Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stuff and Things

Hmmm... disturbing data...

Women accounted for only 5% of directors in 2004, representing a decline of 6 percentage points as compared with 11% in 2000.

-Celluloid Ceiling 2005 Report

Some oddly reassuring proverbs from the poet Sparrow...

A houseboat's furniture need not float.

You can't catch a spider in a spider web.

Toilets never meet.

Good and random observations...

Strength of numbers is the delight of the timid.

-Mohandas Gandhi

When I see the red signal - I can't help forging ahead!

-Agatha Christie

And my favorite Haiku

Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
is not art.


Film Clubs

Film clubs are Netflix-inspired businesses that cater to group movie watching. Utne Reader had a write up about them in their February issue and congratulated film clubs for the "community and dialogue that are built into the watching".


A recently organized film club, the Ironweed Club at www.ironweedfilms.com specializes in films with a political bent. One organizer of the club calls the trend "union organizing 101". Membership fees get you a monthly DVD with a feature film, a couple of shorts and some interviews or other special features. The club also connects members who want to give or attend a community screening.

Other Net-based clubs:

-Film Movement www.filmmovement.com; specializes in independent and foreign films
-The Spiritual Cinema Circle www.spiritualcinemacircle.com; focuses on healing, personal transformation.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An Environmental Memorial

(photographs by Mr. Porteno)

Off to the place where I grew up - in Niagara Falls, New York this weekend. Memorial Day we remember tragedies and I assume we do this to discover ways of preventing them from happening again. In Niagara stands a memorial to one of the largest environmental disasters in US history.


The vast amount of water that surges from the upper to lower Niagara River provides the electricity that once fueled a thriving local industry. Love Canal was a project meant to capitalize on the city's famous hydropower capacity. Only one mile of the canal was completed. The big dig was sold to Hooker Chemical and the company dumped 22,000 tons of toxic waste into it, then back-filled it.

The land was later sold to the local school board, houses were built on and adjacent to the site, illness, birth defects and other tragedy ensued. In the late 1970's residents revolted and Love Canal became the first hazardous waste disposal case to draw national attention. Eventually Occidental Chemical (Hooker's parent company) spent $200 million cleaning up the place, Congress passed the Superfund law which now holds polluters accountable for their actions and 800 residents were relocated.

Last August I visted the Love Canal site for the very first time. The images of levelled neighborhoods were chilling. At first, the land appears empty...

On second glance you begin to notice the remains of neighborhood infrastructure - sidewalks, firehydrants, foundations.

On the edges of the disaster area now more than 200 new single family houses and a retirement community. What a sad legacy for a town that once held so much potential - in both the visual beauty of its natural resources and in the ability to harness their energy.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Times They Are A'Changin'

File this posting under "Cool Chicks". Love the arrival on the NYTimes website of Maira Kalman. Bought her illustrated version of Shrunk and White's Elements of Style as Mr. Porteno's Christmas present.

You might have to have Times Select to view it - but if you can check her out - eclectic wit and beautiful, poignant illustrations. She'll post the first Wednesday of each month.




Bravo, NYT - soooooo visual and unique. Could that BE a labradoodle sitting quirkily by her side????

Other chicks on my radar today.. not a country music fan, but you have to give the Dixie Chicks some sort of major award for standing by the anti-war/critical bush comments Natalie Maines made in London in 2003. They've not backed down a bit these years later - in fact standing solidly by their convictions, especially in the song Not Ready to Make Nice just released on their new album Taking the Long Way

In an atmosphere of fear and timidity - these women are heros for providing us great examples of how to conduct elegant, thoughtful protest. Much of the rest of their CD is autobiographical - about their growth as women and new mothers. Cool.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Magic Lantern Theater

I was happy to be invited to speak at the Magic Lantern Theater next Friday, June 2 at 7:00 PM at Winchester Little Theater, 315 W Boscawan St. in Winchester. The MLT was established in 1999 as a renegade group trying to bring good and interesting films to isolated and conservative Winchester. Their website describes MLT as "ice on a hot stove, skating on its own steam ever since." Sometimes they show films in the library, on brick walls on the walking mall and in this case - a live theater; great cinema in borrowed spaces.


I've loved the process of moving to an unlikely place such as the Shenandoah Valley and finding like-minded people. Mark Lohre, the coordinating director is thoughful and dedicated. Gina Daddario is in charge of programs and mass comm professor/good pal from Shenandoah University.

I'll show a few of my own clips and talk about work - then a screening non other than Waiting for Guffman -a Christopher Guest best. How appropriate! One of my favorite directors - so very goofy... so very human. Confessions of a film nerd - the director's narration of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy are nearly as entertaining as watching A Mighty Wind and Best in Show. Mr. Porteno shakes his head wearily...

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Ah, wouldn't that be a happy posting? Linda Wertheimer interviews Alias' executive producer about all the new dramas this fall - less reality/sitcom than ever before on network tv. Phshhheew! (sound of relief)

How long I have looked for a light like this. Jeff Pinker talks about how audiences are attracted to character (doi!) and story (really?) and how that is a big revelation for broadcasters.

My question is... What did HBO know and when did they know it?


Friday, May 19, 2006

Gay Marriage Tiff

Good Liberadio reax to the Feingold/Specter Senate shouting match about anti-gay marriage amendment approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesty..

Gosh - you think there's an election coming up?????



Ask Why

Recently watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - I recommend it. Before seeing this Oscar-nominated documentary I couldn't (didn't care to) make sense of what went on at Enron. Great visuals - diabolical characters. Contemporary, engrossing, completely terrifying.


Now can't get enough of Enron news:

search enron

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Expanded Classroom

Good faculty SU workshop on Global Learning/Expanded classroom.

-Robert Bersson, Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History, James Madison University. "Responding to Art" is his textbook. Talked of his experiences as an art student in Italy 1964 - then traveling back to Florence with his James Madison students. Spoke of insider vs. outsider status of the global classroom - obviously becoming immersed in the culture has a more desired outcome.

Shared NPR story on tips for leaving the ugly American image behind when traveling:


One faculty in audience observed his best learning experiences were from his worst travel experiences. In India when his plane was cancelled and group stranded for 2 days - the hosts put the group up with Indian families... terrific opportunity.

-Erica Helm Chair, SU Dance Division
Spoke of her own global learning experience - her trip to Spain during her 2005 sabatical sparked interest in creating a stunning multimedia dance piece which I had the priveledge to see last fall about a medieval pilgrimmage across spain. Gorgeous. She will send me details on that which I will share later.

Random divergence: She poke of a group of Catalonian speakers in West Virginia who get together for coffee and chat each week - will also get more info on that.

-Julie Bean - SU Accounting graduate who I featured in my documentary about SU's Glocal Citizenship Project trip to Mali "Dance with the Baobab" is the essence of the expanded classroom. She approached our trip to Mali with a very open mind - had never really been outside the region before.

It has changed her life - she is now going to grad school.. and has started her own business called Crazy Beautiful Jewelry - making earrings.. the proceeds go to Malian women. All this because of how empowered and inspired she became from the Mali experience. She can be reached at jbean@su.edu

My take on the expanded classroom - what I know as a filmmaker is that visuals, character and story make a subject interesting. The same applies to an international experience - essentially students are walking into their own drama, meeting the characters, seeing connections. Important for those who take them there to be creative about intepreting the learning experience with and for the students. Small moments like Julie noticing that the houses were being constructed with scaffolding made of sticks - yet the cell phones were so sophisticated. That was a truly insightful comment - it says something about infrastructure - about how impoverished countries never got the landlines - they went straight to cell phones. Important to be creative about when learning is happening.

Also - big important point - this from Mr. Porteno - the media does a bad job of bringing and interpreting the world for us. An expanded classroom is the opportunity to become a primary source and take that back to our learning centers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Workshop on Global Classroom

I will be a panelist this Shenandoah University workshop on Thursday, May 19. I am a big believer in the benefits of "global learning" - how traveling abroad can empower and inspire. Documented an SU trip to Mali last spring for a film called "Dance with the Baobab" and watched a few participants bloom. It needs to be done thoughtfully, however - or it just is a bunch of priviledged kids on vacation with discussions thrown in. Moderator Gerry Kiefer is a terrific artist and original thinker so it should be interesting. More tomorrow on what the others say...

May Faculty Workshop Session: "Global Dynamics and the Expanded Classroom"
Thursday, May 18, 10 a.m.-noon, Hester Auditorium

This session will explore two interrelated themes: first, global learning (study abroad), global citizenship and global creativity (international experiences in dance, performing arts and visual arts) and how they constitute dynamic learning environments for both traditional and non-traditional students; and secondly, the synergistic potential of faculty, staff and students in an ongoing experiential learning community--a "global symposium." Panelists include Global Citizenship Program (GCP) participants as well as others with international experiences. The audience will be engaged to envision an ongoing “global forum” at SU.

Introduction of session and speakers, 10-10:10
Session Moderator: Geraldine W. Kiefer, Assistant Professor, Art History and Art

Plenary address, 10:10-10:40:
Robert Bersson, Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History, James Madison University.

Professor Bersson will illuminate “the global” in three senses: 1. in terms of holistic approaches to engaging students in the learning process; 2. in terms of multicultural and intercultural course content; 3. in terms of multicultural and intercultural contributions from the students themselves. He will employ a power point presentation, featuring works of art and photos of classroom activity, to bring these three areas to visual life. Questions and comments are welcome after Professor Bersson’s talk.

Named Teacher of the Year by the JMU College of Arts and Letters and Southeastern Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association, Bob Bersson is especially interested in teaching and learning at the college level. His presentations and writings over the past several years focus on student-centered, active-learning approaches to instruction. Author of the art appreciation/art history textbook, Responding to Art: Form, Content, and Context (McGraw-Hill 2004), Dr. Bersson is also a practicing artist and musician.

Panelists and interactive discussion, followed by questions, comments and projections, 10:45-noon:

Erica Helm, Chair, Dance Division , 10:45-10:55
Erica will describe two different experiences: touring with a performing ensemble, and touring with a group on a “study” experience. “Both have led to powerful personal/professional changes in the participants and paved the way for opportunities to extend the learning experiences into the Shenandoah community.”

Elaine Magee, Assistant Professor, Mathematics, 10:55-11:05
Traveling to a country and not knowing the language or culture can be challenging. “My international experience should give me an idea of how international students feel when they come to Shenandoah University.” Illustrating her talk with slides from her recent GCP trip to Turkey, Elaine will explore notions of social and cultural space.

Paulette Moore, Director/Producer Special Projects SUTV, 11:05-11:15
Utilizing clips from a program she produced seven months after her GCP trip to Mali, Paulette will present a participant’s reflection on the 2005 Global Citizenship Program. Documenting the Mali trip on video offered the unique opportunity to observe up-close the students’ anticipation of the experience, their growth throughout the trip and their ongoing interest in developing as global citizens since they’ve returned.

Gary Robbins, Chaplain, 11:15-11:25
There is much more to mission than a mission trip, but leading and participating in mission experiences provide opportunities to consider how life-changing experiences and service might be applied in future ventures, both abroad and at home. Spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and vocational insight can result from participation in a faith-based mission trip. Gary will be illustrating his talk with a brief Powerpoint presentation.

John Stevens, Director of Auxiliary Services, 11:25-11:35
John will give a participant’s reflection on the 2005 Global Citizenship Program.

Julie Bean, Alumna (SU Class of 2005), 11:35-11:45
Julie will describe her GCP experience on Mali. Julie’s visit was not only a life-changing experience, leading her to explore and value the beauties of Mali art and craftsmanship, but the impetus to her current project: making and selling jewelry to support Mali women.

First Blog Ever

Inspired by a recent University of North Carolina meeting I filmed in Granada, Spain about recording and preserving knowledge in the digital environment - I've decided that a blog is in order.
The Knowledge Trust is a terrific group inspired by the Dean of the School of Library and Information Science Jose Marie Griffiths.. a dynamic group of scholars and industry movers/shakers:
I am interested in exploring new applications for documentary and film - and new environments. I've put lots and lots of energy into traditional broadcast and cable outlets. Now it's become obvious (okay, late - but not never!) that it's time to reach beyond.
More soon.. but first - a link to an interesting media conference attended by one of the meeting participants Paul Jones Director of ibiblio.org at UNC.