Dispatches from the Sequined Ghetto

(A late New Years post, where I've pasted together several recent failed blog postings.)

It's a weird limbo time of the year. Last week I only knew it was Thursday by the midmorning sound of the garbage truck. I have no job, no project. And not much on the horizon. But that was when my first NetFlix DVD arrived! Thanks, Paula.

Angel-A. An extraordinarily beautiful film centered around a breathtakingly lovely woman. I expect both from Besson. It's shot in black and white, which works great, especially when you're filming in Paris. It's a wonderful post-modern noir love story.

There's an interesting driving imperative about NetFlix. Usually when people loan me movies to watch, I take forever in getting around to them. But because I can't get the next one without sending back the last one, it's quite a motivator. I mean, dammit, I want to maximize my return — well, the return of my gift.

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With this New Year, I'm finding myself thinking in terms of fresh resolutions for 2008 as well as a general accounting for 2007. This is something I tend to avoid. But I'm so appalled by my accomplishments in 2007 — even more rudderless than usual.

True, I involved myself in a lot of fun events. And many actually paid. I crewed on a feature film. Helped with audio on a documentary by a South African filmmaker. Co-produced a dance video. Promoted/produced three film screening events (NALIP's Meet the Makers film series; the Josiah Youth Media Festival; and the San Antonio 48 Hour Film Festival). I recorded audio for an experimental film shot in Mexico. I coordinated the Urban-15 Holiday Laser Show. I helped with some other people's projects (such as Dar's SAL film fest). And I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. But I did almost nothing that I can claim as my own. Yes, there was the still incomplete final Short Ends Project short I did. But that's little balm. As I mentioned, it's still incomplete. And I have to say it is my only film which made its way into production which I have not brought to completion. I've produced and directed 15 short pieces. On film and video. Narratives, documentaries, experimentals, and industrials. And the last thing I did, was the only one that gave me problems. I think I need to either finish it or just throw it away. Either way, I need to move on. Do new work. Get better. That's always been the idea. But I've just stalled out. Become paralyzed by the stark realization that I've accumulated a body of work which has little about it that is worthy of praise.

I don't know what pisses me off more. When people younger than me bitch about how they have yet to achieve success, or when those older do the same thing. The former, of course, make me feel like a major loser. That later make me feel that things aren't likely to get any better. And then there are those optimistic fools with no real plans who are convinced that they are just a few months away from tremendous success — they are carrying, in their heads, their responses to probing interviews by James Lipton and Charlie Rose. They bemused me, but mostly they're just in the way.

I was talking to a friend recently about how unpublished writers and unsigned filmmakers are the most vulnerable and exploited classes of people in the entertainment world, the Sequined Ghetto — yes, I like that. They are completely thrown by flattery and the mere whisper of success. They empty their bank accounts — even go into debt — signing up for MFA programs, film schools, and they pay reader fees, consultation surcharges, and they squander money that should go to their families to support the staff and administrators of film festivals and writers conferences. They have no advocates. The untalented are fleeced and fucked, and the ones with promise (I'll be kind and round up to 1% of the lot) are cheated and chiseled upon until they get around to hiring a pricey support staff of agent, manager, lawyer, and accountant.

The absurdity of “having people,” is having to have people.

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Saturday I spent the evening with Russ editing some on Melancholy, Christy Walsh's experimental dance video. We're a bit behind. But you get what you pay for. And me and Russ are prime examples of what a “zero dollar production package” will get you … if you're lucky. We will finish it, and it'll look great. But it's hardly been a high priority for the either of us.

Recently Russ got the bug to dive back into editing. He slapped together the scene where Christy's character gets drowned. He scored some great music, and then he processed the shit out of the footage with a couple filters from the Magic Bullet software. It came out damn dramatic. So now we're back on track to finish it up.

It might not have fallen so far behind, schedule-wise, were Christy not currently living thousands of miles away in Korea, on a one or two year ESL teaching gig.

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Jennifer pointed out that my NetFlix account also allowed me to watch a certain amount of movies online, at no additional cost. Wow. Thanks, Jennifer. But the problem is that they don't offer the service to Mac users. Something about DMR compatibility. I could probably do it if I owned a much newer Mac with an Intel chip as well as well as a recent version of Windows for Mac. I don't. So I'm screwed out of eight (or is it nine?) hours of selected online movie-watching. What Jennifer giveth, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act taketh away.

If you've got a PC, a fast connection, a hankering for movies, drop me a line, I'll see if I can hook you up.

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Sunday was a perfect winter day in San Antonio — not near so common as I'd like them to be — seventy degrees, not a cloud in the sky. I took to the Mission Trail on my bike.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I kept forgetting that it was the weekend … during the holidays. But I wasn't the only one with the idea of enjoying the parks along the southern reaches of the San Antonio River. Most people were out fishing, playing with their kids, walking dogs, or, like me, biking. But I guess there was other activity not so innocent. The Park Police were cruising around in their ATVs, hassling people. It wasn't until I took a break at the southernmost mission, Espada, that I began to hear the sporadic muffled explosions of fire crackers. I guess that's what the do-right boys were trying to curtail.

It's getting so no one can have any fun anymore. A man can't even stagger out into his backyard on the stroke of midnight, New Years Eve, and discharge his shotgun (or what have you) without having the neighbors dropping a dime on him to the cops, or worse, the Homeland Security. That's a horrible way to start the New Years, what with gramps hustled off to Guantanamo.

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Two perfect days in a row, Sunday and Monday. Knowing that a cold snap was approaching, I headed again to the bike trail Monday. Not feeling over ambitious, I put my bike in the bed of my truck and drove toward the missions. As I eased through the intersection of Roosevelt and Steves I noticed I was coming up on a pigeon standing in my lane. I took my foot off the gas and slowed a bit to give the critter a chance to flutter out of the way. And I got closer. No reaction. It had to be able to see me. It was in profile, and staring at me — unflinchingly — with it's left eye. And I got even closer. Perhaps it was blind in the left eye? Maybe despondent from the holiday hubbub? Sadly, we will never know. It expired beneath my tires with a soft crunch.

Now I'm not one to believe in omens, but, fuck! I've never seen a pigeon not clear away from an approaching car. And as a tendril of superstitiousness snaked it's way about the jangle of appalled guilt of crushing a bird, I thought it best to consider the event as a symbolic representation of the receding carcass of the old year. Death, followed by rebirth … right?

But what to make of the next bird incident not even an hour later? I was lounging in the sun on a rise above the river out near Mission San Juan, and I happened to look up into the branches of a tree above me. There was a large bird perched up there and it peered down on me. It was some sort of hawk or falcon. Had word already gotten around? But what did a no-nonsense carnivorous bird of prey care about some urbanized lice-infested kissing cousin to the dove, the symbol of peace and passive wimpery?

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The bird seemed fairly unconcerned about me. So, after the shadows started to get long enough, I decided to get back on the trail. The cold front was coming in with serious bluster from the north, making me fight while pedaling back as though I was going uphill.

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It's been fairly quiet on my street the last week or so. Because school is off for the holidays, there is not that pesky steady flow of students, teachers, and parents using Guenther St. as a short cut. Also, many of the neighbors seem to be out of town. But every so often I get a knock at the door. Hope, from across the street, dropping off some cookies. Deana presenting me with a little gift bag containing a card from her hubby and kids and a t-shirt, recognizing me as a “Proud Member of the Gunther Gang.” Ah, neighborhood nationalism …. The neighbors here are really pretty sweet.

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I remember these nights. These New Years Eves where I find myself sitting at a keyboard, writing, trying to keep warm, and glancing at the clock every now and then to see if it has magically transformed from the old year into the new. I fancy that if I tried hard enough I could turn up about a dozen such descriptions from old letters, emails, journal entries, and, now, blogs. Most likely they would all say the same sad old refrain of loss and unrealized dreams, carelessly hidden beneath a wee coverlet of wry and brave self-deprecation.

In lieu of resolutions, maybe I should try and peer into that 2008 might have to offer. One of the problems I have with this exercise, is I have already committed myself to promoting two film events for the second year. Josiah and 48 Hour. Don't get me wrong, I in favor of these events. But I want to get back to doing creative work.

Okay. There is a kids film — a project to which I'm attached. I'm currently polishing up the script treatment. (And would you look at me — it's a paying gig!)

I'm hoping to be able to make it to the annual NALIP conference in California.

Also, I'd like to make it in June to the Writer's League of Texas' Agents & Editors Conference in Austin.

My sister has convinced me to submit some work to the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship Program. And I'd better get working, the deadline is two weeks away.

I have two novels I'm in the middle of and sporadically adding to.

There is a short experimental film I'd like to do in February.

Deborah and Ramon want to start looking for funding for another Proyeto Locos film (Proyecto Locos being our collective nom-de-nick).

And then I need to start gearing up this coming week and begin looking for ways to find funding for the Josiah Youth Media Festival — time to teach myself to become a grant writer.

Also, I need to give serious consideration if I want to run this years San Antonio 48 Hour Film Project. I'm divided at the moment. It's a load of work and pressure, and it really doesn't pay all that much. I just don't know if I want to get on that treadmill again.

Hmmm, all I see from the above is a tissue of unfocused, tenuous projects. And this is all I got. Shit. I mean, that's it. Please, just don't tell my landlady and the credit card companies.

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I headed out before the midnight hour and wandered toward downtown. I watched the fireworks begin to launch at midnight in the area around the Tower of the Americas.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It was quite nice. There were no crowds — I was far enough away from the crush of downtown. So, to all, Happy New Years!

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