Here Comes 2009

I feel a cold coming on.  Not a very auspicious beginning for 2009.  Where, I wonder, could I have caught this?  I don’t recall interacting with another human (well, face to face) in the last three days or so.  Well, maybe at a convenience store or a drive through taqueria.  Oh well, I’ll try and ride it out.

The holidays are almost over, and that’s something to cheer for.  It seems that I never plan my way around these special days.  Invariably I run  out of groceries on the eve of some big event.  Tonight, New Year’s Eve, was a case in point.  In a half-ass attempt to get a jump on the clean slate of a new year, I gathered up all the plastic grocery bags I’ve accumulated over the months and headed off to HEB.  Not my favorite choice for shopping, but I knew that the HEB on Nogalitos has a drop-off bin for plastic bags – you know, so that you can pretend they will be sent off to some sort of plastics recycling center.

There was a long line of cars to get into the parking-lot.  So I bailed, turned on Malone, and headed east to Flores to my La Fiesta.  Crowded there, too, but no so insanely and densely packed.  Needless to say, I’ll be driving around with two fat bags of bags rolling on my floorboards for who knows how long.

In a similarly proactive move towards a New Year’s clean slate, I decided to finally come to terms with the pile of emails clogging up my in-box – circa twenty-five hundred.  There were emails dating back to 2005.  Some probably very important.  If an email contains something crucial, I’ll leave it in the in-box.  Maybe it’s someone’s email address I never got around to entering into my contacts folder.  Some, of course, are spam I never got around to deleting.  Or, well, who knows.  In the back of my mind I guess I assumed I’d hunker down one week and deal with it.  Or maybe chip away, several pages per day.

Today I just hunted around, found the Empty Folder button, and consigned it all to the digital dump.

Rather exhilarating.  And so today I’ve been like a madman.  I’ll see, on my new iPhone, a fresh email.  Those pesky spams for boner pills and notices that a warrantee on a car I don’t own is about to expire don’t stand a chance.  I click on that icon of a trash can without a second thought.  Gotta keep my new pristine email box clean.

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Ah, my new iPhone.  It’s only 200 clams.  What a bargain for one of the best toys I own.  The downside, of course, is that AT&T has increased my monthly cell phone rate by about 30 bucks.  The rational is because I now have unlimited access to the internet via the phone’s WiFi feature as well as this 3G network thing that I don’t pretend to understand beyond the fact that it allows me fairly fast internet access where there is no WiFi signal.

Since I had my iPod stolen back in the summer, I’d planned on getting a new one.  In fact, my sister, for Christmas, transferred the needed funds into my account.  And as an iPhone is also an iPod, I went ahead and got it.  I haven’t yet loaded up any video.  However, I do suppose I should at least put my video reel on the phone.

But, as one of my sister’s co-workers said in high praise of his iPhone, “It’s all about the Apps.”  To be sure, iTunes has already made a mint selling the iFart application (something like that), and at only two or three bucks a throw, that must be quite a lot of adolescent tedium being spread around.

One of the free iPhone apps that intrigued me is “The Bike Computer.”  It’s a GPS application that can track your route, speed, mileage, top speed, average speed.  It interfaces with http://www.everytrail.com.  This is a website geared mainly for serious hikers and geocachers (the high nerds of the GPS subculture).  A quick perusal of the folks posting to the Every Trail forums led me to the conclusion that their GPS devices of choice were exotic items I have never heard of.  No one was praising the iPhone.  And so, I suspect that this iPhone app is pretty new.

The application however proved rather clunky.  True, as a GPS device, the iPhone is far from the cutting edge.  But I finally dumped the Bike Computer and switched to the EveryTrail GPS app.  The bike computer was created to ape the stand alone devices you can buy at bike shops, but those are weather proof and meant to be attached to you handlebars with a readout screen easy to see in direct sunlight.  This isn’t a good description of an iPhone.

What makes the EveryTrail app so cool is that not only does it mark your journey and allow you to upload it to their website so that other hikers, cyclists, and such can discover new routes (often with a written commentary), but you can use the digital camera on the iPhone to take a phone (without shutting down the GPS tracking app), and that photo is geo-tagged and will be uploaded along with the traveled route, so that people can know what to expect.  For instance, if you follow the link below, you can see a bike ride I took Monday along the Mission Trail.  There are photos of all four missions and other scenes.  Maybe I’ll get around to writing a little bit of commentary.  The photos, certainly, need contextualization.  Only three-quarters of the ride was recorded.  Someone called me, and apparently when you answer the phone, you need to reset the EveryTrail app.

http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=96525

On the day I bought my iPhone I had a Luminaria steering committee meeting over at the Witte Museum. Most of the other folks who sit around that chunky wooden board room table are comfortably employed in tony positions within the local arts and cultural industrial complex. In fact, one of my co-committee members had just bought a Mercedes SUV because another person at the table was so happy with hers. I took a seat in a deep padded and armed swivel chair and I looked around the table,  I saw half a dozen iPhones readied at people’s elbows, like stacks of chips for a serious night of poker. I slipped mine from my pocket and laid it on the table. “Deal me in,” I said to the room, and I gave a wink to the first perplexed woman in a pants suit who looked my way.

I have something of a love / hate relationship with technology. When it works, I just love it to death. But because there is such a significant price tag for the cutting-edge machines and software, I always seem to be about two years behind the technological curve. Early adopter, sadly I am not.  That’s a rich person’s game. I do believe that if I were financially flush, I would be scarfing up quite a collection of techno toys as they hit the market. Having said that, I also know too well just how much time I squander fucking around with these ephemeral contraptions and applications, culminating in the very antithesis of a life full of purpose and meaning.

Putting aside its inherent vapidness, the iPhone (and all these current crop of hand-held devices) represents the new information frontier. Computers will migrate from their perch on our desk and laps, and settle in the virtual realm of the internet. What we will physically own will be a device that allows us to access the net, where all of our processing and storage needs will reside. Visual displays — whether they be TVs, hand-held, or something resembling eyeglasses — will be connected wirelessly to the ubiquitous hand-held machine. The keyboard will have to be significantly revamped. Soon we will all be wirelessly interconnected. The internet will become our collective consciousness. We will spend even more time in there than we do now.

See you on the inside, chums!

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I haven’t been posting to this blog in ages.  But I’ve been writing.  So, here we go.  I’ll shave down nine thousand words of unpublished drivel into some highlights of the tail end of my 2008.

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(On spending two weeks in the Big Bend and three weeks in Dallas.)

In the last five weeks, I have only spent two nights in my house. Funny how my rootlessness of those weeks has resulted in fewer phone calls and emails. Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we actually believe that what we do is crucial and were we to disappear, it would all go to shit. So, when we realize that this is almost always nonsense, our ego recoils, feeling slighted, down-grade to traveling through life down in the steerage section with the superfluous of humanity, those day players and non-featured extras.  But then it hits. That sense of liberation. “Oh, so they don’t really need me!” And then you know that you can chill out, slack off, run away to some godforsaken corner of the Chihuahua desert, and all guilt free.

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(On a recent occasional gig working for an auction house in Dallas.)

I’m still in a bit of a shock that I can wrangle temp work  for the rare book department of a major auction house and get a wage that translates to a solid day rate I’d get were I working in film production in San Antonio. I sometimes forget that I have decades of experience in a rather obscure and occasionally bankable industry, the antiquarian book world.

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Here is a photo of some nifty skeleton chairs apparently waiting to go under the hammer.

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(On the 2008 SA Film Commission holiday party.)

Drew and Janet brought together another outrageously successful annual San Antonio Film Commission holiday party. The Depot at Sunset Station was packed. I think we had about two hundred and fifty people. Some of my favorite people were in attendance.

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At one point I was standing in the center of the room (the old train depot, refitted for swanky events, such as this) and I was talking to Travis Thomsen. And I looked over to the sign-in table. Wow, I thought, that sure looks like Angela Bennett, one of the more accomplished actors I’ve had the pleasure of working with. She played a tiny role in me and Pete’s feature, “Vaya Con Dios, Asshole,” and I swore I’d cast her, one day, in a major role.  But she eventually moved to LA.  However, some minutes later, I looked up to see the woman closer.  I had not been mistaken.  I walked up and asked if she was back in town for good.  She is. I asked if she’s still acting. Yes, she said. In fact she’s in a play that the Renaissance Guild will be putting on at the Jump-Start in February.  I know I’ll be there.  Welcome home Angela!

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(On the 2008 NALIP Christmas party.)

Two celebrations rolled into one at Pocha y Payan’s place.  The the annual San Antonio NALIP (National Association of Latino Independent Producers) holiday party … and, for those hanging around until midnight, glasses were lifted to celebrate Victor Payan’s fortieth birthday.

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The place was abuzz with some of the best of the local film community (and only a couple of irritating blowhards).  Even though the evite gave the party a run time of 7:30 until 11, I knew I should stay to at least midnight.  And at the point, Victor’s wife Sandra Sarmiento (AKA Pocha Peña) came from their kitchen with a lighted birthday cake.  We all fell to snapping pictures.  And after a cursory round of “happy birthday,” we all began eating cake.  At about 12:20 local icon David Zamora Casas showed up with his entourage and a bunch of beer to revitalize the shindig.

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(On finally dragging my ass out to the AtticRep.)

Roberto Prestigacomo is the Producing Artistic Director of the Attic Rep theatre.  I met him earlier in the year for the 2008 San Antonio Creative Capital weekend retreat.  I’m a bit embarrassed that I’ve never been to see a play at the Attic Rep.  But the last production of the year was Sam Shepard’s True West.  The piece is known to most by the filmed version staring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.  In this local production Rick Frederick plays one of the two leads.  I worked with Rick as a fellow crew member on Anne Wallace’s film we shot down on the Rio Grande, but with all the praise Rick’s been getting from his performances in the San Antonio theater scene, I had never managed to see him do his thing.  So, I headed off to the final matinee performance of True West.  As I climbed the stairs to the Attic Rep, I saw the sign.  “Performance Sold Out.”  I signed up on the waiting list, but Roberto kindly found me a seat.  It’s a small and intimate theater.  I found myself on the front row.  I looked around at the audience.  There were my next door neighbors, the artist Marlys Dietrick and her husband Michael Looney.  Sitting next to them was teacher, author, and filmmaker Frances Treviño and her husband the author John Philip Santos.

The production was tight.  Nice art design.  Rick and his co-star, Andy Thornton, were perfect as the mismatched brothers.  Andy played the character of Lee.  The wayward brother.  The character is almost always drunk, and prone to unexpected turns of violent outbursts.  A perfect and intense performance.  Rick’s character, Austin, is more complex, and his is the character who undergoes something of a transformation.  Fucking amazing job.  From nebbish to muthafucker in two acts.  Brings to mind Dustin Hoffman as the mathematician pushed too far in Straw Dogs … but with funnier dialog.

Great play. Wonderful production.  And congrats Rick and Andy for giving the audience no other choice but to rise from our seats to give that well-deserved standing ovation.

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So, Happy New Year’s.  May 2009 be a damn sight better than 2008.

It’s 1:30 in the a.m. on the first of January.

I’d planned a night of sitting here grousing at my keyboard in a high state of self-pity.  Around nine I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Deborah.  She was sitting at Ric-Ron Taco House, a delightfully cheerless 24 hour dive on Roosevelt.  She had opted out of the parties to which she had been invited and was prepared to drown her sorrows in a late night plate of huevos rancheros.  She asked if I was doing anything?  I told her I’d be right over.

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We had dinner, loads of watery coffee, and then, around eleven-thirty, I suggested we head downtown to watch the fireworks.  We parked in the old Handy Andy parking-lot.  There were families setting up tailgate celebrations with folding camp chairs.  We heard several bottles of champaign popping.  It’s a nice spot to watch the fireworks.  Last year, as I was walking my neighborhood New Year’s eve, I stopped here to admire the fireworks shooting up around the Tower of the Americas.

Deborah and I walked down to South Alamo and followed the crowds to Hemisfair Park.  It was a bit chilly, but no too bad.  As we cut across the park we gave wide berth to a goth girl in thigh-high boots and a leather mini skirt as she leaned against a live oak and vomited like a champ.  She chose her wardrobe wisely — those splashes will hose right off.

San Antonio has a ritual along the lines of Times Square.  But instead of a lighted ball dropping, we have a lighted elevator car climbing up the Tower of the Americas.  When it reaches the top, a big sign flashed from 2008 to 2009.  And then the orgy of fireworks began.  Deborah laughed and pointed out all the cellphones lifted high, snapping shots of the light show.  I would have taken a picture of the people taking pictures.  But because the iPhone’s camera has no flash (and, well, as a camera, it’s pretty lame) I went with the flow and took some low resolution smeary firework phone photos of my own.

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A truly nice way to welcome in a new year.  A spontaneous low-key adventure with one of my favorite people.

Thanks for calling me out, Deborah!  And let’s make 2009 the best year yet.

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After returning Deborah to her car at Ric-Ron I headed home to pick up the thread of this blog.  I plugged my Sony headphones (the ones I edit video with) into my iPhone, switched on the Pandora app, and tapped over to my Cockney Rejects “channel.”  I was deep into the Ramones’ version of “Chinese Rocks” (a heroin song rendered so poppy and inoffensive it could have come from the Archies) when my phone began ringing.

It was Carlos Piña.  He and Shelley had just come from Bonds 007 where they’d welcomed in 2009 with Cindy Osborne and her band, When Words Attack.  Carlos could see through my window a silvery glow off my computer monitor.  He’d planned to leave a Christmas gift on my porch, but he didn’t want me over-reacting and diving for a pistol once I heard boots on my porch.  This is Texas, and Carlos knows the score.  Thanks Carlos and Shelley for the big bag of produce from the Rio Grande Valley (and no, it isn’t not that kind of produce).

Thanks guys.

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