A Basil Fawlty Moment, Almost

There was some blue sky yesterday.  This motivated me to drive to the car wash.  I've finally found myself with a little mound of quarters which had accumulated on the padded exam table by my front door (when I got this piece of “furniture” I promised myself I'd not use it to pile crap on — but alas, it has become as cluttered as any other flat surface in my life).  I've been listening to people snipe about the roof of my pickup since the fall.  The pecan tree over my driveway misted down with several gallons of sap over the weeks, leaving a tacky crust of syrup which attracted every bit of dirt, bark, and fine fur pulled from the delicate paws of the neighborhood cats careless enough to scamper across the top of the cab.  The layer of filth looked like a bad toupee.  I believe I've heard Russ, Carlos, and Brenda make snide comments.  Everyone else, I guess, is too polite.

Armed with six quarters, I eased into a stall at the car wash across from the Mission Street Drive-In Theater.  The first three quarters knocked off the foreign objects and added a thick lather.  When the time ran out, I took the brush attachment and worked the sides and the front.  Then I jumped into the bed and scrubbed the roof.  The next 75 cents was a good rinse.  And as I finished up, I noticed there were some places I could get a bit better if I quickly grabbed the brush and scrubbed some more.  But I saw this geezer pilot his grocery cart to a stop near my front bumper.  He smiled and waved at me.  I knew my time was ticking away, but I stopped the spray and approached.  He surprised me by not asking for money, but pointed out that I should be giving more attention to the grill work.  What's up with a fucking peanut gallery at the car wash?  I was tempted to hunker down and draw his attention to the front wobbly wheel of his cart and ask if maybe he had a toothbrush he could use to clean off that smudge of dog shit.  But I grinned — thanks, guy! — and grabbed back up the spray wand to continue my work … but time was up.  The pressure was gone.  I had to laugh at myself for coming to within a couple of angstroms of a Basil Fawlty moment.  But, really, the truck looks a thousand times better than it has in a year.  As symbolism goes, it's pretty weak stuff, but still, I relish my first fresh start of the new year.

I also swung by the library to return a couple of video tapes.  I had to explain to the woman at the return desk that I didn't destroy Werner Hertzog's Herz aus Glas.  It was jammed at the mid-point by the last person to check it out.  I hope the San Antonio Library system has another copy.  Maybe a new addition on DVD?  I should check their catalogue.  It's an amazing film, as I recall.  I have seen it two or three times, but never within the last twenty years.  The story line involves a village where the sole economic industry is a glass factory.  They are famous for their beautiful ruby glass.  But the last person who knows the method of making this popular red glass dies without passing on the secret.  This means the death of the city.  Hertzog supposedly hypnotized all the actors so that everything would have a numb, dream-like quality.  I don't know if this is more than Hertzog's self-promoting bullshit, but the film does have a wonderful disconcerting quality.  It's the sort of film I love, but most people hate.

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My sister keeps a blog.  She has recently written about a manuscript she's currently polishing.  In the tradition of many bloggers who become published authors, she's pulling work from her years of entries.  Pamela Ribon is one person I know of who has succeeded in this.  I know of a couple others, but because I'm presently removed from the world of current publishing, I'm a bit vague on just how common this whole phenomena is.

My sister is one of the best writers I know.  But no matter what degree of native talent any of us may have, we need to spend as much time as possible sitting down and just doing the work.  The blog helps many of us who fancy ourselves writers from having our talents atrophy.  We have a place to do work.  And not just private work.  The thing about on-line journals is that other people are reading them.  Or so we hope.  Otherwise, we'd buy one of those little books with the snap lock, and write brusque, soulless entries. 

In a recent posting she raises something interesting:

One thing that seems a little odd to me is that of the few people I've told about this [manuscript], only ONE person has expressed any discernible interest – a female co-worker who actually asked questions about it. It's not like I've gone on and on and on about this before and people are sick of hearing me talk about it. Most people have no idea I even have any interest in writing. I don't think my mother even knows. If someone *I* knew had told me they were writing a book, I'd be all over them, asking all sorts of questions. I think people think of me as being a very private person. All my life I've heard people say, “I don't know anything about you – you're so mysterious.” I'm not mysterious. They don't know anything about me because they never ask me any questions! And when I volunteer information, nobody seems to care. Kind of a catch-22 there.

I think two things are going on here.  First off, my sister is indeed a very private person.  Many of us are.  I certainly am.  And no matter how cavalier we might seem when we discuss ourselves in our blogs, this isn't always how we act in real life.  As an example, I'll bring in San Antonio actress Laura Evans.  She's very outspoken in her blog (and I hope she continues to be), but in a room of people, she can be quite shy.  She's working on this, and I have no doubt she'll get to where she wants to be.

I'd like my sister to take a moment to reflect on those gregarious people she works with.  I'm sure they're not waiting around for someone to asking them what's up in their lives.  Nope.  They're spilling 24/7.

However, self-promotion isn't always a good thing. Let's take the tiny world of the  San Antonio film scene — there are those who build their work up as brilliant and a goddamned force to be reckoned with; however, when we see that work, it's almost always vapid and watery.

And as far as failing to get people you know interested in your work, I think this has something to do with the digital revolution.  (First off, let me put this into context: my sister works at a huge book store, and it's still common to find the over-educated under-achievers working these jobs: e.i., well-read bookish people, often with multiple degrees.  They should be the antithesis of the Philistine.)  When I was finishing off an undergraduate degree in English Lit in 2002, I was taking some film classes.  It was still pretty cool to call yourself a filmmaker; back then people might even raise a brow, impressed.  But even then, I knew those days were about to end.  Digital video was soon going to make everyone a filmmaker.  And, yep, it happened.  Seven-year-olds are filmmakers, so get over yourself.  The same forces were working in the writing scenes.  The internet gave birth to this extraordinary culture of content providers.  What's been going on for years finally got the attention of Time magazine (we'll blame it on YouTube): the vast amount of informational content in the world is being provided by Jane and Joe Six-pack.  Is it any surprise people just smile and nod when you say you've finished a feature film, written a novel, or are putting the polishing touches to a manuscript of essays?

I have a feature film I want to make.  I know of over a half a dozen folks locally who are going to make feature films in 2007.  I will not make mine until I know I can do it justice.  But a desire for quality won't be hampering many of the aforementioned filmmakers, because they are simply providing content.

And that's where things stand in the 21st century.  Any fool can type a book or slap together a movie.  But audiences and the distribution networks are looking for quality.  I aim for quality, and one day I hope to succeed. 

If you have a book and your friends and coworkers are not intrigued, what does it matter?  They probably aren't your audience. And, really, the world of creative brokers are the ones to impress.  They are who will finally appreciate quality … or so we hope.  And, best case scenario, they are the ones who will get your work to an audience.

I've tracked down a few literary agents who write blogs.  And they all say the same thing.  They want good writing.  Well, yeah, sure.  The Bosse's can do that.

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I haven't seen any movies yet this year, but allow me to give a review on pet-sitting gigs.

PHIL:  Okay, he's a neighbor I've known for almost three years.  I had the privilege of using his dog, Peewee, in a short film.  Peewee passed away.  But his other dog, Cutsie, continues to thrive.  Now Phil takes advantages of my good nature almost every weekend when he heads up to the northside to spend time with his girlfriend.  I should make a fuss, but I rarely have anything going on in my life.  Walking a dog a couple of times for a day or two is no big deal.  But Christmas, Phil and the girlfriend went off to Colorado for a week. For my attentiveness I was allowed free refrigerator privileges (and I helped myself to half a liter of milk for my morning latte), but there was not much else there.  And after Phil returned, he gave me a Christmas present (and surely this was the girlfriend's prodding): a rather nice wooden ink pen with “Colorado” etched on one side, and “Eric” on another.  I give the experience 2 stars.

PETE & LISA:  This is one of those you-can't-say-no situations.  I've known Pete since elementary school, so when he asks me to look after his two dogs and two birds, the answer is always an unequivocal “of course”  It was made easier by the fact that Pete & Lisa's friend Shari would work tag-team style with me.  I would make a morning visit, she an evening visit.  Stack on some serious 'fridge-raiding privileges, and the fact that I managed to do two loads of my own laundry, who could complain?  But wait, I got tortilla soup and cough drops and some chocolate.  Plus, some cash “for gas” which more than covered my fuel expenditures.  It's an obvious 4 star experience.

MATT & JACKIE:  My nearest neighbors.  They live here in this three-plex with me.  They had a friend of theirs to look after their two cats.  Something happened and the friend was unavailable.  Matt called me from Chicago in a panic.  I told him to sweat not.  I took over the cat-sitting.  Six days.  No big deal.  The critters were in the same building.  And they were fucking cats.  The most intelligent, least needy pets designed by god or nature.  I dropped by three times.  Petted them, added foot and water to dishes, and changed the litter box once.  No problem.  Cats are cool.  When the kids returned, I found, in my mailbox, a gushing Thank You note with a a 25 dollar gift card to Borders Books.  This is a really high 3 star.  Why no four?  True, the demands were tiny, and the recompense large.  But I got no chocolate, dammit. 3.5 stars. 

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