Sunday, April 10, 2005

Yes, it's been awhile. It's strange how the task of writing seems so much greater when you don't do it for a while. I keep thinking of all the things I could add to the blog and pretty soon, the list gets so depressingly large that I can't bear the thought of sitting down and typing it all out. We'll see how far I get.

Life is generally great. I've had a lot of super peaceful moments lately where I'll be driving home from work and think, I really like my life. I like living in this weirdo state of Florida where there's strangeness aplenty but enough sanity that I can trust Jake will come back from school each day (knock on wood). I like my family and my job and generally, my place in the community and world. I feel like a I have a role to play in this town and that's usually more fulfilling that anything else I've done in my life.

Work can be too busy and often a painfully inept place, but I have to say that helping students train in the art of filmmaking is satisfying. There's something so right about putting aside my ego and projects and focusing on others. I concentrate on making their road easier and 99% of the time, they are very grateful, which makes it worthwhile. This year we created a compilation DVD with five student films and sent those out to festivals all over the country. We've had an amazing response - every film has been accepted into at least one festivals, some as many as a dozen. And not just small festivals either - Tribeca, MethodFest, Florida, Cleveland, Hamptons, WorldFest-Houston...we have films in all of them. Considering this film program was virtually invisible on the festival circuit, this is a very good thing.

BTW - if you want to keep up with this stuff, read our Department Blog.

The inept part of work has generally focused on the building of our Grad Program, which is suppose to start this fall. We're less than six months from starting Grad classes and we haven't gotten approval for courses or budgets or anything. My university has a nasty habit of approving program but then not funding them -- either properly or at all. In the he real world, I would say, If we don't have the money we can't do it. Here, the motto seems to be Figure out a way to get it done for now and maybe some money will turn up later. It's not an encouraging system. On the plus side, there's plenty of room to navigate and make deals, which I enjoy.

We're in the middle of the local film festival right now, for which I'm a shorts programmer and general announcer/onstage interviewer. This used to be much more fun...I think I'm just tired of it. As I get older, I dislike anything that breaks my daily routine with obligations and schedules out of my control. The party circuit does nothing for me and this year, I'm going to make an effort to get home earlier.

A few years ago - the last time I really lived the film festival 120% - I nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Too much drinking, not enough sleep, a lot of emotional connections with filmmakers I never saw again. If I'm going to expend such human capital, I'm going to do it on behalf of my students and their work.

This festival, which is still excellent and nationally known, is also going through an endless process of getting cheaper and smaller and more concerned with kissing sponsor ass rather than celebrating the filmmakers. Today, I got up on stage in front of 150 people with three shorts filmmakers to do a Q&A and after one question, the house manager told us we had to leave because the room had to be set up for a sponsor wine tasting. I was so embarrassed that I took the filmmakers out to the theater courtyard and about 50 audience member (bless their hearts) followed, formed a semi-circle and we had the Q&A there.

It made me recall how during my first years at the festival (nearly a decade ago), we had visions of posting filmmaker Q&As online. We videotaped everything and gave staffers wireless microphones to roam the audience capture questions for the tape. Now, we get one bullshit mic on a stand which is expected to be shared by two to 10 people onstage. That's when they don't ask us to leave to they can get back to matters of commerce.

Really, I don't mind them having sponsors. An event like this needs it. But when you (an organization) fucks up by not scheduling things properly, I think the better thing to do is push back your wine tasting by 10 minutes rather than embarrass the filmmakers when they're onstage.

Blah blah blah...

Hey, a fellow blogger named CJ emailed and asked "Must be strange living in Florida with a .... er ... sane? orientation. Do you find like minded people or is it hard?"

No, living isn't hard. I prefer minority status, keeps me sharp and thinking. There are people who believe everything here, so finding a reflection is easy. And I don't know that being liberal is so sane. This whole Terry Shivo issue was a weird sort of litmus test. I found that liberals and conservatives seemed to agree that she should be allowed to die. The only people who wanted her kept alive were the far right Christian types.

And me.

Yes, I am the Florida liberal who thought Terry Shivo should have been kept alive. I thought about this a lot in the past few weeks, especially since it took the death of a Pope to knock that story of the front pages. I found nobody in my circle who agreed with me, but I'll throw my reasoning to you:

1) Nobody really knew that she wanted to be "unplugged." Her husband waited something like 8 years after her incident (and after he got a big lawsuit settlement) before revealing her true wishes. Bullshit. That guy was a sleeze, no matter how many judges agreed with him. I think the only person's suffering he was trying to end was his own.

2) When did Florida earn the responsibility to starve it's residents to death? I could understand the state saying We will no longer bear the cost of keeping alive this person. But how does the state find the right to say, Withhold food and water from this brain dead person until they expire. Is that so much different than gathering up all severely retarded people and shooting them?

3) She had people willing to take care of her -- her parents. As a parent, I think that counts for something. If her husband wanted out, he should have said so and turned her over to the parents. Yes, I understand that medically and mentally, she was little more than a large pet providing a bit of distraction for two grief-stuck people, but is that so wrong? My guess is that like any pet owner, they eventually would have realized the time had come to let go. But I don't think it's anyone else's job to tell the parents, It's time to shoot the dog.

I know there's a critical gap in my argument -- I'm avoiding the debate of is sacred and if so, should it be protected and prolonged at all costs? I don't believe that. If a terminally ill person wants to die, I say help them die with dignity. I'm saying the state has no busy in the issue and if the extended family - none of whom are models for the unvarnished truth - can't agree on the situation, then err on the side of the family member who wants to take responsibility for keeping her alive.

Interesting side note - like many families in the world, Natalie and I watched the Shivo issue and discussed our own wishes. Natalie stated flatly that she was would want to be unplugged if she was forced to live on a ventilator. I said keep me plugged in as long as my brain functions, even if I'm in a coma. I live so much of my life internally that living in my mind probably wouldn't be so bad.

Oh my...this is probably way too long. Sorry all.