Saturday, December 19, 2009
I'm sitting on my sofa, with a cat on either side, taking an inventory of my state of mind as is typical to do this time of year.
I feel happy.
Despite the economy, despite all the fear and unrest in the world, I have had a good year. Except for some complaints of sore muscles here and there, the people I love are relatively happy and healthy. I am warm and dry and have a roof over my head. I have discovered new friends and rediscovered old friends over the internet via Facebook, Twitter and Blip. I have good relationships with man and beast and I still have a job.
Truly, in what could be described as some of the "worst of times," I am blessed with what is quite near "the best of times."
For me the happiest Christmas song is "Carol of the Bells." I probably first encountered it as the background music for the Andre Champagne advertisement. I miss the days when that was the first Christmas advertisement of the season.
"Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away"
When I'm in the midst of a good conversation or enjoying a good meal or watching a good movie, everything seems to compete for attention at once. Every neuron in my body seems to fire simultaneously and the world seems brighter and richer. I feel alive.
"Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale, "
"Carol of the Bells" is that same experience packaged in a song. The words stumble over each other, as if in the midst of excited conversation. Even the instrumental versions have a hurriedness; not the rushed anxiety of "I have to get to work, I'm late," but the boisterous joy of "I'm alive."
At this time of year, we become so distracted. Too much attention is devoted to fears about our future disguised as "New Year's Resolutions;" too much attention is devoted to what we are afraid we are going to lose disguised as "the clerk said 'Happy Holidays' instead of "Merry Christmas." Too much attention to what we don't have; whether it is time to write Christmas cards and decorate for the holidays or it is money to buy gifts for everyone we love.
"Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,"
As for me, from now on I want to take my Christmas cue from "Carol of the Bells." I'm not so naive that I believe I can be happy and giddy every moment, but I want to enjoy those moments - the happy ones - full to bursting over the brim, stumbling over each other with the boisterous joy of "I'm alive."
May this year's holiday moments, no matter what your beliefs or celebration, fill you with love and excitement and peace.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Still rough beginnings. Cuts have noises that I don't want there, but can't quite avoid.
This video has first attempt with Garageband which was scary and hard and, oddly, kinda easy too. Made me feel good because Art couldn't tell I had pieced it together from Garageband pieces - that's something at least.
Not sure it fits the subject well enough . . . but it is a beginning.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Early attempt with my new camera, a Sanyo Xacti HD2000. I like the idea of the pistol grip, but I'm not sure if I like the handling of it yet. I'll be posting a bunch of tests with tripods/monopods over the next few weeks. As for the Halloween video . . .
you know how 40 is the new 30?
It looks like Halloween is the new Christmas.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
In my lifetime I’ve been happy and I’ve been unhappy. I don’t believe there is any shame in that. The unhappy times have simply given me the initiative or drive to discover what it is that makes me happy or sad. In fact, I came to believe that there are two types of people in the world: people who are interested in how things work and people who are interested in how people work. In reality there are probably people who could give a hang about how anything works, but I’m interested in how people work.
I wish that the participants in the “Up” series could watch the shows through my eyes. They can be so hard on themselves. When I was growing up, my mother would always hide her face behind her arm, hand or whatever was available in movies and still pictures; and there was a nervousness, shyness or lack of confidence in my mother I believe you can see riding almost, but not quite, invisibly coating over her skin like quicksilver. I think that’s what I look for most when I look at people: a mercury coating of fear. Despite their quiet comments about how difficult the television appearances are, for the most part the “Up” participants bravely reveal details of their lives without a trace of quicksilver. For a person like me, a series like this is like being given a seven pound box of mixed center chocolates. (I didn’t see the different episodes seven years apart, but back to back over about a week’s time.) At the end of each episode, it’s like I have the basic framework of what each person is like and I get to see if solid dark chocolate outside still produces solid chocolate center in the next episode or whether it will suddenly become lemon creme.
Solid chocolate center morphs into lemon creme far more often than I ever would have expected.
In the beginning one or the other of them would make a comment and I would think, “Well, I don’t like that person;” but after seven episodes I have fallen a bit in love with all of them. Collectively, they are the only people on film that I believe if I saw them in person I would be compelled to try and hug them and probably be driven to tears and start balling. Why? Because they’ve exposed their humanity. Over the course of the episodes they have proven themselves not to be any label. The less educated individuals will say some of the most intelligent things; the conservative individuals will perform some of the most liberal deeds; those who proclaim they are weak prove to be strong; there is no end to the little surprises and contradictions.
Sometimes I wonder if the series itself did influence the various outcomes of its participants and there is only one instance where I feel a little indignant against the producer’s. In “35 Up” Tony said on camera that there wasn’t anything that he had attempted in life that he didn’t do. I could immediately see his point and agree with him. He wanted to be a jockey and he was a jockey; he wanted to drive a cab and he drove a cab; he wanted to act and he acted. But the interviewer said something to the effect of “but you didn’t make a success of any of those things.” From the view through my little window on the show, a look flashed across Tony’s face like he had been hit by a brick. It looked as if the notion of success or lack of success qualitatively had never crossed his mind. What he had set his mind to do, he had done - end of story.
There was another moment in either “42 Up” or “49 Up” where Jackie observes that one of her sons is much like her and the interviewer asks if that worries her. Her reaction is less heart wrenching than Tony’s, but is much like a dog being smacked with a newspaper. “How could you say that to me?” She finally sputters. “Do you think that I’ve turned out so badly?”
It probably can’t avoid a bit of the butterfly effect. No matter how neutrally the interviewer tries to phrase his questions, he will occasionally influence and startle his subject and no doubt slightly nudge the trajectory of his/her path forward.
In “49 Up,” John compares the “Up” series to “Big Brother” and “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” and says it has the added bonus that people get to watch them over a longer period of time and see who got fat and whose marriage broke up. The “Up” series, for me, is so much more than any of those reality programs. It embodies exactly why reality programming can be compelling; i.e. watching real people; but without the “stupid human tricks” circus that reality programming inevitably ends up. It is exactly because those 14 children weren’t seeking their 15 minutes of fame like so many reality show contestants that they are fascinating to watch and worth watching. It is why as Nick says in “49 Up” that the series is so important.
Perhaps because I’m American and not British, I was immune to some of the class comparisons (although I did compare schooling priorites between the two countries.) For me, it is fourteen individuals navigating the waters of life like we all do. Because you only see about 10 minutes of each person (which includes clips from previous shows,) you could never claim to know any of them; but because you so frequently find yourself saying “I’m just like that” or this friend or that friend is just like that - you DO know them.
At least I do.
(The “Up” Series is available to watch at Netflix.)
Saturday, June 27, 2009
French did not come easy. For the first time, I was studying. I made cue cards for myself and a huge poster of verb conjugations for my wall. It was no use. I was getting a solid “D” in the class and it was beginning to drag my other grades down. So for the first time, I dropped a class. (I may never have studied for one - but I never walked away from one before.) Because I never learned French, I saw the movie “Amelie” with English subtitles - but I’m not sure that was a bad thing. Reading subtitles forces attention to detail and Amelie is a movie about attention to detail.
On the surface, Amelie is a movie about a lonely young woman who lives in a world of her own-appreciating the world and caring for the people in it, but like an isolated satellite-separate from it. Until you watch the details and realize that you are watching a movie that appreciates all the myriad details about everyone . . . For instance:
“Raphael Pulain dislikes peeing next to someone else.
He also dislikes catching scornful glances . . . .
at his sandals . . .
clingy, wet swimming trunks.
Raphael Pulain likes . . .
peeling large strips of wallpaper . . .
lining up and shining his shoes . .
emptying his toolbox, cleaning it out . . .
and putting everything back.”
After you read the details about enough people on the screen, you become like Amelie-wondering what everyone around you likes and dislikes. Realizing THEY DO have little personal likes and dislikes that make them interesting and endearing and human. After that you realize that something as simple as thinking a little bit like Amelie could bring peace to the world.
Let me introduce myself . . Amelie style . .
“angiece dislikes . . .
the feel of her waistband touching her skin . . .
the texture of overly ripened bananas touching her tongue.
She also dislikes watching people smirk.
angiece likes cats . . .
she likes putting her face right next to theirs . .
the feel of their fur against her cheek,
the rumble of their purr against her ear.
When she was a child . . .
she would hide in the bushes next to a cat . . .
pretend she was one.”
Art couldn’t understand . . “It’s just a movie.”
My first movie, "Defending Your Life," proves there is no such thing as “just a movie.” Forget that it is easily Albert Brooks' best comedy; I need to thank him and his movie right here publicly for helping change my life.
On one surface Daniel Miller (Brooks) is a schmo that you could almost dislike. All of his insecurities ride right along the surface of his skin . . .nothing is held back . . and like anybody who is so involved in his own insecurities, Daniel is a little self-centered. But just when the viewer might think Miller represents the worst of us, he sits down next to a guy who owned strip clubs while he was living and is obviously several rungs down the ladder. We realize Daniel Miller is just an average schmo.
He is any one of us.
But I get ahead of myself . . .I used the words “while he was living.” The movie is the story of Daniel Miller - ANY ONE OF US - who dies and discovers that the purpose of life is to become more intelligent and use more of your brain. The first thing we “little brains” need to do is overcome our fears, because that is what we waste so much brain power on. In the movie, when you die you face a court trial to “defend your life” or prove that you moved beyond your fears in your lifetime. If you don’t prove that you have overcome your fears, you are recycled and return to Earth; but if you do prove it, you “move forward, continue onward.”
Now the movie also has a wonderful love story and some very funny bits about past lifetimes and Miller’s insecurities and foibles, not to mention the brilliant Rip Torn as Daniel's Defense Attorney Bob Diamond, but it is this idea that only fear stands in our way that has meant so much to me.
It is “just a movie,” but watch it and the next time you realize you’re afraid to do something - picture having to defend not doing it against Lena Foster (Lee Grant) arguing that you were simply afraid. I’m not going to insist I’m ready to advance now, but it helped me overcome fears and I can prove it.
I was afraid to go see “Up” because I was afraid I was going to cry in the movie theater right? But I went anyway . . .
and I cried . . .
thank God for those 3D glasses . . . .