Archive - 2005

Probot vs. Postal Service

Here's my second (or third if you count the little test clip) video piece included, embedded, enclosed, in this blog. It's not a vlog, it's a blog that can, does, and will include media, and you'll be able to look at it with iTunes or FireAnt or that sorta thing.

Anyway, this little piece is called "Probot vs. The Postal Service." - it's basically a mashup, a juxtaposition of a video with a a different song than what original went with it. Probot is a sort of metal supergroup that includes Lemmy from Motorhead and Dave Grolsch of Nirvana. The original video also includes local Portland softporn legends The Suicide Girls and the original song was called "Shake Your Blood," I think. It's typical cockrock bullshit. I couldn't stand it, and even though the imagery raised my blood pressure, I also just got angry every time I saw it. So I got the idea of layering a totally different sort of song over it, as an experiment in detournement. The song - well, you'll see. I think it worked pretty well and it's pretty funny. I didn't change the audio at all, and I only changed the video by altering the speed in about 5 places in order to make some things sync up for more humorous effect.

I was just about to post this and then decided maybe it needs more explanation. Why did I do this? Aren't I just replacing one pop song with another and by using the visuals as-is just perpetuating the sexism in the original? I think to think that one would have to not really pay attention to the lyrics and feel of the new song. The Postal Service song is a great example of "Emo", which, in case you haven't heard, is a sort of sub-genre of independent pop music that is well-known for the open, honest display of feelings. It's antithetical to the sort of macho, chauvinist posturing that bands like Probot, and so much other rock music, display all the time, especially the medium of music videos, depending on objectification of women and a front of power and domination. So just the idea of Lemmy mouthing lines like "when I'm missing you to death" is really funny and thought-provoking, making a critique of the sexist fantasy in the original video just by drawing attention to the contast.

So, there you go, that's why I did it.

By the way, a technical note - I haven't had very many complaints about being able to play these files; I've been encoding them in mpeg-4 format, which is supposedly a standard, but, somehow mpeg-4s made on a Mac are different than those made on Windoze. So some windoze users have trouble, especially if they don't have a recent installation of Quicktime. Other (free) cross-platform players that should work are VLC and mPlayer.

Bugmenot is pretty cool. It's a site that gives you fake accounts to registration-required sites, so you don't have to register to get content (like on the New York Times site, etc.) What a great idea.

New Amnesty International Investigations on Ciudad Juarez Situation

I just found a long article (which I've only skimmed so far) about Amnesty International's recent trip to Juarez and Chihuahua to revisit the femicide situation there and assess if progress is being made. Sounds like they have, and that the new governor is actually visibly better than the old one. Amazing.

Get Your Katrina On

Get Your War On brings us a special Hurricane Katrina edition that is, as usual, excellent sarcastic political satire in cartoon form.

Music Come Upon By Accident

I should have been continuing to wrap up my Juarez doc, but I spent a couple hours last night and today doing a little video that I've been planning to do for a week or so, made from clips I've shot with my digital still camera (which can take little videos) over the last few months.

I call it "Incidental Music."

It's all music that I just sort of accidentally experienced, and was able to whip out my camera to capture.

All of the bits are from Portland except for the first one, which is from Mexico, on the way from Mexico City to the ruins of Teotihuancan. The second is shot from the east bank of the Williamette River, looking across the water towards downtown and hearing, all that way, the Violent Femmes play at the Bite of Oregon festival. Then there's the bike/dance troupe called The Sprockettes, and then some members of The Trash Mountain Boys, and other musicians, doing a little improv bicyclized version of La Bamba - "Zoo Bomba" at a brunch a couple weekends ago, and finally some footage of The Golden Greats, some friends that started a pretty entertaining funk band while I was out of town. I got to see them play at a party I was at.

This is one of the only videos I have edited completely outside of the world of DV. So it was kind of weird. I'm not too happy with the crunchiness of the titles as they turned out on the encoded-for-interweb file. But the whole thing is pretty lo-fi. my still cam shoots in some AVI photojpeg codec, 15 fps, half-res, mono 8-bit audio. but despite these specs it sounds and looks okay in its original form. and not even that bad here. I just with the titles were a little sharper. oh well.

anyway, enjoy. This represents slices of some of the really fun times I've had this summer, symbolized and epitomized by live musical serendipity. There's almost nothing better than just stumbliing across great music.

Zapatistas, Better Off, or Not?

When I was in Chiapas this summer, there was one thing I kept wondering: are the Zapatista people better off for being Zapatistas, or not? An article in today's New York Times addresses just that, though I'm taking it with a grain of salt, like anything in the media.

The conclusion the reporter makes is that things aren't much different between Zapatista and government supporters, and in fact some have left the Zapatista ranks, lured away by government aid programs. I saw myself that life is still very hard for the indigenous people in Zapatista territory. However, it also seemed like there was lots of progress, especially in terms of health care that the Zapatistas are making available through clinics and "microclinics." And besides that, I am reminded of something mentioned by Subcommandante Marcos, who freely states in his recent writings that, yes, things are still very dismal for the Zapatistas, but there is one important difference: now they have hope, and pride. This is something not quantifiable and hence not as easy for a publication like the New York Times to report on. It's not as easy to measure as the thousands of pesos being poured into Chiapas by the federal government or the numbers of troops still occupying military bases there.

Katrina Vlog Coverage and the Vlogosphere/Indymedia (Dis)connect

Once again the excellent blog about videoblogs, We Are The Media, gets me thinking with a great collection of links to vlogs that are covering the Katrina aftermath. What I'm thinking is, well, compare and contrast Indymedia with the more journalistic of the vloggers. There is a lot of very similar rhetoric about freeing the media and citizen journalism. However I don't see as much ideology in the vlogosphere. There are vloggers of all different political persuasions, and many are apolitical. I feel like Indymedia may have marginalized itself to the point where it is only for already very committed activists. The vlogosphere may be a chance to preach to more than the choir. So the questions are, how might Indymedia videoactivists broaden their scope to include the new "subtactic" of vlogging? And, where are the indymedia vloggers?

It reminds me of Slashdot's tagline, which I always found disturbing: "News for Nerds, Stuff that matters." It always turned me off, because it seemed to be an oxymoron. If it matters, then it matters, period, and it shouldn't be just for nerds. I just glanced at slashdot and only 1 or 2 of the dozen or so stories are really that nerdy. Most are really of general interest, though of course teh subject matter is always science or tech stuff. But if it's for nerds, then a lot of itdoesn't matter to others, or at least that is the assumption a lot of non-nerd people will have. The tagline sets up a separation, a self-marginalization. To be accurate, and to continue to marginalize itself, the phrase really should have a "to nerds" at the end, or, if self-marginalization is not the intention, it should be a completely different tagline, something like "News about Nerdy Stuff, that should matter to everyone."

Similarly, I sometimes think Indymedia has an invisible tagline: "News for 'Extreme' 'Radical' Activsts, stuff that matters to 'Extreme' 'Radical' Activists." Which is not to say that was the intention or even is currently, at least conciously (or is it?). But it may be how the IMC is perceived, at least when people are aware of it at all.

Katrina Aftermath as It Relates to Portland (mostly)

Here in Portland there has been much talk about Katrina survivors being brought up here after Oregon offered space. First 1000 were supposed to arrive Wednesday, then apparently FEMA said not yet, now I hear 500 are coming Saturday. There's an old closed elementary school in the inner southeast section of town (14th and Stark) that will house them. I've biked by there several times in the last week and seen big Red Cross trucks parked there.

IMC people here are talking about and working on setting up a media center a few blocks away for the evacuees to use, but I don't know how useful that will be, since apparently there will be new computers donated by Intel and internet access right in the building they'll be staying in. I'm not sure of the best way that our IMC could help these people, at least in a unique, media-centered way. Perhaps just volunteering like regular people is best.

I wish we had CVS Pharmacies here. I'd get a bunch of those cheap camcorders that have been hacked and pass them out to residents of the evacuee facility.

Meanwhile, Blank, a very active member of our IMC video collective, flew down to Houston last night. I've heard so much about mistreatment of journalists and tight security that I'm pretty concerned, for his safety and also just for the prospect of actually being able to get any coverage. But hopefully he will manage to do some good down there. He's certainly got a lot of good gear with him.

2 good articles about New Orleans:
Trapped in New Orleans (thanx Allison)
Real Estate Vultures (thanx Jon)

The Value of Review by Another

This post from the excellent blog-about-vlogs, We Are the Media discusses a technique/phenomenon that I have always found useful ever since Mort Subotnick, one of my composition professors at CalArts, mentioned it to me about 10 years ago.

The idea is that playing someone else your work, whether it's music or film/video, is really helpful, even if they don't say anything. Somehow just sitting there watching/listening to your own work with someone else there gives you a whole different perspective on it.

Green Light Me!! Green Light!!!

Well, this morning I uploaded my first submission to Current TV and already it has 3 "green lights," meaning 3 other users have voted for it.

I don't know how many I need to actually get it accepted for airing on the channel, but you can definitely help by going to their site, registering, watching it, and greenlighting it. Plus, it's an interesting piece. you'll like it, I promise.