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 st├ęphane 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.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

r.i.p. p.s.h.

i found this list of celebrity tweets that really kind of touched me and wanted to share it.
i'll preface it with what i wrote in my journal this evening:
it was sad to me not only because he was one of the best actors around these days and i mourn that he’ll never again work with p.t. anderson, but because i figured he was better than this. he seemed smarter and classier. i wrote on facebook that i expected to be seeing him get a “lifetime achievement” award at the oscars in 40 years or something.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

the sunset of versaille

i left work at just the right time today. behind our building is "research park," a nice park that includes small lake witha bridge. i walked out the back door to the parking lot just as the sun was burning on the horizon below the clouds, and with the way it was reflecting off the lake it made for a beautiful scene.
i took a moment appreciate it, even snapped a picture on my phone, then got in my car.

as i was leaving research park, i noticed that everything about me was suddenly orange. i look to my left and saw what was probably the most beautiful sunset i have ever seen. we've all seen "beautiful sunsets" and have taken time to admire them. this was beyond that. this was a baroque sunset from the palace of versaille (this is seriously what it felt like this.) the clouds spread across the sky like a textured ceiling and the sunset covered them in brilliant fiery gold. they stretched as far as i could see across the texas landscape and everything was bathed in golden light for the moment.

that was it.
just a moment.

maybe two.

then the sky went back to being a just beautiful sunset and soon dusk settled in.
but for a few fleeting minutes, the sky was on fire with golden clouds.

and i saw it.

(this photo doesn't do it justice--not that photos ever do--but i stole it from my friend's facebook post because at least it was something.)

photo by macey pendergast