Monday, September 25, 2006

better late than never

I understand I'm about two years behind everyone else on this, but if you like the Polyphonic Spree (I preferred them when they were known as 'The Beatles', but they're still okay) and if you also like the game "Myst", then you need to visit It took me forever to figure out what the heck to do, so I'll let you in on this tidbit: keep running your cursor over EVERYTHING on screen, and when it turns into a hand, click and see what happens. Eventually, things will make sense. And it will be adorable, not to mention oddly satisfying.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

from the mixed-up files of Ms. Astrid E. Frankweiler

Did you know that people can literally die laughing? As in: they laugh so hard they get a heart attack, or asphyxiate, and there you are? It's called 'fatal hilarity', and yes, there's a Wikipedia entry on it, and no, I will not link to it, because I am feeling lazy. Anyway, I did find this handy list of Nine People Who Died Laughing, and I am still puzzled by the guy who kicked the bucket while watching A Fish Called Wanda. I mean, really? A Fish Called Wanda? Huh.

Also: I stumbled upon this incredible book of world libraries, which, if you're trying to think of a way to impress me, you should NOT buy, because I will be SO in love with this book I will feel ridiculously guilty for not having a gift for you in return. The main reason I bring this up, though, is that I heart libraries, and I heart beautiful architecture, so this unites two great loves of mine in a tidy little package of whimsy and wonderment and makes me feel as if we as a civilization must be doing something right.

To be perfectly honest, I wish I could move into these shrines to knowledge. Screw letting John/Jane Q. Public into the libraries for their pesky book reports/Nobel Prize-winning research/what-have you; I covet the glorious landmarks for myself alone. How cool would it be to have your bed in the middle of one of these airy spaces, vaulted ceilings above you, cool marble floors under your bare toes as you pad around at ungodly hours through the rare manuscripts section? Sigh.

Actually, I'm sure the reality would be rather creepy, so better to leave things as they are, and to dream. Now that I think about it, the closest I've ever gotten to the realization of this fantasy is the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, in which two kids get to camp out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This fine piece of literature was made into a lousy TV movie, but is still a brilliant, breathtaking book. Konigsburg is a terrific writer in general—she writes characters I wish I could be. Best of all, they save me the trouble of breaking into the Met, for which we should all be grateful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

quoth the raven, "Duckies?"

At first, I was going to post a long, depressing entry about having to wait for a taxi for an hour and a half last night. And then I was going to write about getting home obscenely late and wanting nothing more than a long, hot shower, only to learn that my building's water supply was to be shut off sometime between midnight and 4am, yet I took my chances anyway, and I had just gotten damp when the raging torrent that was my shower quickly dribbled down to a measly trickle, and I finally had to put it out of its misery and turn the whole thing off, and then I stared woefully at the dripping faucets for a bit, and then I was going to further write about how I went to bed shivering and pathetic, thinking Farewell, hot shower, and the whole thing was going to be full of pathos and poignance, and you were all going to feel sorry for me.

This is not that blog entry.

Today was quite fab. My horrible haircut (which makes me look like Audrey Hepburn's dyke sister, not that that's a bad thing, but it's not an Astrid thing, and I don't think Hepburn even HAD a dyke sister, but whatever) is actually starting to look okay. Mod, even.

Also: my first-ever directing class went well—my students told me I have Magical & Astounding Brain Powers, which was rather nice, but it came at the price of spending three solid hours hammering out storyboards and shot lists with them. Phew.

And I actually returned (nearly) every phone call I've received over the past few days, which makes me feel like I am a better person than I was a few hours ago.

And I finally watched a bunch of of LonelyGirl15's blog entries (I'm two degrees of separation away from her, don't ask), and BOY HOWDY am I glad she's not the real deal. I mean, hey. She reads Feynman. She's self-possessed, well-spoken, beautiful—and she's supposed to be FIFTEEN. I was NOWHERE near that nifty when I was fifteen, fer chrissake—who the hell is? If I had seen these entries of hers prior to the big unveiling of the truth in the LA Times (the process of which reads like a William Gibson novel), I would have felt a retroactive shame for being a not-quite-as-smart, not-quite-as-glam, not-quite-as-cool fifteen-year-old. The entries are admittedly endearing, and kind of addictive, but they also make me feel vaguely worse about myself.

Onto a neat-o synergy I just experienced: go here, and play what you see. At the same time, go to this page, and look at it as the mp3 plays. Now, I don't know if this is just me and my unusual sensitivities to indigo, twilight skies, lone birds soaring overhead through said twilit skies, suggestions of poison, and silvery-voiced women with electronica flourishes, but this combo makes me Feel Something. Namely, it makes me very aware of my Inner Goth, a woman I have not spoken with in a while. Time was, she'd make me wear lots of black on black (for that messy, poetic, raven look), and quote Baudelaire in the original French. These days, I'm too groggy from blathering about shot lists and being abandoned by taxi men and lack of proper sleep to bother being goth, but this combo has brought her back up from my inner basement to my inner living room, where she is now curled up into a comfy little ball of black on black upon my inner couch, sipping some blood orange tea and darting her eyes around suspiciously. I don't think she likes the new wallpaper I put up—too many duckies, she says.

Wow, I really need to go to sleep. And maybe wear something floaty and black-on-black tomorrow.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I would like a muffin, and other pirate-related matters

For those of you who've been living in a cave up until now, the 19th is Talk Like A Pirate Day, and Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive entry on this. In order to get into the proper spirit, one ought to familiarize one's self with the pirate lexicon:

Talk Like a Pirate Day - The Five A's (performed by the guys who actually invented Talk Like A Pirate Day)

Since no pirate-related holiday is complete without a theme song, here ya go:

Talk Like a Pirate Day - "I'm a Pirate" song (good, rousing chorus; best sung with a tankard of ale in your hand and three hundred of your closest friends)

And for no good reason, other than a few shining moments of pure, mindless entertainment (Arr! Pirates!):

Pirate Practice

The music for the above video is "The Worst Pirate Song" by Ceann.

And now for some depressing piracy news: voting for our nation's President on a Diebold machine is officially hackable idiocy. Arr! What a great way to pollute the memory of pirates everywhere! Diebold-hacking f---ers. If they exist, I will hunt them down, and kick them with my peg leg. Hard.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

jellyfish and jodhpurs

Kinky-sounding molecular names can be found here, but why the heck would you care? I mean, come ON. Get a life. Like, der.

Also: I think this is beautiful, since I like demented takes on Alice in Wonderland.

Hey, check it: I'm regarding a Modigliani!

And I'm getting jellyfish hugs!

(Profuse thanks to the ever-talented Eric Canete, of course.) Does he make me look glam, or what? Better than any photo, I say.

Just FYI, for those of you who keep track of me best through this infernal MySpace device, I'll start teaching directing next week, in addition to cinematography! Those who can, do; those who can't, teach directing. Or something like that. Anyway, wish me luck! My dad asked me if I'm going to start wearing jodhpurs, klieg glasses, and an eye patch, and I'm seriously considering this. To quote IMDb, "it was Raoul Walsh who made the eye-patch almost as synonymous with a Hollywood director as Cecil B. DeMille's jodhpurs."

Now THAT is what I call glamorous. Who needs to actually make movies, when you can just look cool? To hell with actual hard work, I'm just gonna WORK IT. Aw yeah.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

blasts from the past, present, and future

First of all, I am newly a Pandora girl. I had never heard of the following bands/songs, and now I can't believe I ever lived without them:

"It Generates" by Iris
"Plastic 1" by Lackluster
"St. Vodka (Mother Russia)" by Architect
"Riad Dreams (Red Brick Mix)" by Aatchi Ensemble
"Proper Hoodidge" by Amon Tobin
"Turn On (The Beat Box)" by Earth, Wind & Fire
"Home and the Heartland" by Lisa Kelly
"Seduce Me" by Gerd
"The Mystic's Dream" by Loreena McKennitt
"La Felicidade" by Les Baxter
"Toby Dammit's Last Act" by Nino Rota
"Be Little With Me" by Stars of the Lid

and, of course, Audley Green playing jazz harpsichord. Yes, this list is insanely me! (You say 'schizophrenic', I say 'eclectic.' Tomayto, tomahto.)

Also, I feel I need to explain the new photos on my main page, post (posted?) by my friend Mike. The upper one is of Mike and me, putting our heads together. I very nearly didn't post it, because I'm not wearing make-up and I look like hell, but the picture amuses me, and perfectly captures the spirit of our final year of undergrad, so I couldn't resist. The lower photo of the ghoul in glasses and graduation gown is -- you guessed it -- me. I was kind of surprised to see my clunky boots, until I remembered that everybody was wearing those in the late nineties, along with high-waisted jeans and cable-knit sweaters. Yech.

Oh, and just for the record, when Mike and I marched into the Michigan Stadium for our graduation, I was wearing the costume you see in the photo, AND I was perched on his shoulders. I made a point of waving to the crowd like the Queen of England, and people laughed and yelled and pointed and waved back and snapped pics. We made quite a splash, as you can probably imagine. Ah, heady times.

I also changed the music on the main page [of my MySpace profile], to post a truly kick-ass work by Daniel Lenz. The man rocks, no question.

And in the space of my typing all this, Pandora has played "Autumn Almanac" by the Kinks, and "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" by Sufjan Stevens. I am having an excellent Sunday evening, thank you.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

at least it's not midget porn

Some of you may have noticed that I like to edit my postings AFTER I've posted them. And re-edit them. And re-re-edit them. This stems partially from my control-freak mentality, but mostly from my need to maintain my job. See, I strongly suspect that some of my high school students started reading my blog as of this summer, and I can already imagine their parents seeing my racy rantings ("BDSM airport security procedure?! Egads!") and phoning up the school where I teach film, insisting that I am Tainting The Youth of America and must be fired.

So, while I hate censorship, I hate being homeless even more. Therefore, I satisfy my need to express myself by publishing a first edition of sorts, and then after a few hours have passed and I see the blog hits skyrocket, my panic reaches a certain threshold and I perform my blog vivisection. ::weep::

I was therefore a little pissed, and simultaneously elated, when I went a-huntin' on this here MySpace last night, and discovered that a VERY SENIOR PERSON within my school's administration has—wait for this—MIDGET PORN on his MySpace page. MID. GET. PORN. I'm pissed, because I've performed all my MySpace vivisections for NOTHING, and I'm also elated because this now means I can't get fired.

Very Senior Person: Uh, Astrid, we got some irate phone calls today from some of our students' parents. They feel you're a bad influence—
Very Senior Person: I'll just refund their checks.

Even right now, I'm feeling very divided about this. Should I stop expressing myself freely, thus ensuring my future employment? Or should I trust the power of midget porn to keep me on the payroll no matter what?

O, the agony of ambivalence.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

mannequins & mango chutney

Check out these wacky anatomy dummies from ages past. It is pretty interesting to note how our approaches towards the human body shifted over the generations, going from lush ladies with flowing tresses to headless torsoes with abstracted organs in more 'tasteful,' color-coordinated tones. The body lost its soul somewhere, and started being taught as an elegant machine. Intriguing, no?

Speaking of artificial representations of humanity, I love The Little Girl Giant, done by ElectricPig:

And finally, apropos of nothing, I dislike farmers' markets. In the immortal words of Ze Frank, "I don't take candy from strangers, why the hell am I gonna trust 'em with mango chutney?" Amen, Ze. Amen.

camera mystique and other rot

So, I've noticed that a ridiculous number of people are consistently checking my blogspace every day, even though I don't post more than every once in a while. C'mon, people! Just subscribe to the damn thing, and then you can rest your clicky finger by waiting for the blog updates to come to you! Unless, of course, you'd be embarrassed if I knew your identity, and you're happier with hiding behind the iron MySpace curtain. E-cowards!

So, anyway, I saw this Ayumi Hamasaki video, and my first thought was: how much did the Arri corporation fork out for this PR stunt? I mean, it's just THE most ridiculous collection of camera-fetish images I think I've ever seen, outside of an industrial ("Color Film Stock and You, Together At Last"). One of the first images we see is a pair of hands loading/fondling the camera's innards. YURGH. I love working with cameras, but I don't, um, love my cameras.

This is clearly a case of testosterone gone horribly awry, and I can't say it surprises me too much. Camera (and cinematography) is still the domain of men, and mostly white men at that. Many understand that a camera is simply a tool (heh, 'tool') for collecting images, and it's really the images that matter; many more, however, seem to regard cameras as ends unto themselves. Ooh, check out the precision! The rotors! The manly black veneers! The shiny chrome accents! It's like the devotion a lot of guys show towards, say, a Lamborghini. Who cares about the destination? My car is HOTTT. And so is my camera. Mrreeeowrf. Heck, I even know a guy who has the Steadicam logo tattooed on his back, which should give you some idea of the degree of Fetishization of the Camera I've seen amongst guys in the industry.

Since so many seem to view cameras as extensions of their, um, manhood, it can make life for a female camerawoman (okay, me) rather uncomfortable—the typically male view of camerawork seems confrontational, expecially when compared to my view. Instead of 'aiming my equipment' (heh) and 'shooting' (camerawork as hunting, Ayumi as prey, not to mention other porn-o-riffic connotations), I tend to see cameras as 'receiving.' In my world, it is Ayumi who is aiming at the passive medium of film or video, which is preserving her image 24 times a second. This seems, to me at least, the fundamental difference between how men and women approach filmmaking.

It really doesn't help that EVERY GODDAMN PERSON ON THE AYUMI SET IS MALE, other than Ayumi. There they are, leering middle-aged men, 'capturing' the image of the passive, prancing singer. They poke and prod her, rearrange her hair the way one might fiddle with a Barbie doll, point high-tech thingies at her, and so forth. Stand still, little girl, while big daddy shoves his 'lens' in your face and makes you a star. And she takes it! There's no sign of thought on her face, no signal of control over her surroundings; she just bounces around in golden light, singing into a microphone-as-thinly-veiled-phallic-symbol, goateed men in dark glasses coldly regarding her. Good job, pretty little cash cow. Keep mooing, and we'll give you more bling.

Sorry if this sounds irate by my typical Astrid standards, but I'm really tired of never seeing a woman behind a camera, unless I'm on set and there's a reflective surface nearby. It also kills me when I'm teaching a camera class, and the women present say things like "Thank you for removing the mystique of camera for us." Cameras have NO BUSINESS having mystique! That's like saying a POTTERY WHEEL has mystique! Or that a CHAIN SAW has mystique! Guys buy into this whole mystique crap and eat it up with a spoon; women see it as a threat, and decide that cinematography isn't for least, until I talk to them for a while, and they understand how approachable it is.

It sure feels lonely over here sometimes. Pretty, vacuous nothings like Ayumi make me realize just how far we have to go.

ADDENDUM: I just remembered, when I went to the NAB convention in Vegas a couple of years ago, I tried asking an Arri representative about a new model they were showing off. He refused to make eye contact with me, and answered all my questions to my then-boyfriend, who was standing next to me and hadn't said a word. The rep might as well have said, "I'm sorry, I don't speak estrogen." It was so pointed, and so ridiculous, I started trying to force the rep to make eye contact with me as he was blathering at my boyfriend, leaning into the space between them and so on, and the rep kept backing away and refusing to look at me, even when I was almost on top of him and continuing my questions as politely as possible. It would have been hilarious, if only it hadn't been so horrifying. I'd like to point out here that I'm only 4'11", so any claim that the rep found me threatening is beyond insane.

The worst part of all was that this was the THIRD camera rep to treat me like garbage that day. It really didn't help that the only other women I saw were corporate reps in verrrrrrrry low-cut suits, leaning over a lot as they said "Let me show you our products." My boyfriend witnessed all of this and backed me up, so I know I'm not delusional. He was pretty shocked, and thankfully very empathetic. Alas, he's hardly typical in the cinematography community.

In fairness, there was one shining beacon of hope and justice at that convention: Ira Tiffen. I was ambling over towards the Tiffen display, and (shock!) there were women reps who were NOT wearing low-cut suits! In fact, they were very professional- and friendly-looking. And one of them caught my eye and exuberantly waved at me, hollering "A female filmmaker! Oh my god! Come on over!" And they made oodles of eye contact, and answered my questions as best as possible, and for the questions they couldn't answer, they flagged Ira himself to come help me. Which he did, also making eye contact and being very helpful in the extreme, speaking with me for ten whole minutes and never once making me feel like I was wasting his time.

Bless you, Ira Tiffen, and all the fab folks you employ. You are one of the few who gives me hope, besides Mike Berlin, the cinematographer from "Everybody Loves Raymond" who took me under his wing for a while. We still talk shop every so often, and he's always been extremely encouraging. Now, if only every other guy in the biz besides Ira, Mike, and my ex-boyfriend could be the same way, the world would be a far, far better place, free of my rantings. Wouldn't it be lovely?

Saturday, September 2, 2006

because my dad has impeccable taste in entertainment...

...and he just sent me this, so I just had to post it for your viewing pleasure.

Rube Goldberg devices are a weakness of mine, and they're even more exciting when narrated in excruciating, breathless detail by a Japanese show host.

narcissism, pirates, and other goodies

Ahoy, mateys! Did you know that September is California Wild Rice Month, International People Skills Month, International Strategic Thinking Month, National Biscuit Month, National Honey Month, National Piano Month, Shameless Promotion Month, Subliminal Communications Month, and Update Your Resume Month?

So, in other words, if you're looking for work as a Strategic Thinker, and play piano at a piano bar, and by the use of subliminal communication you manage to snag the attention of a patron who happens to work at the Pentagon, and you hand them your resume, and you schmooze with them so effectively they invite you to join them for dinner, and you enjoy a meal which includes wild rice and biscuits & honey—then you will be The Ultimate September Person in the History of Septembers. It also helps if you have a birthday in September like my friend Mike S. and my brother, whose birthdays are on the same day.

So, let's look at the various notable September Weeks:

National Waffle Week: 3-9
Is it just me, or was it just National Waffle Day? I think the waffle industry is getting a tad greedy here.

Bottled Water Week: 17-23
Now, honestly—does the bottled-water industry really need a special week? Every day in LA is Bottled Water Day already! Sheesh.

National Love Your Files Week: 17-23
Uh, I appreciate my files, which are alphabetized...mostly. But do I LOVE my files? Nah. Too kinky for me.

Tolkien Week: 17-23
Bet Peter Jackson's all sorts of excited.

National Chimney Safety Week: 24-30
Bet fans of Mary Poppins are all sorts of excited. Sadly, this includes me.

And onto the extra-special Events o' September (or, as I like to type it, "Spetmeber", which is how I shall spell "September" from now on):

Be Late For Something Day: 5
I finally got over my habitual lateness, so for me, this is like having a National Get Wasted Day for recovering alcoholics. You insensitive bastards.

Wonderful Weirdoes Day: 9
Has my name all over it! I expect presents.

Swap Ideas Day: 10
Um, I do this for a living, why does everyone else get stuck with one day?

Fortune Cookie Day: 13
Every day is Fortune Cookie Day here in Astridland!

International Chocolate Day: 13
See Fortune Cookie Day.

Anne Bradstreet Day: 16
Hooray for America's first female poet! Bonus: she's actually good.

Talk Like A Pirate Day: 19
Omigod. I miss this every year. But not this time! BY GOD, NOT THIS TIME. Yar.

Elephant Appreciation Day: 22
See Fortune Cookie Day.

Hobbit Day: 22
Whoa, wait a sec—Tolkien already got a week, what the hell is this?

National White Chocolate Day: 22
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! BOYCOTT! Everybody knows that white chocolate is a hoax perpetrated by racist candymakers! For SHAME!

Punctuation Day: 24
I LOVE Punctuation Day. My favorite is the interrobang.

And finally, because I love you all and have no shame, I am posting a picture of myself on set, looking vaguely pissed:

The Afro Aliens & Me

I refuse to explain anything, other than to say that I wasn't actually pissed at anyone except myself, because the ND gel on the windows was catching too much glare, and there was NOTHING I COULD DO ABOUT IT. HOLY GODDAMN. Other than that, it was a fabulous shoot, and it amuses me that there were about twenty other people crammed into the room, carefully hidden in this photograph, and all the camera/lighting crap you see was orchestrated by moi. Don't the afroed men look fabulous? Yes. Yes, they do.

Note to fellow DPs: I know, the lighting on the actors is flat as hell, BUT THAT WAS THE POINT. It's supposed to be a nasty-ass, 70s-era, Denny's-like restaurant; so, by golly, the lighting was set up accordingly. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, Jeff Cronenweth!

Further note to fellow DPs: it's the F900. See? You didn't even have to ask—we're already getting a jumpstart on that Spetmeber Subliminal Communication! I'm so proud of you.