Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fashion Emergency, Again!

There is a benefit that FFP really wanted to attend on Friday. The fashion designation is "Texas Flash, Texas Trash." He got an e-mail from the organizers with some suggestions for the ladies from Neiman Marcus. Yeah, right! I was thinking about black jeans, a silver lamé turtle neck and a tuxedo jacket. But I did suggest that I could use some boots. Now FFP is all over me to go out and buy boots.

The picture is recycled...taken at least five years ago in a junk shop.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Didn't Report on Austin Film Festival

And I should have. Reported on the festival, that is. It was a great festival. I've never made a film (unless you count little thirty second or less bits with the point and shoot digital camera), written for film or anything of the kind. I did once consider making stop action films with my bendable, posable collection like these delightful Fido Dido figures. (Photo taken in office long ago.) But no...I'm a dilettante of filmdom. Still, we went to the Austin Film and heard how it was done and saw the results. We went to some interesting panels. We saw some great movies and some that made us go 'hmmm.' We enjoyed getting out and going to the venues. (We always set aside other social things and dedicate ourselves to being film dilettantes.) While downtown we explored old and new haunts.

We enjoyed seeing Dan Petrie, Jr. again. (We visited with him when he came to town for an event the AFF put on in August.) He said 'hello' during the Film and Food benefit and said how delighted he was to be presenting one of the festival's awards. To Glenn Gordon Caron, I believe. FFP and I failed to pull the trigger on getting luncheon tickets and it was sold out so we didn't see the awards presented this year. We enjoyed Dan's discussions and antics in a couple of panels. He took the fest's title of one panel, 'Shot of Inspiration,' literally and showed up with a bottle and tons of little mouthwash cups. The bottle was empty before he got to us, but we still thought it was funny as he diligently tried to pour a little 'shot' for the scores of panel attendees.

I'm not a screenwriter. I'm an admitted dilettante and live by the motto you see on this page: "Pretending to write but really just blogging." But I learned a lot about screen writing from the panelists. Gems like "Don't let method close your mind." And techniques like making your story into a simple myth-like tale and constantly referring to that structure. A friend of mine who has done some plays by retelling the stories in operas has used that idea in his own way.

In one of these panels someone said that introducing a problem and solving it in the same sequence is a waste of time. Now that's a mistake I don't make in blogging. I have introduced tons of problems: too much stuff, the inability to focus, the distractions from what's important. And I've solved virtually nothing! Oh, but in the movies the resolution must come.

One of the panelists advised the attendees to "write a movie you want to see that only you can write." Now, this blog is a blog that only yours truly could bring to life. That's for sure. Whether I really want to see it or reread it later. Well, that's another matter.

What else did I learn from the accomplished writers who were panelists at this premier screen writing festival? Hmm...well, don't use ellipses in screen plays. And in that 'Shot of Inspiration' deal I learned that inspiration probably doesn't come from a bottle, but that it often comes when we aren't thinking about writing. But I knew that in my heart of hearts. Oh, and someone advised that you should write a scene that you know isn't going to be in the movie just to get to know your characters. Maybe that's why I blog but also write on my computer in a 'mostly for my eyes only' journal.

Some of the writers were strong proponents of the written outline. That often cited thing about "characters taking over and doing and saying things you didn't expect?" The experts said it happens and it's a good thing. On writer's block someone said (or quoted someone as saying): "The creative mind flees from its obligations." Ain't it the truth?

I always have trouble, when trying to write fiction with dialog. (That would make it difficult to write plays and movies, huh?) Aline Brosh McKenna (who adapted The Devil Wears Prada for the screen) said "If the story is working, then the dialog is obvious." Someone suggested just writing dialog without character names and not in screenplay format and then format and then cut, cut, cut. Nicholas Kazan advised looking at a speech and figuring out its purpose. And then cutting everything that didn't serve the purpose.

Someone in a seminar claimed that David Mamet said that in a scene where someone is going off to war, everyone will have them come in and say "I'm going off to war." But, he allegedly added, "Few can resist having them say 'I once had a kitten.'"

I liked this advice, too: "The viewer is happy to come in right in the middle of the action." Or this, similar gem: "Writing a scene is like going to a party...arrive late, leave early."

Someone said that the greatest invention in script writing was multi-colored post-it notes. (Trademark 3m.) He (it was a he I think) said use a different color for each character. Your characters, we learned, have to be put through something.

When you are all done? Don't send it to the big talent agents. "They won't even recycle the paper." But in the "Groundbreaking TV" panel we found out that "Groundbreaking things happen when you are being ignored."

So what to make of all this? Is it just me transcribing notes? And recycling old pictures? You bet. Get used to it because I've signed up (mentally at least) to post every day in November and December.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Things That Stop Progress

Cleaning out some of the 'souvenirs and archives' boxes the other day I came across several copies of this picture. It is Forrest's dad. He might be in his twenties. That brought me up short and I had to scan the picture and consider how I might use the image for a card for his next birthday---his 97th.

Progress has been slow. Things stop progress. Including a weird dental problem I've been having. Assuming it is a dental problem.

There are bumps in the road. The first thing it seems to stop is the great downsizing effort. I go on with dealing with finances and playing my dilettante role...playing tennis, exercising, going to myriad social events.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I have published a photos before of the reflection of downtown in the shop windows at the South Lamar center than includes Alamo Drafthouse. The 360 (right side in this reverse image) has almost reached its full height. In prior photos here and here it was shorter. Things change. Everything influencing everything else.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reflecting from a Slight Distance

Sometimes you need to step back a little and take a longer view. Instead of sitting in your office surrounded by piles of newspapers, paper ephemera, books, magazines and things that need doing,typing on your desktop, you need to take your laptop and your digital camera somewhere and watch the results of creative young people expressing themselves. Snap a bunch of silly pictures, log onto wireless somewhere and think about how, when you get back to the house, you are going to ruthlessly toss stuff, efficiently organize, etc. I did bring along a couple of old New Yorkers, though. Can't change things too fast.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Daily? Every day?

Actually blogging every day is easy. I struggle a little over at Austin Daily Photo because a picture is required and I want the picture to be fresh, not too much like the one the day before. But just writing? Er typing? Easy. My personal diary Word doc on the computer reached 134 pages the other day. And I started typing in it in May. Over at the Journal of Unintended Consequences we have to have some fodder from the real world so that slows me down. Not that there isn't fodder enough. It's just getting the facts organized from other sources.

But truth is easier than fiction. A friend of mine had an idea for a movie. So I was helping her shape characters, writing little bios; and doing timelines and prose sketches of 'scenes.' Last night I tried my hand at a page of dialog using a demo of Final Draft. Fiction is hard. Characters are hard. Dialog is hard. Formatting a screenplay? Hard even with 'helpful software.' However, typing paragraphs into blogs is easy. I just did two paragraphs here. And I've done ADP for today.

I'm tuning up for NaBloPoMo and Holidailies. I officially like the latter name better and the portal for participating in Holidailies has been the bee's knees in years past.

[Note: Photo is randomly selected. It is the (as yet unfinished, I think) conference room at the Ballet Austin Butler Dance Education Center.]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

One Little Thing

Sometimes I sit at my desk and I'm overwhelmed at all the stuff on the desk waiting to be dealt with (business cards, receipts, little notebooks with 'to do' lists or notes that need transcribing, bills, postcards, souvenirs, etc.) When I was cleaning out a file cabinet I came across a folder labeled 'Wimbledon' and inside were some souvenirs. This was a credential from my visit in 1984. This got you into some lounge and we had a Center Court ticket, too. Unfortunately there were four of us so we stood in a miles-long line to get grounds passes and then took turns seeing a few games on Center Court and also saw lots of tennis on the outside courts. The souvenirs got scanned, saved and safely filed away and cataloged.

The desk is still messy and cluttered. But with a few less things.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Daily Strain

I signed up for something called NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) which is just a bunch of blogs trying to post every day in November. Now, we have been very religious in posting daily at Austin Daily Photo. But that is a different sort of animal. The Visible Woman is a spot for more introspection where a mere picture and a bit of explanation thereof won't do it. No. Here at TVW we have responsibilities to discuss the issues of our time: aging, art, collections, downsizing (especially downsizing), drinking, exercise, found objects, happiness, organizing, museums, music, retirement, shop windows, stuff, wine, words and more. But I'm going to flex my daily writing muscles here in preparation for the big flurry of words that November is sure to bring. (And who knows, December, too, maybe if my friend Jette offers a Holidailies site.)

Today I offer a picture taken six years ago in the very office where I now sit. The really funny thing about this picture? Most of the computer equipment you can see (and a number of other items) are no longer here. But. It looks just as messy today. Sigh. I use the excuse that I've emptied file cabinets, closets and drawers and am busy sorting through stuff. But, really, this isn't going quickly enough, is it?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spiraling into the Rabbit Hole

Yesterday, Sunday, had a delicious free quality to it. We had a little social event in the evening and one that didn't elicit a fashion emergency at that. This was the first day in a few weeks where there weren't daytime commitments as well as evening ones. Don't get me was all fun or self-improving stuff for the most part. Still I'd been busy. Here was a nice time to maybe catch up on the downsizing or get something tidied up around here. Or just relax and read. So how did I waste my time?

I decided to run virus and spyware scans on one computer and watched them run part of the time. I tried to work The New York Times magazine crossword on the computer and later tried to fill it in in the actual magazine. (No joy until today when I could unlock the key and get help. Clever puns in this one.)

At one point I thought I'd attack a pile of magazines that had survived other attempts to move them toward recycling. I managed to discard a few. In one I just had to read a piece before letting it go. Most of the ones I looked at got saved. A Harper's because of a piece by Jonathan Lethem about plagiarism that was completely plagiarized. (I later read this on the exercise bike but still saved it because I hadn't completely read his notes about where he extracted everything.) I saved a Summer Fiction edition of The New Yorker from 2004 even though I have it on DVD because you never know when it would be handy to take along to read. I saved another Harper's because of an article about Werner Herzog. I saved a June issue of The New York Times magazine not to work the puzzle (which looks quite hard) or to read the serialized novel (I haven't been able to get into any of these and this is chapter five of the last one they did). No, it was a bunch of articles about the rich getting richer and the know. I'm still trying to figure out which I am much less the whys and wherefores and politics of that economic idea. So...interesting and maybe I should read it.

Then there was The New Yorker issue (too new to be on DVD yet) which had a review of the Edith Piaf movie I missed at the theaters. I saved a Harper's because of an essay on the virtues of idleness. The irony was not lost on me.

I saved another issue of The New Yorker because of an article about the Queen Mary 2. The issue is on the DVD collection. But I'd really like to read it. If I ever get downsized and escape real estate hades, I'd like to go on that ship. I've been on the QE 2. But I digress.

Another issue of The New Yorker survived because of an article about neurosurgery and a Woody Allen casual. And another because of an article about mathematics. So sue me. I must confess that there is a 2005 issue in one of the bathrooms because of an article about Angela Merkel.

So the result of all that activity was that one pile had become two, reduced by three or four magazines that will make the recycling truck on Friday.

During my bout with the magazines, FFP arrived in my office with a 'home for sale' brochure from a house in the neighborhood. We spent a bit of time looking the place up in the database of the local tax collector and calculating a price per square foot.

I sorted through some current newspapers and tossed some ads in recycling. I glanced at Marilyn Vos Savant's column in Parade. She had an interesting puzzle. I didn't try to work it out but when I read the solution I thought it was amazing and wrote a small proof about why it worked. Seriously.

I managed to get to my gym for some exercise (mostly riding the recumbent bike while reading the Jonathan Lethem piece). I thought briefly about a trip to New York, too. Because in New York once, in the Village somewhere, we found a mystery book store while waiting for time for a jazz performance at the Vanguard. And I bought Motherless Brooklyn because it seemed interesting, I wanted to support the store and it was set in Brooklyn. I later bought Fortress of Solitude because I liked Lethem.

Yeah, those were the kinds of "accomplishments" and reveries I managed on this day of little obligation. Oh, and I put together a letter about my great nephew Jack's Flat Stanley's adventures in Austin and ordered and picked up prints of pictures of his (F. Stanley's) visit here and wrote on postcards and put the whole thing (along with Mr. F. Stanley with arms and legs folded) in a package to mail back to Jack's teacher.

I wanted to accomplish things in my retirement. I didn't anticipate how much my adult attention deficit disorder would affect idle times. And my greatest accomplishment seems to be becoming a dilettante. And learning to spell dilettante!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Film Stupid and Flat Stanley

I was going to try to update more regularly here. But events keep getting in my way. We are going to a bunch of Austin Film Festival events. Saturday we spent the entire day downtown from around nine in the morning until after ten. We saw four panels in the conference, watched "Born on the Fourth of July" and an Q&A with Oliver Stone afterward and saw a set of shorts in the palatial (NOT) Hideout Venue. (Shorts. Hideout. Necessary for any Austin Film experience.)

My great nephew sent me a Flat Stanley and we took him downtown with us. Above he visits the W Hotel and Condos sales office. He's considering getting a place. In the model.He has to go back to the boy's teacher. He lives in Colorado but he might make a second home here, reversing the trend of Texans living here and having second homes in Colorado to retreat to in the blazing hot Texas summer.

Anyway, I'm so film stupid that I'm ignorant of the work of icons like Oliver Stone and new phenoms like Jason Reitman. Not that I haven't seen their films. But still. Film Stupid. Oh, and who is this cultural flash Diablo Cody (aka Brook Busey-Hunt). I'm so out of it. Flat Stanley is more hip, I think, than I am. We saw Diablo's movie "Juno" last night. It is a teen movie. And I liked it. Amazing. It was funny and poignant and developed four major characters and two more minor ones in interesting and believable ways. Flat Stanley liked the movie, too. But all cameras were banned from the showing so I couldn't even get his picture outside the Paramount.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How on Earth?

Collections that are oh so cute and seemed like such good ideas at the time. Now which ones to say goodbye to and which ones to save. These remain, patiently awaiting my decision.

Swimming in the Past

My house is turned inside out, secrets exposed. As the spirit moves me I go through closets and boxes and drawers and the 'pencil cups' scattered around the house. The above closet has had a going through resulting in a lot of stuff being sent to the thrift store or thrown away and other things just pulled out for sorting. (The green and yellow paint is left over from the former owners. They sold us the house three decades ago I'm embarrassed to say.) The room that has this closet is rather a disaster of sorting and piling as is my office where the closets and drawers and shelves are becoming more empty and organized as the floor becomes littered with piles and boxes.

On my desk I have the small notebook where I'm scribbling current ideas, to do lists and expenses. But I also have notebooks from 1992 and 1996 open to the pages where I stopped transcribing contents I wanted to save. There is also a micro cassette recorder loaded up with a tape from 1989 that I've been listening to, seeing if I wanted to capture any of the contents. There is a large folder open on a chair with printed bulletin board messages and journals written on the computer and other paper correspondence. I've been reading a journal I wrote in Berlin in 1995 from the folder. On the floor is a pile of more or less current newspapers I haven't gotten around to reading, a pile of hanging file folders I've emptied of no longer relevant content, a pile of magazines (mostly New Yorkers) I haven't been able to give up and a pile of current information for my board duties at the country club.

The sorting in my office and the spare room (home of the above closet) is harder than, say, the kitchen. Things aren't merely things here but memories. It is interesting to see what clippings and printouts and photos survive the sorting. One moment I'm thinking what a full and interesting life I've had and the next feeling much has been wasted. I'm not one to dwell on the past or worry about the future but sitting here among my decades with a file in the drawer labeled 'condo ideas' it's hard to stay in the moment.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saved by the Boa

No...that's not us last Saturday night. (It is us at some event in 1996 before we had the good sense to abandon big glasses.) I snapped a picture of FFP in that prior entry but I don't have any of the two of us from the party night before last. Which is a good thing I'm sure because I was in a long black velvet skirt, a black velvet top with a cowl collar and cap sleeves and had on a gold watch and a gold chain with a small diamond. In other words: boring! But. I was saved by a boa! Yes, read on.

The party was absolutely the best, most flawless party I have ever attended. I am glad I got myself up, didn't feign illness due to dowdiness and went.

It was a surprise 40th birthday party for a guy whose wife managed to surprise him with a white tie party. They have a lobbying firm and I understand that she told him it was a client's event then at the last minute said she'd have to meet him there and that he had to go with the mayor who managed the stalling tactics to let everyone else arrive first.

When we got there, the valets took our car right in front of the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. There was a red carpet and four guys were blowing those long trumpets as if to announce each guest. Inside there were Vegas show girls handing out boas for the ladies and pocket squares with the birthday boy's monogram on them for the guys. That boa made me look less dowdy as we milled around and took in the scene. There were sushi chefs making rolls, a huge bar (we didn't wait in lines for drinks all evening), waiters handing out champagne in those old-fashioned squatly glasses that make you think of all those old Fred Astaire movies where people wore long dresses and white tie and danced like the pros they were. There was an ice table that was about eight feet long with shells carved in it full of shrimp. The whole table, legs and all was ice and the birthday boy's initials were frosted into it. We milled around talking to people who looked oh so elegant. The wife of birthday boy was in a gown with a black silk top and a skirt of white feathers. There was a cake about six feet high.

I think the guy was surprised. He looked a little stunned actually. But he managed to blow out a bunch of artsy candles arranged on the gigantic cake's tiers with his little daughter's help. Then a big band that included Tony Campise, Elias Haslanger and a pretty good singer struck up some of those old and lovely tunes for dancing. We had some of the sushi rolls, lovely prime rib on rolls, cheese and some of that shrimp cooling its heels on the giant ice table. We had drinks. We danced a bunch. There were tables and chairs around the dance floor as well as cushioned seats with tables for resting or putting a drink down.

We were having a great time and had already decided it was the best party ever when they announced...fireworks. While we stood near the door of the museum we were treated to a fireworks display launched from the parking lot across the way. It was amazing.

So, OK, this was the best and most fun party this country girl has ever attended. And my fashion fumbles were saved by a boa.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Me That Filed Things in the '90's

Apparently I decided to turn over a new leaf some time in the '90's and took every piece of loose paper in the office and organized it all in folders neatly labeled with the label maker. Only problem was I lost the mojo pretty quickly. I had placed all the resultant folders in a drawer in a lateral file and forgotten that drawer. Except to occasionally toss something inside for 'filing later' or simply to hide it. The result was a lot of files whose contents could be tossed wholesale. A file for a DSL service that we not only no longer use but that went out of the business. A file of articles meant to help with an abandoned project. Maps and hand-written directions for places we'd just get an Internet map for today. Some of the unfiled stuff included magazines and unopened junk mail from 1994. I'm not kidding.

So, yeah, downsizing really resembled an archaeological dig today.

Fashion Emergency Part 3

It's very calming to help him with his studs and his tie and take his picture to deflect having to contemplate how dowdy I will look next to thirty-somethings in ball gowns. Ah, well. So it goes. I was going to get a haircut and try to do something radical with my hair but I waited until today to think about it and the barber had car trouble. I'm not kidding. Well, at least FFP looks like a diplomat.