Friday, September 30, 2005

This article about gay priests didn't have any surprises for me until near the end; I never would have guessed there were thought to be that many gay priests (25% at a conservative estimate!) This implies that the priesthood has been an important haven for commited Catholic homosexual men, and the Vatican may be about to shoot itself in its infallible foot. I'm not sure why I care about this, since I'm a hetero non-Catholic, but it's an interesting case of an organization being torn between its on-paper values and the realities of how it stays afloat.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Mood for a day. Posted by Picasa

G-g-g-gulp!

Today I went for my evening constitutional (a.k.a. waddle around the neighbourhood) when who should pass me but Jennifer W. , the props and art production guru on Modest Proposal, the short film I'm in that apparently won some minor award at the Sidewalk Film Fest. Apparently both she and Sam F., the author and director of MP, live in town. I'm not sure why this makes me nervous...

Anyway tomorrow I'm driving to Nashville to see my family for my 32nd birthday. I'm afraid I'm gonna start whining about aging and death to them and they'll have to smack me down. Not that they've ever smacked me, but there's a first time for everything. Worse yet they might make me talk to their preacher, who is a nicc guy but tends to irk me...Remember when that surfer girl got her arm bit off by a shark? He claimed in a sermon that it was because human sin had bolloxed the world. Oh really? She got bit because I was on the other side of the continent watching Sorority Girl Pillow Fight? Are you sure it wasn't because sharks are hungry and surfers smell like food?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fun!

Some deliciously odd and compelling flash games here.

Mood for a day. Posted by Picasa

Feh.

Today I had a lunch appointment with Karla, the lovely and talented star of our recent Twelfth Night production, who says she's aware of my blog. Hi Karla! Anyway, we both got there early, sat at opposite ends of the restaurant, and slowly got pissed at each other for standing each other up. I saw her as I finally left. Since the basic point of the lunch was for me to give her back her copy of Things Fall Apart, and that goal was achieved, one might conclude the lunch was a success, but since we missed out on a jolly discussion of the novel in question I consider it an opportunity lost. For some reason this put me into a really foul mood; I'm turning into a crank with an eye on the deathbed ledger. How many regrets vs. happy memories will I have? Today was one more minor regret, one less happy memory. Boo hoo hoo. What's worse is it's one more instance of me failing someone else. I know it's not a huge deal, but letting people down takes a toll on one's soul.

In cheerier news an Alabama State Senator got a lot of attention today for saying the hurricanes were God's judgement on the sins of New Orleans. Tee hee! I'm past caring about Alabama politicians saying ignunt trash like that. In the wise words of Skip James, "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm so glad, so glad. I don't know what to do, don't know what to do, I don't know what to do..."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sidewalkin'

Oh yes I had me a blast at the Sidewalk. We started with a batch of Alabama Shorts. Watching the home-grown is always one of the main Sidewalk attractions for me, and thanks to the Festival and the Scrambles there's a pretty exciting local scene; maybe not so exciting if you're looking to work in film for a living, but pretty cool if you see filmmaking as a groovy hobby. So, this batch of shorts started with Sewing a River, directed by Sidewalk celeb Alan Hunter from the script that won the Sidewrite competition last year. (My entry, a spoof of the bonus features on the Lord of the Rings DVDs, was not the one. I keep telling myself it's because of formatting errors...) I thought the script (as refracted through the production) was fine, a story about how legends and real life can intertwine, with unified complexity and clarity. I was frustrated by the production; the look of it (production design, lighting and all) was lovely and rich, if a bit diabetic at times with its easter egg colorfulness, and some of the performers did themselves proud. (A dignified priest and the lovely young woman who played the bride at the center of the story (who sat next to me at the screening! Along with her boyfriend, natch) can put their perfomances in this on their demo reels.) But much of the acting was hammy, okay for the stage but too much for tight medium shots. A lot of little things, line readings and such, seemed like inadequate first takes that they printed and used when they should have shaped the performances better. I know one of the actresses and know she can light the stage up, but I wish she had been scaled back a bit. I have also been really impressed with Alan Hunter's direction on a few other projects, so I was quite disappointed. There was also an eye-popping CGI-heavy opening relating the legend that underlies the story, and I loved it until two things happened right on top of each other. First, as the narrator was rhapsodizing about how the river loved the magical girl and she was perfectly attuned to it, we saw her reach toward a lily pad and the pad scooted away as if it were fleeing. It was funny for the wrong reason, almost like a Marienbadian ironic counterpoint except it was unintentional. Then there's a shot of a CGI fish leaping out of the water which looked great until they went in for an open-mouthed leaping fish money shot that just looked a little too contrived; it was the kind of awkward CGI fakery that makes one long for Harryhausen or George Pal.

There were two animated shorts that I enjoyed: cozmic Cola blended old-school Fleischer Bros. designs and animation with more modern graphics. It's a great aesthetic, but for their next project they need a unifying concept, a story of some kind, to take it beyond a mere demo reel of bits and pieces. The other one, The Fanciful Gentleman, is a well-told joke from the auteur of several wonderful animated Scramble Shorts. Simple flash animation, good voice work, perfect timing. Yay!

The Birthday Midget, about a midget who decides to become a holiday icon, had a good premise, good cast, decent film values... it was just padded out too long for its slender premise. The core story could have been a sharp and funny four-minute film, and a prologue interview with the protaganist's mother is a cute performance, but the interview show in the middle is way too extended.

Phone A Clone is an ad for a company that ships an exact replica of you in to handle your boring or unpleasant tasks. Unfortunately it's barely developed beyond the premise's most obvious possibilities, and is also at least three times as long as it needs to be. I liked the pitchman though.

The Music That Is Changing The World is a faux newsreel about a jazz legend; cute period recreation and a funny gag that could have been punched a bit harder. Basically the band plays really sweet jazz but the star clarinet player starts doing a repetitive, unswinging toodling that drives the crowd wild and earns raves from the narrator but irks his more tuneful cohorts. It's exactly the right length, has cute dancing girls in flapper costumes, and the guy with the afro looks cool. A promising short.

!2 miles to Einstien and Who Killed Tangerine had audio problems, so we didn't see them.

A Modest Proposal! My local film debut is a better film than I feared it would be, although I'm hardly able to evaluate it with a fresh perspective. I sure am bald, and too hammy for film! Now that I know what I look like (mirrors don't give you the third-person perspective) I understand why women won't date me. The director was very nice to me later that day, and told me that one of the two cinematographers complemented my work, which made me feel a lot better.

Later I saw DeRailroaded, a full-legth documentary about Wild Man Fisher. It was amazing. There but for the grace of God, but what a wild ride! His duet with Rosemary Clooney (no I ain't kidding) bowled me over.

Then another block of home-grown shorts.

Mindwalk was a groovy little dollop of slick MTV pop surrealism.

Something (that's the title) was a music video with an okay but overlong and repetitive song. The greytoned visuals of two lovely young women, one white, one black, emoting in an old house were often striking; trim the song and cut the more OTT visuals (smashing a bowl on the floor like a David Mallet video) and I'd be delighted! The director was a young woman with a cute frilly granny dress, a refreshing change from all the too-cool-for-school guy directors.

Murder Inn and Gratuitious both star Brad, a guy I know. I've never really seen him act, and he's got an obvious sense of how to scale his performance for the lens; underplayed but not wooden. I loved watching him and hope to achieve something of the same quality ni future film work (if any.). Murder Inn is an EC comic type story with a poor performance by the cranky wife and a little too underlit and murky for my tastes, even given the dark and gloomy story; Gratuitious is better; I'm sure cool-but-confused-hitmen stories are now officially the least favorite thing for a festival judge to sit through, but the pace never falters and it looks great for homegrown. Both films were basically auditions for drive-in movies, but the second at least promised good drive-in.

The 3 R's was a mock educational film about how to hide a body. The basic idea may be a bit hackneyed but the short rises about it with funny performances, witty writing and the perfect rich-voiced but friendly narrator. Maybe just a little too long, but charming and fun. I actually laughed several times, which can't be said about many local comedy shorts. More please!

The Girlfriend from Scramble favorites Team Bloodjet was an extended reworking of some favorite Bloodjet motifs; Kubrickian pacing, slowly building tension, innocents caught up in a creepy situation that erupts in horror. The photography is stunning, suitable for framing, and director Adam Wingard obviously knows more about directing actors than most other local filmmakers all put together. My friend Debbie Smith gets to show her graceful and well-calibrated acting in a supporting role; she's one of the most underappreciated performers in town, and it's a credit to Bloodjet's eye for talent that they saw fit to cast her. The story is teasingly ambiguous but the storytelling is clear and compelling. My favorite short of the festival.

We also got to see 12 Miles To Einstein after all, and it was a nicely filmed and skillfully acted but predictable ghost story, played lightly but not for laughs. I want to see more from all involved, only with a less pat story.

I also bumped into Sarah El Kouni, an old college chum, as well as a bunch of local rapscallions, and the weekend was a joy for the company alone!

Sidewalk

I had a blast at the Sidewalk Film Festival this year! I didn't see a lot of films, partly because it's jsut hard to spend all day watching movies now; I'm starting to see the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks, who had one theatre festival a year or so and that was it for big entertainment. I'll post a full account later, including my thoughts about Modest Proposal tonight!

Friday, September 23, 2005

A few years ago I had a dream in which I was a very, very old and sick man in a hospital bed. I had tubes and wires stuck up my nose, in my arm, and one of those beeping machines that show your heart's beating. I realized that my life was going to end soon, and I screamed "I don't wanna die!" over and over. I woke up weeping and moaning "I don't wanna die." It had never occured to me before, but I realized that it was true. It is true. I don't want to die; life is too sweet, and the inevitability of death, coupled with the likelihood that there is no afterlife, fills me with a horror I've never known before. Furthermore, my parents recently went on a long vacation and dropped out of contact for months; during that time I realized that once we are seperated by death, that's it. We will be seperated forever. I'd understood for years that the afterlife is a faerytale, but the full ramifications of that are only now appearing to me.

This blogpost brought to you by Hoegaarden.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

MISC.

Last night a few friends and I saw a Hong Kong movie called 2046 that was quite nice; a drama about a womanizing writer who never finds lasting love because he keeps acting the playah. Not the most original of topics, but it's developed with a novelistic discursiveness and visual richness that kept me excited, even though it suffers from what my friends call Blue Fairy syndrome (after the Blue Fairy in A. I., or D.A.R.R.Y.L.2 as I like to think of it) in which a movie goes on long after you think it should have ended. An important part of the film's visual scheme consisted of walls, doors and other barricades partially blocking the view of the characters (usually in tight medium shots) creating a claustrophobic and alienated feeling nicely balanced by the intimacy of the performances and voiceover narration.

Today I heard that the Vatican is about to unveil some new document forbidding homosexual priests. My policy on such things is: their clubhouse, their rules. If you aren't a het man and want to be a priest, join the Epicopalian church already. The only thing that bugs me is that the news bulletin I heard stongly implied that this was being presented as part of the Church's attempt to deal with the child-molesting priests thing. Gimme a break! The difference between a gay man and a boy-touching man is the same as the difference between a straight man and a girl-touching man. Besides, plenty of women came forward and announced that they'd been touched by priests, but you didn't hear much about that, which played right into the Church's sleazy attepts to reframe homosexuality as evil by linking it to pedophilia. My admittedly nominal understanding of the situation is that most if not all of the allegations of clerical abuse centered around priests who came along prior to a number of reforms in the priesthood training and selection process, which suggests that they've done a fine job of cleaning up the priesthood and bravo for that; now it seems the key thing is to make sure bad priests aren't protected by the old boys' network, which was a key part of the problem.

I'm reading Dawn by Octavia Butler, and it's exactly the kind of thoughtful science fiction I've been craving. She is the true heir to Arthur C. Clark's legacy; Gentry Lee my hiney!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stuff I got at Camelot Music

Life's been pretty placid lately, and it doesn't hurt that I'm listening to a lot of jazz vocalists at work; Billy Holliday's Lady in Satin is particularly dreamy, putting me into a sort of expansive, cheerfully melancholy mood, while old Louis Armstrong has just the right blend of grit and mathematics to keep my brain and bollocks engaged with the day. I've also picked up an acoustic guitar album by some canadian lady, and it is a perfect blend of classical and contemporary material, taking me back to cheery days in the music department at the dear old alma mater, then taking me forward to the atonal math-messes I enjoy today. If you were hoping for insights into the current socio-political situation, I'm sorry to have let you down.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Laffs

Last night I saw a very poor stand-up comedy show which I attended on the grounds that performers I like would be in the show, and people I like would be in the audience. The later statement proved to be true, but not the former. I had no choice but to drink a lot in order to stave off bad-live-comedy depression, but all my friends in the place have apparently joined the Birmingham Temperance League, because they turned down my post-show drinks-for-companionship exchange offer and split outta there almost immediately.

I have no desire to be unduely harsh towards people who do bad comedy, since I have been one of those people on many occasions. Still, experience shows that negative reenforcement inspires the good to get better and the bad to find something else to do, something at which they are not bad. Bogus positive reenforcement keeps people bad. I think the guys from the show felt the negative vibes and if they're truthful with themselves they will do something about it. I won't be at the next show, though.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Aha! These disks are copy-protected. In order to stop us from bootlegging the songs they use a technique that reduces them to bootleg quality. It's a wierd self-hating business model worthy of the Federal Government.
Today I bought a cheap compliation of 80s songs, some new wave, some chart toppers, from EMI. I knew cheap compliations always suck, but this is EMI, not some chop-shop, right? Well, now I'm ready to put on the Sex Pistols and chant along with its closing track, because it sounds like they burned these disks with a bic lighter and a lot of patience. What makes it worse is that there's a lot of really good stuff on them, but the terrrible noise makes it sound like the digital equivalent of a scratched-up LP. Perhaps if I weren't listening on headphones I wouldn't be dying right now.

P.S. Waaaaaah.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Heck Yeah!

My car repairs came in at about half the initial quote. How did that happen? When has that EVER happened? I'm going to celebrate by paying all the bills I thought I wasn't going to be able to pay.

One chapter to go in things fall apart, and I'm torn between savoring it tomorrow or going ahead and gobbling it up now. The outcome for the culture is all too obvious at this point, but there's plenty of suspense Re: the protaganiist's fate. It's a good example of how to keep the audience involved in a historical tale when the historical outcome in never in doubt.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'm, woah, I'm still alive

I'm not dead yet (which doesn't mean I don't wake up in terror over another dream about the inevitability of death) but I've just been too listless to post anything... the next time I'm at work and I start thinking that it would be great to just lounge around I need to remember this week. Although my car being in the shop has been part of the problem I think my current ennui is really a result of the usual post-show fallout. Every time a play ends I go through some kind of bleak period, no matter how grueling or frustrating the show may have been. Play productions around here take about two months from soup to poop, and very intense short-term communities develop in that time; the cast and crew may love or loathe each other, but there we are, in each others' lives...then we aren't anymore. The bubble formed by this sudden vacuum always leaves me without air. This time it was particularly hard because the community that formed with Twelfth Night was (apart from race) so diverse; people of all ages, kids, folks who are and aren't familiar faces on the local theatre scene. It gave me a really warm sense of being in a well-rounded and complete social situation, and then BAM! back to stewing in my own juices.

I've really enjoyed the beauty of Forest Park over the last week, but I can't wait to be mobile again. Oddly enough I think my commute to work gives me a sense of literally and metaphorically going somewhere that has become important to my emotional equilibrium. I'm not one of those people who enjoy driving for its own sake, but I really FEEL like I'm stagnating when I never travel farther than I can comfortably walk, which has been the case this week.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A day.

Again, unable to commute without wheels or adequate public transport, so I spent the day reading in the coffee shop (La Reunion of great vegan soup fame) and the Triangle Park. A beautiful day-I went back and forth between reading and just gazing at the beauty of Forest Park in September. Tough day, right? Well, it would be heaven except that, Protestant boy that I guess I still am, I feel guilty about "skipping work." I'll be happy to get back into the groove of work, but since I can't get to work I may as well take full advantage of the situation.

Also I already miss Twelfth Night. Backstage on that show had everything I could want from life-good conversation with smart people, cute women, funny kids, Shakespeare and some good acting seeping in from onstage. I'm going to have to come out swinging when I return to work, and really impress my bosses with how well I'm doing on the job, and to do that I can't afford to have theatre draining my attention and energy, but I intend to get back in the theatre just as soon as I can.

So, back to the good stuff. Still working on Things Fall Apart. The White Man has shown up, and it's telling that the instant converts to Christianity are the goofballs and screwups of society. Also read the first volume of Mome and the latest of Drawn and Quarterly, two art-comics anthologies. Both were full of tasty stories; perhaps I'll provide a review or something later.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Buried Treasure

In the course of sorting recyclables I've been ripping up old junk mail, and what should a generic-credit-card-comeon-looking package include but a birthday gift card from one year ago. I just activated it, and starting with month 6 they start deducting a monthly maintainance fee, so this old card has ten bucks left on it. Happy birthday indeed.

The Ol' Homestead

Since my car's on the mend and I find the busses just won't take me from here to there, I'm taking some time off from work. Boo. But I'm sure not gonna waste this time; I've got plenty of cleaning to do, which is always the case thanks to my general laziness, but compiled with the lack of time and energy thanks to Twelfth Night it's gotten so bad that even I'm appalled. My recyclables have piled up almost thigh-deep, and while I may not be able to drive the whole mess to the recycling center I can jolly well organise it.

In slightly more exciting news I'm currently reading Things Fall Apart, which I borrowed from the star of our recently finished play. She wrote a paper comparing the portrayal of community in this novel with that in Neuromancer, and I'm eager to find out what comparisions and (more likely) contrasts she made. In Things Fall Apart the whole civilization is so integrated and community-oriented, and everyone is so totally plugged into it, while in Neuromancer society is so fragmented that people are either alone or are in little cliques; wealthy families, gangster organizations, Rastafarian communities. The plot is set in motion because (spoiler warning) an AI computer seeks connection and integration with its counterpart AI, and once they finally link up they reach out to alien intelligences which they, but not humanity, have contacted. But heroine Molly leaves her part-time lover, the protaganist Case, so the humans wind up seperate again. It's almost as if our only hope is to create AIs that are better able to find fulfillment than we are. It's a glum-yet-hopeful variation on old SF themes, not only of AIs and alien contact, but of human improvement (Clarkes' Childhood's End, Van Vogt's Slan, Octavia Butler's Dawn.) I should read some more of Gibson's works to see how he builds on these ideas about community and the fragmentation theirof, and discover wherein his hope for the future lies. .

I've recieved intimations that white folks show up and wreck everything in Things Fall Apart. I am not enthusiastic; whatever the faults of the society the novel portrays (women get a pretty raw deal, although some of them, like the priestess, are able to find their own routes to power) it certainly isn't likely to be improved by europeans, and I'll hate to see how things fall apart. I haven't been this personally absorbed by a novel in a while, although A Celebate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard came close. I may have more to say about that book later, but outside it's right at that sweet spot where it's sunny but not oppressively hot, so I'll go try to waddle this flab off, then get back to recyclables.