Archive - Apr 2006 - Blog entry

Varias Cosas de Ayer

Yesterday I ran around doing stupid errands and then went home and actually got some paying work done, which is a big accomplishment. Pretty important, since I'm pretty broke.

In the evening I went to spanish class at Dry River. First time I'd gone in a few weeks. I really should try to go more. It's a nice casual thing that Varo runs. He gets other native speakers to come and help teach too. We watched part of a little video by Guillermo Gomez-Pena called La Frontera es La Lenguaje that someone had brought, she'd found out about him in an art class. I mentioned I'd seen him perform twice, once in San Francisco and once in Portland. Sometimes it's really weird, to have so many different experiences, because of my age and all the places i've lived and different "careers" I've had, such that these things get brought up as extremely "out there" but I'm already really familiar with them. Sometimes I'm worried that by expressing my familiarity I'm sort of squashing the youthful enthusiasm for some newly-discovered bit of coolness that the other person has. I'm sorry to sound like such an aging hipster. Just trying to be honest about my experience.

After the class I went over to the Earth First! Journal office to help with the mailing of the new issue. They were pretty much done with everything but one task, which I helped with: hauling big boxes of copies to FedEx to ship to retailers. This issue of the journal was produced car-free. All the shopping for the office and the hauling of copies back from the printer and out to be mailed, was all pedal-powered. Very cool. I hitched a trailer to my bike and was one of 5 people who transported about 20 reams of copies in boxes a couple miles. It was fun. We cut through campus, and the big 2-person, 4-wheeled "bike car" that Jonathan and Shanti "drove" just barely fit through between the metal posts designed to keep regular cars out. But we made it.

The other special thing about this issue of the Journal is it has something written by me in it. They asked me to write a review of "The Snowbowl Effect" and I suggested I also review "Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege" because it's about a similar issue and was made very recently too. They agreed to that and it was a good experience working with the editing collective. If you told me 2 years ago I'd have an article in the EFJ I would have probably smiled in disbelief. I just never expected it.

Heading Toward A Cliff

This is an observation about Tucsonans and climate-induced culture, and a comparison with the same for Portlanders, and some related personal stuff too.

It's been a long time since I've lived somewhere with such a transitory population. It's really really weird. All winter I'd been watching all the crusty punks and traveller kids as well as the grey-haired snowbirds, all drifting into town to take refuge from the bitter claws of winter. And in fact, wasn't I here for that reason? Yes, except for the fact that I moved here "for good." I had no plan to wrap up my bindle and hop a freight back out come springtime. I wanted to make Tucson my home.

It's only mid-april and it's getting into the 80s. As summer creeps nearer like a heat mirage far off down a highway, more and more people are talking about their plans for the summer. Their desparate or not-so-desparate schemes to escape the heat are percolating through the social circles, as well as plans of others who will be left behind to carry on in what sounds, to my novice mind, like an empty shell of a city. Art and culture organizations, even activist organizations like the Tucson Peace Center, simply shut down, stop publishing, stop scheduling events. It feels.... fickle, to me... but what do I know, being so new to town?

Of course for other activists it's the busiest time, when the border crossing deaths start spiking.

It all seems like a cliff or a wall, a giant ominous deadline made of weather. Since I don't know fully what to expect, I don't feel it as strongly as some, but it feels very similar to how Portland feels in the fall to me. Instead of the start of the 9-month, chilly, rainy season, it's the start of a 5-month blast of heat. The difference is that in Portland, no one except a few malcontents like myself really seem to mind. People just appear to be resigned to it. Here, I feel like there is an underlying zeitgeist akin to rats leaving a sinking ship. Get out, before the heat comes! It's SO STRANGE.

This ominous cliff is perhaps taller and darker to me for personal reasons too: the woman I've been starting something with is going to be gone the whole month of July. And who knows what will happen then. She made it clear that she wants to be free to meet someone else, some hypothetical other romance that might happen during her planned July adventure. Which is fine with me. But it puts another odd sort of deadline in my life. No, deadline isn't the right word; perhaps: expiration date. perhaps. And that's weird. I've never had a relationship like that.

But anyway, I figured out why it's this way, these 2 cultures. People don't come to Portland for the climate. They come in spite of it. The kind of people who come to Portland and stay are the people who can handle it. Some may grumble a bit, but for the most part the climate has selected people who don't care. They drink a lot of coffee and beer, hunker down in their nests and breed, or make art, or work, and they get by. I will never understand those people (even those in Portland who are really good friends), just like I don't understand people who live in Alaska. But they exist, and I guess it's lucky they do.

On the other hand, the kind of people that come to Tucson are just the opposite. They come because of climate. And the kind of people who will come for climate, will go for climate. Of course. Tucson is the perfect migrant community, in more ways than one. Tucson is one of the few places in this country where it's wonderful in the winter while almost everywhere else sucks. And, it's one of the few places where in the summer, according to some, it sucks and almost everywhere else is wonderful.

I've never lived anywhere like that, except maybe Austin - for one summer. Some friends who came to visit said it was intolerably hot there in August, but I didn't think it was too much worse than summer where I grew up, in Iowa. And I've always said that I much prefer extreme heat to extreme cold. So, part of me just wants to live through it, at least once, and see what it's like. And really enjoy the deserted desert quiet of the emptied-out city.

However, I also have the travelling itch, and I sort of miss Portland and have been wanting to go back there for at least a couple weeks when it's nice there, and also maybe do a brief west-coast tour with my film.

So I may compromise. No big exodus away for any huge length of time. Just a few weeks in July. Then come back in time to experience the famous monsoons, and see what else happens.

I just wondered to myself, about that cliff: the question is, am I rushing toward it from the bottom, to slam into the wall, or coming toward the edge from the top, to soar off and fall? mixed metaphors of limited utility. But thinking this way makes me realize I shouldn't be thinking this way; So fatalistic, so filled with dread. That's bad. One should live each day in that day, acknowledging the fragile temporality of life but not letting the future chew into the present. Enjoy the moment. Maybe this is what Burroughs meant when he wrote, "If you cut into the present, the future will leak out."

image flood

Alba-quirky - 15
I just caught up to only 2 weeks behind on uploading my photos. upload speeds at home really kind of suck, i've decided. i guess i should go to cafes and do it. Anyway, lots of interesting shots from Albuquerque in this last batch, so check them out...

More Subtitling

Sometimes I'm pretty thankful I'm so geeky.

Today I was helping someone from No More Deaths put subtitles on an interview with an undocumented migrant who was interviewed in the hospital here in Tucson after being picked up by border patrol. She was betrayed by coyotes and left for dead out in the desert, then rescued by suprisingly beneficient deer hunters.

I'm constanly surprised at how few real versatile, efficient tools for subtitling there are, especially for the Mac. There's just nothing that does everything you want. And so, often I'm stuck, massaging some text file into the right format, but luckily I speak the swiss-army knife of text processing languages, Perl. So when Shanti gave me a text file full of subtitles without time codes this afternoon, I just hacked together something like this:

#!/usr/bin/perl -n

$offset = 4; # time code to start.
$length = 9; # seconds each subtitle will last.

if(/^(\S.+)$/) {
$text = $1;
if($time == 0) { $start = $offset } else {$start = $time};
$time = $start + $length;
$start_seconds = $start % 60;
$start_minutes = int($start/60);
$end_seconds = $time % 60;
$end_minutes = int($time/60);
printf ("00:%02d:%02d:01,\t00:%02d:%02d:00,\t$text", $start_minutes, $start_seconds, $end_minutes, $end_seconds);
} else { print; }

Then import into DVD Studio Pro and voila! well, not quite voila, we still had to shift and stretch some things to get the timing a little better. But, y'know, if I didn't know Perl or some other way to roll my own text-munger, what would I do? spend an extra 5 hours on it I guess, getting the timing all figured out by hand. whew!

yay Perl!

Past Predictions

I've been sick the last couple days, I guess mainly because I haven't been getting enough sleep. As I lay around trying to nap I've been reading my old journals a lot. There's this new person I'm getting involved with who I'm still not at liberty to say much about but she's really great, and she keeps a journal, and that has been making me think a lot more about my journals.

Anyway I've been scanning through these old journals looking for some sort of wisdom about life. I just found this entry about a certain neighborhood in Portland that some friends there will I'm sure find interesting:

There's a street fair over on Mississippi Street this weekend. Last night as part of it, Ed and I showed some videos outside in an empy lot next to a building. It was pretty cool. It's always good to see yr. work in different contexts.

It was strange because a lot of people in the neighborhood are just normal people, poor black families and some lower-income whites - basically what i'm saying is these are normal americans, they sing off key, they love america and macarme and apple pie and baseball. This guy put on a talent show that was mostly kids, which you can forgive, but the adults reminded me of what my old English professor called "The Art of the Feeble."

But that's okay, I think I was just in a bad mood or something. Maybe I'm bitter or something because the neighborhood is in the early stages of being gentrified. you can see it just getting ready to spring into action. There's a new, hip cafe that just went in, there's some hip little shops about to open, but it's still really formative. There's still lots of empty store fronts and shuttered windows and wierd, industrial/workingclass kinds of businesses.

In a few years I can see that all changing and there will be a a street lined with gift shops, bistros, and galleries.

It's so interesting. So what does that have to do with the lame talent show? Maybe because I thought "normal" people had more talent. Maybe I thought communities could live without professional artists and freaky hipsters-for-life, and still have an interesting culture. Maybe I'm just spoiled? Disillusioned, at least. Maybe it's that I wish I wasn't so spoiled. So jaded and ruined.

Sure enough, it turned out that 2 years later, last summer, all that had come true. that street in Portland is now completely gentrified. My comments from back then seem somewhat snobby and priveleged, but one has to understand how it comes basically all from the frustration of seeing that steamroller of change coming. And perhaps knowing that I was part of it, showing my arty little video collages on the side of a building where before there was mostly stuff like blues music and barbecue contests.


Minutemen Confronted By Landowner

The border vigilantes known as The Minutemen got into trouble trespassing on private property during their operations looking for undocumented border crossers near Three Points, Arizona. ACLU observers shot this video of the property owner getting angry at them.

Where The Bloody Hell Are You?

I've been in a bit of a flamewar with some aquaintances in Portland because I dared to tell them that I might have a different, less naive notion of what's going on with the border and immigration after living in the borderlands for awhile and spending 18 months making a film about what is at least partially a border issue (the femicide in Juárez). In a place like southern Arizona one is just surrounded, soaking, in "the border" and all its cultural and political ramifications. But people a thousand+ miles from Mexico desparately want to believe that if they just read enough liberal articles on the web while they sit in their cubicle at work that they have a firm grasp on reality and a good idea of what's going on and then have a right to spout their half-formed theories.

Not that I'm an expert or trying to be holier-than-tho. I'm really just starting to work on this stuff; but my point is that just by being here, in the borderlands, you can't help but be exposed to a greater complexity of notions about immigration and the border.

Another place where immigration is a huge issue is Australia. I remember when I was there in 2001 how ever-present the issue of refugees and detainment camps was in the media and in the discussions of intelligent people.

Addressing this is a really great video I was just told about that spoofs a recent flashy tourism ad for Australia called "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?"

One thing I think they should have done something with in the spoof is taken advantage of the incredibly ripe-for-detourning part of the original where they say "and Bill's on his way down to open the front gate." Open the front gate for who? Sometimes just letting portions of a text simply hang itself is the best satire of all.

Video from April 10 Immigrant Rights day in Tucson

I threw together, literally in about 6 hours of editing, a short 11-minute video (47 meg download) about what happened here in Tucson on Monday with the immigrant rights marches and rally. It's a bit sloppy but still something I'm proud of, and it was a nice example of a collaborative effort with Pan Left Productions, the video collective I'm a member of. Four of us shot footage, then everyone got their tapes to the studio right after and I started capturing. Finished up cutting yesterday afternoon and then encoded it this morning and uploaded it. Hopefully I will soon have it encoded into some other formats too for maximum compatibility.

It covers a lot of ground - the student marches, the main march, the rally, some debate with some counterprotesters, some tension in the park over the counterprotesters, and the sad ending to the day.

I hope you like it.

Two Hollywood Juarez Movies Battle It Out, J-Lo Wins

Interesting article about how the 2 hollywood cheesefest films about the Juarez situation have been competing, and the one starring Minnie Driver has apparently been forced to go straight to DVD because everyone is choosing the one starring Jennifer Lopez instead. J-Lo is a bigger draw to theaters, of course. Her film is more realistic, but I think it's extremely bad that there won't be 2 films out there in the wide public eye. Having only one will make it more likely that audiences will not realize that there's a true situation behind the film.

Apparently even the J-lo film is having trouble finding a distributor. We'll see how long it takes for it to finally come up. One person I talked to said it would be late summer or fall, after the summer blockbuster season.

Early Morning Activism at Epic

I'm sitting in on a No More Deaths meeting at Epic cafe at 7:30 am. The core organizers meet every single weekday morning here!

I'm here because I couldn't sleep, and the internet was down at my house, and I wanted to work on my indymedia story about yesterday. I'm not getting a lot done because I'm in the meeting, half-listening.

Anyway, these people do so much. It's incredible.