi, for instance, since he has no official title, just honorifics like Brotherly Leader. That was very involving all right, and personal in many ways: facts don't exist in a vacuum--you have to interpret them. I had to pay attention to details too, if nothing else to details such as where the the goes in the sentences I wrote. But it didn't involve paying close attention to emotional details. It didn't involve free-form creation out of my own self.

Generating Original Patterns

In the past few years, I've started to make my own stuff again. A couple years ago, I sent out handmade holiday cards for the first time in years, like I always used to. This blog is personal work, when I pay attention. Figuring out why I like Star Trek was all about paying attention to my personal history. And then, filmmaking...

Listening to the radio talk on happiness, I snorted at the idea that our brains don't pay attention to details, because lately it feels like I've done nothing but. Normally I coast along as much as anybody, of course, but for the last couple week I've been living in two houses where I have to think about where the light switches and the forks are and, much more importantly, I've been actively working on my film.
Filmmaking is all about creating something out of nothing, and that's all detail work. (Is that why the world has so much fuzz around the edges? God slacked off on some of the details? The details are a pain, and they're time consuming. No wonder the brain wants to skip them.)


One glove? Or two?

The Remorse of Orestes (left) by Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862

Some of the actors in Orestes and the Fly have been very detail oriented, thinking methodically and carefully about what we're creating. Others are improvisational and slapdash, let the details fall where they may. I love working with both types. Ideally a film crew would be made up of a range of types.

I'm much more the latter type--I set up a loose structure and then I improvise within it. I count on the fact that patterns form themselves and our brains naturally assign meaning to them.
I do pay attention as much as I can, but I'm not the most gifted person in tasks like paying close attention to continuity. For instance, filming Orestes this past weekend, I had him wear one red velvet glove (symbolizing the curse of the House of Atreus, which he took on when he murdered his mother, Clytemnestra).

When I went home and started editing old footage, I saw that last fall I'd filmed Orestes's mother and father each with two red gloves after they'd killed a family member. I'd forgotten that. One glove on Orestes's knife-hand had just felt right, and I hadn't bothered to check.

So. What now?
Refilm that detail? Or assign new meaning to it?
Certainly the second one is physically far easier, but you can't cheat. The detail has to be able to bear the meaning assigned it. If it can't the whole pattern will fall apart.

I thought for a while, and here's the thing:
Orestes is pushed into murder by his sister, Electra. I'd even filmed her literally physically pushing him down the sidewalk. The other velvet glove properly belongs to her, because she inherits the curse and the guilt too. That's why Orestes wears only one.
And that's a true fact. As of now.

Do I need to show Electra wearing the other one? (Easy enough to shoot.) Naw. If people even notice the detail, they can figure it out for themselves. Or not. There's a funny pleasure the brain gets in noticing when other people get the details wrong. Either way, it'll be OK.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

365: Dancing in the Dark

Me, in the Fly's head and tails, dancing in the alley under the moon last night. We'd just finished shooting the final scenes with the Fly (played by bink). Now to film the sacrifice of Iphigenia, and then it's all editing, editing, editing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sustainable Kindness

One of the three cats I'm housesitting is pathologically skittish. I've stayed in this house four times over this past year and she's never let me touch her. In fact, she doesn't even come up from Kittyland in the basement where, I presume, she feels safe from dogs and humans. I know dedicated cat lovers who would camp in the basement until this freaky kitty fell in love with them, but I am not one of them.
My days of wooing the wounded are over.

This cat's early history is unknown, but she sure acts like someone was mean to her when she was young. Unkindnesses have enormous staying power. I have sympathy with creatures who suffer from memories of meanness; but I'm wary of them too. Thirty-some years of sitting in the basement with my frightened mother kinda used up my energy for rescue missions.

So, what to do?
What I did with the basement cat was not much:
Every time I went to feed her, I said something nice to her and I moved slowly. She ran away every time, but I kept doing it because it's what I could do. I didn't expect anything to change, I didn't even think about it.

A few days ago, she didn't run away. A couple days ago, she let me pet her and immediately started purring. I was amazed. I don't expect her to join me on the couch, like the other two cats, but I enjoy her freaky friendliness just as much. (I don't need more cat hair on my clothes anyway.)

I came up with a name for this exchange: sustainable kindness.

Generally speaking, I feel compassion in life. But the trick for me has been and is to find a level of kindness that I can maintain. (I mean "kindness" as an action, here, not a feeling.)

Everybody can sustain different levels of kindness. I know some people who are like rain forests, constantly pumping out the oxygen of kindness. You just want to stand next to these people and breathe.
Other people show up for the dramatic stuff. They're like the plants that lie dormant in the Sahara and bloom once every ten years when it rains.

I see myself more like what you get if you don't mow your lawn for a few years--an ecosystem of scruffy plants that can sustain themselves on the basics. What they offer is not dramatic jungle rescue stuff (bark that cures cancer!), and they don't transform the desert into a carpet of purple.
I'm not out to save anyone--pretty cynical about that, actually--but I'll do to hold the soil in place. Pretty important, that.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Shoot (365- 50)

Some stills from yesterday's shoot.
A child Fly helps with Continuity:
[365 "self-portrait"] My hand directing bink as the Fly (reflected in the bathroom mirror):
Electra watching to make sure Orestes goes off to kill their mother: (Looking at it today, this reminds me of East of Eden.)

Yesterday's shoot was so much fun! Filmmaking, so far, reminds me most of all of being a kid and going over to friends' houses to play.
Except that as an adult, I'm constantly aware of what I'm doing wrong--I don't remember this from childhood. Didn't we just make stuff up as we went along and didn't second-guess ourselves? That's how I remember it. I'd like to get back to that.

This morning I looked up the rules for the 48 Hour Film Project because I definitely want to give it a try next summer. (Teams make 4 -7 minute-long films over one weekend. Registration is $135.)
Want to be on my team?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

365 - 49: Fly Stuff


Here I am trying out the tailcoat the Fly will wear in her dance scene today.
And to the right, below, and a tableful of stuff I'm gathering this morning, having run out to Walgreens for some last minute props:

4 blank video cassettes.... $ 13.98
2 packs star stickers .... $2.58
metallic safety pins ....$3.79
12 mini Diet Cokes.... $4.69

Somewhere I kept a list of incidental Fly expenses. *shuffles through piles of e-stuff* I think it'd gotten up to about a couple hundred dollars.

"Challenge the Rock"

Filmmaking requires all sorts of things I'm bad at, like asking for money. However, this week I challenged the rock, as Shatner says (vid below), or I took heed of Lee's philosophy that an artist can have afford no shame in begging, and I did my first fundraising. (Other people have helped, but this is the first time I asked someone for money.) When I went to pick up the tailcoats at the art library where I used to work, I ran into GZ, one of my favorite people in the world, and I felt emboldened to ask him for a quarter toward production costs, and he pulled one out of his pocket and handed it over.
So now I've spent $200 - 25 cents on oddments.
I told him I'd make him an Executive Producer in return.
The list of EPs is probably going to be as long as the movie itself, when I count everyone who's done a little something.