Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category

The Pornography of the Real

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

The names of many of Monday’s shooting victims were released on Tuesday; more have trickled out today. What little that was still abstract to me about Monday’s events is gone. Last night, as I was drafting this post I was able to write “Ashley and I have known none of the victims directly, but I know several people who have lost immediate family, friends, classmates, and colleagues.” Now, sadly, the first half of that sentence is no longer true.

Out of respect for the privacy and dignity for those who are confronting unfathomable losses right now, I’m going to refrain from sharing any further details. Why? Because since Monday I’ve witnessed reporters sticking their microphones into the faces of people with very red eyes, hovering near the homes of those who have lost loved ones, and taking photos with extreme telephoto lenses, lenses that don’t require the photographer to have a personal relationship with his subject. Frankly, I’m sick of it.

The past 48 hours have been one long, ongoing demonstration of what Jill Godmilow, in both her incomparable film What Farocki Taught and her essay “What’s Wrong with the Liberal Documentary?, labels “the pornography of the real”:

The “pornography of the real” involves the highly suspect, psychic pleasure of viewing “the moving picture real” … a powerful pornographic interest in real people, real death, real destruction and real suffering, especially of “others”, commodities in film. These “pleasures” are not brought to our attention. The pornographic aspect is masked in the documentary by assurances that the film delivers only the actually existing real — thus sincere truths that we need to know about.

As I said in my previous post, I think of storytelling as a kind of citizenship, so I don’t blame people for wanting to know the stories unfolding in Blacksburg, nor do I blame journalists for telling those stories. Still, how one gathers the facts, why you gather them, and the way you tell them can’t be separated from the story you’re telling. Sadly I’ve been witnessing firsthand how many journalists, particularly those from out of town, seem to have forgotten that common decency is also facet of citizenship. My main consolation, and it isn’t much, is knowing that the members of the media will move on to another spectacle in very short time.

A Very Sad Day

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Today was supposed to be a good day. Last night, like a kid dreaming of proverbial sugarplum fairies, I literally dreamt of the Red Camera, which was set to be unveiled today at the National Association of Broadcasters convention.

Instead, today has been — well, there aren’t words.

As many of you know, I teach at Virginia Tech. If, somehow, you have not heard, there were a series of shootings on campus today that left over 30 people dead. Apparently this is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, though I find it sad that there’s a need to keep such statistics.

For those of you that emailed me, some of whom I’ve never even met face to face, thank you so much for your concern. I am alright. Shaken, for sure — we were under “lock down” for several nerve-wracking hours — but deeply thankful that my students and I made it through the day unscathed. More than anything else, though, my heart is just broken to pieces over the victims and their families. I expect that things will only grow sadder as more news comes out, particularly when the names of the deceased start to be released to the public. I do not look forward to waking up tomorrow and reading the news.

I tell my students that storytelling is citizenship — a “service profession”, really. Tomorrow I’ll try to think of something positive and useful for my students to do with our video cameras.

Birthday #1

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Emerson once said, “So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the path of each man’s genius contracts itself to a very few hours.”

I don’t know about the “genius” part, but in the last 365 days since this site was started there have been 138 posts, 267 comments, and untold numbers of readers and, perhaps most importantly, new friends made.

Here’s to Year Two!

A Change of Scenery

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Though anything I write on this website is obviously coming from my personal point of view, I typically don’t write much about my life unless its relevant to the aim of this site. I basically do this for two reasons: 1) why would you care?, and 2) I’m kind of a private person.

Having said that, this is one of those occasions where I’d like to share some good news:

Starting this fall I’ll begin a position as an assistant professor of Digital Film/Video production at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University — Virginia Tech, to you and me. I’ve not yet begun the job, or even made the move to Virginia yet, but my colleagues are already showing me a warm, Southern welcome.

Though I’ve enjoyed my stint at Temple University immensely, as readers of this site know I’m committed to regional filmmaking. I’m excited to be heading someplace where my students understand this not as a concept, but as a reality. I guess they remind me a little of myself when I was an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee in the early 90s.

It’s going to be a good move for me, too. Though I know East Tennessee better than Southwest Virginia, I can’t wait to return to the part of the South where most of my work is set. This is the landscape I know and this is where I find the stories that inspire me.

In sum, the position at VT was, to quote a not-so-“self-reliant film”, an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I’ll try to do at least a few more posts before I get swamped with packing and moving, but if when my posts drop, consider this your pre-emptive apology.

Rest in Peace, Grant McLennan

Monday, May 8th, 2006

I recall a bigger brighter world
A world of books
And silent times in thought
And then the railroad
The railroad takes him home
Through fields of cattle
Through fields of cane

— “Cattle and Cane” / The Go-Betweens

I first learned about The Go-Betweens when I was in film school in the mid-90s. A fellow student introduced me to them and, as I think back on it, discovering The Go-Betweens during that time was entirely appropriate. That band wrote some of the most cinematic pop songs I’ve ever heard.

They were a band you could love: They had that classic, two-songwriter Lennon/McCartney dynamic in Grant McLennan and Robert Forster; Lindy Morrison, their drummer, is my all-time favorite female rock n’ roll drummer; and, like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, they managed to produce a phenomenal break-up record (16 Lovers Lane) when two relationships within the band dissolved.

I met Grant McLennan once, briefly, after a show in New York in support of his solo masterpiece, Horsebreaker Star. Those moments when you tell someone how much their art has inspired you never come off quite like you mean them to, so I just said hello and that I enjoyed the show.

Today a friend sent me the news Grant McLennan died on Saturday. He died in his sleep; he was 48. I imagine that in most of the world McLennan’s death will pass in the press without a blip. But for those that knew his music, he will be missed.