Caught in a Swirling Miasma of Vagaries

Please excuse my bitchiness in the following post. But, shit, this ceaseless rain has me ready to bite someone. If it's not oppressively cloudy, it's hammering down in sheets. This is not the San Antonio I know.

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I received a phone call last week from Deborah about a video/media meeting of some sort happening at the Bihl Haus Arts space. I told her I'd be happy to check it out. And a couple of days later I got an email from Kellen about the event. Kellen runs the fairly new gallery (well, it's almost two years old, and is just on the cusp of landing its non-profit status — but, all things relative, Bihl Huas is pretty new). The gallery has had some spectacular shows, not in any small part because of Deborah's hard work curating and promoting the shows.

Anyway, I'm very found of the folks at Bihl Haus. And, besides, I like to keep atop of the film & video goings-on here in San Antonio (actually, I'm trying to live up to Drew Mayer-Oakes' extemporaneous comment be made when introducing me to a local film audience as, “Erik Bosse, he's, um, a man about town”).

The event was a meeting with a city governmental agency. I'll not bother mentioning them, because I'm not exactly sure what it is they do.

Which brings me to my major problem with this meeting. I found myself roped into a presentation run by a gentleman by the name of McNeel. He's an important architect of local public radio, TV, and internet. Also, he's affiliated with SalsaNet. (Now I challenge anyone to spend an hour or more on the pages of the SalsaNet web site and try and find out what, exactly, it is they do. And look specifically at the page explicating the mission statement of the Public Studio project. I've tried, and I'm still baffled.)

Nevertheless, I was there with my sporty little Canon GL2. I also managed to coax Russ into this as well (of which I hope he accepts my humblest apologies). There were three other filmmakers in attendance (two with their cameras) — and I was glad for the opportunity to meet them. Also in attendance was a representative of NewTek. He was to have brought along the TriCaster Studio. The “studio in a box.” For some reason he arrived with the somewhat more scaled-down, TriCaster Pro. This meant we had to forgo a few of our microphones, as the Pro had fewer audio inputs (though in retrospect I think we should have brought a small soundboard). But this is all moot, as the TriCaster experienced some technical problems and shut down on us. Too bad. The NewTek representative held it together admirably. And McNeel shrugged it off as what it was, an unforeseen technical problem — these things happen. The sad thing is that the dozen folks who showed up were denied the opportunity to see how cool the TriCaster really is.

McNeel forged ahead, explaining to the people assembled his scheme to — well, I don't really know. A lot of “digital convergence” buzzwords: “global village” this, “streaming content” that, and something about international markets.

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I wondered (and still wonder) what makes our current state of affairs so much different from what he envisions? Every jackass with a computer, a video camera, and broadband access (and that's a bunch of us jackasses), can do all this already. Barring the clampdown on Net Neutrality, we will continue to provide and distribute our own content.

I recall not so long ago — was it just last year? — I met Michael Verdi. He was running Node 101 out of the backroom of the Jump-Start Theater. And with extremely limited resources, he (and a handful of like-minded technophiles) helped to create FreeVlog. And those incredibly useful on-line video tutorials on how to create video content and then post them on-line are still there. The funding for Node 101 ran out, but Michael's work is still out there — free and available for all who care to use it.

Michael could talk for five minutes, and you knew exactly where he was coming from and what he was trying to do. But this afternoon, I was in the Bihl Haus for three hours with McNeel, and I still haven't a clue as to what he wants to do. What is his agenda? Is he wanting to help the group he was speaking to? Or does he want them to help him? One of the women there asked a question somewhat along those lines. The answer she got was an informative and entertaining digression; but, as a response to her query, it was delivered as a solid non sequitur. She was left perplexed, and clearly as SOL as the rest of us.

I can only hope that the meetings to come have some coherent agenda. The basic idea of utilizing the TriCaster as the powerhouse it was built for to deliver live content (in this case over the internet), and bring it into the reach of local arts organizations is laudable. I can get behind that. But that was only one of many ideas presented to these folks in a swirling miasma of vagary.

God forbid that this Public Studio project heads down the same road of, say, the San Antonio Film Council. Because, dammit, we don't need another reason for the rest of the world to chortle about those fools in San Antonio with their muddled, unfocused ideas.

You got vision? Great! Nail it down in clear language. Because, of course, if you want to be in the business of communication, there's one thing you need to be able to do. Communicate.

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