New Years Day was a sad waste. If it's any indication of what the new year will offer up to me, I'd like to spin again.
I started the day off with coffee. Nothing strange there. But because my newest espresso machine has been sluggish to pump out a cup, I decided to reexamine my coffee makers. I lined up all three little espresso machine, plugged them in, loaded them with water and coffee, and set them to GO! They all gave me less than I expected. Much of the water was wasted through steam. The oldest seemed to perform the best, but take the longest — and I mean really long.
When I poured the coffee from all into a big cup, I had a decent cup of tasty, strong coffee. But what an ordeal.
The problem, I assumed, was mineral deposits. Limestone. I pulled a jug of white vinegar from the cupboard. The plan was to descale the lime deposits that were clogging things up.
Here's the trio puffing and steaming away. The whole place smelled rather pleasant, like a thousand Cub Scouts were dying Easter Eggs … in a sauerkraut factory.
They all performed like champs. And they spat out some impressive limestone sludge. But when I began the next step — pushing through just water to rinse them out, the two oldest defaulted to being sluggish again. And by the time I got around to the third steam rinse with the newest machine, it became as useless as the rest.
Maybe I need to go buy some more vinegar and keep boiling this through over and over until I can make a cup of espresso again with the ease of old.
Or maybe I just need to push all these machines to the curb and rekindle my romance with the simple practice of making cafe de olla.
I received my second DVD from NetFlix. Volume 1 of UFO. This was a British sci-fi drama that came out in 1970 and 1971. The producers are the same folks who created those marionette shows like Thunderbirds. Then they made live action series like UFO, and, later, Space 1999. I'm not sure when the series aired in the USA, but I saw them as a kid. Maybe a couple years after they showed in England. I remember watching them with my father who was a big UFO aficionado. It certainly appealed to both kids and adults. The shows often dealt with themes such as adultery and drug addiction. But also there were guys in futuristic space planes shooting down flying saucers.
That the show isn't as cool as I remember is no great surprise. But it holds up better than I expected. Imagine the Avengers without the banter and the camp. The costumes are damn tight (the costume designer was also one of the producers — a husband & wife team), and there are so many very low camera set-ups where a svelte actor or actress walks into frame, walks down a corridor-of-tomorrow directly toward the camera, and the shot continues until the crotch completely fills the screen … before the editor cuts to the next shot.
Good stuff. Nice for nostalgia as well as low-brow entertainment. But I'll wait awhile before ordering the other volumes in the DVD box set.
Yesterday I stopped by the new offices of PrimaDonna Productions to serve on a panel to help evaluate one of Nikki's young acting students. It was me, Laura Evans, and Bryan Ortiz. We'd done the same for a couple of other students last month, but one of the girls wasn't able to make it. So this was the reschedule night for her.
It was fun. This girl (who I believe is 11) has really come along since I first saw her almost a year ago. She is a natural when irrepressible exuberance is called for. The sort of high octane moxie you see from kids in toothpaste commercials. But she's been working on more nuanced acting exercises and can play smaller, more heartfelt scenes much better. Local actor John Montoya, who had been visiting the PrimaDonna offices, agreed to stick around and help with this young actress to show us some improv work. They were great together.
I was impressed with all the work this child has put into improving her acting chops. And, as always, I'm so impressed with Nikki's work as a teacher for young actors.
During a break, I asked John Montoya if I had heard right.
“You were in a Dolph Lundgren movie?”
“Oh, yeah. Missionary Man. I went to Dallas to see it screen. It's really good.”
Bryan Ortiz was also intrigued.
“Man, I gotta track this down. I'm serious, I really like Dolph Lundgren.”
Personally, I wouldn't go so far. Sure, Dolph plays a pretty good robot (or whatever he was in Universal Soldier — a sort of super zombie quasi robot??), but can he carry a film? I'll have to check out Missionary Man when it comes to a Blockbusters near me. Dolph is not only the star, but he is listed as writer and director. Hell, why not. If Sly Stallone also could manage this creative trifecta as well, while still managing to walk on his hind legs, there is no reason Dolph Lundgren can't do the same.
Congratulations, John Montoya (AKA, Johnny the Hottie) for appearing in three feature films in as many years (and one, I assume, was a paying gig)!
After leaving the PrimaDonna offices, I motored downtown to the Ruta Maya Coffee House for the monthly film mixer that AJ Garces has been coordinating. The place was packed. I had to hunt out a parking space on a side street. The first person I saw when I walked in the door was Janet Vasquez of the San Antonio Film Commission. Janet's presence always sets a positive tone.
As we chatted, I glanced around. I saw Andy, Pete, Veronica, Russ, Joey, AJ, Pablo, Kerry, and all sorts of people scattered around at various tables chatting away. Probably about half of the people in the place were filmmakers, producers, actors, and assorted fellow traveller who showed up for this film mixer.
Everyone seemed to be working on some project or another. It seems that things are really happening around town.
And speaking of things about town, Joey was there trying to alert people about the open house tomorrow at Cine Studio, the new production offices created by brothers Jesse and James Borrego. It's at 2342 S. Presa, just a few blocks from the Urban-15 Studios. This is a First Friday event, albeit a bit off the beaten track. Joey mentioned that he'd be helping to curate a screening of local short films.
I was listening to http://www.last.fm with the Dictators as the suggestion band. This makes the web site / application look for music in the style and genera of the band you entered.
The Dictators was a hard rock proto punk band — imagine a melange of equal parts MC-5, Blue Oyster Cult, and the Ramones. Anyway, there came up a song by the Chesterfield Kings. This was a great punk era band that created a sound and image indistinguishable from those gritty garage bands from the '60s like the Sonics, the Monks, the Sir Douglas Quintet, et al. But here these guys were doing an extraordinary cover of Merle Haggard's death row tearjerker, Sing Me Back Home.
And, therefore, I am now listening to the only Merle Haggard CD I own — a two
CD set, The Lonesome Fugitive: The Merle Haggard Anthology (1963 – 1977).
Sadness and heartache drips from the walls when these songs sigh out of my speakers. The song playing right now is “(My Friends are Gonna Be) Strangers.” This song title was morphed into the title of my favorite novel by Larry McMurtry, “All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers.” The emotional impact of the song and the novel can be summed up by this wonderful Merle Haggard couplet: “The only thing I can count on now / is my fingers.”
I've just returned home from the open house at Cine Studios. The offices are in an unimposing old single story building on S. Presa. It's one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Antonio. There's a quirky stretch of S. Presa between the the Southern Pacific tracks and the highway 90 overpass. There's the Wildcats Cheerleader training space where lucha libre events are often held. There's the old Piggly Wiggly store which has seen several incarnations in the few years I've lived in town — the Wiggle Room, an arts and performance space; and now an artists studio. Can't forget my local lunch haven, Pepe's Cafe. There is the Urban-15 Studio. Farolitos Restaurant. And the HEB grocery store where I shop. It's the neighborhood where I get my truck's oil changed. Where I bicycle. Where I shoot scenes for my movies. And I'm happy to see Jesse Borrego investing his money, time, and good name into a business in this wonderful bit of San Antonio. Maybe his presence will help the locals who live further north drop their irrational fear of that bit of town south of the railroad tracks.
First I stopped by Urban-15 to see how things were going with George and Catherine. I hadn't seen them in about three weeks. As I pulled up to their space, I saw their son, Antonio, walk inside. I almost didn't recognize him, as he'd sprouted a beard. He was in town for Christmas from his final year at film school in NYC.
Everyone seemed to be in good spirits. George, Catherine, Rene, and Antonio were all back in the dormitory, where they had closed off the office, the “yellow room,” and the kitchen. Back in early December they'd lost their building manager, and without him to finish the work he'd been doing on the central heating units, they'd been reduced to heating a smaller space. They're still looking for a replacement for the position.
George and Catherine had other plans, so they weren't able to drop by Jesse's open house. But Antonio was there for awhile, mingling.
I left my truck at Urban-15 and walked the two blocks to Cine Studio.
The building is a narrow row of four or five offices. The larger space on the corner is where an area for a band had been set up. There was a buffet set up for eats and drinks. And a table for a silent auction. Art work was hung on all the walls. Jesse stepped up to a microphone and explained the vision of his new production company. He thanked his partners and other artists working in the neighborhood. And then we had a blessing of the building.
This is one of the things that makes San Antonio very special. The Coahuiltecan people (the descendants of the indigenous folks who built the missions), as represented here by the non-profit group the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AIT-SCM), seem to be on hand for all the important ceremonies, especially involving the arts.
This time it was Isaac Cardenas. I'd not met him before. But his name has come up quite often when speaking with other members of the San Antonio Coahuiltecans. Jesse Borrego is also a member of one of the families that identify themselves as Qualitechan people.
After Isaac finished the blessing, I went up and introduced myself to him. One of the things he does is work with boys and young men from families with abuse. In fact, this ties in with one of the programs of AIT-SCM, the Fatherhood Campaign. He's a very warm and caring person, and still completely pragmatic. I'm glad I decided to flag him down and introduce myself to him as he was leaving.
It was an interesting melange of people who came and went throughout the night. The place was pretty well packed for the three hours I was there. However, the room set aside for screening local films was rarely packed.
Too bad. There were some nice pieces screened. Some I had seen before, like Chadd and Nikki's Dating Danielle; AJ's Crush; Joey's Nestor-Fest & his trilogy What To Do in a Zombie Attack; and Antonio's Katrina doc. I also got to see a few new things. One was titled Shot. It was produced by the San Antonio production company Laszlo Rain. Very slick. I thought the story was pretty weak. But the productional values were damn fine. What one would expect from Laszlo Rain. We also were treated to a trailer for Pablo Veliz's newest feature, Double Dagger. It looks really corny — 'cause, you know, it's an action film. But, that aside, the trailer kicks ass. Plus, it's got Manny Garcia as a major character. I'm going to have to track it down when it's released in, um, I believe Pablo said, May.
There was a point in the evening where some guys were playing a trailer for some sort of documentary, and there was this weird scraping noise. I thought at first it was the sound track. But it just kept getting louder. It soon became apparent it was coming from the half-opened door to the street. I peered across the room to the door and I saw these metal blocks slide by, making a hell of a noise. There was someone standing on top of these two metal blocks, which I quickly recognized as gas tanks from automobiles. Annie, who was sitting beside me, stood up and muttered that this she had to see. I quickly followed. It looked like some freaky performance art. I could only think that it was part of Jesse's open house.
When I stepped onto the sidewalk, this is what I saw.
The image can't quite convey the performance. Two men in cowboy hats with stetsons and bandanas around their faces like bandits. They stood, back to back, atop two steel gas tanks, their feet strapped to them like they were wearing weird skies.
These had to be pretty heavy pieces of metal. And so, they had to keep a clear “leftright, leftright” rhythm.
The gas tanks gave them considerable additional height, so their heads were damn close to the wooden overhang of Jesse's long building. When they came abreast of the entrance to the CineStudios, they began to hand out flyers.
But people weren't enough in their comfort zone to get the offered stuff. I took another photo and then I stepped up to get whatever the guys were handing out. The one facing me offered his hand. And as we shook, his eyes, above the bandana, were so somber and guileless that I began to assume that they were some sort of religious nuts. You know, walking across Texas on top of gas tanks. I've heard stranger. I took a flyer and a postcard and watched as they rounded the corner. I made a discussion not to follow them. I knew they would have to dismount soon and toss their props into a truck and drive off. I didn't want to spoil the mystery.
I stepped into the offices of CineStudio. The flyer was a piece of typing paper with two stanzas of gibberish. Above the “poem” was two words on two separate lines. “Ajax,” in bold. “Essentials,” in italics. On the bottom left of the page were three names. “Gerald Ford Saddam Hussein James Brown.” And on the bottom right, in rubber stamp: “Reissue by Alas 2008.” The postcard offered little more clarity. The image is a color photo, in profile orientation, of the downtown Greyhound bus station during the daytime. It's clear that it is San Antonio because you can see a VIA bus. As I look at the postcard now, I notice that the building in the background seems to have some graffiti at the very top. Or maybe it's some important info placed their via photoshop. I'll have to take a closer look later with a magnifying glass. On the back side is a line of text — part of the laminated card, but placed at a careless angle as though it were a rubber stamp (it isn't): “THE PROMISE OF INSECURITY.” In caps. And at the bottom is another line of printed text: “This interruption is brought to you by Alas.” And then there is an adhesive Avery address label on the back that reads, “DOWN TOWN SAN ANTONIO / GREYHOUND BUS STATION / LOCKER # 204 / 9:00AM, JAN. 5 – 6:00PM, JAN. 7 / 2008.” This sticker has been placed atop another sticker, and I can read the info underneath. It's basically the same stuff, but the dates are Dec. 8th – 10th, 2007.
And the meaning?
Dunno. Pure Dada, I hope. It'd piss me off were I to discover that were one to visit the Greyhound terminal on the days and times listed one would be presented with a Toblerone bar or a fucking Zune.
I assume that these hombres had already clumped around the larger crowds of First Friday down at the Blue Star Arts Complex and then traveled down Alamo Street. And when they realized they still had thousands of flyers and postcards left over, they remembered that there was something arty going on down south presa way.
And even though I screened my own Kitty Loves a Rug Sucker to the thunderous applause of half a dozen people, I would have to say that these cowboy pranksters were the highlight of my night.
But filmmaker Ranferi Salguero singing Smoke on the Water came a close second. I would have sworn the guy was too young to know the lyrics to a Deep Purple song.
I love this guy's shirt. Click on the thumbnail.
Welcome to the neighborhood Jesse! I was so happy to see so many wonderful people from such diverse backgrounds come to a space on the wrong side of the tracks.
Oh, hey, if you need something to do tomorrow night — Saturday — you have only one choice. The annual Performance Party at the Jump-Start Performance Space. Doors open at 6:30. Entrance? Only a $5 suggested donation.
Let me be more specific. If you only attend one night of theater this year in San Antonio, you MUST make it Saturday's Performance Party. I blogged about last year's event. Check back in the archive.
It was a sublime blast. One night only. Be there … or I may never speak to you again.