The Decay of Fiction and Bedwin Hacker at UofR

I have been attending University of Rochester's OnFilm's (also facebook) Community OnFilm screenings the past couple weeks. Last week I got to see In film nist (This is Not a Film) and Stellet licht (Silent Light). This is Not a Film documents a day-in-the-life of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi after he was arrested, jailed, and censored from making films for 20 years. It's sad, hopeful, tense, and powerful. Silent Light is unique in that it is Mexico's first film not in Spanish — rather in Plautdietsch, a dialect spoken by the Russian Mennonites who also star in the film. It follows one farmer's test of faith in a beautifully meditative way.

So this week they screened The Decay of Fiction, and Bedwin Hacker. The Decay of Fiction is an experimental film that uses optical overlay of characters onto still or time-lapse images of the decaying Ambassador in Los Angeles — once a grand hotel (site of the Academy Awards in the 1930's and, as history would have it, the assassination of Robert Kennedy) that closed in 1989 and had gradually been falling apart ever since. It sort of follows ghostly figures from movies (or lives?) past as they appear and disappear in the halls, all while seeming to believe in the continuity of their existence. The work does not let on what must have been a quite large budget to handle all the overlaid shots with their respective crews, and the elaborate special effects that allow all of it to appear so magically seamless (or not, as the art dictated.) My mind fell into dream-logic trying to understand the jumbled stories, and my logic kept popping up to theorize how the shots were constructed.

As for Bedwin Hackers, let me start by getting my sexist comments out of the way: you had me at "gorgeous bi-sexual female hackers."

Okay. Enough of that now.

I have long theorized how interesting it would be if all the roles in the film were cast against stereotype (e.g. women computer geeks, men as pawns and eye-candy) and this film fully accomplished that end. It is ultimately a cat-and-mouse game between two top computer hackers — at stake is control of satellite TV transmissions. The underdog hackers terrify TV operators by feeding taunting messages over the usual propaganda; and worse, by capturing the imagination of the populace.

Oh, and it's set in Tunisia and France with a bilingual Arabic and French dialog (subtitled in English for monolingual slobs like me.)

(And one final perk: refreshments have included coffee in the 96-ounce to-go bag-in-box containers I have been asking for on Craigslist for some time.)

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Pictures from Running

I went for a run this morning and brought along my camera.

Along the canal path a recently painted note appeared on the trail. I always get a chuckle out of it: it says, "JPL Lock of Love" in a heart with an arrow pointing to the guard lock and the date 7/5/05.

Painted tag on the Canal Path near the west guard lock that says "JPL Lock of Love" in a heart with an arrow pointing to the guard lock and the date 7/5/05.

"Lock of Love" tag that appeared about two weeks ago.

Then I get into Genesee Valley Park (Hawthorn Dr.). I've always appreciated Frederick Law Olmsted's designs for paths to be varied in an ornamental fashion without becoming inefficiently winding.

A trail heading west in Genesee Valley Park

Heading West in Genesee Valley Park

For months now, I've noticed that nearly every car parking in the lot by Building 520 on The University of Rochester (Elmwood Ave. at Intercampus Dr.) is in a handicapped-accessible parking space. I commend the University for their progressive thinking to hire people of different abilities. Of course, things weren't always that way.

The University of Rochester Building 520 parking lot shows all but one car parked in handicapped-accessible spaces.

The University of Rochester Building 520 parking lot.

I think it's funny how pervasive cultural norms are. When I say I run barefoot on sidewalks and streets, about 90% of people say, "what about glass?" I seem to be gifted and have an instinct to not step on things. When I run, if I just look toward the ground in front of me, my brain automatically sets my footfalls so I don't step on things — all without thinking about it consciously at all. Of course, when I see glass, I make a deliberate effort to go around it: I'm not concerned that I'll cut myself badly stepping on a big piece, the nearby tiny shards that get stuck in my foot are more likely and terribly irritating.

Broken glass in front of 185 Elmerston

Broken glass in front of 185 Elmerston.

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Running the Fight Against Violence 5K Run/Walk with Ali

Ali and I went to The Stay Bridge Suites (1000 Genesee St.) to participate in the Fight Against Violence 5K Run/Walk. There was a good turn-out — I guess quite a bit more than the organizers had anticipated. The race headed south along the River Walk through Genesee Valley Park (Hawthorn Dr.) then back through The University of Rochester (Elmwood Ave. at Intercampus Dr.) and finally returning to the hotel. I joked that if it were closer to the heart of the 19th Ward, far fewer white people would have showed up.

Anyway, Ali ran it in 36:11 and won 2nd place for her age/gender category out of 6 other runners. There were 6 men in my category but I came in 4th among them with my time of 29:54. It's "officially" listed as 9:39/mile on the PCR Timing site which surprised me because that's slower than my 9:33 pace at The Medved Lilac 10K and 5K Family Fun Run [and this time, I think I was the only person running without shoes … people sure seem to like buying those over-the-counter orthopedics]. According to USA Track & Field (USATF), the course is actually 5.20 km or 3.23 miles, so my per-minute time based on that is 9:11.

I was a little disappointed that the promise of a gift bag from UofR and other post-race items were not available, but I can't fault them too much because the turnout was so high they didn't even have enough shirts for everyone. But you know, it doesn't really matter because we had a great time.

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