Friday, October 31, 2008

NaNo Time

Has come again. I'm doing it this year, despite being possibly the busiest I've ever been. I think I'll make it. I think. God help me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Red Eye, Final Impressions

We had the actual festival here last (Sunday) night. Our film played remarkably well. Aaron and I decided that it kind of turned out somewhat decently, which is about the highest praise we'll give a project we're heavily involved with.

The films themselves, ours included, were noted by more than one source as being rather morbid. Lots of killing, lots of death, lots of depression. I am tempted to dismiss this as typical of student films, because it is. But I also remember that last year's Oscars were supposedly the "dark Oscars," what with Sweeney-Todd and No Country and There Will Be Blood being the major contenders; and I wonder if some of that spirit has trickled down to our student film makers.

I would go on a long ranting memoir at this point, but I have no time. Suffice to say, it was good, it was fun, and I will do it again next year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Red Eyes and Blurry Brains

Well, people, we've done it. The movie is six minutes long, and thanks to a very good technical editor (Aaron N.), it looks and sounds fantastic. The blighter sat down at a computer program that I've had training with and he's had none, and within an hour knew it better than I do.

Everyone in the group, really, was fantastic in their own way. I want to write personal tributes to all of them, but I can sense even now that they would turn into sappy Hallmark moments.

Some things I've learned or gleaned from this experience:

-Large egos in projects like this are NOT GOOD. You pretty much have to sublimate personal pride and glory-seeking for the good of the group. (At least, that's the only way it worked for us. I have no idea how those hollywood types do it, with all the egotistical actors and actresses and directors and such. I suppose they figure out how to work around each other.)

-I've concluded that it's a miracle good movies get made AT ALL. There are so many things that have to come together--acting, composition, lighting, writing, and on and on. And those things are ALL skilled trades in and of themselves...

-I seem to enjoy the pre-production and production stages, but less so the editing and fine-tuning. This, however, strikes me as something many people newly getting into film making would be apt to say.

-I am tired. I have slept 7 of the last 48 hours. It is time for bed.

Red Eye, Hour 26 or something

1 1/2 hours to go.

Editing editing editing.

Live, From the Red Eye Film Festival!

It is now the 22nd hour of the Red Eye Film Festival, and the accumulation of caffeine highs and lows has finally led to a process of obsolescence, in which the strength slowly drains from my body.

Every year here at Bethany Lutheran College, teams of students sign up for the Red Eye Film Festival, during which they get 30 hours to create a short film. Six of us worked on this thing, our previous formal training being myself and another guy having half a semester of an A/V basics course.

We got our prompt (a haiku with a 5-5-4 syllabic count that was apparently a proper haiku in Japanese) on Thursday at noon, but it wasn't until Friday afternoon that we got together to hammer out ideas. I made us start with what we had--easily reachable locations, props we owned, etc.--and come up with a story based on that, a good way to start as opposed to vice versa. The story we came up with worked well enough, which has basically been our motto this weekend-- "It's good enough." The haiku involved a crow, which obviously made us think of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven..." Yeah. It was interesting.

One thing that struck me about the idea process was that it goes in more of a circular motion rather than a planar one--there were a few cases where ideas suggested by one person at one time were shot down, only to be resurrected in a slightly different form later by someone else. Since this happened to pretty much everyone, it was good training in the suppression of egos for the good of the group (this is how communism could work--we could all just make movies together).

Once we had the story down, Aaron and I pounded out a script in about half an hour. We broke for supper, shot a couple scenes, then broke until morning. We woke at 6:30, had the rest of the scenes shot by 1, and now we are in the general tedium of editing. I think we'll get it done on time. It won't be the most brilliant piece of cinema history. It may get last place in the contest Sunday. But you know what? I don't care. It's been enormously fun.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Story of the Bad Little Boy, by Mark Twain

Once there was a bad little boy whose name was Jim - though, if you will notice, you will find that bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books. It was strange, but still it was true that this one was called Jim.

He didn’t have any sick mother either - a sick mother who was pious and had the consumption, and would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest but for the strong love she bore her boy, and the anxiety she felt that the world might be harsh and cold towards him when she was gone. Most bad boys in the Sunday-books are named James, and have sick mothers, who teach them to say, “Now, I lay me down,” etc. and sing them to sleep with sweet, plaintive voices, and then kiss them good-night, and kneel down by the bedside and weep. But it was different with this fellow. He was named Jim, and there wasn’t anything the matter with his mother - no consumption, nor anything of that kind. She was rather stout than otherwise, and she was not pious; moreover, she was not anxious on Jim’s account. She said if he were to break his neck it wouldn’t be much loss. She always spanked Jim to sleep, and she never kissed him good-night; on the contrary, she boxed his ears when she was ready to leave him.

Once this little bad boy stole the key of the pantry, and slipped in there and helped himself to some jam, and filled up the vessel with tar, so that his mother would never know the difference; but all at once a terrible feeling didn’t come over him, and something didn’t seem to whisper to him, “Is it right to disobey my mother? Isn’t it sinful to do this? Where do bad little boys go who gobble up their good kind mother’s jam?” and then he didn’t kneel down all alone and promise never to be wicked any more, and rise up with a light, happy heart, and go and tell his mother all about it, and beg her forgiveness, and be blessed by her with tears of pride and thankfulness in her eyes. No; that is the way with all other bad boys in the books; but it happened otherwise with this Jim, strangely enough. He ate that jam, and said it was bully, in his sinful, vulgar way; and he put in the tar, and said that was bully also, and laughed, and observed “that the old woman would get up and snort” when she found it out; and when she did find it out, he denied knowing anything about it, and she whipped him severely, and he did the crying himself. Everything about this boy was curious - everything turned out differently with him from the way it does to the bad James in the books.

Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn’s apple-tree to steal apples, and the limb didn’t break, and he didn’t fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer’s great dog, and then languish on a sick bed for weeks, and repent and become good. Oh! no; he stole as many apples as he wanted and came down all right; and he was all ready for the dog too, and knocked him endways with a brick when he came to tear him. It was very strange - nothing like it ever happened in those mild little books with marbled backs, and with pictures in them of men with swallow-tailed coats and bell-crowned hats, and pantaloons that are short in the legs, and women with the waists of their dresses under their arms, and no hoops on. Nothing like it in any of the Sunday-school books.

Once he stole the teacher’s pen-knife, and, when he was afraid it would be found out and he would get whipped, he slipped it into George Wilson’s cap - poor Widow Wilson’s son, the moral boy, the good little boy of the village, who always obeyed his mother, and never told an untruth, and was fond of his lessons, and infatuated with Sunday-school. And when the knife dropped from the cap, and poor George hung his head and blushed, as if in conscious guilt, and the grieved teacher charged the theft upon him, and was just in the very act of bringing the switch down upon his trembling shoulders, a white-haired improbable justice of the peace did not suddenly appear in their midst, and strike an attitude and say, “Spare this noble boy - there stands the cowering culprit! I was passing the school-door at recess, and unseen myself, I saw the theft committed!” And then Jim didn’t get whaled, and the venerable justice didn’t read the tearful school a homily and take George by the hand and say such a boy deserved to be exalted, and then tell him to come and make his home with him, and sweep out the office, and make fires, and run errands, and chop wood, and study law, and help his wife to do household labors, and have all the balance of the time to play, and get forty cents a month, and be happy. No; it would have happened that way in the books, but it didn’t happen that way to Jim. No meddling old clam of a justice dropped in to make trouble, and so the model boy George got thrashed, and Jim was glad of it because, you know, Jim hated moral boys. Jim said he was “down on them milk-sops.” Such was the coarse language of this bad, neglected boy.

But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn’t get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday, and didn’t get struck by lighting. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.

This Jim bore a charmed life - that must have been the way of it. Nothing could hurt him. He even gave the elephant in the menagerie a plug of tobacco, and the elephant didn’t knock the top of his head off with his trunk. He browsed around the cupboard after essence of peppermint, and didn’t make a mistake and drink aqua fortis. He stole his father’s gun and went hunting on the Sabbath, and didn’t shoot three or four of his fingers off. He struck his little sister on the temple with his fist when he was angry, and she didn’t linger in pain through long summer days, and die with sweet words of forgiveness upon her lips that redoubled the anguish of his breaking heart. No; she got over it. He ran off and went to sea at last, and didn’t come back and find himself sad and alone in the world, his loved ones sleeping in the quiet churchyard, and the vine-embowered home of his boyhood tumbled down and gone to decay. Ah! no; he came home as drunk as a piper, and got into the station-house the first thing.

And he grew up and married, and raised a large family, and brained them all with an axe one night, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality; and now he is the infernalist wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and is universally respected, and belongs to the Legislature.

So you see there never was a bad James in the Sunday-school books that had such a streak of luck as this sinful Jim with the charmed life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. "How happy we are here!" they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

"What are you doing here?" he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself." So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.


He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside. "How happy we were there," they said to each other.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. "Spring has forgotten this garden," they cried, "so we will live here all the year round." The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. "This is a delightful spot," he said, "we must ask the Hail on a visit." So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice.

"I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant's garden she gave none. "He is too selfish," she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King's musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. "I believe the Spring has come at last," said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. "Climb up! little boy," said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny.

And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. "How selfish I have been!" he said; "now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's playground for ever and ever." He was really very sorry for what he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant's neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. "It is your garden now, little children," said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were going to market at twelve o'clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.

"But where is your little companion?" he said: "the boy I put into the tree." The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

"We don't know," answered the children; "he has gone away."

"You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow," said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. "How I would like to see him!" he used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. "I have many beautiful flowers," he said; "but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all."

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, "Who hath dared to wound thee?" For on the palms of the child's hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him."

"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise."

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Charon, by Lord Dunsany

Charon leaned forward and rowed. All things were one with his weariness.

It was not with him a matter of years or of centuries, but of wide floods of time, and an old heaviness and a pain in the arms that had become for him part of the scheme that the gods had made and was of a piece with Eternity.

If the gods had even sent him a contrary wind it would have divided all time in his memory into two equal slabs.

So grey were all things always where he was that if any radiance lingered a moment among the dead, on the face of such a queen perhaps as Cleopatra, his eyes could not have perceived it.

It was strange that the dead nowadays were coming in such numbers. They were coming in thousands where they used to come in fifties. It was neither Charon's duty nor his wont to ponder in his grey soul why these things might be. Charon leaned forward and rowed.

Then no one came for a while. It was not usual for the gods to send no one down from Earth for such a space. But the gods knew best.

Then one man came alone. And the little shade sat shivering on a lonely bench and the great boat pushed off. Only one passenger: the gods knew best. And great and weary Charon rowed on and on beside the little, silent, shivering ghost.

And the sound of the river was like a mighty sigh that Grief in the beginning had sighed among her sisters, and that could not die like the echoes of human sorrow failing on earthly hills, but was as old as time and the pain in Charon's arms.

Then the boat from the slow, grey river loomed up to the coast of Dis and the little, silent shade still shivering stepped ashore, and Charon turned the boat to go wearily back to the world. Then the little shadow spoke, that had been a man.

"I am the last," he said.

No one had ever made Charon smile before, no one before had ever made him weep.

Storytime Intro

So, I have decided that in an effort to at least keep posting SOMETHING regularly, I am going to post a story of some kind every week. Mostly other people's stories, actual good ones. Just thought I'd alert y'all before I started doing so.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Aye, We'll Go

Towards the end of the summer just past, I went to Irishfest in Milwaukee with the Gees. It was a day of enormous fun, filled with music and dancing and more high kicks and reels than you could throw a pint at. We saw Rising Gael, we saw Solas, was saw Monto, we saw Gaelic Storm--all fantastic groups. The company was excellent too--yes, including Bruce.

This was Sunday, the last day of Irishfest. It's been my experience that the last day of a festival tends to, well, suck. Things are winding down, people starting to turn their eyes toward home, even starting to pack up a bit. Not at Irishfest. People here were still raring, drinking, partying as though the outside world were a figment of the collective imagination.

Sunday night, once the last band has played, they have what they call the Scattering. Every musician remaining, every dancer too, gathers on a single stage to play a set of tunes. Every person remaining on the festival grounds gathers to hear them--one last hurrah, before we all go home.

Such a gathering might not work save for Irish musicians--that is, getting literally dozens of them onstage and expecting everyone to play the same thing--but the Irish musical tradition is such that there are literally hours' worth of tunes that any Irish musician most likely knows.

They did some reels, a few traditional songs, some more reels with some dancing. How those lads and lasses had room to dance on that crowded stage is beyond me, but they managed it with aplomb. Finally, the woman who was leading the pack announced, "We're going to do one last song that everybody knows--'Will ye Go, Lassie?'"

At this point, I thought, "Oh, great." I thought this meaning no disrespect to the venerable song; but every group who might be even remotely Irish has a version of this song, and in my experience they have largely sucked.

I should have known better. With that many great musicians onstage, I think it would have been possible to do a good version of "Strangers in the Night." Okay, maybe that's pushing it.

And as the band--the horde--began to play, I began to realize just why everybody does this song: it's a gorgeous song. With a lilting melody and simple lyrics, it recreates the feeling of a warm summer afternoon with nothing to do but rove the mountains and pick wild thyme.

And everybody knew the song, and everybody joined in on the chorus--and for those of us who didn't know, we learned it.

Will ye go, lassie, go?
And we'll all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All across the blooming heather...

And suddenly there was an explosion, and it was not our hearts thudding in our ears but the sound of fireworks, and they lit up the sky behind us, and we were enclosed in our own perfect little world, singing together in perfect unity. And, for just a moment, we seemed to float above the ground and the sound became not that of earth or any of her realms but of Faerie, of the undying lands that mortals can never know. And I thought that maybe this was just the barest splinter, the barest shiver of Heaven.

Then, the song ended, as all things must on this earth; and as all things must on this earth, the gathering broke and scattered, and we became people once again.