Friday, October 31, 2008

Not Me

I live too much in my own head. This is a reflection of some stranger taking a picture of signs on South Congress. I like it because the stranger is masked by the camera as my self portraits often are and because it appears that the van is choc-a-bloc with imported bric-à-brac. I like using those two combination words in a sentence.

I should talk to other people more. But I tend to want to retreat more. To escape obligations to interact.

My head is a fascinating place, but I need to get out more. Or not.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reflecting on Wasted Time

I find lots of ways to waste time. Yesterday I blogged (yeah, maybe that's a time waster, you think?) Yesterday I outlined the ways I thought I might use (or waste) my hours. I went on that walk I mentioned. It was long and fun. I stopped for a taco and coffee. I wrote the following as the umpteenth potential first sentences of one of my most ambitious unwritten novels (Pogonip) while sitting in front of a fancy convenience store on Barton Springs consuming same.

Pogonip slid out of his seat and flipped open the overhead, grabbing his overcoat and removing a soft-sided briefcase and a day pack and easily hefting them on one shoulder. He wasn't particularly eager to join the jostling crowd in the aisle or even to escape the plane, but the tall, slim woman in the window seat was halfway up, gripping the headrest in front of her, bent uncomfortably in a curve defined by the compartment above her. He edged into the crowd to give her room to slip out and stand nervously beside him, fishing in a shapeless cloth bag she'd had under the seat.
I was actually quite satisfied with this, but it didn't inspire me to continue. Instead I started thinking 'Why fiction? Is it because I know so little that is fact?"

Well, I did take the walk. I did stop for coffee and snack. I never worked out. Instead I went to the storage unit and fished around for some office supplies for FFP, got an AC filter for a friend, emptied the trash can I'd provided for the storage area (which others had filled with discarded things), walked to the Office Supply store nearby with FFP to get the supplies he needed (which, of course, I couldn't find in the storage unit), checked some financial things and read the papers (worked crosswords), showered, went to a political talk at the Headliners Club, drank Manhattans, ate, watched a CSI: New York.

Pogonip will have to wait to walk down the concourse. The woman sitting next to him will have to wait to fumble two cell phones out of that bag. Her place in his novel will pend revelation until another day. When he's walking down the concourse, he will see three newspaper dispensing boxes. Each paper (Austin, Dallas, Houston) will have a different photo from a terrorist attack. He may smell the Iron Works barbecue and hear Marcia Ball music over the loud speakers. Or not. The newspaper box thing relies on something that happened to me. I walked down that concourse and saw those boxes displaying different views of an airline crash. I wish I could remember when that happened. Maybe I should wait to write the novel until I have typed up all my old journals and hope that I wrote something down about it?

And so it goes. It's really no wonder that I can't really write a novel or much of anything else. Today I have wasted most of the day. I spent a lot of it at my club. First I played tennis. Then I ate, did a few exercises, sat through a long meeting where I didn't feel I contributed anything. And now? I'm blogging!

[Picture reflects the photographer in the reflecting balls embedded in the wall at Chuy's on Barton Springs.]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dizzy Dame

This is a reflection of railings at a modern retail and lofts area on SoCo. I've heard some things about that place kind of being a disaster for tenants. Maybe it's always that way, huh?

I'm actually NOT dizzy this morning. I had a bit to drink last night, all wine actually. I had some interesting dreams, I think, but I've forgotten them.

I have a goal or two today, sort of unformed. We have an early evening event. It's cool and sunny outside so I think I should take a long walk and maybe have coffee and a snack somewhere and think. Then I think I should get a workout. And I think I should read. And write. (Not blog. Write. Really. I'm thinking of actually working on the Pogonip piece. Yeah, though, probably not.)

And so it goes. One day. Another day. The same, yet not. We may grow intellectually, we may get fatter, we definitely grow older. But we can take that first step on a walk. There you go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The March of Time

I was in a fog on my sixtieth birthday and, honestly, while I always sort of adjust my age to be plus two more years to catch up to FFP, I'm not used to him being 62 and eligible for a social security check. While the young people have zoomed by me in so many ways (technically, culturally, etc.), I feel so comfortable with them, but then it is weird to find out their parents are younger than we are.

When you live to be as old as my dad, time has really swept you away. This morning he said "people say things are better now, but I don't know." I point out that they also say things are worse than whenever (or ever) and they weren't alive in their time of nostalgia or they weren't paying attention and they really have no idea. He agreed. He is halfway through a book I bought him. He mentioned to me one day that he read a book in high school that was about a trip around the world a guy took in the early twentieth century. He remembered accurately the name of the book (A Vagabond Journey Around the World: a Narrative of Personal Experience) and I figured it was one I found by Harry A Franck. I found a clean copy online (though published in 1910 it had a pretty good dust jacket) and it was in the mail to me in a few days. He said he remembered a few things from the first reading. He seemed to be enjoying reliving the wanderlust (never completely satisfied) the book engendered. He doesn't feel up to going to Dallas now. It's hard to believe he's rereading a book he read in high school that was published six years before he was born.

If you aren't careful, time will be the ruler of you. It's our most precious commodity and I guess it's our most-squandered one, too. (With the possible exception of crude oil.) Although I always wonder if people are 'wasting' time if they are really doing exactly as they please.

I am starting to feel old. While I feel great most of the time, I do have my aches and pains. My knee (strained in an almost fall during the move) still twinges now and then and I feel like I need my neoprene wrap to play tennis. Even with it I find playing two days in a row a little hard on it. I feel strong when we walk here and there and feel we've started to walk faster now. When I get up in the morning, I feel like an old woman, shuffling on creaky legs. Then I seem to work into a younger state on my pins after I've been up a while. Occasionally I feel a little dizzy in the morning, a combination of an assault on my equilibrium by allergies and a low blood pressure on rising, I think. This morning it came back when I got to the tennis center and part way through trying to play some California doubles I had to stop and get some coffee and let it pass.

Is sixty old? Actuarial information indicates that I'm supposed to live until 2027 when I'll be 79 years old. That sounds old until I realize that my dad and in-laws have cruised well beyond that. My mother died a little shy of 81 and her parents lived about that long, too. (I think her father actually lived to be 84, but he died long before her mother who was twenty-one years his junior.)

So no. I'm not old. And yet I am. I took my dad to IHOP the other day. We both ordered a senior breakfast. The young (not yet 21?) waitress demanded my driver's license. She seemed unclear on how old I needed to be, but learning I was sixty seemed old enough for anything.

I can't decide whether to feel old or young. Whether to feel betrayed by my body or grateful for how well it works. I know one thing: I feel guilty that I have accomplished so little in sixty years. There is still time, I suppose. But I do feel old. When I'm not feeling young.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Losing My Head

This is a reflection in one of the shops at Bridges Condos on South Lamar. If this mannequin had a head it would be spinning from the reflections and refractions.

Today I cleaned. I am my own maid. I'm showing our place off to people the next couple of days and wanted it to look good. I'll freshen up the bathrooms and kitchen again tomorrow but I dusted, vacuumed, etc. It is easier to keep 1200 or so square feet. Still, I don't have a maid so it's all on me. (Well, and FFP. He does lots of chores.)

Maybe it's having to dust everything, but I have this feeling that I need less before I get more. I told myself that other than the 'necessary' new (to fit space and style) furniture, AV and computers for this place that I'd cool it on other new possessions until we got settled. I confess that FFP bought a new tuxedo shirt and I bought an after five tank and jacket and belt. But pending are a GPS, new pocket digital camera, SLR digital camera, multi-media projector, small laptop, iPod, new cell phone. I've got to buy some new tennis shoes, however. I had to switch back to shoes minus one when I noticed I was about to go through a toe. But I need to get rid of some stuff beforeI go into new gadget mode. Some interesting things are happening to gadgets on some of these fronts, too. (Which I am, of course, too lazy to research.)

I never did go to the gym today. I meant to do it. But instead I cleaned, I worked the crossword, I read other people's journals, I assessed the downward spiral of my assets. Then I had to shower up to have drinks with a friend. The day just sifted through my hands. And, no, I didn't write anything. Except a bit in my journal. And this blog.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hats Off to Art

We have discussed in this space how important my friend SuRu thinks it is to take your art seriously before others will do so. Hence this is an intimate reflection of the relationship of fashion in head wear, character and meaning. Or not. Big Bertha's on South Lamar provided the second lens.

While many, many others were watching a football game, all dressed in burnt orange, a color that I don't find attractive in and of itself, FFP and I went on an art gallery crawl. [FFP did have the DVR dutifully recording the game so he wasn't indifferent.]

We were lucky enough to actually hear from four artists who were being exhibited. At the Davis Gallery they were hanging patinings for an opening in the evening and all three artists were there. None had a profound explanation for their work with the most being said by Miranda Gray and that about the medium (egg tempura). They seemed more voluble when questioned individually by the tour goers. I like all the work in different ways and degrees. At D. Berman gallery the artist (Jeffrey Dell) had come to the gallery especially to talk to us. He is a teacher and printmaker and, as befits a teacher, he had lots to say. He explained the use of hair in his current work and the emergence of violence in his Venice work. He talked about how tedious printmaking can be and how he thinks that he gravitates to things that are hard. I thought, "Boy, not me!" For me, art is easy or not at all.

These tours always leave me wanting to make art, though. Not on the terms of the artists I see, but on my own terms. Yeah. Shop window pictures and blogging. Oh, I'm also interested in collage. Or shop window collages. Or blogging collages.

I left the tour early, getting a friend to pick me up in my car at the next to last stop so that we could go to a bad neighborhood and retrieve her car after the people in our building had it towed from her assigned place when some idiot who is supposed to have a different place complained to them that she was parked in the wrong spot. Long story and all part of the excellent way this building is operated. But it's improving. Really. Repeat that to myself.

In the evening we had a belly full of sports, watching the UT game's recording, some other football, the World Series.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Money, Money, Money

Money woes are everywhere. We can see it in our non-profit fundraisers and in the sparser crowds at watering holes. It seems (from halted futures trading) that the markets will plunge further on open. And my opportunities for colorful reflection portraits of my husband using cool little shops as lenses might decline. Boarded up shops aren't that cool. We haven't seen this future clearly here yet. The buildings are still going up, but one wonders if we won't have an 'Intel shell' of grand proportions in this town. And the shop locations that aren't leased? Well, landlords are going to have to do double-back flips to get those occupied.

It's hard to not to be negative, but the recession is going to hurt a lot of other people a lot more. It's always sad when it happens.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Monkey and Me

I'm under the gun because the Internet provider in our building is going to cut off service for three hours today to improve the line speed of our connection to the Internet. So I have to blog now or go to a coffee shop. I'm glad I don't do any real work from home. So I'm putting off making my bed to tell you about my last movie in the film festival.

We considered watching a double header of a French film and a Dutch film. We took along a delightful playwright and filmmaker from the conference so we 'got out the car' as we say now and picked her up at Austin Motel on South Congress and drove to the Bob Bullock Museum by the University and snagged a parking place to avoid the garage. Even though we park in our garage all the time we still hate strange garages. We were way early so we quizzed her about her life and told stories of a party that we went to at the museum.

We just ended up watching the French film, "The Last Deadly Mission." It was so dark (literally and figuratively and it was supposed to be the Riviera) and bloody that they had to put in a fluffy cat and a cute puppy to soften it. Even that didn't help when they introduced snarling German Sheperds as well. I mean brutal, bloody crime scenes; terrible violent memories; dirty police offices etc. (If there was a bright, airy beautiful home it had to include a bloody crime scene.) At the end you knew certain things were going to happen and I suddenly thought "OK, there has to be one last surprise, what is it?" Oh, OK. Up the body count one more. Of course. I see.

We went to Jeffrey's bar. Business was slow at Jeffrey's. FFP says business was slow where he had lunch yesterday and he heard rumors of business being slow in other restaurants. The economy is starting to weigh down everything, I suppose. But our Internet is getting faster so I'll be able to watch my retirement funds shrink more quickly. At least it's supposed to be faster. Will it even work later today? Also...all the people that bought into VOIP phones won't have phones. Most people work, I suppose, and are gone in the middle of a weekday, but the concierges and building management have VOIP phones.

[Picture is me and the monkey in the shop window of Monkey See, Monkey Do on South Congress. Really there aren't many monkies on my back. Although I did have two cocktails last night and they really socked me!]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flash Writing

Photo was taken on Second Street and flash went off. Usually I discard these, but this one I like because it looks like a mannequin is lighting something in my face. Anyway....

I decided to 'give' myself some writing time today. I had in mind to do a little cleaning while I was tossing around a few last dreams this morning. Then FFP informed me that we might meet a playwright/film maker for coffee. (This gal is lives in New York and we met her at a panel where after she had ask a question about adapting plays for the screen, FFP asked her a question afterwards about her work.) And he said we'd do that coffee at Jo's. The Jo's on SoCo, not the one three blocks away. I was bleary from being up late. (After the movie last night I read and drank a beer.)

We did hear from her and we tried to make it down there by 8:45 but it was after nine when we got there. We had a long and interesting talk with her and by the end of it we made a plan to perhaps see movie(s) together tonight. FFP and I also decided that we would do Bloomsday in New York City next year.

FFP had to hustle up and walk back to the condo and get his car to go to lunch in the hinterland. (OK, Hyde Park). I decided to take some pictures along SoCo for Austin, Texas Daily Photo and to grab an early lunch. After a bit of snapping, I sat at the bar at Enoteca and had potato and fennel soup with truffle oil and an avocado sandwich. Then I took a turn around Uncommon Objects and walked back.

I was determined to do some of the cleaning I had planned. One way we are trying to save money is to do our own cleaning. Supposedly having only 1200 or so square feet will help in this regard. I'm not much of a maid, however. I don't have a good concept of what cleaning supplies to use and how to efficiently go from room to room. I have decided to use Swifter products. The duster, though, seems less satisfying than my feather duster. In any case, I like throwing some of the dirt right into the trash. Anyway, I did a bit of cleaning. I used to always have advice for the maid we used and get perplexed when she gravitated to things I'd already cleaned. I must say I'd almost rather do it myself.

After the cleaning I should probably have gone across the hall to the gym and exercised. I didn't however. I decided to give myself time to write, remember?

Oh, I was downloading CDs to iTunes. (I'm not sure why I'm doing this project, you may recall, since I don't have an iPod although I do occasionally listen on my computer. But I digress. As I did while I had time to 'write.' I decided to blog. And I wrote in my journal. I checked over the mail and looked up some stuff on our finances. (Another ugly day on Wall Street. I checked some stocks I own and some I don't.)

Soon it was time to shower up to go see a movie.

I was going to use a quote from Ulysses in whatever writing I didn't do. On page 640 on my edition the character Zoe says: "I'm very fond of what I like." Probably this was going to be the title for a blog entry I didn't do.

So it's time to go to a movie. So I couldn't possibly write a word beyond this sentence.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Austin FIlm Festival, Part 6

I once made an artist's statement about all these reflection shots I take. Find it here. I tell you that because Charlie Kaufman doesn't do that. I saw "Synecdoche, New York" followed by a Q&A. I couldn't make sense of the questions and where they seem to go to motivation and meaning Kaufman gave the "I want people to get inside it and make their own meaning" type of answer. This is fine. Very professional. I liked the movie in some parts. But I liked "Being John Malkovich" better. I'm a sucker for the puppet metaphor. The play within a play and city play within a warehouse was metaphorical but not as cute. (I also liked the low ceiling thing in "Being.")

I'm coming back to add to this because maybe it seems too glib. Remember I'm not a movie critic. Nope. I'm a movie aficionado. And a fan of words. I wonder what the origin of aficionado is. Sounds Italian, doesn't it? Anyway, this Synecdoche thing will become the favorite movie. Especially of people not afraid to try to spell it over and over in their social networking profiles. (Those who pride themselves on spelling it and those who don't care if they get it right!) People will sit around saying ...spoiler alert..."did you think he'd go that far with the burning house?" and "how about the dying tattoo?" and "what a brilliant idea for the paintings to be miniatures or maybe you could say microscopic!" and "when Adele tells the kid she has no blood, that is so funny and sad and such foreshadowing."

My Austin FIlm Festival, Part 5

[Photo is of the Signs at Butler Dance Education Center and our building reflected in an SUV window parked by the ballet. I'm feeling a little askew myself. I haven't driven my car, I don't think, since last Wednesday. I didn't leave the building yesterday until we walked to Long Center. It's a weird life in a way.]

The conference is over so chances to meet celebrities, hear writers talk about writing and attend script readings are fading. It's about the movies through Thursday and we only have through Wednesday because of another commitment. So...choose carefully? Or choose randomly? Of course, the latter. Based on timing and location and the blurbs in the info we chose two films that sounded like comic/dramas. A friend went along who likes one of the actors from a sit-com.

The films were at the Rollins. They threw us another curve walking over. Just twelve feet of the west pedestrian bridge on S. First was blocked. This was apparently to keep pedestrians from stumbling into concrete pourings in the dark. Only, well coming from the north you would have already done so. We had to go 150 feet back west down a steep path that is big enough for a car (and not blocked to cars so someone could easily turn down it and come to a bumpy end on the hike and bike). There we intersected the hike and bike and could go up a new (as of a week or two ago) path to intersect the ped bridge just beyond the twelve feet that were fenced off. It's making me crazy this project that never ends that inconveniences cars, yes, but especially walkers. I get this way when I haven't started my car since last Wednesday. But enough about getting to the venue.

First we saw "A Quiet Little Marriage" which was paired with a short, "Carry On." The short left one thinking about overhearing people in public and making certain assumptions. It was everything a short should be, revealing characters but leaving us with just a hint of their lives, like a short story. Then we were plunged into that quiet little marriage. Really Olive and Dax have a kind of idyllic, adult life but it turns out the world is going to put up a few more challenges for them. It was interesting seeing them work out their own little crisis, but the curves thrown at them by people around them really propelled the story. And just as the short knew when to end, so did this feature. It ended at the point that not everything is resolved but much is revealed. We queued up again to see "Shades of Ray."

The leads were handsome in the way that mixed race people often are although the male lead, Zachary Levi, is according to my friend who went with us, Jewish. The female lead, Sarah Shahi, has an Iranian father and a Latino mother apparently. One theme of the movie is how mixed race folks feel lost between cultures. The film is light-hearted and funny and brings home its messages in a package that amused throughout. Some of the minor characters weren't as believable as one might hope for, but they were accomplished actors and funny.

This last film was more relevant to the election, I think, than "W." Much has been made of Obama as a black man. But he is really more 21st century American than that. He is one of an ever growing number of Americans who count racial background in different columns and who are influenced by step family members. I think this trend constitutes hope for understanding on the one hand but I'm sure we will still find in the next few hundred years ways to hate one another by artificially adopting religions and political persuasions to separate ourselves. We have a need to fight pitched battles in groups with firm ideological differences. In a scene between the young Ray and his best friend Sal (seen later as his goofy roommate, well-played if a little over the top by Franz Kranz), Ray asks if Sal sees him as brown or white. The answer is something like "you're just Ray."

The film festival winds down. We will probably catch Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Synecdoche, New York" tonight. I mean is has Hoffman in it, its directed by Charlie Kaufman and its title is a pun. [By the way, I went to my dictionary site to look it up and, coincidence coming, it was the word of the day. I have a friend who would imbue such a thing with lots of meaning. I told FFP and we said "Call Bob!"]

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Austin FIlm Festival, Part 4

We decided to mix things up and go to a script reading and some docs yesterday. The reading of the script "Mine" (Drama screenplay winner by Anita Skibski) was a tour de force with a bunch of actors doing the reading. This is the first script reading we had attended at the festival (we'd been to other script readings of movie and play scripts before). I enjoyed it although I did use one piece of my brain to work on the Sunday New York Times magazine crossword puzzle.

We read, napped (and I watched some recorded episodes of Jeopardy while finishing said puzzle, cheating only a little). Then we met up with a friend who lives in our building, went to Royal Blue for some snacks and drinks and walked over to the Rollins Theater at the Long Center. This would be an easier walk if the City of Austin wasn't taking three years to improve Cesar Chavez and the Hike and Bike. A digression I know, but I am SO sick of the mess to use the First Street pedestrian bridge. The other day I saw six workers watching women on the Hike and Bike while one guy poured a concrete footing for a post to keep cars from driving into the Lake and one guy watched that guy. I'm serious. My tax dollars at work.

We were almost the first people to queue for the movie. There was a technical problem and it didn't start until 45 minutes late. There was a performance at the Dell and so there was catering and I had a Shiner Bock to top off my Orangina I had on the way over. I never did eat the energy bar I bought in case I got hungry.

The first doc was "The American Widow Project." I didn't think I would like this one too much. The women in the movie are very young, most are mothers and their husbands (and in one case the widow, too) had committed to the military as careers. I'm more sympathetic with Viet Nam era vets and widows, especially where the guys were drafted. I'm in awe of WWII vets. But I digress. I didn't expect much from this. However, I was surprised. I couldn't really relate to these women. (Married younger than I did and widows before they knew it, little kids, etc.) But the story was told well. I came at the end to see the dramatic arc of these stories as they were revealed through the interviews, stills, home movies, news footage, etc. The woman who made the movie,Taryn Davis, with the help of Don Swaynos was there. She is a widow herself and she also starte a project to connect and help military widows. Two of the other widows in the movie were also there. I am very impressed with the movie because the real stories were told so well and represented a larger group and a larger truth about this era and I am also moved by the effort of these young people to help themselves.

The second doc I expected to like. It was called "Happiness Is..." and the blurbs led me to believe it might be a nice peripatetic trip around the U.S. full of kitsch and characters in a (vain) search for happiness. That sounded like fun. It turned out to be a movie that overused a drugged out woodcarver and Matthew Dowd. There was a pretend 'discovery' that doing good and being spiritual were the keys to happiness. La. Ti. Da. I came out of it asking my companions (1) If Matthew Dowd was gay. He was wearing clothes and jewelry that made me wonder. (2) If he really didn't imagine that Bush-Cheney might initiate a war. (3) If he understood that his son volunteered for the military. I'm not against theories like "you get more than you give" and such but I was geared up for some people I could relate to. Happiness scholars? Hrrumph. Willie reading a script. (Willie Nelson that is. He seemed to have agreed to say whatever for a quick interview. Not that it doesn't believe in giving, except to the tax man. Hard to disagree with that.)

Anyway, I wasn't happy with it. Ha. There was a rabbi saying all religions are the same. Well, no. And yes, but. Some religions would consign all other practitioners of other faiths to some kind of hell. Most believe non-believers are destined to some such fate. Many wars and atrocities can be lain at the feet of religions and I'm not talking about Muslims in the 21st century either. The rabbi said 'no religion came up with anything new.' Well, how about this: I just invented a religion. This religion believes that there is a life after this one of profound happiness and unending joy. No one on this earth from Mother Teresa to Jeffrey Dammler is barred from this second world. All of us end there. What we do on earth just enhances this low sad life stage for ourselves or others. No faith required to enter the kingdom of heaven. Maybe there is a religion that professes such a view. But it is far, far from the Judeo-Christian-Muslim canon of prayer, faith and atonement. As soon as you concoct this religion you see why it wouldn't be popular. No religious leaders are necessary to guide you. Unemployment for those involved in leading religious groups, printing religious texts, building religious complexes. Oops. Better hope my religion doesn't catch on. And, of course, it won't. I like to watch televangelists now and again and they are more entertaining than this movie. Sorry. Was I not supposed to be entertained? I guess not.

We walked back to the condo and watched "Mad Men" off the DVR. I like this show although the Don Draper thread is a bit bizarre. They are exploring lots of foibles and prejudices of the early sixties (a message is there yes) in a very entertaining way.

[The photo, completely unrelated to the post, is of a work of public art in a park near the East Bouldin Creek Greenbelt. I mean it could be a comedy (or tragedy) mask, I guess. I just feel I should always give you a picture.]

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Austin FIlm Festival, Part 3

Yesterday we attended the awards lunch. Our table mates included an older woman and a very young man who were (1) vegetarians; and (2) had been semi-finalists in the competition apparently. (They didn't appear to know one another.) Another guy (mid range in age...40?) was also a semi-finalist, apparently, and had written a book for children about screenwriting which he was promoting to Tom Skerritt who sat by me after mid-range age guy had rejected sitting there saying the view was blocked. He switched around by Tom when he showed up. Lastly, the table contained a couple who said they were guests and who apparently knew someone who was in the competition. After the man said he was a 'financial and estate planner' and had 3000 clients who'd 'never lost a penny,' we carefully avoided conversation with them. The rest of the seats at the table were empty (two or three). We enjoyed hearing about Danny Boyle and Gregg Daniels and seeing the reels about their careers. Lots of the competition winners weren't present to accept their awards. A sign of the economy, I suppose.

We decided to go home and do some chores (financial, not cleaning house which I do need to do) and then try to do a double feature at two different venues.

We queued up at the Paramount to see "Adam Resurrected." This movie was riveting and yet hard to watch. Only fantasy and looking away, the clown magician's sleight of hand, can really capture things like the Holocaust. Jeff Goldblum was incredible as were all the actors. Isn't it interesting that the only way we can get ourselves to look at some things is fleetingly in a misty haze with damaged people made endearing. "The Tin Drum" comes to mind in this vein.

We hustled south, peeking in bar windows to see the Horns running over the Missouri team in the first half of the football game that was going on at the University. We scooted across the lake to the Rollins Theater at Long Center. While waiting for the movie in Rollins, we saw people who were attending the Anton Nel concert with the Austin Symphony. We saw "I'll Come Running" and Spencer Parsons, the director, was there to answer questions. This tragi-comedy indie had much to like. We enjoyed the Austin scenes and the movie really dug into all the relationships people develop and how circumstances push us together and apart, in this case across the ocean to Denmark. (The Denmark scenes were cool, too.) I liked it while watching it and after but it grew on me even more today.

We ended the evening flying through the recording of the Longhorn game. I went out on the balcony to look at the tower to make sure Missouri didn't make a miracle comeback and then lost interest. But, yeah, we were up late. But it didn't keep us from getting up this morning and walking down to South First to El Mercado for a Mexican breakfast.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Austin Film Festival, Part 2

[Picture is a reflection in a toy store shop window of a tie die Keep Austin Weird T-Shirt.]

Rule Number One of Film Festivals: You will not see half of what you put on your tentative schedule. Rule Number Two: You will meet interesting people.

We did see a panel today. It was about the Dramatic Story. There were some interesting panelists. This fellow Jeff Nathanson who did the "Catch Me If You Can" script said that every script needs to have a sort of 'original moment' that you build around. The twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith ("The Slaughter Rule" is their main claim to fame and I haven't seen it) were very interesting. They both teach now. Alex provided a couple of good quotes.

Make the character a mess....Even Superman is a mess...he's two people at once, he's an orphan.


Something that happens is an event. A movie is a journey.
We also saw a Shorts Program. It was Shorts Program 6 but the programmers could have called it "Puberty and Young Love." It burst with the confusion of the attraction of one human animal to another, concluding with something that I think could safely be called "Geek Love with Apology to Fellini" but was actually called "Outcasts."

We saw a teen prom flick called "Bart Got a Room" in the early evening. This flick used its lead well and used William H. Macy effectively as the kid's father. Somehow they resembled one another. It wasn't really the kind of film you'd expect Macy to be in. The Florida setting was given a leading role, too. It was just fun.

We slipped out of film fest mode and went to a party for Austin Chronicle's Stephen Moser's birthday. It was amazing and we saw a lot of our friends although it was at Pangaea, a bar I don't get and would never go to if there wasn't an event there. We stopped over at Ruth's Chris after and sat in the bar and watched people stream in for the film festival party. But we never really joined that jostle, just greeting a few people who were.

Film. Food. Drink. And we walked to it all, too. Living downtown is great in that way. Also, there was lots of street theater today including a woman dressed in what appeared to be a wedding dress and tiara shouting across Lavaca at some guy then sitting down with another woman at a table at Austin Java. Mascara was streaked on her face. It had to be someone doing a movie, I decided, but I saw no cameras.

My Austin Film Festival, Part 1

The picture is from one of the shops in that South Lamar Center that includes the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (South Lamar). Film presenters are, these days, very skittish about cameras and camera phones. Apparently you can shoot an entire feature film in shaky two-minute segments on your point 'n shoot digital and send it to China. Well at least post outtakes of Oliver Stone's "W." with Josh Brolin talking with his mouth full on YouTube. So this picture will have to do for visual entertainment while I talk about my impressions of the Film Festival.

Bare in mind: (1) I don't make films, I just watch them. And I'm not even a professional critic like my friend Jette. (2) I end up spending more quality time talking to friends and FFP or people we meet than really 'reviewing' the festival. Nevertheless, I have opinions. Who doesn't?

I love going to panel discussions and hearing real writers tell how hard it was to get inspiration from head to page to movie. As my faithful readers know I practice not writing. And these panels convince me that the pesky screen play form is not for me. I'll keep my unwritten stuff in novel, poem and short story form. Poem? Not really. Doggerell maybe. But I digress. The festival.

We managed to shake off the vodka martinis and Dos Equis we drank with the fabulous food at the Film and Food Young Filmmakers benefit and go to two panels. We love panel discussions as I said and these had speakers I really enjoyed. One was entitled "Shot of Inspiration" and the other "Common Mistakes Writers Make." Really it doesn't matter what the title is because in the former you get the 'where ideas come from' out of the way and then talk about war stories and movie people antecdotes. In the latter, you get 'two brads or three and no cute covers' out of the way and then do the same. Not really, but I love hearing people talk about what they do, what's worked, etc.

In last year's 'Shot of Inspiration' Dan Petrie passed out shots of booze. That was a surprise, but this year the speakers were Polly Platt and Herschel Weingrod. Polly has been involved with several movies that are, to me, iconic. As a writer, "Pretty Baby" and as a productions designer "Last Picture Show." She was involved with Peter Bogdanovich, but I've heard Polly before and she is an astute woman with a great eye for talent and a wide-ranging intellect. She also has an eye for the ridiculous and she looks at the world as a story with built-in metaphor. She forgets names of the great and not-so-great and asks the audience for help in filling these blanks.

Herschel was interesting talking about how "Trading Places" (one of my all time favorites) and how he managed to make a 'subversive' comedy. He portrayed the long winding road to 'success' with humility and humor.

The "Common Mistakes Writers Make" went through the usual physical appearance bits, the too long, too short, etc. but the speakers were obviously hard-working writers. Stuart Kelban teaches at UT and so is uniquely positioned to talk about mistakes as he shepherds many student scripts. But he writes his own, too. Yaphet Smith is a young local guy we talked to while standing around last year. I don't know that any script he's written has been produced. But he is so interesting and self-possessed. He hammered away at his idea that unless everything in the movie promotes its theme, you aren't doing your job.

Best quote from these two panels came from Herschel Weingrod, I think. "The script is an invitation to make the movie. It's not the movie." See, that's why I don't write screenplays. They are just jumping off places. I'd prefer to not write finished works. [Ed. Then why do you constantly rewrite blog entries. LB. Typos? Yeah, well, anyway.]

We stocked up on food and drink at Ruth's Chris where a gaggle of Yellow Dog Democrats from the Texas Observer and friends were also waiting to see Oliver Stone's "W." It turns out from a little WEB surfing that this is unoriginal criticism but WTF was this about? One minute I thought we were in a Shakespearean tragedy about a son trying to please a father and the next I thought I was in the best SNL skit ever. And, I'm sorry, but does the real W. eat every meal with his mouth open and his fingers popping in that mouth? Rent "JFK" and "Born on the Fourth of July" for good Oliver Stone. See this one because, why not see Richard Dreyfus protray Dick Cheney and Toby Jones protray Karl Rove as a homosexual? Don't look for a message, though, beyond the obvious "George W. Bush screwed up the entire world in the last eight years because he is stupid and trying to impress his Dad." That may be entirely true or the truth may be more nuanced, but there it is. Not an original insight. The only celebrity at the opening was James Cromwell. Oddly, I believed him as Prince Phillip in "Queen" but watching him here just kept bringing to mind that dippy role he had in "Six Feet Under." He spoke before about how important this film is as a sort of political history. Um, no. "Bush's Brain" was all that. Of course, it was a documentary. This was a confection. One you may enjoy, but it doesn't dig into aspects of history that might not be obvious like "JFK" does.

Well, we could have listened to James speak after the movie or queued to see another movie. What we actually did was go with a friend to Ruth's Chris again and discuss "W." while eating and drinking. FFP watched the baseball game. (A pillar intervered with my watching but a play-by-play from FFP and other patrons watching was interesting.)

So, after Part 1 of the festival I have to say: the Manhattans and the carpaccio at Ruth's Chris are to die for! And I love being amidst the movie folk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In the Yellow

I shot FFP the other day at UT 'inside' a sculpture that invites walking into.

I was in a funk all day. It rained. I felt powerless to do anything positive in several arenas. I wanted to be excited about going to the film festival, but it didn't really feel right.

Then I had a computer problem with connecting printers on my VMware Windows. I hate it when something quits working. Particularly when it quits workig by hanging tasks all over the place. I dreaded trying to boot to fix it because I've had some issues restarting with VMware and I'm wary. So I backed up stuff all over the place so I could go back to a Snapshot and restore data. Then the restart worked and fixed the problem. It's funny how something working for a change makes one feel better. I hate that it matters that much to me, though.

We had a pretty good time this evening. We started over at the Butler Dance Education Center by going to a presentation about the ballet performance next week. There were dance demonstrations, portions of the show presented and lots of good educational stuff to help you appreciate it more. After that we walked over to the Driskill for the Film and Food benefit for the Young Film Makers Program of Austin Film Festival. They had a couple of dozen restaurants passing out great food and lots of Tito's Vodka martinis and Dos Equis Beer. We saw people we knew, met some new ones and except for it being too loud to talk here and there we had a great time. Still I was a little miffed at the computer until I got it working again the way I wanted.

I thought of two other books I didn't write (or four depending on how you count). I was going to write a book or a screenplay (or maybe a documentary) called The Nancys. And, long, long ago I was going to write a set of three novels that would have references among themselves. There would be a novelist in one who wrote a novel that would actually be one of the other novels. Stuff like that. Yes, I actually thought it was clever. I set one of these novels in a future where everything was run smoothly with technology, but some people still choose to live 'outside.' Yeah, I believe I thought that was clever and original, too.

And so it goes. I'm going to go to the film festival and the ballet in the next ten days and I'm going to see the result of other people's artistic efforts and visions. And I will continue to be 'pretending to write but really just blogging.'

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Unwritten Books

One reason I've never written any of my books, leaving them all unwritten is that I have a fear of plagiarism. Will I unwittingly think some sentence or phrase or idea is my own and fail to faithfully attribute it?

Of course, My Unwritten Books is a book by George Steiner so the title of this entry is itself a plagiarism. [How many people, do you think, can spell plagiarism without looking it up? Digression. That's another enemy of my book writing.]

I'm itching to buy Mr. Steiner's book from Amazon. So it could join all the other unread books around here.

Mr. Steiner is a polyglot and polymath, according to Wikipedia. That assertion makes me envious and makes me feel small as the speaker of 1.1 languages (I speak enough French to qualify as a backward toddler) and the master of virtually no field of endeavor.

I was moved to write about what I have not written by a couple of clippings I found in a box of photos that I was sorting. One, from a 2002 New York Times OP-ED page was by Joseph Epstein. Entitled "Think you have a book in you? Think Again" he argues to not, as he puts it "add to the schlock pile." (It should be noted that Mr. Epstein has himself contributed several books to the publishing stream. I have actually read one of them and I think it is somewhere in this condo.)

The other article, from the Book Review in that same paper from the very next day's issue, was a celebration by Bruce McCall of his brother-in-law, John Jerome, who wrote books that never brought him fame, but who celebrated and loved the writing itself. The non-fiction books, their titles at least, speak of mastery and research and care for details. (I haven't read any of them, but On Turing Sixty-Five sounds tempting since I'm now old enough to realize that I'll reach that age without writing a book!)

But, what have I failed to write?
  • A novel (or a is such a nascent work it really doesn't matter) about a woman and the effect when this woman dies in a plane crash leaving behind a husband, elderly parents and in-laws and a trusted assistant, all dependent on her for one thing or another. She is a bit autobiographical but neatly avoids most or maybe all of my own failings. Called 'Hole in the Water' the novel refers to the site of the crash (the ocean) and to the woman's absence from a water aerobics class. The entire book (or screenplay) may or may not be set after the event. Or maybe it's a flashback.
  • A novel called Pogonip. The eponymous title character has a surname that is actually an obscure word meaning ice fog. He has run from tragedy into wealth until he can maintain multiple homes around the world and spend lots of money sending friends on elaborate 'games' using the map of the earth as the playing board. He doesn't really engage thoroughly with people in person, but his arm's length approach to life is interrupted when several players go to Berlin instead of Paris in the midst of one of the games he has financed and invented and are the unwitting victims of a terrorist bombing. This piece has been hanging over my head, necessitating a trip to Berlin to see in person something that was constructed since I was last there. It has its roots in intentional encounters with friends in faraway places.
  • A short story which grew into a novel because, you know, if you don't actually write something it keeps growing. It explores the nature of truth beginning with the chance witnessing of a hit and run accident by someone who is somewhere they are not, technically, supposed to be. A serious crime witnessed by someone committing a misdemeanor. This one didn't have a name, I didn't think. It was originally in a collection of unwritten short stories that included one about a stone wall, I knew that. I thought that they were mostly in my head, titles and ideas included. I've considered combining this one with the one above in a giant novel for the purposes of not writing. At some point, the protagonist and the victim of the hit and run were revealed to me as being natives of Odessa. Odessa, Texas that is. And I needed to take a trip there to lend authenticity to a couple of ideas. [It turns out that I'd actually saved a document containing proposed titles and blurbs about the stories in that original, unwritten collection. When I found it on my computer just now, I only vaguely remembered the other story ideas besides the two mentioned. The title of this one that has grown out of control in my head was to be "Behind the Screen." There was another story in there called "Avalanche" based on something that happened to me as a kid. Another called "No Load-Bearing Walls" was vaguely familiar. Another entitled "The Next Apartment" had this blurb: "On relationships and envy of same." Although one (you or I) can imagine the story, I remember not one thing about its potential structure.]
  • A screenplay that is technically not mine but a friend's (I was just helping or hindering or encouraging with some tasks like organizing a time line and dialog bits). She doesn't want the plot revealed so enough said about that. I think the material is on a WEB page with a logon and password I've forgotten. As you see above, I'm not so squeamish about telling what I remember of unwritten plots and would say even more about the ones above but you would only laugh. Laugh more than you are already laughing. And I would be making stuff up on the fly that I don't really remember committing to in the ephemeral plot in my imagination.
  • A self-help book about packing, traveling and divesting oneself of unnecessary things. Seriously, I thought I could help others in this regard. Ha.
There must be others. Can this really be a life's collection of unwritten works!? How sad there can't be more when actually writing them, let alone getting them published, isn't required. However, my restraint, it turns out, is admirable. Joseph Epstein says in the above-mentioned article:
Misjudging one's ability to knock out a book can only be a serious and time-consuming mistake. Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity. Don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.
Good advice, I think. I think I'll let my self-help advice be just that and let my characters continue to grow and mature and change inside my head. It'll save me a trip to Berlin not to mention Odessa.

[Today's photo was taken on W. Sixth using a gift shop there as a lens. One wonders how many shops selling what we call 'gee-gaws' will be shuttered in the current economic crisis.]

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lost and Found

The black mood lifted. I'm not sure when. I kept thinking "I've lost my sense of humor." I was cataloging physical things I'd lost. But I knew they didn't really matter. They weren't irreplaceable.

But that wasn't it. It wasn't physical stuff and it wasn't my sense of humor. I'd lost my sense of wonder. And with it the world's power to entertain me had faded.

When it came back, I suddenly found weeds and trash interesting and was, as usual, intrigued by how different each person is from all the rest of us and yet how many things we share.

So I escaped the black cave once again. By Friday morning I could smile at one of my brokerage pages that couldn't handle the four digit drop in the Dow. I laughed after considering putting some money into a stock and not pulling the trigger to see it up two and a half points on the day, a down day for the Dow with volatility that made ending down 128 seem like a victory.

Today some guys walked by the tennis court where I was playing and in spite of wearing a cap and having his head turned some little mannerism assured me that one of them was a certain acquaintance of mine. Voices drifted over from a Men's Saturday workout and I recognized the head pro and other friends. This gave me pleasure for some reason. As did the hits and misses of the tennis balls.

It's a wonderful world. You never know what's going to happen and that's the beauty of the journey. Everyone is watching the UT/OU game just now. UT will probably succumb to the Number One team, but then, you never know. Yeah, that's the best part.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Black Dog

I am not feeling colorful and gay. I'm the one in black reflected with the toys from that cool toy store down on SoCo. Did my walk yesterday cheer me up? Not so much. I took a little cheer from my lively companions at a wine dinner at Taste and all the lovely food and drink. I might have enjoyed tennis this morning, but we didn't play. I welcomed the 'time off' but didn't embrace it. Finally I cleaned a little and folded clothes. I guess I need some exercise in order to feel better. I'm thinking of going for a walk followed by the gym. I've let the cool morning pass into a moderate (76 degree) midday. I'm a mess mentally for some reason. I should feel great (well, ignoring the fact that the entire country is in a recession, OK make that a depression). I'm healthy, retired, somewhat secure, my condo is as near 'finished' as it will ever be. So. Get over it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Progress Delayed

There are things I should be doing. Cleaning house. Getting the files and boxes I moved in here organized. Getting a workout. Maybe going for a walk on this cool morning.

I am supposed to (according to Dad's GP) call a cardiologist for an appointment to get an echo cardiogram of his heart. But Dad said (during my morning call to him when I told him this) that he would 'think about it.' In 2005 he had one after having a TIA. It is a non-invasive test but we both wonder what they will do if they find out he has congestive heart failure. Give him some more drugs? I tell him I'll delay getting the appointment until he talks to his GP about it. He needs to go get a flu shot. He changes the subject. "When are we going to get a haircut?" I suggest next Tuesday after my tennis match.

I need to clean house because we are having people over tomorrow evening on a hallway progressive cocktail party that one of the guys on the hall organized. I need to accomplish things. But it's such a cool morning. I think I'll take that walk.

I took the picture in front of a Bubble Tea place on the Drag.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Touching Base

Really, a blog (or a journal) should be updated in a quotidian way. I sometimes feel like people are looking here for me and I'm missing. I read other people's journals and the ones that update faithfully, well, it's hard to miss what's going on with them even if they don't say it. [I missed that a blogger I regularly read had split with her husband somehow. Hmmm. Well, we've no such news here you'll be glad to know.] And, of course, without a record I lose track of myself, disappearing as in the above (aren't you sick of them?) reflection picture.

So, I woke up this morning having dreamed of bacon the size of bath towels and wondering about the pig. The thing about dreams is you can't make that stuff up! What's more I think I dreamed of giant bacon before. I was thinking it was Thursday, too, instead of Tuesday. I'm mixed up and confused.

Yeah, we've watched stocks plummet the last few days. Worldwide financial news is so bleak it makes our losses look minuscule. We have started looking at stores, restaurants, banks, building projects and businesses and wondering which ones will go feet up first. I feel like I should be like Warren Buffet, cash rich and bargain hunting. But, yeah, not.

I am still cataloging things. I'm still not doing any real projects. A short story I had in my head that evolved into a novel started merging with another novel. I think this is fine as long as they just stay in my head, don't you?

I've been looking all over for a little book I bought in Paris, A to Z of French Food. I'm not sure why I'm looking for it. I just saw it in my catalog of books and wondered where it was. I had a box of books at Dad's labeled Paris/France but it was not in there. I went out there and looked through it today. I did decide to bring a few books and maps from that box to the condo (although they are still in my car) because I'm noodling about planning a trip. Only maybe a trip to somewhere in the U.S. where we can stay with friends is a better idea.

Yeah, my mind is all over the place. I got a call from my dad's doctor, too. He didn't get the chest xray we had done, he did get the ultra sound of his leg (no clots, the technician had already proclaimed) and he got the blood test for peptides. It is high. Maybe. There is normal and then there is 'adjusted for age' normal. But the GP thinks a trip to the cardiologist for an echo cardiogram is in order because high BNP might mean CHF. (Congestive Heart Failure.) Only one wonders how one treats a 92-year-old man for CHF. Or anything else for that matter. Drugs, I suppose?

We went to a party tonight for people who had donated to Hospice Austin. In spite of the financial meltdown, people were cheerful. Compared to death, yeah, not so bad. Some were sneaking out to hear the debates. I'm sorry, what?

Oh, well. I'm here. Nothing new, really. We are not trying to slip anything by you at Visible Woman.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Can't Stop Collecting and Cataloging

In spite of the mad frenzy of divesting ourselves of things, we still have a plethora of media and entertainment options. As I type this FFP has piped standards from XM radio (off the DirecTV feed) into our office. I've been uploading a bunch of our CD collection (mostlly jazz and standards) to a fast Firewire disk in anticipation of possibly hooking it to the system or just having it easily available to search for tunes and play them on the iMac. I have several Netflix films waiting to watch. It's football season and there are a few new TV shows, too. Our social calendar is full of entertainment.

I've been trying to get back into keeping a private journal. Of course, I want to keep up with this blog and my other blogs. I've been cataloging and sorting the books we did keep in all this downsizing. (Besides an Access database I'm trying to catalog them on Library Thing.) What is it with this urge to organize, to catalog, to collect? The picture today is the cover of the book I'm reading which I scanned for Library Thing.

We walked to the university today and I snapped a bunch of pictures along the way. (Hmm...I need to organize pictures. Yeah, so it goes.) We also went to hear jazz and eat at Taste and to hear Hedda Lane at Rain. Input, enjoyment. Catalog, journalize. Repeat.

Ah, well. I think I'll sit down and try to work the Sunday Times magazine crossword.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Under Cover

Sometimes I feel like being undercover, just out of range, involved in the world without the risk of being asked too many questions about how we got here. Lots of people have lots of answers. I don't. But I want to know what's going on and hear a little of what other people have to say even though I always take things with a 'grain of salt.' I guess that's what I like about being online with my blogs on the one hand and peeking into other people's lives through their blogs. Connect, yet don't. Converse, but only sort of. Appeals to my innate shyness. My life is led mostly in an 'overcome shyness' mode. A lot of people don't realize that because I battle hard against it. But I'm really happy when I'm mostly missing from the picture yet there. Maybe that's why I take all these reflection pictures like this one of a fancy Second Street clothing store with a stranger caught peering across the street.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

In The Belly of the Beast

How was the trip to the spa? Relaxing, invigorating, refreshing. How was it to come home? Jangling.

Oh, maybe I didn't tell you. Back in June we went to a benefit for Aids Services Austin and the Capital Area AIDS Legal Aid Project. One live auction item was a two night stay at Lake Austin spa and a 'treatment' (massage, etc.) credit for two people. This place is pricey. We opened the bidding and after some confusion found out that there were no other bidders. We promised ourselves that when we achieved escape velocity from the real estate maelstrom that we would actually go out there. And we did it! FFP arranged everything. He called the spa about twenty times so he was famous before we ever got there.

Monday we left early and got there in time to be offered some breakfast and coffee and got to see Billy Yamaguchi present his Feng Shui beauty tips. He was really sweet and he recommended stuff to FFP like new glasses and wearing some different colors and getting a buzz cut. And he said he'd do my hair with these scissors that cut different lengths so your hair spikes. Ladies were lining up to get five hundred dollar sessions with him.

From there it was all about massages, exercise classes, eating many tiny, healthy portions of food, relaxing and reading. They create such an utterly peaceful feeling somehow. It made returning to the real world of traffic, board meetings, medical tests for my dad and the reality of the condo issues a jangling contrast.

Truthfully I can capture a peaceful feeling in my condo or on the hike and bike. Just got to do it.

Photo was taken last month with a reflection of a toy store on South Congress.