Archive for November, 2008

The Library!!!

It’s hard to admit that I’ve lived in Kansas City for over two years now, and only yesterday did I go get a library card. For shame, Eaken, for shame. And let me tell you, a whole new world has opened up before my eyes. Books, Mr. Montag… books! And they just GIVE them to you! This is a real sign, I think, that you are a part of a community. Do you have a library card? It’s a big commitment. It says, I have a strong enough relationship to this place that I will ask to borrow items from it on a regular basis. You can’t do that with a place you’ve just met or only visit occasionally. It’s not right, and the libraries will reject you. 

For my inaugural check-out, I got 11 items (only 5 of which are books). I got a book of short stories by Rick Moody, one of my favorite authors, and his short stories are often very good and interesting. Some short story collections you feel like the author is stretching it, the idea doesn’t quite fit the cope of a short story. Moody’s are great. I also got 4 books about Christ, specifically about the history of the Bible. It’s very interesting, I got books from both major perspectives. I know where I stand, but I want to see the arguments in depth for the other side. And I want a more complete historical understanding. One of the best points I’ve read so far is that it is suspect to declare that the Bible was written only by God or only by Man, when the heart of Christianity is the combination of the two. 

Other than that, I am very pleased to report that the library not only has a great collection of music (I picked up a Beck album, a Ray Davies CD I’d heard good things about, and Grinderman), it has a FANTASTIC DVD selection. I stopped myself at 3, since they can only be checked out for one week: The Powell and Pressburger film “Black Narcissus,” Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo” and Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers.” 2 of the 3 are a part of the Criterion Collection, they have countless silent films, more Bergman, including his “God Trilogy” and many of his earlier films that I haven’t seen yet. I put my Netflix on hold a while back because I was far too busy. I miss it sometimes, I won’t lie, and now the library has given me the perfect balance. We are new best friends. Now if only there was a sexy librarian woman in my life.


The Big Race

This Sunday. 8am. A projected high of 49 degrees. At 8am, we’re looking at freezing temperatures. Will the sun be out? Will it dare to shine? What will my iPod be tuned to? What ratio of podcast: song and within “song” what ratio of hipster:hip-hop shall occur? Will I create a special playlist just for the run? (I’m considering it – 20 minutes music, 1 hour-long podcast (will it be Filmspotting? or my own podcast? or the ever-growing popular favorite Battleship Pretension?), 40 minutes music) 

Last week, I gave myself a bit of a test and ran for 1 hour, 50 minutes. I was tired afterwards, but I had felt that I could have gone on a bit longer, pretty easily. Compounded with the natural rush of a) am official race, and b) running with loads of other people, I have no doubt I can finish in under two hours. At exactly 2 hours, my average mile for a half marathon (13.1 miles) would be right around 9 minutes, 9 seconds.

If I can possibly get enough of a boost from those aforementioned things, plus the advent of having sips of water during the race, my “I’m a damn rockstar” time would be 1 hr 45 minutes. Is this even conceivable? 105 minutes, 13.1 miles (avg time: 8 minute mile – yeah right). Even 1 hr 50 minutes would be more awesome than awesome. I want the challenge, I need the challenge.

I played basketball all through my childhood and during high school. All sorts of teams. School teams, Dad-coached teams, AAU teams, church teams. In 5th grade, when I moved to Missouri, I arrived just late enough to impress other people in time to be asked to join a team. They were set. They were already practicing. So. My Dad coached a coed team at the local church – all but one girl quit, and we ran the table. Our 6 foot 5 center, Trevor didn’t hurt either. AND, me and my new friends formed a B-league team (we tried to be in the A-League but lost our first game 52-4) at the local arena – The Sports Center. It was an all metal building with a red roof and one basketball court, but for 5th graders in Southwest Missouri, it might as well have been Madison Square Garden. The church team went undefeated, the Sports Center Team lost every game except our last one – the game for last place. 

I’ve gotten off track. The point is, is that there were moments from 5th grade through 12th grade when an athletic moment took hold of my life. Close games. Rivalries. And there is something about the hype of a basketball homegame in the middle of January, on a Tuesday night, the student-fan section, the band section, the parents section; in a way actually entirely different from theatre, you had a stage on which to impress. A forum to display an ability that could, for even just a brief moment, inspire awe. In others and in yourself. Do you know how good it feels to hit a 3-pointer in front of 1000 people? Or how it feels to steal the ball from a player you’ve been guarding for 3 quarters and is sortof a douche? Or how it feels to run a set offense so well that the way in which your whole team passes and moves without the basketball warrants applause?  

I’ve been on teams where I scored most of the points, I’ve been on teams where I was a role player. I’ve made some big shots. I’ve missed some, too. On Sunday, though, there is only me. It doesn’t matter if there is an “i” in “team” because I AM THE TEAM. 

Is it safe to say I miss playing competitive sports? Yes it is.

Electromechanical Installations and Its Uses as an Artistic Canvas; OR, Microcontrol Me


Once in a great while, you see something so new, so interesting, so far beyond the lengths and widths that your mind had stretched. Last Friday, in Kansas City’s downtown Art Walk, I had this experience. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. No long build-up today.

What I saw was an exhibit called “Reel to Reel” by visual artist Jeff Share and musical artist Jon Fisher. Childhood friends from Texas, they went their separate ways during college but have found themselves collaborating on a monumentally impressive, expansive artistic experience.

Think of a sculpture. A 3-D item made of some material or materials. Now add a mechanism, so that your sculpture moves. Now add electricity, so that the mechanism can be both more advanced and more refined. And now revert back to step 1 – a sculpture; a visually stimulating THING. It is aesthetically interesting, the mind pours over it, inspecting its tiny details. 

This is not even the interesting part yet.

Within this sculpture is something else – a set. A model set of, say, a kitchen or bathroom or a hallway. A scale model. And either mounted onto the set or built in with it is a camera, which generates live video from inside, which is projected onto a monitor which itself is a part of the larger, exterior “electromechanical installation” or sculpture. So you have the sculpture, the set inside the sculpture and the film of the set, which is also a part of the original thing – the sculpture. But is the sculpture the first thing? Or have I assigned it “first thing” status? 

And now let’s go further. The set is being moved or rotated by some mechanical means. Within the set are lights, such that as it moves, the shadows move and change. Or there are tiny granules of sand, which flow freely and move and fall into crevices of the motorized set. Now let’s combine this entire experience with music. And what if the music wasn’t merely preset and chosen by the artist as a means of underscoring, but was generated by the movement of those sand granules? Or by the movement of the sculpture as a whole? And what if that movement was not precisely choreographed, but allowed to occur at random? Jon Fisher explains: 

“In each sculpture there is a microcontroller acting as an electronic “brain” for that piece. The microcontroller has the ability to turn on and off the various motors and lights within the sculpture. It also has the ability to communicate with a central computer running the whole show… generating in real time the soundtrack that is accompanying the video output of that piece… At the level of detail, chance is an integral part of the work. The algorithms generating the music heavily rely on computer-generated random numbers, though these are used in very tightly controlled windows of randomness.”

And the exhibit as a whole also functions like each individual piece, in that all of the pieces are linked and play off of each other, at times are projected onto a large movie-screen, which cuts between multiple pieces, which are all moving. So then as you watch, you see people go back and try to figure out which piece is being projected onto the larger screen at a given moment. There is a buzz, people calling out to strangers across the gallery, “Is it that one?” Shore and Fisher have created an exhibit that contains interactivity between art and viewer and between those viewers, as the art is occurring. 

Just the scope of the idea is impressive, a big beautiful collaboration among different arts, sciences and concepts. Big things within small things within other things, within something else, all interacting at random with each other and the connoisseur. It is one of the few pieces of art of any kind I’ve experienced that so perfectly links the abstract and the tactile, the sort of thing the mind puzzles over, going round and round and thinking you’ve gotten to the end and you’re back to the beginning, or thinking you’re at the beginning and finding out you’re in the middle, or thinking you’re in the middle and finding out you’re in the middle, but the middle is something other than what you thought it was.

And even outside of the thing itself, what an inspiring thing it is to be able to be blown over by something, to so fully not see something coming. It’s invigorating. I’ve said before that I hate artists, which is true but incomplete. I hate most people in most groups. But I also love artists, and this is why, this is what restores my faith in us. That pieces like this can be created. That movies like the just released “Synechdoche, New York” can come along and boggle our minds for a solid week, until we run out and see it again. I have hopes to revisit both experiences. This is something my very great friend BJ would have really liked if he still lived in KC. I very much wish he could see it. Explanations are bound to be incomplete, something like this begs to be seen and felt and experienced. Then talked about. It is one of the greatest, most intriguing things I’ve ever witnessed.

Criminal Stupidity


I am annoyed. I am not furious, nor outraged, nor fanatical, but annoyed. And disappointed. Last night my company car was broken into and my G.P.S. device stolen, along with the car-charger I recently bought for it. 

Nothing else was taken. 

Ostensibly, this is a crime of mere selfishness. Someone or someones wanted my GPS, so they stole it. But let us examine this crime more closely. What do we know about the criminal? Very little. My car was parked in the Westport section of Kansas City, certainly not a wealthy neighborhood, but not a crime syndicate either. Regardless, I am uninterested in the socio-economic status of my unseen fiend, so I will move on to more pressing matters to me.

I very much liked my GPS. It was extremely useful for finding places and searching for restaurants, hotels, bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys and the like for a given place. The thief must have liked my GPS nearly as much, either for its noted uses or for its obvious monetary value. So, fine, that is a wash. I have a GPS, he wants one. He steals it. (I am calling the thief a HE for ease, but it could also just as easily have been some dumb bitch. If you think this a more likely scenario, please mentally insert SHE each time I write HE in reference to the thief) But it was raining last night. Raining hard. And what I would like to know is what kind of person breaks the driver’s side front window to break in? I have Kansas license plates, so he KNOWS I am at least 20 minutes from home, knows that I will have to drive back home with rain pouring not merely into my car, but ONTO me as I drive (not to mention the little glass bits that fell as I drove). The car has no fewer than 5 other windows to choose from. Now, excepting the front and back windshields – which would be equally, if not more inconsiderate – that leaves 3 perfectly good windows to smash. Why not the back-side passenger window? If I ever break into a car, this will be my window of choice. It provides that up to 3 people may have to still use the vehicle, and it defers to the driver. Since all cars have automatic locks, our man could have easily unlocked the doors, walked back to the driver’s side door and gained immediate access. In fact, since there was just me using the car, I would have abided 2 shattered windows – say, both passenger side windows – in exchange for the hassle of having to clean off the glass from my own seat. It was uncomfortable and I did NOT appreciate it. My thief was completely inconsiderate. What an asshole. 

As I said, only the GPS was stolen. This is quite telling. In my car, I had 2 separate CD cases. One of these, the smaller of the two, contained 15 CDs by Tom Waits, an unexpected gold-mine for the casual son-of-a-bitch burglar-type. Untouched. Unacceptable. The hours he could have spent basking in Mr. Waits – decades of music! Masterpiece after masterpiece! The larger CD case contained numerous CDs from various artists. It looked like he may have thumbed through it but wasn’t interested. Apparently, the full canons of Aimee Mann and The Decemberists didn’t fit in with his devil-may-care window smashing lifestyle. There was also some Ben Folds, and the “Once” soundtrack, and if that didn’t interest him, then I don’t have a thing to say to him. It seems that inconsideration and poor musical taste go hand in hand.

Finally, the thief’s actions showed a blatant disinterest for his own career as a low-life prick. Complete tunnel-vision. That he left the CDs was, I must assume, a product of his poor musical upbringing, and his parents must bear that shame. That he left the car itself is understandable, as it is a company vehicle and would be easily traceable (his first and last intelligent decision) A GPS is no ordinary item. It is not a watch, it is not a TV. A watch tells the time, and a TV – provided there is also TiVo – gives insight into what a person watches. But a GPS will tell you precisely where the person you stole it from LIVES. They all have a simple button labeled “HOME” which immediately navigates a person to this pre-set location. My thief, knowing that I was not in my car, knowing that he had the jump on me, missed a golden opportunity to really stick it to me. The press of a button and one more broken window, and into my home he could have gone. He could have had my TV, computers, film camera… not to mention my vast collection of DVDs and books! Perhaps he could have swiped Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment or Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (for more of my literary favorites, check out my LITERATURE page). He could have stolen my Quentin Tarantino DVDs and laughed to himself at this irony, while telling himself he stole them mostly for the dialogue. A world of art and knowledge at his fingertips, and he blew it. I had this thought driving home, rain spitting at me, dribblets of glass toppling into my lap as Jay-Z told me to “go on brush your shoulder off” (if he only knew). So I sped up, hoping to catch this dipshit in the act and kick ass the Insurance way – with a shingle gauge and a carpet knife. But my hopes were dashed when I found no signs of forced entry or even possible interest at my apartment; only the same stained apathy that always resides here. What a miserable thief he turned out to be. Someone ought to smack some sense into him.

In other news, I did some great networking at the IFC group and got two business cards. Not a bad night, all told.

It Has Come to This

November 2008
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