Monday, October 09, 2017

The Strip Mall Jesus and First Church of Perpetual Video


Post-Script: Inspiration for this short-short story, my submission for Typing Assignment No. 10, was from remnants of a dream I'd had, last week. It seems I've have episodic dreams over the years, set in the same or similar environs, that evolves over time as my life experience and employment changes. The dream I'm certain was based on a TV repair shop I'd worked in, decades ago, in a nearby strip mall, at the corner of Eubank and Menaul Blvds here in Albuquerque. While the owner of the shop wasn't exactly a messiah-type, mixed in this dream is also something to do with small storefront churches I've been in over the years.

Typed on my aunt's repaired-as-good-as-it's-gonna-get Royal 10, now situated on my office desk and ready to deliver back to Colorado, when I have the time and the weather cooperates.

How about you? Do you get inspired to write creatively from dreams? Perhaps this is another topic for the Typewriter Video Series. Hmm...

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Sunday, October 08, 2017

Report from Rio Grande Insurgency Contingent

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Typing Assignment No.10

Here we are, already at our tenth typing assignment. It's been a fun project for me, and I hope also for you. The first few assignments seemed obvious, but as the series progressed, I wisely fell upon the resources of my imaginative wife, who has assisted me in some of these latter subjects.

Thinking it over, it seemed the right time to do a free-form assignment: participants can write a one-pager on whatever they want. Some people were late to the party and missed previous assignment deadlines - for them, this is an opportunity to post their already completed work. For others, you've perhaps been working on your own project, and could use this time to share your progress. Whatever the reason, I hope you enjoy this open "un-assignment" typing assignment.

As with previous assignments, post the link to a publicly-accessible image of your typed piece in one of three ways: 1) In the comments section below; 2) In the comments to the accompanying YouTube video (see above); or 3) Email me the image as an attachment, to:

The deadline for this assignment will be Sunday, October 15. Have fun. I look forward to reading your work.


Sunday, October 01, 2017

Thoughts After Seeing California Typewriter

California Typewriter001 California Typewriter002

Post-Script: I experienced one of those rare moments when, stepping outside the theater into the late-day's sunset, I beheld the New Mexico vista spread before me in that golden light, with thoughts from the film still bouncing around inside my head. Upon returning home I immediately brought this old but wonderfully functional 1930 Underwood Portable out into the front patio and proceeded to write as spontaneous of a movie review as I could manage, only finishing after dark to the light of an oil lamp.

There were four people in the theater for this showing, including my wife and I. This is not so much a comment on the film itself as it is on movie-going in general, in the year 2017, with all the other entertainment diversions to choose from. I understand people want to be entertained, want a distraction from their ordinary lives, which popular movies often provide. But this offering, while marketed as a documentary, I feel is more cerebral than most films since, as I indicate in the typecast, it's not as much about typewriters (which it also is) as it is about our relationship with technology; and a relationship that's constantly changing. It takes some thinking to get the gist of, which is perhaps not what people go to movies for. Maybe it takes too much effort to appreciate; but appreciate it I did.

Every criticism I'd read ahead of time about the film - the length, the lack of graphics introducing characters' names, the supposed lack of a unifying theme - I discounted before the film was half over. It doesn't take a student of film criticism to understand that superficial elements are often symbolic of deeper truths. The Eagles' song Hotel California, as I indicate in the typecast, isn't about the west coast hospitality industry; the song's title is a vehicle to something richer. Pink Floyd's The Wall album isn't about the masonry and construction industry, but symbolic of something deeper: the inner walls we erect. Similarly, California Typewriter isn't just about the superficial story of a struggling repair shop in 2017, but has undertones addressing the deeper issues of societal impact from technological change, and our relationship with changing technology over time, and the role of personal creativity. I liked it, and feel all the better for seeing it. I hope you do, too.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

California Typewriter in ABQ

We finally have confirmed showing times for the film California Typewriter in Albuquerque. It will be showing at the UA High Ridge theatre starting this coming Friday, September 29. I'm excited! Now, I need to decide if I'll sit in the back row and type my movie review real-time. Should I bring the Hermes Rocket or one of the Brother-made machines? Hmm. Just kidding.

Stay tuned sometime next week for a movie review.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Bike-In Coffee at Old Town Farm

Bikes, Old Town Farm

I've not exactly been a faithful, dedicated bicyclist, especially these last few years. Which in part explains why I've also gained a few unwanted pounds. And when I have cycled, it's never been with the idea of performance cycling. I'm more of a comfort bike rider.

In high school I started with a 3-speed English Racer, in black with gold pin striping and a hub shifter. I'd try to keep up with my older brother who rode the bright-yellow Schwinn Varsity, a bike that by today's standards is just a heavy hunk of steel, but back then was the shizzle. But when he left home for the military, I moved up to the Schwinn, riding it all around the northeast part of town, including down the recently widened Juan Tabo Boulevard, 3-lanes-wide in both directions but devoid of traffic. You couldn't get away with that today without becoming another dead cyclist statistic.

Later, I commuted to work in an early incarnation of a mountain bike, which by today's standards is just an urban bike, as it lacked any kind of suspension. It was a good choice, as I like the more relaxed riding position and the handlebars, over the Binelli racing bike I thought I needed.

Later on, I did get a road bike, and rode it for a few years, but then the itch for a recumbent bit badly and, limited in budget, settled on a BikeE AT, which I enjoyed for some years, and with it made some of my longest rides, including a 50-mile loop into the White Sands Missile Range to see the Trinity Site.

I loved the semi-recumbent riding posture of the BikeE, still do in fact, but then the motor scooter bug bit, then the motorcycle bug, then the trike bug. And now I'm back to a scooter, while the BikeE languishes in my brother's garage, with the seat bracket broken when it fell over. BikeE are no longer in business; perhaps I should see about sourcing a replacement part for that seat bracket.

But for the last half-decade my wife and I have had Townie comfort bikes, mine with the somewhat thinner 700cc tires and rigid aluminum frame; while hers has 26 inch, 1-1/4" tires and an air shock front suspension. Though it's not a recumbent, I'm amazed at how easy that bike is to ride across town. Not having to lean forward onto one's wrists and crane your neck up to see, the riding position is quite good.

We don't have room in our garage to store the bikes, and the storage shed is full of whatever people like to store in sheds, besides garden tools. So we keep the bikes leaning against the north side of the shed, out of the sun and partially protected by the shed's roof's overhang, but also cover both bikes with a large barbecue grill cover. This works pretty well to protect the bikes against the ravages of staying outdoors year-round.

So yesterday morning all I had to do was dust off the spider's webs and air up the tires. And where were we headed on this beautiful autumn morning, you might ask? Why, down to Old Town and the Rio Grande Valley of Albuquerque, to have breakfast at Old Town Farm.

No, we weren't going to ride all that way and back. Are you crazy? It's something like 8 miles each way, and uphill all the way back. Didn't I mention that I'm totally out of shape? Plus, I had a lunch appointment in the area a few hours later. So we loaded the bikes in the back of my truck and drove down to Old Town, parking behind the Albuquerque Museum and cycling down Mountain Road, west of Rio Grande Boulevard, into the neighborhoods of the old Saw Mill district.

I think if I could live anywhere in town, it would be this neighborhood, with its old, adobe-style homes with their courtyards and mature landscaping and the nearness to downtown and the Rio Grande. Especially this time of year, just before it starts to get cold, I was reminded how wonderful this town can be.

Albuquerque has over 400 miles of bike trails and paths. One of those trails runs east/west, parallel to Interstate 40, and skirts the north edge of Old Town Farm, an urban-based working farm. On weekends, from about 8am to 2pm, they host a bike-friendly coffee and snack gathering, with a food truck providing a light fare made from locally-grown produce, and verdant surroundings within which to enjoy one's stop.

I love the idea of this secretive, bike-friendly snack stop deep in the heart of the valley, tucked away in these lazy neighborhoods and accessed by bike path. The farm is currently building a permanent cafe building, from locally-sourced, repurposed building materials, which will provide a facility to offer more complete meals.

I've never been the kind of cyclist who wears spandex, yellow jerseys and clomps around in clip-on biking shoes. Except that one winter when I rode the recumbent around town, but then it was just the spandex leggings to stay warm. And the clip-in shoes were more for pedaling efficiency going uphill, one of the disadvantages of recumbents (you can't stand on the pedals, like with a conventional frame, to get lots of torque). We like more casual clothes for cycling, that enables us to fit cycling into one's lifestyle, the idea being that it's not a particularly grueling exercise, just a fun way to spend the time and get around. And when you do get to your destination, you're dressed in more appropriate attire for whatever you need to do. So, did we feel a bit like posers, as we rode into the farm on our casual Townie bikes, dressed as normal people, instead of the hardcore cyclists with their fancy gear? No, not a bit. There are all kinds of cyclists these days, besides the Ford-or-Chevy, democrat-or-republican bipolarity of mountain bike-or-road bike.

It might seem like cheating to some people, the idea of trucking your bikes across town for a short ride. But we intend on revisiting Old Town Farm, and in the process perhaps making a longer ride, like cycling along the main north/south trail that parallels the river, which can take you as far north as the village of Corrales and as far south as the Isleta Reservation.

Of course, the other thought that struck me while enjoying the idyllic beauty of the Rio Grande valley was how cool it would be to motor scooter to this place! Perhaps another day.

Post-Script: Here are a few snaps I took along the way.

Old Town Farm Pond
Old Town Farm Gazebo
Old Town Farm Truck
Shed, Old Town Farm

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Thoughts on Micro-Documentaries and Movies

It's interesting how reading some seemingly innocuous comment can suddenly trigger a strong creative urge. That happened to me, several weeks ago, after reading the comments to a posting on Kirk Tuck's The Visual Science Lab blog.

The blog article was about the book The Age of the Image, by Stephen Apkon, whose thesis is that we live in an age when, as Kirk Tuck states:

(W)e are moving from the written word to the language of motion pictures. The author makes a convincing point that, in the near future, to be truly literate will mean understanding the grammar and language of video; both how to decode it and how to create it.

In the comments to the article, reader ODL Designs wrote:

I had the idea, when watching some footage of farmers reduce the rat population in their fields using dogs, of making micro documentaries explaining interesting things like that.

Boom. Like that, it hit me. The idea of making "micro documentaries." If video is equivalent to the "written language" of our day, then perhaps we should start our journey toward visual literacy by practicing the equivalent of the haiku or vignette; not feature-length "cinema," in all of its pretentiousness, but shorter works whose length is not driven by some archaic measurement standard like the size of a reel of film, or the attention span of an audience, or marketing standards from nearly a century ago.

I know what has hampered me in the past, when considering my journey toward visual literacy, is this feeble notion that a person can take up some modest assortment of video equipment and suddenly become a "film maker." Or, similarly, that such a fledgling novice should consider setting their sights on becoming like a small-scale version of a Hollywood film company. As if there were only one model for how the individual can employ the visual arts as a means of communication. That model of the classic Hollywood film system is outdated and irrelevant. Forget it. It would be like following the model of the newspaper printing business as a means for reaching a wider audience on the Internet via blogging. That was then, this is now. Heck, even blogging itself is a bit passe these days.

I have this sense that, as creatives, we often bite off larger projects than we can chew. Sure, long-term goals are important, but I'm sensing the importance of doing something for today. Projects small enough to complete in one day's time, from conception, to execution to editing and post-production. Maybe it's a simple thing, just one solid thought or idea. How would that work on video? What would be the elements of visual language you'd use? Would you use narration, or let the montage of scenes do the talking?

I get the sense, from talking with other fledgling "film makers," that short pieces are looked down upon as somehow less than feature-length films. As if they are mere student works, kiddie practice, something you need to grow out of to be a big-boy auteur. This argument makes little sense if we consider the short-story writer versus the novelist. Are short stories somehow intrinsically inferior to novels? What about poetry? Are poems inferior because of their frequent brevity? I don't think so. And, I suspect, neither do you.

What short-story writers and poets often do is publish their work in collections. Now here's an idea worth considering. For the creator of video "shorts," or micro-documentaries, this makes a lot of sense, especially considering many pieces could be grouped together by common themes or undercurrents.

So, on the day that I read Kirk Tuck's blog article, I was struggling with repairing my aunt's old Royal Model 10 typewriter (which is still on my work bench, yet to be completely sorted) when it struck me that here's a subject for a micro-documentary: a selfie-documentary (selfiementary?) of my inner struggle with being a barely-skilled, fledgling typewriter technician, having promised my aunt I could fix her machine yet evidently not being able to do so. I immediately knew how I wanted to approach the video, a documentary-style interview piece where I'm verbally confessing my inner feelings as if answering some off-camera interviewer's questions, intercut with clips of me fiddling with the machine and its inner workings.

I also knew I wanted to record the video in black-&-white, and immediately knew to use the Panasonic Lumix camera's Dynamic Monochrome film style, which gives dense shadows and hard, contrasty footage. Sure, I could have "graded" color footage in post to achieve black-&-white, but it wouldn't be as good as what those little Lumix cameras can do themselves.

Another stylistic consideration was the choice of lens. Since I'd just started using the 7Artisans 25mm f/1.8 manual focus lens, I thought it would be perfect for a more film-like image, since it renders like an older lens design and mechanically focuses like a cinema lens with a stepless aperture ring.

The piece finally came together in my mind when I realized that, in repeated test-typings on the Royal typewriter, I'd been using the phrase "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country," which suggested the video's title, and implied an undercurrent of responsibility to my aunt to somehow come to her aid, in the repair of her machine.

No, this isn't "Arte." It lacks the finesse and sophistication of a more scholarly approach. It's not recorded in 4K - the new litmus test - with a Red camera. Heck, it's just YouTube, for gosh sakes. But I like it. I like the spontaneity, the creative inspiration that spurned this piece. I like that it represents, to me, a working model for how to proceed forward with micro-documentaries as an elegantly simple way to communicate one concrete idea in a brief few minutes of the viewers' time.

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