Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Mr. F

i did pretty well in school and overall liked it. but as i've become an adult and faced the various duties

and challenges of life, i've mused on the disconnect between the two: in school, there are (usually) right answers and wrong answers, and there's a teacher to tell you if you got the right one or not. if not, they'll tell you what the correct answer is.

for much of life, it's not really like that. in fact, the more i learn about more things, the more it seems that right/wrong answers are rare. it used to seem that at least going to the doctor was a clear thing: i'm not feeling well, i go to the doctor, they tell me what's wrong with me and how to fix it, i get better and the doctor gets an "A" for that visit. and while much of medicine does work that way (that's the whole point of study and education, to learn how to solve and cure ailments), there's also a reason why second opinions are important, especially in more advanced cases.

i'm not a doctor, so i won't spend any more time questioning those who went to med school, but will bring it back to what i know about. and this is where it's hard for me, because i'm used to being the A student (and, in later years, the A- minus student. by the time i was in grad school, i was completely content with being the B student.) but i don't get grades on my cinematography or my editing. at best, my client and boss are happy with the work i did, but that's not the same as getting a 100% at the top of the paper. and there are two dangers with getting an A: first, it implied that you've reached the pinnacle, that there's nowhere to go from here. and second, because you've reach the top, why try harder? with the A+, you're already the best there is. no one could be better than on that worksheet.

i was thinking about this a few months ago as i was shooting a series of interviews in our studio. for much of the day, i was lighting and setting things up under the hope that my boss would like it. i was worried that he wouldn't, and if he did, well then that was all that mattered, right?
well, two things were happening when i was doing this:  i was slightly stressed as i was trying to find the "right" lighting and, because of that, i was trying to hit a finite mark. as long as my boss said it was good, that was what i wanted.

that evening i was thinking about that and realized that i should approach this from a different way. rather than be asking myself "is this shot good? now is it good?", i should be thinking, "ok, that was a good shot, how can i make this next one better? i've done this before, so how i can try something new, or approach this in a new way?" and i should add here that that is precisely the mindset my boss does have and encourages that mentality at the company. so this pressure that i've been feeling is purely self-administered.

and it seems that i'm not the only one questioning this. that evening my dad was in town and we took him up to look at the fall colors on the mesa. during the drive up, janelle told us how there is a shift in education towards growth-based learning, where kids do more projects and are encouraged to challenge themselves, rather than everyone being asked to answer the same questions. so rather than a subject being very easy for some and very difficult for others, the hope is that students will be progressing for where they are, regardless of where they currently are. this also helps them move away from the "that's right/that's wrong" mentality and to understand that setbacks and even failure are not, heck, not failures, but are part of the growth process.

there's a scene early in "seven samurai" where the master swordsman, kyuzo, is introduced. he is described as someone who is obsessed only with testing the limits of his own skill (or something like that.) no question of "good or no good," just "and how can i be better?" and as i've thought about this, i realized that i was doing this somewhat at my student job at a&m, where i was the senior videographer. i more or less taught myself everything i learned there (at least about creating a shot), and, with no one to really tell me how to be better (and they were nearly always happy with my work, even when i wasn't), i would often spend time looking over my shots and trying to figure out how i could do the next ones better. but part of why i left that job was because i didn't have anyone to challenge me or help lift me up to the next level.

and that's where i'm at. i'm trying to adapt myself to that new way of looking at my work (and this really applies to all aspects of life, including relationships, which hadn't occurred to me until just now.)
and i've been given lots of opportunities recently to do just that at work. i've been editing footage that i shot (which is a GREAT way for a cinematographer to learn what shots work and where to improve) and also working on a commercial that i directed. it turned out fine and the client is happy with it, but during production and in post, i've created a mental list of things i wish i'd done, ways i could've prepared more, and what i want to try next time.

good, better, and... more better, right?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


November 8 at 10:31am · Grand Junction ·
holding off posting that i voted until i can get my facebook app to again give me the option of joining in the "i voted" activity.

November 8 at 12:21pm · 
remember in 2004 when the meanest things got was that jibjab video of bush and kerry?

November 8 at 5:32pm · Grand Junction ·
i really do love that in my office of seven people, there are votes for at least five different presidential candidates.

November 8 at 8:51pm · Grand Junction ·
i suspect the new outlets are announcing the states that trump has won earlier in the evening to keep the suspense (and ratings) up. least i hope so, because this is the first time during this whole campaign that i've actually been nervous.

November 8 at 9:52pm · Grand Junction ·
a month or two ago a friend of mine said that he thought there were a lot of people who wanted to vote for trump but were afraid to admit it.
i thought that was a silly idea.

November 8 at 10:15pm · Grand Junction ·
watching the results and hearing how many counties that voted for obama now voted for trump shows how much people REALLY don't like hilary.

November 8 at 10:46pm · Grand Junction ·
i feel like i want to watch "dr. strangelove" this weekend...

November 8 at 10:56pm ·
sometimes it's helpful to laugh...

November 8 at 11:22pm · Grand Junction ·
janelle pointed out that "back to the future part 2" ended up predicting not only the cubbies but also donald trump/biff tannen.

November 8 at 11:57pm · Grand Junction ·
anyone watching that colbert thing on showtime?
any good?

November 9 at 1:09am · Grand Junction ·
y'all can give me crap for saying this, but trump's victory speech was better (more humble and more gracious) than i was expecting.
(although that's not the time nor the crowd to close with "you can't always get what you want." all those people there got exactly what they wanted.)

November 9 at 6:11am · Grand Junction ·
oh man, you guys, i had the craziest nightmare last night...

November 9 at 7:41am · Grand Junction ·
the sun still came up this morning.
i think things will be ok.

it's been over two years since i last hit the "new post" button and have been wanting to get back to writing for a while, and last tuesday was the kickstart i needed.

i wanted to write last wednesday, to record to my feelings in the moment, because this feels like one of the most notable events in the country's history since 9/11 in terms of an unexpected event that surprised almost everyone. although while that really unified us, this feels to have divided us sharply.

election nights are usually safely boring. it was cool that obama won in 2008 (he was inspiring and exciting, mccain seemed like a stuffy old man, and the thought of sarah palin being vp was scary), and i figured obama would beat romney in 2012 (and even though i voted for mitt, i liked both of them.) and last tuesday janelle and i (and a lot of the country) thought we'd clearly watch hillary clinton become the first female president and we'd turn it off and get ready for bed around 9:30.

instead, janelle and i checked the results shortly before going to the grocery store around 8:30 and were surprised that the early reporting states were favoring trump. as i said on facebook, i suspected that the news outlets were holding back announcing the blue clinton states to create some suspense, although for the first time during the whole election season, i was a little nervous.

but there just wasn't any real chance of this happening. sure, it went from funny to weird as he kept winning the primaries, and him actually getting the nomination was uncomfortable. the republican convention was looking crazier each day and i felt like the republican party was collapsing in on itself and become so far from what most americans wanted. i wondered if there'd be a new major party emerging within a few election cycles.

nope. the republicans control the house, the senate, and the presidency, and the head of the republican party has recently been named the chief of staff.
i can't bring myself to say that the republicans are doing fine, but they've got plenty of power.

i suppose it's probably best that the results aren't revealed all at once, like the winner of america's funniest home videos, but are tallied state by state. it softened the blow for all of us, with this gradual realization that, holy crap, this is happening. he's winning.

either monday or tuesday morning, the new york times gave hillary a 73% chance of winning. a few months ago i read an article looking at the stats and showing that trump would have to win all five key swing states in order to win, and that just wasn't very likely. and as i just looked through my large collection of bookmarked links to unsuccessfully find that article, i saw that most of the articles i've saved had the tone of "there's no chance." and these aren't sites with a hard leftist slant, but mainstream news outlets like the new york times, the washington post, and fivethirtyeight.

yet while the news came gradually, it was never really a contest. except for perhaps early in the evening before i started watching, trump was always ahead and the lead just increased. the news reporting teams (i ended up settling on whichever one george stephanopolous works with) tried to remain neutral but were visibly as surprised as they knew their viewership was.

again, for my own record or as a record of the moment for my future children, this was never supposed to happen, in part because there's never been anything this crazy. in 2012, when newt gingrich was briefly ahead as the republican nominee, i got an icky feeling because he seemed about as slimy as they come, but compared to trump, i would've had no problem with gingrich. for all the elections that i can remember-- bush v. dukakis in '88, bush v. clinton (v. perot) in '92, clinton v. dole in '96, bush v. gore in '00 (i was in japan, so didn't really follow that fiasco), bush v. kerry in '04, obama v. mccain in '08, and obama v. romney in '12 --there's usually been one guy i like more than the other, but i was never seriously worried scared terrified about one of them being the president and the things they might do. sure, maybe i didn't agree with some policies, but whatever. that's politics.

but this has been different. and when i asked my dad if he'd ever seen anything like this--where someone who openly and blatantly seemed unqualified, unprepared, and dangerously unfit to be president was a serious contender--he didn't have a time, either.

and that guy won.

despite needing to get up early in the morning, janelle stayed up with me until around 11:30, when she finally had to go to bed. but i wanted to stay up until the very end for this historic night (although a much different feeling than the historic night when president obama won.)

we saw footage of the hq where the clinton supporters had gathered, where people were still waiting but in a much more somber mood than they'd been expecting. the stage platform was transparent (glass?) in the shape of the united states, although the podium was empty. the news reporter said that there was a glass ceiling above the stage as part of a victory celebration that would not be broken that night.

i stayed up until 1:30 a.m. and watched donald trump give his victory acceptance speech in what seemed to be a (surprisingly) moderately decorated hotel ballroom (mom and dad were out in nyc for dad to run the marathon and left that monday morning; mom said that they were in the hilton, which she was told was the hq for trump celebration that night.)

posted this on facebook the next morning. sad to find out that
any sort of optimism was too much for some people.
he said that he'd gotten off the phone with hillary who conceded the race to him (and what was no doubt the hardest phone call of her life) and the (surprisingly) complimented her being an amazing person and running a difficult and impressive campaign. and then he talked about how it was time to get to work healing and unifying the country after all of this.
i don't remember the rest of the details (and i'm sure they're available somewhere, like here), but it wasn't nearly as bad as i'd expected. in fact, it was almost kind of good.

and i went to bed that night with a really weird feeling. it all just seemed so unreal. and thinking about the reality of it all, what it would mean and what would come was too much.

Friday, September 05, 2014

thesis work

i’m starting to discover what’s unique about thesis work: it’s something you’re interested in and, hopefully, something you actually want to be doing.
i’m working here at 11:30 on a friday night, not because it’s due on monday morning (it's not, although the start of a new school year is a constant reminder that i've been here too long, but because i’m curious about this and want to see what i can do.  

i find myself looking up articles and essays on stan brakhage and wishing i had time to read them, and then reminding myself that that is very much related to what I’m doing. it’s “research,” it just doesn’t feel that way because it’s something i really want to do, not ”something that i’m supposed to do for school.” 

all that being said, i am getting tired and should go home soon, but it’s only so i can get up tomorrow morning and come back here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

dog star man prelude

i'm too tired to write anything properly, but i wanted to record something.

recently, i decided i was interested in the work of stan brakhage, probably due to things like the preceding post. i rented the discs from the library at the same time that i bought the set from the barnes and noble criterion sale, deciding that, if they were too weird, i could sell my brand new unwanted set and probably even make a little profit.

tonight i opened my set and continued watching, picking up at the prelude to dog star man.
outwardly, this is "experimental film" at it's most stereotypical. lots of indecipherably blurry camera moves, mash cut with shots of the sun, mountain forests, and extreme closeups of eyes, hair, and whatever else. often, this is overlaid with what appears to be microscopic drops of liquid and other discernible but not wholly recognizable images. and plenty of deliberate scratchings on the film, for good measure. it's all cut together at a frantic pace in a way that the only constant is the kinetic motion of everything. i even asked myself if i would give any thought to this had i unknowingly come across it at a film festival, rather than having it served to me on the silver platter that is the criterion collection.

and truthfully, not likely. at least, not if i only watched it for a minute or so. but as it went on, i started to feel that this wasn't just some dude putting any weird random images together and deeming it "Art," but that whomever was doing this knew what they were doing. and i say "feel" because that's the only way you can respond to this. there is no verbal way to describe, much less explain, what this is. outwardly, it's a mash of random images, nothing more. but after a while you do sense that there's a purpose to all of this. not necessarily a rhythm (because there isn't), and while there are images that recur--a mountain forest, the sun, a male and female body--this can't be distilled into a "theme." but you feel something.

and that's ultimately what fascinated me about this: at one about about two-thirds into the (approximately) twenty minute piece, i started to feel some emotional response. i can't even tell you what the emotion was because the film, not having any way for me to comprehensibly identify it, affected me the only way it could, on a more primal sense in the heart, not the mind. and that was an experience i don't think i've ever had with a movie or perhaps even any other work of art.

i've read of someone worried that they would wake their roommates while watching this, only to remember that it's actually a silent film; there is no sound, yet the images are so powerful and intense, it feels like it must be noisy.

after the prelude (part 1 looks to be about 25 minutes, while parts 2, 3, and 4 (are there four?) seem to be only a few minutes each; i look forward to watching them later this week), i watched the first video interview with brakhage on the disc and he talked some about dog star man, the film i had just started. he said that he was trying to imagine what the world was like to a baby who didn't know that the grass was the color green, or whose eyes did not "know" what things looked like or signified.

he kind of nailed it.

this isn't something for everything, but it's currently one of my favorite things in my collection.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


i was listening to a fresh air podcast yesterday where terry gross was talking with david o. russell about american hustle. as he was talking about his own life and his interest in how we all have our "true self" and our "false self" and we reveal/project different aspects of those depending on our situations and how we're feeling. and terry made a comment about how that's just like the characters and themes from american hustle, especially since they had been talking about those ideas in the movie earlier in the interview. but david just said in sincerity, "wow, i'd never even thought of that until you said it."
his work including

i'm fascinated by those connections, about stepping back and looking at the themes that interest in our own lives in a way that we don't conscientiously realize, but once you identify them, they're plainly visible. in one of my photography courses at byu, our instructor had us all line up our work at the end of the semester so we could see the whole body of work and look for commonalities between them. (unfortunately, i don't remember what my themes were, or even if there were any, other than most of my shots being taken after 1 a.m.)

today i was in my weekly meeting with dr. parke, telling him about my idea for a portraiture series i'm interested in. i had also been looking into the works of norman mclaren, the canadian experimental animator. i'd picked up a 7-disc set of his off of amazon for $30 a few years ago and had never looked through it much until recently (i actually bought two and kept one sealed. now that the set is out of print, i was able to sell that one for $250. but i don't want to sell this one; it's too wonderful.) and i looked at the work he did just playing with writing on the celluloid itself and was talking with dr. parke about that, wondering what i could do in the modern day, now that we have things like "after effects" to create with. (i could also check out work by stan brakhage, too, i suppose

after a few minutes, he commented at how the work i've done is the modern-day equivalent to mclaren: he created directly on the celluloid and i have been working directly in jpg code to create images.

my head about exploded.

just seeing that connection was exciting and spurred to go back and revisit those ideas, and to go with full force what i tried a little earlier this year: messing with video code.

i realized another underlying attraction i have today. as i mentioned earlier, i'm interested in doing a series of portraits. just as the norman mclaren set got me thinking about some experimental stuff, i've been going through the second set of the "director's label" dvds, and not only looking at the videos, but also noticing that some of these guys are also very accomplished still photographers, particularly anton corbijn and stéphane sednaoui. and i admittedly know very little about portraiture. i know portraits that i like, but i can't figure out why i like them.
that mystique is enticing to me.

in fact, it was that same inscrutable attraction that got me into movies in the first place; in 1997 i saw pulp fiction on tv and couldn't figure out what i liked about it yet couldn't stop watching it.

i've got a lot of details to figure out about this portrait series but i've already got the studio reserved, so it'll be fun to give it a shot and see what i can do with it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

immediate access

the ipad is not inherently revolutionary. personal computers are over thirty years old. it's portability is not revolutionary either; laptops have been around for almost as long as desktops. wireless internet is even more than a decade old.

even the idea of an ipad is older than many of its users. when maya lin visited steve jobs at apple in the 80s, she asked why they didn't make such a product. and computer pioneer and apple mentor(?) alan kay proposed his "dynabook" in the early seventies.

the ipad is rather the capstone of the personal computing revolution, the summit nexus of so many pioneering technologies. it is better than any of its competition and it is all of them in one. it is a whole music library weighing the same as a sony discman and a few cds. it is lighter than a dvd player and can easily hold a whole season of a television series. it's about the size of a hardcover book while offering the contents of your entire bookshelf. it's more portable and accessible than any laptop ever was.

whether in libraries of print or the digital internet, the concept of near-limitless information is nothing new. but never has it been more immediately accessible. it not longer requires even the nuisance of having to go sit at a chair at a desk to use the internet. for many people, it is at our side if not already in our hands.

where much has been given, much is required.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

potential information

i'm working on my thesis work for my mfa here at school and, being me, i'm more comfortable and agile in writing that i am in directly creating work, so i'm taking time to write as much as i want then use that for the foundation to explore my work. and i'm writing here because i don't yet have any other space set up in which to write, and rather than making a new place, SgtH is already here and is a comfortable space for me. i will likely copy some of this work to another more formal space when i get one created, but for now, this is my favorite space.

i'm fascinated by my ipad. when it first came out, i thought it was the ultimate luxury item (it could be argued that apple only makes luxury items, but i'm not going to get into that here, because i'm not sure that's entirely accurate), nothing more than an oversized iphone (but without the phone.) once i got to actually use one for a little bit, i soon realized i wanted one. i bought my ipad with retina display the day they were released and since then have repeatedly marveled at it. while it obviously wasn't planned to be this way, it's fitting that the ipad (or, the ipad 2, to be more specific) was the last of the "insanely great" products that steve jobs introduced, as it seems be all that embodies apple.

it's large enough to be practical for reading, writing, drawing, and creating, but small enough to be inherently portable and instantly accessible. and it can easily carry more information than was ever in the library of alexandria or any other source of knowledge since then. setting aside even the infinite direct source of a world wide web browser like safari or chrome, the amount of information potentially available on an ipad is intimidating.

yes, the internet has had "all this information" available to us for free for over 20 years now. and libraries have have been doing that for centuries. but even in 2006, we had to be seated at a computer that was plugged into the wall. now, it's in our pockets and very often immediately in our hands. in my iBooks app alone, i have 75 books, the vast majority of which define "classics": mark twain, victor hugo, charles dickens, and their cronies. and they are all free downloads. perhaps they have been available on the internet for years, but reading a book on a computer screen is extremely prohibitive. now, the barnes & noble paperback classics editions for $8 are irrelevant; these books are free.
i could edge the percentage up a little higher by arguing for inclusion of dr. seuss's "the 500 hats of bartholomew cubbins" and even the storybook version of a charlie brown christmas, but i currently have only preview samples. in fact, i have only paid for two ibooks: breaking bad's "alchemy" (an enhanced book for the ipad) and a $3 collection of interviews about steve jobs, compiled into book form.

that is one app. i have at least four different news source apps--al jazeera, the bbc, cnn, and npr--as well as web content aggregators such as pulse and flipboard, which compile content based on topics i am interested in. i think have watched a few talks on my TED talks app, and while i have looked through iTunes U, offering courses from hundreds of universities (including my current school, texas a&m, although i didn't see my undergrad, byu), offering courses on things i find interesting like astronomy and the history of animation, i have yet to dive into any of the coursework i've picked out.
not to make things too stuffy, i've also got a row for reddit, the onion, cracked, and, sigh, even buzzfeed.

i have a camera, iphoto, photoshop elements (which is essentially iphoto), and photoshop touch for doing really serious work (i haven't done any yet.) autodesk's sketchbook pro and two dj mixing turntable apps, three apps to learn piano, and one app for stop animation. there are two apps to learn chinese and two more for me to practice my japanese (which i do speak, although the blue dots next to the apps remind me that i have never opened these.) i have two different sky maps apps for finding stars, planets, and constellations, and globes of both the moon and mars next to my google earth map.

in addition to my ibooks, i have a bible app that offers more versions of the bible than any lay person knew existed, the qur'an, and a library of latter-day saint scriptures. i have a 3-D model of the human skeleton plus models and photographs of human anatomy that i don't even know how extensive it is. and also a textbook app that allows me to cross-check the potency of mixing medications. i don't take any medications, but it was on the app store.
i paid $10 for a cookbook app promising how to cook eveything, yet a free app that collects and aggregates user-submitted recipes has proven much more helpful. i have at least four different clocks/timers/alarm clocks but never found an need for them (that's what phones are for), and can never decide which of my two weather apps to use, so i use them both.