Stinging Nettles and LAMEinaria

Yesterday afternoon I was biking along a grassy path above the San Antonio River out near Mission Espada. There was a white blimp drifting in from the south. Not near so big as a Goodyear blimp, and absolutely unadorned by any logo or advertisements. Maybe there’s some major sporting event coming to town. Where sports are concerned I’m always the last to know, and I want to keep it that way.

The recent rains have made the levee slope along to the river as chaotic and over-grown as my front and back yards. The fact is, I don’t really care how out of control it gets around my house–you know, I love nature–but when I have to navigate through the forest of waist-high stinging nettles as I take my laundry to the line while wearing shorts and sandals, I tend to get a bit anxious. And once I hang my laundry, I really wonder if it’s a good thing that the cuffs of my jeans should be cross-fertilizing those meter-tall dandelions, as they sway (coquettishly??) in the breeze from up on the line.

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I did little more Tuesday than a bike ride, laundry, and some basic video editing on a job that needs to be finished Friday (which means I really should be working on it right now). But as I was procrastinating, I noticed that Netflix on-demand had just made Julie and Julia available. I’d talked to a few people about this, and I knew I’d find it enjoyable. And it was. A pleasant diversion.

I also watched Angels & Demons. Now I should admit that I saw The Da Vinci Code (also on-line). That one was not so bad as I’d feared. The dialogue was idiotic and overly- expository, but my expectations were so low that I actually enjoyed some of it. However, this Angels & Demons is just awful. We watch characters who are supposedly experts in high energy physics, art history, arcane Vatican lore, the history of the Italian Renaissance, etc., and they all sound like a bunch of imbeciles who were reading (and poorly at that) dialogue written by Barbara Cartland’s pool boy. I love good movies about sweeping historical conspiracies. This ain’t one of those.

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Today (Wednesday) was a meeting for the Luminaria Steering Committee to get together so we could share our opinions about the big event. You know, our opinions on what went well, and our constructive criticism on what to do better next time.

It was suggested we bring some written notes, with enough copies to go around to everyone there. I’d hammered out a rambling discourse of 600 words–I didn’t want to go over one page, single-spaced, so I held back.

Most of the obvious problems were a direct result of too much success too soon. Because of a weak economy, we had a smaller budget than last year, resulting in a smaller footprint for the event. Add to that, perfect weather which brought out record crowds (210,000, up from 180,000 last year), and it was no wonder that the place was densely packed.

Personally I was rather saddened by the slight media coverage we received (there are several reasons for this, and I’d really rather not get into any of them); however, the fact that a good portion of the press was critical, didn’t bother me so much. And those rude, spiteful, and often explicitly racist comments which readers of the Express-News added to the on-line versions of the Luminaria articles were actually pretty helpful. If you squint and hold your head just right so you can’t catch the stench and bile, there are some useful suggestions of how it could have been done better. We spoke about most of those oft-quoted concerns in today’s meeting.

Seme Jatib
(Seme Jatib performing Words into the Wind, with video backdrop produced by Erik Bosse.)

All in all, I had a blast at Luminaria. And even though there was some serious friction amongst committee members (mostly arising out of a sense of advocacy for an artist, a discipline, or a venue), by the end we have remained friends. In the three years I’ve been involved with Luminaria, I’ve had the good fortune of having met and worked with dozens of art and cultural leaders in San Antonio, many who are underpaid and overworked…and yet have decided for various reasons to take on a rather stressful volunteer gig as a Luminaria Steering Committee member.

The real question, however, is how did the participating artists and performers ultimately feel about their involvement? I know you can’t make everyone happy, but I hope I didn’t piss off too many of the 23 filmmakers who had their works presented under my watch for Luminaria 2010. Until I know for sure, I’m keeping to the shadows and having neighbor kids start up my truck every morning. They’re happy to earn a buck, and the money is well worth my mental well-being.

Oh, and make sure to check out Ms. Fisch’s piece in the current issue of the SA Current: “The Good, the Bad, and the Lame-Inaria.” I’m not suggesting she came up with the title of the piece (actually, it’s more of a story about CAM (Contemporary Arts Month)), but I can’t imagine that this is the first time Lame-Inaria has been used. I mean, really! But a quick Google search only has “lame-inaria” connected to the Current. There’s a “LAMEinaria” connected to the Luminaria FaceBook page, but I’m too lazy to track it down as to the date. Maybe it’s a Current original. I hope someone’s fast-tracking that trademark through.

Anyway, this is the second time I’ve walked into a Luminaria committee meeting on a Wednesday clutching a copy of the SA Current with something amusingly snarky concerning Luminaria. Both times, I’m the first person to have seen this news. What the fuck are all these artsy folks doing? Don’t they at least give the Current a cursory thumb-through each Wednesday over lunch? They need to get it together. It could well be that someone is writing about them.

As the meeting was ending, I slipped out the current Current and held it up for a few folks to see. One sensitive Alamo Heights matron held her hand to her mouth, eyes wide. Another fellow laughed–“Lame-Inaria, ha!” Felix Padron (director of the Office of the Cultural Affairs) just rolled his eyes, with half a smile, “Yeah, I get it.”

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