This Is My Niece, The Doppleganger

Leighton and Myself

We're trying to convince people we're unrelated. No luck.

I have a niece.  She’s quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  She’s also smart, curious, talkative (for a non-talker), a good sleeper and a great eater.  She’s the apple of my parents’ (her grandparents) eye.  In fact, she’s one of those babies that is amenable to and thus loved by everybody; quiet, inquisitive, smiley.  And she seems to me very much the product of my brother Mervyn and his wife, Amy.  Which is probably her greatest asset.  If she ever turns out to be some fraction of them split down the middle, she’ll be one awesome human being.  She was born in Kuala Lumpur almost a year ago and will celebrate her first birthday in just over a week’s time close to her new home, in her maternal grandmother’s home in Toronto.

Her name is Leighton.

And she looks a lot like I did at her age.  Which is to say, I looked a lot like a girl baby.  Heck, even my parents dressed me in baby girl clothes.  And while I think those feminine foundations are partly responsible for my rather stunning and delicately handsome face, let us be honest and hope poor, little Leighton goes no further than her infancy in resembling her 34 year-old uncle.  But beyond babyhood resemblance, I hope and expect that we will have a long future together discovering the world, making peace with and understanding all the things in it, and generally growing up.

She is very cool.  Happy 1st birthday Leighton.  Love, me.

Leighton and Myself and the Future

Looking together, towards a bright future (our Chinese propaganda poster)

Don’t Call It A Comeback

In the immortal words of LL Cool J, I would like to quash rumours of this blog’s out-and-out demise.  But unlike everyone else that has invoked this statement-to-end-all-fake-retirements since, I will temper the promise of its bluster and bite with caution.  After all, didn’t LL himself lurch slowly towards a consistent, downward trajectory after the high highs of this massive 1990 re-branding?  Let us not fathom my words and ideas pulling the equivalent of clinging to a co-starring gig on a b-network, CSI knockoff (if that’s still around whatsoever) less than twenty years later.

Sorry LL.  Not so sorry Mike Tyson.  You neither Brett Favre.

Seriously though, let’s not get hopes up with this fresh, year-plus-plus-in-hiatus, digital ink.  One, you’re probably already snoozing through these sentences at this point.  Two, what the hell am I going to write or post about anyway?

In its previous incarnation, this ramble of flickering e-waste was–whether I acknowledged it or not–essentially a travelogue.  Most posts were blatantly so; others, just tangential digressions often compelled by boredom or resulting from pockets of time borne of my near-constant movement.  Things work better for me when I’m on the move.  Thoughts are fresher, experiences that much more varied.  While I doubt anybody’s best quality is stasis, it is most certainly one of my worst.  I love lethargy (it has its own nuances, cultures a private world not beholden to the strictures between fantasy and reality), but like anyone else, I indulge it at the expense of other things: writing, drawing, painting, designing, creating–pretty much anything.  And because I rarely do anything half-hearted, for me it can be a particularly severe investment/divestment.  I am quite content to be cast adrift and float further into the shapeless unknown—in fact, the traveling, the itchy feet as I call it, are direct evidence of this.

So, what to write and post about?  The weather?  An endless stream of shop talk and work complaint?  My favourite movies?  Half-cracked rants against organized religion and conservative politics?  Or perhaps my ever-expanding repertoire of romantic failure?  Maybe just the mundane of my everyday life?  All of the aforementioned actually sound like surefire means to add this resurrection to the trash heap of epic comeback fails.

Stay tuned.

And give suggestions.

Universal Truths: Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Reality is slicker than the West Wing, and being good is dead-sexy (to me)…

So, a couple of days ago now we had our regular, 18-month dose of Burmese injustice and its accompanying day of paltry (but necessary and warranted), global media outcry as Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi was again sentenced to another 18-month term of house arrest in Yangon (Rangoon) by Myanmar‘s ‘benevolent’, ruling military junta. It is a sad, sordid and ongoing tale that I needn’t illuminate (nor could my regurgitation do it the necessary justice) here. But, other than the added wrinkle of having this latest of her trials hastened by the bizarre incident of a night-swimming, trespassing American man’s foray onto her estate, the story remains the same. Justice for a brave, non-violent icon and the millions of long-suffering compatriots she suffers for and with, once again stifled by the power-lust of but a violent and evil few as the rest of us living in comfort faraway squirm and sympathize with a conciliatory day-or-so’s worth of rehashed horror and distant condemnation. A total farce. And one with sadly dire, real dimensions.

So much so, it’s easy to focus on the negatives.

Shepard Fairey's (of Obama/"Hope" poster fame) giving Suu Kyi the propa-graphic treatment

Shepard Fairey's (of Obama/"Hope" poster fame) giving Suu Kyi the propa-graphic treatment

But even amidst this bleakness and the outrage I should feign as a proper world-citizen, I find myself strangely compelled by the Aung San Suu Kyi struggle for wholly different reasons. Not majority reasons by any stretch. And not simply the kick I get out of invoking the term junta liberally. But certainly a reason worth the hesitation of admission. Plainly put, I think Aung San Suu Kyi is rather sexy.

Is that wrong?

While admittedly and obviously odd, I wonder if it is a tad déclassé to remark on attractions (sexual and otherwise) towards political prisoners of unassailable, vintage righteousness? The whole ordeal (which I’ve suffered for some time now) further confounds me for my general tastes do not immediately run towards the feminine of my own loose, ethnic persuasion (Asian), nor do they often—if at all—encompass those decidedly senior to me. While I do recognize an extremely comforting and agreeable consistency to the beauty of Asian women (I am even proud of this fidelity and standard of cultural and biological craftsmanship), I did grow up around many, and there has always been a lacking for a reliable, case-by-case uniqueness that is (for better or worse) my libidinous wont. And though I would never in a million years discount a beauty that can come, sustain and/or improve with age, I rarely feel I would be moved to a point beyond issuing the odd claim that, “there goes one handsome woman.” Both these deplorably judgmental principles in concert should doubly disqualify Aung San Suu Kyi. And yet, I find her compellingly beautiful. Is it the floral bouquet worn in her long hair, out-of-style but suddenly in-style for its rarity; both classically elegant while simply and honestly resonant of a distinctly regional fashion vernacular? Is it that wonderfully articulate voice flavored by its high, Indian prep school English and offset in a sophisticated, non-regional tone from years of global conferences? Is it the climate and a dedicated pursuit of the lettered arts that allow skin to glow and age to suspend itself in the air? Could it be I just find goodness sexy?

At home with the world's most attractive dissident?

At home with the world's most attractive dissident?

From projecting an external vanity onto public figures who probably eschew it, to a public figure that revels in it: Bill Clinton. Yeah, he’s still probably reaping-in positive sentiment (though, the red-colored flack is mounting) for his supposed, “off-the-reservation, cowboy heroics” in Pyongyang more than a week ago. And yes, to a definitive degree he deserves some credit (the mission worked, after all). But honestly, this was one slick, win-win political maneuver that (other than his consent and presence) he had little to do with. Some people get the satisfactory belt notch if they feel that’s what a novelty photo-op with a minute mad man, and a glitzy, stateside splash complete with effusive and grateful waterworks from a couple of liberated damsels who work for your old pal deserves. That’s cool. But others (should) get the satisfaction of pulling-off a real-life, only-in-John-Wells’s-wildest-West-Wing-dreams type operation. That sort of Jed Bartlettian cool should only really occur within the fantastical bounds of a televised hour of completely made-up television. Seriously.

Heads of State Date.

Heads of State Date.

Okay. So you’ve got two nationals rather obviously detained within the world’s most secretive and impenetrable country. It’s run by a man who’s not playing with all his marbles but does command one of the world’s largest armies and takes a step closer to nuclear armament (if he isn’t already there) every day. It’s of the utmost, global importance that relations with this notoriously icy and isolated regime remain stable, if not vastly improved—and soon. But there is no popular support for open engagement because of alleged atrocities, and its simply a no-go in any manner to demonstrably consent to this regime’s outlandish behavior lest it open the door for widespread, international extortion. These two, poor hostages are suddenly symbolic pawns used to escalate a dangerous agenda, but with a rabid media back home are hyper-humanized with each 24-hour news hour blunting the intricate dimensions of the issue for a public that needs cut and dry bad guys. What do you do? What can you do?

Well you know this: the little emperor‘s got some peculiar celebrity fetishes, and well, you’ve got a celebrity fetishist of sorts at your matrimonial disposal who also happens to be a person of (still) considerable political, representative heft. You know you can’t give any type of mission official blessing, so your envoy’s got to be non-official while still official in some way. A high profile, back-channel maneuver while a complete oxymoron, is really your only move. Get an independent, entertainment industry billionaire and a giant chemical conglomerate to bankroll your carefully selected candidate, and… BAM!

Not only is the rescue and the ability to refrain from having to make an official overture or suggest a new policy or approach a coup, the most impressive thing is that suddenly, you’ve opened-up some—however non-official—means of dialogue. Hell, you’ve even brought somebody back to the bargaining table without rather mercurial China making an international song and dance to carry-out your request. Like I said: slick. And serious proof that not only is the whole Hillary and Barack thing working-out rather well and tactfully, but that these two mo-fo’s aren’t messing around.

Someone else ain't messin' around either!

Someone else ain't messin' around either!

Universal Truths: Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Sometimes continental land masses need to get cozy, and the importance of organized nonsense…

heartbeats for giant rocks.

heartbeats for giant rocks.

This morning I happened across news that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake (2009’s biggest thus far) experienced at the Southern reaches of New Zealand caused the land mass to lurch Westward towards Australia by a whopping 30 cm (12 in./1 ft. for the metric-impaired). (read: original article). The good news is, having been centered out in the middle of the ocean, the enormous quake (New Zealand’s largest in 80 years) caused no harm nor any major damage. The better (or rather, cooler) news is that in conjunction with its immense power and New Zealand’s position atop a tectonic plate boundary, the action “twisted” the country’s South Island tip (and thus the country) closer to its neighbor, Australia by a distance normally covered in hundreds of years.

Now I understand that Australia and New Zealand have long been affiliated—have been close. Historically, culturally, geographically, in funny accent quotient and overall weirdness factor, it’s an obvious fit. In fact, I have met about as many people who don’t know the difference between the two, Commonwealth nations than those who do. Sad, but true. Chalk it up to being on the other side of the equator, often out of season, often in the dark and generally too far away from the ignorant masses that carry the Western culture monopoly in the Northern hemisphere. But, if anything a past decade’s worth of meeting and getting to know many a good Kiwi and a fine Aussie has hammered home to me, it is that there is a friendly, but fiercely guarded difference. In fact, much like I or most any of my national brethren would bristle (politely) at being unwittingly (or even wittingly) misrepresented as American, Australian and New Zealand nationals are likewise in disfavor of being mistaken for one another.

So you will excuse me a snicker if I get a kick out of recent proof that your two countries are getting antsy and overly anxious to be geologically close. It’s cute. If you think of the lifetime of these glacially-paced, tectonic movements as that of a long and thorough romantic coupling, what Australia and New Zealand have just witnessed is the moment at the junior high dance where both parties finally clue-into each other’s mutual urges, gaze into each others’ eyes, and completely unsure, frightened and misinformed, the overzealous boy-suitor’s hand spasmodically, involuntarily leaps onto the unsuspecting, ribbon-haired, freckled girl’s adolescent breast. It is innocent, endearing, but at this stage of nascent romance, a huge step. Which begs the question, what’s your move now Australia? The prissy, reflexive slap to defend and define your honor? The polite but awkward and potentially crushing soft letdown? Or are you the type of girl that doesn’t mind skipping to second base?

the male of the species undertakes its ornate mating ritual for the benefit of the female.

the male of the species undertakes its ornate mating ritual for the benefit of the female.

And yes, I’ve cast you as the girl in this metaphor dear Australia—and don’t think that isn’t intentional, just proper thanks for your lovely ladies and your practice of drowning the rest of us in your easily-branded, über-macho human exports. However, both New Zealand and Australia ought to seriously consider the implications of the Pangea-ic road they appear to be going down. Heed the example of the aforementioned Canada, lest either of you wake-up spooning for eternity with the United States and knocked-up with Alaska.

* * * * *

Recently, I was having a protracted chat with a dear friend about icon design. This topical matter had flowed quite naturally from an earlier conversation about industrial design. And I surmise, that with this particular friend, future discussions (along with past ones) will traipse the territory of software design, architectural design, fashion design, design, design, design. That’s just how life and verbiage work around J. Schmidt.

Of course, such impractical, heady, world-fix-it talk tends to stick with me. I haven’t much else to do these days. Luckily it wasn’t long before I stumbled across mention of the whimsical, but conceptually ambitious, Dollar ReDe$ign project in the NY Times online. I’d often been victim of the staid, monotone, heg(d)emonic uselessness of American paper currency, long wondering when it would be updated and rendered more sensible with good design. For all its residual pomp and sentimental ties to an uppity formal classicism in illustration, at least contemporary Canadian money has the sense to color-code. An overhaul of the American brand is definitely overdue, and what better time to pursue good design than the present? Kudos to Richard Smith for laying out a forum that seizes the current zeitgeist of change stateside and creating an open competition. Flickr-up the results here.

The sober re-analysis of how we better convey iconographic information with better design led me to think about information graphics or infographics. Now, this is a fairly common segment/design-thought crevice for me to fall into. I have stumbled here in the dark many times before. The day job tends to keep me around signage and way-finding and other graphic extensions of someone, some company’s, some place’s ultimate brand (their architecture). And naturally, should I find architecture (in its most idyllic light) to be this unrelenting process of refining an idea until not one designed, physical-world misstep occurs, it follows that the exacting practice of taking essential information and enhancing it to complete understanding with the simplest, most powerful graphic possible would be of fascination. Of course, by the time my famously curt attention span has swam around this world of icons and infographics for several days, I am a bit spent. While there are many a fine outpost churning-out relevant, design-enhanced data (for instance, the wonderfully named always with honor, or this cat who graphically mapped his understanding of the complexities in Spike Jonze’s film, Adaptation), I found myself most intrigued by this set of Nonsense Info Graphics by Chad Hagen.

It is one thing to bring good design to the essentials—no shortage of skill or artistry is required for doing a good job of it. But to make nonsense sing with the authority of meaning, that probably demands an ounce of magic.

Nonsense Chart No. 1

Nonsense Chart No. 1

Nonsense Chart No. 3

Nonsense Chart No. 3

Universal Truths: Monday, July 20th, 2009

People who are already cool get cooler, and despite global recession, human organs will always be a hot commodity…

If you needed any further proof that the first thing that happens to a person when they hit that rare and magic nexus of being rich AND evil is an all-consuming desire to live forever (or as close to it as possible), look no further than the recent case of openly illicit organ trafficking in the Philippines. It appears that a Saudi Arabian man’s attempt to get himself a new kidney via fake marriage with a Filipino donor has been uncovered in Manila. It all fell-through at the hospital before the scheduled transplant when staff sensed a sham amidst the newlyweds—neither of whom spoke any language the other could comprehend. Of course, one aspect of marriage held true—this case, as in all, the new groom proved classically impatient (how hard would it have been to wait a couple weeks before stealing your discount organ less brazenly?).

It’s beautiful no doubt, I have many a friend and family from there, and I still want to visit, but honestly and without any hint of condescension, the Philippines is a weird place.

In all seriousness of course, this creepy foray into the global, socio-economic paradigm that allows for the ever-escalating trade in spare, stolen, law-circumventing and dirt-cheap organs is appalling. It screams about the (increasing) vulnerability of the poor in our contemporary times, and the wholesale willingness for some to exploit it, and the whole systems standing by, doing little and watching it happen. Some of the figures in the article are quite horrifying. The statistical suggestion that up to 81% of kidney transplants could be the product of organ “sales” and that 51% of the same total were sponsored by foreign recipients points to a system that’s been leaking and a rogue channel that’s been robustly active for quite some while. And when the price tag for the commodity in question is known to be less than $2,000 per, and business is booming, one has every right to chuckle in despair. It is real, morbid shit.

Equally into traversing morbid terrain, but with a much more surprising and positively welcome outcome would be the low-fi goth-folk antics of Los Angeles-based, Dead Man’s Bones. I’d heard about these guys a little while back (casually dismissing the information as trite, trivial fodder to accompany another boring stretch of day), but was reminded recently of them by friends and directed to the video below today. Dead Man’s Bones (yes, the name feels like cheap, easy poetry taking a stab at the forceful imagery of black silhouetted riders and bare white skulls) is the musical project of one Ryan Gosling and band-mate, Zach Shields. Mr. Gosling is better known as an actor these days—an at-times popular one (The Notebook), but also seen as a fiercely talented one (The Believer, Half Nelson). I’ll admit he’s cool; I enjoy his films, he seems to work hard at his job, he’s a fellow Canadian, and well, he was responsible for hooking-up the pitch-perfect score contribution by Broken Social Scene on the intense, excellent and aforementioned Half Nelson.

Of course, its near-impossible to abstain from a cynical, sly roll-of-the-eye when any actor or actress—no matter how cool—gets off set with the intention of recording a record. These educated misgivings have statistics on their side. The results for success are bleak based on the historical data (and I won’t mention any of the worst case examples, because it is too fun a game figuring them out for yourself). And when you hear some guy known for the serious, methodness of his acting style is intimating his audio output be best-described as goth-folk, you’d be excused if you were smelling the smoky fumes before seeing that plane going down in flames.

Naturally, the whole project works. It’s even quite good. All the bases are covered. You can’t fault naive musicianship—it was conceived as just such an experiment, with both players taking-on instruments they’ve never before played and forcing themselves to bed tracks in three takes or less. They rope-in a children’s choir to help deliver all these melancholy tales of ghosts and death and haunted places of the heart. Then they go off and film videos as single-take performances with these cuter-than-cute, costumed munchkins. And really, the result of their work (thus far—the self-titled debut is released in October on Anti-) is a scruffy, baroque, and joyous take on both the subject matter and the sturdy, historically-tinged vernacular of American music. Arcade Fire, Bonnie Prince Billy, and whole raft of conscientious indie twangsters who know a good antique polish on pop music when they see it are all over these simple recordings. It is grudgingly good because pretty-cum-scruff boy Gosling is so much easier to hate than say, the effervescently cute Zooey Deschanel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Media Failure

When it gets too easy, best leave your wit at home.

When it gets too easy, best leave your wit at home.

When I woke up this morning (which in reality, was this afternoon), I went downstairs, and is my habit, turned my attention to the morning papers as water boiled for my coffee. The paper of choice (not my choice) in this household (not my household) being, and always having been, the Toronto Star. Which, if not the most challenging of daily publications, I had always understood and respected as moderate, competent, and with a disposition of weighing less towards sensationalism and more on the side of integrity. It is a populist paper, and I can accept that, and I can admit that I have never failed to glean useable information on a consistent basis from it. It delivers decent news to a large number of people—and nowadays, that is not as easy to find as it sounds.

But then, I was confronted with the above image blown-up on the front page.

No, it wasn’t the photo accompanying a side-bar anecdote. Yes, it was the only front page picture to reference the major story (which covered the equally major issue of the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy), the headline being “Rich nations to pay green tab”. Incongruent? Sure. Indecent? To some, maybe. Irrelevant? Almost entirely. Irresponsible? Debatable. Irresistible? Obviously.

Look. I get it. Whether I’m an editor, a layman, or even less qualified, just me—this photo crosses my desk, I’ll smirk, I’ll know it is funny, I’ll instantly notice its value selling copy, its value as some kind of story. But do I run it in the context and the publication I described above? No way.

And before you launch into hysterics, no, I am not an Obama apologist. It’s July 10th, and despite the demands and complexities of the monumental tasks before him (and taking into account how long it will take before actions bear results), I still wonder how much he’s actually done with his mixture of authority, mandate, and the seemingly universal goodwill at his back. But, that’s not the point. You could exchange Obama and Sarkozy for Hitler and Mussolini in this photo; its all about where this publication and its editors and publishers want to place the information they present (and by association, themselves) on the ever-widening and highly debatable “news spectrum”. If this is the kind of corny, light (but curiously leaden with judgement) “human interest” spin you feel the need to run on the front page, by all means, join the tabloid racket. Cut the pretense of serious journalistic pursuit, simplify the mixed graphic-to-text signals, and write the funny, or damning, or antagonizing story you mean to show. That’s cool; I don’t begrudge that choice or the market it has created—it’s at least honest about what it is. And sure, I get wanting to have your cake and eat it too, but this is journalism you’ve chosen to fuck around with, and there’s got to be an ethical line drawn and sides have to be chosen.

You purport to report serious news. As soberly and without bias as you can, you say. And you draw on the experience of many seasoned journalists and newsmakers. And most importantly, you see your publication as having a responsibility to perform these functions for a public paying its hard-earned coin to be informed. Then resist. You already know someone else will run the photo. Take the high road. You’re not CNN. Not yet at least. And vishnu forbid you get to Fox News level.

Later, in the online version of the venerable, local publication, I found that they had set aside a page and invited online readers to make an amusing caption for the snap. Naturally, a slew of obvious, unimaginative, almost uniformly cheeky (no pun intended), regularly sexist, and occasionally funny submissions ensued. As per the online nature of things and befitting the image, a consistently racy tone is tolerated by The Star’s “moderators”. So, I decided to submit my own entry. It was exactly as follows:

We at The Star…

Apologize for this rather unfortunate, but seemingly ongoing lowering of our (former) journalistic standards. While we concede that public figures such as Mr. Obama and Mr. Sarkozy are not above scrutiny, we fully accept our crass attempt to report non-news for pure sensationalist value, knowing full well that we sidestep ethical responsibility and invite editorial insinuation to happily (mis) shape public perception. We fully appreciate the humour of you, our readers, and we sincerely hope that you continue to patronize our publication when it moves to its esteemed place amongst “lighter news” fare at supermarket check-out counters everywhere.

Somehow, despite the notion of public forum and all reasonable views openly tolerated, my quip failed to pass muster with moderators and I have yet to see it posted.

A Natural History of My Imagination

Story-boarding on the fly.

Story-boarding on the fly.

Recently, I was reminded of an old, shelved, near-forgotten exercise in super 8 that my friend Lee and I had undertaken while I was visiting him in Argentina. This was back in 2004. I was fresh from my short stint in Shanghai, and couldn’t quite bring my travel-happy feet to a standstill. Home—as I understood it—was settling back in Toronto, and settling was a shaky proposition to me. Besides, Lee and I had been pinging correspondence back-and-forth across hemispheres, and I was seduced by the always novel rush of seeing an old friend in a strange, new place. Also, I had always wanted to see Argentina; having heard the food was tasty, the culture sublime and the people exquisitely handsome. After about a week or so in Buenos Aires proper gorging on asado a la parilla, overdosing on art openings, and walking about slack-jawed and in awe of the beautiful youth, a short surf trip to Mar Del Plata on the country’s Atlantic coast was proposed. A seemingly good idea; I think all parties were itching for some manner of escape from the spatial restriction of the city. I had elementarily learned to surf (poorly, arguably, not at all) the summer before, Lee was actually getting good at it, E. enjoyed it, and all of us needed the sort of space an ocean suggests from one another. Not that we quite knew it as we got on the bus, nor was it really possible in the end.

The other guise for the urban flight was a chance for us to come up with an idea (or rather, excuse) to justify exposing some of Lee’s unused super 8 stock. In the end, it was the other way around—we exposed the film and cobbled-together some thin semblance of a narrative during, but mostly after the fact.

I had been sketching random, real-life portraits in my various sketchbooks, journals and Moleskines with the illustrative license of giving human bodies distinctly animal heads for quite some time. There was no real rhyme nor reason for it, I guess I was just getting bored of convention. The habit was discovered while we were discussing and sketching-out ideas for another story (one we had intended to film at the surreal salt flats of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia) in the days before heading to Mar del Plata. Seasons and flight times conspired against that idea, but in the process we had formed a new idea around my strange drawings. E. had been the muse for the initial idea and had appeared in several earlier shorts Lee shot prior to my arrival, but no longer wanted to be on film. Such is the precarious nature of mixing your art and your girlfriend, I reckoned at the time. I ended-up playing the focal character, the Naturalist, and with prodding Lee played a character we had developed from an old joke we shared with other friends called, Gay Raver Cowboy. Ostensibly, the tale is of a seemingly normal naturalist who begins to misinterpret people as fantastical creatures in his studies and observations. His increasing madness is represented by dream/fantasy/hallucinatory sequences haunted by the imaginary Gay Raver Cowboy figure. That’s about as far as we got working-out a narrative. Then, as if the fictional madness was our own, we ran around shooting scenes as and when they struck us—or, more commonly, when we thought we saw something, anything we thought deserved exposure to film. Attempts to surf at sunset, an abandoned concrete structure, an elderly bather smoking in time lapse with the sea’s crashing waves as backdrop.

Meanwhile, an authentic fraying of our minds was setting-in. We were living on top of one another in a small, rented semi-detached cottage. The off-season vacancy of the normally vibrant beach town was isolating and drove our personalities closer and closer, into one another. For better or worse, latin, romantic entanglement demanded an ever-changing exchange of bliss and misery with all settings turned to full, melodramatic throttle. Shoehorning art, work, and vacation into the recipe only seemed to cycle the intensely high (and low) emotions around faster and with greater, more ruthless efficiency. The moments where I visibly “lose it” on film don’t match the sonic abuse (it was a silent film) hurled, nor the velocity of projectiles launched off-camera. In many ways we were trapped in our own version of Hearts Of Darkness—of course, without anything near the cinematic masterpiece to show for it. I almost got swept-out to sea when I overestimated my fitness, paddled too far out between breaks and caught a rip current that drew me so far down the beach, it took me a half hour to walk back when I finally did save myself and got back to shore. Lee himself had busted his ribs on a surf trip a couple weeks earlier, was often in a state of discomfort, and eventually found out when we got back to the city he had been his whole life, one minor organ short. E. probably had more than enough simply having to deal with two, bickering idiots. The three of us tried often to find an evening (almost every evening) where we could lose ourselves with other people and copious amounts of drink; venturing from haughty beach clubs for bored upper class Porteños escaping the city to a whole other town over, but never quite successfully. One night, we even had a local pack of stray dogs steal half our steak right off the makeshift barbeque while we were not looking. It was comical (if not pathological) how consistently we ignored portents and signs of our impending failure.

And still, I remember the week and the time fondly. Lee remains without question one of my favorite people and we are still the best of friends. I couldn’t imagine trading that experience for anything else. The raw footage still exists, and I imagine someday soon—if even for a laugh or lark—the jumble that could eventually be The Natural History of My Imagination, will get a screening on a balmy summer night amongst friends and plenty of liquid spirits.

Incidentally, I think Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse is a brilliant piece of art.

The old woman and the sea.

The old woman and the sea.