Friday, September 17, 2010

Preliminary treatment for an untitled film

It is a dusty dawn. No people are walking the beach. It’s too foggy. Long stretches of grass like the unkempt hair of balding hobos spill out against curtains of grey. Lifeguard towers guard the unutilized sandy space against further emptiness. Everything is movement but we are not arriving.

Ventura is a funny little college town without a college. The downtown strip is lined with thrift stores and restaurants that don’t serve lunch. Blue parking meters stand out front of the closed businesses like modern art sculptures. Sex shops put on vulgar window displays under self-consciously ambiguous business names. Everything is layered in a false sense of modesty and exaggerated humility.

Vagrants bang on guitars and hold up accusing signs, assuming a moral superiority over their guilted patrons. They hang around the grocery stores and take turns begging for money at the edge of parking lots. Sometimes they have dogs with them. Sometimes they have children. Sometimes they yell at each other and stick out their chests.

California builds their highways so wide and it is difficult to imagine them congested with traffic because at times, they are empty. When it is sixty degrees, people think it is cold out and they hide away indoors in their beds with their lovers.

Our film settles into the claustrophobic safety nest of a young couple, spending a lazy mid-afternoon lying on top of the sheets and looking at each other. We are the voyeurs of this intimate setting, watching the young couple kiss and run their fingers through the other’s hair. And touching at the hips. And crossed over at the thigh. And moving the other’s elbow.

He brings out a rolled cigarette, lights it, and passes it to her.

In the Goddard fashion, we arrive at the conversation mid-conversation. The couple talks about their frustrations of not fitting in and trying to rise above their insincere and mundane surroundings.

He is frustrated with friends and people who are pretending to be people they are not. She picks up on the irony and explains to him that he too, is pretending to be someone he is not. He says she is right to a point, but he is only acting in hopes that one day he can fill new shoes.

She laments that there is no authenticity in the world and that everything is just dust anyway.

He says she has a lousy attitude. Her nihilism is so unfashionable.

She insists she is right. Truth is classic and immune to trends. It is not cliché but a commonly accepted truth.

He disguises his indigence by praising her for her sweet submissive qualities.

She dodges his phony kisses. He doesn’t realize that his kisses are fake. She says she does not judge him. All people say one thing and mean something different.

As it becomes apparent that our young couple would much prefer to use their lips for kissing than for talking, we turn to look at the window, half out of reverence but mostly we are bored with our voyeurism.

Abruptly, we are thrust into the drunken small town bar scene of downtown Ventura. Sound is abrasive and video is choppy and we blink to black.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet the people behind Noble Rot

As a local Northwest film maker, I would like to see more videos like this. I love the idea of small businesses encouraging community through video. Also, I like to see larger companies who care to distribute this hyper local media.

Seed to Plate: A Garden Story from Riley Hooper on Vimeo.

Noble Rot is a great place in Portland to hang out. Its close to the Doug Fir and Juniper Inn. Its a great area for music shows and eating great food.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Epic Beard Man Documentary

Did you see that video? The one where the bearded white guy beats up the black guy on the bus? I think the time is past for being amazed by the power of viral video. Also, the rabbit-like breeding nature of viral video is somewhat boring. Media begot media begot media I get it.

This is the documentary about the guy who punched the guy who cried for the ambalamps. Its about Thomas Alexander Bruso, also known as Tom Slick, also known as Epic Beard Man.

The documentary grabbed me right away because of the meme hype but kept me sucked in because it quickly transformed into a real story about a real person. Thomas is not the only one out there. It seems that absolute chance has gained him some internet fame but I quickly get the impression that Thomas is part of a trend and not such a wild beast as the Epic Beard Man title might suggest. He's actually quite sad.

We get the idea pretty quickly, that Thomas is playing a role. He's the epic anti-hero of the non-working class. One moment, he is setting himself as the villain, relaying to us how he went to a baseball game after consuming a smorgasbord of alcohol and narcotics. The next moment, he is a victim of police brutality. The story doesn't have to make sense because he is no longer trying to make sense of it. Every moment can be cooked down to a an iconic single-serving story. Time is fragmented. Cause and effect are not related and he's lost out there in the soup.

All of this is section 8, he tells us. He's referring to his house but also his self and his being. He is identifying with the labels society has suggested to him and he expresses contentment with it.

Racism is a recurring theme in his dialogue. I think he identifies with blacks, or his perception of what it means to be black. He expresses a solitude with the feelings of alienation and oppression. There might be some parallels in how the draft essentially abducted young boys and hauled them off across the sea to die. Unable to relay his thoughts in a way that is socially acceptable, he turns to violence.

This documentary made me rethink the archetype of the Vietnam vet. I wonder how many people like Thomas are out there and I wonder how many of them are leading equally epic lives.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Zoo, documentary about "Mr. Hands"

This is not an easy documentary to share with people. Its about a group of men who have sex with a horse. They get much unwanted attention from the law and the media when one of them is mortally injured and bleeds to death.

This is not a gross-out documentary although the subject might be difficult to stomach. This is not a tear-jerking sympathy story although the subject might be tragic. Most of all, this is not a documentary that tells you how to feel.

The story is told through the voices of the people actually involved. The filmmakers collected the most vivid and humanizing interviews with the men who call themselves 'zoo' and edited it together with the most moody cinematography of rural Washington. What is most striking about the narration is how the men talk about their intent for the animals.

Immediately, the viewer begins to wonder if the animals were at all harmed by the sexual encounters. By the intents of the men, these horses were very well taken care of. Jokes aside, these were some happy horses. Once the presence of a victim becomes less and less clear, so does the legal discussion of animal rights.

I understand that most people will not want to see this movie and would not appreciate it. The distinction between personal ethics and social morality is a mute point and they are incapable of dialogue. This group of people is not limited to vegans. I find that most people have actually made up their mind on the issue. The issues of liberty are lost on them. They have decided that the animals are in danger and no amount of contrary evidence is going to sway them. The men are in-condonable.

I found this movie because I am a fan of Stranger writer Charles Mudede. He is credited as a writer on Zoo, so I rented it from Scarecrow Video. You can also rent the movie from Netflix. If none of those options appeal to you, you can watch the entire film on YouTube:

There is something very American about these sorts of discussion. They seem to resonate with our value for the pursuit of happiness. Also, they bring to mind the cultural attitude that, although I find your behavior abominable, I defend your right to do it. Your sins are irreproachable.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lick The Star

Sofia Coppola directed Lick The Star in 1998. Like most of her films, this black and white short is about a little girl.

I like the non-linear way Coppola approaches her stories. She doesn't set up villains or heroes so much as she evokes moods and feelings by dwelling on some moments and breezing through others. Its as though some scenes are cut short, not because it's a short film but because the capriciousness of the 7th grade girls demand that the scenes be cut short.

You know? Like, whatever. =)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Untitled Science Fiction Film: Scene 5

I shot this short film scene with my friend Sam Higgins to complete an assignment for Cinematography 309 at Brooks Institute. We were a crew of two. I was inspired by the opening scene of Blade Runner, where Leon shoots the guy for asking about his mother. I wanted a high contrast film noir look.

If I had to do it again, I would have added a fill light with a 1/2 CTB to bring out some more detail in the shadow while maintaining the illusion of darkness. Blue light is a common technique for shooting dark scenes with video.

Shooting this scene with only two people was a big challenge. I tended to the camera while Sam attempted to both direct and hold the boom. If we only had one more crew member, we could have focused more on the lighting.

Sam and I had a look in mind and I think we accomplished it. Looks great! But It would have been best if we could have justified the look a bit. Such as, why is there so much smoke? Why is it so dark? Is this scene Noir for the sake of Noir?

All things considered, I am proud of the outcome. I can't wait until next session.

After school, I plan to return to Seattle. I would like to get employment working on corporate videos and commercials but also to applying my skills as a Seattle film maker towards independent projects.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

War Prayer

I met Harold Cronk on set for a casino commercial I worked on two years ago. I was a production assistant on that shoot. I was pretty green to professional sets back then and I was pretty nervous. They attached me to the assistant camera. That was quite the learning experience, grabbing lenses and slating the camera.

I keep an eye on what Harold is up to because of this short film:

War Prayer (short film) from TiM on Vimeo.

I love the textures of this film. It really feels muddy, doesn't it?

Recently he was production designer on Abram Makowka's Tug. He also has a project in post production titled Jerusalem Countdown.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Donut Shop

This is a short documentary about what happens in a donut shop. Simple idea. I love it. One of the best ways to get people to talk is to ask them about what they love. And generally, what they have to say is pretty interesting. So go find people who love weird things and talk to them. Such as, people who live at Starbucks!

Sparrow Songs - Episode 5 - The Donut Shop from Sparrow Songs on Vimeo.

If you like that, you might check out the other films. Its a project by director Alex Jablonski (Blue Boy) and his goal is to make a new documentary short every month for one year. The products are manic little testaments to the joy of film making. The narration is often a bit overt and sometimes uneven but I like it. Its raw.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Tea Party's Robin Hood

Errol Flynn is not in this movie. Sorry to break your hearts but this is not a re-make or even a re-telling. It is a separate work to be appreciated on its own and free from comparisons. Its gritty. It drinks mead. And much like the story of English folklore, it is told not only to entertain but also to carry rhetorical message.

I am convinced many films are born out of whimsy. Danny Boyle really wanted to make a Bollywood movie and thus we have Slumdog Millionaire. Likewise, Riddley Scott thought it would be really funny if Robin Hood was a hero of libertarian principles. Libertarian ideas are popular in film. Look at Iron Man.

Crowe's Robin Hood has two notable opportunities to deliver his political view of the world. In the exposition, he declares that the common man has the power to make England rich. In the conclusion, he preaches the values of liberty and the natural rights included within the American constitution. He was truly ahead of his time, wasn't he?

Also, the evil power hungry King John has a beautiful scene in which he blames his predecessor's futile war. He says he inherited so many problems. Sound familiar? He also concludes that the kingdom has no choice but to tax its way out of debt.

This is a story about politics. To keep your attention, Mr. Scott delivers plenty of action and cinematographer John Mathieson gives us all the glitter and glamor we expect from a meticulously crafted story.

Scott is obviously planning for a sequel. The entire film feels like exposition and thus it feels shallow and simple. The philosophical scenery is painted in broad strokes of black and white. If Brian Helgeland's story is to develop this story, he wants to lay a thick foundation and save the subtle touches for the sequel. The irony being, there probably won't be a sequel. If Scott was serious about making a sequel, he should have dropped some Easter Egg clues to the potential development.

Negative reviews such as from The Village Voice express a lament over the film's failure to deliver on the initial hype of the film. I see opportunity to make right on these wrongs in a sequel. What we have is the groundwork for blockbuster sequel of Matrix proportions. What the Larry and Andy Wachowski did for Descartes, Riddly Scott has the potential to do for John Stewart Mills.

Scott's Robin Hood ultimately failed with critics because they are unable to separate the folk lore from its previous interpretations. Errol Flynn's gaiety and Disney's cute Socialist undertones are difficult icons to overcome because they are so ingrained into pop culture and remain powerful after several decades.

My question is, why does Robin Hood fail where Batman succeed? It is strictly politics?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Precious Blind Side

, moFinally got around to watching The Blind Side and Precious. I watched them back to back because it felt like the thing to do. The comparison is natural. They're both films about poverty and redemption and the power of education. The first was hyped by the studios in the traditional mass appeal fashion while the later was more of an independent project backed by Oprah. And to no surprise, liberal newspapers hated The Blind Side and loved Precious.

I was hesitant to enjoy The Blind Side. Having read and enjoyed the novel by Micheal Lewis for its insightful analysis of football strategy and economics. The Lewis novel structures the history and background parallel to the personal narrative. Needless to say, I was hesitant to watch a movie about benevolent white people. The critical response to the film did not help, either.

In watching the movie, I must retract all initial impressions. As with many book adaptations, the film offers a smorgasbord of moments while failing to deliver a full meal and yet the film's soft vignettes offer their own sweet satisfaction.

On surface level, you get a series of vignettes about as heartwarming as a precious moments gift-ware. You know, that stuff on QVC? And the running joke of the film is: what if a precious moment scene randomly featured a token black guy? And honestly, you can get quite a bit of mileage out of that joke.

Beyond that, there is a story about white guilt and the intangible rewards of charity. You get a subtle nod to the color blind nature of the free market. Football does not care about your politics, your religious upbringing or your political orientation. Football cares only about the value you can bring to a team.

Precious offers a much more gritty picture. Its a pretty stiff contrast to the lifetime gloss of The Blind Side and your mom probably won't like it.

Also, Precious shows the inner workings of volunteer powered outreach programs, which appeals to liberal people. If The Blind Side was pitched to your average blue state conservative, Precious is aimed at your average metropolitan social worker and enlightened cynic.

Cinematographer Andrew Dunn paid special attention to the use of color in this picture. The yellows feel dreamy. The blues feel defensive. The browns feel secure.

The characters of The Blind Side may have been based on real people, but the characters in Precious feel more real. This is not a film about rhetoric and it has no political agenda. Precious is a story about people and interpersonal relationships.

If The Blind Side is a story about redemption, Precious is a story about pushing through when there is no redemption. Precious boldly points to the source of the problem but is slow to offer any solutions. Again, it's non-political. It's interpersonal. Precious favors the acclimation of little victories over the grandiose.

Neither film is smarter than the other. Neither film uses less stereotypes. Neither film is brilliant. But both films are worth watching and both films will offer conversation fodder. Good times.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thoughts on Steven Spielberg's Duel

Duel is Steven Spielberg's debut made for TV feature film. It is a film about a man who encounters a psychotic truck driver along a sparse California highway. The film works for commercial television because of its high concept. Middle class suburban man versus truck driver.

Steven goes to extra length to strip the story down to its bare essentials. He doesn't want to concern you with the answers to those superficial questions: Who is the truck driver? Why is he so crazy? Steven's refusal to answer our questions heightens the tension. The identity of the driver is almost completely obscured in shadow except for his arm, which he uses to menacingly beacon David to pass.

The dialogue is sparse. Obviously, dialogue is unnecessary to tell the above story but the addition of language gives us some subtle clues as to how to interpret the story of David's Plymouth Valiant versus the giant Peterbilt 281.

In the introduction scene, David is listening to the radio. We hear an advertisement for some gentleman's product like hernia creme or something. Then we jump into a talk show in which a man is confessing his embarrassment of not being the head of his household. The female talk show host assures the man that there is no shame in being a stay at home dad. When we realize this conversation is within the context of a census form, we begin to see the full scope of the themes discussed in Duel. That is, unbridled masculinity versus the industrial system.

Coming out of Christopher Voler's book The Writer's Journey, I was looking for the character archetypes. David is on a journey into his repressed animal nature and the truck driver is his shadow mentor. The people David encounters on the road are brought in to benchmark David's descent into his manhood. And David's wife acts as a threshold guardian, reminding him to come home in time to receive his visiting mother.

Issues of gender power dynamics are most apparent when David attempts to discuss with his wife, the situation in which a man made sexual advances towards her. The manner in which she avoids open discussion illustrates her low expectations of him. I don't want to talk about it, she says, because then you'd get upset and we wouldn't want that.

This is the only scene that feels real to me. It is almost as if this one dramatic scene is a separate short film surrounded by a surreal thriller about a man up against something larger than life, something he cannot control. And the only way to defeat the thing is to...

You get the idea.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

American Auto Makers (phony) Decleration of Independence

I don't think I'm alone here. I'm skeptical of these reports and I'm disappointed by the lack of coverage. Articles like this are plentiful. They tell us the White House is pleased to inform us about our "investment" in General Motors and gives us reason for new faith.

They are quick to point out that the hypocritical Republican Party came up with this whole bailout idea in the first place and it is quite strange how they are so morally against big government now that they are no longer in power. And of course, I think this is pure comedy gold. Seriously. Dear GOP: WTF?

Questions left unanswered are, why are the neo-Keynes trumping their horns as though the debt is returned in full? Numbers seem to indicate to me, less than 13% of the loan is returned. But what is with the misleading headlines?

I also have bigger questions. Such as, where is this money coming from? Is GM selling cars, making a profit and repaying their loans in gold bars? Is the man behind the curtain manipulating the money and paying off its loans with prospective stock options?

Most importantly, am I the only one who cringes when Mr. Ed Whitacre talks about a company all Americans can be proud of? Because it creeps me out.

Of course, there are answers to these questions floating around the internet. My friend half jokingly suggested that he would condone the act of robbing liquor stores in Detroit to pay back the loans. Today, he admitted that he might not be far from the truth and gave me this link.

If GM is truly using taxpayer dollars to pay back taxpayer loans, why isn't this information more prevalent in new media? Why isn't this news story all over the front of the New York Times, LA Times, Wall-street Journal and every alternative newspaper in the country? Because it seems pretty freaking important to me.

I guess it's lost somewhere in la-la land along with the wars.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ryan Henry Ward conquers Seattle

I met Ryan Henry Ward today. He is a pretty whimsical character. He paints murals. Some people think he paints too many murals. I mean, they are pretty insistent about it. Personally, I think if Seattle could do worse than cover itself in cute paintings. We need somebody out there to step up their game and exorcise the ghost of Kurt Cobain. I want us to transcend flannel shirts and grunge music.

This fish is pretty awesome. It covers the broad side of a house near the Fremont bridge. Its on 35th somewhere. you really can't miss it because its huge.

Keep up the good work, Henry. Look forward to seeing some thoughtful documentaries about public art.

Edit: I enjoyed this little clip about Henry

Smith & Winston

This is my first student film for Brooks Institute. I am mostly happy with how it turned out. I was not the director. There are some small things I would do differently but before I get into that, let me point out that not every good idea was my own and not every bad idea was presented by someone else. This was a group effort and every decision was made as a group.

Now, first you must watch the film.

I annoyed by two background lights. The white light on the piano is too intense and should be filtered down with some scrims and maybe extra diffusion. We couldn't really fit a flag back there without risk of the c-stand being in every shot so mostly I'm happy the c-stand we did put back there wasn't more obvious. Also, the blue light on the bricks is both too intense and too blue. Lastly, our professor pointed out that the light should have been lifted up to cast down more like a street lamp.

I wish we had spent more time on the reverse shot of Winston, the man in blue. This is most my fault because art department was my duty. I love how Winston is shot for the 'toast' shot but I wish there was something in the background such as a poster or something.

I don't know why we have a jump cut at the end there. Maybe we didn't get enough coverage. Maybe the shot of Brittany rushing over with the bar mop didn't look very good. Maybe we needed a close up of Winston walking out the back door. Whatever happened, we needed another shot.

Never dress a girl in black if you want to see her. Someone warned me against doing this and I did not follow their advice because I am a dumb dumb dumb boy. To be honest, I did not have a lot of options. I wish I had a faded black because I could have gotten away with that. The red dress may have worked. I don't know.

Over all, I'm pretty happy with my group and I think we will work together again on future assignments.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Streetwise (1984)

This is the out of print short feature documentary about homeless youth in Seattle, filmed in 1983 by Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark. The husband and wife team came to Seattle to expose rampant homelessness and desperation, thriving even in America's most livable city.

The pacing of this film is brilliant. It does not feel like a documentary. It feels more like a fictional piece, how we get such a moving and intimate look into the lives of these young people.

The film is book-ended by Tommy Dean's mentor and music local Seattle street performer Baby Gramps.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Where Do The Hippies Go?

Ballard's Chai House closing up shop and going on "hiatus" is old news. As a past patron myself, a tear comes to my eye when I think of all the hippies and passionate poets and musicians who are now sent packing for another place to hang out. As a poet and musician myself, I will miss Mr. Spots scratching post.

While many bloggers are crying out why? I want to take this opportunity to show you a valuable resource for answering all property related questions.

Such as, consider the parcel of land upon which Mr. Spots built The Chai House. If you want to know why the landlord doubled the rent, check out this website. Enter the address of Chai House: 5463 Leary Ave

You will see in 2009, IRS appraised the land value at $376,200. Coming into 2010, the IRS raised the appraised value to $486,800.

Conclusion: the landlord raised Mr. Spot's rent because the cost of owning the land increased. In other words, property taxes went up.

There are many reasons why the IRS might appraise land at a higher value than the year before. Some reasons may include a fluctuating housing market and I discuss them in this blog article. But what circumstances might cause a jump in $100 is curious to me. Is this a real estate trend happening in many neighborhoods or just Ballard?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More thoughts about neighborhoods and artists...

People want to be close to the arts. I think it is required of all white people to go through a phase where they dream of living in an area like Greenwich Village and neighbors with a character like Bob Dylan. Or maybe you would prefer to move into the an apartment over Pioneer Square and hang out with Tommy Dean. But of course, investing in Artists is often like investing in volcanoes. Science can tell us, beyond a doubt, Mt. Rainier is a volcano and could blow up any day. The problem is, science can not currently tell us when Mt. Rainier is going to blow. Nor can any economist tell us when Tommy Dean is going to become famous.

Friday, January 29, 2010

How Neighborhoods Change and Why People are Often Left Behind

"Neighborhoods change," said Lyle Bicknell. Like the people who create them, "communities are continually evolving. They get richer. They get poorer. They change in complection. That's just the human condition."

Lyle is the big man at Neighborhood Planning. His job is to lead a team of skilled city planners in aiding Seattle neighborhoods along to realizing their inner ideal. Yeah. Its pretty holy stuff.

The ideal neighborhood is self contained and sustainable, said Lyle. Of course, it hasn't always been this way. What was ideal in the 1950s might not be ideal in the post-global warming, post-housing crisis American landscape.

At the turn of the century, for example, cities like Seattle and San Francisco relied on the street car system to keep their neighborhoods connected. A good trolly line could connect urban families from the apartment to the grocery market to the public park. At the end of the day, workers could follow a trolly line from the office to the bar back home.

After World War II, America was able to resume its love affair with the automobile and families shifted from urban living, out to the suburbs. This shift was made possible, I imagine, due to low gas prices and low interest housing loans. But if the low prices of the strong economy paved the roads to the suburbs, family values and desire to own land fueled the transition.

Let us refer back to our Platonian understanding of the relationship between things and ideas. Ideas, such as the perfect neighborhood, are the models by which city planners and developers shape things such as real neighborhoods.

The Pike / Pine Corridor for example, is a beautiful manifestation of neighborhoods. Ideals in the flesh. God came down to Earth and said, 'let there be a neighborhood' and God saw that it was good. In this case, God was a team of urban developers like Liz Dunn, urban planners like Lyle Bicknell and small business like Cupcake Royal. No single person can take credit for the success of the Pike / Pine Corridor.

What happened between the beginning of the 20th century and end of World War II was not a rebuilding of cities but a metamorphosis in American values. Specifically what changed is, the values of people who had money.

Suburban life was the ideal maybe in the 50s, said Lyle. But we are beginning to see things differently. People want more options.

Wait. What happened?

Global warming, unstable gas prices, the internet and evolving family values are among the factors to be considered but return to urban life, like the sprawl of the 50s, was ultimately determined by the values of people with money.

Through the 20th century, the ideal lifestyle was to live in the suburbs with Sloan Wilson and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Somewhere along the way, people became sick of life in the suburbs and decided to move back to the city. The age of Ricky Ricardo gave away to the age ofJerry Seinfeld.

When money leaves the suburbs and returns to the city, urban neighborhoods experience growth.

Neighborhood growth is a beautiful thing, said Lyle. When a light rail line is introduced to a community, for example, everyone benefits. Local businesses benefit from the extra foot traffic, streets are relieved of congestion, property values go up and everybody prospers.

Of course, as one thing is gained another is lost. Such as with the transition from the street car to the personal automobile, there is a story of triumph and tragedy to be told behind the mass yuppie congregation in areas like Ballard.

The problems arise when we look to preserve what is already there, said Lyle. People notice when local icons such as when Mr. Spot's Chai House was forced out its formative Market and Leary location and sent looking for a home elsewhere.

Short sighted is the narrative about Ballard small businesses closing up shop when you consider the small business owners who have taken their place. Still relatively new to Ballard are Delancey, Bastille and Blackbird's Field House.

Also short sighted is the narrative that tells how condo developers are kicking out the artists when you consider how Nicole, and artist in her own right, has been experimenting with her nationally recognized Blackbird brand. Blackbird's Candy Shoppe could be compared to such bold career changes as Dylan goes electric.

I sincerely doubt anybody will long for another rendition of Knocking On Heaven's Door at Mr. Spot's Chai House.

And yet, we can't help but to reflect upon what we have lost.

As cost of retail space goes up, businesses that cater to low-income communities are expected to either grow with the neighborhood or move out. The customer base of endangered retail stores, such as Mr. Spot's then must decide if they are going to start hanging out at Bastille or follow their retail stores out of town.

There is a story in here about what it means to grow together with your neighborhood. It is also a story about what is so attractive about city living in the first place. That is, you need to duck dodge and weave everything they throw at you or else, the city is going to wash you away with the rain.

Ballard developers may be setting themselves up for failure if they do not plan to serve a diversity of cultures. And "there is a notion," Lyle explains, "that neighborhoods are like forests and tend to thrive better with a diversity of cultures. The monoculture forest is most vulnerable because if anything happens, everything dies."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brothers Keeper

I used to have a friend who I will call Chuck. I loved Chuck like a man might love a brother. In the prime of our love, I would have given the shirt off my back for Chuck. Because he was my brother and I loved him.

I met Chuck when I was living in squalor in the University District. He worked at the convenient store up the street and he was my neighbor in an apartment house.

When I decided to begin the long struggle of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and go to school at Seattle University, Chuck remained where I left him. I didn't speak to him for two years.

Then, a phone call out of the blue. He needed help.

He slept on my dorm room floor for a lengthy period. My love life suffered. Understandably so, my partner did not want to sleep over when I had a strange man sleeping under my bed.

Chuck was kind of like a pet. I could not make him a key to my dorm so I would have to be there to let him in at night. Often I would come home and he would still be there, waiting for me.

Once, I came home and I caught him attempting to enter in coitus with a friend of mine. At that point, I was tempted to get Chuck neutered and reduce his natural urge to breed.

At this point I start asking myself about the value Chuck brought to my dorm room. Chuck was an expensive pet. I paid with my wallet to keep my fridge stocked so we wouldn't starve. I paid with my sex life. I paid with the risk of being caught breaking the rules of my housing agreement. What did I get in return?

A friend of mine one congratulated me on being kind enough to help the homeless, one man at a time. Of course, this was the same friend who I later found grooming a cross class romance under my bed so her opinion of my generosity was a bit biased.

The irony of sacrificing my love life for the benefit of his is not beyond me.

If Chuck and I started an epic scale rock band of such artistic genius of MGMT proportions, the price to pay might have been diminished by the infinite rewards of the riches and fame that come from being MGMT.

If I was able to support Chuck on a journey of self fulfillment, I could justify the physical expenditures by the non-material benefits. If I could have helped Chuck perfect his resume and watch him get his first stable job. If our late night conversations about our true inner selves resulted in a life changing decision, to join the military or commit to a life of religious piety, I could justify my sacrifices.

My partner rather wisely suggested to me that I did this for Chuck out of guilt. She could not explain it to be, but with growth and hindsight I am able to see what she was trying to tell me.

When I struggled in the University District, my parents supported me in the same way that I later supported Chuck. They helped me pay the bills when day labour was not enough. They helped me pay for food so I would not starve and they waited patiently for the moment to come when I would decide to change and choose to engage.

Chuck was not lucky enough to have parents like mine so I felt guilty. And from this guilt, I was able to reap nothing but dependency.

Providing for Chuck with what little provisions I was able to acquire for myself was out of a shameful kinship based on an inability to own up to my own responsibility to myself to further my own destiny. My negligence to own my responsibility turned into an unjustified feeling of responsibility for my friend Chuck.

I do not want to say that I am not my brother's keeper but I am compelled to amend all notions of brotherly love with an explanation of personal growth and co-development rather than co-dependancy. Friendship can be a beautiful thing but without notions of friendly competition and challenging each other to grow, I am afraid to say that the bonds of love can just as easily turn destructive.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sheriffs First Act

The Sheriffs First Act (HB-2713) is scheduled to be out of committee February 2. It is part of a package of small government themed house bills, Matt Shea explains in full in Resist DC, an article he wrote for a small government think tank.

The Sheriffs First Act affirms the County Sheriffs role as the senior law enforcement officer both in terms of rank and legal authority in a county by regulating the jurisdiction of federal employees to perform arrests, searches and seizures in Washington State. It asserts that the federal government was created to serve the states and not the other way around.

It is not unconstitutional, said Shea. People who say this do not understand the history behind Anglo Saxon Common Law.

The social logic behind these small government house bills is to empower the people of Washington State and affirm the value of local knowledge. For example, nobody understands the interests of Clallam County than the people of Clallam County.

The Squim Gazette documents a story here about Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, who wants to delegate the disposal of unused prescription medications to the man who initially dispensed them, Cy Frick of Frick's Drugs in Squim. Trivial conflict with federal DEA ensues.

Fox television show Bones alludes to sovereignty rights of local sheriffs in January 14 episode titled "X in the File" in which local sheriff character refuses to release evidence of a crime to federal agents.

Both mainstream news sources and progressive bloggers describe this recent push for small government legislation as coming from a wacky fringe element GOP, an effort to undermine the union. But it is important, says Shea, to make a distinction between national politics and state politics. At a state and county level, Shea says, GOP politics have traditionally been in favor of small government practices.

Update: Ron Periguin, undersheriff at Clallam County gave me a call. He said he would not be surprised if the Sheriffs First Act is soon found to be unconstitutional.