The Wicker Man, San Anto Style

Earlier in the week I posted on Twitter that I was sipping my morning coffee, awaiting a phone call from a reporter with the San Antonio Express-News. The phone call never came. And when I posted on Twitter about that, another writer from the same newspaper inquired of me (via Twitter), who it was who stood me up. She offered to intercede. I demurred with some vague comment that I’m sure I’d eventually receive a phone call.

As I’m still waiting, perhaps I should have agreed.

It’s getting rather weird on Twitter, what with all these reporters and news people horning in. When I noticed Sam Lerma and Tim Gerber posting short updates from their KSAT news vans (often with grainy video off their Jailbroken iPhones), I was intrigued. Hell, I was hooked. Was what they were doing even legal? I mean, really, you guys are on company time. But Joe Ruiz, KSAT web editor, gave a presentation to the monthly San Antonio Social Media Breakfast. He cleared a few things up. (I wasn’t able to attend, but thankfully the whole thing was posted as an online video file (and, jeeze, someone needs to get thee to B&H for a tripod with a fluid head asap!)) Ruiz mentioned that KSAT, as a policy, had their news crews out in the field with Jailbroken iPhones, and encouraged them to Twitter and engage in other social media activity. All in the service of flying the KSAT flag.

And, so, after watching four or five members of the local media giving presentations at the Social Media Breakfast, I added them all to my Twitter list.

There’s a weird scene going on in the corporate media with all this. Many of these media Twitterites are just vomiting forth endless streams of blather, trying to drive traffic to the web sites of their newspapers, tv channels, or radio stations where they work.

Greg Harman, who does work for the San Antonio Current, is one of the good guys. Not only does his environmental beat strike close to my heart, but he also inserts his personality. I like that. And I’m furthered enamored in that he posts links to on-line articles that he finds meaningful — articles which more often than not are published by sources he does not work for.

One of the conflict zones in cyberspace which often goes under-reported is happening between professional journalists and the whole pile of bloggers, hobbyists, “citizen journalists,” and all flavors of folks generating, free of charge, their own content.

The downside to all this is that the the paid professionals (or, more to the point, the companies they work for) are in a panic to emulate this immediate and ephemeral reportage.

Oh, great. If quality in journalism wasn’t already in the toilet. Myself, I’m well aware that I’m not running some sort of “blog of record.” I, of course, am talking out my ass most of the time. But do we want paid journalists behaving in this sort of half-assed manner?

I’m curious, is this experimentation with pushing journalists to play around with social media (blogs and Twitter and such) possibly burdening already over-worked professionals with greater stress more deadlines? How many writers in the local papers whose bylines I recognize are truly staff writers, you know, with full benefits? Does such a critter even exist anymore? Is it any wonder that news editors are so willing to a print press release as is … with little more editing than trimming up from the bottom, as space allows? That’s about as cost effective as it gets. Additionally, many journalism students are on a fast track to public relations firms where they can get paid chingos of dosh to write toxic and biased propaganda, which, once emailed to news sources as tidy press releases, often get printed in newspapers virtually unchanged. Only a minute trade off. They’ve sold their souls and don’t even get a byline.

This is a very interesting period for journalism. The committed folks are still in the thick of it. And I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that some of the greatest journalists who have ever lived are alive and writing right now. The real giants of American literature are currently engaged in nonfiction. But, at the same time, our high-profile media sources (newspapers, magazines, television networks, radio) have never been more irrelevant and conspicuously manipulated so as to pander to the sponsors, the advertisers.

Maybe what we need is to shut down all these money-making media sources, and replace them with citizen journalists. These reporters would be fresh out of journalism school. And they would, as their national service, spend four years or more writing on whatever they wanted to while feeding off the public teat. Sounds a damn sight better than putting a full automatic weapon in the hands of an American teenager and paying him to slaughter a family cowering in the rubble of Fallujah.

But I digress.

What was I talking about?

Oh, yeah. I’m still waiting by this phone for the Express-News to call me up. Maybe I should just write it up myself, and email it over. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure my name would be spelled right.

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I forget what website or blog I was on. But I found a link to this page.

http://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/2008/12/30/alejandro-escovedo-sex-beat-gun-club-cover/

One of the great albums of my miss-spent youth was Fire of Love by the band The Gun Club. It’s a near-perfect album of post-punk psychobilly. One of the rewarding tracks is “Sex Beat.” Love that reverb. Anyway, the link to the web page above will allow you to play (nay, play and download) mp3 files of The Gun Club’s original version, as well as this crazy slowed down version by the wonderful son of San Antonio, Alejandro Escovedo. The lyrics are, at turns, punk-dumb, and to hear this heart-felt interpretation by Escovedo brought to mind those American Recordings by Johnny Cash where he’s, on occasion, covering songs with lyrics not quite in keeping with his idiom, such as Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.”

Cruise over and give them a spin. Start with The Gun Club. I love both. In fact, I finally tracked down the Escovedo version. And now that it’s on my iPhone, I was listening to it the other night as I walked to the Jump-Start Performance Company to see a play.

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The play was “Fabulation; or, the Re-Education of Undine,” by Lynn Nottage, The Renaissance Guild presented the piece. They’ve been headquartered at Jump-Start for at least four years. The Renaissance Guild is “San Antonio’s Premiere Black Theater Company.” Actually, they’re one of the best companies in town. Expect a real grass roots community theater experience from their shows. Yes, they choose great material. But because they’re open to anyone who wants to work their way up in the company, the individual performances might not always be the most polished. But I’ve never regretted going to one their performances. And they always pull a crowd. The Renaissance Guild has collected a serious following over the years. And deservedly so.

The piece is a picaresque tale of a series of miss-adventures along the lines of Voltaire’s Candide. Here we have, as our protagonist, a high-powered entertainment agent, whose life falls apart. She crawls back to her low-income family living in the projects. Along the way on her descent back to the ghetto, she meets an assortment of colorful characters. Except for the protagonist (play by Jenelva Carter), all the other actors play multiple characters. Even though the production I saw was rather uneven, the totality of the piece amazed me. Each of the nine actors who played multiple charters gave their share of lackluster performances. But, dammit, each actor gave at least one insanely brilliant performance. And some of them, gave two or three high-level performances.

Jenelva Carter, who plays Undine, the lead, has confounded me over the years. She’s very personable. But she seems to play basically just one character: the very interesting and very watchable and very personable Jenelva Carter. There is, in her stage work, a very notable theatrical presentation. But I guess I can’t hold that against her. I mean, this is the stage. Anyway, I was somewhat dubious about her in the role for the first ten minutes or so. But once I picked up on her rhythm of delivery and her take on the character, she was it, she became Undine. Actually, I love it when I fight against an actor’s interpretation of a character (for whatever reason) and eventually become won over. It’s the theater nerd in me. And Jenelva completely won me over early enough in the play so I could enjoy how she decided to play with her character’s reversal of fortune.

But the real reason I was there was because of Angela Bennett. Since her involvement with me and Pete’s shelved digital feature (“Vaya Con Dios, Asshole”), I knew that Angela was a truly gifted performer. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to see her on the stage several times. It was a sad day for San Antonio theater when she left for Los Angeles. But the clouds have lifted, and Angela is back in town. As beautiful and talented as I remember. In this play she portrays half a dozen characters. She shines as both the grandmother and as the whore. Just those two roles should be video-taped and added to her acting reel. From a tear-jerking moment with a junky grandmother in a wheelchair to a hilarious turn at the stereotype in-your-face trash-talking voluptuous bombshell of a prostitute … well, what can you say? I’ll see Angela in anything. Welcome back Angela. We missed you.

The Renaissance Guild’s production of “Fabulation,” at the Jump-Start Performance space until March 1st, kicks serious ass. Check it out. Worth every penny.

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With two versions of Sex Beat on my iPhone, not to forget the newest freebie collection from the London Apartments (the Windsor, Ontario band — the grooviest sound north of the 36th parallel) I headed out for a bike ride down the mission trail. It was about 70 degrees, but with the heavy wind, it seemed a bit chilly.

As I approached Mission San Juan I noticed some public art on the levee top across the river from me. I know nothing about this project. It’s not a guerilla project. There are three sculptures. And each has a cement foundation and an iron armature. These are large pieces. Cartoonish field workers tending what I’ll assume is an alfalfa field. While I was strolling about these installation, walking my bike and snapping photos with my iPhone, I was happy to see people pulling off the road and coming out to join me to see the cool sculptures up close. This is art I can get behind. If anyone knows who did this, please let me know.

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(The last time I saw something like this, Edward Woodward was sacrificed in a pagan ceremony on some spooky Scottish island. Let’s not see a repeat here.)

Maybe it has something to do with the annual Basura Bash, when volunteers descend on the San Antonio River and those creeks which feed it, and do some spring cleaning, pulling out tons of old tires, miscellaneous junk, and assorted crap.

Hmm? I’ll have to investigate. And by that, I mean wait for Greg Harman to bring me the story.

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On my return ride, I stopped to snap a photo of a clear sign of spring. The catclaws along the river were decidedly in bloom. Catclaw (and I assume were I incline Google would give me a proper name) is a woody shrub found in hot and dry climes, usually along stream beds or in arroyos. The name comes from the thorns on the branches which grab on to you like a cat’s claw.

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It would seem that they are an early indicator of spring. Not only are the putting forth their little spheroid fluffy flowers, but they’re budding with new leaves. I love catclaw. It’s a scrappy and feisty shrub. I have an early memory of the Big Bend. In a a lonely gas station was a little display of local honey. The sign said: “Mesquite and Catclaw Honey.” So, you see, that catclaw, it’s pulling it’s own weight.

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I’m still nursing a cold. Or, well, that’s my excuse for being such a layabout yesterday. Until the evening the high-point of my day was heading to the drive-through at Eddie’s Taco House for a number three combo lunch special. (They always want me to pay an extra 40 cents to upgrade to the extra large tea. Don’t they understand, I don’t even want the regular sized tea. But, hell, it comes with the lunch special.)

Mostly I lounged on the sofa reading Arthur Machen and some of the essays from Samuel Johnson’s The Rambler,

Around six in the evening I headed over to HemisFair Park to meet up with a few fellow committee members running this up-coming Luminaria Arts Night in San Antonio. We were trying to tie up a couple of loose ends. There were two artists with site specific proposals who had not yet been assigned a location to display their work.

It’s all coming together nicely. These last two artists are both incredibly talented and, thankfully, have no ego or diva issues. I hope everyone who reads this blog can make it out March 14. And make sure to spread the word. It’s free. And if it’s anything like last year, you can expect an incredibly laid-back scene where crowds — but not densely packed crowds — wander a significant chunk of downtown San Antonio, stumbling on all sorts of wonderful experiences. Music, theater, poetry, painting, sculpture, film, dance, fire-eaters, fireworks, and god knows what else. Last year was beautiful, sublime. I’m hoping for an even better Luminaria 2009.

Keep an eye on the website.

http://www.luminariasa.org/

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