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Squam Art Workshops – Spring 2015

I never wrote a blog post about the Squam Art Workshops before, though I’ve been attending since 2011. I suppose I never knew how to put it all into words: meeting great people, taking intriguing classes, dodging “woo”, and, well, the food.

So, how about some photos…

The lovely work of @supgup & @siercia #squamartworkshops

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@mindytsonas had a lovely "dream launcher" for us #squamlove #squamartworkshops

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#squamartworkshops #latergram

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Our cabin, Cliffside #squamlove #squamartworkshops

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@yarnonthehouse is my cabinmate at #squamartworkshops #squamlove living the dream

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This was on the way to the dining hall, though not done by @supgup and @sierca as I wrote on my original caption.

More @supgup @siercia #squamlove #squamartworkshops awesomeness

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Working at home later.

 

I also took Gudrun Johnston‘s Short Row class, which was really helpful – I really had no idea there were 4 different ways to do short-rows, and that the one way I knew – turns out I was doing it wrong. I took no photos in this class, as it was a knitting circle, basically. Her designs are beautiful, she had a container full of them where she showed us where she used short rows. Such an inspiration.

But, then, it ends. We say goodbye to everyone at breakfast and we go.

So to console myself on the way home there was a stop at Mr Mac‘s, which really needs to be a national chain.

Mr Mac's on the way home #glutenfree #squamartworkshops

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But, I mean, this.

Dock at Squam Lake #latergram #squamlove #squamartworkshops

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thank you, Squammies, for being awesome,

H

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2014 May 31 Appalachian Spring

For the last masterworks concert of the 2013 – 2014 season the CSO is playing the lovely peaceful Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copeland.

Mountains. Forest. Quiet.

Maybe I have a photo that would suffice. Like something I took at Rockywold Deephaven Camps while attending the Squam Art Workshops.

2014May31AppSpring2

Yep, it was just like that. Peaceful.

2014May31AppSpr5.75x2jpg

This mini one for the newspaper.

Concert tonight! Please come.

 

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What is the sound of two multiverses clapping?

Had my eye on the World Science Festival for a few years now. 2013 was the year the forces of the cosmos aligned and I was able to go. Fortunately I didn’t have to twist my BF’s arm to take the trip to NYC for this event, as he is a big nerd too.

We attended 4 events, had to get tickets ahead of time because things seemed to be selling out (yay, science!). Signed up for Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics – Thursday 5/30/2013 8pm, Infinity – Friday 5/31/2013 8pm, Destiny and DNA – Saturday 6/1/2013 3pm, and Multiverse: One Universe or Many? – Saturday 6/1/2013 8pm

The whole thing, ‘cept for the big broadway performance from Brian Greene, was down at NYU, near Washington Square Park.

Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics – Thursday 5/30/2013 8pm

I don’t have any photos of this event as I followed instructions and didn’t take any inside the theater, tho if you search instagram and flickr you can find plenty of other people’s photos of the show. 🙂

Going in I was expecting the typical panel discussion, even though we were in a swanky legit Broadway theater. Turns out it was Brian Greene doing rehearsed stage schtick about Quantum Mechanics, spooky action, quantum entanglements, etc, with 3 other actors and a nice multimedia show projected behind him. My nerdly self was thrilled. Through this show they got complex ideas across as well as taught a bit of the history of how physicists like Einstein and his contemporaries worked through these game changing ideas. Here’s an overview video from the WSF.

 

next we attended:

Infinity – Friday 5/31/2013 8pm

The theater waiting for “Infinity” to begin.

How do I say this? Truthfully, “Infinity” my least favorite talk. The description for this one said “Does infinity exist? Can it be found in the physical world? What types of infinity are there?“. Really the group ended up speaking about the last question: “What types of infinity are there?” One guy was working on infinity past the highest number you can count to, another guy was working on the infinity that exists between numbers 3 and 4, i.e. 3.11111111111, 3.1415927, 3.99999999998, etc. Interesting to think about, in and of itself, but I felt like the group of guys was arguing a point without having that point defined, and so no one came to any conclusion. The whole discussion was nebulous, and I felt like I was watching a pissing contest where no one knew what they were aiming for.

I, an aetheist, found myself agreeing most often with the person representing philosophy and religion, Philip Clayton. He cut to the heart of the matter a couple of times, finding a point to the discussion where the others were often speaking about their own research as an answer to a question that wasn’t explicitly asked.

Have a look at the video, jump around to listen to bits and pieces to get the complete gist of the talk.

 

then it was:

Destiny and DNA – Saturday 6/1/2013 3pm

If you watch one video from this post, watch this one, as it will give you information that will help you understand things happening in medicine right now, and more widely so in the next few years.

Epigenetics.

The premise of this talk was that, before recently, scientists believed that we inherit our DNA cleanly when we are conceived. Turns out this is not the case, we instead inherit our DNA with our specific markers already turned on and off depending on the lives our parents and grandparents lived. Different genes and traits are favored by the software that runs on the hardware of our DNA.

There was a NOVA on this topic, btw, which, of course, explained the topic beautifully.

Things like a predisposition to be overweight, or to be stressed, or to be super fit, or the ability to live to the age of 100, are influenced by things including the nutrition and stress levels of parents. The speakers were always very careful in how they spoke, because they realized there can be implications if, say, someone decided to go out and sue their own mother for being stressed and therefore causing them to be unhealthy.

All of the members of the panel had their own interesting research to share, as well as ideas on more research that could be done.

And then, members of the audience asked the best questions, my favorite being about culture and such influencing the health profiles of entire populations.

Seriously, this is the video to watch.

 

and lastly,

Multiverse: One Universe or Many? – Saturday 6/1/2013 8pm

oop, look, here’s Brian Greene again introducing the discussion.

Brian Greene introduces the talk about the Multiverse

This talk was very good, basically because of this guy, John Hockenberry.

John Hockenberry moderated the Multiverse discussion

John Hockenberry (great name!) kept everyone grounded and added just the right amount of snark to keep the tone of the discussion in the realm of accessibility by the audience.

The discussion was between Andreas Albrecht, Alan Guth (MIT!), Andrei Linde, and Neil Turok. Each working on different theories on the origins of our universe including the possibility of other multiverses, the “uni” goes away when we open up to the possibility of having more than one. Three of the four were working with the theory of the existence of multiverses, and one, Linde, landed on the side of ‘nope, just the one’.

My favorite part of the talk (besides Hockenberry carrying us nicely through the discussion) was towards the end when Turok opened up the possibility that there’s not one, nor many, but TWO multiverses that exist in tandem, constantly influencing each other. Guth laughed at Turok’s video, calling it two universes clapping, and dismissed the theory outright… ‘cuz what is science but the proving and disproving of theories with experiments and calculations… or just outright mockery. The moment was funny because it was fun seeing the scientists “throw down” over REALLY abStRacT concepts. My own opinion would be to give the two multiverses clapping theory a chance, yeesh.

Here’s the video, I think I need to see it again, if only to enjoy the moderator’s commentary, and perhaps some of the science here will make some more sense.

Oh, and check this out, people getting the physicists’ autographs.

Physicist signing autographs

Good times, to summarize: go to this event. The World Science Festival is a wonderfully unique experience connecting brainiacs with the curious public.

Nerd on!

– H

Click here for all my flickr photos of the trip.

P.S. & as a post script let me point out the three places I got tasty gluten free food at while we were down there. Nizza, just west of Times Square in Hell’s Kitchen, had great dinner and brunch, completely gluten free savvy, reasonably priced, and delicious. Bareburger, near NYU, served just what you’re looking for when you order a hamburger. And Pie by the Pound, for GF pizza downtown, yum.

Yes, I let my BF have some of my root beer float at Bareburger.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012

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NYC for The World Science Festival

I got to go! The World Science Festival is usually on the same weekend as the Squam Art Workshops, so I hadn’t been able to make it in the past. My life is normally about Nerd Fun without enough art and creativity so I will always pick SAW over the WSF if lucky enough to have the choice. Here’s my photos of the trip, I’ll do another post with details on the WSF events that we attended. Took AMTRAK, pretty relaxing so long as the train stays on the rails. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 Shot and edited with my iPhone5, fun shots of Queens on the way into town. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 We showed up in NYC for the first weekend of the invasion of Citibike. We hemmed and hawed about using the bikes to get around the city all weekend. We are accustomed to seeing this sorta thing in Boston already, and thought it might be fun. We walked around Midtown and Times Square, visited the International Center for Photography (does no one take museum worthy photographs when they’re happy? whole? away from warzones? not bleeding? just gimme just one happy picture??), visited a friend who works in the city… all while thinking about going in for Citibikes. The ICP is near the lovely Bryant Park where we saw four fellas playing Pétanque (kinda like Bocce) AND, there was a girl, maybe 10 years old, doing tumbling runs on the grass, cartwheels, back-flips, all sorts of gymnastic awesomeness… didn’t take a picture, since it was a girl and this IS the internet, I mean, duh. But, wow, she was fantastic. Still tho, Citibike? do we or don’t we? After pricing bike helmets knowing we each had helmets at home that we didn’t pack to take with us, we decided to get a two day pass for a hop-on-hop-off tour instead… more photo opportunities, more witty tour guide commentary, and more cool air (it was in the 90s and humid). coming and going, my vertical panorama Times Square from the bus The Empire State Building from the bus City shots … from the bus New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 Eataly. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 Marrimekko over Madison Sq, yeah, from the bus. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 city street panorama New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 We hopped off the bus at Battery Park with the intent of going directly to the Skyscraper Museum. Now, Aram and I are pretty lucky in the stuff we happen upon. And by lucky, perhaps I mean intrigued by a lot of what we find, where maybe other people don’t give a damn. So then we found this: New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 The National Museum of the American Indian, which is an offshoot of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington that we didn’t get to see when we were there last…in we went. So worth it.

Not to mention the building itself, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, is lovely to visit.

New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 We were down that way with the intent of going to the Skyscraper museum to see the exhibit on the Woolworth Building… saw this shot on the way over from the museum. And inside World Trade Center area … the Freedom Tower is almost complete. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 The memorial is such a beautiful design




New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
Thanks to the people that put the memorial together with such grace.

After the WSF talk that night we checked out this insideout project in Times Square.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012

Showed up for its last night, right before midnight. Stationed ourselves on the red TKTS stairs and watched the crown for a reaction.[★]
[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]People kinda didn’t notice.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
[★]New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
And so we watched the Statue of Liberty shake down tourists for $5

photo

Did I mention how Times Square is perfect for these vertical panoramas?

photoMore night shots.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012Spiderman telling a Danish woman that he couldn’t really hang upside down from the post.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012Yes, that’s Batman with Chewy and C-3PO.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012

Saturday was back on the hop-on-hop-off Greyline tour to Brooklyn.[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
The Woolworth Building.New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Ad for the Fung Wah bus (it’s shut down now, no?)
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012Over the Manhattan Bridge
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Everyone takin’ pictures
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Entrance to the Manhattan Bridge in black and white.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Uh, Brooklyn tour-guide dude, keep your head down.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Going to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge on the top level of a double decker bus is no problem. Coming back there’s no apparent railing, cable, fence, gate, protection of any sort that I could tell to keep tourists from plummeting from great heights into the East River. I spent the trip back over the bridge petrified, but trying to recall seeing any news stories about tourists getting dumped into the river… couldn’t think of anything… so I just focused on Manhattan Island and the guy in front of me… who also schooched his way towards the center aisle after he looked over the edge.
Glad I got a lot of shots on the way out of Manhattan ‘cuz I didn’t get any on the way back in, even if only for the fear of loosing grip of my smartphone.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
[★]Loved this building, btw. Reminds me of waveforms.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Yeah, this is the last shot I took of the bridge before my fear of heights took over.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]And the bus touches down from bridge flying in China town… I coulda kissed the ground, but for my fear of roaches, the smell of urine, and city grime.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
And here’s a few more shots from around NYU and Washington Square while we were coming and going from the WSF events.[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★][★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Detail on the “bow” of the Flat Iron building.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]BF through the glass of the same structure.
[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Just out of Eataly, holding onto my gluten free biscotti (with chicken in it), the light on the Flat Iron building was great.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
The last thing we did was see Alan Cumming in MacBeth… he played all the parts in the play by himself, including the three witches, and it is a travesty that he wasn’t even nominated for a Tony. He was crazy awesome (literally).
Most of the rest of the time was at the WSF lectures, which will be a separate post.
’til the next adventure…

 

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Ireland trip with photos

Ireland – June 2003

This first photo is from Glendalough, so green I had to put it first.

I arrived in Dublin at 11PM June 5, I tried a day flight over to see if it’d help with jet lag, it did. So there was no showing up at 5AM and not being able to check into the hotel ’til noon. I just showed up at night and slept immediately, it worked well. Friday I walked around the city, taking it easy. For night time I had tickets for the Abbey Theatre’s production of the Plough & the Stars (why do they name everything in Ireland after bars in Boston?). Here’s a picture of the Abbey Theatre.The play was great, as expected. On my first nightly walk up O’Connell Street to return to my hotel I caught this shot below of Parnell Square. My hotel is the building with the facade outlined in white lights. I’d been told to stay on my guard on O’Connell Street at night, and I ended up walking up it every night about the same time. No troubles at all. I found it worse during the day when the sidewalks were mobbed with people walking every which way, bumping into each other. I discovered that Dubliners walk like Bostonians drive.

On Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 4, I took a playwriting class at the Irish Writer’s Centre next to the Dublin Writer’s Museum (and a ballroom dancing place which I didn’t visit). Our class had lunch in the museum cafe on Saturday. I didn’t get to visit the museum proper until the 12th, on the morning of the day I left. It was well worth a visit to learn about all the great storyteller/writers that came out of Ireland.
This is the room where I had my class. I didn’t have the guts to ask my classmates for a photograph, but now I wish I had. I have this picture of a lonely room while we took a noontime tea break. The folks in class were great people, each one of them has at least a couple great plays in them. I hope we keep in touch. The teacher was fabulous, Tee O’Neill, an Australian playwright relocated to Dublin. She was very inspirational in getting each of us to figure out how we work best, and then standing by it. I found some of the information very similar to screenwriting, and some to be quite different. I took a lot of notes, and came up with an idea for a play… the trick, as always, is showing up to do the work.
Saturday night after class I had dinner at Eliza Blue, and then meandered all over Temple Bar. I came across this great Spanish guitar player/singer and watched him for a while. He took his guitar case away to stop collecting money because he said it was his last show before he went home, so he was playing for Dublin that night. He said that a lot of Spanish students go to Dublin these days to learn English, and I certainly saw lots of Spanish folks during my week there.The baby got a coin for being such a good dancer.
Sunday night after class I went on the “Literary Pub Crawl” as recommended by my cab driver coming in from the airport. It was a lot of fun. Two actors took all of us to four different pubs of literary significance, stopping in between to tell stories by and about all the Dublin writers: Becket, Wilde, Joyce, Behan, etc. They gave us quiz questions as the night progressed and at the end of the night gave away a t-shirt and two lil bottles of Jameson to three lucky quiz winners. Well, I didn’t get in any of the answers from the questions they gave us, but at the end they asked a dark horse question: Which US rock star is buried near Oscar Wilde in Paris? I offerred up ‘Jim Morrison’ and won myself a little bottle of Jameson ‘body lotion’. I can’t imagine this sort of thing ever happening in the states, I mean, the giving away of hard liquor on a tour, at least without a lawyer being involved. Pretty fun. Ask me about the Welsh’s guy and his identical twin brother story, and also about “eight plain clothes nuns”, can’t post ’em on the web.
These are pictures of our two tour guides.And the photo below is one of the pubs on the tour. There was a nice traditional band just starting up when we got there.

On Monday I headed for the coast.

This is the day it rained.

This is Bray, south of Dublin. The hill off in the distance at the right is Howth, north of the city. I bought a day ticket for the D.A.R.T. for 6 euros and rode the train from end to end. The rain on Monday was fine, it reminded me of home, funny enough. Every other day had plenty of sun, I heard later that it rained like crazy back in Boston while I was gone. Strange thing to go to Ireland to get good weather, but that’s what happened.

Took a nice walk along the beach here. Since it was a Monday and raining it was all but deserted. This place must get hopping on weekends in nice weather. I grabbed lunch and tea at the Heather House, walked into downtown away from the ocean, and then jumped on the train to go all the way to the other end on the north side, to Howth.
Boy was I cold by the time I got to Howth. I ducked into a shop and had tea and a scone to recharge for more walking. There’s a nice cliff walk around the point in this photo on the right if I had four more hours, plenty of sunshine, and better shoes.I met two young German women on the literary pub crawl, and then ran into them on Monday night at the Abbey Theatre. They said that they did the Howth walk that morning, said it was nice. I guess I’ll have to go back.
This and the next few photographs are of the St. Mary’s Abbey at Howth, the tourbook says “once a medieval seat of learning famed throughout Europe, now little more than a roofless 16th century shell”. The grounds have an ‘active’ cemetery, with quite a few recent burials. The flowers all over kept me snapping pictures.

Monday night I zipped over to the Abbey Theatre again to see if there were any tickets available downstairs at the Peacock Theater. Doldrum Bay was on, and yes there were tickets left. So I got to see another play while I was in town.

Tuesday was my birthday and I started out by taking a “Historical Walking Tour” recommended by the literary tour people. A history graduate student from Trinity brought us around and explained quite a bit about the history of the country. I met a New York student on her way home from studying abroad in Paris. She was bumming around Europe for two weeks before she had to go back to the States. After the tour we had lunch together, and then went our separate ways.
Then I ran around Dublin shopping. And then at night I had nice pizza at the Mona Lisa restaurant. I was supposed to be meeting bookcrossing people there, but I didn’t spot them. I ended up leaving a bookcrossing book on the hotel bookshelf. I was so wiped out from all the walking that I just made watching tv in the hotel room a cultural event for the evening after dinner. I wanted to rest up for the tour I signed up for on Wednesday.

The tour was a bus ride from the Gresham Hotel, near mine. It took us in a 30 person bus down through County Wicklow. We stopped at Dalkey, and the Avoca weavers, and then headed into Glendalough. This is a monastery established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. This cemetery also has recent burials for the families that inherited the plots.
Does this tour guide look like he’s related to Cap, or what?

The tour guide sent all 30 of us on a walk in the woods, twenty minutes to the upper lake. He ran back to the tour bus to meet us up at the lake after our walk.

Look at these green woods. I couldn’t get enough of them.
Between this forest, the coach house for the horses in Enniskerry, and Baggot House in Dublin I felt like I was in Middle Earth.

This is the view as we approached the Upper Lake at Glendalough. I saw our tour bus on that road on the right in the distance.
The Upper Lake at Glendalough. As we arrived at this beach our tour guide, Kevin, handed each of us a plastic shot glass. When we all gathered around he pulled a full size bottle of Jameson out of his pocket. We couldn’t leave the beach until we killed the bottle. Luckily there was thirty of us, and he didn’t drink any himself since he was driving. When I finished my first shot Cap’s clone was right there to refill, and I couldn’t refuse.He drove us to lunch right afterwards, good planning. I had some great Irish stew in a pub with another woman who was a solo traveler. She was from Singapore and has travelled all over the world.

I found travelling alone to be a lot of fun. I noticed that the people that travelled in pairs on the tours I took didn’t seem to meet as many people and weren’t as outgoing. I met so many great people on this trip.

Here’s a panorama shot of the Guiness Lake. They call it that because of the natural color of the water. The Guinness family owns the land at the bottom and that light strip of sand on the right was imported from Florida. It really makes the lake look like a giant glass of Guinness.

This shot out the front window of the hills around the Guinness Lake shows the view from my seat on the bus. Thirty people on this bus and I have to ride shot gun in the jump seat next to the driver. It was a great view out the front, though. This driver, as well as my cab drivers, asked if I was Irish, they always seem proud of the folks with the Irish heritage coming back to see the old country. Their manner of speaking, and sense of humor really reminds me of home.

After this tour on Wednesday night I got a fancy sandwich at the bar in the Gresham Hotel. Then I walked over to Trinity to meet my new playwriting friend who invited me to sit in on her informal summer writing class at a pub away from the city center. Again, I met great people, and got to get the writing group vibe in Dublin.

My flight out of Dublin was at 3:45 PM on Thursday, so I had time to get to do a few more things that morning. I went to the Writer’s Museum right after breakfast since it’s situated right near my hotel. Then I jumped on the Dublin City Tour bus. The one I took in 97 when I was in Dublin with the guys was much funnier, but this one took us up to Phoenix Park which I hadn’t seen before. The Guinness Brewery had a new sky high restaurant which I didn’t get to see. Again, I’ll have to go back some day.

Above are a photo of the James Joyce statue and the Olympia Theatre. When I got home I looked up the nickname of this Joyce statue, figuring there must be one, it’s “The Prick with the Stick” or “The Prat in the Hat”, cracks me up. Also, the Floozie in the Jacuzzi statue was removed from O’Connell Street and a giant spire was in it’s place (what’s the spire’s nickname?!). I guess Dubliners weren’t too fond of the Floozie, I thought she was cool. The tour guides said she’s in a basement somewhere now and will probably end up in St. Steven’s Green.
The Olympia Theatre is where Smoothie took us to see the Concert for Maureen in 97 with all the great female musicians, I really wanted to get a photo of it.

Here’s a shot upstream from the O’Connell bridge on one of my walks back to the hotel.
What a fun trip, I hope I get back there again someday.

thanks,

Heather

Member: http://tooloans.com

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“Joke” from Behind the Iron Curtain

Here’s a joke I heard during the communist summer of 1989 in Slovakia.

Three girls are in heaven, an American, a Slovak, and a Russian. They ask each other how they ended up there.
The American girl says that she wanted a car, so her family saved up for a year. Her father bought the car for her and then she went out and crashed it.
The Slovakian girl wanted a motor scooter, so her family saved up for a year. After a year her father went and bought her the scooter, and then she went out and crashed it.
The Russian girl wanted a bicycle, so her family saved up for a year, and she starved to death.

Yep.

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Pilgrimage to Hollywood

Creative Screenwriting Expo. Los Angeles, CA.
November 16 & 17, 2002

I am an east coaster who steeps daily in the science of high tech, using my spare time to find some magic in stories. On a quest for enchantment, I take a trip with some friends to a screenwriting seminar in the heart of that magical land known as Hollywood.

Arriving in Los Angeles, I am actively looking for the magic. We see a minor celebrity at the baggage claim, and it’s thrilling to have someone to jump out of pop culture and do something as commonplace as retrieve their luggage. Ok, this is what I’m looking for, if I have already been charmed at the baggage claim, I shouldn’t be disappointed. We board a shuttle bus packed with other budding screenwriters and we head off down the Los Angeles freeway towards our hotel. It’s night time and for a few moments a subway car with Friday rush hour commuters travels next to us on the elevated highway, we look at each other vacantly for a moment until the train descends from our view leaving behind flourish of blue sparks from it’s roof. I see magic in this. The motion, the sparks, the people, the night. We arrive at the hotel and it invokes the feeling that we’re in exotic Morocco. I’m entranced. I’m happy.

Saturday morning we walk over to the convention center to pick up our registration material and begin our classes. The number of people at this event is staggering. One long line for class registration, one for people participating in an on-the-spot writing competition, and another for the opportunity to pitch their story ideas directly to producers. I’m astounded by the number of people that have a stories to tell, and want, also, to be a part of the magic of Hollywood.

As classes begin I realize that there’s a science behind motion-pictures, and not just on the technical aspects of camera and lighting, but of story. From engineering school I know about how the internet works, computers, cell phones, television, etc; these things appear magical to those that haven’t studied the formulae and models used as a baseline to create these things. And I begin to see that the art of story-telling comes from a methodical study of human behavior, of how the human mind interprets images, remembers information, and connects thoughts together to achieve an experience. The most moving works in cinema start with that foundation from the earlier models and formalae, which is an analysis of the old tales, the mythology and folklore that comes to us from the mists of prehistory. More than one speaker spoke of Carl Jung’s archetypes and collective unconscious, and Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces.

The three speakers who gave me the most information were Kevin Downs, Richard Krevolin, and Melody Jackson. All three were good teachers that have read and analyzed countless screenplays, and could distill their knowledge into understandable morsels of wisdom appropriate for a two day seminar.

Kevin Downs spoke about character’s inner motivation. He used the example of Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal is a captivating character revealed through his actions. But it’s because of his solid inner motivation that his behavior rings true. Well, so, what’s his inner motivation? We think quietly for a moment, we have a hard time putting our finger exactly on it. Then Kevin tells us, Hannibal is a cannibal because he wants to prove his superiority by showing that he’s not a member of the human race. Yes, I think, of course. This is what makes him compelling without any blatant exposition in the film explaining this. His action gives us this information, but it comes to us at a base level of understanding. The audience couldn’t say it outright, but that’s it… he wants to be better than the rest of the human race, and he shows this by eating people while drinking chianti.

Richard Krevolin spoke about structure with a remote control in his hand as he fast forwarded through a tape of Stand By Me. He showed us how the movie is bookended by a modern day narrator, with the bulk of the story shown in flashback. The hero is a boy on a journey which will make him a man. The speaker shows us coupling, when a certain battle is lost in the first half of the story, it is there so it can be won in the second half of the story when our hero can then handle it. Our little hero spills some blood towards the beginning of the film, we learn this is a symbol invoking an initiation right. We hear the sound of flies on the soundtrack when our hero is simply walking along, we learn this implies death. I’m beginning to feel used at this point, am I such a chump to fall for all these machinations? The speaker tells us that we have to check in with the bad guys every ten to twelve minutes so the audience can see them being bad and they’ll remember this for the final conflict. If it’s more often then ten minutes, then it might not be the hero’s story, any less than ten minutes, we might forget about the bad guys. Toward the end of act two or beginning of act three we should have a revelatory monologue, so the actor that plays our hero gets a chance at the Academy Award. Now, I definitely feel used. Well, so if you’re watching a movie, how do you know when we’re transitioning from act to act? The music swells, he says, always. At this point I become cynical, though I hang on his every word. He says that if the writer’s hand if present, then the writer has failed, it should be an organic experience. Yes, I believe that’s where the magic lies, but how?

I find the answer in Melody Jackson’s lecture which began with new age music and the lighting of a candle. She spoke about tapping into the mythical archetypes to tell the most moving story you can tell. We’re trying to create the sort of movie that afterwards leaves you standing on the sidewalk outside the theater speechless. You know you were moved, but you can’t find the words explaining how. By using archetypal energies we can get there, she says. The archetype of the mentor, the trixter, or the eternal child. The father-son relationship, mother-daughter, lovers. Events such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, funerals. Dilemmas such as love vs. money or career or loyalty. Life changing moments as when the doctor calls you into his office and tells you he has bad news. That deep primal feeling you have when you hear this, that’s the level we want to reveal in our stories. Things we all can understand as we experience them safely with the onscreen characters as the vessels for our emotions.

And so, with all this newly learned information I walk back to my Moroccan flavored hotel feeling somewhat used and disenchanted, thinking all those years as a movie-goer were just me being duped by film-makers. I’m a beguiled puppet, how depressing.

Nearly back to the hotel, I see for the first time there in the distance, nestled into the side of a hill, the misaligned white block letters spelling HOLLYWOOD. I smile because I realize that I am willing to be manipulated to experience these timeless stories. And it’s a thrill to aspire to contributing to the behind-the-scenes wizardry. My pilgrimage to Hollywood was all I had hoped for.

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