Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Burned Fly & Mysterious Herring

bink--who made the movie poster, right-- came over last night for a final session recording her voice-over narration (made trickier by the iMovie freeze of a couple weeks ago), and she ended up spending 3+ hours helping fix some music transitions--and now
*drum roll*
Orestes and the Fly is done!
A FLY OFF THE WALL Production.
Safe from worms and mice, burned onto a DVD this morning. (Below, left is what the DVD menu will look like, except parts of it will be moving!)

I put a Thank You to the Friends of Astronave in the credits:
You all who've written encouraging comments and e-mails over the ONE YEAR it took me to complete this 8 minute 8 second movie have been more help than you probably know.

I'm planning a premiere for the actors in a week, and then a general premiere when I'm housesitting later in the month and have room for guests. Somewhere in there I'll post it on youTube too, and, of course, here. And The Making Of too.

I feel I should say something profound, but mostly I'm just stunned---and so sick and tired of looking at the thing that while I trust that it's good (for a first try), I never want to look at it again.

I wish I'd kept track of how many hours I spent on it. Hundreds, all told, and many more if you count everyone else's hours, especially bink's.
Some of that was because I didn't know what I was doing; but some of it's simply the normal "film 10 hours to get 1 minute" norm of moviemaking.
[I made that figure up, but surely it's about right. For instance, the 48 Hour Film Project expects you to turn in a 4 min. film after 48 hours, and I don't think they expect you to sleep much.]

The Next Thing: Herring?

Now I have to put music on The Disinherited.
Then, it's The Next Movie. I'm thinking of something Ingmar Bergman-esque, something interior, what with the winter coming on and me working on northern Europe.
Maybe something exploring the wisdom of that famous Finnish proverb:
"Pieniä on silakat joulukaloiksi."
Translation: "Herrings are quite small to be served at Christmas dinner."

(If there are any Finns or people well-acquainted with herring out there who would like to take a stab at explaining this saying, please, feel free.)OMG! Searching for images, I see that if I hopped on a plane, I could go to the Helsinki Herring Fair, October 4-10, 2009.

Perhaps I could make a movie in my little apartment reenacting the events of the 1704 Herring Fair, in which Helsinki vendors put 8 of their competitors from Porvoo in the hospital.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fresca's Blue-Day Hot Toddy

"Obligatory Optimism"
Isn't that a great term? That's a European description of the USA's national ethos, and I agree. It's practically illegal to be sad (and unmedicated) here, and you have to be brave to admit to feeling down and not worried about it.

On top of some sad news, yesterday's cold (in the 40s F) rainy grey made me blue; and instead of trying to cheer myself up, I decided to buck the cultural norm, lie on the couch, read a Finnish suspense novel from the library, and drink hot toddies.
(I boiled the alcohol off, because I read that alcohol can trigger vertigo, and I'm still a bit prone to dizziness when I'm horizontal.)

Here's what I brewed up:

Fresca's Hot Toddy for a Blue Day

1 c. red wine
5 c. water
4 T honey (or to taste)
juice of 2 lemons
grated fresh ginger (about 1 inch of root; or dried ginger)
dash of dried orange peel
pinch of cardamom
touch of sadness (optional)

Bring to boil, then simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors. Add wine at the end, if you don't want to boil off the alcohol.

The Finnish novel I read, Lang, by Kjell Westo, (2006) was too loose to properly be called a suspense novel (probably a marketing ploy anyway); but I enjoyed reading it--finished the whole thing by bedtime--because the author uses Lang, his main character, a TV literary talk-show host in Helsinki, to comment on modern Finnish--and American--culture:
"Country after country developed talk shows aping the puerile cheekiness of Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. Network after network aired closet-fascist competitive show like ... "Survivor", as well as embarrassing voyeuristic programmes like 'Big Brother' and the money-grubbing game shows 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'"

But it's not a self-indulgent rant: perfectly, the protaganist ends up on "Who Wants to Be..." himself.

I also got to feel all pleased with myself because when he mentions that his grandfathers died "in the wars" I knew he meant what I'd call WWII, and when he drives down Mannerheim Street, I knew who it was named for, both things I wouldn't have known last week before I started working on Finland.

I don't usually enjoy mystery/detective stories, but reading popular novels is one of the best ways to get at a culture's assumptions and habits. (I have a friend who taught herself Spanish reading Mexican romance novels.)

When I was working on Algeria, this novel, Double Blank, by Algerian Yasmina Khadra (pen name of Mohammed Moulessehoul) gave me more insight into what it might be like to live in Algeria than anything else I read. It's political stuff, necessarily touching on terrorism and so forth--not completely without hope, but the opposite of obligatory optimism--but I'd also recommend it as a plain old good read too.

Its author said [click on name above for interview with Khadra]:
"I dreamed of writing station books, books funny and without claim, that you could read while waiting for the train or the bus, or while gilding yourself with the sun at the seaside. I dreamed to reconcile the Algerian reader with his literature. I had never thought that Superintendent Llob was going to exceed the borders of the country and appeal to readers in Europe, and America."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Captain Kirk Models the Average American's Response to a Request to Explain Finland's Role in World War II

"Uh... give me a minute... uhhhm, neutral, like Sweden?

" No? not neutral? You sure? Well, I guess maybe they were knocked out early by the Germans, like Poland?"No? Really? I know! Switched sides at the end, like Italy.
Not exactly? Huh."

[Reward for reading the rest of this post: more Kirk at the end!]

By Captain Kirk's time, this history is about 300 years old, but I bet I'm far from the only American who would flounder around hopelessly trying to answer this. Until today, when I read all about it.

(Come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure the average American would come up with the examples of Sweden, Poland, and Italy... Our movies mostly imply it's just Indiana Jones fighting the Nazis.)

I'm still confused, but I feel a little better that Wikipedia's article on Finland in WWII says Finland was in many ways unique--being, for instance, the only nation that cooperated with Nazi Germany whose army also ran field synagogues.

As I understand it, Finland's main interest was to keep out from under Stalin's aggressive Russia (USSR), right next door. (Russia used to own Finland--is "own" the right word?)

So, turns out Finland fought three wars during World War II:
1. The Winter War (winter of 1939-1940) on their own against the the USSR
2. The Continuation War (1941-1944), in which they were "co-belligerents" with Germany against the Soviet Union; Great Britain declared war on Finland, but the United States didn't (I don't know why, yet), and
3. The Lapland War (late 1944-April 1945), during which, having lost the Continuation War and now under Soviet orders, the Finns drove from their northern province of Lapland the remaining German troops, who did not leave politely.

"No fair! That's what I was going to guess next! You didn't give me enough time. "Your questions are too hard.
"I'm not playing with you anymore."
(Don't you just love him when he pouts? Let's ask him more questions about Finland!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Painters and Parsnips: Online Resources: Finland

This is the fun stage of working on a geography book: gathering resources. Later comes the stage of organizing within strict limits.
But for a while, it's all about being a terrier:
sniffing, digging, chewing, and swallowing things larger than my head.

This evening I discovered (new to me) Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946).
Left: "Mädchen vom Bildteppich" (1915)

I have to include a recipe, and I don't think parsnips and horseradish will appeal to kids, but I think this sounds wonderful!
From Food from Finland.

Sweet Christmas Vegetables and Horseradish Cream

4-5 small red onions
3-4 (300 g) parsnips
3-4 (300 g) carrots
50 ml oil
2 tbsp honey or light syrup
1 ½ tsp gingerbread spice
1/2 tsp salt

Horseradish Cream:
1 jar (200 g) of crème fraîche
1 tbsp horseradish paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey or light syrup
A pinch of salt

Peel the vegetables. Split the onions. Split the carrots and cut the parsnips into four pieces. Place the roots around the turkey on a baking tray, the cut surface above. Mix the oil, honey or syrup, gingerbread spice and salt together. Brush the vegetables with the mixture. The vegetables will be ready at the same time and at the same temperature as the turkey. (Baking just the vegetables at 175°C or 350F takes about one hour). Prepare the horseradish cream by mixing the ingredients together. Serve the sweet Christmas vegetables with a breast of turkey and the horseradish cream.

I'm not actually sure this is a Finnish site--I think it may be Dutch--but I also came across a great blog (? it's a dot org): Vegalicious recipes "delicious vegan & vegetarian recipes for compassionate people." [I expect noncompassionate people might enjoy them too.] They also host an international conversion calculator for cooks, which is very welcome.
Since I have to gather these online sources anyway, I'll store them here.

1. CIA World Factbook: Finland: "population: 5,250,275 (July 2009 est.); mobile cellular telephones: 6.08 million (2007)"

2. PRB (population reference bureau) Data Finder: Finland "Infant Mortality Rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births)
Finland = 2.7
World = 49

3. BBC: Country Profile: "Around two-thirds of Finland is covered in forest and about a tenth by water."
and BBC Timeline: Finland "2008 December - Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari receives 2008 Nobel Peace Prize."

4. Economist Country Briefing: Finland

5. U.S Dept. of State Background Notes

6. Library of Congress Country Study: Finland (1988, but good background)

7. thisisFINLAND "things you should and shouldn't know" Cool site--produced by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, but you'd never know it. You can follow thisisFINLAND on Twitter.

Finland and Liberia's Female Presidents

I have taken on a couple rush geography book projects--rewrites of Finland and then the Netherlands--both due before Christmas. So, that's my autumn set. I'm a bit sad to set aside my personal work (blogging, filmmaking, lazing), but these jobs pay money (!). And Finland especially interests me. (Mortmere? Help?)
Here's one of the first photos I discovered:

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal (L), President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and President Tarja Halonen of Finland at the International Colloquium on Women´s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security. March 2009. Copyright © Republikens presidents kansli

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dizzying Heights

I came home from Montana Monday evening, and for the next couple nights, icky dizziness swept over me whenever I moved my head in bed (but OK when upright). I went to the doc yesterday, and he said, "Vertigo. We have no idea why it happens to people, but that's what you're experiencing."

I think I might have brought it on by climbing up high in Makoshika State Park--heights make me dizzy--impersonating William Shatner. I don't know if you can clearly hear what I'm saying in this 23 second video, but I'm quoting Bill:
"Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain... to hug the mountain."

I suppose it couldn't really be this (could it?), but psychologically I felt like I was made ill from driving 1,200 miles round trip with someone who relentlessly, incessantly expressed cruelly critical opinions about everyone. It was really dreadful. I'm glad I didn't know how bad the driving part of the trip was going to be, or I wouldn't have gone. And then bink and I wouldn't have had such a blast for 48 hours, making our movie.

bink has already finished editing The Disinherited, I just have to add the music. Though that can be quite a lot of work, I'm looking forward to it, now my brain is not wobbling (much).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In Montana: Film, On the Farm

I am doing my bit to test out the Buddhist saying that if you think you're Enlightened, just try spending a weekend with your mother [or whatever relative most gets under your skin]. Or, in this case, someone else's mother. bink's mother, godblessher, is the bodhisattva gratiously showing me how easily I can lose my equanimity, or, as they might say out here in Montana, she's the burr under my saddle showing me how easily I lose my cool. (How easily? Very.) However, as she dawdles unconscionably, I have a chance to post yesterday's photos. bink and I did indeed film all of The Disinherited in 48 hours, though we barely started to edit it.

Storyboarding The Disinherited at CCs Diner, across from our motel, over pie and coffee.
bink, filming in the wheatfields her grandparents once farmed, outside of Bloomfield, Montana
"Fresca's World"; the old farmhouse was built between the world wars
Inside the old farmhouse, where no one has lived for more than forty years.

The rearview mirror (I was enchanted with how it's mounted on the dashboard, perfectly positioned to impale someone in the front seat) of a 1959 DeSoto, stored on the farmland with a bunch of other classic junkers until they can be restored and sold (see examples at moparfarm dot com) by bink's uncle. He offered to sell me this one for only $2,500. If I had either money or a driver's license, or if it had an engine, I'd have snapped it up. Not only is it saturated pink, it has fins like a shark.
bink's transportation of choice: one of her granfather's old combines, rusting out in a field.
Not my movie. Not Montana. But sort of how I feel: as if I were sweet, darling Godzilla and bink's mom was Mothra.

Friday, September 18, 2009

In Montana: Filming The Disinherited

I'm exhausted. bink and I spent the day filming in Makoshika State Park. I schlepped the camera through a landscape that looks a lot like Cappadocia, in Turkey. It got into the low 90 degrees F, but was very dry, so not bad.

Still the light was astonishingly bright and unrelenting. bink, the shadow on the right, is holding the alien mask she made.

bink plays the Bounty Hunter, who is chasing an alien who is "the disinherited," which is the working title of the movie. It's kind of a comic theological sci-fi Western, like a Star Trek spaghetti Western with an interest in meditation.
Also donuts.

We'll finish up tomorrow on the farm where Lucinda's grandparents used to grow wheat. And then to edit, hopefully this coming week. So, after taking one year to make Orestes and the Fly, I'll only take a week or two to make my second movie.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On the Way to Montana

Swathed in a scarf to protect myself from the blast of the car's air conditioner, I read in the back seat as we pass fields of soybeans.

bink flees the World's Largest Buffalo, at Jamestown, North Dakota...
...where Louis L'Amour was born.

Fresca, weighed down by Cheetohs, is too slow to run and is squashed by an earth mover.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being American: Cheetos and Arrogance

Manfred writes from the UK, "What is this 'Cheeto' of which you speak?"

Cheetos are bite-size, fried corn-based starch covered in the salty orange dust of curdled milk. Cheese puffs for the post-atomic age. Or, according to parent company frito lay: "playfully mischievous cheesy crunch that add a little lighten-up moment to any day."

Cheetos turn your fingertips bright orange, leave gummy residue stuck between your teeth, and make you thirsty. All of these conditions are cured by Diet Coke. This duo, in my opinion, is the perfect accompaniment to the long distance car trip. (I never eat Cheetohs at home.) They ensure that you have to stop frequently at "rest stops" along the highway, too, which is good if you are in the car with one of those nonstop drivers.

So, I went to google for a photo of Cheetos for my international readers and found a new twist on Cheetos: they are one of God's vehicles for transmitting news of his presence in the world! This May, Sarah Bell, a woman in Texas, discovered this image of Jesus in her 99 cent bag of Cheetos, (which she'd bought at a gas station--see? see?). She said it's "a reminder of her blessings from God." She and her husband call it Cheesus.
She also said she might sell Cheesus on eBay.

Anthropology from the Inside

Lately I've been thinking about what it means to be an American, in anthropological terms. Like, what are the beliefs and practices of this, my tribe? This story catches a couple key things in our lives.

First, like all humans, we seek meaning in everything around us. Since we Americans are more commonly in touch with processed foods we purchase from places that dispense fuel for our vehicles than we are in touch with, say, the antlers of majestic stags (that's where Saint Eustace saw the cross of Jesus), that's where we find signs of God--in snack food, pools of oil, or what have you. These are the material of our lives, and I appreciate our ability to find grace in them.

Second, as a culture, we are obsessed with money and money-making. We always have an eye out for the main chance. So it makes sense that what this woman would do with a gift of God is sell it. There's a sense in the USA that God wants people to be industrious, so this would not be sacreligious.

Based on what I can infer from photos and geography, I'm willing to bet (bag o' Cheetos?) that Ms. Bell is a Protestant and eschews the worship of idols. She would likely be horrified to think her experience is akin to the medieval popularity of the relics of Christian saints, which survives in pale form in the Catholic Church, but it is. There was a brisk trade in those too.

Small Rant about Ignorant Arrogance

I've been seeing a far less sweet side of us as I've worked on a book about malaria this week. Reading up online, I have encountered well-meaning Americans expressing the opinion--presented as fact--that the Western world did not care about malaria until God sent us Bill & Melinda Gates and their foundation. One American wrote that malaria has not affected Western countries, which is why we have selfishly not cared about it.

This is all cloaked in moral righteousness---now that Bill Gates has shown the Western world the light, by donating billions toward eradicating malaria, we Americans are the Good Guys Who Care.
(See what industriousness does? You can make billions and donate them to the good cause of your choice.)

[Low-cost methods of controlling malaria-carrying mosquitoes help hugely too. Donate (as little as ten bucks) a low-tech but highly effective insecticide-treated bed net here:
Nothing But Nets]

These Gates-worshiping Americans are well-meaning. Their point is that we should care about dying African babies and use our resources to help them.
Patronizing tone aside, I agree. Whatever problems exist with leaving charity up to the whims of billionaires, I agree the Gateses are using their power well, in this case.

What strips the enamel off my teeth quicker than Diet Coke is the ignorance.
No, not the ignorance. There's nothing inherently wrong with being ignorant--it's not a permanent condition, to begin with. It's the arrogance that attends the ignorance:
These fellow citizens of mine--and they are not unusual, in my experience--obviously know little or nothing of history or geography. That's not so bad--it comes partly from living in an enormous country that spans a continent and has long considered itself strong enough not to have to ask for help. The problem is they don't think they need to know history or geography to speak--and act!--with authority.

They never thought about the British in India, the French in West Africa, or even the United States in Panama or Vietnam (or the early swampy years of Washington, D.C., for that matter). And yet they accuse other Western nations in outraged tones for not having already addressed the challenge. Further, they give no thought whatsoever to the governments, scientists, educators, etc. in malarial nations--they don't seem to know they exist.
It's all just big-eyed African babies waiting for Bill Gates's billions to save them.

Cultural arrogance like this is annoying. In this case, it's not terribly damaging (though I think I can hear howls of pain carried on the wind from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine).
But it reminds me of a more dangerous kind of arrogance, found in the refrain of a country-western song popular after 9/11:
"I'm not a real political man,
don't know the difference between Iraq and Iran."

Being proud of ignorance is bizarre to me; but I don't object to my people not knowing the difference between Iraq and Iran or the history of gin and tonic, in and of itself. I mean, I'm not proud of it, but I don't know how my refrigerator works either. I do object to them thinking it's OK to send our military and our snack foods * into these countries without bothering to learn about them first, or even to ask other Western nations what their history has shown.

Cheesus wept.

* (Cheetos, it appears, contain pork enzymes.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


"NNNOOOOOooo-o-o-o-o-o! ! ! ! !"

That's what I said this morning--or a less polite word to that effect--after the guy at the Apple computer store spent 15 minutes trying to fix my frozen Orestes and the Fly project in iMovie and then declared,
"I'm afraid one of the files is corrupt and I can't fix it: you may have to rebuild the whole project."

So far as I can tell, it's not my fault, or anyone else's, but this is the kind of thing that makes me want to stab myself with a fork.

Actually, it turned out not to be all that awfully bad. The project (that's the movie broken up into all its bits and pieces--audio, timing, titles, etc.--like a car motor in parts) is still in iMovie so I can save and export it (burn it to a DVD. etc.), but only "as is," it cannot be edited further. Luckily, the editing was almost entirely done.

There remain those 3 little undone things, however, that are little, yes, but without them the movie does not work.
So I'll have to do some roundabout import/export/import stuff--sort of like when I sent a box of instant Pad Thai mix to a friend in New Mexico and she pointed out that it was Made in California, so the box had practically made a round trip on an airplane.

It will all LOOK just fine in the end, to the audience. But last night, after the thing froze up on me, I was pondering the meaning of life big time, I tell you. I had to resort to that old My Life As a Dog comparison trick and think, well, this is nowhere near as bad as dying of malaria.
And I had to laugh when I saw the door labeled Panic at the mall this morning. So well placed, right on the way to the Apple store.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm too busy being civilized...

"To be thoroughly lazy is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Industrious people build industry. Lazy people build civilization."
--Kazuaki Tanahashi, Brush Mind, Parallax Press, 1990

"Just This" (right), Zen calligraphy painting by Alok Hsu Kwang-han

Actually, I'm too busy helping edit a book about malaria to blog or work on film today. I learned a lot about malaria when I was writing my kids' book on Mali. In fact, my editor said I harped on about it too much in that book.
Hmmph. Hardly possible.

Here's what I cobbled together from a bunch of sources *:

There are four types of malaria. Only one causes death if untreated. The other three retreat, even if untreated, but may recur periodically for a person’s lifetime.

Protozoans (one-celled animals) called Plasmodia cause malaria, spread by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Plasmodia from the mosquito’s saliva enter a person’s blood. They travel to the liver, where they multiply and form clumps of parasites. After several days, these clumps burst and release new Plasmodia, which invade red blood cells. The infected blood cells eventually break open and release large numbers of Plasmodia.
This invasion continues, causing periodic attacks of fevers of 106°F (41°C). Attacks lasts about two hours and recur every two or three days. Headache, muscle pain, and nausea accompany the temperature swings.

* The Center for Disease Control has a good overview of malaria.

365: The End of the Day

Sunday night/Monday morning, reflected in my dark computer screen.
I didn't sit in front of my computer all day, just all evening into the night, working on "The Making Of..."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Be Italian"

Poodletail sent me this preview for Nine, which appears to be a musical version of Fellini's 8 1/2. (Yep, due out in late November.) Daniel Day Lewis and Judy Dench... Wow.
If I get discouraged on my moviemaking weekend in Montana [2 posts down], I shall watch this again. And again.

I was writing just this morning about how my personality matches my watery zodiac sign. I've always struggled with feeling bad-and-lazy here in the industrious U.S. Midwest. (I don't intellectually assent to the negative judgment; but I feel it anyway.)
I could just as well--and far more proudly!--say, I'm living up to my glorious Italian heritage. (Is this true? Who cares: Lie for Italia!)

Here's what American Marlena de Blasi says in A Thousand Days in Venice (2002) about Italians, work, and time:
"The Italian knows that speed––say, the fitting in of another appointment or hurrying to finish something he can finish tomorrow––will not give him more satisfaction but less, if such preposterous acts interfere with his rituals. An espresso and a chat with friends will always come before the installation of your baseboard. And he knows that because you are such a lovely person, you would applaud his sense of values.

"... Italians have learned about patience more than almost anyone else. They know that, in the end, a few months, a few years, one way or another, will not cast long shadows over your well-being nor enlarge it. The Italian understands wrinkles in time."

"Repetition and Humiliation"

The Manchurian Candidate was such an intriguing film, I read the book (1959, by Richard Condon). Louis Menand summed it up in his 2003 introduction: it has the splendid badness of an overripe banana. Menand also explains brainwashing, which uses the "traditional methods of psychological coercion: repetition and humiliation."
Sounds like childhood.
Mine wasn't severe but I sure remember that combo, and I know people whose childhoods resembled North Korean POW camps. What I wonder is, how reversible is it, at this late date? Is repetition and encouragement any antidote?
Actually, I don't care what the psychologists say. I insist on believing in the possibility of transformation.

I won a Filmmaking Weekend in Montana from God!

365: My filmmaking pardner (bink, above, left) and I are off to Montana next weekend to make a movie.

bink's mom wanted bink to help her drive the 570 miles (917 km) to Glendive, Montana. bink was uncertain that she wanted to drive 12 hours straight, mostly across the flatlands of North Dakota--the World's Largest Buffalo roadside sculpture in Jamestown having lost its allure after a few hundred viewings since childhood--just to be stranded in Smalltown USA (pop. 4,670) while her mom attended her all-class high school reunion--and on bink's birthday weekend too.

But I said, "Are you KIDDING? That's prime moviemaking location out there: Take me along--we'll make a movie!"

See, Glendive is in flat, flat, flat eastern Montana, but it's also right next to a strip of the badlands of Makoshika State Park. The land looks sorta like one of those landscapes Captain Kirk scampered about in. They find dinosaur bones out there.

And besides that, some of bink's relatives still own the land her German grandparents used to farm, so we can go shoot in the wheatfields, which look like Days of Heaven (1978, shot in Alberta, Canada, roughly the same part of the world).

bink's mom being amenable (I having promised to provide my own Cheetos for the road and pay the $5 surcharge to sleep on the floor of the Motel 17 room), and bink having bought us a couple of made-in-China cowboy hats ($2.50 each), we are good to go. I feel like I won some "Spend a Filmmaking Weekend in Montana" sweepstakes from god.

We don't have much time to get anything together, of couse, so what I figure is, it'll be like a dry-run for the 48-hour film project: We'll take along a few basic props, and improv the whole shebang.

I work better if I'm not doing several things at once, so what I have to do before we leave is finish The Making of Orestes and the Fly. I don't want to be tripping over my own work when I come back.
The Fly movie itself, all 8 minutes 18 seconds of it, is done! (Well... there are those final 3, or 10, tiny things to fix.) I'm just waiting for the premiere in early October before I upload it in on youTube. I don't know how intelligible it'll be to watch, but it's definitely a work of some kind of genius.

The Fly is my movie, but I couldn't have made it without bink, from the very beginning making the papier mache fly head. I'm like my Pisces zodiac sign: watery. I seek the lowest level of physical exertion. My energy tends to spread out into swampland, where I sit and muse. I think I'm generally interesting to talk to, I just don't get a lot done. bink does. She's a Virgo, an earth sign, and she provides some pressure and direction to my wateriness, like riverbanks do.

bink is always saying we're like French and Saunders, and I am always saying Powell and Pressburger (mostly because I find it reassuring that these collaborators couldn't work on a script together in the same room).
But really, we are well on our way to becoming bink and Fresca, pardners.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My First Movie; or, What Happens When You Don't Read the Manual

My Auntie Adelina says she never wants to start on page 1 of any instructions, she wants to jump in on page 18.
Me too. Or, rather, I often don't even consult the instructions.

Last August 21 (2008), I took my new camcorder to hang out with Lee on his 40th birthday. As is my wont, I had not even taken the manual out of its plastic, and, as you can hear, I figured the round red light on the camera's screen must mean the camera is not filming.
This sort of reasoning almost always works on my Mac, but the Canon designers figured a red stoplight would be a good choice to signal that the camera is recording...

So, for posterity--and to clean out my iMovie storage--here are the 25 seconds of my first filmmaking efforts.

My backward way of learning things is not very time efficient, but it serves me well, in its way. Figuring things out the hard way means I'm much less likely to forget them.

N.B. This learning style is more dangerous in some endeavors than others.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years

"We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today.
That’s all it takes!
Knowing that we’re not going to kill today."
-- Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek (TOS) episode "A Taste of Armageddon" (1967)

Yeah, I used this speech on last September 11 too, but it bears endless repeating, don't you think?

[The image of Kirk refusing to kill the enemy Gorn captain is from "Arena" (1966).]

Beyond Arcturus

See this star map (right) large: "What's on Earth Tonight?".

This is a star map that shows how far the signals from U.S. television shows have travelled into space since they were first broadcast. The final episode of the original Star Trek has passed beyond the star Arcturus, about 37 light years from Earth.

Geography may not be all about maps, but maps are all about us.
Like, you've probably seen the famous map of the world "upside down"--with north at the bottom. There is no right-side-up in space.
I Iove the way the endlessly fascinating site Strange Maps, where I found this star map, shows us how subjective mapping is.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How do we map our lives?

I admitted to Annika that I'd never realized how close Berlin is to Sweden. (I thought it was farther south.) "You'd never know I work with geography from my knowledge of maps," I wrote.

At the end of a long e-mail in reply, she wrote:
"P.S.: Geography isn't really about maps, is it?"

Right, not to me. To me, geography is another story, a way of talking about living in the physical world. It's a cousin to those other maps of our lives: religion, or poetry.

— Excerpt from an interview with Jack Gilbert, talking about Story almost as if he were talking about Earth's tectonic plates:
"Your actual being is changed. My heart, for instance, was partially made by the songs of Frank Sinatra and by movies I went to when I was growing up. My heart was shaped by stories, by pictures, by songs.

"I believe we are made by art, art that matters. Not what’s ingenious, clever, or hard to read. Not a mystery puzzle.

"I think if a poem doesn’t put emotional pressure on me, I don’t feel uncomfortable in the sense of feeling more than I can feel, understanding more than I can understand, loving more than I am able to be in love. Real poetry enables me for that. I think it’s about putting pressure on me. If it doesn’t put pressure on the reader, what’s it for?"

[image of geography book from pillipat's flickr]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Joop, Raspberry Eater

I had a youTubey sort of day.
First, Jean Luc in Russia e-mailed me a link to more photos from RusCon 09, which pushed me to finally upload Стар Трек, любовь моя ("Star Trek, My Love" in Russian). (Made on iMovie 09, the vid's quality is so superior to the original, made on iMovie 04, that if I could do it without losing the 46 lovely viewer comments, I'd rebuild the original too...)

Then I edited down half an hour of footage I'd shot of bink's wire-haired fox terrier, Joop, plucking raspberries off the bush and tearing around the yard into a 1 min. 27 sec. video. I was going to post it on bink's birthday next week, but of course I couldn't wait. So, here it is:

I expect you've all already seen Joop in bink's Star Trek: Dog Gone.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Movie Kisses: Orestes and The Manchurian Candidate

[This is part of my "movie kisses of taste" series, but it's actually a movie kiss of distaste. The scene is so vivid though, it must be included, since I realized a while ago that I wasn't compiling romantic sexy kisses alone, but rather ones that are remarkable in some way, which this one certainly is.]

Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey, below, right) describes his feelings for his domineering, ambitious mother to Marco (Frank Sinatra), in The Manchurian Candidate:
"But I didn 't always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her."
Sinatra replies he feels like he's listening to Orestes talk about his mother, Clytemnestra.

Philos-aphilos (love-hate), like you find among family members and lovers, is a powerful force, and it's the theme running through Aeschylus's trilogy of plays about the House of Atreus, the Oresteia, and also The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
Shaw has been turned into an assassin by communist brainwashing during the Korean War, and his American operative is his mother, who is scheming for political power.

Having been living with the story of Orestes for a year now, I should totally have guessed how this movie ends. (If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it. If you have, you'll remember.)
But I didn't.
I was shocked, and never more shocked than when Shaw's mother, the perfectly chilled Angela Lansbury, kisses him.

This almost counts as a tentacle grope.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Working on Labor Day

Bill is smokin'.
And I am working hard.


Everyone else is off fishing, and I'm sitting here at the computer writing an index, which is entirely my fault since I had all weekend to do it, and didn't.

To keep me company and to prolong the time I have to sit here, I went looking for pictures of Baby Captain Kirk.

I see pix of the young William Shatner on other people's sites now and again, and I finally tracked down a cache of 300 (the boy's not shy), mostly pre-Star Trek photos here: Inconceivably, ANOTHER fawning Star Trek fansite... (scroll to the bottom).

And some more here: "Shatnerjacking", posted on ONTD Star Trek*, which is a LJ (Live Journal) fan community that started after the Star Trek reboot this past spring.
Interesting to see the new fillies. Very fast out of the gate indeed.
A bit of Netspeak I had to look up on Urban Dictionary:

*ONTD: Short for "Oh No They Didn't," a gossiping LiveJournal community that posts about celebrities...."

GQMF: An acronym for "GQ mother fucker," referring to actors that are physically attractive enough to grace the cover of GQ magazine. The internet has decided that GQMF refers specifically to the lead actors in Star Trek: 2009 (Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, aka ZQMF).
"The term is ubiquitous at the livejournal community ontd_startrek, where it has now become a means of referring to the members of that community, despite the statistical improbability that any of those people are even close to GQMF status."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Haircuts of Shame

I wasn't very happy with my supershort haircut this summer, but I've had worse.
Here I am, 25 years old, at Kells, Ireland, with the worst haircut of my life. Yes, a mullet. I seem to recall it was acceptable at the time, but now I wince looking at photos from the month I spent biking around Ireland with this hideous cut. Not that the rest of me was very fashionable either * ; but then, neither was anyone else I saw in Ireland in 1986. This horse was about the norm.

I have other photos of bad haircuts from the past around. I could post a series.

Dorkiness aside, I have always loved this photo, taken by bink. I'm striding along with one pants' leg tucked into my sock because I was going to get on my bike to continue along the narrow, windy, hilly road--the only kind there was. What a misguided trip that was, and how very fond it makes me of myself to remember how I insisted on making it.

* That sweater! I'd brought it because I thought it would keep me warm, not realizing that it would stay damp for a month; this was pre-Gortex and fleece. The wise Irish wore polyester, which dries fast--those thick wool Irish sweaters are for tourists.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I want to go to Berlin...

Traveling for its own sake, just to see someplace else, is not a particular love of mine. Every once in a while, however, something somewhere else catches me and I really want to go: walking the Camino across Spain; attending the Patristics conference in Oxford; going to Las Vegas for the Star Trek con...

Despite my lack of desire to travel, one way and another--usually, but not always, on someone else's steam--I've ended up completing quite a lot of the Grand Tour, visiting many of the Great Cities of Europe: Dublin, London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Copenhagen, Istanbul.
But I've never been to Germany at all. I suppose partly because, growing up, my associations with it were formed by movies like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. (Yes, OK, also the Nazi thing.) Very grey and scary.

Now, however, indexing a book on green (eco-friendly) architecture, I see there's a big shiny thing in Berlin! The new (-ish, completed in 1999) Reichstag dome.
I love big shiny things, like the Bean ("Cloud Gate" by Anish Kapoor) in Chicago, or the Great Court of the British Museum. (Oh! I see it shares the same architectural firm, Foster + Partners, with the Reichstag dome.)

"The Reichstag Cuppola," by © 2006 Steve Wateridge

I also love when a thing is both itself and a portal to ideas and people, like a time travel machine, and the Reichstag building is that.
Looking for images of its dome, I realize I've met the building many times before.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin 1971-95 "After a struggle spanning the 70s to the 90s, the wrapping of the Reichstag was completed on June 24th, 1995 by 90 professional climbers and 120 installation workers. The Reichstag remained wrapped for 14 days."

"Soviet soldiers raise the flag on the Reichstag building, Berlin, Germany, May, 1945." Photographer: Yevgeny Khaldei (1917-1997); Source:

And, of course, Wings of Desire--a gorgeous film, but not exactly shiny.

I am adding "Go to Berlin to see the Reichstag" to my list of Stuff to Do (which I need to revise).
My favorite way to travel is to go somewhere and sit there, day after day, preferably much of the time in a coffee shop. Surely Berlin has many good places to sit and have coffee? Beer would do too.

Also, history, architecture, philosophy aside, I want to go to Berlin in search of--let me be as transparent here as the Reichstag's clear dome promotes the German parliament to be--marzipan.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lonely? Narcissist? Writer?

I've not been putting much energy into writing--I mean really writing, not just posting--on this blog for a while.
I realized the other day that it's not just that I've been thinking about other things, like film, instead, it's that blogging feels kind of lonely to me lately. I'm afraid I let my e-mail connections wither as I put most of my energies into writing, and that means most of my deepest conversations are one-way, with myself.

Writing is like that, I think. I have a friend who is on Year Four of writing his novel. No incoming letter from a future reader, however wonderful and intense, could match his level of output.
Do writers just have to be narcissists, to some extent? It is solitary work, inward looking, using one's own life and thoughts for material: perhaps it's inevitable.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From Russia, with Love

You remember this summer I was working with J. L. on translating my video "Star Trek, My Love" into Russian? Well, she just e-mailed me some photos and a link to download a video from the Russian Star Trek Club con (RusCon 9) this August:

Here's part of her really nice message:

"Dear Fresca,

"....I'm uploading a new video for you-- the first 8 minutes or so it's just me reading your message for the Russian Star Trek family... a crazy vid but maybe it will be interesting for you to hear it in Russian.
It was quite an experience - I translated it at sight, and it is not very short :-) but everybody was listening (strangely!) carefully...

"And the other 3 minutes - that is our Trekkers watching your video. Gosh, I love it. They laughed and smiled and - yes, they've been as touched as I have. They liked it very much, and they said so. But you can see it by yourself now!

"By the way, our coordinator gave me a sort of 'diploma' for you- for your brilliant work! It's real, I mean. Nothing special, but it's not digital, it's a piece of paper, you know!"


I can't think of anything that would make me much happier than a certificate (hard copy!) of Star Trek appreciation from Russia.

Unless maybe it's one of their Star Trek cakes...

I love Trekkies.