Marranitos and Iron-Age Spears

My current blogging apathy has reached an all-time low. The last entry had loads of typos. This isn’t too unusual for me. But in the past I make it a point to reread my posting the following morning. That’s when I shamefacedly move quickly to fix the dumb little errors (and those greater and more embarrassing mega errors). But lately, on these rare occasions when I even bother to post something, I just hit the “publish” button and walk away from it.

Sorry. That last one was a horror.

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It was a good day Friday. I’m happy that the weather is warming. It looks like we’ve got a few days of warm afternoons and mild nights coming this way.

The second annual Luminaria Arts Night in San Antonio is coming up fast. And me and Veronica Hernandez, as co-chairs of the film committee, are trying to firm up the venues for film screenings. The current idea is for all the films (except for several site-specific installations) to be screened at the Instituto Cultural de Mexico at Hemisfair Park. Thursday we met with the directors of both the Instituto as well as the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs. Also in attendance was a high honcha from the CE Group, the marketing firm who are, once again, wrangling the infrastructure needs as well as providing the advertising campaign.

And again, at nine Friday morning, we had another meeting with the addition of representatives of the Slab Cinema and the Luminaria Logistical committee. We’re locked with all the needs for the indoor screenings. And now we’re working the kinks out of the outdoor screenings. There are a few wrinkles, but everyone involved so far has been enthusiastic and very accommodating.

We have a location in the Plaza de Mexico, behind the Instituto, where we want to hang a huge screen. But there is a second wall I want to hang another screen for works not needing a sound system. Ms Franco-Palafox, the director of the Instituto, told me that they had a screen in storage. If I wanted to come back at three in the afternoon they’d let me have a look at it.

This gave me time to pick up sweet potato empanadas and marranitos (Mexican pig-shaped gingerbread cakes) and have a late breakfast with some coffee before taking in a bike ride down to Mission Espada. Windy as hell — a bitch on the ride out, but a pure joy on the return leg.

When I returned to the Instituto, we took the screen out to the plaza and unrolled it. It’s a bit wrinkled and has some minor staining. They can fix it. The screen is 22 by 11 feet. (Later in the day while watching a film at the Guadalupe for Cine Festival, I realized that their screen is about the same dimensions.) It will accommodate the most extreme of Hollywood aspect ratio. More radical than 16:9 (what we pretty much get with HD TV), I assume it will handle Cinemascope. And now I’m thinking if we can find two projectors, we can give an artist (or more) a chance to present a two channel presentation — essentially a diptych.

We’re still working all this out. But it’s great fun to find unexpected resources.

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An empanada and a marranito proved insufficient. What I really wanted were enchiladas at Titos. I’d forgotten its was First Friday, and food and craft vendors were already setting up on Alamo Street in the King William neighborhood for the crowds later that night.

I walked by a young couple setting up their hot dog cart. A gaunt middle aged man on a bicycle was talking with them. “Yeah,” bike guy said. “I run my own stand near Travis Park.” The young guy wanted to know what was selling best downtown. “I do all beef dogs,” bike guy replied. The young man nodded. “We sell Nathan’s here.” The bike guy stroked his beard. “Nathan makes a good dog,” he finally said with a certain sense of gravity. “A good dog.”

Hot dogs were the last thing in my mind. I sidestepped the frankfurter conversation and hurried across the street to Titos. When I took a seat in an empty booth I placed my order without even checking the menu.

When my food arrived, I snapped a picture with my iPhone and posted the image to a Twitter update, informing those who cared (and many who surely did not) that I was about to tuck into Tex-Mex heaven.

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And here we have one of those wonderful San Antonio moments. You know, when you realize that the seventh largest city in the United States is really a small town.

Midway through my meal Russ returned a call I made earlier. I asked if he intended to make any of the screenings of Cine Festival. He said that he was given a free pass, but he would be out of town for the weekend. However, he’d given his pass to one of his animation students who had a piece screening at Cine Festival in a group block of student work. And speaking of student filmmakers, who should walk in the door of Titos but the accomplished teenage filmmaker Sterling Abrigo with a friend in tow. Sterling has made films with at least three student filmmaking groups. We had a short chat about his recent projects. And on my walk home, I checked my Twitter account via my iPhone. Fellow Twitterer Sam Lerma (a former resident of my neighborhood as well as one of the best local filmmakers) had responded to my Twitter photo post by correctly identifying my lunch as Titos Enchiladas Tejanas.

That’s my Friday San Antonio Film Community Special Moment. The only thing missing was Ray Santisteban, San Antonio filmmaker extraordinaire, who can often be found chowing down at Titos.

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Thursday the Cine Festival kicked off. Four days of great films. One of the films I’ve previewed as a judge that impressed me was the feature documentary released in 2008 titled “The Garden.” It’s by Scott Hamilton Kennedy and concerns a 14-acre community garden in the heart of inner city Los Angeles, where the mostly poor Latino neighborhood has to fight developers who want to bulldoze their patchwork of allotments. You already know they’re doomed because the filmmaker says it up front. Some of the most impressive shots are in the beginning with the helicopter footage of flying over these two square blocks that look like some of the more fertile back country of interior Mexico which has been tilled and cared for by generations of campesinos. Then we pull back and see the hideous sprawl of industrial warehouses and scrap yards. And in the smog-chocked distance, we see the high-rise buildings of downtown LA, with the mountains beyond. Next we cut to a quick tour of the plots, worked by over three hundred families. We see patches of squash, lettuce, and beans. There are fruit-bearing banana and papaya trees. Corn fields. Little plots with herbs, culinary and medicinal. As they continue their struggle, winning battle after legal battle, you begin to wonder how the families working this community garden will eventually lose. And towards the end, when the support grows national, what with Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters making obligatory press stops at the beleaguered community farm; and then we have the Hollywood contingent of Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Danny Glover, Joan Baez, and Willie Nelson; we have to begin to wonder how could they fail with all this powerful support? It’s a beautiful documentary. Heart-wrenching, yet ultimately empowering. Smart and cleverly edited. It’s screening this Sunday afternoon at 1:00. If you can’t make it, make sure to place it in your NetFlix queue.

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Lately I’ve been lucky to work a temp gig out of town at an auction house where I can take advantage of my decades of expertise in the world of collectable books. I’m paid well to write copy describing rare first editions and such.

Because of the plummeting economy, I’m a bit troubled if this job will continue. I do hope so.

But it’s not just books. Another department on the same floor is the entertainment division. One of the more striking items I’ve seen over on their side of the building is a prop for the movie 300. It’s a foam and latex dummy who is clearly dead. The poor bastard has an iron-age style spear sticking out of his mouth. Not stuck in his mouth. Out. Through some implausible series of misadventures this fellow has been stabbed somewhere on his back or, um, backside, and the spear has made its way out of his mouth either by happenstance or by design.

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It’s incredibly cool. Whoever made this prop put hours into the design. It’s uncannily realistic. I took several photos with my phone. And later in the night, while pondering one of my pictures, my sister stumbled on a photograph on the internet of Frank Miller (who created the graphic novel from which the movie was adapted). There can be no doubt. This dead man prop IS Miller. A cameo, of sorts.

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Maybe I need to actually watch this film. I assume that it is a tedious journey into over-produced CG-driven bullshit. But, you know, I’m kind of curious now. Is this life-like dummy based on a real-life character? Does Miller actually act in the film?

On a related note, several days ago my friend, filmmaker Carlos Pina, was hanging out at my place. I explained the 300 dummy. And when I showed him the photo he had to agree with my sister. It was Frank Miller. Carlos’ little girl, Rockie, was looking over my shoulder when I showed Carlos the grizzly photo. She thought it pretty cool. And while Carlos was using my computer to send a couple of important emails, Rockie had me take a picture of her as if a big iron-age spear was sticking out of her throat.

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That girl cracks me up.

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