Archive for the ‘Off-topic’ Category

A New Coat of Paint

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

To overstate the obvious, there’s a new look here at SRF.

As I prepare for the premiere of my new film, Quick Feet, Soft Hands, I have been doing some re-tooling of the Lovell Films website. Since I was already spending hours digging around in web design apps it seemed like a logical time to revamp this site as well. SRF has looked the same for nearly two and a half years, which is ages in cyber-time. I, for one, am happy to see a change.

As for the content, nothing’s changed. Self-Reliant Film is the same ol’ website you know and love.

The only difference of any significance is that I’ve tried to create more of a bridge between this site and the Lovell Films site, which promotes my own film work. There was a kind of design schizophrenia going on between the two sites — they didn’t look like they represented the same person, and the links between the two were virtually hidden. The links certainly not hidden in real life — the blogger and the filmmaker are one and the same — so I’ve tried to address that a little with the nav bar at the top.

So, that’s the main difference. If you’re compelled to explore the Lovell Films site, go for it. And if not, I hope you continue to enjoy what you find here.

Ok, enough about the re-design.

Coming soon: The remainder of my long-delayed reviews of Apple Color training tutorials.

ADDENDUM: Oh yeah, one more change: You may notice that the banner of the site has been shortened from “self-reliant filmmaking” to “self-reliant film.” That’s what I call this blog, that’s what most other people call this blog, and that’s the URL of the blog. So it was time to have the banner actually use the proper name.

Take A News Break Day

Friday, February 15th, 2008

As many of you readers know, I was teaching at Virginia Tech on April 16 last year. The devastation we all felt losing people dear to us was deeply exacerbated by an invasion of a press corps whose satellite vehicles alone filled a football stadium parking lot. To say that these folks were insensitive would be an understatement. I never had any respect for the kind of journalism, especially TV journalism, that chases ambulances. But even my cynicism did not prepare me for what I saw those days.

So, in light of the Northern Illinois University shootings, I will be taking a news break today. I encourage you to consider doing the same. The NIU shootings will, no doubt, be the top headline on most news networks and websites and every click or minute spent watching gives more encouragement to these (mostly) commercial enterprises to exploit others’ pain for profit. My thoughts will be with the NIU community for today and for the days to come. But I’m not going to kid myself that viewing news reports on CNN or MTV is going to help these folks heal. But I’ll stop, because I’ve written about “pornography of the real” before.

If you must read about the shootings, I encourage you to visit Northern Illinois University‘s website, or to read the Dekalb Daily-Chronicle. In my experience last year the news sources that were most valuable were the Virginia Tech website and our local newspaper, the Roanoke Times, whose coverage was sensitive, even-handed, and comprehensive. Their coverage only (re)confirmed for me that when it comes to telling stories, place — where you come from, where you live, the people you call neighbors — matters.

Happy New Year Wishes (recipe included)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Best wishes for a creative, productive, happy, and peaceful 2008.

Where I come from (East Tennessee) it is tradition to eat black-eyed peas for good luck in celebration of the New Year. Sometimes that means beans out of a can, sometimes it means more: Today Ashley treated me to a plate full of not only Hoppin’ John, but also greens and macaroni and cheese. Yes, 2008, we’re off to a good start.

Follow along at home:

If you have the Joy of Cooking, and you should, there’s a good recipe for Hoppin’ John in there.

Of course, there are variations. Here’s one. Vegan? I haven’t forgotten you.

Happy New Year to all!

Filmmaking and the Environment

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

As you probably heard yesterday, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore. I’ve not always been a big supporter of Al’s, but I was definitely feeling some pride for the local boy done good (the second native Tennesseean to be awarded the Peace Prize, actually.).

Though the press reports usually got it wrong, as AJ Schnack reminded everyone yesterday, Gore did not win an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth (because he didn’t direct it), but I have little doubt that the film — because of how it drew attention to the cause of global warming, and because it drew attention to Gore’s advocacy in the process — was a factor in Gore sharing this year’s Peace Prize. Looking over the list of previous Peace Prize winners, I couldn’t think of another instance in which cinema played such a central role in the awardee’s recognition.

Anyway, in the spirit of the announcement, I thought I would share some links and notes on environmentally-friendly filmmaking for those folks out there that, whether or not they like Al Gore, accept the findings of hundreds and hundreds of scientists from around the world that shared the Peace Prize for their work on man-made climate change research…

(more…)

Apple Mail: 8 Tips

Monday, July 9th, 2007

Like a lot of folks, I receive and send a lot of email. Lately, I’ve been digging myself out from the avalanche of email that fell upon my Inbox while I was in Knoxville for a month of prep and production. Surprisingly, the “dig-out” hasn’t been that bad, and I think I can attribute it to some email productivity tips and plug-ins I’ve picked up over the last year.

These tips mainly work with Apple Mail. For years I used Eudora, and then Thunderbird. But after Apple’s 2.0 version of Mail was released (2005?) I switched to it and haven’t regretted it. If you use something other than Mail, some of these may work and some are Mail-specific. Sorry.

Secondly, as a word of background, aside from spam, I keep virtually every email I receive. Email takes up very little memory and it serves as an effective history of work done, contacts, and so on. And everytime I think I don’t need to save it all, I end up going back and searching for an email from 1999. Seriously.

Tip 1: Eliminate Spam
Well, sure. No one actually wants spam. The trick is figuring out how to eliminate it.

One reason I switched to Apple Mail a few years ago was because its junk mail filter seemed to work pretty well. I don’t know if just I started getting more spam, the Junk filter reached it’s limitation for how much it could “learn”, or if the spam started getting smarter (and by smarter I mean “dumber”)… but regardless, my Inbox over the last year started seeing more and more of the stuff.

The solution is SpamSieve. For $30 (and a few minutes of set-up time) you get a clean Inbox. I get maybe one or two spam messages in my Inbox a week these days. I didn’t believe the testimonials, but I downloaded the trial and used it for a few days. Now I’m a convert.

Tip 2: Process faster.
Now that I’m not having to spend my time sorting out the spam, I can spend my energy processing the real emails sent to me. Though in some ways I’m a skeptic of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I appreciate his theory about tasks like email: If you can reply in 2 minutes or less, do it. If not, figure out what needs to happen next so you can act on it. Approaching my Inbox this way really does increase my efficiency.

Tip 3: Stop manually sorting emails.
After replying to an email, I used to file it away. To do this I maintained between a dozen and twenty folders based on various contexts or friends — my latest project, for example, or “Virginia Tech”, or “parents”, etc.

No longer. Yes, I still keep almost all my emails, but here’s how I do it, inspired by Merlin Mann’s sage email advice:

Beyond my “Inbox” (email to which I need to reply) and “Sent”, I only maintain three or four folders now:

– The current mission critical project gets its own folder.

– If something catches my attention but there’s NO urgency to it (say, an email with a link to an article that I might write about for SRF), I put it in a folder called “Someday?

– I also maintain a “Waiting On” folder, primarily for email receipts of items I’ve purchased online. It’s my reminder box to make sure something I’ve purchased actually gets sent to me. I don’t check the Waiting folder often enough to put anything of great (ie., work-related) importance in it.

Everything else goes in a folder I’ve created called “Archive”.

Other folders: If I still want to maintain folders related to people (say, my accountant), all I have to do is set up a smart folder in Mail using my accountant’s email address as the filter. All mail stil gets filed to my “Archive”, but relevant emails will show up in the smart folder. Voila — no more time spent manually sorting!

Tip 4: Use MailActOn
Probably the thing that I miss the most about Eurdora and Thunderbird is the ease with which you can color-code emails. It’s a great way to visually sort the emails in your Inbox — either by priority or context or whatever.

Mail, unfortunately, still lags in this area: To color-code emails one has to open the color palette (Shift-Apple-C) then use the mouse to click on a color, all the while keeping Apple’s rather large color-wheel window open. Clumsy, to say the least.

MailActOn, a donation-ware plug-in for Apple Mail, solves this problem — and more. Aside from allowing you to assign keystrokes for color-coding, MailActOn also lets you to use keystrokes to sort your mail. Now, when I want to send an email to a specific folder (say, “Archive”) all hit is is the keystroke I’ve defined (in my case, Ctrl-A).

And, of course, Merlin at 43Folders has figured out the way to squeeze every bit of functionality out of the thing by remapping the Caps Lock key. Brilliant!

Tip 5: Speed up Mail
Saving a lot of email (as I do) can impact Apple Mail’s performance. Mail gets bloated, as it were, and slows down. If you’re not careful, the database that stores information about your emails can even get corrupted.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution. The Hawk Wings website has links to two different scripts (one, AppleScript, and the other an Automator script) that will “vacuum” the bloat out of Mail.app.

The Applescript version worked like a charm for me without incident, but you should ALWAYS backup your Mail.app files before trying something like this. (See below.)

Tip 6: Back-up Mail Files
This is the most basic tip of all, and I know I say it again and again on this site, but ask yourself these two questions:

How much of my life is somehow stored in the emails I have sent and received?

When was the last time I backed up my email files?

So, though you should probably be using something like ChronoSync or whatever to backup ALL your files, if you need to backup just your Mail files they can be found in your system here:

users/[home directory]/Library/Mail
users/[home directory]/Library/Mail Downloads

Tip 7: If you use multiple computers, consider using Portable Mail

I have two computers — a tower and a laptop. All other things being equal, I prefer working on the tower, but the laptop obviously has its advantages. Mail is one application I want to access no matter which computer I’m on, and I’ve found syncing the application to be a bit of a pain at times. As a solution, I sometimes use a portable version of Mail, which I can run off of a flash drive.

The premise of Portable Mail is this: Instead of trying to sync your Mail from one computer to the next, you instead keep Mail — your preferences, mailboxes, and downloads — on a flash drive. Launching Portable Mail launches the Mail.app application of the host computer, but uses all of your preferences, which are on the flash drive.

If your email accounts have better than adequate webmail interfaces that you can access you might not need this, but I have a few accounts that have lousy webmail, so I’ve found it to be quite handy during days when I know I’m going back and forth between computers a lot.

You’ll probably want a 1GB flash drive or larger if you have a lot of email.

Tip 8: Use Plug-ins (if you need ’em)

I’m obviously a fan of MailActOn and SpamSieve. They’re two plug-ins that help me customize Apple’s Mail to be the application I need. But I draw the line there — adding on too many plug-ins increases clutter, decreases productivity, and invites conflicts that cause applications to crash.

But maybe you need something more, or something different. If so, the Hawk Wings website has made an excellent catalog of Plug-ins for Apple Mail.

Use ’em if you need ’em. And if you don’t, don’t.