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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Digital Non-Communication

I may claim to be a writer, but I ain't writ on this blog for nigh on two weeks (sorry--just channeling a bit of hope that True Grit will have been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar when the announcements are issued in a few hours). Nevertheless, this is my 900th post on this blog. I am re-commencing my second blog, so as not to clutter this one with posts focused on television and cinema: Camera C. I had begun that blog with the intention of using it to post pictures of special events in my life, but as I seldom take photographs, it has been languishing untouched for over two years. And since one of my great passions is film, I figured that I'd return to it with that mission.

I am glad I can type. When I slammed my left hand in the door of a borrowed minivan last week, however, I had a moment or two of wondering whether that would still be the case. My palm was indoors, my fingertips were out in the cold, and my fingers were sandwiched in the gasketted steel between the rim of the window and the crash frame. I do not seem to have suffered major long-term ill effects, though the knuckle of my "birdie" finger is somewhat creaky. Somehow, I don't think using one hand to close a door on the other was what Jesus was talking about.

For some reason, I was off the emailing list of my friend Merry when he and his wife sent out the annoucement of the surprise early arrival of their seven-pound son almost two weeks ago. I only found out about the advent of my new honorary nephew, Augustus Wiggle, on Sunday morning when I was reading the announcement insert in the church bulletin. Went over to see him after church. AW, he's a cutie. Full head of black hair and teeny little hands and feet. I would post pictures, but as aforementioned, I'm not good about carrying my camera. You'll just have to believe my written report of his attractiveness.

Had some technical difficulties in transfering the files onto my laptop of the job-talks I'm filming at Georgetown, and lost minutes in the middle when a cable came unplugged. I'm going to have to patch together the digital "tape" from what remains to me as well as from the files (lower quality resolution and sound) given me by the other camera people. There goes my chance at a documentary Academy Award! Darn.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I’m A Writer

Today, at the age of 36 years, 1 month and 14 days, I can finally call myself a writer. Sure, I’ve had the odd article or editorial published before--and there is, of course, the hundreds of pages' worth of writing contained in this blog--but I’ve never been paid for any of my work. Financial recognition is part of my definition of claiming a particular profession.

This morning, the online company through which I’ve submitted several short essays on communication sent me a check, because people have actually been reading my work! The vast sum I earned? $3.10. Hey, it’s not a multi-million-dollar book deal. But it’s a start!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Fix-Up Follies

A good talker I may be. A good caulker I am not. I can putty, I can grout, I can drill, I can sand, and paint, too, but I’m a bad hand with the caulk gun. It looks like a toddler trying to ice a cake--festoons everywhere but where you want it to be.

A man who claimed to be a carpenter installed the bathroom cabinet doors this past week. A walrus would have done a better job. We oysters—my brother and I—are having to fix the sloppy situation. We took most of the doors off, removed half the hinges (which weren’t flush, one factor in making the doors stand inappropriately ajar when hung), filled the holes and sanded them down…for the second time. Many rude words have crossed our lips describing the incompetence of the so-called professional who monkeyed up the works. Mums has fled town to the safety of Rhode Island.

Bob and I watched a Buster Keaton movie (“College”) after we’d tired of sanding and were waiting for the oil paint to dry. Appreciation of the already-witty slapstick was aided by the consumption of certain mellowing beverages. We hope our attempt at reattaching the doors will be successful tomorrow (later today—we’re not setting any alarms). There is no plan “B.”

But there is plenty of pizza to feed our weary souls.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Aimless, Angsty Books & Movies

Grandmommy and I differ about movies.

She doesn’t see any use in them, says they’re “silly” and can’t understand how I’ve enjoyed them since toddlerhood. I don’t think there was any trauma associated with movies in her past that turned her against them—it’s just that she’s always been reality-focused, and sees more value in real life than in make-believe. Whereas I am unabashedly fond of fiction. Given that she’s pretty much ideal in every other respect, I can’t call this a flaw in her character.

She’s seen only two movies in the last 50 years (I don’t exaggerate—I know one, I don’t remember the name of the other), whereas I’ve seen two in the last four days.

I love the concert of visual images with music with effects (both audio and video) with acting and storytelling. I love that what can’t be created on stage by even the most innovative choreographers and set designers can be realized on screen, that hundreds of people—from makeup artists to background painters—have to work together creatively in fits and starts of months and even years to achieve what should be a seamless, natural narrative of two to three hours, refined to a neat window on worlds the viewer may never have experienced or even dreamed might exist.

The Soviets considered film to be the perfect collective art form, though their perspective on the cinema as a necessary propaganda tool tended to overshadow its entertainment properties and reduce storylines to didactic recitations of communist values. What is equally tiresome to me (besides this) is the tendency of some current directors [mostly indie] to attempt emotional depth using indefinite pauses in action and dialogue, and vague, somewhat quirky characterizations; these almost invariably seem aimless, and leave even a relatively impractical person like myself wondering, “Why on earth did I shell out good money for this crap?”

Of course, novelists nowadays are not immune from the same foibles. I picked up what seemed a promising, pleasantly light read at the library a week or so ago, and the almost mechanical, predictably tragical, “serious” scenarios that one, then another, cardboard cutout character agonized, shouted, grumbled and wept through were almost too much to bear. When the author introduced a stereotypical white-collar hypocritical and judgmental “Christian” into a moral dilemma, I just about got my eyes stuck backwards I rolled them so hard. Eventually, the cardboard people verbally defeat the stuffed people, openmindedness wins out, with just enough sorrow to keep things “real,” or so the author (and her editor) must have thought when they approved this yawn-worthy digital clockwork (analog clockwork would imply too much emotional investment by them or we readers] for the presses.

Gosh, it sucked—not because it was offensive—but because it was banal. I just didn’t care what happened to any of them—they could have all taken poison at the end, or had an orgy, or sailed off into the sunset, or gone their separate ways: it would have all been the same. At least I hadn’t paid anything to read the book—nor, to tell the truth, to watch its celluloid cousin. But millions were wasted—both in money and man-hours—making the movie, while only a couple of people frittered away their time writing and editing the book. Perhaps Grandmommy does have a point about movies being silly…

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Year in Review/The Year in Preview

2010 was difficult. Losing Daddy and Granddaddy within three months of one another—there are no words to approximate the disorienting effects of these events, or to properly express the gratitude to God I have for getting me through them.

So, it is with much trepidation I even consider listing a set of ambitions for this year, as we none of us know how enormously our lives can change—either for ill or for good—in a moment.

Nonetheless, here are my goals for the Year of Our Lord 2011:

1. Start, and be well on the way to finishing, my dissertation.
2. Visit Ireland, Canada, and the Czech Republic--or three other countries to which I've never been before. (This one’s a repeat from last year, but now I have a formal invitation to stay with a friend in Prague!)
3. Buy a house.
4. Acquire a friendly, adult cat [Dependent entirely on fulfillment of goal #3, as I refuse to keep an animal in my present apartment, and buying a house will mean I am solvent enough to afford to keep a pet.]
5. See at least a dozen pieces of my non-jewelry artwork sold in a gallery.
6. Have a book proposal accepted by a reputable English-language publisher.
7. Pay off at least half of my financial debt to my mom.
8. Continue my personal physical fitness training and develop decent abs that I won’t be ashamed to show off come swimsuit season!
9. Go horseback riding through Rock Creek Park.
10. Splash in a pool underneath a pretty waterfall in the mountains.