Events for Thursday, August 23, 2012 through Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thursday, August 23

  • Tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the MuCCC is the 5th annual Sankofa Evening of Theatre & Jazz [source: MuCCC website, 2012-Aug-13]
  • Starting late after Garden Vibes at 8:30 p.m., the Dryden will be screening 48 Hrs. (Walter Hill, US 1982, 96 min.) Here's the calendar description:

    After making his film debut in this action comedy, Eddie Murphy became one of the biggest box-office draws of the '80s. He's hilarious as a convict recruited to help catch a killer, but this is a buddy comedy in the truest sense. The casting of Nick Nolte as his gruff partner brings out the very best in Murphy.

    [source: Dryden website, 2012-Aug-13]

  • Over at Abilene, also starting around 8:30 p.m. is My Plastic Sun, Coyote Campus, and Bad Sound. [source: Abilene website, 2012-Aug-13]

Friday, August 24

  • A friend of mine recommended I try and catch The Sugarland Express (Steven Spielberg, US 1974, 110 min.) at the Dryden, screening tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Again from the Dryden calendar:

    Goldie Hawn and William Atherton are petty larcenists in hot pursuit of the child they were forced to give up. But the stakes grow higher as they take a trooper hostage and become outlaw celebrities. Recipient of the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes, and shot just one year before Spielberg rose to international fame with Jaws.

    [source: Dryden website, 2012-Aug-13]

Saturday, August 25

  • Since the Bop Shop is no longer at the Village Gate, today and tomorrow is the In-Store Sidewalk Sale. [source: Bop Shop Events, 2012-Aug-13]
  • Today from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Genesee Center for the Arts is the Spokes & Ink Bike and Poster Fest. [source: Spokes & Ink website, 2012-Aug-13]
  • The Dryden will be screening the Rochester premiere of Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico 2011, 113 min., Spanish w/ subtitles) tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 5 p.m. The calendar has this to say:

    Loosely inspired by a 2008 incident, Miss Bala offers an electrifying account of a beauty pageant contestant (Stephanie Sigman) ensnared in a war between a drug cartel and corrupt officials. With slinky long takes shot from volatile corners and crevices, Miss Bala is a tour-de-force that announces Naranjo as amajor talent.

    [source: Dryden website, 2012-Aug-13]

  • Awesome punk-rock The Blastoffs, The Tombstone Hands, and Philo Beddoe will perform at the Bug Jar starting around 10:30 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar, 2012-Aug-13]

Sunday, August 26

  • The MuCCC will be hosting a performance of Metal Quest: The First Emperor tonight at 7:30 p.m. [source: MuCCC website, 2012-Aug-13]
  • The Bug Jar is hosting West Fest with Anchorage Nebraska, very good hard-bar-rock band Inugami, Comedown, Pink Elephant, and good hard rock from The Cheetah Whores starting around 9 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar, 2012-Aug-13]

Monday, August 27

  • In Between the Lines Improv Troup and TOOP (The Opposite of People) Theater Company will perform at the Todd Theatre at the University of Rochester today from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. [source: UofR website events calendar, 2012-Aug-13]
  • Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Flying Squirrel is the monthly Green Party Meeting. [source: Flying Squirrel website, 2012-Aug-13]

Tuesday, August 28

  • The Dryden will be screening Talk About a Stranger (David Bradley, US 1952, 65 min., 16mm) at 8 p.m. From the Eastman House calendar:

    Another neglected gem from the MGM B-unit, Talk about a Stranger follows young Bud as he tries to prove that the stranger who's moved in to the long-abandoned house down the road is an evil canine murderer. Set in an idyllic citrus town and photographed by noir specialist John Alton (Raw Deal), this junior version of Shadow of a Doubt carries palpable terror.

    [source: Dryden website, 2012-Aug-13]

Wednesday, August 29

  • The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, US 1935, 75 min.) will be shown at the Dryden tonight at 8 p.m. From the calendar:

    Dietrich stars as a cold-hearted and mysterious woman who can belong to no one, but leads everyone to believe otherwise. Von Sternberg paints a vivid and stylized recreation of turn-of-the-20th-century Spain during Carnival.

    [source: Dryden website, 2012-Aug-13]

  • Over at Abilene, Euforquestra will perform with good, crowd-pleasing reggae from Thunder Body tonight starting around 9 p.m. [source: JamBase calendar, 2012-Aug-13]
  • Good, amiable hard rock from The Clockmen, Cavalcade, The DeVills, and The Red Lion will be at the Bug Jar starting around 9 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar, 2012-Aug-13]

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Dominic Barter on Restorative Justice

I headed to RIT this evening and attempted to find Golisano Hall. I went to Carlson by mistake (and partly out of habit as that's one of the locations of the Caroline Werner Gannett Project lectures). I tried to get on the open WiFi to find a map, but the WiFi wasn't actually accessible — a metaphor for RIT's anti-community, pro-police-state, lets-all-live-in-a-bunker philosophy. I finally found a map and (as I suspected looking at the building behind it) I was standing in front of Golisano Hall: "you are here" on so many levels.

I was there to see Dominic Barter will present a lecture titled Toward Conflict: A Conversation about Restorative Justice. He began by talking about how there are no outsiders in a community. Often we think of conflict as being between two parties, but there is always that group affected by the conflict, and (by nature of being part of the community) complicit in it.

But "conflict", "community", and even "group" are pretty potent words that need some refining to understand what's meant.

Conflict is at its core, a disconnection of communication. The presumption is that all people think they are doing good with their actions, so everyone behaves in a way that is somehow beneficial. But an action does not benefit everyone. The conversation can stop there with each party assuming the other is mistaken, confused, stupid, evil, etc. Or one party can state its objectives, and the other (while hearing the words) may not be able to empathize with that position and be unable to understand.

Conflict remains as long as that disconnection of communication remains. And it demands to be addressed; it demands to be dispelled by reconnecting communication — all because the self of each person longs to be recognized, understood, and respected. This desire for communication is so strong that, if left unresolved, leads to animosity and eventually violence.

On community, let me back up for a minute. I'm often bothered by the word "is". It has this nebulous double-meaning as a way to describe a measurement ("the sky is blue"), and as a way to define an equivalence ("one plus one is two"). So I get flustered by "you are part of the community" because "community" can simply be a measurement of place, but it can also be a definition of behavior.

So rather than define community as a set of behaviors, Barter (if I remember correctly) sees it as the people and shared places — you, everyone you speak with, everyone you interact with, everyone you see.

He also doesn't like referring to "groups" involved with a conflict — as if there are literally two teams, each with common ideas that disagree with the other. Rather, it is simply individuals, each one with jeir own ideas, some of which are shared with others. Conflict resolution, then, involves every individual in the community — everyone who interacts with those "central" to a conflict are effected and necessarily involved.

Another way to look at conflict is an imbalance of power. So Barter's process — called Restorative Circles — is literally a circle of people which, by its nature, equalizes power. He tries to work from a perspective of being part of the community rather than as an outsider, and in that manner attempts to keep himself from being part of a power imbalance.

He says it always happens in three phases.

First, people reacquaint themselves with how to communicate. He has observed people not talking to the target of their statement — as in looking away, or at jeir own supporters. And people are inarticulate and flail about with words. He reminds himself to be confident in the ability of people to communicate, so he tries not to interfere, but when someone cannot fathom another's rationale, he asks jem if jee can explain a "good reason" for the misunderstood behavior, knowing that people think they act benevolently.

This phase always takes longer than he thinks it should and he starts to panic. But it inevitably does, and eventually people start communicating with one another.

Next, everyone starts to identify humanity in others. Each realize that everyone is human like jem — that there is benevolence behind everyone's actions. And they empathize with one another, and begin to see the source of the conflict.

Finally, they start creating possible actions. Barter says he's amazed to see the creativity of solutions that arise. And because the whole community is involved, the likelihood of those possible actions being implemented is dramatically improved.

I had to ask about anxiety and control. I like to be in control, and I at least feel most comfortable when the logical part of my mind can offer possible likely outcomes. But when it breaks down and is unable to formulate any likely outcomes, I feel anxious — that old "fexcitement" reaction that's the physiological fear/excitement response. And that's unpleasant and I try to avoid it. So to enter a situation like this — where I have no idea what solutions exist, what the conflict is, and even if it will work — is extremely difficult.

Barter said he experiences that as well and has learned to rely on a support network (either other people being present or readily available by phone). For him, support takes the form of people reminding him who he is. I presume he means to regain focus on his goals and methodology.

I thought it perhaps most fascinating that he described himself as an extremely impatient man. He knows how ineffective it is to rush the process, so to ensure it is successful and robust, he is willing to invest a lot of energy in making sure it is done right.

These Restorative Circles happen start small with just a few people each, then grow, and eventually can include as many as several hundred people at once. In all, it's an amazing process that we need to reacquaint ourselves with.

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Thoughts on Ruby Sparks …

With the Dryden closed on Mondays, I have been making a habit of going to the Little for their $5 Monday movies — often to see two films. Tonight I went to see Ruby Sparks. I had seen the trailer and had written it off, but I read an interview with writer-and-star Zoe Kazan which sold the movie on me (but be warned it’s full of spoilers.) In short, consider what happens if a woman writes a role for herself as if she were a male writer creating a manic pixie dream girl (MPDG)? It all seems a little more self-aware to me, and I’m interested to see if all that works out. Alternatively, what if a movie centered on a MPDG were able to pass the Bechdel/Wallace test?

The introductory first act introduces us to Calvin, a young writer who met with massive success in his first novel. He lives alone in a fancy house and is trying to follow up with a second work. But it's not going so well. His only company is a scruffy dog who (as he reveals to his therapist) he got as a way to try and meet women, but it's not working. So his therapist suggests he try writing a few paragraphs about meeting a woman who adores his dog. And later while dreaming, he finds such a woman, albeit imaginary.

Enamored by his fantasy, he sets to frantically writing. He confides in his therapist that he's worried that he's falling in love with the character. And then all hell breaks loose when he thinks she's living in his house. She believes fully that the history defined by his writing is her actual life. And then worse: everyone else thinks she's there too, presumably because, well, she is.

But rather than turn into a rehash of Mannequin or Weird Science (yikes: dating myself seriously!) it steers more toward what it's like to be a being who has no idea she was just a fictional construct, centering on the differences with a real person.

And this is what the trailer completely misses: it's sort of a multi-layered writer's movie. I mean, all the characters are fictional constructs, but one is also a fiction-in-a-fiction. And then, while Calvin and Ruby are the most fully-realized characters, how can they coexist with others who are absurdly broad? For instance, when I saw Antonio Banderas as Calvin's stepdad Mort playing the stereotypically over-the-top artist, I thought, "oh my god, it's like he's made of ham." It's interesting to consider how all the characters exist and why they're there, and how fully formed the would believe they are.

The film gets me thinking, what if it were possible to buy, say, a robot girlfriend? What if I could make someone who is exactly what I think I want? Would I even come close to anything desirable? And then I also know it's necessarily a paradox to have free will (a.k.a. intelligence, artificial-or-not) and be manipulable or programmable.

Writing offers an outlet for those dreams of Pygmalion — a way to literally (and literarily) make friends. And Ruby Sparks touches on all the ramifications of that.

So I guess I'd recommend it if you're wanting for that kind of film. I find expectations to be extremely important when it comes to viewing a film, and the trailer does such a poor job of setting those expectations in the "right" direction that I don't recommend the trailer or any single-paragraph summary. And it certainly helps if you also like looking at Zoe Kazan.

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Thoughts on Steve Jobs "Lost Interview"

I decided to check out Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview at the Dryden. I think it was something to do with semi-morbid curiosity, and I feel like I have a connection somehow — what with being 10 years younger, but with a similar hunger for electronics and computers. We had Apple II's in our high school, and I learned machine programming and did some hacking, although my main expertise was with the TRS-80 Model III (and later Color Computer) we had at home. What I mean to say is that the seeds of how we lived our lives were rooted in the same kind of stuff.

Anyway, Robert X. Cringley, "during the making of his TV series Triumph of the Nerds about the birth of the PC, … taped an hour-long interview with Steve Jobs who proved witty, outspoken, and visionary." This was in 1995: 10 years after Jobs was ousted from Apple, during the time when he was developing NeXT computers on his own, a year prior to selling NeXT to Apple (which became the foundation for OS X), and 18 months before returning to Apple to take over as CEO.

From the film, I gather interviews Steve Jobs almost never gave interviews. In fact, I can't recall ever seeing him do one, knowing his presence only from the Apple shareholder meetings he was famous for. So it was a rare treat to see not only the interview, but also getting to see pretty much the whole thing without being edited down for television.

At one point, Jobs says he thinks computers are the greatest invention ever made. I reflexively agreed — I do everything with computers, and my job is centered around them — but I think I also agree more deeply. It's one of only a few tools ever invented that improve upon the qualities of the mind (akin to language, writing, books, etc.) rather than as a tool for saving labor or for improving health and safety. For instance, after the film, I noted that Joseph Fourier developed his Fourier analysis in the 1800's, but at that time, it was little more than theoretical math — worthless to everyday society. But with computers, we exploit it all the time, using it as a foundation for JPEG image compression and MP3's.

Also, I always seem to be surprised that someone had made a claim about the impact and significance of the Internet from its early days, as when Jobs claimed we'd be doing everything on the World Wide Web and the Internet. I remember, though, that it was pretty much obviously a big deal. Heck, even I had my first website sometime in 1996, although I didn't know exactly how it would manifest (nor did anybody else).

Overall I found it to be a fascinating time capsule, well worth seeking out.

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