Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Imagination Series

I might be late to the party, but I just stumbled upon a rather fantastic video series called The Imagination Series. I had been looking at the Webby 2014 winners and the series had won for Drama Series. The project, which was sponsored by Bombay Sapphire gin, asked filmmakers to take a very basic script (just dialogue really) and to create a film based on the script. The videos were judged and five were chosen as winners. The Webby website linked to Room 8, the third movie of the winners. I watched it and I was hooked.

I've seen each of the five winners now and I am floored by the creativity put into the films. Each film includes some sort of object that the characters debate about opening. The lines are the same. "Don't open that", "You might regret it", "I'll take that chance", and "Would you have believed me?" are some of the lines that get repeated through all of the videos. But that's where the similarities end. Two of the videos are magical realism, one is filmmatic, one is animated, and one is dark realism. And all of them are wonderful pieces of film. Very professional.

This was such a unique idea for me. Take one script, send it out, and see what comes back. I was impressed with the diversity and imagination behind each of the videos. And I guess that's the point. The winners are: Water SongThe Mrs.Room 8CrabConcrete  I've linked to each videos Vimeo page. I recommend watching all of them for comparison. Most are only 4 or 5 minutes. Room 8 was my favorite. A little bit dark and seriously cool. A wonderful idea and a great video series.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why I Can't Have Nice Things

I am notoriously rough on my possessions. Clothes have to be able to survive both the washer and the dryer to live in my house. My shoes generally only last a year or two. I've dropped my phone three times now in the 6 months I've owned it. It's not that I mean to destroy things, I'm just clumsy and unthinking sometimes.

I've owned my beautiful Canon Elph camera for only about a year and a half. I've been careful with it. I've never dropped it. Tried to keep it clean and dry. I've even kept it out of my purse so it won't hit against my wallet. Seriously I've babied this thing. And...it's broken. I took it out to the lake a month and a half ago to take some early morning bird shots. I turned it on to have the lens instantly retract. Lens Error. I started it again...and again...and again. When I finally got the lens to stay out, the zoom won't work at all and all of the images are vignetted. I looked for camera repair places in town with no luck. And Canon will charge me $190 to send it in for them to fix. Sooo...
Meet my new camera. I've been chomping at the bit for over a month now to get a new camera. Going without has been hard. My phone just doesn't cut it. I've been reading reviews to find something in my price range. And I've been focusing on getting something that's a bit more rugged. Meet the blueberry. It's a Fujifilm FinePix XP70. It's waterproof to 33 feet, dustproof, freezeproof to 14 degrees F, and most importantly shockproof at 5 ft. Which means that I might have a chance of keeping it working for a couple of years. I played with it for a couple hours last night right after picking it up and I think I'm going to like it. The photo quality is very good, it's simple to use, I like the feel. The zoom isn't anywhere near as good as my previous. But it's a fine camera that going to be great to get outdoors with. I'll even take it snorkeling and diving with me. It isn't quite as amazing as my Elph was, but it might, just might be Catproof.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Work is hard
Distractions are plentiful
And Time is short

Adam Hochschild

I was reading a really interesting New York Times article about education recently. I was half way through the article when I decided that I knew what it was saying and moved on to a different article. Again I read half of the next and moved on. The initials TL:DR popped into my head. And that's when I knew I had a problem.

I hate the initials TL:DR, which stand for Too Long, Didn't Read. I hate them because of what they say about our society, about our loss of concentration. I should be able to read a 2 page article without getting impatient. If I can't concentrate for more than 5 minutes, that scares me. I shouldn't have to have my information fed to me in less than 140 characters. Heck, I shouldn't have information fed to me at all. I should actively seek it.

About three years ago I noticed that I'm losing my ability to focus, both when reading and in life in general. I'm struggling more with concentration, a vital part of learning. I jump from thought to thought.  It's more obvious at work, if I'm not interested in a topic. I just can't bring myself to think in-depth about things. It started slow, barely noticeable. I would put my book down after twenty minutes. I would grumble as I went to the second page of an article. Now I get impatient with a YouTube video that lasts more than 7 minutes. None of this is good for me. I want to create things in my life. I want to study and learn. I have to have both time and focus to do those things. So I'm going to pare down, get rid of some of those distractions that keep me from focusing. First to go: social media.

I won't be shutting down my Facebook page, like Jeff did, but I won't really be spending much time there. I feel guilty for that. I know that there will be birthdays that I'll miss, and celebrations that I won't know about. I know that I'll miss updates from friends but so much of Facebook lately seems to be recycled shared posts. I'll still probably check once a week or so just to see what each of my friends is up to, but I won't be responding. And I'm sorry for that. I'm weaning myself off Twitter, something that is harder than I expected. I'm even staying away from news sources like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. I want to refocus, and those sites aren't geared towards focus.

I don't want to lose contact with people so I'll be focusing more on email in the future. I'll still check personal messages on Facebook. I'll try to stay in touch with people. And I'll hopefully be blogging more. I want to focus on writing. I want to study more. I'm hoping that dropping some of the distractions from my life, will let me focus more on personal connections, not just liking something you've shared from another person's page. As the quote above says, distractions are plentiful and life is short. I'm going to see how I use my time as I strip out those distractions. I may just waste it, but I'll be doing it in hopefully more constructive ways.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Brady and Grant

A year or so ago I wrote a rather tragically maudlin post about passion and madness and showed a photograph of Charles Baudelaire that I'd always loved. You can find that post here. I was thinking about that photo again because I stumbled across another photo that I've loved all my life and can't tell you why.

I'm reading a book about writers and artists and dignitaries crossing paths in the past. The friendships that developed from a chance meeting or a business arrangement between two famous authors that is rarely known. An 8 year old Henry James sits for a portrait by Mathew Brady because his father wants a photo. A literary critic happens upon a lunch with Walt Whitman. And the current story is about the collaboration between Mathew Brady (photographer extraordinare) and Ulysses S. Grant. The first photo show is the one below. One of General Grant at his base camp.

From the Britannica 

I saw this image decades ago and instantly became fascinated with Grant. Perhaps it is Brady's skill as a photographer that made me want to know more about this man. Perhaps it's the dark but bold look on Grant's face. I've seen other pictures of the General, many of them by Brady, but none affect me the way this one does. I remember clearly looking at the picture and instantly having a gut reaction of fascination. I have a copy of Grant's autobiography waiting to be read. He was a deeply flawed individual but those often make the most interesting people. I've read accounts of his life but I've never read his own words. I know that he died days after finishing it. When his name was mentioned as a book lover my ears perked up. But before I knew all that, I was still fascinated. That one image was enough to make want to know more about a very unusual man. That says a lot about a photograph.