Saturday November 17, 2001
Howard and I slept in pretty late that morning. By the time we were up and ready to face the world it was almost noon. We both wanted to go to a panel discussion at 1PM on web-based video distribution after the dot-bomb. That left us precious little time to get ourselves fed. But Howard assured me that we could go to Odessa and get in and out in time to make the discussion. To hedge our bets we ate at the counter. I got eggs benedict, and although I doubt the Hollandaise sauce was terribly authentic, it hit the spot.
We indeed got to the theater well before the panel discussion began. While chatting with Ioannis I said that I'd been at Lusty Loft the night before, and that I got some video footage of the jag's performance. Ioannis was very interested in this. Actually, he proposed that they screen some excerpts as part of the festival. I said that it sounded great to me, and unless the jag had any objections that it would be way cool.
Howard and I entered the space where the panel discussion was being held. We were a bit surprised to find it almost empty. There were six people on the panel, and three people in the audience, including Howard and me. One other person came in just as the discussion was beginning. Frankly I was perfectly happy to have these small numbers, because I had a lot of things I wanted to discuss with this panel, and the small turnout would greatly facilitate this.
The panelists were:
No sooner did the discussion begin than my cell phone rang. It totally echoed throughout the space, and everyone stared right at me. I apologized for not remembering to turn it off before the session began as I uncomfortably waited for it to stop ringing (I had no intention of answering it). Everyone else realized that they hadn't turned their phones off either. The whole panel proceeded to pull out their cell phones and punch buttons. When mine stopped ringing I shut it off and put it back in my pocket.
The discussion was very interesting. Kerry began by citing a two-year-old list of the advantages of web-distributed film and video. The bullet that I really connected with was the democratization of the distribution process. She then asked the panel if these advantages were still valid after the dot-com balloon burst. The consensus was yes. On a conceptual level the web was still viable as a delivery and distribution medium for small-scale independent film and video. The dot-bomb mostly affected shaky businesses that were more interested in issuing IPOs than in truly providing a useful service. If anything, the dot-bomb might improve the situation because a lot of the clutter was falling by the wayside.
The biggest issue facing the web, with respect to it being a video distribution medium, was the state of the technology at this time. No one really wants to sit at his or her computer and watch a movie on a screen the size of a post-it note. Don Thompson spoke of the AOL/Time-Warner merger, and the possibilities that it could foster. He mentioned AOL-TV, and how exciting it was.
Discussion then went on to regard the audience for web-delivered video. Simon Assaad spoke in some detail about the success of heavy.com. They were a subscriber service, and he said that subscriptions were going strong. He then went on to espouse the internet as a means of people getting their work into the hands of companies like heavy.com who could feature it. He told lots of stories about the many ways that content came his way, and how successful it could be on his site.
Finally they opened up discussion to the "audience." This was the time I had been waiting for. I said that I was a small-time independent video producer, and that I really wanted to use the web to deliver my product, but that I wasn't sure how to go about it. Rachel Melman plugged her company artstream.org as an affordable solution for video streaming. I wasn't able to stream video myself, and I was excited about the possibilities that artstream could provide.
I also went on to ask about how, in an ocean of content, I can get my stuff noticed and build an audience. I was looking for a magic bullet, but the panel confirmed my fear that there are no easy answers. I really needed to roll up my sleeves and do some hard work. The web is the ultimate collaborative medium, but it's up to the artist to make connections and build community.
There were a couple more questions, but that was pretty much it for the discussion. I was very glad I went. I left totally jazzed to get busy in my efforts to organize the queer microcinema community.
I checked the cell phone message that came in right at the start of the discussion. As I had suspected it was the jag. He was going to LeatherFest at the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. I kind of wanted to check out the scene, plus it would be a good time to ask him about screening some of the previous night's footage at the festival. The center was clear across town, so we hoofed it up to 14th Street and caught a cross-town subway train. The center was about a block away from the subway station where we emerged.
It was like $10 each to get in. That was a little steep, considering we were only staying for a few minutes, but I guess it went to charity or something. The jag was just inside the door. He gave me a copy of the GMSMA newsletter that had the article he was writing the whole weekend when I was visiting in September. I asked him about putting the Lusty Loft footage in the festival, and as expected he thought it was a great idea.
Howard and I wandered around a bit. There really wasn't a lot there. About the only thing I was interested in was a collar. The one I had was really a slave collar, and I wasn't always comfortable wearing that (primarily because it gave other people permission to treat me in a domineering manner whenever I wore it). There was one booth that had some interesting stuff. I stepped in, and the lady who was running it started talking to me. She was rather dogmatic. I guess that's not exactly uncommon in the leather community. She didn't really have what I wanted so I described more of what I was looking for. She said she could custom make one for me, but it wouldn't be as cheap as the stuff she was selling, because it was all made in *gasp* Pakistan. At first I thought she would be able to make something up for me on the spot, but she was talking about writing down the specs, making it up at her shop later, and shipping it to me. Eventually I took her card and walked away. The jag wound up buying a beautiful red and black leather whip from her.
There was one totally hot guy who had a booth of piercing jewelry set up. I wasn't really interested in any jewelry, but he was so hot I had to talk to him for a while. He had tattoos all over his body, and lots of facial piercings. We chatted for a while, but I was totally not listening to anything he was saying.
We wandered back around to where we'd come in. There was some fat guy with a barrel full of thingys to fit around your cock and balls. The sign said "3 for $10." That was a pretty good bargain, so I rummaged around. I actually only found one thing I was interested in. I picked it up and walked over to the fat guy.
"Your sign says 3 for $10?" I asked.
"How much for just this one?" I asked, holding up the item I wanted.
"Well, errr," he stammered, inexplicably perplexed. "I'm not really doin' that," he said. "It's just 3 for $10."
I stood there staring at him in disbelief for a minute. Finally I shrugged my shoulders. "As you wish," I said as I tossed the item back in the barrel and walked away. I couldn't believe that he would turn away a sale like that, but I didn't want the item badly enough to beg him.
Time was running short for Howard and me to get back to the theater for the 4:00 screening. It was a queer youth program, and neither Howard nor I wanted to miss it (both being unrepentant chicken hawks). The jag was hanging out at LeatherFest a little longer, so we said goodbye and headed out. Time was so short, actually, that we decided to take a cab. It was my first time in a cab the whole visit so far.
We got back to the theater with some time to spare. The lobby was really crowded, but I saw Ioannis and told him that the jag was cool with the idea of showing some of the video.
Ioannis said, "Yeah, well the only problem is finding time in a program to screen it." He seemed somewhat reluctant.
I wasn't sure what to say. "Well," I said, "this was your suggestion. If you're able to do it then let's do it. If not then say so and I'll forget about it."
Ioannis said he'd talk to the other festival coordinators and have an answer for me by the time the 4:00 screening was out.
Howard and I made our way up to the theater. Someone with a video camera was hanging out in the lobby shooting tape as people walked by. We weren't sure what that was all about. We went up stairs and sat down. The theater was very full. There was video playing on the screen. After a few moments we realized it was footage from the lobby downstairs. We figured that was what the camera we'd seen was all about. We weren't sure if it was a live feed, or if someone was sneaker-netting tapes up to the projection room every so often. In about five minutes we saw ourselves on screen walking into the lobby, so it was pretty obviously not a live feed. In a while the program was ready to begin. The theater was totally full. It was one of the best attended programs I'd ever seen at MIX.
The first video was an 11 minute short by a white girl. Her parents divorced, and it was pretty much an exercise in "woe is me" teen angst. It would have been better if it had been trimmed down to 2-3 minutes.
The second video was a documentary about the shutting out of queer teens of color from the Christopher Street pier. I learned that it had been the only safe space for gay and lesbian black and Hispanic youth to congregate and spend time together. Developers moved in and fenced them out, leaving no alternative space for them to use. It was quite well done, and in my opinion exactly what queer youth filmmaking should be about.
The third video was another "woe is me" teen angst thing, this time by a white boy. It, too, would have been better trimmed to 2-3 minutes.
The final video was another documentary. This one was about Green Chimneys Gramercy Residence, a group home for gay and lesbian adolescents. I learned that it was one of the only group homes in existence specifically designated for queer youth. The piece was a little short on message, largely being a bunch of kids goofing around with video cameras, but I found it very entertaining to watch. These kids who should be destitute and socially repressed displayed remarkable energy and humor. It could have been trimmed down somewhat from its 25 minute running time, but I still gave it thumbs up.
After the show the kids from the Christopher St. Pier video got up to answer questions. It was interesting for a while, but it went on for a long time. The kids were clearly enjoying being the center of attention, and it was hard to get them to quit. The guy who introduced the program was actively trying to get them to wrap it up, but it just kept going. The kids weren't being defiant or anything. They just got into one of those "...just one more thing..." loops and it was hard to cut them off. Finally they brought it to a close by announcing the after-party.
Howard and I went down to the lobby and found the jag sitting there. I found Ioannis and asked him about the video. He apologized and said that the festival committee just couldn't find anywhere in the festival to squeeze it in. Frankly I was just as happy, because it meant that I didn't have to try to get a tape ready. It would not have been fun editing something by dubbing it from my camera to Howard's VCR. Ioannis was very apologetic for getting my hopes up, but I assured him that it was no big deal.
Howard hung out to meet Keith for the 6:00 "Fuck Logic" program. The jag and I went off to get some dinner. We wound up at Stingy Lulu's off Tompkins Square Park. We had plenty of time, so it turned into a nice, relaxed meal.
I asked the jag what he knew of Tigger. The jag said that he'd seen Tigger at the Hustlers' Ball at The LURE. Tigger did a dance number apparently honoring the fire fighters in the wake of the September 11th tragedy. The jag said it was an interesting performance, except for an unexplained white powder at the end of it. Considering this was at the height of the Anthrax scare, it was a questionable element of the whole concept.
"Do you know what else he does for a living?" I asked.
"I don't know," the jag responded. "But it was the 'hustlers'' ball."
We also discussed how I was going to get the computer out of his apartment. I said that I could drive up to his place Sunday night, stay over, and leave from there Monday morning. I was uncertain about that, though, because I didn't know if I'd be able to find a parking space on his street. The alternative was to leave the car where it was and buzz by on my way out of town Monday, assuming that I could get to his place before he left for his office. He didn't seem to like either of those alternatives.
"I was hoping you would stay over tonight..." he said.
"Well," I countered, "just because I'm not picking up the computer doesn't mean I can't stay over anyway." It was agreed that I would sleep at his place that night.
While Stingy Lulu's was one of our favorite spots, the service wasn't great that night. The jag ordered a pasta dish, and the waitress brought him a pizza. Then we had to get ourselves our own ketchup because she didn't hear us ask for it. Then when we were done we couldn't find her to get the check. She didn't get a very generous tip from us.
We went back to the theater to watch the 8:00 screening. It was called "Heavy Petting" and was billed to "delve into our collective beastly subconscious." We didn't know what to expect, but it sure sounded interesting. Both Howard and Keith were there. We asked them how "Fuck Logic" was. They said that it was an aptly named program, but didn't elaborate much. We went upstairs and sat down for the 8:00 program.
The program proved to be quite eclectic. The first film was a semi-animated piece called "Spiders In Love." I wasn't sure what to make of it, but it was fast-paced and over in 3 minutes, so I deemed it to be adequately entertaining.
The next video, "Eels," was nothing more than MIX insider Patty Chang lying on her back while an assistant put live eels into her shirt. She squirmed and screeched the whole time. It sounds stupid, but I feel that this is exactly what performance art should be. It was laugh-out-loud funny. It also ended before it overstayed its welcome.
The next video, "G-Sprout," didn't really know what kind of a video it wanted to be. It started out about the difficulties vegans had finding love. We weren't really sure if it was sincere or a spoof. I couldn't relate, being a total carnivore, but it was interesting hearing them talk about what it's like being intimate with people who have animal juices emanating out their pores and stuff. But then they threw in a lot of really heavy footage they got from PETA about animals being horribly abused. That totally didn't fit with the rest of the piece.
The next video was called "Transanimals." It was a total spoof about cats born in dogs bodies and vice versa. It was very clever, but after the first minute or two we all got the joke and had to sit through the remaining time. There was a good laugh from time to time throughout the 12 minute video, but there was a lot of lag time between. It would have been better if it was cut way, way down.
Then there was a short film called "A Toetally Solefull Feeture Pedsintation". It was by the same person who did the first animated piece, and it was in much the same style. This time instead of it being a bunch of spiders it was a bunch of feet. Again, because it was fast-paced and short in duration, I thought it was good despite the fact that I didn't really get it.
Next was a 35mm animated film called "The Traveling Eye of the Blue Cat." It was 15 minutes long, but it seemed more like 45 minutes. There was no dialogue, and the visual symbology was impossible to follow. I was lost a minute into it, and the rest of the time I just had to sit there and wonder what the fuck was going on while I waited for it to end. It represented a lot of hard work, but it was all so esoteric and perplexing that I couldn't say I liked it.
The final video was called "Plushies & Furries." We weren't really certain if it was a spoof or if it was real. It was a documentary (mocumentary?) about people who have fetishes about dressing up in fuzzy animal costumes to have sex. It followed an 18-year-old guy who went by the name Yote (short for Coyote), who discovered like-minded people on the internet and got into the whole "fuzzy" subculture. He went to a ConFURence where lots of other people were walking around in fuzzy animal costumes. He "came out" to his mother, who was perplexed and flabbergasted. Either she was a very good actress, or it was a legitimate piece, because her exasperation with the preposterous nature of the whole matter was entirely convincing.
After we left the screening we continued to debate whether this was for real or not. The video was quite convincing, but I was certain that if this subculture existed that we would have heard about it. Still we were not 100% sure one way or the other. After I got home, however, I saw a promo for MTV's 10-Spot that featured the very same video. I've also since discovered the official website for the ConFURence, so I guess it's for real.
We walked around a bit while we waited for the 10:00 screening to begin. The program was "Scared Stiff III." I had been to at least one of the previous Scared Stiff programs in years past and found it interesting. It was all horror-themed stuff with a queer twist. But the real reason I wanted to watch this program was because it had Shawn Durr's latest film. Last year I had been blown away by his feature-length video "Fucked in the Face." In addition to being impressed by him as a filmmaker, I was also rather smitten with him as a person. He was tall, young, cute, and talented. That's quite a combination for me. I had exchanged some emails with him after MIX 2000, and I was very excited to see his new work.
The first film in the program, "Marcilla," was pretty forgettable. It looked beautiful, in richly textured black and white film, but there was no way to follow the plot. The second film was so trippy I didn't know what to make of it. It was a behind the scenes look at the making of "Dandy Dust," a German tranny/splatter/sci-fi movie. The movie itself looked like one of the most entirely fucked up productions in the history of film. And I've seen a lot of fucked up movies. This piece was essentially a prolonged trailer. I would rather have seen the movie itself.
Next came Shawn's film, "Chopstick, Bloody Chopstick." I'm not really sure what to say. I wanted to like it so badly. But it was kind of like comparing John Waters' "Cry Baby" to his earlier "Desperate Living." They were two entirely different things. Technically it was rather interesting, displaying multiple shots in multiple panels on screen simultaneously. But in practice that made it rather hard to follow. Shawn appeared on camera this time, and was the only one with any dialogue. It was difficult to make out what he was saying, though, because of the poor acoustics in the theater (a problem I had had with most of the films I'd seen all weekend). The line that got the biggest laugh was unintelligible to me. Like I said, I really wanted to like it, but I can't say I did.
The final film appeared normal, but by virtue of the fact that all the voices sounded like mini mouse, I figured that the film speed had been accelerated. This was supported by the fact that it seemed to end much sooner than the posted 22 minute running time. This was fine with me, because I really just wanted to get out of there at this point.
The jag and I said goodbye to Howard and Keith. We didn't even consider the subway, but rather caught a cab up-town. The driver took the East Side Expressway. It was interesting comparing it to the West Side Expressway I'd come down two days prior. The only conclusion I came to, really, was that this driver was much more insane than I. He was totally all over the place, missing other cars and cement barriers by inches. We got off the expressway and headed up one of the avenues. The traffic lights were all sequenced so that we could ride a wave of lights that turned green just as we got to them. The only problem was that he was driving just a little faster than the speed the lights were programmed for, so we kept hitting each one just before it turned green. If someone driving cross-town had tried to make the yellow light we'd have been fucked.
Alas, we made it to the jag's street without getting in an accident. Having been at the jag's a few times before, I figured that there would be no food in the apartment. The jag confirmed this assumption. I needed at least something to put in my stomach if I had any hope of getting to sleep, so we popped into a local store. The shelves were practically bare. All I could think about was the movie "Half Baked" where the chief character explained that this was indicative of a store that was only a front for marijuanna dealers. While I was perusing the meager wares on hand, some lady came up to the jag and said she and her mother needed some help. The jag just ignored her, which sent the woman into a bit of a rage. I wanted to at least find out what kind of help she needed, but I deferred to the jag's judgment. I wound up getting a corn muffin and we high-tailed it back to his building.
Soon we were safely in his apartment. I wolfed down my corn muffin. We pulled out his bed and took off our clothes. He lit some candles and we had some long, slow, intense sex. When it was over I fell dead asleep.