Chicharrones and Champaign

Saturday morning I made it over to Zarzamora and El Paso for a “blessing and dedication” of a new mural on the Westside Mental Health Clinic building. It was done by artists working through San Anto Cultural Arts — in fact, it's their 34th mural.

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Adriana Garcia was the lead artist (that's her in the photo below dressed in blue). She worked with over 15 artists to bring this huge multi-panel project together.

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I saw loads of familiar faces. Victor Payan was there videotaping the event. I saw Joel Settles of Comedia A Go-Go fame. Marisela Barrera. And Annele Spector & Monessa Esquivel: two very sweet women when they are taking a breather from their notorious Methane Sisters personae.

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They sure know how to turn it on for the paparazzi.

Also, Jessica Torres and Sarai Rodriguez, director and actress (respectively) of “Trick or Tweet,” the San Anto entry for the 48 Hour Film Project. They were working the crowd, handing out El Placazo (San Anto's newspaper) and asking for donations. “Well, if it isn't Mr. Bosse,” they said with the faux seriousness of wise-ass teenagers.

Clearly, the Westside Mental Health Clinic was the place to be today for those interested in the San Antonio art scene. Of course if you also needed to adjust those meds, all you had to do was walk past the table with the complimentary aguas frescas and push on inside.

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After a cheese enchilada plate at Andy's Tacos, and after walking Phil's dog (he's supposed to be back Sunday, so I'd better clear out his fridge and do another load of laundry asap), I headed over to Bihl Haus Arts. Deborah was having an opening for her photo project she did this year through Bexar Land Trust. She took a few groups of kids and seniors out with cheap point-and-shoot digital cameras during the spring and summer and helped them develop their compositional skills and their artistic sensibilities. Today was the big show. Kellen and Eric put on a nice event — the works were displayed wonderfully and the refreshments were plentiful (that's why you gotta get to these places early). And Deborah did a great job curating the show and working with the students.

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Eventually I decided I should head over to Centro Cultural Aztlán. I had mixed feelings about that event. It was Mary Harder's latest IFMASA film showcase. I'm very fond of Mary, but her desire for the films that show at her events to be family-friendly and spiritually uplifting, has made much of these shows top-heavy with Christian films. I'm not a Christian, and I find most Christian films aesthetic failures because they lack subtext. They are moralistically monochromatic — they show us right and they show us wrong. Real moral dilemmas are encountered when one must navigate those grey areas one encounters in the real world. Those bristly environments are where real stories are to be found.

I did stop by. It was just a few blocks from the Bilh Haus. I'd be an ass if I didn't.

But one of the films screened, “The Book”, was a perfect example of the problems of Christian films. I'd seen it previously. It was submitted to the Cine Festival last year. I was one of the judges. I can't recall if it played, but I do know I gave it hight marks as a judge. It's a tightly produced work. Clean audio. Killer lighting and camera work. Solid editing. Some uneven acting and painful music, but I won't torpedo it for that. What I will complain about is the script. The book in question is the Bible. It changes the life (for the better) of one of the characters. But we never learn what it was in this book that impacted him for the better. You can't just wave a magic wand — here, the Bible — and expect the audience to believe that it transformed a human being. The salvaged character said something to the effect that “the first time I read it, I didn't believe it; the second time, I fought it; but the third time, it took complete hold of me.” And that's it. Of course what really pissed me off was that the character who ultimately becomes transformed by the “Book” is a homeless man, yet he's a reader, an autodidact. The Christian man who ultimately “saves” him (a sweet, compassionate police detective), visits the homeless man in his make-do shack. The place is filled with books. The detective pulls volumes randomly and reads the titles — the homeless guy voices his take on these classics. War and Peace. Moby Dick. And then they come to Darwin's “Origin of Species.” “Ah,” says the detective, “the big bang theory.” The homeless man looks up, surprised. “So, you know your Darwin.” “Oh, yeah. But I just can't agree with him that all this order came out of all that chaos.” This sort of idiocy just reenforces the stereotype that Christians are anti-intellectual illiterate morons. I am offended as a writer, as a reader, as a human being. The insipid crap spouted out about Tolstoy and Melville grabbed at my stomach roughly enough, but when some lazy ass can't even do a basic Google search to manage to cobble together a quickie poison pen sneer at Charles fucking Darwin, well the entire attempt to pull me into a state of suspension of disbelieve failed — it failed because the writer trots out his or her ignorance in such a grossly obvious manner.

But I digress. Here is an out of focus photo of the event.

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It was nice to see Malena and Denise. They are keeping the ship of the Centro afloat in the uncertain waters of the San Antonio arts world. Judy McMillan was there. She's everywhere! I love to see that sort of commitment within the film / theater community. Mike Martinez was in attendance. And Rose. And, of course, Mary Harder, who looked rather glamourous. At the midpoint we were treated to a “Master Magician” (I don't recall the guy's name, but Malena, who sat down beside me on the back row, whispered to me: “Magician? He teaches Spanish at Incarnate Word.”) The magician pulled Mary up for one of his more involved tricks. She was as excited and ultimately mystified as would Nikki Young have been. (Nikki loves magic acts, and she said she was going to show, but I guess she got roped into something else — I can hear her now, teeth clenched, “Dammit! No one said there'd be a magician!”) Also, Bryan and Druck were there, flying the Film Classics Productions flag. They screened their excellent recent short, “Last Chance.” Their piece was done in 48 hours. It's so much better than most of their local peers could do in four months. I think I must have seen it six times so far, and it never drags.

I made my escape at 5 p.m., 'cause my ass had gone numb. Those damn metal folding chairs are to ergonomics as tacos de chicharron are to a champaign brunch.

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