Oh boy, 2 geek posts in a row. Not good for Project Steev.
Well, the thing is, like I said I would do in my post yesterday, I went over to the colo to get my server. I had to reserve a Flexcar to get over there, which costs money, which was okay except it turned out to be all for nothing because they wouldn't let me take my machine until I paid them an extra $114!! They said their policy was 30 days notice, but I only gave them 14 days or something, so they alyre charging me the difference. WTF?! That's bullshit.
Well, luckily I don't need the damn thing, right away, at least. So I just told them to turn it off and I'd be back. I'm not going to pay. As soon as I can I'm going to talk to whoever can make the decision and reason with them, and if they won't cut me some slack I will spew righteous bad PR about them all over the place. I know several people who use them as an ISP or a colo.
I won't say the name of the company, because I won't badmouth them till they refuse to give me a break. They've been great up till now, the service has been excellent, but this just puts a bad taste on the last 2.5 years of being their customer.
Over the last month or so I've been gradually moving all my websites and other internet foo from my own, self-administered, co-located server over to shared hosting with a pretty cool company, Dreamhost. Well, today was the big final switchover day, because last night I finally changed the nameservers for the 2 most important domains for me, my family, and a few friends. The ones we all depend on for email. Sure enough, stuff went pretty wrong and I was not getting email all day. I think I'm still not getting everything I should. And there were some painful mistakes I made with the web-based "control panel" that Dreamhost has for controlling everything. It's really pretty slick and works great most of the time, but there are a few things that aren't clear for a new user. The thing that really screwed me up is that I accidentally set a disk quota for myself which was way low, so I was immediately stopped for getting new email, creating or changing any files, etc. I used the control panel to remove the quota but it took about 3 hours for it to take effect. So I was effectively paralysed from fixing a lot of other switchover-related things.
All in all though, it will be a big relief when I retire the old server for good. I've been running a server of my own (the first one was called flotsam, this one jetsam), since about august 1997, and it was fun for awhile but it's just become a chain around my neck. I could see how if I was part of a cool collective like protest.net or riseup I wouldn't mind doing some sysadmin stuff, but being the sole administrator, accountant, and tech support just got real old. Tommorrow, I drive over to the colo and unplug good ol' jetsam for good....
Anyway... moving this blog and Moveable Type has been relatively painless so far... let's see if I can save this first post-migration entry without a hassle....
A friend of a friend does this great blog that mostly is a daily autobiographical daily comic strip, called Bitter Greens. It's really cute and fun and I love most daily autobiographical comics like this because they depict normal life, whether it's mundane or crazy-intense-weird. It reminds me of "Clutch," a comic done by a portland guy I know, or Snakepit, by a guy in Austin. It's just kind of fun and adorable to see someone has drawn a picture of themselves watching a boring movie, or just sitting on a couch, or whatever.
I also found out when looking at it that she's a friend of someone else I know, and a friend or at least fan of one of my favorite Bay Area bands, Dealership. Of course since she lives in the Bay Area and I used to live there and she's in the multimedia industry and sort of arty, it stands to reason there might be multiple links.
Yesterday I went for the first time since I've been back in town to a meeting of the Portland IMC video collective. No one else showed up except Deva and Blank, who live there. It was worth going anyway, just to hang out with them and catch up on stuff, but it was a little annoying. In fact many of that group's meetings, at least in the last year or so, have been like that. I think meetings could be a lot more useful, and hence well-attended. I wish other people were more into skillsharing and critiqeing each others' work, because that could be a really useful thing to do at meetings and would make them productive. But no one but me, that I can remember, has ever really showed the group a video that is still in progress and asked for feedback. I know at least some of them haven't because of a mix of lack of confidence in their work, and a sort of overconfidence, paradoxically. But I find it really helpful and important to get reactions to a video, especially a major one, before calling it done and "releasing" it to the world.
The group has been on a summer hiatus, I guess. But other portland indymedia things have been moving forward a lot, it sounds like. The space where the radio studio and servers live has moved to a larger space, more intelligently designed and with more room for stuff to get done. I look forward to seeing that. Today is a general IMC meeting, which I should probably be hopping on my bike to go to right about now. It'll be nice to see people there.
Last night after the abortive meeting I went to meet Ed for dinner, and then we tried to go to see a band that plays video game music, the Minibosses. I had seen them in Tucson and liked them. But it turned out the show sold out because the venue, a game arcade, was pretty small. That was allright. We ended watching some through the big windows in front, and then left, satisfied.
Today I've been working on the docu again. I have a little bit of room to set up in the place I'm staying, though I could use a TV and an extra monitor. Earlier I took a break and biked around and it's just beautiful out. It's hard to not get distracted and just go outside for all day. This is why Iowa was a good place to be for most of postproduction. Anyway, during my bike ride I found a community garden I'd never seen before, and it was unlocked. I went in a strolled around and picked some fresh basil and rosemary and sat on a picnic table and ate an apple i'd brought. It was great.
Someone from University of Iowa emailed me the other day after she saw the posters I'd put up at the Spanish department, a month ago now, looking for translators for the Juarez film. I do still need 2 more clips translated. So close yet so far!!!
Getting more and more into vlogs. I'll write more about them later and what I've been thinking.
I remember a time where you could just use anybody's nameservers from anywhere for anything. I guess that time is no more. When did people start locking down their nameservers? I've just been using my own for so long that I havent noticed that apparently, if you try querying someone else's nameserver, other than those of the ISP you are currently connected to the internet with, the nameserver doesn't answer, generally, unless that server is authoritative for the domain you're querying about. Why? Are people really that worried about giving away a service like that? fawking stupid, I say. Maybe it's been this way for years, but since my server is going away soon (another step in my Geeks Anonymous self-help program) I have been learning a lot of things like this recently. Luckily I have found that some kind net engineers feel the same way I do and offer free public nameservers. Of course it seems like with DHCP no one should worry anyway, when you get a connection the DHCP server should just hand out the nameservers for the local ISP being used, and I think this is supposed to be how things work, but I've found that, at least on macs, often this doesn't really happen. annoying.
This is great, there's now a Chunk 666 blog. And Chunkathalon 2005 is coming up on September 4. A friend and I have a clever plan for an unusual and message-laden minivideo about the Chunkathalon. All the explosions and fire, but with extra meaning, too.
Okay I admit I'm now the 3rd indymedia blogger to mention this but I think I have a few bits of new information and/or value-added analysis.
Taking it from the top: This is insane. soldiers with camo, assault rifles and a helicopter break up a perfectly legal outdoor music event, beat people up, and even force the owner of the property to leave her own land.
see jebba's blog entry for photos and more. the video is especially chilling.
the portland imc article linked to at the bottom has more details including the
ones i cite above.
This is such a big story, or it should be, that I wondered what the mainstream media was saying, if anything. Of course the Salt Lake Tribune has a completely different version of the story. Although, to be fair, they have another story that goes more into the ravers' point of view. However, this brings up an interesting thing about mainstream media on the web. I looked to compare the posting times of the 2 stories, because at first I thought, why publish 2 stories? Then I thought, well, probably the first one was first, then they realized there was more to it, so they published the second one. Then I wondered what the delay time was between the first and the second. It turns out we may never know, because the first story was evidently edited after the second story was put up, because the first one says "Article Last Updated: 08/23/2005 07:25:48 AM" and the second one says "Article Last Updated: 08/23/2005 07:23:50 AM" - do I have it backwards? I don't think so. Read the articles and it's obvious which one came first. One is obviously the standard press-release cut-and-paste report, and the next is "oh wait there's more here the cops didn't tell us, and look there's video some raver escaped with." They're both by the same guy, too. You can't tell me the same guy would post 2 articles 2 minutes apart about the same thing. No, one or both were edited. When were the original posting times? Obviously there was enough separation and the reporter and the paper had enough journalistic integrity or fear of repercussions that they felt like they couldnt just go in and add the new stuff to the original story. So he published a new story, but must have then changed something in the original story, perhaps so it didnt contradict the second. Bad bad, reporter Michael J Nestley of Salt Lake Tribune, although I do applaud you for doing the second story at all - and for coming right out and calling bullshit on the cops, who claim things directly contradicted by the evidence of the video. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and I hope it gets more coverage than by this one little local paper.
This is such a perfect time to be in Portland. It's so great this time of year. I only wish it was like this all the time, or at least.. oh heck, i'd be satisfied if instead of only 2 months of niceness, if it were like this 8 months out of the year, and maybe half-nice for 2, and crappy for 2. Instead it's nice for 2, crappy for 9, and half-crappy for 1. approximately.
I keep thinking of the old "Ant and the Grasshopper" fable. There's nothing like Portland in late August that makes me think more of that story. Because even in August, even when it's so nice, one can't help but realize that it won't stay like this for very much longer. And every year at this time for the last 3 years I've thought, I have to get my shit together, because winter is coming. If I don't get it together, I'll be miserable.
The other thing I realize when thinking of that story is, though there is some wisdom in its moral, it is also sort of bullshit, and it is so much a part of our Mother Culture, as Daniel Quinn would say. Mother Culture is the mega-mythology that controls our world today - what some would call "Western Civilization." And this part of it, this fable, is reinforcing this idea: an agrarian lifestyle is better than a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Which is highly debatable.
I'm not at liberty to say anything else right now. I would normally go all into detail about what I mean, but I'm tired... just think about it. And read Daniel Quinn's books.
I blogged a couple weeks ago about all the movies being produced about Juarez. The El Paso Times has more about that, reactions from people in Juarez and El Paso, and information about a few other films by independant filmmakers from the area. The didn't mention any that were documentaries.
In related news, over the last 4 days I got a lot done on my Juarez film, and finally shortened it to just barely under an hour, though it should be another 2 minutes or so shorter, really. I got a lot done because I was staying alone at a house of some friends that were out of town, so I had no distractions and could borrow space and equipment (monitor, mouse, table, TV, airon chair) to make a little temporary editing workstation. But now I've moved on and I need a new place to work.
Tonight while attending an odd art performance/lecture thing, I looked down and saw on the floor the purse of the woman in front of me, and in the purse was "First World, Ha Ha Ha!", A good book about the Zapatistas, that I just read a few months ago when I was in Guatemala. I thought that was a funny and neat pseudocoincidence, just one of many little interesting things that happened today.
Wow, this is weird. While looking on Flickr for some creative-commons-licensed photos to use in my documentary I found this guy who had about 100 photos of crack pipes and other paraphenalia (I was searching for drug-related photos). He links to his blog, which he claims was entirely writtten, edited, "tweaked," etc, while on crack. I can believe it, from the obsessive and near nonsensical nature of the writing.
I think there's really everything possible out there on the internet.
Well, I've been back in Portland for a week and things still seem odd. But it's a good odd. It feels like I'm still travelling. Nothing too particularly interesting to blog about on the personal front, and I haven't been doing a whole lot of web surfing or media consumption at all, so there's not a lot of fascinating web links or factoids heard on NPR that I can be shovelling your way, either.
However, things are moving gradually forward, so that's good.
So, yeah, nothing superexciting but, y'know, things are good.
Thursday I flew back to Portland (and here's an interesting statistic: the pilot on one plane announced that we were expending fuel at the rate of $30 per minute!). It's pretty strange, a sort of culture shock thing, to be back in the thick of things happening and seeing friends, after having been isolated in rural Iowa for 2 months. But I'm happy to be back. It's also great to be biking again - I had not been on a bike since late February, in Austin during the Indyconference! You might think 'so what'? but when I'm in Portland I am biking somewhere pretty much every single day.
Last night I even went on this month's Midnight Mystery Ride. Usually I can't stay up that late, and the starting point is incoveniently far, but this time it was just a few blocks away, and my biological clock has shifted slightly forward.
We ended up by the Columbia Slough.
I just uploaded to Flickr a few photos from the last few days, including a couple from the mystery ride last night.
A San Antonio TV station published a story about how there are a few different films, dramas, being produced about the Juarez situation. It's really quite incredible when something you've been following, a story so underreported in the media, suddenly seems to have piqued the interest of Hollywood.
I suppose a bright side is that when there's more than one movie coming out into the public eye it will signal to viewers that the situation is real. The fact that there are all these movies about the same thing will make people think, "hmm, it can't be a coincidence, this must be a real problem."
The thing I always wonder, though, even with documentaries, and even those that get huge exposure, like Michael Moore's work, is how much they actually influence anyone to do anything? Of course the reason I do what I do, that I'm involved with videoactivism at all, is that I definitely do think exposing more people to facts about things going on like this DO make a difference. I'm just not sure exactly how much of a difference.
Well, I am really close to being done with the Juarez documentary, but I think it's just not going to possible, or even advisable, to finish it, or even call it finished, by the time I head back to Portland this Thursday. I think tommorrow is going to basically be the last day I can work on it, and then I have to relax a little, then prepare to travel back to Portland.
I still don't quite have all the spanish bits translated. Very close, though, actually only 3 clips that I really need help with. It's been so amazing and gratifying to receive all the help that I did, something like 8 people pitched in, and some of them completely out of the blue. It's a great example of the power of the internet for collaboration, as well as tools like Backpack (though Backpack isn't quite perfect for the job, but it did help, and it was easier than setting up my own wiki or something).
As I work on final touches, like the intro sequence, I've been wracking my brains for a better title, a final title. The working title for the last 4 months was "The Multi-layered Enemy: femicides in Juarez." Now I guess I've decided, for now at least, to go with "On the Edge: The femicide in Ciudad Juárez." I'm not super super excited about it, but I like it all right. What do you think about it? Got a better idea? Let me know in a comment. What I like about "On the Edge" is that the metaphor of "edge" works in a lot of ways, the border, the economics, the violence, but also the hope for improvement as we see more and more activism around this issue. So, it works, but I am definitely open to other suggestions.
My other problem is the film is still just a little too long. I would so love it to be 57 minutes, but it's 64. That's one reason I need to wait and really finish it back in Portland, because I need some other people to give me advice on what can be cut so I can get it down to that 58 or 57 minute mark. Why that lenght, you ask? Because I want to get it on television. I want this to be seen by as many people as possible, and fitting it into an hour broadcast television slot is one way to do that.
More troubling, during his brief year as President (Banzer resigned in 2001 with fatal cancer) the young Texan-Bolivian outdid his mentor in a chilling category – government killings. Under Quiroga in a year, Bolivian troops killed more people (thirteen) than Banzer did in the four years prior as elected President. When Quiroga speaks of civil disobedience as an obstacle to true democracy, we should not forget the ease with which he uses the bullet.
So, I had noticed Current TV online last week but I wasn't chomping at the bit for it to launch. I've been too busy to pay attention to when new cable channels are firing up. But then last night I was taking a break and briefly channel surfing and saw Current TV right there on the channel guide for Direct TV. So I checked it out.
It's an interesting experiment. The basic idea is: short videos submitted by anyone. This concept is a double-edged sword. They call these shorts "pods." Possibly the coolest thing is the progress bar in the lower left corner, so if you don't like something, you can tell how long you have to wait before it's over.
There is an almost bewildering variety of "pods," from weird fluff pieces to heavy investigative reporting. (examples: There's one 2-part piece about suicide in Japan that's really great. There's a disturbing quick look at an African model bragging about her ass. There's a boring pod about how to buy real estate.) They divide things into categories and show pods from each category on a regular rotation, but they don't have a lot of content so there's a lot of repetition. All this is punctuated by young cute hosts and hostesses who say dorky things about each piece and stand there looking cute and dorky, in varying proportions of the 2.
I'm not sure what to think yet. There's a lot of other blogging about it going on, including one blogger that basically described the whole first day at the Broadcast and Cable blog. It will be interested to see how things develop. One observation and suggestion I would make is this: despite the variety of subject matter, all the pods seem to have a really similar narrative voice and videography style and production value. It's almost like all the producers went to the same film school at the same time, or something. I wonder if a lot of these first pods were produced in-house, or maybe they "finish" submissions with their own graphics and color correcting and stuff so everything looks the same. But that seems to defeat the purpose... If Current wants to be about everyone sending in stuff, about the multiplicity of media creators out there, then production values should reflect that variety. It shouldn't all look so slick and isotropic. However, maybe as they get more submissions their content will start to be more varied in look and form.
Last night I saw an M&Ms commercial on TV that used a song by the Postal Service. It wasn't the original recording, it was someone else performing it, in a slower, dreamier style, but the words were definitely Ben Gibbard's, the song about the freckles on our faces being aligned when we kiss, etc. All accompanied by those cartoon M&M guys floating around in kaliedescopic, mandalic patterns. Ugh. I groaned and yelled "NOOOO!" when I saw that. How disappointing. I've seen a lot of musicians sell out like this but none ever that I was this fond of.
I heard on NPR last night that the Surgeon General says that 30% of troops returning from Iraq have some sort of mental problems as a result of their experiences there. I'm sure that's an understated figure, but it's amazing the White House let that be said at all. Anyway, even if it's only 30% that's a staggering figure. The speculation that went along with this number was that it might be one reason why the administration is starting to shift its direction toward an exit strategy out of Iraq.
My favorite mixed drink is the Mojito. A friend just emailed me asking for a reminder on certain details of the construction of a Mojito, and after answering her, I realized I should share this knowledge and more with the world here.
The Mojito is a hot weather drink, originating in Cuba, so it is prime mojito season right now, and hence the urgency of writing this blog entry, although here in Iowa for the last week it's been unusually cool, not the kind of heat where you have a desperate yearning for a mojito, like July and August usually provide.
Relatives of the Mojito include the brazilian Caipirinha and the mint julep from the Southern U.S. (In fact, I once committed the embarrassing faux pas of telling the parents of a cuban friend that the mojito is like a cuban version of a mint julep). All these drinks have the same goal of beating the heat but accomplish them according to local culture and with local ingredients, whether it be cachaca, whiskey, or rum. (speaking of Cuba, I just heard an interesting historical factoid on the radio: back in the late 60s, early 70s, there was NO security on U.S. airlines. you could bring a gun on board, whatever. There were so many hijackings of planes to Cuba that the Cuban government started cashing in on it - they started giving Cuban sandwhiches to the hungry passengers who'd made an unexpected trip to Havana. Then they'd send a bill to the U.S. State Department for $30 per sandwhich. The U.S. didn't start increasing security till some hijackers almost flew a plane into the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in 1972.)
I discovered the mojito accidentally in 1999 or 2000, hanging out with the video artists known as Animal Charm. They were visiting from Chicago and I was showing them a good time at one of my favorite neighborhood bars in San Francisco called The Skylark (16th and Valencia, the Mission), Suddenly a woman behind me put her hand on my shoulder and said, hey how's it going, you gotta have Pete make you his special. I turned around and didn't recognize this person, and she realized she'd made a mistake and had thought I was someone else, but by this time we were curious what Pete's special was. Pete was the bartender, and it turned out his special was the mojito. We were in love with it immediately and were so enthusiastic that Pete gave us his recipe, and even drew a little diagram on a napkin. (I scanned in the napkin years ago but I don't have the file handy, sadly.)
Anyway, that was the beginning of my apprenticeship and then mastery of the mojito. Since then the drink got really trendy, then a little less trendy. Most bars don't make them right if they make them at all, and charge too much, and the reason for all of this is that the mojito is very labor intensive to make. In fact Pete that night at the Skylark told us that after 9 he won't even make them because it's too busy and it takes too long. That's the sign of a true mojito purist. Rather than make a sloppy, substandard mojito, he just refuses to do it when he doesn't have the time. At the Skylark, a mojito is worth $5, but at most other places it is not. It's better and more fun to makek them yourself.
Now for the last few years my reputation amongst friends regarding the mojito has been such that at a party I'm usually cajoled into the kitchen to make them until the ingredients are exhausted. I enjoy it, usually, mostly because it's fun to show people how to make them, and people typically gather around watching and asking questions.
And I'm still learning. The thing i recently realized about the mojito with my newly increased spanish skills is that its name means "little wet one." i think that's cool.
Now simple syrup (don't buy it, it's easy to make, but you have to take time before hand) is just a supersaturated sugar solution. to make it i kind of just eyeball it. i take about 2 or 3 cups
of water, boil it and then start adding powdered sugar, a few spoonfulls at a time, stirring. just keep adding until you can't disolve any more into the water, till it starts taking a long time for the sugar to dissolve. then, let it heat lightly a maybe 10 more minutes, or more, if you want to make it more concentrated you can boil off more water. then put it in a squeeze bottle or whatever and refrigerate. preferably you want to refigerate it till it's chilled as far
as it'll get, like overnight, but if you're in a hurry, you can use it after a few hours, whatever. the thing about this recipe for simple syrup is it's going to be variable strength, so the first mojito you make with that batch of simple syrup will be an experiment where you figure outhow much of the solution you use to mamke it sweet enough. i like mojitos that are not too sweet, but sweet enough to just exactly balance the tartness of the limes and barely cover the
taste of the rum. it shouldnt be like drinking a mountain dew or something.
Or if you're in a real hurry and you want a substandard mojito, skip all that and just mix powdered sugar right into the drink, but it'll be hard to dissolve it. Once when some friends and I were toiling away over editing a video one hot summer, we were slugging down lots of mojitos and ran out of simple syrup, and then out of sugar, and we tried using honey. This is not advised! Using honey means risking the dreaded "honey clumps" as honey has even more of a problem than sugar dissolving into ice cold liquid.
Oh, and how much mint? well, i usually put 3 or 4 large leaves, more if they're smaller leaves. And the fresher the mint, the better. Grow some in your back yard, it's easy.
Well, there you have it, everything you need to know about the Mojito. Enjoy!