Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hand Drawn Animation Over Digital With Gene Deitch

Last month at the San Francisco International Animation Film Festival I attended their retrospective of animator Gene Deitch's work for children. Deitch and his wife Zdenka who reside in Prague, were in attendance for the screening, and I had a chance to speak to both of them.

The showing included Deitch's works: Oscar Winning Monroe, The Three Robbers, TomTerrific, film versions of Maurice Sendak's In the Knight Kitchen, and Where the Wild Things Are, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Why Mosquitos Buzz in Peoples' Ears, and Tom and Jerry.

The retrospective was the last program I attended at the Festival, and it was an interesting way to end the weekend because all of Deitch's works are hand drawn animation, while most of the other stuff I'd seen over the weekend was all digital all the way. In fact, Deitch and his wife are advocates for hand -drawn animation when it comes to children's entertainment.

Though he acknowledges the magic Pixar creates Deitch said, "Animation comes down to the story. With computers, unfortunately a lot of the characters look like plastic...and the computer is shutting out hand drawn animation, unfortunately erroneously called 2D..."

It could be argued well that hand drawn animation, the artist's hand to pen to paper rather than hand to mouse to computer, is more subjective, more of a reflection of the artist. It's more pure. On digital animation, Deitch said he doesn't understand the path many 3D animators seem to be on of trying to imitate reality. "I don't think we should be in the business of trying to animate real live action. It's a dead end. There's no way to do it exactly, so why should we try?"

Deitch's wife Zdenka, a less than 5 ft woman who he described as small but feisty, had a lot to say about this matter as well. "Done with computer, it has no heart. I prefer hand made animation because it has heart...The animator gives a life, a feeling to it..."

While watching the hand drawn animation pieces of Gene's, my thoughts were along these same lines. The morals of the stories stood out to me. When the animator draws everything her/himself, it means the artist's point of view and perspective are completely reflected in the characters, giving the experience of watching a real feeling, hmmm perhaps this could be called soul?

I talked to Gene, a man who looks about 25 years younger than his age, about the digital versus hand drawn idea after the screenings. "There's so much competition out there now for childrens' attention," he said. "We try to make something of lasting value." Deitch said he has grandchildren who live in the U.S., and he's not even sure they would be entertained by his works, compared to what he called, "The splash - bang of the stuff children watch on TV today... We're trying to create something real, with meaning," he said.

I asked Zdenka if she felt that hand drawn animation is not just for children, but adults too. "We make these not just for children...There is a lot of junk in the world. It is important to broaden the mind," she said, referring to adults watching too.

**Photo credit Hilary Hart San Francisco Film Society --Gene Deitch and his wife, Zdenka, with Festival Programmer Sean Uyehara and daughter Asta.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Encyclopedia Pictura

This weekend at the San Francisco International Animation Film Festival, my eyes were opened to a new world!
It is that of Encyclopedia Pictura. EP is an animating collective of three young men from Santa Cruz who are currently enjoying a lot of attention since their animation and production for Bjork's 'Wanderlust.' View here.

-Darren Rabinovitch, Sean Hellfritsch, and Isaiah Saxon of EP, and Sean Uyehara, Programmer of SFIAFF

Encyclopedia Pictura are definitely on top of their game. As designers /producers/ artists, they mix live action, digital animation, stop motion animation, and also they do stereoscopic 3D. Their work proves mastery of the latest animation technology (they use Maya, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and After Effects), as well as a well rounded sense of art. I think they must operate with %100 creativity and %100 tech skills, which is amazing to think about.

Because they are an independent cohesive unit, creating ground-breaking art, the three are reminiscent of a rock band- only they're animators. Music isn't the only situation where a small team of people can collaborate on an artistic vision and be successful and recognized for it!
*Note- This is also interesting considering our apparent switch to a visual culture these days*

The Animation Fest showed a series of their different short works, including Grow, Grizzly Bear: Knife, Bjork, Born Like Stars, Micro/Macro, Tactical Advantage, Seventeen Evergreen, Zion I: So Tall, Ballistic Jaw Propulsion of, and Spore.

I feel somewhat speechless trying to describe any of the pieces in words, because that's just it, their work is not about words but rather visuals complimenting sound. You can probably get that sense from watching Wanderlust. I can say however that when watching I was thinking about the idea of humans/earth as one. I kept noticing there seemed to be an emphasis on the beauty of (sometimes personified) natural non-human things (Watch Ballistic Jaw, Born Like Stars).

When the pieces were over and it was time for q and a, Founder Sean Uyehara had some news for us. The three guys hadn't arrived yet! Uyehara began to speak about their work when his phone rang. They were on the other line in the car on the way, so Uyehara held his phone to the microphone and we asked questions through him until they walked through the door to inspired applause. They had been sailing and got held up...

When asked about their vision, EP said, "We'd love to give people a sense of wonder through an experience that's not word based." I say mission accomplished.

Someone in the audience asked about if there's an underlying world view/ perspective that their work is made with. "It's an ecological perspective understanding the balance of all complex systems...Deep ecology," one of them responded (which means my thought of humans/earth as one sort of fits).

Even though Bjork offered them another music video deal, and also Animal Collective, a band they said they'd always wanted to work with (and also one of my favorite bands) apparently they're not doing music videos anymore. They didn't say why not.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our New World

Glide Memorial this morning

Rejoicing our President elect

on with our daily life....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Solo Show Opens with a bang!

There's good theater in town. Last weekend at The Intersection for the Arts theatre in the Mission, In My Corner, Joe Orrach's new solo show, opened to two sold out performances.

I just happen to be the Assistant Production Manager for the show, and I am loving it!

When I first met Joe and saw a rehearsal I was shocked at how multi-talented he is. First he dances a little, and you're thinking, this is great, then there's this intensely intriguing story (which is his true life story) and then he belts out this great tenor voice, and then he starts tap dancing! To top it off, your senses are completely tuned in because of the excellent accompaniment of this world class jazz trio: Matt Clark on piano, Micha Patri on drums, and Eugene Warren on double bass.

I was lucky to fall into such an opportunity. You can be part of it too: there are four more show dates this Thursday through Sunday!

Joe is a local who some may know from Teatro ZinZanni where he performed for 6 years. He grew up in New York and started his performance life tap dancing on the streets. This is where Gregory Hines saw him and this led him to where he is now.

In My Corner is an autobiographical story, largely the story of Joe's relationship with his father, and his personal voyage. It's a coming of age story, his transformation from growing up a New Yorican, leaving the ring behind, hanging up the boxing gloves, and putting on the tap shoes. The story winds through the riffs and beats of latin jazz and rock and roll. Sit back and relax, and your emotions will shift by the vibrations, sounds and silences of this 75 minute show.

Get your TICKETS now at www.joeorrach.com for one of the last performances:
Thursday at 8pm
Friday at 8pm
Saturday at 8pm
and Sunday at 1pm
$20 general admission

Monday, August 11, 2008

roAD trip

My brother recently landed in North Carolina for grad school and I accompanied him for the trip out.

I wrote this in the car at the end of the week...

So the trip has been good. Tuesday was fantastic. Driving through pockets of thunderstorm over the rusty red ridges of Arizona and carefully zipping through monsoon style rain showers, the air was kept fresh and the skies kept dramatic.

Scenery stayed interesting

-a stop at Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ-

right up until night came and we blasted techno til New Mexico.

Early rise and Wednesday wasn’t as fun.
Hot hot heat and flat smog land
into and through the top of Texas

which pretty much all looks like this
Highway 40 must be owned by McDonald's, Taco Bell, the occasional Pizza Hut, and Subway. By the time we got to Oklahoma City I was having a claustrophobic panic attack in my desire to eat something that didn’t come in plastic first.
Getting off the freeway I was hoping to at least find a grocery store where I could buy an orange. Well we must have gotten off the wrong exit because what we found instead were humans driving air conditioned cars windows up between big box stores. We settled on Target where I purchased one of those tuna in foil snack things (foil better than plastic?)- not quite what I wanted.

That night we landed in Fort Smith, a quaint brick laden town on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas, where I did find some vegetables. A pleasant place to call home after highway for 12 hours.

Thursday was a much better. More Subway and Green green green hills and more monsoon rain, and NPR kept us company. Memphis for lunch, $5 to a bum who worked hard for it, some perspective at the Civil Rights Museum, stayed on the freeway through Nashville and ended in Knoxville to sleep. People say Knoxville is nice, but we only had time to say goodbye in the morning. From the road it seemed like a nice place.

Next, a detour up to our nation's capital.

act like you like each other!

Before one last windy foresty strip of highway

to our final destination.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

American Idol

As I'm pretty sure the number one TV show today, grossing katrillions of dollars each season through product placement, advertising, and cross medium success (getting viewers to text) American Idol is a sort of phenomenon. Coming up on its eighth season and apparently still going strong, it makes me wonder: what's the deal? I got to ponder this a little more while on the set of the auditions working as production assistant for the show. At the Cow Palace last week, at least a thousand people or so thought they had what took to be the next American Idol. Crazy. I sort of felt when I was there that people treat auditioning like playing the lottery- mayyybe just maybe they'll win. Though they haven't logicially thought about if they have what it takes. And everyone wants a chance to be on TV. Stardom. Success. The American Dream...

It was invigorating and pleasing to be around singing all day, since to sing is from the soul. Congratulations to everyone who tried out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Silent Film Festival

This last weekend in San Fran was the 13th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theater.

We saw The Patsy starring Marion Davies and directed by 5 time Oscar nominated King Vidor, who holds the Guinness World record for longest running career as a director- spanning 8 decades. The movie was actually awesome- a 20's comedy I think refreshing because of most of the crap comedy we get in theaters today. I suppose the style of comedy was almost slapstick- and clever.

The other highlight of the night was the live accompaniment of music, done so by Mr. Clark Wilson on a Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Having the musician in the room means the experience is organic, like seeing live theatre instead of a movie- anything can happen on the spot as perhaps the audience's reaction affects how the musician plays, and how the musician plays affects how the audience reacts- a mutual experience. This mutual experience theme is interesting to me and is addressed in a movie I was part of making for Sam Green and Kevin Epp's doc class at USF, called Ruins of the Past and Present.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reno is Artown

Every July Reno hosts Artown, a month long summer arts festival, and most events are free. Pretty cool. Two summers ago I was part of a group, Project Moonshine, that made a sort of documentary- called Being Here- about the event.

This year something I had never seen before, a woman acrobat dancing hanging from a type of hot air balloon (that was tethered to the ground)- apparently called The Heliosphere, kicked off the festival on July 1 in Wingfield Park. Here's a taste...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Le Tour de Nez

This past week I spent at the Tour de Nez- a pro bike race in Reno/Tahoe- a fantastic way to spend the week.

This is Roman Kilun who won two stages at Nez and who I just found has a blog of his own.

Dave Towle announced, which was exciting for me because for a few years I reallllly enjoyed him commentate the Tour de France on OLN, now Versus. He knows loads about cycling, and he's a real artist. Watching and listening to him makes you feel like you are there in person.

Co-filmer Mike Albright in for the good shot before having to fall back.

Here's a photo of a moment later, when after a bit of rain and fears of cancellation, a double rainbow emerged.

There's just something about a bike...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

No Child...

"No Child..." which just finished its run at Berkeley Rep, the last stop on its national tour, was everything everyone has been saying it is. The show has been getting lots of attention for awhile (it's been on for 2 years now) and sometimes hype can lead to great expectations and disappointment from the crowd. However, Nilaja Sun creates enough of an authentic energy in the room (and the Berkeley rep theatre is nice and intimate) for the hype to be legitimate.

The main wonderful point about this show is the fact of activism as entertainment. No Child... is insight into the No Child Left Behind Act that is a U.S. federal law that George W. Bush instituted in 2001.

Watching Sun I could tell the amount of teachers in the room because of the many inside teacher jokes I wasn't a part of. This meant that the audience was also really passionate- the NCLB act effects their lives every day, and there's a lot of emotion there. Seeing Sun enact a theater teacher struggling to make an impact on kids and also struggling to get support for doing it, hit home for the audience. At one scene when Sun enacts the teacher calling a student to see why he has been absent and finds out from his grandmother that his brother was shot dead in an incident of gang violence, I noticed hands go up to faces all over the crowd as viewers wiped their tears.

I'm proof that this show inspires in an activist way because leaving I researched more about the NCLB act. Barack Obama has plans to reform the act.

Monarch Movie

Here is a movie I made intro to video production at USF with Samara Halperin last fall. It features music by Animal Collective, Mark Mothersbaugh (from the Life Aquatic) and Colleen, various butterfly footage from youtube, and voices by Dan and Kim Bartlett. enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sex and the City Commentary

My interest in Sex and the City stems from the fact of its intense fan base. What is it about this story that makes women and (mostly gay) men everywhere like it so much? I know, parts of it seem obvious- the glamour, the gossip, but what else? People feel positive and negative about the effects of the show on our culture. I thought the movie coming out meant a perfect time to do a little in qualitative research to try and figure out what here is making people tick.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sex and the City The Movie Premieres

last night I went to see Sex and the City on its opening day. Soon I will be posting a journalistic video of the occasion/idea.

Here's a taste. This is the moment when after waiting years, the audience heard the familiar sounds of their favorite opening credits. There aren't any give aways.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kindness Movie

Here is the first movie I ever made! It was done for Samara Halperin's intro to video class at USF last Fall. The assignment was to do an on camera edit, and it's my first one, so forgive the shaky camera, i-pod cord, and unfocused lens. It's supposed to be a portrait of kindness, features an experience at Burning Man, and is narrated by my friend and photographer David Calvert.

Go See Young at Heart

This Memorial Day Weekend I drove back home for a little relaxation/family love/refreshment.

*the sky in Reno is always fantastic (I think it has something to do with how it's simultaneously the desert and mountains), this weekend especially so because it was drizzly the whole time.

While here I saw the documentary Young at Heart by Stephen Walker, which is a portrayal of an elderly choir called Young at Heart. It was a fantastic! The movie has been recommended to me a lot because of my own similar documentary film making interests of late, which I will be posting proof of here soon.

OK, easy subject you may say. Old people say the darndest things. Pretty much, exactly. But also way more than that. They have 80 or so years of knowledge that is the foundation for what they have to say. In spending an hour and a half with older people, it's hard for your head and heart not to go back to the basics and realize what's important in life. Props to Walker I say. I'm all about creating entertainment by simply (not to say it's not a difficult task) putting a frame around beautiful things in life.

A scene most powerful is when the choir performs at a jail. Here we get to watch the prisoners watching and listening to the chorus, as we are thinking the prisoners must be affected, and be realizing, like we are, that we must live each day to the fullest, savor every moment, and appreciate life for what it is.

Smiling? I thought so.
Young at Heart is currently playing in San Francisco at the 4 Star Theater on Clement Street.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The State of Cinema Address

Last Sunday morning in San Francisco, Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine, delivered the State of Cinema address. Kelly has worked in digital technology since his founding role with The Well, in 1985, one of the first "true" online communtities. So he had a lot to say about what the future, inevitably and obviously digital all the way, will look like for motion pictures.

He opened his talk with a little factoid about life today: the huge amount of screens everywhere. "Anywhere we are waiting, there are screens," he said (gas stations, grocery lines, etc.).

He hit many points about why and how cinema has been and will continue to change:

- the home theater situation has been morphing: "There's a whole system of underground groups of state of the art home theaters."

-3D cinema may have a future. Theater owners want to use 3D to try and get customers into theaters. This was also a large topic discussed at last year's Future of Cinema Conference in Cannes, since this was also where Michael Peyser's U23D - "the first live-action 3D concert movie" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

-Because of all new possibilities and venues for distribution thanks to the Internet, there are all new rules and ideas for movie time frames. Think Youtube. "Before, you either made home movies or real movies. Now we have a middle. More than a home movie, less than a masterpiece."

-Tools are no longer a big decider for who is making movies and who is not. Since inexpensive video cameras are everywhere now, it's not the tools that prevent people from making movies. The only necessity now is the "ambition of the artist." Also because of accessible, inexpensive tools for production (cell phone cameras) and distribution (youtube) we now have soooo much content out there. People emphasize the crap. But, this just means there's more to weed through. "In order to have really great stuff you have to allow bad stuff."

-Computational Photography Film making- Take a film, extract out a person, and reassemble the story that you want (I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about here)

-Videos are increasingly everywhere. "It's similar to text everywhere. We don't even notice it. The moving image is becoming ubiquitous." When the printing press came out and text began to dominate, everyone was complaining about the loss of oral communication. This was known as the Gutenburg shift. Now, the same thing is happening with the shift from text to video. "We went from oral to written and now we're going to screen. There was a lamentation then. I think because of this shift to a visual culture, literary skills will be lost."

- What about the question of the literary form of film? How do we summarize, condense, make abstracts of films? How fast can we watch a film and still understand it? Everything is all about linking now. Eventually we will want to be able to link to certain frames in films, or even to certain things in frames. We don't have this technology yet.

- "It's the liquidity" of the medium. Film is becoming like this. Transformable.

-copy copy copy. "Freeconomy." What do we do? How do we make money? The copy machine is "the intermedia." (Mr. Kelly though is not worried about new media economy). "Where attention is money will follow. Stories have an incredible capacity to hold attention."

-For the future: the first lesson we learned on the web is that: we can do it! Nobody believed in the internet when it first came out. "We better start believing in the impossible."

-On the fate of film (celluloid), Kelly said, "I say good riddance to film (celluloid) because you can fake it (create the effect that film gives) with digital"

After the talk there was a Q and A and someone asked how artists will make money in this new "freeconomy." "I do believe we will find a model for artists being able to make a living," Kelly said.

*this post is the first of my culture review series. watch for more!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tag Cloud of this Blog

created at TagCrowd.com

So this is the tag cloud of my blog. Sara introduced me to tag clouds, when she did one on tagcrowd.com of all of our tags from the StoneLake Farm trip. A tag cloud is basically a summary of a group of words, in this case just all of the most used words in my entire blog. The larger the word in the cloud, the more often it was used in the blog up to this point. Looking at this tag cloud is special to me, because it's like a little summary of this past semester, a great semester, which also happens to be my last one in college.

I love how "people" is in the largest font, the only word of its size in the cloud. This reflects my interest and passion in life- the way people interact, what affects people, how people can be moved to change, connecting people, the idea that people need people, what makes people feel the way they do...and I'm looking forward to living the rest of my life meeting and connecting with new types of people all the time.

Also, this semester in the Davies Forum (the reason for which this blog began, but not the reason for which it will continue) has been all about interacting with and learning from and with different people. The outline for the Davies Forum, with one different guest speaker every week to learn new things from, is a big reason this could happen.

It's also quite nice how the cloud begins with "artist" and ends with "world." I think of myself as an artist, I think more people should think of themselves as artists (maybe it's like Scott McCloud says in his book Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art, "art is any human activity which doesn't grow out of either of our species' two basic instincts: survival and reproduction") and I also think about myself as a part of this world! It's like the cloud represents my path in life right now: OK artist, interact with people, learn from them and affect them, the world is waiting and ready!"

I think I also just realized right now from looking at this tag cloud what the Davies Forum on Digital Literacy was all about. I don't think it's really explainable in a paragraph or classic sentence form, which is probably why I think we were all a little confused about what this class was supposed to be, what exactly digital literacy is, until after it all happened. I wonder what I would have thought if I had seen this cloud before taking the class.

Visit these other blogs for more thoughts/explanations/summaries on digital literacy:
Lulu's User friendly Guide to San Francisco
Sara's Studies
Shiny Things
Silver in SF
Stay with the Soft
Digitizing Dreams and Waking Life
and also check out our flickr doings

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thinker Phillip Thurtle

Thurtle at USF (yes, he was not wearing shoes- apparently his students at UW are used to this).

I quite enjoyed the casual nature of his talk. He opened by saying he prefers questions whenever people have them, rather than at the end of his talk- that he is a very interactive speaker. This immediately made the event more of a conversation than anything else, which was good because Thurtle got into some abstract stuff that was best cleared up with a question or two.

His task for the talk was to make us realize that we take comics, the medium that teaches us to read text as image, for granted. In fact, comics, a medium thought of as low culture, can actually teach us loads about the world, the future, and philosophy. He began by comparing journalism to comics. "Journalism is limited: it only covers what just happened. Comics cover what may happen."

Here are some other snippets of the presentation/conversation:

Comics teach us:
how to read surfaces instead of lines
what it means to live in an industrial society
ways to engage in the world.

"The image shows states of affairs and scenes and the eye has to discover the relations"- Villem Flusser

Comics always deal with a high level of industrialization- Superheros always have one foot in industry and one foot in their bodies.

"Superheros exist."

In comics, it's not about personal transformation, it's about world transformation. With images, time is different. The time of the panel moves with the world, not by the subject, like in other mediums of storytelling. You the reader has to move time in a book. How? You have a plot. Something happens through the action of an individual. In comics, time is part of the world.

Images are important for provoking the imagination into inhabiting a possible future. The idea is not to get rid of conscious thought, the idea is that things don't always move with reason and logic.

"We are who we are because of our environments." It's about understanding the world instead of the world understanding you.

"You have to change the way you think about space. For me, a much more interesting way of thinking about space is as the things that bring us together. I can see outside because of the window."

Thurtle also touched a bit on Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art, which we read in preparation for his class. An interesting point I found in this book is the idea that we apparently see ourselves in cartoons, and other people in realistic drawings or photos of faces. Thurtle touched on this too. He said, "detail is all about othering."

Hmmmmm. Interesting.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jasmine Park, Fashion Blogger

*all photos in this blog are from www.pikepine.com

Jasmine Park puts positive vibes into the world.

She does this by walking around the streets of Seattle and telling people they look great, so great, that she would like to take a photo of them for her blog Pike/Pine. Then she only puts photos in her blog if the photos are complimentary of the person. No bad photos, and no disses on outfits either. Only positive pictures and commentary. Cruel reader comments also get moderated.

She spoke as part of the Davies Forum last Thursday, and she gave us her 4 rules for blogging: 1) take good photos (in fashion reporting people expect detail) 2) make people look good 3) Be nice "there's a certain amount of karma in the blogosphere and you sort of get what you put into it," Park said. and 4) Only post what I'm proud of. She also told us one thing that she has learned from her blogging is that people are nice. I imagine people are even nicer when you compliment them at first encounter.

Her fashion blogging has taken her to Tokyo

and she said it is by the far the most fashionable city, in her opinion.

I'm excited to see where she goes with her career, as she mentioned she may eventually move on to photographing not just people's fashion, but just people. Steven Shore, and Tuka are some photographers in this realm she really admires.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Best Blog Post Ever

My teacher for our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class assigned us to do "the best blog post ever." Daunting as it may seem, I was not toooo worried because I knew I would have a lot of inspiration to work with after this last weekend.

Sunday night, just as I was drifting off to sleep in my bed, I awoke suddenly to the sound of a car.
My eyelids quickly jolted open. What was that?!!?
Ohhhh yeahhh, I'm back to civilization, where large moving machines is the norm.
I closed my eyes again with a grumble, appreciating the sweet memory of how nice it was to sleep with only the sounds of nature (and other people snoring).

This past weekend we lived at StoneLake Farm.

We spent time with the chickens who hatched our eggs.

We savored these eggs many times over. This spanish tortilla/makeshift scramble paired with a sweet white Riesling wine was maybe the best meal I have had since studying abroad in France a year ago (Thanks Lulu). So good, and eaten immersed in the wonder of such vast nature, that this was the slowest I had savored a meal since I can remember.

we took our time thinking of and creating these meals. Could the reason this trip felt so relaxing and time went by so nicely simply be the sheer pleasure in spending time to cook and savor our meals?

Perhaps. Or rather, eating is something that all humans share and relate on. With all of the things that civilization usually keeps us busy with taken away, we found ourselves talking and relating about food so much because we all naturally like and need to connect with each other. Besides being necessary to live, food, and cooking it, thinking about it, planning for the next meal, is a simple way for people to connect. The beauty in this is also that food, done properly, can be delicious, something special in itself.

we foraged

and chopped the wood that kept us warm

we appreciated this wood even more when it began to snow

we created very little trash!

and ducklings, hopefully who will survive the food chain and help the summer garden to fruition, provided us with some "fluff"

All of this, in one word is homesteading (check out www.howtohomestead.org) In two words, is the simple life. In ten words, is the most relaxing while simultaneously fulfilling weekend I have ever had.

I'll be back.

For an even better feel of StoneLake farms, view a slideshow of the trip.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gayla Trail, Urban Gardener

Because of a field trip and graduation mayhem, this post is a bit late, but still necessary because of the value of this speaker's words! Gayla Trail, self-described "urban gardener" and author of blog You Grow Girl visited USF two Thursdays ago for the Davies Forum on Digital Literacy. It was great to have her here! I wish everyone could hear her speak, now I understand the tremendous importance of urban gardening.

One of Trail's mottos is "Play is Valuable." She said Play is three things: a learning tool, a way to explore and make discoveries, and also an opportunity to make mistakes. Her site started as her own play. She simply loved to garden, and was bored with her corporate job. "I just wanted other people to relate to," she said about starting the blog. It turns out people do relate to her, her blog is pretty popular.

She talked about her thought that gardening media is so flat and boring. Think about it: we tend to talk about nature as dead, she said. She referred to a quote by someone called Johnson who said instead of wilderness, we should call it wildness-. This makes the term a quality rather than a place, an adjective rather than a noun, and a little more exciting. Instead of gardening magazines for inspiration on gardening, Gail refers to works of literature: stuff like Michael Pollan's Second Nature, and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Her main point is that we need to start seeing the city and nature as being able to coexist. We tend to think of them as separate. Gardening can inspire wonder and delight. "I use the word wonder a lot when I talk about gardening, " Trail said. After hearing her speak, I thought, duh! Gardening is a healthy habit that is fulfilling, good for the earth, and fun. Why is it still fairly obscure?

In addition to all of her pro- gardening points, Trail brought up some interesting points about blogging in general. "When you try to write in the mainstream, you have to be validated by someone else- not in personal media," she said. This means there's no editorial process. Maybe this is a good thing, or a bad thing. One bad thing may be that with blogging, you tend to write something, and then later connect with it and only come to know it after it's out there, open for criticism. In her own blog, Trail uses a lot of personal voice. "I have a lot of problems with the idea of hierarchy, I don't like authority" she said. She also uses a lot of photos in her blog because "we're a very visual culture."
Her blog being a sort of how to site for gardening, Trail also has a unique blogger perspective. "There are too many variables (in gardening) to give exact directions, the wrong way to give gardening directions is to say this is how you do it...I try to encourage people to make mistakes, kill plants, etc."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kevin Epps

Kevin Epps, chatting with students after the talk

Kevin Epps, filmmaker, activist, artist and my teacher for documentary class, gave a really intriguing talk about his experience as an artist in today's media landscape. "Digital technology is the reason this story was able to be told," he said about his 2005 documentary Straight Outta Hunter's Point. It was quite refreshing to hear someone talk about making a difference through media, giving people a voice by helping them to tell their story through documentary film. "There's something very empowering about telling your own story." Epps said. One of the ways he helps people do this is by working with Conscious Youth Media Crew, a non-profit production studio that provides inner city youth with the opportunity to create media. Awesome.

Epps also stated the idea that "We don't have to compete with Hollywood." As a media studies student, I guess it feels like everyone is always talking about making it big. Epps made me realize that it's more about small community power than Hollywood. Let's face it- Hollywood sucks.

Although, in this capitalist society, everyone needs money. Epps talked about how as an artist he and everyone else have been figuring out how to control ownership of their work and manage it in order to be compensated. This is the big issue that is happening right now with music downloading, and the reason why the writers' strike took place. It will be interesting to see how these sorts of issues play out in my lifetime.

This was the first time in our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class that we had the perspective of a digital artist. Kevin Epps has a very unique, important perspective, perfect for the role. He touched on the digital divide too, something we are about to talk more about in our class. "Not having the access to the latest, fastest, digital technology is definitely a digital divide," Epps said.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ocean Beach, Jane Jacobs, and Kelly Quinn

Ocean Beach is a great place. And I think Jane Jacobs would approve of Ocean Beach because, though it is not part of a grid system which she was such an advocate for ( a grid is the basic idea of a divided piece of land that provides equal size blocks, that dominates the landscape of the US), much of the grid system of San Francisco ends here. It is so large that much of San Francisco has access to it by simply walking or driving West.

The reason I am thinking about Ocean Beach in relation to what Jane Jacobs and Kelly Quinn had to say is because I love the vastness of it, how it's open to everyone (no fees or major restrictions) and how when it's a nice day out the whole city seems to flock to the beach. As Kelly Quinn said Thursday as a speaker for our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class, "the grid is the most democratic form of urban planning, because at the corner we have the opportunity to meet people unlike ourselves." I think Ocean Beach is like this too! Because of its size and accessibility, day and night, and because of what it is as nature and as land's end, there are all sorts of different people at the beach.

Kelly Quinn said Thursday, "one of my real fascinations is with urban furniture." She then showed the class a slide of a photo of two benches facing each other. These benches almost require conversation, and human interaction, she pointed out. This brings up an interesting point. Ocean Beach has benches too, and a large ledge in an area where people can sit, though these benches face the water, not each other. But to me it seems like since everyone is there because they enjoy the beach -they all have this in common- and so the human interaction there is meaningful. This has to do with safety too. Though there is probably less of a permanent community at the beach, like a neighborhood would have, that knows who is who and keeps its eyes out for strangers, I feel like the mutual enjoyment of the beach is a safe thing in itself. One can probably tell and feel the difference between a person there to enjoy the beach and someone there to cause ruckus.

Quinn also mentioned the importance of trees. The more plants and trees, the less hot the climate. This is important, she mentioned, for elders. People don't like to come outside when it's really hot, and so are less involved and part of the community. Though there aren't trees at Ocean Beach, there's always a nice breeze.

Safety is of great importance to Jane Jacobs. I think Ocean Beach is very safe. During the day, as long as there aren't gale force winds or rain, people are always out: elders walking or sitting, parents walking kids in strollers, surfers, wind surfers, and couples. During the night, although the beach itself (the sand beyond the boardwalk lit by cars and lights on the street) is dark, partyers and bon-fire goers keep watch. To Jane Jacobs, eyes are very important. The more eyes on an area, the safer the area. The fact that there are so many people at Ocean Beach is itself probably one of the reasons why there are so many people at Ocean Beach. Jacobs says in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, "Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off an on, by watching street activity" (p 35). (my emphasis). To me this says, people need people- a large theme of the first three chapters of her book.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

ghosts at the white house