Weekly Rochester Events #383: var Blaise : Pascal;
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Ok, so Wednesday I got out to see (arguably) the first Canadian feature film at The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.): Nobody Waved Good-Bye about a juvenile delinquent teenager. I liked it a lot because the protagonist's crimes are really quite petty in the grand scheme of things — unlike all other films of this ilk where the crimes escalate to something even an adult couldn't handle. In this case, the viewer's adult perspective reveals that the trouble this kid gets into could easily be undone and he could lead a relatively normal life, but the character has no idea such a turnaround is possible.
On Thursday I headed out to the Dryden once again: this time for the first showing of The Rochester International Film Festival. In past years — and in short film shows in general — I find that in one show there's a spectrum of like-to-dislike that's pretty even. This particular show, I was stunned that I really liked everything, making it tough to pick my favorite 3 films for the festival survey. Some of them really resonated with me and stuck around longer ... Cuando la luna esta llena (When the Moon is Full) by Marc Lesser was a rather amusing and clever film about a couple Equadorian guys [I didn't fact check and originally said Puerto Rican] working at a deli — all of it comes back to the older worker who just wants to play his guitar ... and who is telling the whole story in song. Happy Birthday Yemima by Yishai Orian was a funny and quirky film about a woman who grows up as her own grandmother ... the Israeli humor transferred pretty well. Sirah by Cristine Spindler was a touching and subtle film about a young Muslim girl trying to fit into American schools while still retaining her own culture. The Counter by Lauren Wagner was a very good and powerful film about a lunch counter in the south where some black customers get abused for sitting at the whites-only counter — the owner is being interviewed long after and she angrily denies being called a "hero" for having the "first integrated lunch counter." Finally, Pawns of the King by Ming Lai was another touching and subtle film about some older Japanese men battling their past — reconciling their conflicting roles in World War II.
Friday I decided to try out that whole No Pants Day thing I noted. The idea is that everyone is way too serious so on the first Friday in May, you should wear no pants. Well, I started out in the morning, figuring I'd get acclimated to the whole situation throughout the day so it wouldn't be so jarring to head out at night. I dressed in a dress shirt, tie, black socks, and shoes, but just boxers — I wanted to be clearly deliberate. I added a sport coat so I'd have some darn pockets.
During the day I did such pedestrian things as installing a clothesline and digitizing records and cassettes. I decided to get into the latter because although iTunes is cheap enough song-by-song, I already have a bunch of records and tapes that I'd like to have easier access to, and now that I ripped all the CD's I own, it would be really nice to have it all in one place. For some things, there's no way to get it, like 1980's Chipmunk Punk. It featured Chipmunk covers of not-very-punk songs like Blondie's "Call Me," The Cars' "Let's Go," and Billy Joel's "You May Be Right," and it is indeed as disturbing as it sounds like it would be. The heavy reverb on Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is absolutely surreal. Now I have it readily accessible for some reason.
Anyway, my first pants-less stop was at Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) and I got quite a few puzzling reactions from the happy hour crowd. I realized pretty quickly that I became "that guy:" you know ... "that guy" who showed up with no pants that one day ... "that guy" who rides the tall bike all over ... "that guy" who's breaking rules just for the hell of it.
From there I met up with a woman I met recently for a first date. (Ha ... just kidding.) We've been seeing each other for a few weeks now, but that would have been a hilarious first date. We headed to Writers and Books (740 University Ave.) to see F'loom. They stuck closer to poetry than to their amazing musical a cappella vocalizations. All of it was excellent: both fascinating and obviously complex.
As a side note, I got in a discussion on an e-mail list I'm on. Someone was taking pride in hiding their out-of-work behavior — they're a primary school teacher who had a student ask about an activity they participate in, to which they successfully evaded showing any knowledge in it. I responded and chastised them for perpetrating the myth that "professionals" must hide their outside behaviors. I was met with only one response: the cunning, "you first, Robespierre."
Unfortunately, I can't take that stance because I'm not in a "sensitive" profession — essentially either being involved with politics or working with children. However, I have become "that guy," and I'm not expending effort hide it. I guess that's close to what I want — that people not expend effort to hide their outside behaviors. Intertwined in all this is that they're ashamed.
Now shame is an important thing to feel. It's when you know you've done something wrong — like if you derive pleasure from causing a child pain, you should be ashamed. However, if you want to dress up in a pink tutu with kitty ears at a party, there's no reason to feel shame — even if you work at a children's hospital. To feel shame about something you shouldn't taints "shame" itself. Shame is reserved for when you're hurting yourself or others — something to get help about. Imposing shame on others simply for actions we wouldn't do weakens it by making it open to argument; keeping it succinct makes it strong.
But anyway, I'm not on the firing line of social change. The original post made me think of the civil rights movement and that film, The Counter from the film festival. Imagine if you will, a pale black man saying to his friend, "when I got to the restaurant, they tried to seat me in the white section, but I said, 'no sir, I'm actually black' and they seated me proper." I think we're much better off because there were people who said "no" to that society.
And it's equally true today: rather than taking pride in successfully hiding irrelevantly "unprofessional" outside activities, take pride in defending your right to do as you please and then to also be successful in your profession. In the civil rights movement, taking a stand meant taking a risk and having faith that there are people who will stand with you. In this movement for personal freedom, there is also a risk — that of your social standing, job, and career — but have faith that there are people who will stand with you.
Anyhow, Saturday night I went to Dryden to catch the last showing of The Rochester International Film Festival this year. The festival's treatment of the first film left me embarrassed for the festival and all of Rochester. It was a 35 mm print of Liberté conditionnelle (Suspended Sentence) by Constant Mentzas which was in French but had no subtitles. There were some grumbles from the audience and I was straining to pick up a few snippets of dialog at a time with my very limited French and Latin knowledge. However, about halfway through, they just shut off the projector. Festival director Josephine M. Perini came out and said they cut it off because somebody complained — they had DVD prints with subtitles but the film version had none. My first reaction was to be furious — I presumed that some fucking redneck hick went up and was like, "Here in 'merica we talk English" and they just caved. I felt awful for the filmmaker who went through all the trouble of submission and getting accepted, only to have his film unceremoniously yanked at the last minute. And then what of the people who built the festival all these years? — this one being the 48th, making it the longest running short film festival in the world — and how its reputation could be sullied so easily by such a poor decision.
Fortunately I got back to enjoying the films with Surly Squirrel by Peter Lepeniotis which was a rather amusing, Pixar-grade animation of animals planning a pizza-slice heist in the midst of a parallel bank heist. Smart Card by James Oxford was a dark and clever extrapolation of today's cashless society taken to a cold, sterile extreme (which I didn't think was far from what we have today.) Vika by Tsivia Barkai was a powerful film about a young girl with a drunken mother who has to grow up way too soon to take care of her baby brother. Penny Dreadful by Bryan Norton started out as a cliché supernatural thriller but ended up being surprisingly scary. [By the way, cliché is now pronounced "clitch" as it has become "clitch" to say "clee-shay".] In it, a young woman moves into a new house with her husband that she inherited from a relative (the house, not the husband) but they need to sell it to pay the taxes. While they fix it up, she is haunted by experiences of a gruesome murder.
At this point, the festival deviated from the printed schedule — they presented awards and introduced the filmmakers, then went back and finished up with SYN by Ben Chavda. I suspect it was so they could escape early for the after-party: among the brief notes in my program, I wrote of SYN, "[a] stinking piece of shit — predictable and sluggish." It was about clones in the future (SYN's) who are at war with "zealots" or parent-raised humans. The whole thing is a second-rate stylistic rip-off of The Matrix with "zealots" housing in a church trying to rid the world of "SYN." Do you get it? A church trying to rid the world of SYN — or is it sin? God it was painful to watch ... at least there's some resume-building to be had from it as the special effects and action sequences were pretty good — it's just the crummy plot, clumsy script, barely passable acting, and lousy sound that mar it.
On Monday I headed to Kilbourn Hall at Eastman Theatre (60 Gibbs St.) for a performance by The Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble. I very much enjoyed Black Angels (Images 1) for electric string quartet (Thirteen images from the dark land) by George Crumb. I found it very visually evocative with some innovative uses of traditional instruments alongside nontraditional instruments such as bow-strokes on water-filled glasses. Tod Machover was on hand to witness the performance of his Another Life which I found to be a somewhat trippy piece although inconsistently captivating ... sometimes I was right with it, and at others my mind wandered. I was also fascinated by How to Pray by David Lang which I found closer to the harmonic-drone sound I've heard from non-classically-trained bands — instrumentation included a drum kit and electric guitar alongside cello and piano.
I headed to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) with some friends on Tuesday for the two bands there. First up was The Ghostwriter who's this one-man band with a kick-pad and electric guitar. He does quite good angry-sounding rock with a bit of a rockabilly edge. Next was The Lobster Quadrille who did a great show with their satirical gospel-rock. I worry sometimes that I'm going to be the only one who likes the shows I recommend, but this time I got some very favorable feedback.
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About the title ... The Pascal programming language (in which variables are created using "var name : type") was named after Blaise Pascal who was born 383 years ago in 1623.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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