Thursday, September 30, 2004

Trying again.

today was the first day in a while that I've felt simply content. I think it's a good idea for me to start my days with a cup of coffee and some reading on my parents' front porch. This is last time for a while that I'm going to be around seasons, and I surely love seasons. The attic fan is off for the year and we're starting to get that moldy leafy smell in the air. Crisp and clean, like my newly cleaned desk!

okay. This blog is not going to be about seasons or emptying wastebaskets. sorry guys.

the move to Santa Cruz (California) is still bothering me some. I keep telling people that I'm scared of the move because I'm afraid I'm going to lose touch with "middle America". As a left-of-center hopeful media-maker, that worries me. While I can see that it's possible (very easy, in fact) for me to fall into a "debate amongst the choir", I think there's something more than that about this move that worries me (no it's not Jessica, she's the REASON for the move).

I think my visit to the City Museum last night brought this issue out again. I really like the City Museum, and a place like that couldn't happen in a city that's not a decaying working class industrial center. There's something really freeing about the low expectations in a city like St. Louis. There's not a ton of competition here, and that makes a lot of stuff really possible creatively. There's so much terrific raw material everywhere, it's not overworked, there aren't snide critic-lurkers around each bend. For someone who's been in a bit of a slump, that's important. (what is this slump? is it just this GUR project? does it reach much farther into insecurities? is if from too much education? too little?)

I'm remembering my time in NYC, where I very rarely went to galleries and usually left feeling ill. Maybe at times the art here doesn't really inspire me, but it's at least mostly honest, and "accessibility" isn't the biggest problem.

anyhow, today I felt good again. I've started reviewing footage again for the GUR doc, and I'm just waiting to hear back from PEAR about my suggestions for the ed. video. Still haven't gotten in touch with my interviewee whose footage is in debate. I'm just waiting for my dust to settle.

online composing

I just remembered what it's like to compose messages online. This reminds me of the early days of hotmail. I just finished writing a post, only to lose what I just wrote because I pressed the Word hotkey for "back". Mozilla interprets that as "back" in the browser instead of in this composer window. That sucked. Let me try again.

Monday, September 27, 2004

back in tha 314

Okay, now I’m back in St. Louis, and feeling okay. I’m thinking I will let my interviewee determine the course of action I need to take. If she stands behind what she said, I won’t take it out. Still, I may contextualize it differently…

The funeral for my grandfather last Friday was about as you might expect. A part of me was glad to meet some of his friends that I’d heard about for years, but a part of me felt very claustrophobic. There was one day when I just shut down because I couldn’t deal with so many people. My sister says that usually happens once per family gathering.

I think G.P.’s death for me was only a minor marker of the change in era that my family is going through. He tapered off over a long period. I found myself not mourning his death, per se, but the end of this pattern of family traditions. Oddly, his and Grancie’s house was the concrete object I attached this loss to.

So, I shot some footage and showed a lot of old videos and 8mm film that GP had shot. This was a rich period for coming up with ideas for video projects and printing projects. These will surely be personal and probably not distributable, but really, if I get back to that, then I’ll be a lot more secure in my work, and I won’t have issues with questionable moral ambitions and my ego, etc...

Today I’m doing some more reading for the PEAR stuff, and I got sidetracked into some technical articles about modeling consciousness (recently published in Psyche magazine). I’m really wanting to go back to grad school today. This is probably partly related to conversations with Jess, who has started classes now, and is reading interesting stuff.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

couple days later

not much has changed with the situation with the disgruntled person (i´ve been out of communication).

Lately - besides my grandfather - I've been mostly thinking about my next project with the engineering anomalies lab at Princeton (PEAR). Last thursday (or friday?) I responded to a post about possibilities for interpretations of this reality. Even though i would consider myself spiritual, and believe in the transcendental, I was depressingly negative about the possibilities of reshaping this world through conscious intervention (the intervention of consciousness). I've been rebuking myself for that since then... I think I was egged on by the part of me that is always checking how skeptics would perceive what I'm talking about. Of course, the skeptics in this situation = the scientific community. My personal interactions are not limited to my (soon to be) doctor cousin, and my clinical psychologist cousins, but they have been somewhat dismissive of my interest in the PEAR lab's research. That depresses me a bit. We're usually pretty tight, but I kinda feel like I can't talk to them about this interest.

Communication... How to talk to a skeptic, so that they think you're sane? Same issue i think i've been dealing with in the race doc: how to talk to white people without bringing out a reflexive defensiveness?

Other stuff on my mind:
Re: death.
When I picked up my aunt at the airport Monday night, I started talking about how the hardest part is putting on the "bereaved" face when old church ladies show up at the door. I have no connection to these ladies. they belonged to the church that my grandparents have stopped going to in recent years (of which they were once very active members). They also have almost no connection to the reality of GP's (my grandfather's) situation over the past few years. When they show up and say nice things about him, it upsets my grandmother because she starts thinking, "why didn't they tell me this earlier?" "why didn't I see that side of him?" "why didn't I appreciate him more?". The question, "why didn't they visit in the last eight years he's been sick?" has also come up, but that's kind of bitter, and you kind of have to respect the good church ladies for fitting in with the culture. Dead man in church bulletin = buy a ham and drop it off.

My job in answering the door on Monday was to make them feel appreciated while accepting the ham graciously. Only later, as more southern meats kept pouring in did we decide to mention (to the people who called first) that much of the family is vegetarian. I mean, on top of the end of an era, there's no point in wasting food, right?

Anyhow, with my aunt on Monday, I was joking about all the hams and the face changes for the public. We've actually been quite jovial, looking at pictures of GP in his better years, watching the Super8s he shot, etc. Last night this upset my sister a bit. She thinks Grancie might want a little more space to be grieving.

From my perspective, we've all been coming to terms with GP's absence for the last 8 years, and now this chapter is simply closed. To me, Grancie seems saddest about what to do next, weather or not she could have been nicer, but nobody wishes he could still be lying in his bed in pain. It's moving on time (i.e. laughter is good), and the reality is we all have already gradually moved on from the active healthy funny wonderful GP that was around a decade ago.

Monday, September 20, 2004

1st post

Today, the death of my maternal grandfather brings me to Houston. Yesterday at approximately 5:20pm central time my mom called, and my grandmother reported that she had just seen GP's last breath.

Thought it seems strange to me that this is the moment and location (Bellaire Public Library) that I get off my ass to start a blog, I'll take a push where I can get it. I'll probably write more about my grandfather in the coming days, but for now, I want to talk about the situation I just escaped in St. Louis.

For some time I've been trying to produce a documentary about the race dynamics in my hometown. It has been taking me way too long. The more I look at it the more I feel like I'm not being honest with myself, and the more honest I am about the real stuff going on in my head, the less I want to show it to anyone.

It has become totally autobiographical. but that is not what i am escaping from right now.

I've showed some first drafts of it to some friends, and friday I got a call from a friend of my sister. she had seen a version of it and had recognized an anecdotal situation in the video that was described by one of my interviewees. She felt the feelings and situation described in the interview reflected badly on her mother. For the past few days (from friday till I left town because of my grandfather).

my defense for using the footage was that nowhere is the woman's name mentioned, nor the location, nor the time frame. From my perspective I have done everything possible (without marring my footage, or reducing emotional impact) to protect the identity of the accused party.

However, people who are already familiar with the interviewee may be able to guess who she is talking about.

On saturday I had a meeting with the woman who feels wrongly accused in my video. When i asked her what she wanted me to do with the footage, she responded that she would never dream of infringing on my rights to free speech. Later she told me she was going to have to look into what her legal options were. of course, she would "hate to have to take suit against me".

Goddammit. as if i didn't already have enough problems getting this thing done.

One thing that comes to mind in this situation: the goal of this production has been to avoid the blame game that is common to exposes of racism. I've tried to focus on confessional type situations with the minimum of "explanation" and "blaming". (i feel that especially on as sensitive a topic as this one, the defensive reaction on the part of the audience needs to be as mitigated as possible).

BUT - i feel at some point i do need to show a face that has been hurt in a particular situation. This is needed to make it real that there are implications for children's self-esteem. Unconscious race bias isn't just a general negativity projected out into the world, but a real thing that certain particular real people suffer from.

the point of this is that at some point in the video I need to have a person (preferably a child) talk about a time when unconscious race interactions had a negative impact on them. In every situation that I can imagine, if the situation were not fictional (this is a documentary after all) there would be someone who could recognize the situation as presented (no matter how i disguise it) and claim to have been defamed.

my first reaction was to say to myself, this sucks, but I'm probably going to have to remove this footage. squeaky white wheel gets the grease, but yesterday I got a call that felt even worse.

the "defamed party" called me and was clearly trying to discern who else may feel slandered by me and may be interested in campaigning against me. Up till that point, I was totally willing to believe the "defamed party" that the situation represented by my interviewee may have been exaggerated.

I was inclined to call my interviewee up and see if she would stand behind her interview on these points, and go with her feeling on it, to pull or not to pull the footage...

but after I feel like "the defamed party" is trying to start a campaign against me, I don't really want to go to special lengths to protect her...

I'm still in a quandary about this one, but a couple of things are sure. I'm going to have to look into my own legal situation to protect my butt. someone is going to be mad about this video, and friends of the family are probably the least of my worries.

I wonder if I have the emotional fortitude to produce this thing...