Emerging Filmmakers #46 at the Little

Tonight was The Emerging Filmmakers Series #46 and Ali and I made it to The Little (240 East Ave.) to see it. I liked ABC Movie by Elisabeth Tonnard once it got rolling and I figured out the literary angle of the visual collage that plays on "apple", "book", and "clock". Fallen by Jon Noble was a zombie horror short on a budget … although imperfect, there's a solid talent there. The real gem of the evening was Last Time in Clerkenweell [not Bathtime in Clerkenwell as I had noted … although the descriptions and reviews seem remarkably similar to what we saw] by Alex Budovsky — it was a superb black-and-white animation set to a catchy song. It had an art-deco feel to it as well as a darker military-jingoism just under the surface.

At times, though, I found that I was being more critical than usual. I recall being able to look at a work and see the artistic merit, or a glimmer of skill somewhere, but it seems I'm now a cynic about it and judge things quickly as crap. Like Untitled by Eva Xie: I found it to be a blunt so-so metaphor on the gradient of going from a girl to a woman; its artistic technique was akin to being clever with language by removing all but the punctuation marks to make your point. ",,.,,'.:-;." if you know what I mean.

But even that really had its merits — after all, for what is often a first-time film for someone, just learning all about making it is a challenge. It's much harder than it appears. [You may not argue that point until you produce a short film that beats all that I've seen before.]

Anyway, I liked all the films at least a little. The Can Man by Sean Cunningham was a strange film that reveals a sinister world of bleak post-apocalyptic dehumanization. Boxed In by Joy E. Reed was a coming-out story between a woman and her mother and it did a good job of revealing some rather deep characterization. SNEW by David Lachman and Jody Oberfelder was a nifty playful piece with cut-out letters and people — a somewhat experimental piece that was fun to watch. And finally, Loose Ends by Rachel Gordon was an okay, professional-looking production about a woman dealing with dating in her 20's.

I thought it was interesting that Karen vanMeenen had selected two films with a literary metaphor. I don't recall having seen that before, but maybe it's fresh in my mind what I think the bias might be.

Touring Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery

I met with the 15 or so people from MEETinROCHESTERMySpace link at Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery (RCR&R) (7318 Victor-Mendon Rd., Victor) for the tour of the recycling facilities. We met with Director of Client Services Charlie McKernan who showed us around. He says their shop holds itself to high standards of recycling and environmental responsibility. They also have a fancy internal tracking system that can track parts from their source systems right to where they get recycled. The facility itself was a tech-nerd playground — a warehouse full of vintage computer systems. I was dismayed to see them go, but I do understand that for industrial applications, they are terribly inefficient. At least they are getting selected for resale and/or disposed of in a good way.

Thankfully for all of us drooling at the piles of neat stuff, they do sell working systems out of Rochester Computer Recycling Store (395 Central Ave.) and through their Electronics Café eBay Store. They accept computerized consumer electronics — mostly computers, but things like DVD players and TV's as well but not hairdryers or bread-makers — from individuals to corporations. They even do secure data destruction.

It's remarkable that such a cool place exists right here in town.

Hogan's, Station 55, and the Bug Jar

Ali, Stacie, and I went to Hogan's Hideaway (197 Park Ave.) for dinner. I stuck with the sure bets of a good wine, French onion soup, and a grilled cheese and was not disappointed. Well, okay, except the sandwich which wasn't grilled as much as I'd like.

After that we headed to Station 55 (55 Railroad St.) for the ArtAwake event. We were surprised to find that they charged a cover at the door — not exactly an art-gallery-kosher move. I was then disappointed to find the works were not particularly impressive. Worse was that the lighting left nothing to the imagination and there were no nooks to explore. It didn't help all this any that there was no wine to be found either — which, among other things, can help loosen one's ingrained bindings with America's corporate-consumer culture. Alas, it was a big disappointment for me, and kind of kicked off the evening poorly.

So then we went to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) a bit early to catch the bands there. Unfortunately — despite it being a rather popular headliner — GaylordMySpace link, in their last Rochester show before moving to Atlanta — the happy-hour vibe was still in full-force: blaring house music and all. I only really saw the first band, Razor Wire ShrineMySpace link who are an instrumental chaotic rock band with subtle influences from all over the place. I only caught a little of Fledgling DeathMySpace link, a thrash/heavy metal kind of band. By then the three of us were quite tired and decided to call it an early night.

In related news, The LandfillMySpace link (625 Weiland Rd.) has been shut down (related because sucky Station 55 has not — it's too milquetoast to displease the aristocracy). I recall reading it in a news clip from The City Newspaper but it doesn't appear to have made it to the online edition. I believe it was a casualty of Mayor Robert J. Duffy's plan to shut down house-parties, as I was pretty sure it was some guy's house. When I first heard of that law, I was concerned it would be abused beyond its original intent: to give police the leeway they "needed" to shut down house parties when they came upon them. Now, my vision of a house party that needs to be shut down is one that is completely out of control — where the residents have lost their ability to control the party themselves.

Once again — like the shutdown of A|V Art Sound Space (N. Union St. at Trinidad St., #8 in the Public Market, formerly the All-Purpose Room) — the creative fringe of this city has had its hands chopped off. And once again, I theorize that this will push one more of these inspirational creators to go find a tolerant city. And the Mayor and all his cronies will sit around and not care about those one or two fringe people, but to me, they inspire — and I assume so of other creative people. And unfortunately that is not a column in their spreadsheet and it doesn't compare well to tax dollars.

So, I'm left giving this advice: don't trust the police. They are not your friends. They are not there to help you. If you see them, go away from them.

I hope this is what the mayor has in mind.

Changes to my beard

So today I went to Personal FX Hair Studio (646 South Ave.) and visited with Joe. I know him from Lux LoungeMySpace link (666 South Ave.) and the other week he said he wanted to do something with my beard. So I went to the salon and got trimmed up and got stinky dyes and tinfoil stuck in it then waited for 20 minutes or so. I was surprised at the result and now I'm getting used to it.


Atonement 'fore Penelope at the Cinema

Ali and I headed to The Cinema TheatreMySpace link (957 South Clinton Ave.) to see the double-feature: Atonement, and Penelope. This time, we didn't get a chance to hang out with the cat — I guess it's done with us.

So Atonement took me a while to get into. I had thoughts of the day swimming around and couldn't get into it fully. I noticed that the foleying was performed louder and more stylistically than in other movies — obviously for artistic effect but, to my ear, deliberate to the point of distraction.

The story is not particularly unusual: Briony — a young girl — misinterprets the passionate love between her sister, Cecilia, and her beau Robbie as some bad thing in her sexually-budding mind. Through a lie of serendipitously important placement, she gets them separated. The World War II intensifies, and Robbie leaves to fight, able to see Cecilia only briefly.

As the emotions intensified — from the sterile complacency of the aristocratic life to the ragged edges of human existence — I became much more engaged in the film. And then was absolutely surprised to find it has a bit of a twist ending — one that looks squarely at what is real and what is not, unraveling the tapestry laid before me.

Penelope, on the other hand, was brutally terrible.

The story is that Penelope was affected by a curse of her father's lineage such that she was born with the appearance of a pig. To break the curse, she must wed one of her own — another "blue-blood" aristocrat. Unfortunately, her appearance is so hideous that all suitors literally run away from her at first sight, never getting to know the kind person she is inside. So does she finally find her prince? Will the curse actually be broken?

Let me save you 102 minutes of your life: yes, but it's the down-to-earth guy who actually likes her and he's not really a blue-blood, and yes, but the curse is edited partway into the film so that it's when she finds the one who loves her truly — and it is she that finally loves herself that breaks the curse, turning her back into regular-old Christina Ricci.

The fundamental flaw of the film is that it attempts to hit the exact middle-ground of all aspects. It's a cartoonish fairy-tale set in realistic modern-day England. Penelope is so hideous that she drives suitors away, but she's not bad looking at all. The chemistry between the designated couple is vaguely lukewarm — more like cooked pasta than a roaring fire. The resolution is absolutely insipid — that the curse forged in vengeance against a whole bloodline is really just a way for a girl to get through her issues and the evil witch was a big-hearted softie after all.

And then there's the script — oy. The fundamental message is that superficially loving mothers end up smothering their children's sense of self and must be shut the hell up. Or at least that may be on the mind of the scriptwriter. Then again, I guess if you love Everybody Loves Raymond, then — as this is the same writer — you'll probably love this script too. And apparently so do hundreds of commentators on Internet Movie Database.  And I find that to be more disturbing than the fact that this movie got made at all.

A Computer Bug in JayceLand

I just noticed the other day that the JayceLand Archive was not working right. It would show only the last two weeks (March 20 and March 13) but then stopped and didn't show any until November of last year. I thought it had to do with there being no entries on March 6.

Here's what really happened:

The archive is just a bunch of files named according to the date. To automatically generate the "new" part of the archive, the software makes a note of the most recently published date (i.e. the most recent Thursday before today). It scans through the blog entries in reverse-chronological order and assembles a list of the short descriptions until it gets to an entry that's older than the week it's working on. If there's a file for the Thursday it's on, it displays the link and list of short descriptions as seen in the archive, subtracts 7 days from its marker, and starts accumulating the next list of short descriptions; repeat until there's no more blog entries.

The devil is in the details and, like all annoying computer bugs, it's to do with an incorrect assumption on the part of the programmer (me). When I calculate the most recent Thursday's date, I set the time portion of the day to midnight — dates are represented by the number of seconds since midnight, January 1, 1970. Then, when I need to go back a week, I just subtract 7 * 86,400 (the number of seconds in one day).

Did you get the bug yet?

The incorrect assumption is that all days are 24 hours. There are two that are not: the days when we change in and out of Daylight Saving Time. So March 9 was 23 hours. When my "Thursday" marker passed that Sunday, it was not "Thursday at midnight" but rather "Wednesday at 11 p.m." Since there were no files marked with a Wednesday date, no lines were displayed. At least until it got past November 4, 2007 when we had a 25-hour day and the marker was back to Thursdays again, allowing it to correctly show the entry for November 1, 2007 (when I started the blog).

I gotta say that programming is pretty weird sometimes.

Back to a bit of barefoot running

Just a brief update from the running file: I went out for a 15-minute run and did about half of it with water-shoes on then the other half barefoot. It was about 27°F outside and a light snow had made the ground damp. When I got home, the coldest part of my toes were still only around 50°F. It felt good to get back out there again after a wintry hiatus.

Taking the train to Schenectady and back for Easter

Ali and I decided to take the train to my parents' house for Easter. We boarded at the Amtrak Station (320 Central Ave.) around 9:45 a.m. and made our way east. It was amusing to see all the familiar places and try to figure out what's next: the Public Market, the train yard, 590, Linden Avenue, East Rochester, the middle of Fairport … and then it got more sparse: Baird Road … Macedon … and the last marker was in Palmyra when we passed my friend Sondra's old house. It was a beautiful sunny day although the scenery was that dreary brown-and-gray post-winter blah.

Around 1:30 we were in Schenectady and got to spend some time with my parents.

The return train was the same run I took to Denver in 2005 — we boarded around 7:30 p.m. and … well … waited. Apparently we were waiting for the tracks to clear ahead for the late-arriving eastbound train. And then it was to allow passengers to transfer from the Saratoga Springs train. So we finally left around 8.

Then in Syracuse, the U.S. Customs agents boarded (they did on the way east as well but it was uneventful) and they had some discussion with some people who happened to be sitting near us. One guy got all his luggage and left with them, and the other — well, I think it was just a language barrier and he got to stay. In any case, the time we made up with extra speed on the way was lost again and we arrived in Rochester around 11:45 — 45 minutes late.

Now the funny thing is that on the train it's kind of unique experience to be delayed. As long as you are on the train and it's on the main tracks, it will start going again. It may take a while but it'll go.

On a plane, ship, or bus, there's a sense that you might get stuck somewhere and have to figure out what to do. But on the train it's missing that element and I find myself having faith in the inertia of the voyage. Like the sheer mass of the train itself while it's moving, it requires very unusual circumstances to cancel a run. It may be slow-going, and there may be delays, but never a cancellation.

And that makes it that much more relaxing.

A peculiarly terrible feeling

Today I did my usual Saturday running around — groceries, lunch, hanging out with friends, and other miscellaneous errands. Everything seemed to go pretty well.

But in talking with my friends, we got on the topic of politics and the war and that was kind of upsetting — the old "Where's Osama?" game … all the lives and money lost on (both affecting generations to come) … the power grabbed in the midst of it all. Then there was some tangential notes about the police: someone I knew a little was arrested; my friend got pulled over for not signaling when he's sure he did (and right in front of his house); and the new surprise "no left turn" from westbound East Avenue onto southbound South Goodman (allegedly — I could swear they just installed a left-turn arrow for that turn).

I also observed people driving strangely in the last couple days. There are a lot of near-misses and generally poor form out there. It's like people are … well … scurrying. Like it's the day before the hurricane hits and everyone is running around trying to get those last survival essentials.

All these things combined and I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of dread — the knot-in-your-stomach kind of feeling just before you get into a car accident. Only it's lasting for the better part of an hour.

I hope it's nothing … maybe it's just me noticing things I hadn't noticed before — having my senses more open than I have in years. Maybe it's just some recent snarls in my own life. Or maybe it's that I'm noticing everyone else (including myself) having a generally dour attitude — a chronic kind of thing that just won't abate, but that you kind of get used to.

We'll see.

Alexis Gerard on "Going Visual: How Imaging Technology is Reshaping Culture, Society, and Business"

I headed to George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) and got a chance to see Alexis Gerard speak on Going Visual: How Imaging Technology is Reshaping Culture, Society, and Business. I really wasn't all that impressed with his lecture, mostly because I didn't buy into the premise.

The gist is that a because the nerves that make up our sense of sight vastly outnumber those for hearing, and that we have the capacity in our bodies to produce sounds, that we are left with a yearning to similarly create images. I disagree right away because I think that our capacity to create sound is about as lacking as our ability to create imagery with our bodies (i.e. without outside tools) when you compare either to its respective sensory capabilities. For instance, our ability to pantomime the shape of a tree is as accurate as our ability to mimic the sound of a roaring fire.

Gerard's argument then is to imply that the ability to capture an accurate representation of the world has been an underlying desire of man. He notes that the ability to create realistic paintings required a lot of skill, it cost a lot, and the resulting product must be seen in person; compare that to a camera phone where the skill to produce an image is very low, the cost is negligible, and the capacity to share the image is huge.

But I say that the ability to record images is as boring as the ability to record sounds. The meat-and-potatoes of my own desire to stimulate my senses revolves around creating new things: sights and sounds of things as yet unseen. It is more about creating tools to manipulate my world than it is to play parlor tricks with my senses. For isn't that what a photograph is — a way to trick your senses into believing you're seeing something that is not in front of you?

So to say that this "empowers" people is flawed. It only gives people a very specific tool that is really only for a very specific purpose.