Tired of Texcentric Heroism?

For the last month and a half it seems so many people I know have been hacking and groaning and tossing back all manner of cold and flue medicine. I had felt quite lucky in having avoided this current pestilence. In fact, mid-week I'd woken to a bit of a sore throat. I quickly swallowed a massive amount of vitamin C (which probably has as much impact on the common cold as touching wood), and seemingly snookered the early infestation. Obviously I placed too much faith in Linus Pauling's ideas on self-medication, because I woke up Friday with a nasty cough and even less energy than I normally can manage in the morning.

However I did succeed in pulling it together enough to make it to Circuit City. By combining a Circuit City gift card (payment for a particular dog-walking stint) with some birthday money, I knew I had enough to buy an external DVD burner to replace the ailing one in my computer. But it turned out much as I expected. There were very few brands on the shelves compatible with Mac. And of those, all demanded the most recent Mac operating system. This technological ageism is getting tiresome. Sign me up for the class action suit.

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Wednesday's excursion to check out the location for the film component of the Luminaria festival was great fun. Much of the ground floor of the Kress building is currently unoccupied. It's maybe ten stories high. Generic decoesque design. I'd guess it was build in the 1930s.

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There are three large display windows so that film work can be displayed onto the street. The plan is to place 42 inch plasma monitors in each window. I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for larger, rear-projection screens. The next area is a lobby of what I believed used to be a club. There's a little angled stage, and a small bar area. The idea is to place a large screen in this room and hang a video projector. And then we were all taken down this corridor which I believe was supposed to resemble a New Orleans street. There were faux brick walls and lighting fixtures sconced out from the walls in the style of lead-framed gas street lights. But even this kitschery didn't prepare me for the sheer vertiguous aesthetic abomination that was the larger club room we entered next. I believe I gasped and said something like, “Oh my goodness, this is awful!” Followed by: “I love it!”

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It's a large space, and it was poorly lit by a single sodium vapor industrial light in the ceiling (clearly the “house” light that would be turned on back when this was a dance club so that the patrons would know it was time to leave — you know, when the low atmospheric lighting is blasted out by this unflattering glare which flashes off the puddles of vomit in the corners and lets you finally see that the amorous guy or gal desperately clutching your elbow bares an uncanny resemblance to Walter Brennen). Anyway, I would have taken more pictures, but that monster light still wasn't bright enough for my little camera, and the flash would have been wasted because the space was too big.

It was done up all Miami pastel deco, but very cursory and minimal. The sort of thing that happens when the club owner has installed the wrap-around mezzanine cat-walk, a large sunken dance floor in the center of the space, a smaller balcony dance floor, an island bar the size of a garbage truck, a dozen cozy booths, and he turns to the anemic manic-depressive first year associate from the interior design firm and says, “Oh, yeah, we want this place to look like Miami Beach, but we only have $500 left in the budget.”

This space is going to be used for longer films. A large screen will be brought in. And, like the lobby, the works will be shown via a video projector. I tried to remain positive. Meaning I kept my mouth shut as much as possible. But I could tell that the acoustics of this place were miserable. Sure, it probably worked great back in the early '90s with house music cranked to vibrate the fillings in the mouths of coked-out debutantes and failed MBAs with the keys to daddy's Mercedes … but the audio tracks of amateur films? No way,

One of the artists kept asking questions. He wasn't seeing it. He asked about installation works. I knew exactly what he was envisioning — the sort of gallery set-up that allowed for the peripatetic viewing.

“There are these windows in the hallway,” I said, meaning the New Orleans corridor. “You could frost them and back-project your work.”

He really got into the idea. Actually there were three such windows. The other side was in a room which we were not allowed to use. But it seemed possible that we could use it to set up equipment in — just not let audience members inside. It sounded intriguing.

I might try and get my piece on one of those interior windows.

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I found myself pulled into another behind-the-scenes Luminaria situation.

Thursday I stopped by Urban-15 to talk with George and Catherine about the 2008 Josiah Youth Media Festival. I hadn't made an appointment, and was prepared to drop by later if that had something scheduled.

I was a bit taken aback in that they had two major meetings planned. But now that I guess I've been folded into the Urban-15 family, they just assumed I'd stick around.

Upstairs in the performance space Catherine was meeting with two architects from the firm working on their renovation plans as well as an invited guest from the County Commissioner's Office. They had the floor plans, artist renderings, and associated images all on easels. There was also a really cool cardboard model. It never even occurred to me to take a photo of it. This might be because as this is still in the early stages where Urban-15 is seeking funding and community support, I'm not sure if the full scale and ambition of their renovation is yet ready for public consumption.

Meeting number two was down in the basement. George is helping to coordinate the performance side of the Luminaria festival. There are half a dozen stages scattered around the downtown area that George and a few other folks from the local arts community are over-seeing.

There's a shit load of stuff that's going to be happening on March 15th. And I mean even after all the shit that will be happening earlier that day in downtown San Antonio. Because, um, well, it's St. Patrick's Day.

This would be a massive cluster fuck for so many other large cities. But even though, as I understand things, this scheduling cock-up with St. Paddy was simply a perplexing oversight, the truth is, San Antonio does this sort of massive crowd control, street closings, and parade productions all the time. We've got Fiesta, a ten day bacchanalia of parades, festivals, and abject madness. We have the country's largest MLK march. Monthly art street fairs on both Houston Street and Alamo Street. We march massively for Cesar Chavez. We run for breast cancer one day a year all around downtown where cars can't drive. And we have at least two major parades that float down the San Antonio River. Oh, and as one of the three members of Proyecto Locos, I was instrumental in the creation of the parade down Fredericksburg Road back in 2006 for the Dia de los Artistas festival … although my friend Deborah did most all the work. And, man, there are so many other large public events I'm not even thinking of. San Antonio loves a party, big or small, preferably outside, with music and barbecue.

Personally, I don't think this city needs another damn parade or festival. It just creates another day I can't drive through downtown. But, when I get grouchy about these sorts of public spectacles, all I need to do is attend the events — after seeing elderly couples drinking beer from plastic cups while they dance, people walking their Chihuahuas and Labradors in outrageous costumes, and people of all ages and backgrounds joyously making music together, I guess I can excuse the occasional street closure.

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Tomorrow I'm a featured guest over at the offices of Prima Donna Productions (check them out, over in the old El Cid Building, which is still, though just barely, within loop 410, and therefore safely inside my boycott zone). Um, where was I?

Oh. Yeah. PDP has begun their monthly “Hot Meals, Cold Reads” events. Actors sign up for the event — and I believe there are only ten slots each month. Here, let me poach from the website:

“This program gives local actors a chance improve their auditioning skills by learning from the pros. The next class is on the topic of Indie Short Films, and will be taught by director Erik Bosse.”

I'm flattered. Nikki and the gang are clearly stretching the definition of “pros.”

Anyway, the idea is for me to give some sort of palaver — you know, my name is such and so and I do this and that. And then I hand out “sides,” this is the production term for printed material that actors are given to read from during auditions. Oh, yeah, there is also a provided hot meal.

Actually, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to blather on a bit about who I am, but it doesn't matter. If needed, I can do this off the cuff.

Every now and then I have to remind myself how far I've come from suffering crippling shyness (which, over the years I've seen slowly erode, so that by the time I entered my fourth decade, is almost gone for good … unless, of course, I'm trying to talk to a cute girl). I'm not particularly good at extemporaneous speaking. Yes, I know I'm not horrible. But the great lesson I've learned somewhere along the way is that if I'm only mediocre, well, that's good enough. When Lorenzo Lopez arranged for me to appear on a San Antonio morning TV show last year to help promote the 48 Hour Film Project, I said, great. I had no trouble sleeping that night. I didn't try to prepare myself. I just showed up, chatted when the red light came on, and, afterwards, still had enough presence of mind to take of photo of the host there in the studio. No way could I have done that in my teens, twenties, or thirties. Self-confidence is indeed an idiosyncratic commodity, some people seem to have it straight out of the womb, while others of us have to build it piece by piece over time.

For this “Hot Meal / Cold Read,” I've printed out seven sides. They range from older works, to new works-in-progress. I had hoped to use this as an opportunity to workshop scenes from a feature script I'm working on, tentatively entitled, “Tunnels Under the Tower.” But some of the scenes were very short and didn't give actors much meat to chew on.

So, I pulled two from that piece which I thought strong. I should point out that Nikki told me the names of some of the actors who would be attending. I know some. And so, I tried to make sure that some of my sides would fit certain gender and age categories.

There's a woman I know who can play older than she looks. And there's two teen girls. So, I made sure to provide a couple of routines to fit them.

I printed up a few compressed short prose pieces of mine. They're first person narrations, so they make good monologues. And then I printed up the opening for my novel-in-progress, “Shadows Where the Darkness Was,” because it's a first person narration of a female character.

And I also plan to take the scripts for two super short pieces I plan to shoot in the next three weeks. Maybe I'll find the perfect actor. One is for an on-camera monologue that also will serve as a voice-over narration (this is my Luminaria piece); the other is a two man little one-act I want to pull off in a single take for the up-coming Olvidate del Alamo show that Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez curates every year as a purgative counter-point to all the giddy feel-good Texas nationalistic bullshit that the Daughters of the Texas Republic generate each year during this period of those “13 Days of Glory,” February 23 — March 6, when the Alamo was besieged. And for many years Ramon, and the gallery he founded (Centro Cultural Aztlan), celebrated not this Texcentric heroism, but instead, the sly, winking ambiguity you ultimately arrive at when you look history full in the face.

Remember the Alamo? Naw. Olvidate del Alamo.

Watch this space for show times.

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