May 2006 Archives

Only two months late

Asian American Screen Test was a series of shorts that M and I watched early Sunday afternoon on the last day of the Wisconsin Film Fest. We had had to rush to get there on time, as we had spent the morning in Jefferson, WI, looking at houses for her and N (one of which they now own! Go them!) and only had a little bit of time to get back to Madison in the driving rain to catch the start. Fortunately, we made it (though we didn't have time for lunch and were starving).

The shorts were as follows:

Screen Test, directed by Linda (not Grace) Lee. In this short, an Asian-Canadian actress (I believe the director's sister?) talks about her experiences getting acting jobs as an asian woman in film. She describes her time in "yellow face" in stereotypical rolls such as the dragonlady, the refugee, the hysterical peasant. One of my most memorable moments was when the actress, of Korean descent, was asked if she knew Chinese during an audition. She replied that she spoke a little Korean. They then asked her if she could do Chinese anyway, at which point she said sure and faked her way through the audition by emoting the scene in ridiculous non-sense phrases of kindergarten level Korean. They loved it. She got the job.

My German Boyfriend, directed by Wayne Yung. In this slightly surreal not-a-documentary, a gay Chinese-Canadian man decided to find the perfect boyfriend in Berlin. First, we get him fantasizing about several stereotypes of German men: the punk, the poet, the businessman, etc. Then we get to see his disastrous dates with those guys who not only fall short of his expectations, but see in him only a stereotypical ideal of an Asian. When he does find love in Berlin, it is with a Kurdish immigrant. The film takes another step back and ponders the filmmaker's relationship with his "real" German boyfriend and his life in German, vs. the feelings and relationship that he developed with one of the "fake" boyfriends during the filming (the punk). The twist was kind of interesting, though I think the film would have been stronger without the extension. Still, there is one kissing scene between the filmmaker and the punk about which all I can say is: HAWT!!

Shaolin Sisters, directed by Mishann Lau. This was a fun take on the old kung-fu flicks. Two sisters find a lipstick in the laundry that they are washing and proceed to fight over it. The choreography and visuals were fun, but I don't quite see where the "queer feminist perspective" noted in the publicity write-up comes in, unless they mean queer as in "peculiar".

Trying to Keep Concentrate, directed by Ruthann Lee. Shot primarily through surveillance camera footage, a young woman interviews her father, an immigrant Korean shopkeeper in Canada about his experiences as an immigrant. I haven't much to say about it.

Muni to Marriage, directed by Stuart Gaffney. The visual is mostly the view out the subway windows as it winds its way beneath San Fransisco. Over that, the narrator recalls his trip to City Hall with his partner of 17 years to get a marriage license when Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing them to same sex couples. He compares this to his parents' marriage, 50 years before, which became possible after California legalized interracial marriages.

Kata Practice, directed by Siu Ta. Interesting, but not 5 minutes worth. A father (who we never see above the chest) is leaving a mother (who we also never see above the chest) while their young son David angrily practices his moves next to the van his father is packing.

3 Meals, directed by Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo. A Singaporean woman fixes dinner for the Singaporean man that her mother would like to see her with, while he babbles on cluelessly and rudely. A night or two later, she has another dinner for a western man in whom she is interested, who also behaves boorishly. Finally, she has dinner with her mother, which is about as fun for her as the fist two dinners combined. A nice character study, but not a terribly memorable film.

Fuck Off, directed by Persephone Tan. The number one reason that I should have done this two months ago. I can barely remember anything about this film. "People have a natural tendency to stare, especially if you look or act differently. Uncomfortable glances? Shaking heads? Sneers? Fuck Off is dedicated to those who canít accept the fact that not everybody is the same."

Be Very Quiet, directed by Mona Nahm. Yound boy watches as his mother is raped and killed. Years later he sees the man who did it and seeks revenge. This would have been interesting if it weren't so terribly cliched in every single moment of the film.

Chinese Beauty, directed by Debbie Lum. A strangely obsessive and shallow immigrant woman dresses up and heads out "jogging" after a Californian man named "Brad" with whom she is infatuated. Bizarre little flick.

All in all, we liked what we saw. There were some winners and some that were fairly blah. After the show got out, we headed straight to Takara on State Street to fill out ravenous stomachs. Hungry as I was and after watching various meals on screen, a big plate of udon noodles hit the spot.

The cost of the art

I need to try to get together some more funds for my photographic endeavors. It's kind of difficult when there are so many other "necessary" things that have dibs on my wallet. Photography is expensive, and I don't feel like going deeply into debt over it.

At the moment, I have about 16 rolls of color process film that need to be developed. That is going to cost about $10 a roll. --$160

I really need to get some decent, basic equipment for indoor lighting. I am able to do quite a bit with just daylight, but I am missing out on a lot of opportinities since I can't do much artificial lighting. If I had my druthers, I'd get both "hot" and strobe lights--maybe 3 each--with some various diffusers and filter. Another flash that I could sinc up as a slave to my current flash would also be nice for more portable work. The cost of any one of these things so enough to my me feel faint just thinking about it.

I'd also be happy to have a digital SLR and/or a medium or large format camera. Again, feeling faint just thinking about it.

I recently sold a photo through a gallery, and received $60 after they took their cut. It was a photo that I had sold previously in a much cheaper frame, so I know it is one that I can sell again. Of course, I need to sink some money into the cost of re-printing the photo and getting it framed.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a professional photographer. My life has taken a number of twists and turns since then, and that will probably never be the case. Not only did my formal education never include studio work, but most people start out paying their dues as lowly studio assistants. I haven't done that. My work life has moved in other directions. I'm not saying that it is impossible that I will ever make photography my livelihood, but at the moment it looks improbable.

What I would like, at this point, is to be at least a serious amatuer and for my photography to at least earn enough to pay for itself. Much of my fine art photography is of the sort that I can do it at my leisure with whatever materials I have available. Inexpensive cameras and natural lighting have produced some of my best stuff. But I keep getting asked to do weddings, headshots, portraits, boudoir work, and journalism. Some of these opportunities would be as a volunteer and some would earn me some money. Some of it I can do with the camera and flash that I have. Some of it can be managed with daylight or incandescent bulbs and black and white film. But some of it really requires real color-corrected photo lighting and/or a digital camera and I have to say no. For now.

Say what now?


As much fun as the text-to-speech program that I found the other day was, I'm having even more fun with Miss Pronouncer, a site which properly pronounces many Wisconsin names, both people and places.

6 down, 2 to go

So, over a month from the Film Fest, I still have two films left to review. Good thing I don't do this for a living, hey? However, I imagine that if I were getting paid for it, blogging would be a much higher priority in my life.

In the meantime, two mini-reviews.

I can highly recommend The Casbah Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Madison. I stopped in earlier this evening with a friend, and we took advantage of their half price appetizers at happy hour. Not only were all four appetizers and one dessert we tried consistantly excellent, but the service was prompt, friendly, and very helpful. I loved our waitress.

Second, I'm have started watching season one of The Amazing Race on DVD from the library, and I'm really enjoying it. As a concept, the race is a very cleverly done competition, and the show is well excuted. I frequently find myself grinning and cheering with various teams as they find new wonder and amazement in the places they go and the tasks they accomplish. Loved..LOVED the zipline/bungee jump challenge on the first leg of the race. Everyone managed it that set out to do it, and many people overcame great fear to do so.

My favorite team is Frank and Margarita, but I like quite a few of them. I absolutely can't stand the Guidos. I'm sure that I am not alone in that sentiment. Not only are they prissy, annoying bastards, but the eyebrows of doom freak me out in a serious way. I love it when they other teams call them Bert and Ernie. What really amazed me was during the 6th episode, they pulled a majorly bastardy stunt in an airport to try to make three other teams miss their flight. It was all on camera...we listened and watched them plan and execute the blocking. Not nice, but I suppose that is part of the race. What flipped my biscuit, though, was listening to them talking--not to the other teams but to the cameras and offscreen interviewers--about how it was all just a big misunderstanding and coincidence and that they hadn't done it on purpose and, furthermore, that they were afraid of violence from the New York frat brothers team (who they call "the fatties"). <eyeroll>

Anyway, I'm having fun and avoiding spoilers, though this all happened several seasons ago.

What's that you say?

Text to speech in several languages. I'm having fun playing with the different language settings and also making it say ridiculous things.

Lost is found and found is lost


A few years back, I heard an erroneous report that Maurice Sendak had died. He was one of my favorite illustrators and a great influence on me, so I was greatly saddened by the news. So I was overjoyed when, a couple of months ago, I discovered how wrong that was. Not only is he not dead, but he is still working. As far as my heart was concerned, he had been raised from the dead.

Just now, I have found an opposite. While doing a Google search, I read the news that Trina Schart Hyman had died in November of 2004. She is another of my favorite illustrators and another deep influence. Not only is she gone, but she's been gone for over a year, and I just caught the news today. I feel like I've been punched in the chest.

Ugh! Fred rides again

My family has a very strange tradition around Easter time. We take one of the colored eggs and write "Fred" on it in marker. The egg then gets passed around the family like a hot potato, being hidden in bags and pockets and the like.

This year I was gotten good. After giving my little brother a ride home on Easter, I checked all around my car and then my messenger bag and coat pockets. Since there was no egg, I figured that he had gotten my mom. Last week, my mom asked if I had found the egg, since she hadn't. We wondered if it had gone to my dad or sister.

Tonight, I got a phone call from my brother, asking if I'd found the egg. It turns out, he had indeed hidden it in my bag, but not in a place I would ever think to look. The bag has a zippered panel around the edge which can be opened to expand the bag by a few inches. I never use it and rarely even think of it, since it is such a small space. That is exactly where he had hidden the egg. It was in sorry shape, given that it was in the vary bottom corner of that panel and my bag gets tossed around quite a bit. There were little bits of eggshell everywhere.

Now, I had noticed a bit of a smell this weekend, but I figured that it was because my waterbottle had spilled in my bag a couple of times. I imagined that it was a bit of mildew from the damp, and sprayed out the inside of the bag. It never occurred to me that little Fred was rotting away in the extender panel.

Janson had a good laugh when we found out what happened, though he was also quite apologetic. Thank God for Lysol. It's a good thing it was I and not Gretchen, as my sister has a deep loathing for the custom. "It's a rotting egg!" she exclaims. Tis true, tis true.

Well, kiddo, you got me this year. Just you wait until next, though. Just you wait.

Darwin's Nightmare--ours, too

M had really been looking forward to this film fest selection. It had received glowing reviews and in-depth profiles in many places, including Morning Edition. It was nominated for an Oscar. Unforunately, we came away from the film feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Some of our frustration stemmed from technical difficulties. First a bulb blew in the theater's projector, causing them to delay even opening the house by a half hour. It was a 9:00 show, so this was not welcome news. After we were finally seated in the small, crowded seated of the Fredric March Play Circle, it was announced that due to the porjector problems, we would be watching the documentary on DVD. Ok, whatever. Lots of Film Fest selections are digital, so we didn't care.

The basis of the film is this: about 70 years ago, Europeans introduced the Nile Perch to the waters of Lake Victoria in Africa. The Nile Perch is highly prized in Europe as a food item, and is a huge export. Unfortunately, the fish is also a major predator and has wiped ot pretty much every other species in the Lake. The Africans who fish for the perch do dangerous work for very little pay. Others work in the factories cleaning and preparing the fish to ship. Most of those who work in the fishing industry can't afford to eat the fish themselves. Russian planes fly in and out everyday to collect the fish for export, and over the course of the film it is revealed that what the planes bring into Africa are weapons which fuel many of Africa's civil wars.

During the film, we see stark poverty, rampant AIDS, prostution, orphaned street children, dying widows, violence, and hunger. Children pummel each other to fight over handfuls of rice. Men, women, and children sort through piles of maggoty, rotting fish heads to seek a bit of food. Prostitutes mourn the murder of one of their friends by a client. We knew ahead of time that it was not going to be funny or feel-good--this would be a long way from Night of the Living Dorks. However, the unrelenting depression of the film was pretty hard to take.

Still, the depressing material alone wouldn't have ruined it for us. What made things difficult was how frequently we had to wonder what the hell was going on. Most people were subtitled, even when speaking broken English, but most of the action was not explained. I kept wondering, "Who is this person? What is he doing? Who are those people? What are they doing? What is going on?" Some have praised the lack of narrative, but we just found it confusing and hard to follow.

The movie seemed to stretch on forever, and occasionally I felt myself nodding off. Simultaneously, the long time of sitting in the not-quite comfy seats was playing havoc with my lower back. The final straw was when the DVD player started to have problems and forze up. They assured us that it would only be a few minutes to sort it out, but M and I looked at each other and decided to leave. We were probably only 20 minutes from the end, but we couldn't take even one more.

Fortunately, it was our only real disappointment of the weekend. One out of eight isn't bad.


Tonight is spring Gallery Night in Madison, and I hadn't realized until yesterday. I'm scheduled to work tonight, and will have to miss it. Suckage!

Lazy bum

Yes, I still have three more film fet reviews to get to. Patience, grasshoppers. (As if anyone is actually waiting on tenterhooks for the next instalment.)

Doughty at High Noon

Last night, N and I took in the Mike Doughty show at the High Noon Saloon. I'd seen Dought twice before, once with Soul Coughing when they openeed for They Might Be Giants waaaaay back in 1995, and once as a solo artist in 2000 or 2001.

We sat in the blacony area, and had a great view of the stage and of the floor area. It was fun to watch the place fill up from almost empty to fairly packed. It also provided us with a spot to hear the music clearly without needing to resort to earplugs to protect out ears, as so often happens at these shows.

I didn't really care for the opening act, but I was able to ignore him while enjoying my beer and pizza. However, when Mike Doughty took the stage, I was all ears. He played a lot of stuff from his new album, Haughty Melodic and a few old Soul Coughing tunes. He did not, however, play "Firetruck", though there were many requests.

It was a good show and felt as though it were over too quickly. It wasn't short, though, if you actually noted the beginning and ending times. Simply a matter of time flying when you are having fun.

I've been thinking about protests and marches a lot lately. Living in Madison and spending time downtown and on campus, I am always hearing about someone protesting something. Usually, they are very well-meaning and totally ineffective.

So, via The Mahablog, a course every would-be protestor should take:

Protesting 101


Yes, I'm almost a month behind. Sue me.

For our second film fest selection on the Saturday leg of our film fest journey was Triviatown, a documentary about the Steven's Point Trivia Contest. We were looking forward to it, as our friend J and her family do the The Great Midwest Trivia Contest at Lawrence University in Appleton.

The showing we attended was packed. Many of the attendees were from trivia teams, some of whom were in the movie. The atmosphere was boisterous and convivial. Both M and I felt as though we'd wandered into someone else's family/high school reunion.

The crowd of trivia regulars certainly added to the entertainment value. Many of the filmed teammembers were in the audience, and the laughter at themselves and each other was contagious. However, I also though it was a well-done and entertaining docu on its own. It really captured a spirit of exctement and camaraderie in a way that drew us in as viewers and made us feel almost as though we were a part of thing.

I was glad to hear that it had won "Best Wisconsin Film" this year.

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