Archive for April, 2014

Venturing into the Future

April 19, 2014

A couple of days ago, Judy and I drove north to Eureka to screen her new film Pelican Dreams for some wildlife rehabilitators who helped with the project. (The film isn’t ready for release yet. She still has a lot of color correction and sound work to do. But she has achieved what’s called “picture lock,” meaning there won’t be any more changes to the visuals.) The screening was an interesting experience. It was held in a creative performance space—actually an old warehouse at the edge of town. When we got there the entrance was surrounded by homeless people who were either sleeping or just hanging out. We carried our gear inside (projector, screen, laptop, speakers) and  discovered that the power had been shut off by the utility company for nonpayment. Someone had forgotten to send in the check. The warehouse is divided into two spaces, and on the other side of the wall an industrial punk band was rehearsing. We got their attention during a break, and they let us run an extension cord over to their side. We were able to draw enough juice to power the projector and our small speakers. So that audience members could find their way to their seats, we lit the winding hallway into the theater with candles. The band had paid to rent the space where they were rehearsing, so they weren’t willing to call it a night. We had to run the first half of the film over the sound of their pounding drums, howling vocals, and buzz-sawing guitars, which were just on the other side of the wall. Somehow it worked. Everybody accepted the situation for what it was. I was most amused by two women in their seventies who ran the gauntlet of homeless people outside the warehouse, picked their way through the candle-lined hallway, and watched the show with the punk band playing behind the wall. They could have been old hippies, but they didn’t look it. Whatever they were, they were unruffled by it all.

I was thinking later that this is how the future is going to be. We’re going to live through a time where the availability of energy is unreliable. In this particular case, it brought people together. Everyone had a good time.

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The Word from Japan

April 16, 2014

I got confirmation this week that I’ll be signing a contract soon for a Japanese edition of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The book will be published by a company called Tsukiji Shokan. It will be my first overseas edition. The job of translating the book hasn’t been started yet, so it will be some time before the book comes out. This is a most welcome development. I needed some good news. Judy and I are hoping that we can interest someone in broadcasting the film, which, oddly enough, already has Japanese subtitles. Several years ago, a Japanese woman living in the United States who loves the film wanted her brother to see it, but he speaks no English. She volunteered to do the work of creating subtitles so that he could watch it. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to interest any Japanese broadcaster in showing it. Maybe we can now. It would certainly help book sales.

In other news: Judy and I had houseguests this week from Japan, Shoji Kihara and his daughter Akiko. Shoji is an anti-nuclear activist whom Judy met 35 years ago when she was working on a film about the survivors of the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Nagasaki Journey). Shoji’s parents were survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, and Shoji has made a lifelong commitment to ending nuclear power. While he was here, Shoji showed us a DVD that a Japanese photographer made of the dead zone around the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. It was genuinely haunting. All that’s left of Fukushima is abandoned homes and businesses and sickly-looking animals—cows, dogs, pigs, cats, and chickens—wandering around looking for food. No one should be able to discuss the merits or demerits of nuclear energy without seeing something like this. It’s a large area of the planet that’s permanently off-limits, like Chernobyl. The reality that the photographs document gives the abstract debate over nuclear power some badly needed perspective. It’s quite likely that there are going to be more areas like this in the future given the number of power plants in the world.

Finally, I’ve decided that I’m going to start studying Japanese. I like learning languages, and I’ve always wanted to learn one of the Asian languages. But I’ve never been able to decide between Japanese and Chinese. It can’t be an intense study, not while I’m working on Street Song. But I’ve already ordered a book and I’m going to at least make a start.

Progress Report #93

April 8, 2014

For the last six months or so I’ve been working on a package for my agent to submit to publishers. The package includes a detailed description of the book, an analysis of who my audience will be, an outline, bio, illustrations, and sample chapters. I had a deadline, which I met. Near the end it got rather intense. The day before I was too finish, my head started spinning as I was staring at the monitor and trying to finish typing a sentence. This was attributable in large part to the nature of computers. I find myself disliking them more and more. It’s like watching television all day long. But enough of that…for now. I’m taking some time off (not a lot) and then getting back to writing the book in sequence. (The sample chapters were all over the map, which makes them somewhat artificial, to my mind.)

At this point, my agent looks at what I’ve written and then gets back to me if anything needs to be buffed up further. If it’s okay, it gets paraded through the marketplace, where it is mocked and vilified by the postmodernists, but catches the eye of the right person—I hope.

Strange trip, writing a book.

Who Can Keep Up?

April 3, 2014

I’m often weighing in my mind various topics to write about here. Lately, most ideas tend to revolve around the insanity of the times we live in. The work on my book makes it difficult to get to most of my ideas. Every now and then I’ll come up with something that I actually do want to write about—some stunning new absurdity—and just as I’m all set to sit down and get to work, something even weirder and more appalling comes along. This happens constantly. I can’t keep up. Is there anybody who believes that things are actually going quite well? I’d like to hear from you. I’m not really pessimistic, not for the long haul, at least. But for the short term, my observation is that this society is losing its mind, and at an ever accelerating pace. It’s all about ego and money. An egotist can never be satisfied. He can never have enough money or enough power.