You Call This An Ice Storm?

Last night I was pleasantly typing away at a slight blog entry when a blackout took me by surprise.  The power cut off with no warning.  No thunderstorm.  No POP of a nearby transformer exploding.  Just a sudden abrupt drop in the juice, effecting the entire block.  Luckily I had about a dozen candles flicking in this and the adjacent room.  But I hadn't saved.  I never save.  (Well, except when editing video.)  Fifteen minutes later, and I was back in business.  Lights up, computer humming.  I started up again for an hour or so, multi-tasking with writing the blog again, and occasionally switching to answering a few emails.  Again, nothing saved.  And the darkness struck again.  I switched on my battery op camcorder light and washed the dishes, made a midnight snack, and read for a bit before going to sleep.  The power came on sometime in the early hours before I got up.

We're calling this an ice storm.  Nothing too dramatic.  Endless rain.  Freezing temperatures.  Sleet — not in my neighborhood, but on the northside of the county.  There's a beguiling appeal to freezing rain.  The way the topside of magnolia leaves wear a turtle shell of ice.  How the eaves of homes  drip with icicles, as festive as refrigerator ads.  And, last night, my truck was encased in a pristine coating of ice that glistened under my neighbor's porch light like a giant canned ham. I never saw ice form on the road, although most of the schools shut down yesterday, and perhaps today as well.

My friend Amy called yesterday offering use of a spare heater she had.  She fled with her husband and kids back to San Antonio when Katrina hit, so she knows how important it is to offer aid when you can.  I explain that, all my whining in pervious blogs about the cold aside, I still had another gas heater I had yet to hook up.  So, I'm doing okay.

Winter-time is, of course, open season for those who live above the 35th parallel to yuck it up about the wimpery expressed by us southerners.  I admit, we often get a bit carried away when the mercury drops to levels below a 7-11 beer cooler.  But the fact is, it's all very foreign to us.  Take San Antonio.  January is usually just another month for us, with flip-flops and t-shirts.  Let me illustrate this durth of winter-wear by an amusing sight I witnessed at Monday's MLK march:  it was about 30 degrees and I saw this boy running to catch up with his family — he was wearing two promo beer koozies on his hands as mittens.  We don't often buy gloves or mittens to wear for only a few days of the year.  We don't understand the concept of anti-freeze.  Rock salt we buy to make ice cream.  Our houses don't have insulation or storm windows.  And this is even more noticeable in the houses in the older neighborhoods, like mine.  The transom over my front door won't fall flat to the casement.  There is a space where I could easily pass a chocolate bar through to someone standing on my front porch (someone very tall).  But that's something I can live with.  Winter in Bexar County is usually an eight day affair.  It's almost done with.

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I've been pestered with emails from at least three different organizations wanting to use one of my shorts for their pay-on-demand download services.  Two of these folks have sent multiple emails.  The film they all ask about is Kitty Loves a Rug Sucker.  I've posted the video on four different sites.  MySpace, Trigger Street, blip.tv, and through my mac.com hosting account.

This whole world of video available for download through the internet to ones computer or wireless devices is fine.  I watch various types of video programing on my computer — in fact, I watch stuff on my computer more than I watch TV (and I'm not just talking about porn and YouTube ephemera — I watch scientific lectures, Democracy Now, the American Avant Garde, work by other filmmakers who provide their own works online, and on and on).  If, as the years go by, we can keep winning the fight for “net neutrality,” this democratization of content and expression will continue to breath life into our culture; we've lost so much of the creative commons of the past, so it's important that we give space for the commons of the present and the future.  But because of this mountain of free video content online (admittedly, some of this is being made available in pirated form), I'm baffled as to why someone thinks that consumers will pay for this stuff.

I should point out here that I'm clueless about most human behavior.  Especially about the whole entertainment licensing question.  I do, on occasion, when I have disposable income (what a strange phrase …), buy CDs.  But what I've discovered is an enormous and exciting world of free music online.  These aren't illicit downloads.  These are artists who make their work available free of charge for any numbers of reasons.  It's often very innovative, because the bands or artists are just starting out and trying to get attention, exposure.  In fact, if you're poor (like me), or simply cheap (again, like me), you can amass quite a play-list of fun stuff to carry around on an mp3 player.  But, again, that's just my perspective.  I know quite a few people who either pay to download their music, song by song, or else, pay a subscription to a music provider service.  So maybe there is a financial future for making video to be downloaded.  (I'm still doubtful, though.  The latest episode of Lost I can understand, but a five minute video from Erik Q. Nobody?  I don't think so.)

Most likely I'll go ahead and give one of these guys their vague “non-exclusive” license, if for no other reason that to try and get a read on how this nascent industry works … or plans to work.

And, please, anyone out there who has experience with these sorts of video services, let me know your take on things.  I have no illusions of making money off the work I've already done (it's me learning the craft), but if there are ways I can expand my audience, that interests me.  Because, don't you see, the world needs to know the brillence of Russ Ansley, Kerry Valderrama, Kathleen O'Neal, and Carlos Pena.  Oh, and me.  Of course.

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