She's Softened the Truly Trenchant Me

(Damn — I'm behind on another posting. This is two or three days old.)

I must have had my phone on silent. I looked across the desk early Thursday afternoon and saw I had a message. It was from Dar. She wanted to know if I knew that someone was writing bad things about me on the internet. I had a suspicion what she was talking about, but I couldn't just speculate. I mean, could you?

When I got her on the line, she explained. I realized it was as I had assumed.

I rarely pick up the Current. True, it's free, but it's just not very relevant to my life. And therefore I'm not sure if the article from the Current I read online was published only on the internet. The piece was a sort of year in review of the San Antonio art scene as covered by the Current.

(I'll ladle out the candor — I found the piece on my own because I was googling my name. I do this every so often. You know, to see if anyone's writing about me. And, finally, it paid off!)

Months back I'd written a blog about an article (the cover story, in fact) that the Current ran during the summer on Mark Sullivan and his San Antonio Film District. Current reporter Ashley Lindstrom (apparently also googling her name), wrote that “Local filmmaker Erik Bosse took issue with the Current’s story on his LiveJournal — calling it a 'near puff piece.'” Wow. She certainly could have quoted the nasty stuff. I mean, I was much more trenchant than that. Bitchy, in fact.

She goes on to write these two passages:

“According to the San Antonio Film Commission’s website, the last major feature film to utilize the Sake Studio space where the SAFD is located was All the Pretty Horses ….”

“… a recent visit to the SAFD’s significantly updated website — at least since I was there last — suggests a holy turn of events. According to Jessica Matthews’ District bio (in which her title isn’t mentioned), SAFD is 'an incredible opportunity for the Body of Christ here in San Antonio!!'”

The truth is, there was actually nothing unpleasant directed against me. But I was rather dismayed that the Current's up-date contained little more than information lifted from three different websites? This is journalism?

Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter, is spinning in her grave clutching her little stubby pencil and fliptop steno pad.

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My NetFlix fix arrived late today. I was starting to get worried. But at 4:30 I heard the familiar footfall of my mailman's boots on my wooden porch, and then there it was, the pleasing clack of my mailbox lid dropping shut.

It was Les Blank's documentary of the making of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, Burden of Dreams.

I consider myself a fairly serious Herzog fan. I can think of 12 films of his I've seen. When I saw Aguirre: The Wrath of God at age 14 or 15 I was floored. It was the most amazing movie-going experience I've ever had. There are times in our lives when we are perfectly ripe for particular artistic experiences, and these two trajectories (that film and my life) intersected at just the right time. And so I was a bit taken aback when I realized there was a documentary (and a rather well-know one, at that) about the making of my second-favorite Werner Herzog film.

Anyway, I've finally remedied that spot in my ignorance. Tonight I watched Blank's film. It's incredible. The photography of the Amazonian rainforest is stunning. The indigenous people are presented in a humanistic manner without being overly romanticized. Herzog, as always, comes across as the most insane person you've ever wanted to have as your best friend.

One of the things I learned from this film was that Jason Robards and Mick Jagger were originally cast. Not only that, but Herzog shot almost half of the film before Robards came down with dysentery or something. And when Robards returned to the states for treatment his doctor told him not to return to the jungle. Jagger eventually had to leave. He had a Rolling Stone tour coming up. But one of the treats of the documentary is that you get to see a couple of scenes with Robards and Jagger. Shit! As much as I love Klaus Kinski as Fitzcarraldo, the scenes with Robards makes me wish that version had come to pass. I haven't seen Robards so sweetly hammy since his intense performance in A Thousand Clowns.

This blog is published redundantly on both LiveJournal and MySpace. For those who read this blog off my LiveJournal site, you will have missed the MySpace reply Lee made to the previous blog entry. He wrote:

“I have an interesting relationship with Herzog as a filmmaker. He's one of those artists I respect and admire and just flat-out like while having experienced very little of his work first-hand. The one of his films I'm most familiar with is (obviously) Grizzly Man, which I loved. But he's such a memorable personality away from the camera, so unique unto himself, that I feel I know him much better than I do. Does that make any sense?”

There is undoubtedly a moving authenticity about Herzog when you see and hear him speak. One of the greatest rewards of his documentaries is how he includes himself within the pieces. He generates that sort of warmth and candor that makes you feel like you've known the man all your life. I can place my entrance into the cult of Herzog the personality even more specifically then when I entered the cult of Herzog the artist (in my teen years with Fitzcarraldo). It was 1986, I was 23 living in San Francisco and working in the warehouse of Rough Trade Records. There was a little repertory cinema in the Mission District … I can't remember it's name. It was small, and played some great films. Anyway, when I saw they were going to screen two Werner Herzog documentaries, I hightailed it over. They showed Ballade vom Kleinen Soldaten (Ballad of the Little Soldier), which gave some insight — certainly for American audiences — what was really happening in Nicaragua at that time which was forcing indian children who had not one political atom in their bodies to pick up guns and engage in one of the dirty little proxy wars the US was bankrolling in Latin America. And then there was Herzog's mountain climbing piece, Gasherbrum – Der Leuchtende Berg (The Dark Glow of the Mountains).

This last piece, for some reason stuck with me more. What I most remember (and this was over 20 years ago) was Herzog interviewing the subject of the film, a well-known mountain climber. The mountain climber is relaxing naked in a hot spring. He's in this outcropping of rock pooled with steaming water and there are snow-covered hills all around. Herzog is asking the man why he does it. Why does he risk life and limb to climb? The camera moves in and takes a close look at the climbers naked feet. Toes are missing from frostbite. The climber digressed into something more grand and abstract than simply man verses mountain. He smiles — as can only the most confident men sitting naked in hot springs with cameras pointed on them — and shares a recurring dream. He said that in this dream he was always traveling around the world on horseback. Just him and the horse. Herzog — refusing to play the dispassionate and objective documentarian — piped up that he had almost the exact same dream. “But in my dream I'm on foot. And I'm walking the Earth with a dog.”

If women really want to understand men, they need to watch Werner Herzog films. Getting into sports is the wrong method. That's the way to understand boys, not men. And, ladies, if you attended a public elementary school, you already know all you need to know about boys (those chummy sumbitches sure do like their jostling and butt-slapping, let me tell you).

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I really need to start looking around for a job. I frittered the day away doing very little. I did, however, work some on my November novel (which has been pretty much languishing since the end of National Novel Writing Month). Also, I finally got around to sending off my proposal for the Luminaria Fest that this city will hold in March. I'm more than a little curious how it will play out. I've been hearing some very unfavorable accounts concerning the administrative structure (or lack thereof) — to the best of my knowledge, this event has not yet hired an Artistic Director.

We'll just have to see. I'll certainly be there whether or not my proposal is accepted. True, the event could come off stellar. But if not, even a desperate clusterfuck can be fun to watch … while enjoying a four dollar beer and gnawing on a cajun turkey leg and talking to vendors who are set up to sell their ceramic skull-shaped bongs.

Today also saw the arrival of the UPS truck. I'd ordered a Century Optics 16:9 widescreen adapter.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I've wanted one of these little lenses for my Canon GL-2 camcorder for as long as I've had the camera — five years or more. I was always put off by the price tag. $850. Wow! And what does this lens do, you might ask? Well, it's all about aspect ratio. The rectangular shape of a TV screen is 4 wide by 3 high. DV camcorders are pretty close. 3 by 2. But many video movie-makers want something that looks more like a Hollywood film. And this gets confusing, because there are a lot of different formats. But, suffice to say, those movies all have a hight to width ratio where the width is greater than a TV screen. And so 16 by 9 became a good compromise for a cinema-like formate. In fact, it's the native format of high definition video. But for those poor bastards (like me) who can't afford a fancy high def camcorder, there are several ways to give the look of 16:9.

To the best of my knowledge, there is only one “prosumer” level miniDV camcorder that can shoot in a native 16:9. And that's the Canon XL2. It has a somewhat larger CCD chip. But I don't have that camera. Next, there is the option of an anamorphic lens. Such as this wondrous little 16:9 device. But that's a lot of money. However, because of the way it bends the image, it allows use of the entire CCD chip, even though said chip is shaped as a 3:2 rectangle. The lens stretches out the images. The image is later unsquished by your editing software. Another way to get this 16:9 effect is to use the setting that is on most cameras. It's listed under the menus as “widescreen,” “16:9,” or a “letterbox” setting. And almost all the time, what the camera is actually doing is automatically masking off a bit of the top of the frame and a bit of the bottom of the frame and then inserting a bit of code so that your editing system recognizes the images as anamorphically distorted. You will need to reformat it in post-production. And then there is the method I have always used. And that is to shoot in the normal 3:2 SD (that stands for Standard Definition, not to be confused with HD, or High Definition) video. When I capture the clips and begin to edit, I will eventually digitally lay a stripe of black over a bit of the top and bottom of the frame. The reason this method is better than using the camera's on-board faux 16:9 setting, is that I am able to shift the frame up or down if something unexpected happened. For instance, if a microphone was being boomed from above, and you can see it just peeking into the top of the frame, you have the latitude to shift up a bit and have it hidden behind that upper black stripe you're using to give the impression of 16:9.

However, Century Optics (now, Schnider Optics) has decided to discontinue their video anamorphic lenses. It's no surprise. All HD camcorders have no need for these devices. They operate in a native 16:9 format.

And when I stumbled onto the Century Optics website, I was amazed to see these lenses are now priced at $99. I suspect I bought one of the very last ones.

I'm not sure just how good this thing is. I've done some test footage and I can't see that there is an increase of resolution with the lens. But I'll do some more work with closer images.

Here are three images — all frame grabs of video footage. I almost never use the auto-focus on my camera, but for some reason I used it here. These are thumbnails. Click for larger images. The first image is using the Century Optics lens.


The second is using the camera's internal 16:9 setting.


The final is shooting in normal 3:2, and then masking the top and bottom.


What I've learned is that, lacking the Century Optics lens, I have been doing it the right way. But I still need to work with this new toy and find out if it's really giving me an edge.

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