FLEFF, Fracking, and Experimental Short Films

It’s been a couple of years since I’d last made it to FLEFF, the annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.  It’s typically a week-long affair with screenings and panels, and typically I miss most of it because of my day job.  This year, I was determined to make it to something, anything, and I did last Sunday.  I didn’t catch much, but I got a lot out of what I saw.
BACKYARD (2014). A short documentary by filmmaker (and proprietor of Pale Blue Dot Media) Deia Sherman about fracking and its effects on the lives of different people from different states.  Living in upstate NY (in one of the areas that’s managed to keep the frackers at bay so far), the stories had familiar themes.  But it’d be a mistake to dismiss this film as some echo chamber piece, tailor made for an “environmental film festival” in Ithaca, NY.  Its stories are compelling and, to me, eerily reminiscent of the environmental, labor, and health and safety problems at the start of the auto and steel industries in the Rust Belt.  That’s a line of research I’ve been chasing for a bit, and the subject of a big post or two down the pike.  All I’m saying is that the Clean Air Act and OSHA were established for reasons.  Take it from a former denizen of the land of the Burning River.

UPSTATE FILMMAKERS’ SHOWCASE.  A series of experimental shorts by (mostly) cinema faculty from Binghamton University.  Each of the films played with the notions of time and linear narrative in some way.  They’re were all good (all the details at the event link), but my favorites: Close the Lid Gently, SoundPrint (which involved some audience participation using greeting card sound modules — that’s what I’ve got in the pic there), and 300 Features and 40 Shorts.

It’s been too long, FLEFF.  Catch you next year.

I LIVED!!! (Ow.)

Sunday, I survived my first yoga class in about 2 or 3 years.  It was a small class, but well run.  I had that awkward moment where I was the oldest person in the room, but I got over it.  (That’ll only get more frequent, right?)  The studio is new, so it’s not quite finished yet.  The folks that run it are getting it there, though.  I’ve no doubt it’ll become the tranquil place they envision.  But it didn’t phase me.  I have a history of working out in places that were far worse (but where I got the best training).  Plus, I’m Filipino; training in garages, backyards, on concrete, etc. is in my DNA.

I didn’t quite survive unscathed, though.  I was doing pretty well at first; there wasn’t a single pose the whole class that I hadn’t attempted before.  But about 3/4 of the way through, all those intercostal muscle spasms came back.  I dealt with it at first, but then I had to stop for a bit until the very end.

Not proper yoga mindset.

I pushed for two reasons.  1) I constantly mistake yoga classes for my old kung-fu classes where, if you feel too strained to execute a move or drill at full force, then you do it slowly using the best technique you can bring yourself to muster and 2) I’m just stubborn by nature.  One of the very few things that life hasn’t beaten out of me quite yet is the idea that it’s better to light an inch than curse the dark.

It’s just that sometimes, that attitude has less to do with following through with goals and more to do with defying whatever’s keeping me down.  Even if it’s myself.  It’s like that old joke about the parrot who resists its owner trying to teach it not to constantly say “Fuck you.”  Finally, the owner gets frustrated and throws the parrot in the freezer.  And when he opens the freezer the next day, he finds the parrot frozen with it’s middle finger raised.

Sure, maybe passive-aggression against myself isn’t the healthiest way to pursue goals but hey… whatever works.

Just Like the Phoenix…

The day before Lifehacker featured the discussion “How do you start exercising when you’re older and out of shape?” I’d signed up for a yoga class at a new studio that opened up an 8 minute walk from my place.  Probably one of the few times in my life that I started out a little ahead of the game.

In keeping with that, I’m scheduling this post to be pushed out after the class, just in case it kills me.  This actually isn’t  (unless I’m deluding myself, which I suppose is possible) an attempt to fulfill a freshly minted New Year’s resolution.  Getting back into shape has been on my mind since I turned 40 last July.  I’ve known for awhile that it’s past time I put some consistent effort into maintaining this meat-sack of mine.

I set the bar low: to just not be a mass of blubber with no muscle tone.  I’m not trying to recapture what I had in my late 20s/early 30s when I was training different martial arts and feeding an endorphin addiction by working out 3-4 times a week.  Though I admit, I looked good those years.  I’d lost two pants sizes, and wore jeans from high school.  Now I’m back to where I was before I worked out, and then some.  I was flexible back then.  I’d just like some of that back.  It’s still kind of there I think; I’ve always had slightly above-average flexibility.  But it doesn’t take much to push it too far these days.

It still feels like a lot of my moves are still in me, though.  But I’d be stupid to try them now, without a slow return via something like yoga.  I’d end up looking just like this…

So, assuming this isn’t my last entry, I’ll be back with tales of how this over-40 meat-sack rises from the ashes…

“Going back to Cali, stylin’, profilin’…”

Layna Pimentel gave me one of these, so I’m stylin’ and profilin’!  Personally, it reminds me how I really need to spruce the place up a bit.  I mean, I guess it’s stylish in a retro, used Salvo thrift store outfit kinda way.  Yeah, or not.  But anyway, I won and I’m grateful!

The rules of the Stylish Blogger Award call for me to tell seven things about myself.  I’ll give it a shot, trying not to repeat anything I might’ve said before.

  1. I have lived in what can be described, to varying degrees, as “college towns” for 10 years, now, and I’ve loved it!
  2. I have hit a woman–but in a sparring match, and only after having been hit and kicked a few times first. (And not ‘cos I was a gentleman, but because she was too fast.)
  3. I have Huey Lewis & The News’ whole catalog. Shut up.
  4. I videotaped the entire Jon Pertwee run of DOCTOR WHO off the local PBS station when I was a kid. 
  5. I know enough knife fighting techniques to know how dangerous a prospect it is.  I, however, am not really much of a threat to anyone.
  6. The first, and so far only, concert that ever came close to making me cry was Cassandra Wilson. (The clip isn’t from the actual show, but from the same tour.)
  7. I never considered myself a “horror writer,” though I guess, technically…?

“Too many voices in my head”

2009-09-19 Mix

I can see the mystery in your eyes
Your voodoo just may fool the other guys
You can write your destiny
But between the lines I read
It’s all in what your victims will believe

-Bill Champlin, “Tuggin’ On Your Sleeve”

All the energy we spend on motion
All the circuitry and time
Is there any way to feel a body
Through fiber optic lines

-Cassandra Wilson, “Right Here, Right Now”

“All Afternoon Those Birds Twitter Twit”

  • 08:17 Feeling sorry for all the suckers at the Diamond Mine retreat today! #
  • 08:18 Oh noes! I’ll miss Wednesday’s all-staff meeting. The important info I’ll miss!! Not. #
  • 08:42 RT @drmabuse Dave Eggers whistles on Aimee Mann’s new album… (What next? Vollmann firing his pistol on the next Kings of Leon album?) #
  • 10:10 Feeling stressed out as I realize just how thick my "in" pile has gotten. Where’s my shovel? #gtd #
  • 10:35 Easily the best roadtrip hack I’ve ever seen! bit.ly/4FBHpA #
  • 11:21 Inbox-sorting Playlist: @swingout sister mix. It’s like an archeological dig. Only have 1 layer done. 🙁 #gtd #
  • 12:23 Inbox processed! Now, I feel like I deserve to eat. 🙂 #
  • 14:51 "Oh it’s too hot/ Too hot, lady/ Gotta run for shelter/ Gotta run for shade." #lyrics ♫ blip.fm/~buxv5 #
  • 15:11 Done with organizing (read: procrastinating). Can’t put off errands or writing anymore, despite the heat. *sigh* #
  • 16:43 On page 127 of 224 of Willful Creatures. 5* for "I Will Pick Out Your Ribs (From My Teeth) tho it reminds me of my psycho-ex. #
  • 16:52 Errands 1/2 done. At the PM writing spot wh ich is almost crowded! Grr. Summer’s definitely winding down. #
  • 17:40 Got an outlet just as my battery was in the danger zone. I was actually starting to write stuff :). #
  • 18:10 Dammit, dammit, dammit. The last 100 words of the #wip have to go. Makes the protragonist look too passive. Dammit!! #
  • 18:12 Just realized it as I was listening to the chorus of the song "Without You" by @billchamplin: "How am I to find my way? Where am I to go?" #
  • 18:48 Frak me, I just figured out how the #wip needs to end!! I’ve even got the last line worked out. Just need a little more research. #
  • 18:49 S crew you, writer’s block! How ya like me, now? 🙂 #

Via LoudTwitter

Tough Love

I feel like a writer again, having brought the most words (1.5k) than I have in weeks to the crit group. Of course, that’s more to be vivisected. The good news is that the win column on this latest bit of my short story seems to be longer than the fail column!

For the Win

  • The story remains “intriguing.”
  • One reader was glad to be able to understand my world’s tech as I’ve written it (she isn’t typically a sci-fi reader). Another appreciated [I’m paraphrasing, here] the lack of technobabble.
  • More praise for my dialogue. One person in particular noted that when characters are asked questions, no one really gets a “direct answer.” Put by another reader, the answers are given “how real people talk.”
  • There “wasn’t a dull place” in the section I brought.
  • Praise for the family dynamics I illustrated between the main character, his sister and his parents.
  • My descriptions about emotional reactions were “sparse” yet “dynamic.”


  • Unclear to some readers “where we’re going from here.” Namely, with regard to an important secondary character’s plans for the protagonist being unnecessarily vague.
  • A couple of lines that need to be rearranged for clarity.
  • A plot point about a lie that didn’t really make sense.

So, maybe on my road trip to Boston, Mass tomorrow, I can at least give some thought to where I’m going from here. ‘Cos hell if I know.

“All Afternoon Those Birds Twitter Twit”

  • 03:54 "Four in the morning came without a warning…" #lyrics #insomnia ♫ blip.fm/~92i50 #
  • 04:01 On page 36 of 256 of We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle. 5* for "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel." Slow pace paid… #
  • 07:26 3 hours of sleep. God, why?? Oh yeah, the coffee I drank while cleaning out the closet 🙁 #
  • 07:52 Damn you, red-eye. You are a cruel mistress. Yet, I always come back… 🙁 #
  • 07:56 twitpic.com/8r0hw – Sure it doesn’t look like much now. It took culling of 4 yrs worth of BS to get here. #
  • 09:20 FTW: Thursday off for a 3 day work week! Thinking I should’ve taken today off and gone back to bed, but this works, too. 🙂 #
  • 09:53 My birthday gift to myself! It’ll be a literal Xmas in July! bit.ly/6EzH4 #
  • 11:47 Yesterday’s crit group evisceration posted, incl. the best advice I’ve gotten in awhile. bit.ly/Od21C #
  • 13:13 Cafe where I’m eating lunch isn’t helping my sleep deprivation playing the slow version of "Valerie." Hence… ♫ blip.fm/~935hw #
  • 13:43 Got caught in the rain sans umbrella twice in as many days. Am soaked and unhappy! OTOH I am more awake. #
  • 16:59 Got to leave work early. Bypassed PM writing spot. Need bed….zzzz. #
  • 17:11 Letting playlist of missed podcasts lull me to naptime. #
  • 19:12 Had a nap & dinner. Almost feel like a real human being again :). #
  • 19:19 Lots of good stuff in this Odyssey podcast: Bruce Holland Rogers on Flash Fic Structures, Pt. 2 bit.ly/WoQPm #mp3 #

Via LoudTwitter

Tough Love

The Critique

Yesterday’s crit group crucixion–painful as ever, but it was one of those sessions where a lightbulb went off in my head that will affect my writing positively from here on out.

I attempted two things with this story: (a) to finally break down whatever wall that’s prevented me from writing something connected to my Asian-American experience ( as well as develop another niche to pimp out my stories) and (b) to write about a fascinating sub-culture that I’ve only a passing familiarity with.

How did I do, according to my critique group?


  • Set-up was “intriguing”
  • Usual compliment re: my “hip rhythm,” esp. w/dialogue
  • A sci-fi story w/a lot of tech stuff, but still about people/characters having to make particular choices.
  • One reader got “everything I need to know about the [protagonist’s] family [of origin] dynamic.”


  • (From the tech guy in the group, keeping me honest) Nix the term “RFID,” which is already dated (my story takes place, oh, about 15 minutes in the future).
  • Need to be clearer what I’m talking about when I make other references (e.g. to cochlear implants, etc.)
  • Not really clear how pervasive and powerful the tech is that I’m writing about.
  • Protagonist’s motivations unclear–is what the protagonist doing legal? How does he feel about the world he’s about to step into? Why’s he stepping into it? (Grrr!)
  • Short debate about expanding/expounding on technical descriptions but being careful not to do that at the expense of character.
  • The most helpful comment and the one I’ll take to heart for the rest of forever: To make the world of my story as clear as I made the protagonist’s family-of-origin dynamic!

Duh! Not that I didn’t know I should do that, but it helps to have an example to point to in my head.