OnFilm's Layers Program

I was excited to see the short-film program "Layers" by the University of Rochester OnFilm group. It was an impressive collection that centered around the "layers" theme and all the ramifications it can entail.

Starting out was 45 7 Broadway (Tomonari Nishikawa, 2013, 5 min., 16mm) in which Nishikawa shot scenes in Times Square successively with black-and-white film filtered with red, green, and blue filters, then made a color composite by merging the three resulting films to form a pseudo-color image. The effect was marvelous, often presenting rippling true-colors in stationary objects and overlaid colors in those that moved. At one point, I felt like I could smell the city.

Volcano Saga (Joan Jonas, 1989, 28 min., video) was an interesting interpretation of the Icelandic Laxdeala Saga — a tale of dream analysis — given an experimental-video spin. Capitalism: Child Labor (Ken Jacobs, 2006, 14 min., video) was a disorienting interpretation of a stereo-view of child workers in a factory. Jacobs quickly alternated between the images creating the illusion of continuously spinning, and added detail views that seemed to rotate on their own.

In Her + Him Van Leo (Akram Zaatari, 2001, 32 min., video), Zaatari visits the photographer who created a scantily-clad image of his grandmother which he discovered in his mother's closet. I found the repetitive technique a bit annoying at times, but the film was rather humorous and overall interesting. Of note to me was that Van Leo had a large-format camera which looked nearly identical to Jenn's camera in her new studio — particularly the heavy wheeled tripod.

I was a bit lost with Castro Street (Bruce Baillie, 1966, 10 min., 16mm). It was an experimental view of trains and industrialization … I guess. I'm not good at guessing, though. Likewise, Lot in Sodom (James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber, 1933, 28 min., 16mm), being a Biblical tale I didn't know (like most of them), I was kind of lost as to what was going on. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see their experimental filming techniques that rivaled what people were doing 30 years later.

Waves of Betrayal (Jae Matthews, 2007, 5 min., 16 mm B&W reversal transferred to video) was an interesting bit of film: according to the OnFilm description, it "is a home processed short where the ocean documented in the film was also used as the mixing material for the developer, stop, and fix baths". This resulted in a unique tonality to the film and scratches from sediment. Let me just say that it is the knowledge of the process that makes this film interesting.

Concluding the night was O'er the Land (Deborah Stratman, 2009, 52 min., 16mm), a view of modern American patriotism in many forms. I personally found it upsetting to have the idea of America's jingoistic militarism echoed back to me so strongly. Contrasting it with the waning natural wonders we have, the effect was even more profound.

Burlesque for Bail and Other Debauchery

Ali and I walked over to The Mez (389 Gregory St., formerly House of Hamez and Daily Perks) to check out Burlesque for Bail, the benefit show to raise money for bail for Unconventional Action protesters of the upcoming political conventions. The show was pretty fun although it was basically some musical acts and Burlesque-styled striptease.

At one point, one of the guys involved in the show asked for people's opinions of things around town and around the nation. Although the new police cameras brought loud jeering, I heard a lot of quiet support for them. In a later discussion with Ali and her friend, I tried arguing it logically, but I was frustrated: without any factual information, I was unable to do anything but an emotional appeal.

Although I said I choose freedom over safety, I think it's more that I choose freedom over inaccurate accounts of safety. I guess the working theory is that the cameras prevent criminal activity. The first flaw in that statement is that no police action prevents crime: police can only catch criminals after a crime has been committed.

But if I give credence at all to the crime-prevention theory, it's that criminals do not want to get caught so they will not commit crime where they will get caught. As such, the cameras cause crime to move away from the cameras. In other words, if it were possible to locate crimes before and after the cameras, my theory is that the crime rate would stay relatively steady but that fewer crimes would be committed in range of the cameras.

So in the end, I argue that it doesn't reduce crime at all.

On the other side of the coin, the cameras can be used to break up protests. For instance, if an anti-war protest were held (or even a Critical Mass Bike Ride or any group of different-enough looking people for that matter), the cameras can be used to record the identities of the attendees and round them up later. Although protesting is not a crime, protesters I've met in this jingoistic, militarized country tend to be quite paranoid. As such, they behave like the criminals and would want to move protests away from the cameras. Unfortunately, protests are necessarily in those areas, as the cameras were placed where people tend to congregate — a protest is worthless if nobody is there to see it.

Thus, in my mind, the cameras prevent no crime and disrupt freedom and are therefore a bad thing.

Everyone who supports the camera believes that they do prevent crime and that they are overall a benefit — and why should they not?, for I can offer no hard evidence. So I think that what I should do is to test their theory. I'll go hang out in front of the cameras with, say, a laptop computer. If the cameras do prevent crime, then I'll go home after a couple hours. If they don't, then there's a chance I'd be robbed.

I suspect that wouldn't be sufficient — for if I were robbed, I might witness a demand for more cameras — after all, if one camera failed to prevent a crime, then perhaps two will work better, and I really don't want to see that. So I'll just fight the robber and hopefully get killed in the process. Then, either I'll be a martyr to the cause of freedom, or things will get worse but I won't have to deal with it.

I'll probably do it after Burning Man though because I kind of want to go to that first.

Anyhow, back to Saturday night …

Ali and I headed to The Tap and Mallet (381 Gregory St.) for a beer. She got her head set that we'd get Mark's plates at the end of the evening, and that would require some serious drinking. We had some wine at Solera Wine BarMySpace link (647 South Ave.) then headed across to Lux LoungeMySpace link (666 South Ave.) where we ran into some friends. We spent the bulk of the evening and four of us went to Mark's Texas Hots (487 Monroe Ave.) I discovered what may be the most awesome plate ever: rather than burgers or hots, I got two over-easy eggs. Damn that was a great plate. I think that it might be improved with the addition of brown gravy (or "gravies" as the kids say) … and just possibly — and I say this only as an experiment to try, not to blaspheme — without the meat sauce, onions, and mustard.

Perhaps next time, then …