Weekly Rochester Events #415: Where The Troops Assemble
Thursday, December 21, 2006
So last Wednesday was Ali's birthday so we had a nice time with one another staying at home. Plus, this past Monday was our 8-month mensaversary so we had another nice evening together then.
On Thursday I got out to The Memorial Art Gallery (500 University Ave., near Goodman St.) to see the lecture by Dr. Richard Henshaw on The World's Earliest Recorded Thoughts: Origins of Sumerian Writing in Southern Iraq. I was pleased that it was more thorough and detailed than I expected. He talked about the city of Uruk in modern-day Iraq in southern Mesopotamia. Basically, some 5,000 years ago the people there were the first to have a style of grammatical writing and the first to have a city administration that recognized urban and suburban regions. It was pretty remarkable that someone managed to decipher the peculiar symbols on the clay tablets found in dumps or on a temple — they presumed it was an early form of Sumerian. Anyway, the tablets contained mostly unremarkable lists of things like city officials, fields of law, and bills of lading — save for their old age and historical significance — and several lexical lists ... an early dictionary if you will. Henshaw also took us through the deciphering of actual symbols and the presumed meaning thereof.
On Friday I started formalizing a problem I've been working on. In 2007, the art theme for Burning Man is "The Green Man" in reference to man's origins in nature that we largely ignore in our modern societies. In conjunction with that, there are a lot of people excited about "Greening the Man" — working to help make the event more ecologically sound. As it stands now, there is tremendous waste of natural resources to make projects, get out to the middle of the desert, generate power inexpensively, and frequently burning perfectly good materials. My thought about it is, how can we help people make their own camps more "green"?
Energy is something of an afterthought for most camps. There's a lot of planning put into logistics of getting stuff out there, making it strong enough to survive the environment, and making it able to be assembled and disassembled in reasonable time. The conversation about energy goes something like, "do we have any way to power the lights and sound system?" / "uhh ... yeah ... I've got a 2,000 watt generator that should work fine." You bring a bunch of gas and don't give it another thought.
The trouble is that energy is pretty hard to understand in terms that we're used to dealing with: gallons of gas, kilowatt-hours of electricity, BTU's of heat, etc. As it turns out, all those units measure the same quantity: power (the ability to do work) multiplied by the amount of time that power is used. In a roundabout way I stumbled on using the Calorie — with a big "C"; kilocalorie, that is ... the one we use for food. You can then take something like a gallon of gas and represent it as 31,400 calories. In other words, if people ran on gasoline, they could run for about 2 weeks on a gallon. You can do other amusing tricks with the calculator at Google — for instance, figure out that if the riders in the Tour de France ran on gasoline, they'd get 607 miles-per-gallon.
I'll probably post more about it later, but in the mean time I was pretty excited to at least have some hope of helping the average person make sense of energy.
That night I went to The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see the Michael Haneke film 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance). I thought it was pretty fascinating although not as directly disturbing as other Haneke films. I got the impression that the city itself — this silent narrator — was showing us things it's seen as if to say, "I saw something interesting the other week ..." The film documents the true story of a man who goes into a bank and shoots three people and then himself. It's unclear what his motives were in reality, but Haneke pieces together snippets of the lives of unrelated people that culminate in their attending the bank on that day. The film weaves these 71 fragments but provides no continuum to directly connect them. These seemingly unrelated pieces of information are contrasted with a couple clips of (apparently real at the time the film was set) news media outlets that speak in simple, absolute terms as if they have figured out the mechanism of the whole world. One last thing about the film: I found the idea that the city was telling the story to be a lot like Bu san (Good Bye Dragon Inn) in which the movie theater itself observes its patrons.
On Saturday Ali was pretty sick so I brought her some stuff to help her get better. I got back to the city in time to go to the Dryden to see The Heartbreak Kid. I thought it was a really good movie. Michael Neault noted that it was so hard to find, it took George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) several years to track down a print of it despite that the film was nominated for several Academy awards. Anyway, the movie follows a couple — Lenny and and Lila — who get married in whirlwind-fashion and really get to know one another on their honeymoon trip to Miami Beach [setting the film squarely in 1972 when it was made.] Lenny immediately starts to notice things that annoy him about his new spouse and discovers Kelly, a young co-ed staying at the same hotel, and man-child Lenny jumps at the opportunity headfirst. Lenny's "you'll be better off" discussion he eventually has with Lila is one of the beautiful train-wrecks of human weakness that is brilliantly, unflinchingly laid out. Lenny just doesn't stop talking to Lila — the screen begs for us to pity both of them. Ultimately Lenny's pathetically optimistic outlook on everything completely derails his life ... definitely check out this gem on video sometime.
Later I went to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) and got a chance to check out the new 3-piece lineup for The QUiTTERS who still crank out great punk-rock although their sound is understandably changed. I couldn't even squeeze in to see The Hi-Risers but the music was loud enough that I got the gist that they're still the same great, fun 1960's-styled rock-and-roll I remember.
Let me just note that after hearing about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — where you challenge yourself to bang out a 50,000 word novel during the month of November — I decided that I'd start taking on challenges each month to do something I'd always said I might try. Well, this month I decided I'd finally go on stage and do some stand-up comedy. I wrote a short 4-minute absurdist tall-tale a few weeks ago and videotaped myself a few times at home, trying some minor variations. Well, on Sunday night, Ali and I went to Boulder Coffee Co. (100 Alexander St.) for the Open Mic Comedy hosted by Matt Rohr. I was surprised to experience a bit of fear about the whole thing. In the last 5 years or so I've done new things but none that I went into truly not knowing what was going to happen. It was like job interviews from years ago when I wasn't very confident and I was there to be possibly selected rather than later interviews where I'd just interview the employer to decide if I wanted to work there.
It was weird putting my name on the sign-up sheet and finding out I was 3rd. Jeepers ... me ... the third guy up. Matt warmed people up after the second guy. I hit my stride pretty quickly, tapping some of the experience I got from the Geva Comedy Improv class I took a year ago. I messed up my joke a little bit but Ali said I did well. I heard a couple laughs come from people in the audience who weren't really paying attention ... that was quite a relief. Afterward, one of the other comics said he liked my bit.
I don't know if I'll go back and try again, but it was kind of fun. There were definitely some intangibles I learned from the whole thing. I mean, I think everyone talks themselves out of stuff like that because they know what will happen: you'll probably be a little funny, somebody will laugh, and you go on with your life — why even do it? The only tangible thing you get out of it is being able to speak of it affirmatively in the past tense: I did it. That, I guess, and you never have to really wonder if you can really do it. It's a peculiar burden to unload ... maybe like if you find out you have some problem with your teeth and you get them fixed and realize that you were actually in pain so long that you only now notice the absence of the pain.
I guess the only trick now is to think of new things to try ...
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About the title ... According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (1992, Houghton Mifflin; 1994, INSO Corporation) the word rendezvous was first recorded in the English language 415 years ago in 1591 to mean "a place where troops are to assemble."
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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